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Ham or lamb is the traditional Easter dinner or brunch in most parts of the Western world - and don't forget the side dishes, desserts and candy...

Easter dinner ideas

Begin your Easter celebration with a generous platter of deviled eggs to keep everyone happily occupied while the roast is cooking in the kitchen.

Family recipes for baked ham and roast leg of lamb remain top Easter favorites, but if you're on a budget also consider a savory roast chicken dinner, or an elegant but inexpensive roast loin of pork as the main Easter course.

For side dishes, nothing beats mashed potatoes and your family's favorite greens to round out an Easter feast.

Easter Brunch is served

easter brunch quicheYour brunch menu should include breakfast items and light lunch items, or ...why not suggest having guests bring their favorite dishes?

Otherwise, have cooking-challenged friends bring fruits, sodas, paper goods and bakery goods. Pastry, croissants and rolls are also always welcome!

Many fancy brunches include waffle stations or omelet stations. Unless you have someone in your group who really wants to spend the entire buffet cooking omelets, skip that idea. A close cousin to an omelet is the quiche! The melted egg and cheese combo makes quiche popular at any meal. Try this prepare-ahead recipe for your Easter brunch:

Ham and Mushroom Quiche

1/2 cup shredded cheddar or jack cheese
1 cup shredded Swiss OR Gruyère cheese
4 tsps. all-purpose flour
1/2 cup shredded cooked ham or bacon
1/2 cup diced mushrooms
3 eggs
1 cup light cream or milk
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. yellow mustard
1 (9 inch) unbaked pie crust

In mixing bowl add flour and grated cheese. Toss until cheese is coated. Layer mixture into the pie shell. On top of cheese, sprinkle diced ham and mushrooms. In another bowl, combine eggs, cream (or milk), and salt and mustard. Beat until smooth and pour over cheese and ham in pie crust.

Place the prepared quiche onto a piece of plastic wrap large enough to cover sides and top of quiche (this keeps the foil from sticking to the food), then wrap the quiche in a piece of foil sealing well around the edges. Place prepared quiche in freezer. When ready to cook, preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C.) Remove foil and plastic wrap. Put foil around edge of crust to protect it. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour, or until filling is set and crust is golden brown. Makes 6-8 servings.

If your brood believes that real men don't eat quiche, fool them with a sausage, egg, and cheese casserole that uses bread instead of pie crust:

Sausage, Egg, and Cheese Brunch Casserole

6 slices of day-old bread, trimmed and cubed
1 lb. cooked diced sausage (drained)
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
2 cup light cream or milk
1 tsp. mustard
1 tsp. salt
6 eggs

Layer bread in bottom of large casserole - top with drained sausage. Cover with cheese. In a separate bowl, mix the cream, eggs, mustard, and salt. Beat well until frothy. Pour over other ingredients. Refrigerate overnight, covered. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes or until the filing is set. Makes 6-8 servings.

Easter Egg Ham & Cheese Faux Tarts

ham & cheese faux tartsAnother great way to use up leftover Easter eggs!

2 tsp. olive oil
12 thin slices ham
6 hard boiled eggs, sliced
12 slices American or Swiss cheese
12 medium cherry tomatoes
12 toothpicks
2 Tbsp. chives, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil all cups in a 12-cup muffin pan with olive oil (cooking spray also works well). Place a slice of ham in each muffin tin covering the bottom and sides. Make sure the ham edges come up above the edge of the muffin tin. Layer several slices of hard boiled egg into each ham-lined muffin cup. Place the cheese on top and sprinkle with chives. Pull the edges of ham together to close the tart. Place one cherry tomato on each toothpick and secure the ham edges with the toothpicks.

Bake 8-10 minutes until cheese has melted. Cool for a few minutes before removing the ham tart from the muffin cup. Run a knife around the edges to make sure none of the melted cheese is gluing the ham tart to the muffin tin. Serve.

This recipe also works with poached eggs and scrambled eggs. To poach the egg, just break a whole egg into each ham tart. For scrambled eggs, mix the egg before placing it on the ham layer. For these variations, cook 15-20 minutes or until the egg is thoroughly cooked.

Savory Roasted Potatoes

savory new potatoesFor the "meat and potatoes" crowd, these serve as a delicious and elegant side dish to your holiday brunch.

