Spinach, Mushroom & Artichoke Bread Pudding. Florida Citrus Marinated Shrimp. Garlic Roasted Potatoes. Grape Salad. Banana Nut Muffins with Cinnamon & Honey Cream Cheese FIlling. Doesn’t that sound delicious? That’s what’s on the menu this year. I’ll probably add in a cocktail or two to liven things up a bit more,
My kids are no longer kids, which is terribly sad, but I’m proud to say all four boys are doing well. They are scattered across the country now, so when they come home, it is truly a cause for celebration. They want all the things they remember fondly from years past. Of course I always cave, and fix whatever they want.
Food has always been an integral part of our family life. It was important that we all sat down to dinner together to share our experiences from the day, and celebrate our life as a family. We laughed a lot! We made decisions together. We discussed what to do and what not to do. We made plans for the future. We just enjoyed being a family. Most importantly, we prayed, thanking God for all the good gifts He continually showers down upon each of us.
Now that it is just me and CR, I am having fun trying new “traditions.” This year I decided on something different: brunch. No formal sit down dinner like we usually do. I love cooking and baking, but some days you want to make things ahead and enjoy the day vs being in the kitchen..
I love brunch. Mixing breakfast foods with luncheon fare opens up lots of wonderful possibilities. My mind went wild when I started thinking about what to cook. There are so many things I love, and lots of new things to try. Of course, I couldn’t make everything all at once. Too bad.
This year it will be just my youngest son and Mom, and my sister and her family. When my kids were growing up, we all gathered at Mom’s house. It was quite a crowded dining room, but we were together, sharing a special meal, celebrating Easter dinner in our own special way.
Easter is such a joyous time!
“Christ has Died, Christ is Risen, Christ Will Come Again!”
What a powerful message. We say these words from the Book of Common Prayer every Sunday, but on Easter they take on a much deeper meaning. Church services on Easter morning are always glorious; the music, kids home from college, families gathered for the weekend, and of course, the Easter egg hunt. All the children running around the church searching for eggs is hilarious. The older ones running over each other to see who can get the most, and the little ones in their own area, thankfully, who are enthralled just to pick up one single egg and break it open to see what treasures are hidden inside. Oh, to be a kid again.
I remember egg hunts when we used real eggs. They were boiled and dyed of course. Every year, mamma, my sister and I, spent a lot of time getting them just the right colors with the Paas Egg Dye Kit hot water, and white vinegar. Watching those little tablets dissolve in the cup was like magic. The smell of vinegar always brings back those happy childhood memories. The last ones to be dyed were not so pretty, but it sure was fun to see what happened when we mixed the leftover colors together. Every year, there was at least one egg that wasn’t accounted for. Mamma would search the yard diligently, trying to remember where she had hidden each egg. We usually discovered it later by the horrible, smell coming from the flowerbed.
My children were curious about where things came from. Where did the Easter Bunny live? Why did he only come once a year? Why did we have eggs on Easter? Why, why, why? I remember telling them that Jesus dying and then rising again was like a chicken growing inside the egg. The chick has to break open the shell in order to be born. From something that appears dead, comes new life. Butterflies are another great example of re-birth. The butterfly starts out life as a lowly caterpillar, crawling around on the ground before spinning a cocoon around itself. The caterpillar essentially has to die in order to be transformed and emerge as a beautiful butterfly. I never did get very far explaining the Easter Bunny.
This caterpillar is ready for Easter. I am so ready to turn into a butterfly. Right now, I am going to fly into the kitchen and prepare brunch. Come along with me and try a few of my favorites.
Spinach, Mushroom & Artichoke Bread Pudding
- Cooking spray or olive oil to grease pan
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 pounds fresh spinach, chopped
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Tablespoon OSA Gourmet Datil Garlic Seasoning Blend (You can substitute 1 Tablespoon Italian Seasoning.)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 cup sliced mushrooms
- 3 jars or cans artichoke hearts, chopped (remove any tough outer leaves and discard)
- 6 large eggs, beaten lightly
- 3 cups half & half
- 2 cups milk
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon OSA Gourmet Datil Zest Seasoning Blend (You can substitute 1 Tablespoon Italian Seasoning.)
- 1 large loaf day old French bread, cubed
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cubed or 8 ounces (1 cup) grated cheese of choice
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13 by 9 inch baking dish with cooking spray or olive oil.
Heat 1 Tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until transparent, about 5 minutes.
Add the garlic, OSA Gourmet Datil Zest Seasoning Blend, salt and pepper, and cook about 1 minute.
Add the mushrooms and artichoke hearts, and cook another 2 to 3 minutes.
Add in chopped spinach and cook just until spinach is wilted, about another 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, half & half, milk, lemon juice and Datil Zest.
Add the bread cubes to the egg mixture.
Add in the spinach, artichoke and mushroom mixture from the skillet.
Add in the grated Parmesan cheese and grated or cubed cheese of your choice, and stir gently to combine.
Pour the mixture into the prepared, greased pan and bake about 1 hour. The center should be firm and the crust a golden brown.
This dish is great for vegetarians, and is a meal in itself along with a nice side salad, or perfect as a brunch dish.
