Sunday, March 31, 2013

An Easter dinner to remember the life and times of Jesus

We've often done Easter dinner with my parents.  Because we usually go to their house, my mom ends up planning the menu.  This year, however, my parents are visiting my sister in Iowa, so Easter dinner was up to me!  Oh dear.  I love ham, and thought that would be fun, but I wanted a GOOD ham without stuff in it, but didn't want to take the time to figure out what kind of ham to get.  My next idea was to do a Passover-type meal so that we could remember Jesus and learn more about his life.  It ended up being not necessarily a traditional historic Passover meal, but one where we were able to eat some of the foods that Jesus probably ate.

I used the book, A Christ-Centered Easter, by Janet and Joe Hales for my main ideas.  I had fun telling the kids the names of the food we were going to eat and having them guess what they were:

Roasted shankbone of lamb

Roasted egg
Symbolic of roasted offerings at the Israelite temple

Bitter herbs, romaine
Symbolic of Israelites suffering under the Egyptians

Apples, nuts, cinnamon, grape juice
Symbolic of mortar the Israelites used to build Egyptian cities

Dipped into salt water, symbolizes new life of freedom

Unleavened bread
Represents the Israelites swift escape from Egypt

Sweet Potato Salad
A modern Israeli Passover dish

I also served olives, dried apricots, raisins, almonds, and butter.  I'd made yogurt for the occasion, too, but couldn't figure what people would eat it with, so I didn't put it on the table.  I also had home made grape juice, but in the end didn't want it spilled, so I didn't put it out.

Seasoned Lamb and Barley 
(from A Christ-Centered Easter)
2 T butter
1 C barley, rinsed and drained
1 T olive oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 medium onions, chopped
1 lb. lamb meat, boneless, trimmed of fat, cut into bite-sized pieces
Salt to taste
Pepper to tast
1 T olive oil
6 C chicken stock, divided

Preheat oven to 350*. Brown barley in butter.  Set aside.  Saute garlic and onion in oil.  Combine barley & onion in a 2 qt casserole dish.  Set aside.  Sprinkle lamb with salt and pepper.  Brown in olive oil and place atop barley mixture.  Pour 3 C chicken stock over meat.  Cover and bake for 1 hour, or until the liquid is almost absorbed.  Add the remaining chicken stock.  Bake for 50 more minutes, or until meat is tender.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

*I used a 1/2 lb. piece of bone-in lamb.  Rather than having cubes of meat, I just browned the whole piece and put it on top of the barley.  I also just put everything in a Crock Pot and cooked it on high for 3-4 hours.  I decreased the water to 4 C, and it turned out really great and quite flavorful.

Green Salad
I put romaine, parsley, and eggs in my salad bowl.  I put crumbled goat cheese on the side for those who wanted to try that.  For the dressing, I made a variation of the Spinach Salad dressing recipe in the Lion House Recipes cook book:

1/4 C olive oil
1/8 t garlic powder
2 T vinegar
2 T lemon juice
1/4 t salt
dash pepper
1 T Parmesan cheese

(from A Christ-Centered Easter)
1/2 C almonds, finely chopped or ground
1/2 large apple, finely chopped
 3 T grape juice
1/4 t cinnamon

Mix all together.  Can prepare a day before.

My Matzah turned out like a rock, so I'm not even going to post the recipe, nor do I think I'll ever make it again. But, it gave us a good appreciation for what the pioneers went through when they had to eat flour/water cakes.  It was probably also pretty close to the hard tack the pilgrims ate.  Ew.  Modern day saltines are so much better.  Well, maybe I just made my Matzah wrong.  When I realized the Matzah was lousy, I whipped up some French baguettes that I learned to make from the Food Nanny earlier in the day.  They turned out delightful and I will definitely be making them again!

Sweet Potato Salad
I wanted to add a little more variety to our fare, so I went to an Israeli food blog that my cousin who lives in Israel had linked to and found this fun recipe.

1 large sweet potato
1 medium red onion, sliced finely
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
black pepper
1/2 cup chopped cilantro or parsley

Scrub, but don't peel, the sweet potato. Chop it into large dice.  Put the chopped sweet potato in a pan with salted water to cover, and bring it to a boil.  Lower the flame and cook for 7 minutes. Start testing the pieces for tenderness. They should take between 7-10 minutes to cook till tender but still firm.  Drain the pieces at once and run a little cold water over them to stop the cooking.  Put them in a bowl with the rest of the ingredients. Taste for the exact balance of salt, sour and sweetness that you like, and adjust accordingly. Use a wooden spoon to stir - gently.  Chill the salad in the fridge for an hour before serving. Simple, colorful, and satisfying.

I loved all the food (except for the Matzah as I said).  My inlaws also loved the food (even my father-in-law ate the Matzah).  My husband and the kids were slightly more picky.