HoneyBaked Ham and Restless Chipotle are partnering up to help you create an Easter dinner that allows you to enjoy it too. Compensation was provided for this post but the opinions are, as always, my own.
My son, Matt, is home on leave from Okinawa. He literally walked into my bedroom one evening and said, “Hi Mom!” Thought. I. Was. Going.To.Die.
So, for the month of March we will be enjoying his company, loving him, hugging him, and trying to get our fill of him before he heads back out into the big world and leaves giant gaping holes in our hearts once more. You can bet I am trying to keep my work at a minimum and spending time trying to remember his favorites — because that’s what we military moms do, isn’t it? We cook everything we can think of that our military kid ever liked. I think it’s just us trying to get love into them in every way possible!
We decided to do an impromptu Easter dinner since he would be gone by the time Easter gets here. Luckily rounding up my family is not a difficult thing.
Well, I like to cook for him but I want to spend time with him, too. When I walked into the HoneyBaked Ham store in Arlington, Texas I was shocked at the sheer amount of food that they had to offer. Ham, turkey breast, side dishes, desserts, condiments… It was crazy! It was seriously hard to choose. Everything was pretty much ready to warm up and eat.
Y’all have told me in the past that you like how real I am. It’s a good thing because stuff is about to get real around here. I like a clean organized home. I always imagine that I sweep down the stairs and into my spotless, vintage kitchen. I have to imagine it because it has never once happened. Oh, my kitchen is vintage all right but clean? Well, no one has ever died.
So in the images you are about to see you’ll notice clutter. Sorry. I actually told everyone to pick up before I took pictures but apparently there was a lot that got missed. It’s OK, we had a great time anyway. And that brings me to tip number one…
Tip #1: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
For years I wouldn’t have people over because my house was messy, cluttery, or I had crappy furniture, or just fill in the blank. I seriously longed to entertain but I just couldn’t bring myself to invite others into my house. I knew that they would get a look of disdain at my less than perfect decorating, my clutter, and my mismatched dishes. I knew they would see the fingerprints on the door frames. I knew, without the shadow of a doubt, that I was not good enough to show hospitality to anyone.
At one point I was asked to host a baby shower for my best friend. Who says no to that? Another friend came and helped me clean. She scrubbed fingerprints off door frames, I made sure the bathroom was sparkling. I was in a very small house at that point and by the time we got all of the chairs in you couldn’t see the living room floor. And, during the entire baby shower? Not one person used my sparkling clean bathroom. I learned right then that most people would be delighted to come to my house, fingerprints and all. Those who were disdainful didn’t matter one bit.
Since then I have entertained a lot. Sometimes the house is messy. Sometimes it is clean and orderly. ALWAYS it is welcoming. That’s what counts and that’s what people will remember.
Tip #2: Go Ahead and Use the Silver
When I was growing up my mom had certain dishes and other items that were only used on Christmas and Thanksgiving. Some of the things were not used at all. Ever. When she passed away and I cleaned out her house I found things that I had never seen used.
So what was the point of having them?
When we do a big family dinner I use the silver even if we are serving on paper plates. It’s pretty and it makes me feel happy to see the 75 year old patina! If I had nice china you can bet that I would be using that, too. Maybe someday. In the meantime I use as many pretty plates as I can. I love antique and vintage tableware!
Tip #3: Make a Pitcher of Drinks, Alcoholic or Virgin
I don’t care how many cokes you have, there is nothing as celebratory as a pitcher of drinks or a full punchbowl. It just screams, party!
I made these Easter Margaritas in a pitcher and they were just so good! I’ll be sharing the recipe in the next couple of days. I was trying for Robin’s Egg Bue but it turned out more sea water green, I’m afraid. Still, they went down easy! Cocktails are fun to make and it’s easy to make them special.