Florida Citrus Marinated Shrimp
- 2 lemons, halved
- 2 orange, halved
- 2 Tablespoons OSA Gourmet Datil Zest Seasoning Blend (You can substitute 1 Tablespoon crushed red pepper, or other seasoning blend of choice.)
- 2 pound fresh shrimp, unpeeled
- 2 cups orange juice, freshly squeezed, if possible
- 2 cups grapefruit juice, freshly squeezed, if possible
- 2 cups pineapple juice
- 1/2 cup lime juice
- 1/2 cup lemon juice.
- 1 Tablespoon OSA Gourmet Datil Zest Seasoning Blend (You can substitute 1 Tablespoon crushed red pepper, or other seasoning blend of choice.)
- Lettuce, spinach, endive or cabbage leaves for presentation
- Slices of lemon, lime, grapefruit &/or pineapple slices for garnish
In a large cook pot or Dutch oven, add 10 to 12 cups of water, the lemon and lime halves and 1 Tablespoon OSA Gourmet Datil Zest Seasoning Blend. Bring to a boil.
Add shrimp and cook 2 to 3 minutes or until shrimp just turn pink. Do not overcook.
Once shrimp turn pink, immediately remove them from the pot to a large bowl of ice water, to stop the cooking process.
After a minute or 2 of sitting in the ice bath, drain the shrimp.
Peel shrimp, leaving the tail on.
Devein if desired, by using a sharp paring knife to gently cut down the back of the shrimp and remove the black vein, Discard the veins.
In a large shallow sealable plastic container or large zip top bag, combine the fruit juices and 1 Tablespoon OSA Gourmet Datil Zest Seasoning Blend,
Add the shrimp and cover the container or seal the bag.
Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Drain off the liquid.
Shrimp may be served as an appetizer, plated on a bed of greens with fresh fruit slices for garnish, or served over a salad.
Serve with your favorite seafood cocktail sauce.
Easy Garlic Roasted Potatoes
- 4 pounds small red or white potatoes
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon OSA Gourmet Datil Zest Seasoning Blend (You can substitute 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon ground black pepper, or other spice blend of your choice.)
- 4 cloves minced garlic
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Wash and dry potatoes.
Cut the potatoes in wedges.
Place potatoes in a large bowl and drizzle with the olive oil.
Sprinkle with the OSA Gourmet Datil Zest Seasoning Blend and add in the garlic.
Place potatoes on a baking sheet in single layer.
Roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Potatoes should be crispy and golden brown.
Turn potatoes after 20 to 30 minutes to cook on both sides.
Remove potatoes from the oven and sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese or parsley if desired.
- 2 pounds red &/or green seedless grapes
- ½ cup pecans, coarsely chopped (if desired)
- ½ cup shredded coconut (if desired)
- ½ cup raisins (if desired)
- 4 oz cream cheese, softened
- 4 oz (1/2 cup) sour cream
- 1/4 cup white or brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Wash and dry grapes.
Place grapes in a large mixing bowl, and add pecans, coconut and raisins.
In a separate bowl, mix together the cream cheese, sour cream, sugar and vanilla.
Gently stir the cream cheese mixture into the grapes, pecans, coconut and raisins.
Refrigerate overnight if possible.
Spoon into serving bowl and sprinkle with extra brown sugar and pecans if desired.
Banana Nut Muffins with Honey Cinnamon Cream Cheese Filling
- Cooking spray, or 24 paper cupcake liners
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
- 3 large eggs
- ¼ cup sour cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- ¾ teaspoon baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 2 ½ cups mashed ripe bananas (about 5 medium bananas)
- 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Lightly spray two 12-cup muffin tins with cooking spray. (You can use paper muffin cups to line the muffin pans instead.)
Beat softened butter with a heavy duty mixer until creamy.
Add brown sugar and beat until light and fluffy.
Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.
Add sour cream and vanilla and blend well.
In a separate bowl, blend together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
Gradually add flour mixture to butter, brown sugar and sour cream mixture. Beat until just combined. Do not over beat.
Stir in mashed bananas and nuts.
Gently spoon batter into muffin tins, filling ¾ full.
Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until wooden tooth pick inserted in center of one muffin comes out clean.
Cool in the pans for 15 minutes, then remove and cool completely on wire racks.
Make a small hole in the top of each muffin, by using the handle of a wooden spoon.
Spoon the cream cheese filling. Into a pastry bag with a star tip, or a zip top bag.
If using a zipper bag, snip the tip off of one corner.
Insert tip of the bag into the center of each muffin and squeeze our a generous amount of filling. (Alternatively, muffins can be frosted on top with the Filling.)
Honey Cinnamon Cream Cheese
Filling or Frosting
- 1 package of cream cheese, softened
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 4 tablespoons honey
With heavy duty mixer, blend all 3 ingredients together, combining well.
Spoon mixture into pastry bag fitted with star tip, or into zipper bag with a small corner cut off.
Place tip inside of muffin and squeeze out filling and then make design on top. (Alternatively, you can use a small knife to frost the tops of each muffin with the cream cheese filling.)