Few things bring me greater joy than entertaining family and friends around my kitchen table. Easter Sunday is such an occasion. After church, I like to host Sunday dinner for my parents and sweet in-laws, plus my husband’s beloved Aunt Polly. From coconut cake to deviled eggs and brown sugar-mustard glazed ham, our celebratory feast is always Some Kinda Good, and as Southern and traditional as it gets.
Though the spiral ham, with its crispy exterior and sweet, smoky flavor is often the showpiece of the table, there’s one ingredient that’s the real star and workhorse of the meal: honey. Used in the glaze for the ham, the homemade dressing for the green bean and cherry tomato salad, the compound butter for the Brown and Serve rolls and in my honey glazed carrots and onions, I couldn’t create Easter dinner without it.
For me, every aspect of hosting a meal, including menu planning, choosing the festive centerpieces and displaying all my good platters and serving-ware is so much fun. On Easter Sunday, I place green Easter basket “grass” in the center of my black, distressed kitchen table and top it with pastel eggs of various sizes with flickering votive candles throughout to make it extra special. I even fill a few of the eggs with treats such as jelly beans and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups for a fun “hunt” at the end of the meal. This way the adults get to play too. My bright coral and yellow cotton cloth napkins atop our white bone china make for a colorful table setting and serve as the perfect ode to spring.
When I plan a menu, I consider the colors of each dish and how they present on a plate, along with the temperature of the food. Serving too many casseroles or dishes that are all hot or all cold won’t provide much variety or any surprises for the palate. Also, having a nice balance of dishes you can make on the stovetop or in a slow cooker versus in the oven will help maximize space, which is especially important when getting dinner on the table in a timely fashion.
Adding unexpected touches, such as a printed menu in a nice picture frame keeps guests on their toes. Any dishes you can prepare in advance or prep work you can do the night before guests arrive decreases your stress level on the big day. For instance, I always bake a coconut cake the day before to allow it to set up in the refrigerator. I peel and slice all my carrots, trim the ends off of my fresh green beans and slice my cherry tomatoes on Easter eve too. Doing the prep work in advance allows me to spend more time socializing with family instead of slaving away in the kitchen. Plus, when I walk in the door from church, it’s more about assembling the meal instead of stressing to get it all done from scratch.
When entertaining for any special occasion, changing up where you eat different courses of the meal keeps things fresh and allows the party to flow naturally. After enjoying the main course in the formal dining room, I like to serve dessert with coffee in the casual living area.
Today, I’m sharing one of my favorite recipes to make on this celebratory holiday: Slow Cooker Mac & Cheese with Bacon. To see my Easter menu and see photos of all the dishes on it, and to submit a recipe request, be sure to visit my food blog at SomeKindaGood.com. From my family to yours, have a Happy Easter.
Slow Cooker Mac & Cheese with Bacon
Adapted from Taste of Home
TOTAL TIME: Prep: 15 min. Cook: 3-3/4 hours
MAKES: 10 servings
Of all the dishes I prepared, the best decision I made was adding Slow Cooker Mac & Cheese with Bacon to my list of side dishes to serve. This recipe is out of this world! I made it in advance by completing the directions in Step 1 up until cook time. I placed my slow cooker in the refrigerator until the next morning when I was ready to cook the dish. I cooked four slices on a baking sheet, then crumbled them and added them on top with a bit of fresh parsley.
1 package (16 oz.) elbow macaroni
1/2 cup butter, melted
4 cups (16 oz.) shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk
1 can (10-3/4 oz.) condensed cheddar cheese soup, undiluted
1 cup 2 percent milk
2 large eggs, beaten
1/8 teaspoon paprika
4 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
Fresh parsley, optional
Cook macaroni according to package directions; drain. Place in a 5-qt. slow cooker; add butter. In a large bowl, mix 3 cups cheese, evaporated milk, condensed soup, 2 percent milk and eggs. Pour over macaroni mixture; stir to combine. Cook, covered, on low 3-1/2 to 4 hours or until a thermometer reads at least 160°.
Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Cook, covered, on low 15-20 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Sprinkle with paprika. Add bacon and parsley. Yield: 10 servings.
Food Network Star finalist Rebekah Faulk Lingenfelser is a food enthusiast and writer. Her blog, Some Kinda Good, features Southern, coastal recipes, locally sourced and in-season. Like Some Kinda Good on Facebook, follow @SKGFoodBlog on Twitter and Instagram or visit RebekahLingenfelser.com.