5 pounds red new potatoes, quartered
1/2 cup olive oil or vegetable oil
1 small onion diced
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp rosemary

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Rinse and cut the potatoes into quarters. If you are not using the small red new potatoes, you will probably need to cut the quarters smaller to make sure the pieces all cook. Try to make sure that the pieces are about the same size. Toss together the potatoes, oil, onions and spices and sprinkle with salt. The potato pieces should be oiled to prevent them from drying out as they cook. If necessary, add a bit more oil.

Spread the potatoes out on a baking sheet and roast until tender and crisp on the edges, 30 to 40 minutes. Serves 8 - 10.

Egg Salad

Easter brunch almost requires an egg salad! Here's a quick recipe:

4 hard-boiled eggs, finely chopped (uneaten fresh Easter eggs are perfect!)
1 stalk celery finely chopped
1tbsp finely chopped onion
2 to 4 tbsp mayonnaise
1/4 tsp mild mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix and serve.

Meanwhile, for a mayonnaise-free twist on your every day macaroni salad try this delicious recipe:

Tortellini Walnut Salad

2 lbs. tortellini with your choice of filling
1 cup Italian oil & vinegar or vinaigrette dressing
1 cup cooked peas
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2; cup chopped walnut
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp basil
1/4 tsp oregano

Cook the tortellini according to directions on package. Do not overcook. Drain and let cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in all additional ingredients and serve. This should make about 10 servings.

Pancakes or Waffles

waffles & pancakesMaking waffles or pancakes for your Easter brunch? A self serve pancake station can work just as well and add fun to the food prep for everyone. All you need is a toaster and some frozen pancakes or waffles. If you want to use fresh ingredients, you can fix your own made from scratch pancakes - or waffles if you have a waffle iron.

The pancakes or waffles can be made ahead and frozen. Just add a piece of freezer paper between each one before you freeze them. You may find yourself adding homemade toaster pancakes to your regular breakfast menu!

1 cup flour
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp oil

Add all ingredients together in a large bowl and stir until just mixed. For waffles, follow the directions on your waffle iron. For pancakes, add about 1 tablespoon oil or butter to a frying pan on medium heat. Spoon or ladle the pancake batter into the pan. As soon as the top begins to bubble, flip the pancake and cook the other side. When the pancakes are done, remove them from the pan and let them sit on paper towels for a few minutes to cool. Set out whipped cream, strawberries, blueberries, sliced apples, powdered sugar, butter and syrup.

Easter Desserts

For dessert, wow guests with this easy recipe for Easter basket cupcakes, along with bowls of traditional jelly beans and chocolate candy Easter eggs.

Another new tradition that's catching on is homemade chocolate and other candy to fill the family Easter baskets.

Jelly beans add a festive touch and a sweet treat to the brunch. Any fruits and whipped cream from the waffles and pancakes station can move to the dessert area when it's time to start serving. Make sure that everyone knows where the tea and coffee can be found to finish the event with flair.

These are just some ideas to get your creativity going. The most important detail to include in planning your brunch is to make it fun for everyone. Sharing time and tales of other Easter feasts spent together is the seasoning that only you and your guests can provide.

Long after your brunch is over, the memories of this Easter will still be sweet ….

More Easter recipes & menu ideas around the Web:

Just up ahead, find more great ideas for Easter cooking in these top recipe collections...

Martha Stewart - Easter Recipes
- Elegant and memorable recipes from the queen of homemaking, with complete instructions and photos for Easter dinner, Easter brunch, cookies and desserts.

Celebrate Easter - The Food Network - The title says it all - cupcakes, , candies, cookies and dinner along with side dishes and other helpful tips for planning the complete Easter menu...

Lamb Recipes - - Mouth-watering presentations of classic recipes leg of lamb, rack of lamb, and crown roasts, and more.

Ethnic Easter Recipes

Polish Easter Dinner Recipes - Baba, Easter bread, mazurek
Italian Easter Recipes - Good Friday recipes, Easter dinner and desserts
German Easter Recipes - Bavarian roast lamb, eggs in green sauce, Black Forest brownies, chocolate marzipan

Easter Features :
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  • Easter Bunny Fun Facts

  • Jelly Bean Nests

  • Easter Eggs: Tiny Works of Heart

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