3 tasty alternatives to lamb & ham for Easter


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Many who celebrate Easter do so, in part, by gathering with family and friends to share a meal. Traditional Easter meals tend to feature lamb or ham as the main course. Preparing lamb can feel a bit daunting and make you flash back to Thanksgiving. Preparing ham is not terribly complicated, but it can get a bit boring, particularly for those who just had some for Christmas a few months ago. Mix things up a little this year with these alternate choices.


Cuban-style Easter: Ropa vieja (skirt steak)

Eats_RopaViejaThis savory, flavorful shredded steak dish pairs very nicely with some brown rice and fried green plantains. Cut the skirt steak into large pieces and throw into a large pot filled with water up to the rivets. Add salt to taste and cover partially, bringing to a boil over a high flame. The meat should be tender. The catch is that if the meat gets too tender, it will disintegrate, and you really don’t want that.

While the meat is boiling, chop up a medium-size tomato, 7 cloves of garlic, 1/2 green pepper and 1 medium-size onion and mince 1/2 bunch of cilantro. Set it aside. Once the meat is tender enough, shred away! Shred large pieces because if the pieces are too fine — you guessed it — they will disintegrate.

Coat the bottom of a frying pan with cooking oil (vegetable or corn oil are fine) and set flame on high. Before it gets too hot, throw in all the veggies you chopped. Add salt to taste — but keep in mind that you’ve already added salt to the meat! Cumin is optional. If you like it, add it to taste, along with some pepper. Add 1/2 teaspoon of red wine vinegar and 1 teaspoon of food coloring.

Stir and let it cook on a high flame for no more than 10 minutes. Add your shredded steak and lower the flame to medium, mixing well. Cover the pan, set on a low flame and cook for 10 to 15 minutes. Serve with brown rice and fried green plantains.


Vegetarian Easter: Pasta

Eats_PastaWithSpinachIn a pot, bring water to boil for the pasta. Let the pasta cook for about 10 minutes or until it’s as al dente or as soft as you prefer. If you have frozen peas and corn, throw some in with the pasta. Time it right so you don’t overcook the pasta, keeping in mind that the frozen veggies will need two or three minutes in the pot before you drain.

In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add 4 cloves of garlic minced. Chop one medium-size onion and stir in with some oregano, basil, parsley and salt to taste. Chop up the vegetarian sausage — Tofurkey makes a nice sweet Italian-flavored one that lends itself nicely to pasta dishes.

Cook the sausage, flipping occasionally, for about three minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, preferably fresh but bottled lemon juice will do in a pinch. Stir in from 1/2 to 3/4 cup of fat-free evaporated milk. Add 2 tablespoons of cornstarch (flour will do if you don’t have cornstarch) to thicken the sauce. Chop up some spinach and tomatoes, if you like, and stir them in. When the spinach wilts, remove from flame and add to the drained pasta, mixing well. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, and serve with garlic bread.


Mediterranean-style Easter: Fish

Eats_TilapiaWithAsparagusCod filets make for a healthy meal, and pairs nicely with sour cream mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus. Depending on how many “Oh, no! Fish!” guests you expect to your gathering, you might want to prepare a tray of extra-cheesy baked ziti to keep everyone happy.

Set your dials to 375 and preheat those ovens. Place a sheet of aluminum foil on a cookie sheet. Lightly coat each cod filet with olive oil. Add salt, pepper and oregano to both sides to taste. Arrange the filets on the cookie sheet. Mince at least one clove of garlic for each filet and spread evenly on top of the filet. Top that with slices of yellow or white onion and tomato, and a bit of minced cilantro. Cover the filets with another sheet of aluminum foil — kind of like making a huge foil burrito and pop them in the oven for 15 minutes at 375.

This fish goes nice with a batch of sour cream mashed potatoes. It takes a while to boil or steam the potatoes so get those started before you prepare the fish so everything is ready to serve at about the same time. As for the grilled asparagus, Trader Joe’s sells frozen grilled asparagus that actually tastes like you just grilled some fresh asparagus. Go on. No one has to know.

And don’t forget to make your guests bring dessert. After all, you’re preparing the main course for them!