There was a time when one of the candies in an Easter basket was a 1-pound, solid chocolate rabbit that was hard to bite unless it was held in the hand to get it softened. Then there was melted brown goo all over the place.
Jelly beans were big back in my childhood, too, not as many flavors and colors but jelly beans just the same. There were the pastel-shell, small cream eggs and the 1-pound Easter egg that came only in the flavors of fruit and nut, coconut and maple.
There was not much choice in Easter candy in my youth, but now you find many aisles loaded with a variety of sweets.
HELPERS — Greta Desiderio, left, 2, and her 5-year-old sister Pia, help their parents, Jody and Chris of Weirton, make Easter desserts and treats. Pia is artfully sprinkling green coconut on the Mountain Dew Cake, while Greta holds on to her blue bunny and monitors the progress.
-- Michael D. McElwain
One thing we could always count on at our house was a lamb cake, baked in my mom's cast iron mold. It was frosted with 7-minute icing, a frosting that could turn hard and sugary at a moment's notice. Then the lamb cake was sprinkled with coconut. Some areas might be sprinkled more than others, such as where the cake had stuck to the mold and left a gaping hole in the dessert. This was especially true of the nose of the lamb. It always seemed to stick.
The lamb cake and the coloring of hard-cooked eggs were highlights of my Easter time. My brothers would dip the eggs into a multitude of colors and end up with an egg that resembled a military khaki color.
They also teased by writing things on the eggs before they were dipped in the dye - teasing about a boy you might be fond of in school but did not want the world to know.
Now there are Jelly Belly candies and other jelly beans that, unlike M&M's, have different flavors for each color nestled in the plastic bag.
Brach's, which has been pouring jelly beans into moulds since 1904, has this chart to tell what flavor you will be biting into:
Easter dinner is a special time because the table looks so colorful, even if there could be a few snowflakes on the ground outside.
The dessert that Pia and Greta Disiderio are decorating in the picture is a Mountain Dew Cake made quickly with a cake mix.
Mountain Dew Cake
Box of white, yellow or lemon cake mix
Small box of instant vanilla or lemon pudding mix
3/4 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, at room temperature
12-ounce can Mountain Dew
Stir the cake mix and pudding mix together in a large bowl. Add the vegetable oil, eggs and the Mountain Dew. It will fizz up so be careful. Beat on slow speed for 30 seconds and turn on high and beat for 2 minutes more. Pour into a well greased and floured bundt pan. Put into a 350 degree oven for between 45 and 50 minutes.
Note: Test it after 40 minutes with a toothpick because mine was done at 42 minutes.
Frost with a favorite icing. I used the whipped frosting from a can. Color coconut by adding 1 cup to a jar with a lid. Put 4 drops of green coloring on a tablespoon and add several drops of water. Stir it around with your finger to combine and pour over coconut. Put on the lid and shake the jar hard for several minutes until the green coloring is even. Set a glass muffin cup filled with jelly beans in the hole in the center of the cake for a festive look.
Easter is a time when homemade gifts can be made and given. This one is a quick bread that is baked in a pint jar and sealed until it is ready to be opened and sliced. It is from a Family Favorites Cookbook.
Carrot-Raisin Jar Bread
2 2/3 cups sugar
2/3 cup shortening
4 eggs, beaten
2/3 cup water
2 cups finely shredded carrots
3 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2/3 cup raisins
Wash six wide-mouth pint-size canning jars, metal rings and lids. Do not use any other type of jar as it could explode. Sterilize for 10 minutes in boiling water. Dry and grease the inside of the jars but not the rims. Cream sugar and shortening, add eggs and water. Add carrots. Sift flour, cinnamon, baking powder and baking soda together. Add to batter. Add raisins and mix. Pour one cup of batter each into prepared jars.
Do not use more than a cup of batter as it will overflow and the jar will not seal. Place jars evenly spaced on a cookie sheet. Place in a pre-heated 325 degree oven for 45 minutes. Remove jars from oven one at a time, keeping remaining jars in the oven. Working quickly, wipe rim, place lid and ring on jar and tighten. Jars will seal quickly. Repeat with remaining jars. When ready to serve, bread will slide out. A properly sealed quick bread will stay fresh for one year.
Here is a gift jar recipe for Russian tea that is suitable for tea lovers. Just put a kettle of water on to boil and sit down to a nice cup of tea that doesn't need sugar or other flavorings. It is from the Family Cookbook as well.
Instant Russian Tea
1/2 cup instant tea with lemon
2 cups instant orange drink mix, such as Tang
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Sift all ingredients together thoroughly. Put in two 1-cup jelly jars and the remainder in a smaller jelly jar. Start out with 3 teaspoons of the mix in a cup of boiling water. If this is not strong enough, keep adding until it is to your liking.
Note: You might tie a pastel ribbon around the jar with a tiny, fuzzy chicken or rabbit attached.
There has to be colored eggs in the house. How else could you make egg salad sandwiches or deviled eggs in a hurry the next day? The "Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook" outlines how to cook eggs so the unattractive green ring does not form around the yolk. This is done by timing the cooking carefully and cooling them in ice water.
Hard Cooked Eggs
6 large eggs
Cold water to cover the eggs by at least 1 inch.
Place eggs in a single layer in a large saucepan. Do not stack them. Add enough cold water to cover the eggs by at least 1 inch. Bring to a rapid boil over high heat. The water will have large, rapidly breaking bubbles. Remove from heat and cover. Let stand for 15 minutes. Drain. Run cold water over the eggs or place in ice water until cool enough to handle. Drain. To peel a hard-cooked egg, gently tap it on the countertop, then roll it between the palms of your hands. Peel off the eggshell, starting at the large end.
Note: If you have extra-large eggs, let them stand in the boiled water for 18 minutes.
Egg salad tastes just as good today as it did 60 years ago, according to the "Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook." You can adapt the egg salad to different flavors as well.
4 hard cooked eggs, chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped green onion
1 tablespoon diced pimento
2 tablespoons mayonnaise or salad dressing
2 teaspoons yellow mustard
Salt and pepper
4 slices bread or two split bagels
In a medium bowl, combine chopped egg, green onion, and pimento. Stir in mayonnaise and mustard. Add salt and pepper to taste. Spread egg mixture on two slices of bread or two bagel bottoms. Top with lettuce leaves and add remaining bread tops. Makes two sandwiches.
Note: A Greek-style egg salad sandwich can be made by omitting the pimento and mustard. Stir in 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese, 1/4 cup finely chopped, seeded tomato and 2 tablespoons sliced, pitted ripe olives into egg mixture. Use six slices of bread as this makes three sandwiches.
Make something different with the hard cooked eggs by adding curry and flaked, canned crabmeat to the yolk mixture.
Curry and Crab
6 hard-cooked eggs
1/4 cup mayonnaise or salad dressing
2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard
1 teaspoon snipped fresh chives
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 cup drained, flaked canned crabmeat
Halve hard cooked eggs lengthwise and remove yolks. Set whites aside. Place yolks in a small bowl; mash with a fork. Add mayonnaise, Dijon-style mustard, chives and curry powder into egg mixture. Fold in the crabmeat and refill the egg whites. Sprinkle with paprika and/or parsley if desired. Makes 12 servings.
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