Spring Recipes and Easter Alternatives

Christine Avanti's April 2019 Newsletter

April is an important month for awareness. In the United States, April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). The goal of the month is to raise public awareness about sexual violence and educate communities on how to prevent it. Sexual assault is a serious and widespread problem. In the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, it states that nearly one in five women in the US have experienced rape or attempted rape at some time in their lives, and one in 67 American men have experienced rape or attempted rape.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month is about more than awareness — the ultimate goal is prevention. Consent is a clear, concrete example of what it takes to end sexual harassment, abuse, and assault, and so this year’s theme – “I Ask” centers on empowering all of us to put consent into practice. I Ask is the statement by which individuals will demonstrate that asking for consent is a healthy, normal, and necessary part of everyday interactions – whether it be asking to hold someone’s hand, for permission to share personal information with others, or if a partner is interested in sex. I Ask is the statement by which we will uplift the importance of consent and transform it from being prescriptive to empowering. For more information you can go to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center website and follow me on Twitter and Facebook as I share more information this month.


Easter is just around the corner and that typically means chocolate, marshmallows and jelly beans everywhere! Although sweets in moderation is ok, it seems like every holiday revolves around candy, chocolate, and rich foods and we overindulge in food rather than appreciate the traditions the holiday brings. If you have children, you may be stuck with a surplus of sugary snacks after the day is over. I’m hoping that some of the ideas below can help you enjoy your holiday without overindulging this Easter (and some fun Easter facts you may have not known about to go with them!):

Eggs

In many cultures and religions eggs have been symbolic of new life, fertility and rebirth. During the Easter holiday the egg is used as symbolically as the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The hard shell of the egg represents the sealed Tomb of Christ, and cracking the shell represents Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Chocolate eggs are now very common to see around Easter – even peanut butter eggs. The first chocolate egg actually dates back to the early 1800s. Remember when picking up a package of those chocolate eggs that most chocolate we have now is highly processed, high in saturated fat and refined sugars and those ingredients are not good for your health! Here are more tips on how to incorporate the tradition of the Easter Egg into your holiday celebration:

  • Don’t graze on those chocolate eggs all day, keep an eye on your portion sizes and go for dark chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa which have more health benefits.
  • Why not go for the real thing? Don’t forget that real eggs provide nutrients including zinc, selenium, vitamin D and protein.
  • You don’t have to eat all the chocolate in one weekend! Save your chocolate eggs for another day – don’t overindulge.
  • The internet has so many ideas for crafts and activities for kids. If you have kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews, or simply want to get crafty, look them up! It is a fun way to represent eggs without eating them.

Easter Baskets

At some point, the Easter Bunny was introduced to the Easter holiday. As far back as the 1600s, German Protestants began telling their children that a hare would bring colored eggs to baskets the children would leave out overnight. These baskets were “nests” made out of hats, bonnets, baskets, etc. The hare would supposedly lay the eggs in the baskets but just like Santa Clause would only leave them if the children were well behaved. The “Easter Hare” tradition was brought to America and became the “Easter Bunny” and the baskets were soon filled with candy and toys. Many other countries have their own variations of this tradition.

Now, with commercialism in full swing, you can’t go into any store without something being marketed towards Easter leading up to the holiday and most of the time it is SUGAR! What if there were better ideas for those baskets? If you are still leaving baskets out this year, here are just a few ideas to get you started and spark your imagination. You know your child best and what is suited for their age-level and what they like (and try not to go overboard – that is a topic for another newsletter!):

  • Eggs! You guessed it – real hard-boiled eggs 😉
  • Filled Plastic Eggs – Fill them up with dehydrated fruit, nuts, granola, cocoa nibs, etc.
  • Goldfish or Bunnies – Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies are a great organic choice.
  • Carrots – The Easter Bunny loves them, right? Wrap a few up with ribbon or put them in a cute bag.
  • Dark-Chocolate Covered Fruit – Any fruit is fun to do this with, even dried fruit. Check out my recipe for Dark-Chocolate Dipped Apricots.
  • Sidewalk Chalk – They even have egg-shaped chalk. Perfect for Easter.
  • Fitness Gear – it is so important to instill an active lifestyle at an early age, and as kids it is still fun! What about fun socks and headbands, a jump rope, or a soccer ball? Anything to get your kid moving!
  • Art Supplies – paint, color crayons, paper, etc. Spark some creativity and get them off electronics for a while.

Easter Activities

Stay Active! There are a lot of activities that happen around Easter Break/Easter Weekend. The Easter Egg Hunt is extremely popular, and its roots come from the Easter Hare that I mentioned above where children would “hunt” for the eggs it would leave behind. Easter Egg hunts now can be found all over your community, or you can do one right in your own backyard.

Staying active over the Easter holiday is important especially if you are consuming more sweets and food than you normally would. Here are just a few ideas to keep active:

  • Go for a walk with family and friends – the weather is getting so nice! Spring is officially here; take advantage of the sunshine and soak up that vitamin D your body has been missing.
  • Find a community Easter Egg Hunt.
  • Have a BBQ – get people together, play games, be active together.
  • Have a relay race – this is fun at a family gathering or simply if you have kids. Use those hard-boiled eggs you have made for Easter, grab a spoon and create your own relay.

Easter Dinner

Roast lamb is a popular choice for many people on Easter Sunday. The tradition of eating roast lamb at Easter comes from the Jewish celebration of Passover, which occurs at around the same time.

