Countdown to Easter
The Saturday before Easter gives us one more day to make a final push for Easter eggscellence this year.
Here’s a reminder list:
-Purchase remaining items on shopping list for meals
-Pick up any special order items
-Set the Easter table-Make or assemble placecards and favors
-Put finishing touches on Easter baskets
-Fill plastic eggs for Easter egg hunt
-Check times for Easter services at church
-Dye eggs-Make cookies and treats
-Load fresh batteries into camera and check film or remaining memory
-Dust off the Easter bonnet
Above all, have a joyful day tomorrow!Holiday Hints will return with a newsletter in May and June for the remaining summer holidays. Then (believe it or not) it will almost be time to gear up for Halloween. Time flies, so hold on and enjoy every minute!Read More
Between college and law school, I took a year off and lived at home with my parents. For Easter that year, I insisted that my mom take the day off and I would prepare the entire meal myself.
I can no longer recall the (no doubt elaborate and tedious) menu, but I do recall the exhaustion of working all day (and for days before Easter) only to have the meal consumed in a matter of minutes. I also recall falling asleep right after dinner, sitting straight up in a chair in the TV room. That day gave me a whole new appreciation for the years of holiday meals my mom turned out; for her part, my mom was more than amused at my efforts and my naiveté.
Lesson learned: a simple, easy to prepare menu gives you more time to relax with family and friends. With that in mind, I propose the following Easter dinner menu:
- Strawberry Salad
- Glazed Ham
- Roasted New Potatoes with rosemary
- Fresh Spring Peas with mint and pearl onions
And now for the recipes!
1 c. sliced strawberries
1 ripe pear, sliced
½ c. candied walnuts
Spring lettuce mix
Drizzle raspberry vinaigrette over the salad and serve. (Hint: candied walnuts are now available in the nut/chip/cracker aisle of the grocery store.)
Prepare a store bought ham as directed on the package. During the last 30 minutes of roasting time, brush on the glaze of your choice two or three times. Serve extra glaze on the side.
A flavorful glaze takes a simple roasted meat to another level. A fruit-based glaze goes well with ham; and of the following glazes could be used with a pork roast or turkey as well.
Whisk the following ingredients together in a small bowl:
1/3 c. light corn syrup
1/3 c. orange juice
1 T. curry powder
1 T. orange zest
Blend 1 c. packed brown sugar and ¼ c. bourbon in a small bowl.
In a small bowl, combine:
¾ c. packed brown suga
r¼ c. orange juice
2 T. orange marmalade
1 T. Dijon mustard
In a covered blender container, blend the following ingredients at low speed:
1 can (8 oz.) crushed pineapple (with juice)
½ c. packed brown sugar
2 t. Dijon mustard
½ t. ground ginger
Dash of ground cloves
In a bowl, combine the following ingredients:
1 9 oz. jar of mango chutney (cut up any large pieces of fruit)
2 T. honey
1 T. Dijon mustard
1 t. ground ginger (or 2 t. fresh grated ginger)
2 t. orange zest
Roasted New Potatoes with rosemary
For this easy dish, figure 1 pound of baby new potatoes for every 3 people. Rinse and dry the potatoes, and cut any larger potatoes in half to ensure even cooking. Place the potatoes in a shallow baking dish. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and season to taste with salt, pepper and plenty of chopped fresh rosemary. Roast at 400 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes until fork-tender.
Fresh Spring Peas with mint and pearl onions
3 pounds of fresh peas, shelled, or 2 c. frozen baby peas
1 jar of pearl onions, drained
1 T. chopped mint
2 T. butter
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring ½ c. of water to a boil. Add peas and onions and cover; cook 5 to 7 minutes until tender-crisp. Drain and toss with mint and butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serves 6.
If desired add in some dinner rolls and a dessert of your choice to round out your meal.Read More
Easter is merely days away, and if you haven’t had the time, energy or interest to dream up a fabulous Easter menu, Holiday Hints is here to help. Today is a tasty brunch menu; tomorrow is a simple, spring-inspired dinner menu. Take your pick, make your shopping list and cook up something delicious.
Easter Brunch Menu
Hot cross buns (store bought)
If you’ve never made a soufflé because it seems intimidating, fear not! They’re really pretty easy to put together. Once it goes in the oven, don’t open it until it’s time to test the soufflé for doneness. Once it’s out of the oven, serve immediately.
