In my house, we’ve celebrated Easter every spring for years. When we were young, my mother dressed us up in fancy clothes, fancy shoes, and my sister and I even wore little white gloves and flowered hats. We’d go to bed the night before so excited for the next morning when the Easter Bunny would have left us beautiful baskets filled with jelly eggs, a chocolate bunny, and sometimes a sugar egg with a little diorama inside.
At our house, the Easter Bunny got into the house under our kitchen sink… don’t ask me why. But before we went to bed, we’d line up our baskets on the floor in front of the sink, and the next morning we’d race to the kitchen to discover all the great treats left for us. We’d also do a hunt for chocolate eggs all around the house.
As we got older (not so very old, but maybe I was eight?) we had a chat amongst our young selves. We knew there was no Easter bunny, but our parents got so excited about it. We decided to continue the charade for a few more years. I think we never really acknowledged the whole no Easter bunny thing. Instead, we just moved baskets to the kitchen table and as we got into our teens my mother switched chocolate treats to dried fruit and maybe a book or a CD we liked. But every year we also had a family dinner. Some years we spent at my grandfather’s and those didn’t always end so well. I remember one where my cousin ended up being knocked out cold by my grandfather because he’d taken too many mashed potatoes and refused to put them back. Yes, we were that family occasionally. But sometimes we’d invite people to our house and I got to be the cook. I loved it.
Visitors from India
Last year we had friends visit from India. My wife, Beth, works for a Contract Research Organization (CRO) and she heads up a team of people many of whom live in India. Last year a few of them were here visiting for work and we invited them over for dinner. Devendar, Kavitha, and Sugeetha were going to experience their first Easter Dinner. They don’t normally celebrate Easter and they are also vegan, so our usual Easter Ham plans were quickly changed for the recipe I’m including below, Sweet Potato, Okra, and Chickpea Curry.
Meeting the furry kids
One other new experience was having dogs around the house. None of the three were comfortable around dogs as house pets, and our two dogs are most definitely part of our family, and very much present during mealtime. Our corgi, Tucker, quickly made himself an ornament to Sugeetha, sitting near her feet, nudging her leg to get patted.
Eventually, he won her over. Our Jack Russell mix Quinn was a hit, too. She is very much a momma’s girl and insisted on sitting in my lap while we chatted.
My brother also spent the afternoon with us and joined in on explaining traditions and sharing memories.
Singing from the heart
We were happy to see that my brother brought along his guitar. He is a singer-songwriter as well as a luthier and we’re always happy to hear his newest songs, so he sang for us. He’s been writing and singing for a while and at the time was working on his first CD release. Not the type of music our guests were used to, but they were definitely appreciative. Then Beth and I offered to sing a favorite song our quartet sings (albeit just the lead and bass parts).
Our rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow touched Devendar’s heart. None of them had seen The Wizard of Oz, and when we tried to explain the story they just looked puzzled. But he told us our singing brought him right up into the clouds with the rainbows. In fact, Devendar sees and hears the world through his heart. Anytime someone has a criticism or a negative comment he tells them to try to see whatever it is, through their heart and they will find the beauty that lies within.
Seeing with your heart
On our way back to drop them off at their hotel, we drove by our church. It was dark, but Beth pointed out the church to our left. Kavitha comment, “oh it’s beautiful…”
Devendar commented, “How do you know it’s beautiful? You can’t even see it!”
I responded, “She’s looking at it with her heart.” Devendar’s own words to find beauty in anything.
Vegan, Vegetarian and how a ricotta cheesecake fit the bill
I was fine doing Lacto-vegetarian dishes for the meal. Shaved asparagus salad (a vegetable they hadn’t experienced), curry with Greek yogurt, rice, and a simple ricotta pie for dessert. But as I was about to serve the dessert I realized it probably had eggs in it.
I’d ordered it from our favorite bakery and we couldn’t wait to cut into it, but I had to be honest with our guests, it wasn’t vegetarian at all. It had both cheese and eggs in it. They told me that it was fine for dessert. I was confused, why would eggs and other non-vegan ingredients be okay for dessert. I didn’t ask, but later found an article (lost to me now) that said the Gods wanted people to experience joy, so non-vegetarian ingredients were okay for dessert. Is that true? I’m not sure. But I know that this curry dish was enjoyed by all. I hope you enjoy it, too!
Sweet Potato, Okra, and Chickpea Curry
(Courtesy of Delicious magazine, with a few of my own tweaks!)
- 1 TB olive oil
- 1 red onion, finely sliced
- 1 – 2 TB Tandoori Paste
- 1/3 lb. okra, trimmed and sliced lengthwise
- 2 14-oz cans fire-roasted chopped tomatoes, drained
- 1 cup roughly chopped kale
- 1 14-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp coriander
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- 1 cup of full-fat Greek-style yogurt, plus extra for topping the dish
- juice of 1 lemon
- Steamed Jasmine rice
- Heat olive oil in a large frying pan
- Add onions and fry for 3 – 4 minutes.
- Add sweet potatoes and fry for an additional 15 minutes until potatoes are almost cooked. Make sure to keep stirring to prevent the onions and potatoes from sticking
- Stir in the tandoori paste, then add okra and cook for another minute. Add about ¾ cup of water to the pan and simmer for 15 minutes over low heat
- Stir in kale, chickpeas, yogurt, and spices and bring to a simmer again. Cook for 2 – 3 minutes until kale and sweet potatoes are cooked through.
- Taste and season with lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
- Serve with more yogurt and rice, along with wedges of lemon.
Depending on your love of heat, you can add more tandoori spice, or some red pepper. For us, the above, served over rice, with the added cooling of the lemon was the perfect mix for our non-traditional Easter dinner. Beth travels to India at least once a year, and I was hoping to go next time, but with travel restrictions we’re not sure when that will be. Fingers crossed it isn’t too far into the future.