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Kara's Sights and Bites: Easter lunch should be special, not stressful


 Sitting down to a bountiful lunch on Easter Sunday has been an American tradition for decades. However, for many, it can be a stressful day, juggling church services, family time and other activities with cooking a special meal complete with an often-tricky baked ham.

    But it really doesn’t have to be a meal you dread. Believe it or not, ham can be cooked in a Crockpot the night before or while you’re attending church or tending to other things. And sides and desserts can be prepared quickly the day before, saving valuable time on Easter morning.

    Here are four easy-to-prepare, but equally delicious recipes that’ll allow you to serve a full-scale lunch or dinner while enjoying Easter along with everyone else around your table.

 Stress-Free Easter Ham
Fully-cooked ham (approximately 7-8 pounds)
2 cups pineapple juice

2 cups brown sugar
1 ½ tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 ½ tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 ½ tablespoons honey

     Remove ham from packaging and discard flavoring packet. If using a bone-in ham, check the end of the bone for a plastic cap; if present, discard. Pour pineapple juice in bottom of a large (6- to 9-quart) oval slow cooker.

     In a medium bowl, mix brown sugar, Dijon, balsamic vinegar and honey into a paste. Spread brown sugar mixture all over ham and place, flat side down, in slow cooker. Cover slow cooker with lid and set to low. Cook ham for 4- 6 hours or until the meat is tender and the internal temperature reaches 140 degrees after testing with a meat thermometer.

Note: You can flip and baste the ham halfway through cooking time and again about an hour before the ham is done. 

     Once ham is done, remove to a platter and tent with foil to keep warm and rest for 15 minutes. Skim any fat and strain the juices from the crock pot into a saucepan. Place the pot on the stove over medium heat and bring juices to a simmer. Allow the mixture to bubble and thicken for a minute or two, stirring occasionally.

     Serve the ham warm, with the sauce on the side or spooned on top.

Favorite Potato Salad
 10 pounds new potatoes, cut into chunks 
1 cup mayonnaise (you can use sour cream or Greek yogurt if you don’t like mayo)
1 large bottle bacon ranch salad dressing
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
Dill weed, to taste
Celery seed, to taste
Jar of Bacos
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions, optional
Salt and pepper to taste

     Leave the peel on the red potatoes and cut them into 1-inch cubes. Put the potato cubes in a large pot and cover with about 1 inch of water. Bring to a boil over high heat and add salt.  Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium low and cook uncovered for 8-15 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

     Drain the potatoes and run under cold water. Let stand to dry completely before adding dressing. 

     Dressing: Combine everything except potatoes. 

     Place the completely cooled potatoes in a large bowl. Pour the dressing over everything and gently toss to combined. Add salt and pepper to taste.

    Chill, covered, in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes (preferably 1 hour) before serving.

 Ham and Potato Bake
 1 bag (32 ounces) Southern-style hash brown potatoes
2 ham steaks, chopped into small pieces
1 cup chopped onion
10 ounces shredded Swiss cheese, divided
1 jar (4.5 ounces) sliced mushrooms, drained
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons butter, melted

      Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 3-quart baking dish with cooking spray. In a large skillet, brown ham on each side until heated through and no longer pink, or cook in the oven until done. When ham is cool, chop into small pieces. 

     In a large bowl, combine potatoes, chopped ham, onion, half the Swiss cheese, the mushrooms, salt and pepper, stirring until combined. In medium bowl, whisk together soup, milk, and melted butter. Add soup mixture to potato mixture, stirring to combine. Pour into baking dish and top with remaining Swiss cheese.

     Bake for 35 minutes. Increase for 5 minutes longer, or until cheese is lightly browned. Serve hot.

 Easy Strawberry Cheesecake Pie
 9-inch baked pie shell or graham cracker crumb crust
8-ounce cream cheese, softened
14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk (NOT evaporated milk)
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice, according to preference
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 Topping – 2 options:
1.     21-ounce can strawberry pie filling (I prefer Lucky Leaf brand)
2.     Fresh strawberries, cleaned and hulled, and 16-ounce package prepared strawberry glaze, chilled

      Using a hand or stand mixer, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Gradually beat in sweetened condensed milk until smooth. Stir in powdered sugar, lemon juice and vanilla. Pour into prepared pastry shell and chill at least three hours until set. Top with desired amount of pie filling or fresh strawberries and desired amount of glaze.

 Kara Kimbrough is a food and travel writer from Mississippi. Email her at kkprco@yahoo.com.