½ c. butter
½ c. flour
1 t. salt
½ t. dry mustard
Dash cayenne pepper
2 c. milk
1 ½ c. shredded hard cheese (cheddar, Monterey jack, swiss or whatever you prefer)
6 eggs, separated
½ t. cream of tartar
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 2-quart soufflé dish or casserole. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Stir in flour and seasonings Cook over low heat, stirring until mixture is bubbly and smooth. Remove from heat and stir in milk. Return to heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute. Add cheese and stir until melted; remove from heat.Beat egg white and cream of tartar until stiff peaks form and set aside. Beat egg yolks until thick. Stir a small amount of the cheese mixture into the egg yolks to temper the eggs, then stir the eggs into the cheese mixture. Stir about ¼ of the egg whites into the mixture, then gently fold mixture into remaining egg whites. (To fold, use a rubber spatula and cut down the center of the bowl and lift the mixture from the bottom. Turn the bowl a quarter turn and repeat the cut and lift motion. The mixture should be combined, but not to the point of deflating the egg whites.)
Pour the mixture into the prepared soufflé dish and bake 50 to 60 minutes. To test for doneness, insert a knife halfway between the edge and center; it should come out clean. Serve immediately. Serves 6.
Substitutions: If you don’t have dry mustard, use 1 t. of Dijon mustard and add it with the cheese.
his dish is super easy and very pretty. (And it tastes good, too.) This can be prepared before the soufflé and kept warm by covering with aluminum foil. It is just fine at room temperature as well.
1 sheet frozen puff pastry
2 c. shredded Gruyere cheese (or swiss cheese)
1 1/2 pounds thin spring asparagus (about 1 bunch)
1 tablespoon olive oilS
alt and pepper
Herbes de Provence, if desired
Preheat oven to 400°F. Dust a work surface with flour. Roll the puff pastry into a 16-by-10-inch rectangle and trim to even the edges. Place pastry on a baking sheet. With a sharp paring knife, lightly score pastry dough 1 inch in from the edges to mark a rectangle. (This will create a puffy picture frame effect.) Using a fork, pierce dough inside the markings at 1/2-inch intervals. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.
Remove pastry shell from oven, and sprinkle with the cheese. Trim the bottoms of the asparagus spears to fit crosswise inside the tart shell; arrange in a single layer over the cheese, alternating ends and tips. Brush with oil, and season with salt and pepper and the Herbes de Provence. Bake until spears are tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
Hot cross bunsMost bakeries and grocery stores carry these spiced yeast rolls specked with raisins at Easter time. They were a staple at our house; my mom loved them, but she could never tell me why they have such an odd name.
Hot cross buns have been traditionally eaten on Good Friday for centuries to commemorate the crucifixion. Their name derives from the “x” or cross, usually made of icing, that decorates the tops of these rolls. Although the first reference to “hot cross buns” was recorded in 1733, there is some evidence that pagan lunar celebrations featured a yeast roll marked with an “x” to represent the four quadrants of the moon.
But it’s the Christian meaning, custom and traditions tied to these buns that caused a stir in 16th century England. They were so popular that it is reported that Elizabeth I passed a law banning the consumption of hot cross buns except at Easter and Christmas.Read More
Among the Easter traditions that cut across cultural lines, the exchanging of eggs is paramount. In Russia, Easter is the most important holy day, and the Russian monarchy took the symbolism of the egg seriously.
A jeweler named Peter Carl Faberge had the good fortune to be named the Czar’s Court Goldsmith in 1885, a position he would hold until the bloody end of the Russian dynasty in the revolution of 1917. Faberge worked closely with Czar Alexander III to make a gold Easter egg for the czar to present to the czarina. The first egg was fairly simple: a 2 ½ inch white enameled egg which opened to reveal a gold yolk, which opened to reveal a gold hen with ruby eyes and a red gold comb and beak. Simple, but rendered in luxurious materials.
That first egg began a lovely chapter of decorative arts history: the Imperial eggs. When Nicholas II succeeded his father as czar in 1896, he continued to employ Faberge to make masterful Easter eggs, usually with a mechanical aspect or a surprise, to present to his wife and his mother. As the years went on, the designs became more elaborate, studded with pearls and multicolor diamonds and layered with enamels and colored gold (Faberge used green and red gold quite often). Each had a secret inside, from a replica of the Imperial coronation coach, to a replica of the Trans-Siberian railroad, to hand painted portraits and scenes from Russian history. One egg housed a mechanical peacock that took 6 years to complete.