Tip #4: Make It Buffet Style
Our family is too big, and there is too much food, to make holiday dinners sit down meals. We set the food out buffet style and fill plates then find places to eat, from the fireplace to the window seat. My rule of thumb is that you can eat anywhere that there isn’t carpet (we have mostly hardwood floors) as long as you take care of your dishes. The dogs get crated so the little kids’ food is safe from “sharing”.
We leave the food out over the course of the afternoon and so our meals can last for several hours. It encourages everyone to linger. That’s what I am ultimately going for — no one is going to remember exactly what was served but they will remember the fun and fellowship.
Tip #5: Use High Quality Prepared Foods
Everyone knows I make glorious desserts, amazing breads, and mouthwatering main courses. My family does not need me to prove anything to them and that is one of the reasons I love them. I am learning to save time, and sanity, by using prepared foods when I feel like it without feeling guilty. Picking up a cooked HoneyBaked ham and a couple of sides for your dinner. Make just one or two special dishes if you want to and leave everything else to the store! I chose the au gratin potatoes but I understand that the sides vary by location.
Make a couple of super easy dishes like the roast asparagus show here, if you want to. Just remember… the word is EASY.
Tip #6: Use Pretty Plates
I like to remove the foods from the containers they came in and put them in my own casserole dishes and serving bowls. I am always picking up vintage dishes, platters, and bowls at antique stores, garage sales, and thrift shops. They don’t match but I love roses and so they all pretty much have that in common, with a few exceptions.
No one has complained yet!
Tip #7: Tweak and Garnish the Prepared Foods
Don’t just buy food and dump it into a serving bowl. Add garnish to it or tweak it with bread crumbs, shredded cheese, or whatever. I had gotten the Potatoes au Gratin from HoneyBaked and when I put them in the casserole dish I decided that they looked too plain. I added a crumb topping and it really perked them up.
Tip #8: Delegate and Relinquish Control
You do not have to do everything. No, no you don’t. It’s affirming to others when you let them help and it makes them feel like an important part of the festivities. Let people bring the wine, or their favorite dish, or whatever. If you aren’t quite done when guests begin to arrive ask them to set the table, or polish up the glasses, or uncork the wine.
Tip #9: Relax
You are going to set the tone for the party. If you are running around, stressing out, and fussing over everything everyone is going to be uptight. You relax and let things flow and they will too. If something happens deal with it and move on!
Planning is smart and it’s a good way to make sure everything goes smoothly, everyone knows that. Here’s the deal, y’all… Sometimes you just have to make it impromptu and leave the planning for another day. If you get a chance to be with your family, to entertain, to be together? Just do it! Don’t worry about the dust or the overflowing recycling bin (we call it the Jenga Tower because my kids seem to balance stuff on it until it is as high as it will go OR until I notice it and tell them to take care of it!)
Tip #10: Enjoy
Life happens fast. I have eight kids, two in-laws, three grandkids, and a step-daughter that comes to as many of our thrown together parties as she can. My parties and family dinners are always bittersweet because I love the people who are in my life now, I love the people my kids have become but I miss those that are no longer at the table with us, at least not physically. I miss my kids being little!
Life moves on fast. If we don’t take the time to enjoy our friends and loved ones right now there is no guarantee that we will get the chance later. Make those memories and create those bonds while you can. Don’t worry so much that your kids remember your parties and family dinners by how stressed out crazy you were!
Finally, take pictures. Post them on Facebook, tag your family. Do whatever it takes to keep them close. I have three sons and a daughter-in-law in the military and I know that it can be tough to stay in touch across the miles. I try to tag them in pictures when they aren’t here so that can share what’s going on. I have encouraged all of my kids, over and over again, to stay close to each other because family is family! Someday they won’t have me around to make sure that they spend time with each other and it will be easy for them to drift apart. That would be sad.
And a Coupon to Make Your Easter Dinner Better!
Because saving money is good! HoneyBaked Ham as a coupon for $5 off of any purchase of $50 or more. It’s good through April 4, 2015.