Lamb is a source of protein, vitamin B12 and zinc however it can be high in saturated fat. Too much saturated fat in the diet can raise your cholesterol, which increases the risk of heart disease. I have a delicious recipe for lamb that I love making on Easter and for other special occasions that I will list below. Some things to note, and ways to make a healthier Easter Sunday Dinner:

  • Larger chunks of potato absorb less fat so cut your potatoes into bigger pieces before roasting them and use olive to roast them in rather than or goose/duck fat (high in saturated fats).
  • Include lots of fresh vegetables – cabbage and kale are both in season at this time of year – these vegetables are rich in vitamin C and a source of folic acid. Kale is also a source of calcium.
  • Cut off any visible fat from the meat and try not to add too much extra oil or fat –cook meat on a wire rack so that excess fat can run off. (if not cooking in a pan as specified in my recipe below).
  • Use herbs and spices for flavor instead of butter and salt when serving and cooking vegetables.

Here is my recipe for a high-presentation, high-flavor Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb with Acai Berry Sauce for a special occasion such as Easter. Acai berry juice is available in many forms in your local supermarket. If not available, try 1/3 cup of lingonberry preserves instead.

Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb with Acai Berry Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano
    if you cannot find purple)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 Large garlic cloves, minced
  • 5 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 2 1 1/2 racks of lamb with 8 ribs each, trimmed
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon pepper, divided
  • cooking spray
  • 1/4 cup port wine
  • 4 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
  • 1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup acai berry juice
  • 1 teaspoon butter

Click Here For Full Recipe and Directions


Spring Recipes

I love the colors of Spring: the fresh greens, the bright oranges, the crisp pinks – your food can definitely reflect the colors of the season! If our food looked as wonderful as it tasted, we would probably love cooking and creating these works of art much more than we do. I wanted to share some spring recipes that I have found with some beautiful colors and flavors to start the season. Take some time to appreciate the colors and flavors of these amazing dishes!

Watermelon Radish & Avocado Rolls

Although these are called “Summer” Rolls, they scream “Spring” to me! Consider the fillings in this vegan summer roll recipe as a starting point–papaya, snap peas and shrimp are all good alternatives. The first thing you layer on the rice paper will be what shows through on the finished roll, so vary what you start with for stunning, Instagram-worthy results. How beautiful are these rolls??

Ingredients

  • 12 rice paper wrappers
  • 3 ounces thin rice noodles, prepared according to package directions
  • 2 Persian (mini) cucumbers, thinly sliced
  • 1 small watermelon radish, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium ripe mango, thinly sliced
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1½ cups fresh mint leaves
  • 1½ cups fresh basil leaves
  • 2 medium ripe avocados, halved and sliced into 12 pieces each
  • 4 large leaves butter lettuce, torn into 3 pieces each

See full recipe and directions on EatingWell.com

Fennel Crusted Halibut with Asparagus

This is a bright green Spring dish with accents of pink and red that give it beautiful color. It is a simple, healthy, paleo-friendly dinner that features spring asparagus in two ways – in the sauce and on the side and it can be made in just 35 minutes – but it definitely looks restaurant quality and that you could have been spending all day prepping for this dinner.

Ingredients

  • 1 shallot, rough diced
  • 1 tablespoons butter or olive oil
  • 1 bunch asparagus ( divided)
  • 1 cup chicken or veggie stock or broth
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt, more to taste
  • 1/8 white pepper (optional)
  • 2–3 tablespoons fresh tarragon ( this makes the sauce!)
  • squeeze of lemon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil or butter (or a mix is nice)
  • 2 thick filets of halibut, cod, black cod or sea bass
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • light sprinkling of fennel seeds
  • 1 lemon
  • Garnish with fresh tarragon leaves

Click for full recipe and directions on feastingathome.com

The last recipe I want to share with you is a lovely mixture of carrots in a variety of colors. The key is picking different colors for your carrots, without this your Tart will come out a little one-dimensional and won’t look as stunning coming out of the oven! These piles of colorful carrot ribbons—which skew more savory than sweet, thanks to a lemony coriander-flecked dressing—come out of the oven glistening and retaining some of their bite. For a gluten-free crust, substitute the all-purpose flour for your favorite gluten free brand.

Shaved Carrot Tart with Ricotta

Ingredients

  • 2 cups ricotta
  • 1⁄2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
  • Kosher salt
  • 10 medium carrots (preferably a mix of colors), peeled, with greens removed and reserved juice of 4 lemons, plus 1⁄8 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. coriander seeds, coarsely ground in a mortar and pestle
  • 1⁄2 tsp. ground caraway
  • Cilantro leaves, for serving
  • Flaky sea salt, to finish

See full recipe and directions on saveur.com


Stay tuned in the next coming weeks as I will update you as I will be representing The Jonathan D Fischer Foundation (JDFF) and hosting the 5th annual “Fostering Hope” Women’s luncheon for The Dream Center LA next month on May 8th. This luncheon benefits The Dream Center’s Foster Care Intervention Program.

The Department of Children and Family Services reported that nearly 200 kids are separated from parents simply due to poverty-related issues every month. To help prevent families from being separated, the Foster Care Intervention Program assists these families by providing furniture, food, clothing, appliances, and other basic items needed to allow parents to retain or regain custody of their children. This program is so important to the community of LA and JDFF is proud to partner with The Dream Center and help with this program.

Take some time to enjoy the sunshine! Enjoy your meals outdoors, take a walk, take in at least 10 minutes of sun everyday – your body and mind will thank you.


 

Happy Easter

“He is Risen!” Matthew 28:6

 

 

Christine

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