Happy Spring Break!

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Yay! It’s the first day of Spring Break and I hope you all had a fabulous Easter holiday! No matter where you are in the world, I pray that you had the blessing of experiencing God’s love, the comfort of family and some good food to top it off! To me that is one part of what Easter is about. If you aren’t familiar with the specifics, pick up a Bible (New Testament) and brush yourself up on the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the significance in the message and it’s impact on people and maybe even you.

Many an Easter Sunday ago my Granny thought it was important that we (my cousins and I) not only attended church but also showed up in our Easter Sunday best with our tithes and offerings sealed in envelopes ready to hear the message of the miracle and blessing of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. I get it now. Even though I missed church today God is alive and He was very much with me and my family today as He is every day. My relationship with God is rock solid so for me Easter is a celebration and remembrance; an opportunity for revival and renewal. I still gave it my Easter Sunday best in the name of Jesus Christ and I think my Granny would have been proud. My dinner came out great (okay there was 1 fail – we will get to that later), my kids had such a great time and my husband loved the food and enjoyed himself. I couldn’t have asked for a better day. I remember when it all came together smiling so hard thinking – Jesus you outdid yourself this time!

Picture it…Richmond, Virginia – Easter Sunday. It was a balmy sixty something degrees outside. The sun was shining. The smell of grilled and smoked barbecue perfumed the air. The youngest Pleasants children sped around the cul-de-sac in the girl Pleasants princess carriage pumped up on sugar while the eldest boy Pleasants played(I will not reveal the outcome of the game) father Pleasants in NBA Live. Mother Pleasants sat in her chair satisfied with the outcome.

Okay that’s a brief rundown of my favorite moment of the day. It was a great day and culmination up to Spring Break. I am so looking forward to sleeping in at least 1-2 days if possible. The before school morning routine is crucial. The struggle is real! Let’s just say that we need this break, okay I need this break. The last few months have felt grueling and we’ve had way more tardies than I care to admit but in the sense of my glass is half full theory – a tardy is better than an absence, right? Right. So again, I need this break. We were getting back on track but Spring Break is a great chance to regroup and recommit. We’re always accountable but we still want to improve where we can. So before we can jump into Spring Break I have to share with you the spectacular meal that I made for my family and friends for Easter Sunday.

It took me a few days to finalize a menu but luckily my deep freezer held a few gems that would save me some time and money at the grocery store. My menu was a Smoked Turkey, Roasted Ham, Grilled Pork Loin, Grilled BBQ Chicken, Smoked Beef Brisket, Hot and Spicy Shrimp Dip with French Bread Crostinis, Macaroni and Cheese, Potato Salad with Bacon, Stuffing and Turkey Gravy, Deviled Eggs, Collard Greens with Smoked Ham, Homemade Dinner Rolls, Sweet Potato Pies and Carrot Cake Donuts. We were gifted a delicious pound cake from one of my neighbors that was a nice addition to our spread.

 

Although this feast turned out great there were a few stumbling blocks to overcome. Let’s start with the fact that I started cooking right after a trip to the mall with my kids and then Wal-Mart. You already know both of those tasks can be complicated alone so imagine how tired I was when it was all said and done around 6ish Saturday evening. Still I was in a good mood to start cooking, so I hopped right in my zone by grabbing my Beatz headphones, charging up my phone and setting my Pandora on rotation. Drake radio station is a favorite play list of mine on any given day. I blessed my meal and my hands before I started and delved right into cooking. I finished around 4ish Easter Sunday but that was after a trip to the store, and grooming and dressing the kids.

Starting so late in the game Saturday evening I made several improvisations to my menu to ensure that we would be able to eat at a reasonable time. Initially our plans included going to church but I can’t even lie, when I walked out the store at 10:47am with the last of my ingredients I knew I could rush home, wake the kids, get them fed and dressed, get myself dressed and leave and possibly get to church before it ended. I didn’t think it was impossible but I knew I would be rushing and irritable throughout the entire process. So I continued on with my cooking trusting that God would deliver me the special Easter message I was seeking like so many people walking into churches all over the world. The first task on the list was to cook the bacon for the potato salad so I cooked that in a foiled covered sheet pan. Another game time decision was to do a mock smoking of the Turkey. If you’ve seen my previous post “Diary of an Amateur Smoker” then you know my last attempt at Smoking was not very successful. I made some modifications to my process per my research and determined that I would need a ton of time in order to properly smoke the turkey, brisket and pork loin. So the turkey was going into the oven with what I call I mock Smoking created with a foil packet of lit hickory pellets and placing it in the bottom of the oven underneath the roasting pan. To elevate the smoked hickory flavor I made a compound butter that included liquid hickory smoke , rosemary, smoked paprika, black pepper, seasoned salt, ground thyme and garlic that I used to put beneath the turkey skin. I covered the bird in vegetable oil before seasoning it with the same seasoning blend. With the main meat in the oven I could focus on other tasks.

