Simple yet luscious coconut cupcakes top off your Easter dinner. Karen Schneider / For The Forecaster

Easter has always been a favorite holiday, especially now with small grandchildren on hand excited for their Easter baskets and the traditional egg hunt. Since I would rather hang out with them than spend too much time in the kitchen, I like to prepare all I can ahead of time.

Except for the vegetables, these side dishes can be reheated while your ham, roast or chicken is resting.

Karen Schneider cooks and writes in the village of Cundy’s Harbor. You can reach her at [email protected]

Cheese grits are a nice substitute for mashed potatoes (no spuds to peel!) and go especially well with a spiced-up spiral ham. And if you’ve never eaten Pineapple Stuffing, I’m here to tell you that you must. I know it’s not the healthiest side, but it works perfectly with the ham and grits. Just eat an extra helping of Roasted Carrots & Asparagus and add a green salad to the menu to balance it all out.

Decades ago, I once had coconut cupcakes for Easter dessert at a friend’s home and that has been my go-to dessert for every Easter since. I sometimes diversify, and when I do, I’m asked, “But where are the coconut cupcakes?”

If you have the time and inclination, decorate them with cute bunny ears then arrange these fluffy creations on a platter amid chocolate bunnies and jelly beans for a simple dessert that will please everyone at your Easter gathering.

Baked Cheese Grits

6 cups water
2 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
2 cups yellow grits
1/2 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
3 large eggs
1 cup whole milk


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bring water and 3/4 teaspoon salt to a boil in a heavy 4-quart pot. Add grits in a slow stream, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and gently simmer, stirring frequently to avoid sticking until very thick, about 30 minutes.

Add butter, remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, pepper, garlic and cheese, stirring until butter and cheese are melted. Lightly beat eggs and milk in a small bowl then stir into grits until combined.

Pour into an ungreased 8-inch square baking dish (2 inches deep) and bake until set and lightly browned, about 1 hour. Yield: 6 servings

Pineapple Stuffing

1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
8 eggs
2 cans (20 ounces each) crushed pineapple, drained
3 tablespoons lemon juice
10 slices white bread, cubed

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in pineapple and lemon juice. Fold in bread cubes. Pour into a greased 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Bake uncovered, 35-40 minutes or until set. Yield: 12 servings.

Roasted Carrots & Asparagus

3 large carrots, peeled and julienned
1 pound asparagus, trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt


Roast about 20 minutes until tender, stirring halfway through roasting time.

Coconut Cupcakes

1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
3/4 cups sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup canned coconut milk, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups shredded unsweetened coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan with 12 paper cupcake liners, set aside.

Sift cake flour into a medium mixing bowl. Add in baking powder and salt and whisk 20 seconds to evenly distribute.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar until very pale and fluffy. Mix in egg then mix in egg whites one at a time. Blend in coconut extract and vanilla extract.

Add in 1/3 of the flour mixture and mix on low speed just until combined then blend in 1/2 of the coconut milk, mixing just until combined. Mix in another 1/3 of the flour mixture, then mix in remaining 1/2 of the coconut milk (again mixing just until combined after each addition). Finish by mixing in the last 1/3 of the flour mixture.


Remove bowl and scrape sides and bottom with a spatula and fold gently just until evenly incorporated. Divide batter among muffin cups, filling each cup about 2/3 full.

Bake in preheated oven until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 18-20 minutes. Cool cupcakes on wire rack.

Pour coconut into a small bowl. Once cupcakes are cool, frost, then immediately dip tops in coconut to fully cover.

Coconut Buttercream Frosting

14 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar
1/2-1 teaspoon coconut extract
2-3 tablespoons canned coconut milk

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter until pale and fluffy.

Add in sugar, coconut extract and 2 tablespoons coconut milk. Mix until pale and fluffy, adding another tablespoon of coconut milk to thin if needed. Yield: 1 dozen

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