Ham and ?

Here’s what I know about Easter dinner at our house:

We’re having ham. It’s already in the refrigerator.

I have no idea who will be there to eat it, beside myself and Hubby Bryan.

I have no idea what will be served alongside that hunk of meat.

I guess I’ll have to give some serious thought to the Easter menu and guest list sometime soon.

I have fielded a couple of inquiries from Sister Margaret regarding her Easter menu. I made suggestions about things that she could serve, but still gave no thought to my own advance planning.

One of the suggestions was for a brunch casserole that she could tote to the Easter breakfast at the church in Colorado where her pastor husband is filling a vacancy. I had just come across this tasty-sounding rendition.

Bacon-Asparagus Brunch Casserole

In a medium bowl, combine 8 strips bacon, cooked crisp, drained and chopped; 9 ounce package frozen cut asparagus, thawed and well-drained (or about 1½ cups fresh asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces; and ¾ cup roasted red sweet peppers, drained and chopped.

Cut 12 slices dry white bread into ½-inch cubes. Place half the bread cubes in a 9- by 13-inch greased baking dish, top with half the bacon mixture and 1½ cups shredded Swiss cheese. Repeat layers.

Beat 8 eggs. Whisk in 3 cups milk, 1½ teaspoons dry mustard, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper. Carefully pour egg mixture evenly over bread mixture in dish. Gently press down on the layers to moisten all the bread. Cover dish with plastic wrap and chill at least 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Bake, uncovered, for 50 to 60 minutes, or until puffed and set. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

As I was having this Easter discussion via email with my sister, I couldn’t resist sending her a cake recipe that made me think of her, not because it would be something she would like, but because Margaret has an aversion to Creamsicles that stems back to childhood. (Yes, I know it wasn’t nice, but she would have done the same to me. That’s what loving sisters do.)

Since I have no such disdain for the orange treat, I’m tempted to try this for an Easter dessert.

Orange Creamsicle Cake

Prepare 1 package yellow cake mix and bake according to directions in a 9- by 13-inch pan. Let cake cool completely. Poke holes in cooled cake using a skewer or clean knitting needle.

Mix one 3-ounce package orange gelatin with 1 cup boiling water and 1 cup cold water. Pour over cake. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours.

Mix one 3.4-ounce package vanilla instant pudding with 1 cup milk, a second package of orange gelatin, and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Beat by hand with a whisk until thickened. Fold in one 8-ounce tub frozen whipped topping, thawed. Frost cake with pudding mixture.

One of my Daily Globe co-workers, Jodi Bentele, who works in the advertising department, recently shared her rendition of almond bars, one she developed by combining the best elements of several recipes.

“I wanted a bar that had that great almond flavor without using almond paste,” she said.

Jodi’s Almond Bars

Combine 2 cups flour, ½ cup powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons water and 1 cup softened butter and mix as you would for a pie crust. (Jodi uses her food processor, pulsing a few times.) Pat mixture into an ungreased 9- by 13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Be careful not to overbake.

Meanwhile, combine 8 ounces cream cheese, 2 eggs, ½ cup sugar and 1 teaspoon real almond extract. (Once again, Jodi uses the food processor.) Pour mixture over top of hot crust and return to oven to bake 15-20 minutes, or until custard layer is firm. Cool completely.

For frosting, combine 1½ cups powdered sugar, ¼ cup melted butter, 1½ teaspoons milk (add a “titch” more if necessary to make it more spreadable, Jodi suggests) and 1 teaspoon real almond extract. Spread over cooled bars. Garnish with sliced or slivered almonds.

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