Happy Easter! Here are some special recipes to help celebrate the holiday


Happy Easter! Here are some special recipes to help celebrate the holiday. The croissant French toast Casserole is a favorite for the holidays. It can be prepared the day before, refrigerated, and baked the next day, if you wanted to do that. I like to use the mini croissants, but the large croissants are also good, cut them into 2-inch pieces. Letting them dry out for a day lets them absorb more of the egg mixture, and cutting them in half crosswise helps to make the pieces fit into the baking dish. This is a very light and fluffy dish that is very satisfying. Maple syrup or a peach preserve when warmed adds a nice touch to the taste.

The bacon egg muffins are delightful and work well as part of a breakfast or brunch or as the meal. The jalapeno appetizer is one of my favorites, and most guests gobble them down quickly. Removing the seeds and membranes from the peppers makes them less spicy.

The roasted asparagus can be as simple as just using dollops of sour cream on each cooked serving. When buying asparagus, gently squeeze and twist the stalks, if they squeak when rubbed against each other they are fresh. To prepare them snap off the tough woody ends, discard those, and blanch in boiling water for 2 minutes. Asparagus can be used in salads, stir-fry dishes, frittatas, or wrap them in bacon and roast until crispy.

The roasted leg of lamb is a very slow roast for a very moist and tender leg of lamb. Put it up in the morning and just let it roast on a low heated oven.



Croissant French Toast Casserole with Peach Sauce

4        large croissants or 8 mini croissants

4        large eggs, room temperature

¼ (one fourth) cup brown sugar

1        cup half and half or whole milk

2        tablespoons fresh orange juice

3        teaspoons vanilla extract

½ (one half) teaspoon ground cinnamon

1        tablespoon granulated sugar, for topping

½ (one half) cup peach preserves

¼ (one fourth) cup water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a bowl whisk together eggs, sugar, half-and-half or milk, cinnamon, orange juice, and vanilla. In a 10 x 13 –inch baking dish place the croissant pieces in a single layer. Squeeze them in to fit. Pour the egg mixture over the croissants, place a couple of plates on top to hold down the pieces to keep them submerged in the liquid. Press down to help absorb the egg mixture. Let this soak in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

Remove from refrigerator, taking off the plates, cover with foil and bake in a 350 degree oven until set about 35-40 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle 1-tablespoon granulated sugar over top of croissants and return to oven, broiling for about 2 minutes, until sugar is bubbling. Serve hot, cut into squares, if desired.

In a glass measuring cup stir together peach preserves and water, microwave until hot, about 2 minutes. Serve on the side.


Bacon and Egg Cheese Muffin Cups

Makes 8 servings

1        package 8-flakey refrigerated biscuits

10      slices smoked bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled

6        eggs

2        green scallions, finely minced, white and light green parts

2        cups Mexican cheese or sharp cheddar cheese, shredded, about 8-ounces

2        tablespoons butter, melted

Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Vegetable spray a 12- cup muffin pan, you will use only 8 cups unless you divide 4-biscuits in half to make the 12-biscuits. Press each biscuit into the muffin cup pressing to the bottom and up the sides to form a cup. Bake biscuits in oven for 8-10 minutes until just a light golden color. Remove from oven.

In a bowl mix together egg, cheese, butter, crumbled bacon pieces, minced scallions, salt and pepper. Spoon evenly into biscuit cups. Bake 13-15 minutes in oven or until set. Serve hot.


Jalapeno Peppers with Pimento Cheese and Bacon Appetizer

Makes 24 – To avoid irritating skin, wear gloves when preparing peppers.

12      small jalapeno peppers, about ½ (one half) pound

4        ounces pimento cheese

2        ounces cream cheese

12      slices smoked bacon, cut in half crosswise

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.

In a bowl combine cream cheese and pimento cheese. Spoon into a re-sealable plastic bag with one corner snipped off.

Cut jalapeno peppers in half lengthwise, leaving the stems on, remove and discard seeds and membranes. Pipe the cheese mixture into the pepper halves. Place the stuffed halves cheese-side up on a baking sheet. Wrap half a piece of bacon around each stuffed pepper half , if necessary to hold together use a toothpick.

Bake until peppers are tender and the bacon is cooked or crisp, about 8-12 minutes. Serve immediately.


Roasted Leg of Lamb

This is a slow roasted leg of lamb and it is worth the extra time for a very moist, fall off the bone roast. Roast the meat 6 to 8 hours on a 275 degree oven.

