I cannot believe that Easter is this weekend. I am so happy because that means Spring has finally arrived. I see signs of Spring everywhere with temperatures getting into the 60’s, flowers peeking out of the ground and buds popping out on the trees. It also means that I am in the kitchen creating and trying out new recipes for the upcoming Holiday. We have family coming into town this week so we decided to host Easter at our house this year. We typically host Thanksgiving and sometimes Christmas. I don’t recall hosting Easter too often but I am ready. I have my menu planned out for Easter dinner and a few decorations placed around the house. I have a few goodies picked out for the kids too (ssh, don’t tell them)! We will most likely host a few dinners while family is in town so I have to be very organized this week planning out some meals.
When hosting any type of party, it is a good idea to write everything down. I like to write out my menu when planning/hosting a party or a holiday. This helps with a few things such as:
- Making a shopping list
- Pairing dishes/recipes together
- To make sure you cover all bases for your party (our schedule is super busy all the time, so if I don’t write things down I will forget them)
Start with planning & writing down the following:
- Appetizers: write down ideas for appetizers you plan to serve. Try to have cold and hot appetizers; it is good to have a nice mix of the two. I like to use my kitchen island to set out the appetizers. I also set out some small appetizer plates and cocktail napkins. If you want guests to stay out of the kitchen than place appetizers in an area where you would rather your guests congregate, such as a family room or living room. If guests ask, appetizers are a great menu item to have them bring to your gathering. You may want to give them an idea of what you are making to avoid duplicates! You will want to figure out how many appetizers to make for each guest. Here is a simple rule to follow:
- Hosting a Dinner Party:
- serve about 6 appetizers per person (example: if you make 3 different types of appetizers, each guest would get 2 of each different appetizer)
- Make approx. 3 different types of appetizers for about 8-10 guests
- Make approx. 5 different types of appetizers for about 15-16 guests
- Hosting a Cocktail Party: serve about 12 appetizers per person
- Hosting a Dinner Party:
- Main Course: figure out what you will serve for lunch, brunch or dinner. That would include a main protein along with any side dishes such as a veggie, salad and a starch (such as potatoes). You will want to decide if you want to serve your guests (by plating everything for your guests) or setup a buffet style (which is what I love to do). Buffet style allows your guests to serve themselves and help themselves to whatever they like. It is also less work as a host; you just simply put everything on platters and place onto a table or in a designated area.
- Dessert(s): you’ll want to figure out if you want small, individual desserts or 1 or 2 bigger ones (such as a cake and/or pie). If you have smaller, individual desserts, this allows your guests to try a few different treats. I love to make bar cookies (such as cheesecake bars); they are still decadent but you can serve smaller portions. Will your guests want something different to drink with their dessert, such as coffee or tea? You could setup a coffee station with your cups/saucers, spoons, sugar & creamer ready to go. You can have your coffee pot all setup and ready to go so the only thing you would need to do when it comes time for dessert is hit the “on” button. If you have the space, you can also have dessert plates, napkins and forks and/or spoons all set up. If your desserts don’t require refrigeration, you can have your dessert table all setup before guests even arrive. Everyone will love peeking at what goodies you have.
- Drinks: last, but certainly not least, is figuring out what type of beverages you want to serve for your gathering. Will you serve beer, wine or other specialty drinks? Will there be children, maybe create some fun and festive drinks for the kiddos. It is fun to plan out different holiday drinks. Sangria is great for holidays such as Easter. It is lighter and you can add all types of fruits that are in season to your drink. I have made Sangria with different types of wine and fruit. I have also made Strawberry Lemonade (which had strawberry vodka in it) which was such a pretty color and I added lemon slices and fresh strawberries). Both of these drinks are really tasty and guests can help themselves. It is easier to plan if you know ahead of time what your guests like to drink. Otherwise, you can setup a bar area with a few different items for your guests to choose from (make sure to include non alcoholic beverages too and a pitcher of water). Oh, and don’t forget to have plenty of ice on hand. It is no fun running out of ice at your party! No one likes a warm drink. Ok, maybe someone might but not me!
Whatever you decide to do, have fun! The more you prep and plan ahead of time, the more time you will have to enjoy with your party and your guests. The following is one of the recipes I tried out this week for Spring and the upcoming holiday. I really like the idea of using up any fruits I have on hand that are about to go south. I decided to make a cake with icing. This banana cake is so moist and so decadent. I am used to banana breads that tend to be more dense. This is not quite as dense as a bread. The additions from the semi-sweet chocolate and icing just knock this one out of the park. I think it would be perfect on the Easter dessert table or really any time. It would be great if you host an Easter breakfast, brunch or even lunch. I am actually enjoying a piece while sitting down to write this.
Banana Chocolate Chip Cake w/Cream Cheese Icing
Makes approx. 16 servings
3-4 Bananas, mashed
1/2, Lemon, juice
3 Cups, All-Purpose Flour
1/2 Teaspoon, Salt
1 1/2 Teaspoons, Baking Soda
1 1/2 Sticks, Butter, unsalted & softened
2 Cups, Sugar
2 Teaspoons, Pure Vanilla Extract
1 1/2 Cups, Buttermilk
2 Cups, Semi-Sweet, Chocolate Chips
3 1/2 Cups, Confectioner’s Sugar
8 oz., Cream Cheese
1 Stick, Butter, softened
1 Teaspoon, Pure Vanilla Extract
2-3 Teaspoons, Cream or Milk **(I have French Vanilla Coffee Creamer on hand so that is what I used in this icing)
Preheat Oven to 275 Degrees. Spray a 9×13 casserole dish with cooking spray and add sprinkle some flour all over the pan (just to lightly dust it) and set aside.
In a small bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking soda and set aside.
In a 2nd bowl, add the bananas, lemon juice and mash the bananas. Set the bowl aside.
In a standing mixer, add the butter and sugar and mix until nice and creamy. Add the eggs (1 at a time) and mix well after each egg is added. Add the vanilla. Then add the flour mixture and buttermilk (alternating between the flour and buttermilk) until all ingredients are added. Add the bananas and mix again. Then, add the chocolate chips and mix just until everything is combined. Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish and bake for approx. 1 hour or until a knife comes out clean in the center of the cake.
Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. While the cake is cooling, make the icing.
To make icing: using a standing mixer, combine the confectioner’s sugar, butter, vanilla extract and cream or milk (add a little cream at at time until desired texture/thickness). Once the cake is completely cooled, add the icing, cut into squares and serve.
You could also add any of your favorite nuts to this recipe. Just add them at the same time as the chocolate chips. I would recommend toasting the nuts first either on the stove or in the oven. To toast nuts on the stove, simply add them to a skillet over medium-low heat and toss to even cook; only cook until they become somewhat fragrant and start to get nice and golden. If toasting the nuts in the oven, spread them out on a baking sheet (no oil or cooking spray needed) and simply bake at 350 Degrees for about 10 minutes.