Earlier this week I was joined by one of my favorite entertaining experts, Ms. Ceci Carmichael, who so graciously stops by just prior to each holiday to share her tips on how we can best entertain our guests while still having a great time, ourselves. We also discussed her favorite eco-friendly Easter egg decorating tips, what to put in that Easter basket and where to find the best pies to finish off your delicious Easter dinner.
Entertaining Expert, Ceci Carmichael. Image courtesy of Home Made Simple
Candace Rose: The holidays can be very stressful, especially when entertaining guests. What can we do to ease stress and enjoy ourselves?
Ceci Carmichael: "Well I think that I say this every year- keep things as simple as possible. I think people have an idea that they want something extravagant because they maybe only do one party a year, and they end up being frazzled trying to pull it off. Go with recipes that you've made before and also go with products that you know are going to streamline and simplify your time in the kitchen, and get as much time ahead of time as possible."
Candace Rose: Do you have any suggestions when it comes to planning and cooking Easter dinner?
Ceci Carmichael: "Well, I think, again go with traditional this time of year; and I can't imagine Easter without a beautiful ham front and center. When you talk about going with brands that you know, and you know that will just always make things easy- the Cure 81 ham from Hormel foods has been my go to. The brand has been around for just about 50 years, and they've updated their products and made them much more contemporary. And the thing about ham, it's fully cooked. I think people don't realize that takes a lot of the guesswork out, and that's what I love about it, it's so simple. And Hormel's also come out with a great line of pre-diced and pre-cubed ham that's great for recipe ready, for salads, for your omelets; and also ham steaks that you can serve up individually cook up in five minutes. So amongst all these you've got a great variety of things served up for Easter that completely simplify it."
Candace Rose: How about when it comes to appetizers and drinks?
Ceci Carmichael: "Well, I think that appetizers, again go simple. You can also enlist people to help bring in their little specialties. For cocktails, I go with easy, fun, colorful drinks that everybody loves."
Candace Rose: Everybody loves decorating Easter eggs. Do you have any decorating tips you'd like to share?
Ceci Carmichael: "Well, I think go out in nature and find things to be able to do. Get a fern leaf and make a stencil over an egg or natural dyes made out of natural things. I think that's a great way to go. There's also great kits, and you can get magic markers and stickers. I mean the great thing about Easter is that it's got all these sort of built in activities, so you've got something to do at your parties."
Candace Rose: What are some of your favorite treats for Easter baskets?
Ceci Carmichael: "You know, I'm a jelly bean girl. I'm a traditional! I like my jelly beans, I like my chocolates. I like my big solid chocolate Easter bunny's- the really big ones; start with the ears and work your way down."
Candace Rose: I'll take it all!
Ceci Carmichael: "I'll take it all! I'm just as gone, but yeah, so I love all that stuff. It's my favorite time of the year. I have a 10 year old son so I'm sort of passing all these traditions down to him, and he has great expectations- I have a lot to live up to because my parents did a great job putting it on for me."
Candace Rose: I know, it's definitely one of my favorite holidays as well. Do you have any additional tips or information you'd like to share?
Ceci Carmichael: "Well, again when you talk about things that will simplify your life, it comes down to two things- let's say appliances, like your stove, and you don't want to be messing with. You want your cooking to go as smoothly as possible, and I (at home) have an Amana Range. It's self cleaning, electric- love it. It's got easy to use electronic controls, and the great thing is it's got a big interior and lots of shelves, so you can kind of get a lot of things in there- I've got a pie in there, I've got a ham in there. It's got a keep warm feature which is great for parties, and also it cleans itself! Like what is better than that? You press a button and two hours later you've got a clean oven. I don't know anybody that likes to clean an oven. It's got this great spillsaver top with a lip on it so that if you slosh things over it doesn't go on the floor, you just wipe it up. Things like that, it sounds so simple, but just get things that are going to help make your life a little bit easier, is basically it."
Candace Rose: Absolutely. Where can we go for more information?
Ceci Carmichael: "Don't forget dessert real quick. Village Inn's Baker's Square's pies- if you have them, just drop in and order them. They're so fantastic. I just had to mention them because I've been eating pie all morning, and they're so delicious. Go to PieReservations.com and you can order them, reserve them and go pick them up. They come in over a dozen flavors; why bake pies when they do it so much better. Go to News2Know.com, and you can get information on everything you see here, and have a great Easter celebration."