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Easter Weekend – Saturday

29-Mar-2005

I had mentioned that I was going to be hosting all the meals for the holiday weekend but didn’t say much more than that.  So here’s a little background. 

Half of my family is in Oregon and half have moved to Seattle over the years.  For many years we would trade-off hosting some of the holidays, mostly Thanksgiving and Christmas, so that everyone traveled part of the time but got to stay home part of the time and also had an opportunity to host if they were inclined.  This was the first holiday we’ve had in Seattle for six years.  Once my Mom became too ill to travel all holidays were at my parents’ house in Salem and occasionally my Mom could make the trip to my sister’s place in Eugene. 

So I had mixed feelings about this weekend.  While I was excited to have everyone up from Salem and those in Seattle come over, the reason I was now able to do this came at quite a cost.  However, we (all the siblings) had talked about this holiday and thought it would be really good to shake things up a bit, get my Dad out of the house and make a new start. 

On Saturday about noon my sister, her husband and three kids and my Dad arrived at my house.  We got them settled in their rooms for the weekend and then had lunch.  It was just a basic lunch but it was the first "showing" of the egg cookies, so I thought I’d mention they were a hit! After lunch we started the set up for dinner. 

I have a little house and this was going to be one large crowd!  Twenty people including all of my siblings and their families, my brother’s fiancé, her two kids and her parents and a brother and sister.  This was actually the first time the two families would be meeting each other.  Now I keep mentioning "kids" but the reality is that of the ten people in that group, eight were between 13 and 17!  Not really kids, just not quite adults. :-)

I managed to make one very long table from two 8 foot tables.  Technically this only seats 18 but with a 5 year old on one corner and the two smallest nieces sharing a table end we had seats for all 20.  Now there aren’t going to be too many pictures of the weekend meals (Are you crazy?  I barely had time to get one meal on the table, wash the dishes and get going on the next one without taking time for pictures!) but there is a shot of the table pre-dinner.  It worked out pretty well.  A couple of things when a table is this long and full: I kept the flower arrangements short and small, just a few tulips in small vases and for candles I just used a few groupings of tealights. 

Before my brother had asked about bringing all of the fiancé’s family I had planned a nice simple spaghetti dinner.  Although this might not be the most impressive meal I decided to stick with it.  I make good spaghetti, if I do say so myself – how could I not?  Everything I do is based on what my grandmother and mother did for years!  And since I could make nearly everything ahead of time (and people were bringing some items) it would be pretty easy.  And by the way, this is spaghetti and sauce not pasta with marinara. :-)

On Friday I assembled four batches of sauce (one too many), made small meatballs from three pounds of hamburger (two to two and half would have been plenty) and let them simmer in the sauce, heated sausage (I used a chicken sausage for my no-beef/no-pork brother) and let it simmer in the sauce, and then cooled it all and let all the flavors meld into a delicious combination of tomato, herbs and meat flavors over night in the fridge.  

Saturday afternoon I prepared a batch of gougere (little cheese puffs).  About 30 minutes prior to the rest of the family and all my future in-laws once removed (or whatever they will be) arriving, I popped the first tray in the oven.  People started arriving, introductions were made, coats taken, wine poured and general chaos ensued!  I managed to get all the older kids outside (under cover) to an electronic dartboard that we’d set up sooner.  Phew!  The noise level dropped dramatically! 

The gougeres came out of the oven and were heavenly!  I love those little bite-sized steaming pieces of fluffy cheese and garlic essence!  It’s almost like eating nothing, they are so light, yet you are so aware of the absolute perfect complement to your wine.  Ahhh…. 

A bit of relaxation and conversation and then off to start boiling the spaghetti.  I had planned to use three pounds and got it all going.  At some point I started to panic thinking that was not going to be enough, quickly got another pot boiling and added another 3/4 pound or so.  Of course, at the end of the meal I had almost exactly that amount left over!  :-)

Once the spaghetti was done I tossed it with a little sauce and then divided it between two serving bowls, one for each end of the table.  I did that with sauce, meatballs, sausage, the salad my sister contributed and the bread my brother brought.  I think it all went over well.  People seemed to enjoy the food and we sat at the table for a couple hours. 

Once we were done with the spaghetti I served up ice cream (vanilla bean or java chip) with chocolate sauce or caramel.  And finally a big platter of the little egg cookies. 

Overall I was happy with the way everything turned out and with all the leftovers I was able to send spaghetti, sauce and meatballs home with everyone the following day. 

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