A few thoughts post-Easter

Here I am, continuing to mark time until CSA season begins, though we’ve just passed one of my favorite days for cooking: Easter.

This year was a transition year for us. Our winter was crazy – we moved in December, my mom died in January, and we had a baby in February. I want to move into hosting Easter, rather than traveling for it, but I (understandably) did not have it in me for a crowd, so we just had my in-laws (parents and siblings) over, and it was a really lovely day.

We did the standard Polish Easter fare that I count on each year, but when it came to golombki, I was in a bind. I love stuffed cabbage, but the thought of putting in all that work this year seemed like a drag. However, I remembered that there was an article about exactly this in an old issue of Simple & Delicious! AND, to boot, I’d marked the recipe in that article in my new organization system! (Yes, this recipe index is already proving useful!)

Thus, we made Slow-Cooker Golombki. Folks, this recipe was fabulous. It would take something special to convince me to go through the trouble of making regular golombki again, I think. This tasted just as good with hardly any effort. I also substituted ground turkey for the ground beef, to lighten it up, and it tasted great.

I didn’t document much of the cooking, though I do have a very satisfying picture of my plate before I dug in.

Happy Easter!

Easter Leftovers III: Soup Time

Leftovers often mean soup. Any time there’s a big portion of meat served, it’s almost a guarantee that soup will be one of the eventual leftovers.

Soup went two ways with this ham.

First, I went with split pea soup. It’s pretty traditional to use ham with split pea. I used ham stock that I made from the ham bone, plus I sauteed pieces of meat that then boiled in with the peas.

The last time I made split pea soup, it came out much thicker than I like. This time? It came out thinner than I like. I’m still learning. To compensate a little, I chunked up the soup by  adding some mixed vegetables near the end.

I’m very proud of the other direction I went with soup leftovers. This was a riff on a “Portugese Kale and Sausage Soup” that I’ve made many times. The soup works well with basically any smoky meat and any dark green. I’ve used sausage, kielbasa, and now ham, and I’ve used kale, spinach, mustard greens, turnip greens, and beet greens.

I sauteed onions and the ham, added spices and broth, and added the greens… and then the secret ingredient that really makes this soup special: brown mustard. If you’re looking for more of a zing, you could add hot sauce, cayenne pepper, or even horseradish. We tend to leave it to the individual servings to spice up.

Both of these soups freeze & reheat well.

Scenes from an Easter Kitchen

Easter is a big deal in my family – an unsurprising statement for a part Polish girl from a large family. Celebrations always include an absurd amount of food, particularly golabki, babka, pierogis, kielbasa, chrzan… I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to the spellings, but the food tastes like home.

The past few years have been tumultuous. Typically, we have all of us (30 or more) for brunch at one of the houses that can hold all of us. It’s been this way my entire life, yet the past few years have been interrupted. In 2014, I was 38 weeks pregnant and Easter was being held an hour and a half away. On the advice of my doula, I stayed put, cooked like crazy for the two of us, and ate with wild, pregnant abandon.

2015 marked Little Chef’s first Easter, at nearly a year old, and the last Easter at my Grandmother’s house before she sold it.

In 2016, my mother broke her leg severely in February. By Easter, she was out of the rehab center but was living with my grandmother in her wheelchair-friendly senior apartment. Gram went to Easter at my aunt’s, but I brought a full Polish Easter to the apartment to share with Mom, my husband, my son, and my brother.

2017 looked like we’d be back to normal, but my aunt got sick shortly before Easter and decided she couldn’t host. The family scattered to have separate, smaller gatherings, and I hauled all of the makings of a good Polish Easter to my mom’s condo. We invited my in-laws over and had a wonderful feast.

2018 saw the revival of my aunt hosting Easter, though several of my cousins are traveling abroad at the moment, so it was fairly quiet (for us). Here I was, with a free ham from Shop Rite, a driving urge to cook and blast Jesus Christ Superstar, and all that was requested of me was my lemon raisin babka.

You know where this is going, don’t you?

After a long stretch of disillusionment, I began attending church again over the past couple of years… regularly so in the last year or so. I’ve gotten involved with a ministry there that involves cooking meals for people who are homebound, which has been a source of contentment for me. (Surprise – I like to cook. Who knew?) Well, since I didn’t need to host Easter this year, I set up Easter dinners for all of the  people we serve. I also made beans for the Easter Bunny BBQ and muffins for coffee hour.

It felt glorious. By the end of it, I was exhausted and tired of smelling ham, but it was all worth it.

I’ve spent this week creatively using the leftovers… more on that to come.

Happy Easter!