This simple side dish is perfect for your Easter dinner or brunch table.
You know, the older I get, the more nostalgic I become. Easter is about a week away, and as I discuss with my daughter what we should do to celebrate (dinner or brunch; ham or roast), my mind goes back to those Easter Sundays my family celebrated so many years ago.
These had such a comforting and familiar rhythm. Each Easter Sunday started with that early morning egg hunt in our backyard. Mom was probably up at dawn in the misty late March or April weather tucking colorful plastic eggs, baskets, games, and plush toys behind posts, trees, and any shrub she could find.
Once all the treasure was found and appropriate photos snapped and film shot (yes, so long ago, we used 8mm film for home movies), we had a light breakfast, dressed in our Easter finery, and headed for church (Friedens United Church of Christ), which closed in 2010. Founded in 1857 as Friedens German Evangelical Church, later named Friedens Evangelical and Reformed Church, the building was at 1908 Newhouse in north St. Louis. We’d join other members of our extended family and fill an entire pew during worship.
After church, the family—still dressed to the nines—made our way to my great uncle and aunt’s home for lunch and another egg hunt. One year, Grandpa lined up all my Easter baskets and they filled our living room mantel, which made him happy since I was allergic to chocolate at the time. Happily, I grew out of that!
When my daughter was born, the traditions continued, but they moved to different locations. It was my turn to hide eggs for my little girl, followed by breakfast, dressing up for church services, and then heading to Mom and Dad’s house for Easter lunch.
Such wonderful times and vivid memories. Of course—with the exception of my daughter—all of these beautiful people are no longer with me. And this year will mark the second time I celebrate Easter services via Facebook live because of COVID. But my daughter Em and I will have Easter dinner, and perhaps one of her friends (part of our COVID circle) will join us. The menu more than likely will be baked ham, the Tater Tot casserole, Easter Bunny Buns, deviled eggs, and Carrot Caper.
The carrot dish was something Mom usually made each Easter. Over the years, her recipe card was lost (my bad), but I think I’ve finally recreated it. There are no capers in the recipe, but canned carrots, cream of celery soup, and Velveeta. It may have been a law that the latter two ingredients had to be in any casserole from 1950–60, just saying.
And it’s just so stinking good! The buttery, crushed up crackers for a topping make it for me. It reminds me a bit of the carrot souffle made famous by Picadilly Cafeteria, but it’s not quite as airy or sweet.
A nice plus for this recipe is you can make it the night before, take it out of the refrigerator, and then bake it just ahead of your meal. It reheats well (should you have any leftovers), too. I think this casserole would work well as a side for dinner or brunch.
I was tickled to include this in the Three Women in the Kitchen cookbook, and I hope other families might enjoy this dish as we did over the years. It’s such a joy to come together around the table, isn’t it? So, whether you’re celebrating with one or several people this Easter, get out the fine china, dress up your table, and make your family's favorite foods. Make no mistake: these efforts will have an impact. I wish you all the blessings of promise and hope this season brings. A blessed Easter, and Happy Spring to all of you!
Here are other ideas for your Easter brunch or dinner menu.
Sour Cream Coffee Cake is perfect for brunch.
Limoncello Cheesecake is a wonderful springtime dessert.
Who wouldn't love Stuffed French Toast for brunch?