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A stress-free Easter feast

By Stacey Stein

The thought of the impending Easter holiday may fill you with great excitement and anticipation – it’s a chance to enjoy a communal meal and swap funny stories with loved ones. But if you’ve signed up for hosting duties, you might also worry about how you’re going to pull the whole thing off around the busyness of your day-to-day life.

The secret lies in trying to prepare as much as you can in advance while opting for simple, no-fuss dishes that you can whip up quickly.

“This helps reduce the stress of the day and allows you to spend more time enjoying your company so you’re not stuck in the kitchen,” says registered dietitian Shannon Crocker, who hosts many holiday gatherings.

Read on for ideas to help you put together a healthy and delicious Easter feast that will maximize your time and minimize stress while still wowing your guests.

Manageable mains

Turkey is a traditional Easter main, and while some might think it entails a lot of work, Crocker says there are several options when it comes to preparing a simple turkey dinner. To cook turkey quickly, Crocker recommends removing the backbone and flattening the meat (a method known as “spatchcocking”), which speeds up the process.

For a smaller gathering, you can try a sheet pan turkey dinner – simply marinate the a turkey breast (or two) in olive oil, garlic, lemon and rosemary (you can do this the day ahead), arrange it on a large sheet pan with veggies (try mini potatoes and chopped cauliflower) and roast for about 40 minutes at 450 degrees until the turkey is done.

Try this Garam Masala sheet pan turkey dinner for a twist on a traditional meal. Simple to prepare (and one pan means an easy clean up), this main kicks up the flavour a few notches, yet is simple and nutritious. This dish also lends itself to being prepared in advance – you can marinate the turkey and prep the cauliflower, potatoes and veggies ahead of time. Serve with a creamy dill ranch raita (made with Nordica Smooth Plain) for an extra hit of flavour.

Other great options for your Easter main include this Mediterranean mozzarella-stuffed lamb (roll up the lamb in the morning to save time, then pop into the oven when your guests arrive), or, for something different, try this roasted rainbow trout. Taking only eight to 10 minutes to cook, it checks the box for a fast main, and you can make the cucumber relish accompaniment up to two days in advance (sub Nordica Smooth Plain for the sour cream for a protein boost.)

Simple sides

Keep things super easy is by prepping a big tray of assorted roasted vegetables – you can make them the day before and gently heat them up just before your guests arrive. Sautéing is another option – cut up the veggies the day before and then sauté them just before you serve your meal.

Multitask by making one dish that combines both grains and veggies, like these cheesy quinoa-stuffed peppers. This side can easily be transformed into a heartier dish for vegetarian guests by adding some crumbled tofu or chickpeas to one or two of the peppers.

If some of your guests are watching their carbs this garlic and pepper cauliflower rice is a low-carb, flavourful side that only takes three to five minutes to cook. Side note: this pairs well with the roasted rainbow trout.

Sides don’t get more traditional than mashed potatoes, a staple at many a holiday meal. Shake things up with these horseradish and herb smashed potatoes. They’re simple and tasty, and the potatoes can be cooked and smashed the day before – a win for both you and your guests!

Doable desserts

Two easy and delicious make-ahead dessert options sure to impress guests include this coconut mango semifreddo, bursting with tropical flavour and resembling a frozen mousse, and this goat cheese mousse – its orange-cranberry chutney topping ups the fanciness factor.

Seriously pressed for time? A fresh fruit sundae bar is fun for guests (especially pint-sized ones) who get to assemble their own dessert creations, while – bonus – saving you the effort of making a dessert. Instead of ice cream, put out Nordica Smooth Blueberry Acai, along with a variety of berries and different toppings like whipped cream and chocolate sauce.

A dessert-sharing platter is fun for guests who enjoy sampling and can also be made and frozen ahead of time. You can include some delicate squares and cookies like this lemon lavender shortbread and these raspberry lemon squares, evocative of spring.

Finally, you can’t go wrong with these festive roll around shortbread cookies or Easter cookies, which you can make ahead of time and freeze.

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