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On the stove top I began boiling the potatoes and eggs for the potato salad and the elbow pasta noodles for the macaroni. While I waited on those I put together a simple cheese sauce that consisted of Velveeta Cheese, milk and butter for the macaroni and cheese.  The noodles finished first so I finished the macaroni and cheese by buttering the baking dish and mixing the noodles, seasoning, shredded cheeses and finally the cheese sauce. I mixed it all up, covered it in foil and baked it at 350 degrees for an hour. Once the eggs finished boiling I allowed the eggs to cool briefly before preparing the Deviled Eggs. I found a really simple recipe that called for ingredients I had on hand. I did swap out Paprika for Smoked Paprika and I also sprinkled on some parsley for decoration once done.  I was off to a good start and feeling confident about my spread. Next up was the ham. Luckily I had a petite Honey Ham in the deep freezer so I prepared that according to package instructions. I did sprinkle some brown sugar all over the spiral arranged slices in the pan. The ham needed to bake for roughly 30 minutes so I used that time to fix the collard greens. I sautéed onion, minced garlic and smoked ham neckbones in a little canola oil (of course I ran out of olive oil) and then added in a little apple cider vinegar. I let it heat up and then filled the pot up with water. I then added in chicken bouillon cubes and let the water mixture come to a boil before adding in the pre-washed and shredded collard greens.

 

Next up on the list was the sweet potato pies. I put the sweet potatoes in the oven and let them roast for about 45-60 minutes. Imagine my surprise when I went to retrieve 8 lbs of what I presumed to be chicken wing drummettes when I discovered an obvious blunder when I accidentally picked up chicken drumsticks. And not just any chicken legs – the biggest chicken legs that I’ve ever seen in my life. I was frustrated for about 9 minutes. It was after 12am Easter Sunday and I didn’t want to run back to the store for chicken wings. So I opted to prepare one bag and get the wings later. I continued on thawing the chicken legs for grilling. The potatoes had cooled down which meant it was the perfect time to prepare the potato salad. First the potatoes and eggs had to be peeled and then diced. I used a short cut and used my little food processor to chop the boiled eggs, onion, green pepper and celery into small pieces. With the potatoes and eggs diced I seasoned the first layer of the potato salad liberally with smoked paprika, seasoned salt and black pepper. I then added in the chopped vegetables, mayo, a little mustard, sugar, and sweet relish. You’re going to need your muscles to fully integrate the components of the potato salad. Making potato salad takes a lot of fine tuning flavors to get it just right. With all of the standard ingredients mixed in I then added in my bonus – crumbled bacon. Afterwards my potato salad took its rightful place in the refrigerator where it could blend and come together.

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I know you’re probably thinking when is she going to bed. I don’t know what time I went to sleep but it was after I had taken the rolls out of the oven and brushed them with melted butter. I woke up at 4am on the couch covered in my comforter. I was up and back at it in no time. It was still too cold to go out and start the grill and smoker so I finished the sweet potato pies and put together some Easter treat bags, gifts, and cards. I also did some cleaning and began setting up. By 8am the sun was out though it was still cool. I wrapped up in my husband’s jacket and prepped the grill and smoker. The grill was simple and was hot in no time. In effort to save time and ensure doneness I split the chicken legs down the middle to grill. The smoker was a little tricky but I finally bit the bullet and used a little lighter fluid to help ignite the chimney starter. The lighter fluid was what  I needed to get the flame and temperature right. I modified the use of my smoker for only 1 tray versus the 2 so that I could position the water drip tray on top of a tray instead of directly over the coals. This helped tremendously. Once the drip tray was in position I could position the last tray on the middle rack. My brisket was seasoned with the included seasoning package but I also covered the meat with copious amounts of ancho chile powder, cumin and meat tenderizer and wrapped in foil before it was placed on the inside tray

It was definitely time for another unplanned change. Initially the plan was to smoke the pork loin with the brisket but the 1 tray challenge nixed that plan. The bbq chicken grilled quickly so I wrapped that pork loin in foil and placed it on the grill. (FYI the chicken legs were seasoned liberally with chilli powder, seasoned salt, garlic. meat tenderizer, onion powder, smoked paprika and black pepper and lastly coated with Sweet Baby Rays Honey Chipotle BBQ sauce.) A quick store run got me the last ingredients I needed to finish my dinner. The shrimp had thawed so I put together the Shrimp Dip first. A box of Seapak Shrimp Scampi went in a pan over med-high heat  while I diced some of the medium shrimp. After dicing a quarter of the shrimp I opted to leave the rest whole since I had to dice peppers. I used about a quarter of each – red, green and orange peppers and added that to the shrimp. Once the Seapak Scampi was done, it was mixed together along with cream cheese, shredded pepperjack seasoning, Louisiana hot sauce and creole seasoning. I sprinkled parsley all over the top and baked it at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes till it was bubbly and slightly brown on top.

