Springtime Meal

I love having people over for dinner and making sure they enjoy themselves and the food.

For special occasions, I find I can't go wrong with Applesauce Pork Loin, Sour Cream 'n' Chive Potatoes, Sweet-Sour Spinach Salad, Roasted Asparagus and Easter Bunny Carrot Cake.

My husband, Andy, daughter, Bridget, and son, Brian, tell me I can make this meal any time!

Applesauce Pork Loin is a recipe from a commercial cooking course I took before I was married. The meat was so flavorful that later, cooking for our family, I scaled down the size of the recipe. It has remained one of my favorite ways to prepare a pork loin and is perfect for company.

Some people are skeptical when I tell them I put applesauce, honey, mustard and rosemary on the roast. But after a taste, they concur that it's a great combination. This roast has evolved into one of my best springtime entrees since it goes so well with the rest of the menu.

Savor Spring "Greens"

At this time of year, fresh asparagus and spinach are abundant in Ohio. My daughter's friend Maria came to dinner one day when I served Roasted Asparagus and claimed she didn't like the vegetable.

Bridget talked her into trying "just one piece" and by the end of the meal, Maria was asking if she could have the last spear on the serving dish.

Sweet-Sour Spinach Salad has been a favorite of mine since childhood. My mom made it a lot.

By the time I was 12 or so, I'd often help Mom with the cooking for our family of six. One day I decided to make the whole meal myself.

Mom worked third shift as a nurse in a newborn nursery and would have the meat out that she wanted to fix that evening for dinner. I thought, I can cook that! And I'd watched her fix other things often enough that I was able to come up with a whole meal. It was very well received.

Out of Milk

The Sour Cream 'n' Chives Potatoes came about by accident. I had no milk in the fridge, so I used sour cream instead, along with butter, salt and pepper.

I didn't tell anyone that I had made the switch—and they all loved the potatoes! The next time I mashed potatoes, I added chives in with the sour cream, knowing how good they are together on baked potatoes. Sometimes I also add shredded cheddar cheese if I have it on hand.

I've received a few recipe chain letters over the years, and the carrot cake recipe was in one of them. I believe it's from a friend of my sister-in-law's who lives in Texas. It's a delicious dessert.

At Easter, I use a bunny-shaped pan to make it. After all, a carrot cake in a bunny pan seems perfect! I think people enjoy having a piece of the not-too-sweet cake as an alternative to Easter chocolates and marshmallow Peeps.

Day to day, I keep busy maintaining the household. Andy works swing shifts, often without days off for long periods of time. The kids' music lessons and Scouts, Bridget's horseback riding lessons and Brian's roller hockey keep me hopping.

Daytime Dates

Due to his schedule, Andy is often home during the daytime, when the kids are at school. We take advantage of that time and go out on "dates." We hike and fish, look for treasures in antique and thrift stores and go out to lunch.

I often come home and try to duplicate the entrees we've had at a good restaurant. I like to experiment in the kitchen, read cookbooks, dabble in cake decorating and collect 1950s pottery. This year I joined a women's bowling league—it's fun!

When Andy's on second shift, I get the kids off to school and then begin preparing dinner so he can take a decent meal with him to microwave later at work. I enjoy using my gas grill and can often be seen out grilling, even in the middle of winter.

As crazy as our schedule is, we still find time to enjoy family meals and to invite others to share a special spring dinner with us. Perhaps our well-loved menu will inspire you to do the same!