Serves 8 - 10

1        bone-in leg of lamb, about 5-7 pounds, with all but a thin layer of fat trimmed off

1        tablespoon dried rosemary, crushed

1        tablespoon garlic powder

1        tablespoon onion powder

1        teaspoon dried thyme

½ (one half) teaspoon dried oregano

1        tablespoon EVOO, olive oil, plus 1-tablespoon for added roasting

2        large sweet onions, cut into ½ (one half) inch wedges

½ (one half) cup dry white wine


Salt and pepper, to taste

2        teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

2        tablespoons corn starch

1        cup chicken broth

white wine, if desired

Mint jelly

In a small bowl mix together rosemary, garlic powder, onion powder, thyme, and oregano with olive oil. Place leg of lamb in a 12 x 16 inch roasting pan. Rub spice mixture over entire surface of the meat. Pour white wine into pan, evenly distributed onion wedges around lamb, and cover pan and meat with foil, roast lamb 6-7 hours. Remove pan from oven, increase heat to 450 degrees.

Remove foil, pour off juices into a saucepan and onions, set aside. Sprinkle lamb with 1-tablespoon olive oil.  Roast in oven uncovered for about 30 minutes until nicely browned and crisped on the outside. Remove from oven and let stand for at least 20 minutes before slicing. Remove and place on a platter.            

In saucepan with drippings and onions, add 1-cup chicken broth with 2 tablespoons corn starch dissolved in it. Scrape up any residue from the lamb roasting pan and add to saucepan. Strain gravy through a strainer or puree in a blender and pour back into saucepan  Bring to a boil and add Worcestershire sauce, thyme, salt and pepper to taste, lower heat and simmer for 5-7 minutes. If desired add some wine and stir, simmer for a few minutes.

Slice lamb across the grain and serve hot with gravy and mint jelly. Asparagus and/or carrots go well with the lamb.


Carrots with Orange Marmalade and Liqueur

Serves 4

1        pound baby carrots, cooked until tender

½ (one half) cup orange marmalade

3        tablespoons brown sugar

3        tablespoons butter

3        tablespoons orange juice

1-2     teaspoons orange liqueur or rum (Optional)

In a saucepan combine orange marmalade, brown sugar, butter, orange juice, and orange liqueur. Cook on low 5-6 minutes, stirring frequently.  Stir in cooked carrots and toss to coat, simmer until hot. Serve hot.

Duchess Potatoes

2        pounds russet potatoes or Yukon Gold, peeled and quartered

2        cups chicken broth


2        eggs

½ (one half) cup half-and-half or whole milk, more if needed

½ (one half) cup sour cream

4        tablespoons butter, melted

¼ (one fourth) teaspoon seasoned salt or Old Bay seasoning

Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

6        Pats of butter

Place potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with chicken broth and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until tender. Drain.

Preheat oven to375 degrees.

Over low heat stir potatoes into pot cooking for 2 minutes until all the steam has evaporated. Pour into a large baking casserole dish and mash with a potato masher. Stir in eggs, half-and-half, sour cream, butter, seasoned salt, salt and pepper. Add more liquid if necessary. Smooth out top of potato mixture and place butter pats evenly over the top. Put into oven and bake for 20 -25 minutes until hot. Broil for 3-4 minutes to make the top a golden brown.


Roasted Asparagus

Serves 4

1        pound fresh asparagus woody ends trimmed off

2        tablespoons EVOO, olive oil

2        tablespoons lemon juice

Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

½ (one half) cup Ranch or Blue Cheese creamy salad dressing

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

 In a large skillet, with 1-inch of water, steam the asparagus until just turning a bright green, about 2-minutes. Remove from water, drain and place in a shallow oven safe baking dish, toss with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Roast until asparagus is tender, about 6-8 minutes. Remove from oven and just before serving drizzle the blue cheese dressing or ranch dressing across the center of the asparagus. Serve immediately.


Chocolate Cream Pie with Kahlua

1        prepared 8-inch chocolate cookie crust

8        ounces cream cheese, softened

1/3 (one third) cup cocoa powder

½ (one half) cup milk

1        teaspoon vanilla extract

1        cup heavy cream

3        tablespoons granulated sugar

1        teaspoon vanilla extract

2        tablespoons Kahlua liqueur (Optional)

Miniature chocolate chips, for garnish

In a bowl with an electric mixer beat together cream cheese, sugar, cocoa powder, milk, and vanilla until light and fluffy.  Add Kahlua and mix well. Pour into prepared cookie crust, spread out evenly.

In another bowl beat together heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla until soft peaks form. Spread over chocolate cream cheese layer. Sprinkle top with mini chocolate chips, if desired. Chill in refrigerator for 2 hours before serving.


Hope Cusick has won awards at the North Carolina Strawberry Festival in 2012; The North Carolina Blueberry Festival, winning first place for her Blueberry Cheese Danish Pastry in 2012, and placing on her blueberry spinach salad and dressing; and has won various other contest awards for her blueberry cheesecake, breads, cookies, brownies and jams. She resides in Hampstead.