With the Hot and Spicy Shrimp Dip in the oven I could devote my attention to the Stuffing, Turkey Gravy and Carrot Cake donuts. The gravy was simple. I sautéed chopped onions, minced garlic and the turkey neck in butter. I then added 1/4 cup of flour to that and browned it altogether. I had some chicken stock in reserve for another dish so I added that to the flour and stirred it up. Then I added in the Turkey Juice packet included with my turkey and some additional water. I turned the heat up and watched the gravy bubble and thicken. I used the same chopped onion, in addition to celery and sauteed it in butter before adding in chicken stock. After a quick boil the stuffing mixture was added in and voila, I was almost done cooking and in the nick of time because bellies were getting hungry.

The carrot cake donut recipe seemed easy enough though I had my concerns right off the jump. I don’t cook or bake with yogurt a lot so I was concerned about the consistency of the donut. My family loves carrot cake so this was a good opportunity to display a great flavor profile in donut version. I should have quit on the donut when my attempt to crush the pineapple first and lastly matchstick carrots in the blender. The pineapple worked out but the carrots didn’t and I was running out of steam so those matchstick carrots went in regular. I should probably note that I left the standing mixer running while checking my grill and smoker. I may have over mixed my dough too much but the consistency resembled the description on the recipe so I proceeded with caution. I funneled my dough into a gallon zipper storage bag and cut the end off. I piped the dough into a silicone donut mold that had been sprayed with baking spray. The donut molds were baked on top of baking sheets as directed. They had ample time to cool as I had to stop cooking to get my kids bathed and dressed and rather sharply if I have to say so myself.

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When I returned to my kitchen there was very little to prepare. The Easter eggs had been hidden by eldest boy Pleasants who also looked pretty sharp too. I mixed together the pineapple cream cheese frosting to dip the donuts in. I sprinkled some chopped walnuts over a few and kept the others plain in case my husband wanted to try one. At that point I could relax so I watched the kids run around the house looking for Easter eggs that had been hidden so well, that eldest boy Pleasants had forgotten where he had hidden them all. There was much fun and laughter that our family were able to share together. The food was a hit! Okay there was 1 miss that I referenced earlier – the carrot cake donuts. Though they looked fine – they tasted horrible…to me. The kids seemed to enjoy them just fine though. They scarfed them down till I took them off the table after I tasted them. Everything else was on point. The brisket and pork loin were sliced thinly after they had ample rest time and arranged in spirals. The turkey was carved and everything was out and ready to eat. My favorite dish of the evening was definitely the Hot and Spicy Shrimp Dip. It was a perfect combination of cheeses, peppers and shrimp and it went perfect with the Crostinis. The second fave was the brisket – it was flavorful, tender and moist. On the briskets’ heels was the pork loin.

The rolls came out great. They had great texture and were highlighted with a smidge of butter or margarine. The turkey gravy was rich and supple. It went perfectly over the turkey and stuffing. The macaroni and cheese had a creamy consistency that blended well with the melted shredded cheeses. The greens were good but next time I wouldn’t use the pork neckbones because I did’t the pork flavor I was looking for. A surprising hit was the potato salad with crumbeled bacon. It gave the normal potato salad a little punch of salt and texture. There was something for everyone’s individual tastebuds and no one went to bed hungry. By the time that I ate my food and served my husband the first heated slice of Sweet Potato Pie I was ready to retire to my bed to put my feet up.  After eating my own slice of pie, I retreated back to the kitchen for a slice of my neighbor’s pound cake and I’m certain that I dozed off shortly after that.

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I woke up Monday morning around 4am and watched some television, one of my old favorites Real Housewives of Atlanta and a very hilarious Watch What Happens Live with guests Kenya Moore and Michael Rappaport. Once filled of my Shameful TV fix I found my way downstairs to my desk to start working on this blog and breakfast. Yes I forgot to get breakfast for the kiddos on the first day of Spring Break. They could eat cereal but only 3 of 4 kids will truly eat cereal. So I whipped my Super Mom cape out and managed to throw together Link Sausages, Wildberry Muffins, Mini Pancake Bites (Plain, Cinnamon, Pineapple, Strawberry, Chocolate Chip and Sprinkle) Strawberries and Orange Slices.

 

I started working on this post around 6am this morning, it’s 12:49pm and I’m on my way back to bed for a couple of hours till I have to do something fun with the kids. Can’t forget it’s Spring Break – Day 1. Hope your Spring Break started with a bang, mine’s did. In a day or so I’ll have my full write up of each Pinterest inspired recipe under my She Tried It board.

Thanks for stopping by! Till next time…. be blessed and be a blessing!

Peace and Blessings,

A Very Pleasants Mom

#SpringBreak

#HappyEaster

#familygoals

#EasterSunday

 

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