When it comes to holidays, I do not discriminate. Any excuse to bake massive amounts of new treats, purchase unnecessary packaging, ribbons, and lovely little boxes, then gift them to the those that I love gives me great joy. Easter creates endless possibilities. We don’t celebrate Easter, but why should my kids miss out on all the creativity that the holiday has to offer?
I had been reading about naturally dyeing eggs and I was trying to find an excuse to do this intensely laborious project. When I was asked by Levi’s kindergarten teacher for some cooking project ideas related to both Passover and Easter, it took me about 2 seconds to know exactly what I wanted to do with 25 kinders. Upon doing a little more research, I turned my kitchen into an Easter egg lab. Utilizing all my pots, pans, and bowls the mad scientist in me came alive and I could not have been in a more happy place.
Simple garden vegetables; beets, spinach, carrots, carrot tops, parsley, and cabbage make wonderful, rich colors. Storing the dyes in ball jars made transporting the materials to Levi’s class effortless. I waited to add the vinegar until right before the kids placed their eggs in the dyes of their choices. If you have the time, let the eggs rest in the dye for at least 30 minutes to an hour. The longer they sit, the richer the color.
Matzo (or matzoh or matzah) is the perfect crunchy, flaky base for a thin coating of buttery caramel, melted chocolate and a sprinkling of chopped nuts salt. It’s an addictive treat that’s perfect for Passover.
Matzo is unleavened bread that first appeared on the “market” when the Israelites had to flee Egypt and did not have time to let their bread rise.
It has been eaten for centuries during the Jewish holiday of Passover as a reminder of that exodus by forgoing cakes, cookies, pasta and noodles — anything made to rise with yeast, baking soda, etc.
I have to admit I'm a little miffed that the Greeks seem to get all the attention for their Easter traditions. Armenians roast lamb and even dye their eggs red. My mother never baked those eggs into a loaf of bread but we did play a game with them called egg tapping, another one of those Pagan rites taken over by the early Christians. The point of the game is to break your opponent's egg without cracking your own.
One of my favorite dishes always served at Easter is Cheese Beorag, the Armenian version of Spanakopita. Our family even came up with their own version of this cheese and filo ecstasy that makes a perfect addition to an Easter Brunch. It's easy, can be made ahead of time and baked just before you are ready to serve it and I've yet to come across anyone who didn't love it and come back for more.
Perennial bulbs such as daffodils, tulips, and lilies bring about some of springtime’s best qualities - all making for exceptional cut flowers as well. Even wintertime’s brisk and chilly climate can provide glimpses of floral beauty with Hellebores heralding the coming spring and giving the gardener a glimpse of what is to come. When all things become new again, unthawing from winter’s chill, consider lilies for an accent and spark of year to year blooms for the home and garden.
Bulbaceous and herbaceous lilies alike make fantastic additions to the garden. Planting lily bulbs in the spring ensures sprays of flowers to perfume your garden and interiors as well. Asiatic or Oriental lilies found in florists and flower markets can easily be grown in your own garden. Just think how wonderful it can be to cut ‘Casa Blanca’ lilies direct from your own garden! Hundreds of varieties in numerous sizes, colors, bloom times, and aromas can fill the garden and then vases inside.
Start with a collection of a few of your favorite colors and scents or add to a successful assortment already growing in the garden. Lasting for nearly a week as a cut flower and dousing the garden with intoxicating perfumes, lilies spice up the air and atmosphere of the gardening lifestyle.
As Spring slowly arrives in Maine and the snow stubbornly retreats, I push back the compost covering my rhubarb patch that has been growing for as long as I can remember. The day is sunny and kinda’ warm, what that means around here is, the mid fifties.
The air smells alive, the birds are flying happily and my rhubarb is poking through the winter protective covering. With the spring rain it will grow at lightning speed and keep growing as I madly pull at it to make many Spring and early Summer treats.
In my house this is the first pie of the year and the first food out of our garden, making us dream of what pies lie ahead, small sweet strawberries, fragrant raspberries and mounds of wild Maine blueberries. But today we “make do” with rhubarb....
There are many stories regarding the history of Hot Cross Buns. One interesting one comes from Alan Davidson's "The Oxford Companion to Food". He says that the Saxon invaders in Britain chomped on buns adorned with impressions of crosses in honor of the pagan goddess of light, Eostre, from whom the name Easter is derived.
Today they are traditionally served at Easter and there is a superstition that Hot Cross Buns baked on Good Friday never became moldy and in the past one Hot Cross Bun would be saved as a good luck charm until the next year's buns were made. Whatever the history, these sweet tender buttery buns are a delicious treat and should be enjoyed all year long.
This is adapted from a Cook’s Country recipe for Sweet Dough.
