Five New (& Easy!) Sides For Your Easter Meal

Photo by jules
Sweet potatoes and fresh herbs make this dish a winner.
Whether it be a lavish brunch or a potluck dinner, we love a good Easter Sunday meal. Unfortunately, the same deadbeat dishes seem to make an appearance year after year. This time around, we're giving the usual suspects (think scalloped potatoes and buttered peas) a bit of a makeover.

Here are five ways to turn those tired sides into something special:

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Dish of the Week: Mazel Tov, Potato Kugel

Photo by Brooke Viggiano
Potato kugel is the perfect side for a Passover feast.
Since today is the first day of Passover, this week's recipe is an Ashkenazi classic casserole, potato kugel.

Kugel is a baked pudding or casserole traditionally served on the Jewish Sabbath or other holidays. Originally puffed and baked in a ring shape, the name of the Yiddish dish likely referenced the Middle High German word kugel, meaning sphere, globe, or ball. Today, kugel is often baked in a square or rectangular pan.

The casserole originated as a savory dish made with bread and flour, but some say German cooks replaced bread with noodles or farfel around 800 years ago. Eventually, eggs, cinnamon, and sweet farmer's cheese were added, turning the dish into the sweet noodle kugel that is most common today.

But savory versions are still popular as well. Today they are often made using onions, matzoh, and potatoes, after their popularization in the mid-19th century

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It's Passover, So I've Taste-Tested Manischewitz Sangria for You

Photo by Brooke Viggiano
It's kosher for Passover sangria, y'all!
True story: I still have Manischewitz left over from the kickass Hanukkah party my fiancé and I threw last year.

I say it was kickass because it was. The apartment complex security arrived shortly after dinner, when our game of "drinking dreidel" (we're still working on a name) got a little too rowdy. It was 8:30 p.m. on a Friday. Suffice it to say, we didn't get to pop open all of the bottles of the bottom-shelf kosher wine that our guests so kindly brought. Mostly because we had to move the party to the bar, but also because Manischewitz tastes pretty bad and there were plenty of better drinks to be had, including but not limited to an entire tub full of Dr. Brown's sodas that paired just beautifully with whiskey. Like I said, it was a kickass party.

Going into Passover, I've vowed to start and finish those giant bottles of Schewy (still working on a name for this, too). We've got a few bottles MCG -- a concord grape varietal -- and CWC -- a cream white concord wine that I didn't even know existed -- that need to be gone immediately. Since my past experiences have taught me that MCG is impossibly sweet, I though it'd be perfect for sangria. It's kind of like turning lemons into lemonade, only the complete opposite.

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Top 10 Worst Easter Candies

Photo by Terren
Yes, Peeps are on the list, but they aren't number one...
It's that glorious time of year once again. Spring has sprung, we're turning on our air conditioners, and an entire aisle of the grocery store is devoted to sugar-coated, pastel-colored Easter things. If you're a parent, you'll likely be heading to said aisle sometime soon to stock up on candy to place in your children's baskets. If you're me, you'll be heading there the day after Easter to get everything at half price.

Either way, you need some guidance.

Too often as a child (and even now) I found my stock of Easter goodies marred by a few rotten eggs, so to speak. A few items that never should have made it past beta testing in the candy factory. A few too many marshmallow-esque creations.

So regardless of whom you're buying Easter candy for this year, please consider the multitude of options out there. And don't buy any of this crap.

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Five Matzoh Dishes to Help You Survive Passover

Photo by Quinn Dombrowski
We've found a few better ways to use your matzoh.
Leave the leavened bread at the store, folks; Passover is here.

The Jewish holiday observes the biblical story of the Exodus, in which Israelites were freed from Egyptian slavery. The story goes that after the Pharaoh finally released the Children of Israel (ten plagues later), the Israelites had to leave in such a hurry that they couldn't even wait for their bread dough to rise before baking it.

Today, the unleavened bread, matzoh (or matzo, or matzah, or matzot, or...ehh screw it), has become a major symbol of the holiday.

But just because matzoh doesn't rise doesn't mean it can't be delicious. We've already covered the classics -- including Matzah Ball Soup, Matzah Brei and the unleavened s'mores we've named S'matzahs -- but here are Five More Ingenious Dishes to Help You Survive The Feast of Unleavened Bread:

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Passover Staples at Kenny & Ziggy's

Photo courtesy of Paula Murphy
The full Passover spread available at Kenny & Ziggy's

I am so food-obsessed that I use the arrival of every holiday (even if it's in no way associated with my ethnicity/religion/national origin) as an opportunity to eat special food.

