Stepping Out

On the springtime holiday table

Spring forth with festive traditions


Spring holidays are an opportunity to move away from hearty cold weather foods and enjoy the start of seasonal bounty — such as new potatoes, asparagus and also sorts of greens.

Expand upon your family’s heritage when planning holiday menus. Of course, prepare those comforting recipes handed down from generation to generation, but supplement family favorites with some that give the meal a contemporary twist.Spring celebrations wouldn’t be the same without one classic component: lamb. Whether roasted or grilled, it’s among the highlights of the Passover or Easter table. For a new take on tradition, swap conventional mint jelly for a pesto for a fresh, but familiar, flavor that complements lamb’s rich taste.

Rack of Lamb with Quinoa-Hazelnut Crust and Mint Pesto

2 tablespoons red quinoa

2 tablespoons white quinoa

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup, plus 1 tablespoon, finely chopped toasted hazelnuts, divided

2 racks of lamb, about 1 pound each

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 1/8 teaspoons sea salt, divided

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 teaspoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons mint

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1 cup plain Greek yogurt

Rinse quinoa; drain well. In small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring quinoa and water to boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 13 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally. Spread cooked quinoa on baking sheet to cool. Stir in 1/4 cup hazelnuts. Set aside.

Heat oven to 450 F. Brush racks of lamb lightly with 1 teaspoon oil. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon sea salt and pepper. Coat lamb with quinoa mixture, pressing firmly to adhere. Place lamb on roasting rack in foil-lined, shallow roasting pan. Drizzle with 2 teaspoons oil.

Roast 20-25 minutes, or until desired doneness.

To make Mint Pesto: In small bowl, mix remaining oil, remaining hazelnuts, lemon juice, mint, garlic powder and remaining sea salt until well blended. Stir 1 teaspoon pesto into yogurt.

To serve: Carve lamb into chops. Drizzle with remaining pesto. Serve with yogurt sauce.

Bunny Butt Cupcakes

1 2-layer size white cake mix

1 tablespoon, plus 2 teaspoons, pure lemon extract, divided

1 tablespoon vanilla

3/4 cup white chocolate chips

2 sticks butter, softened

16 ounces confectioners’ sugar

2 tablespoons milk

10 drops green food color

1-2 drops red food color

12 large marshmallows, halved crosswise

3 tablespoons white nonpareil sprinkles

Prepare cake mix as directed on package, adding 1 tablespoon lemon extract and vanilla. Spoon 3 tablespoons batter into 24 paper-lined muffin cups. Bake as directed on package for cupcakes. Cool cupcakes on wire rack.

To make bunny feet: In medium, microwave-safe bowl, microwave white chocolate chips on high 30 seconds. Stir until completely melted and smooth. Spoon into pastry bag or re-sealable plastic bag. Snip small corner from bag. Pipe 24 pairs of bunny feet onto parchment or wax paper-lined cookie sheet. Use toothpick to smooth out bumps or rough edges, and gently tap cookie sheet on counter to help settle. Allow to harden 2 minutes in freezer or 15 minutes in refrigerator.

To make frosting: In large bowl, beat butter and remaining lemon extract until light and fluffy. Gradually add confectioners’ sugar, beating well after each addition and scraping sides and bottom of bowl frequently. Add milk; beat until light and fluffy. Remove half the frosting and place in medium bowl. Add green food color; mix until evenly blended. Spoon into pastry bag fitted with grass decorating tip. Set aside. Remove half the remaining frosting into small bowl. Add red food color; mix until light pink. Spoon into another pastry bag.

Using pink frosting, pipe three toes and padding on each bunny foot. Once frosting has set (about 1 hour) gently press down on pink frosting to create smoother look.

To assemble cupcakes: Pipe green frosting onto each cupcake in series of short motions to create individual grass spots. Cover top of each cupcake completely.

To make bunny butts: Place cut sides of marshmallow halves onto each frosted cupcake, leaving room for bunny feet. Shape remaining white frosting into dime-sized balls then roll with white sprinkles to cover. Pipe small drop of remaining pink or white frosting onto top of each marshmallow. Press bunny tail on top.

Place both bunny feet against base of marshmallow with toes facing down.Recipe courtesy of Amanda Rettke of “I am baker.”

Flourless Chocolate Cake

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup cocoa

1 cup sugar

6 large eggs, slightly beaten

10 ounces good quality semisweet or bittersweet chocolate

1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar

1 cup margarine or butter

Mint sprigs and assorted berries for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 10-inch springform pan, then line bottom of pan with parchment paper.

In a small saucepan, combine chocolate and margarine and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until completely melted. Remove from heat and let cool. In a large workbowl, combine sugar, cocoa, and salt with a whisk until incorporated. Add eggs and vanilla and whisk until smooth. Add 1/3 of chocolate mixture and stir until incorporated; repeat with remaining 2/3 of chocolate.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes, until just set but still soft in the center. Let cool completely.

Sift confectioner’s sugar over the top of the cake, and garnish with mint and berries.