Is there such a thing as a ham of your dreams? I didn't think so until I had this one. BAKED HAM with RUM and COKE GLAZE is not your ordinary, dried out, gross, nasty, ham-holiday-dinner that you are used to. It is one of the best ham's I have ever had in my life.
It's so juicy, and puts Honeybaked Ham to shame. Trust me. Even after refrigerating and reheating the next day, it is still perfectly, PERFECT. (The ham sandwiches are to die for.)
If Easter for you means ham, this is the one for you. Let's have a little HAM 101 before we get started.
First of all, never ever buy a spiral-sliced ham. That is one of the first precursors to having a dried out piece of meat. The extra-processing ruins any chance of a juicy ham. All the pieces are exposed to air which leaves you with dried, processed meat. Yuck.
You need to pick the right cut and the BUTT half is the only way to go. A whole ham is way too hard to carve. A shank has all the connective tissue. But a BUTT is easy to slice with easy to see muscle groups, making carving a cinch.
The addition of fresh herbs breathes life into dishes. Herbs are vibrant, bright and introduce flavor that is so startlingly different from dried herbs that I can never understand recipes that imply they are interchangeable.
In Italy I learned to make spaghetti with garlic, olive oil, chile flakes and parsley. It wasn't just the color contrast but the lively springiness of the parsley that made this simple dish so wonderful. Likewise sage leaves crisped up in butter or olive oil lend intensity and crunch, a handful of cilantro in a tossed green salad gives it a lemony zing and a sprinkle of chives on smoked salmon adds a delicate, almost sweet oniony flavor.
I have a little herb garden and I do mean little. A harvest of herbs from my window box is roughly equal to a generous garnish, so I have to keep raiding my mother's herb garden and buying herbs if I want to cook with them. Last week I got a chance to try Daregal fresh frozen herbs and found them to be surprisingly convenient and fresh tasting. I made a lovely omelette filled with asparagus and Jarlsberg cheese and a couple of pinches of Daregal frozen dill. This filling combination feels very Scandinavian to me though I have no idea if it really is...
Easter isn't complete without eggs, be it chocolate eggs, plastic eggs, or desserts made with eggs. Eggs are popular around Easter time, not just because it's what the Easter bunny delivers, but also because of it's religious symbolism. The sunny yolks just look so vivid, that they alone can fill the holiday with the promise of new beginnings. Braided breads and yellow cakes made with eggs are traditional but for something even sunnier and sweeter, these lemon bars really make a beautiful dessert for Easter.
I've had many good and bad lemon bars, but the best I've ever had were at Baked Bakery in Brooklyn. About five years ago, I made my first pilgrimage to this exceptional bakery. I still remember my first taste of the lemon-lime bars I had that day. I never forgot them and knew immediately one day I would try making them myself. When Baked came out with their first book, I was overjoyed to have the recipe. Here I adapt it to use Meyer lemons, which lend more sweetness and flavor than regular lemons.
There’s something about Spring, with all of its celebrations that pull friends and family together, beginning with Easter, then Mother’s Day, followed by graduations and wedding showers, that just seem to demand tiny sweet desserts. Desserts that can be picked up and popped into the mouth and disappear as fast as a bag of M&M’s.
Shortbread is one of my favorite spring desserts. So rich and buttery and short on sugar, the cookie-like sweet pairs well with berries and citrus curds. This spring, I’ve added coconut to my shortbread recipe. Pressed into mini-muffin cups, the dough bakes up nicely, turning a golden brown. I’ve discovered lovely mango curd (recipe is in my last post) is absolutely luscious as a filling for these bite-sized coconut shortbread cups.
by Joseph Erdos
I love all French desserts and confections, but one of my most favorites is the macaron. Available in countless colors and flavors, macarons are very popular in France. In Paris, customers line up to buy them at many famous pastry shops, such as Dalloyau or Ladurée, which invented the double-decker sandwiched macaron in 1930. Since Paris is a...Read more...
by Susan Russo
My mother was a 30-year-old new mom when she made her first batch of Italian lemon egg biscuits. She wrapped a few in cellophane and gave them to my older brother to give to his kindergarten teacher. The story goes that the teacher called up my mom begging for the recipe, claiming they were the best cookies she had ever tasted.
Since that day,...
by Cathy Pollak
Easter is almost here and while many of us are planning the main meal, whether that's brunch or dinner, we can't forget about treating the kids (or adults) to something sweet for breakfast while they are hunting for those eggs.
I'm not sure if these Peeps Chocolate Dipped Marshmallow Chicks are new this year (I haven't seen them before), but...
by James Moore
I like to use this recipe during the winter, when there are lots of great...Read more...
by Maia Harari