Which is why my lapsed Catholic/spiritual-agnostic self is crazy excited for the start of Passover. I don't have a Jewish grandma at home (though in a pinch, my husband will do), so I will have to do a little extra legwork to procure items for my meal. My Passover food will still be homemade...just not in my home.

This year, Kenny & Ziggy's offered a fabulous $400 ginormous "Passover In A Box" package that would have enabled me to hold a baller Passover feast. But I missed the deadline, and let's face it, most of my goyim friends aren't quite as excited as I am to eat gefilte fish.

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Spring in Houston: 5 Standout Artichoke Dishes Around Town

Photo courtesy of Backstreet Cafe
This stuffed artichoke is available at Backstreet Cafe for a limited time only.
We don't know about you, but we've got a little bit of spring (veggie) fever over here. We've already looked at the best places to get your asparagus on, but this week, artichokes are the name of the game.

The ever-versatile vegetable, which is native to the Mediterranean, has a peak season that runs from March through May. That means you have another two months to enjoy these green goddesses at their fullest.

We've rounded up five must-try dishes from Houston's finest (and we're not talking your run of the mill spinach and artichoke dip).

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UPDATE: Where to Eat on Easter Day (2014)

Photo by Robert S. Donovan
Easter is almost here. Make your brunch reservations ASAP.
Some of you may be wondering, "When is Easter?" And I bet those of you who gave something up for Lent know exactly when Easter is (you've been counting down the days). Well, this special holiday is Sunday, April 20, and the best way to celebrate any weekend holiday is with brunch, no?.

Many restaurants in our city and its environs are hosting Easter brunches, and some are offering dinner, too. So, to help make your life easier when deciding where to dine out this Easter, we've compiled a list of restaurants offering specials. As always, make your reservations sooner rather than later to ensure you, your family and your friends have somewhere to eat. So, hop to it and check out our guide to Easter brunching.

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Your Guide to Spring Produce in Houston

Photo by whitneyinchicago
Top delicate pastry tartlets with fresh in-season blueberries.
Although the weather has been hot and cold during the past several weeks (I think it listens to Katy Perry wayyy too much), the spring season has arrived. And with it comes an array of new fruits, vegetables and herbs for you to cook with and eat.

Say goodbye to the heavy winter squashes like butternut, acorn and pumpkin, and say hello to a whole new array of bright and vibrantly colored fruits and vegetables.

We spoke with Tyler Horne, market manager at Urban Harvest Farmers Market, about the spring produce available now and in the coming months at the farmers markets in Houston. After a few freezes and frosts this winter, as well as a recent week of rainy days, many farmers are bringing the first wave of their spring harvest to the markets.

"The rain is pretty much needed right now," Horne says. "It's the time of year that we really need it so the farms get everything planted...These frosts have pushed the harvest dates two weeks later than they normally are. They got all of these late-season frosts, and so the farmers were having a hard time keeping up. So, tomatoes are in the ground later than they really should be. A lot of the peaches won't be here because they got such a bad freeze. My poor farmer that grows tomatoes ended up putting them in the ground and lost a ton of plants; he didn't expect to have a hard freeze."

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Got Corned Beef? Here Are 5 Delicious Ways to Use the Leftovers

Photo by Edsel Little
This is pretty much the reason we make corned beef on Saint Patrick's Day.
One of the best things about St. Patty's Day -- besides the green beer, Irish soda bread, and pistachio cake that you convinced yourself was an acceptable breakfast -- is most definitely corned beef and cabbage. Though it's about as Irish as spaghetti, the dish has become a Saint Patrick's Day tradition in America.

It all started when Irish-Americans tasted corned beef at Jewish delis in New York City. Finding the cured beef similar in taste to Irish bacon, the poor immigrants realized it was a much cheaper alternative to the pork dishes favored in their homeland. Cabbage and potatoes were added and cooked in the same pot to make the hearty meal go a long way.

While we loved chowing down on corned beef and cabbage yesterday, we love today's leftovers even more. That's because they are so easy to transform.

Here are five great ways to use your leftover corned beef:

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