Although best known for the Imperial eggs, Faberge produced myriad luxury goods such as jewelry, cigarette cases, tableware and carved gemstone flowers. Every piece was meticulous in design and craftsmanship and used the finest materials. The House of Faberge grew to become the largest company in Russian and it produced more than 150,000 items from 1882 through 1917. Faberge fled Russia during the revolution, but his store in St. Petersburg, although renamed, still stands today.
Faberge’s sons started a new company in Europe after World War II, which has since been absorbed by a conglomerate. A rebirth of the Faberge brand is underway, and reproductions of several Imperial eggs may be purchased at Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdales for a trifling $4,000.00. Other goods, including crystal ware, are available from $95.00 for enameled wine charms.
Perhaps the Faberge Imperial eggs were a gross, conceited extravagance when the Russian people were starving, but the message from the czar to the czarina was clear with each successive masterpiece: I adore you. That is a sentiment that we can all get behind.
So this year, take note of the Russian tradition of exchanging small but meaningful gifts and let someone know how you feel.Read More
Dyeing eggs come Eastertime is a tradition that stretches as far back as Medieval times. Growing up, it was one of the things my brother and I begged our parents to do … the sooner the better. We made an egg for every member of the family, and one for the priest at church. We challenged each other to come up with wild designs and color combinations.
My dad was of Polish descent, and Easter eggs are “big” in Polish culture. They make carved eggs, intricate dyed eggs, and they are masters at delicately painted blown out eggs, so it was a natural part of our Easter traditions.
There are two parts to making the perfect Easter egg: the dye and the decoration. About ten years ago, I became fascinated with natural egg dyes that use common foods to create beautifully colored accents for the Easter table.
Here’s what you need:
White eggs (hint: vary the sizes for interest)
1 small head of red cabbage
4 large yellow onions
4 large red beets
4 c. of very strong coffee
Pour the coffee into a small, deep bowl and add 2 T. of vinegar; allow to cool to room temperature.
Pour a quart of water into three medium saucepans; add 2 T. of vinegar into each pot. (The vinegar helps set the color and helps the dye penetrate the egg shell.) Roughly chop the cabbage and place into one pot. Cut off the top and root end of the onions and peel off the skins. Roughly tear the skins into pieces and place in another pot. Trim and peel the beets and cut into quarters; place into the third pot. Boil each pot at least 30 minutes. Remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon and allow the water to cool to room temperature.
When it comes to the eggs, there are some options. You can boil the eggs first and dye them in the cool dye. Or, you can boil the eggs right in the dyeing liquid (after the food is removed). Alternatively, you can dye the eggs uncooked and blow out the yolks to keep the eggs for years to come. (Honestly, the first time I made natural dyed eggs, I used hard boiled eggs and kept them in an egg carton and packed them away with the other Easter decorations. My mom swore they would keep, and they did, for about five years. Then one broke. It was a wretched stench, but they did last a while.)
No matter which dyeing method you choose, there are a few hints to ensure success:
• The color of the food does not necessarily equate to the dye color. Red cabbage produces the most beautiful shade of blue. The onion skin renders a peachy tone, while the beets produce a pink shade. The coffee turns the egg a beautiful shade of mocha.
• The longer the egg sits in the dye, the deeper the shade becomes. You can leave it in as little as 10 minutes, or as long as overnight. I’ve had good success with a 30 minute dye job.
• Colors can be combined. For example, after a 30 minute dip in beet, a short bath in red cabbage makes a lovely dusty lavender shade.
• Turn the eggs over from time to time while dipping them, to ensure an even color.
• Beets stain everything it comes into contact with, so use care when working with them. Protect your cutting board, your clothes, your dish towels and your cuticles!
When removing the egg from the dye, use a slotted spoon and blot dry with a paper towel. This helps prevent splotchy coverage. Use one towel per color because the dye can transfer onto the egg surface, especially beets!
The second aspect of Easter egg making is decoration. A Polish tradition is to wind cotton kitchen twine around the egg in an interesting pattern before dyeing it. This create a sort of Spirograph effect on the egg. You can also use the string to bind a small leaf to the egg, which will appear as a white design on the dyed egg. Wax creates a “resist” to the dye, and it can be used to write names or initials, or to draw a design on the egg before dyeing. Post-dyeing decorations include stickers and drawing with acrylic paints or markers.
Natural egg dyes are definitely more labor intensive and time-consuming than a $2 dye kit from the grocery store. The results are more than worth it, and the process is a fascinating look into the natural world. Try it, and you’ll be hooked!Read More