Spring & Easter

easter-lamb-recipes 1395649420We always eat lamb at our house for Easter. As a child we ate lamb twice on Easter, breakfast and dinner. Walking or rather hiking through snow for half a mile to our camp on the lake for our breakfast lamb feast. Yes, it took a while as we helped our father navigate with foot braces on both legs. It was my father’s happiest place on Earth, so he pushed himself to walk that long half-mile. My mother was happy to put together a ‘lovely’ breakfast in the middle of nowhere. In recycled grocery bags, we each ‘carried in’ marinated 2 inch thick chops, 2 per person, cherry tomatoes seasoned with garlic and oregano - ready for a quick skillet sauté and the cutest ‘breakfast’ size baking potatoes. The paper grocery bags had a duel purpose, they created a fire long enough to char 2 marshmallows each before they flamed out.

The first thing once the door was unlocked at camp was to take the fuse breaker out of its hiding place and electrify the place. My sister and I ran from room to room turning on heaters to high while my mother turned on one of the ovens to bake the little potatoes as my dad set the long harvest table he constructed. My sister and I played outside on the ice-covered lake and slid on beer trays down the hill as the scent of garlic and oregano grew stronger. We knew when breakfast was close as the smell of garlic went from sharp and pungent to mellow and sweet. We were always hungry - we ate non-stop because we played non-stop.

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big3.jpg When I was little, I had absolutely no idea what Easter represented.  All I knew was it had something to do with Jesus and you got chocolate bunnies for it.  My neighbor, Rory McManus told me Jesus was always by your side.  I loved that idea. Here was a magical being who could witness all my acts of kindness and maybe I’d get a reward of some kind. I don’t know, maybe all the candy I wanted, or maybe I’d be the kind of “pretty” boys fought over.

There was so much about Easter to love. Spring for one thing. I loved that time of year because of the colors.  Spring is beautiful in Los Angeles.  Our street was endowed with bougainvillea in every imaginable variations of pink, yellow, orange, red and purple. The ritual of dying boiled eggs along with the smell of vinegar was intoxicating, and another thing that involved color.  Pleasing ones.  Pastel ones. The candy around Easter time was the best.  

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hotcrossbuns.jpgThere 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.

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cookies.jpg As Easter fast approaches I get excited at the prospect of having a houseful of friends and family that have been fasting for the last 30 hours that I can lovingly overfeed!

When my Grandmother came to America in 1914, all her recipes were stored in her head. As she settled in a small town in Maine, she had a tin knocker make a set of baking pans for her food. I was lucky enough to have these handed down and we fill them every Easter just as she did.

My sister and I cook non-stop for 2 days, then we start decorating the house. The olives need marinating, the eggs have to be dyed and polished, the cookies need to be baked and dusted with confectionary sugar, the lamb butterflied and bathed in wine and herbs. We are busier than santa’s workshop!

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sunflowerscake.jpgMy youngest son has taken it upon himself to write to the office of the governor of different states.  While he has sent out many letters, the first returned was from Governor Mark Parkinson of Kansas.

He felt quite proud receiving his letter as well as some other materials teaching him about life in that state.  He couldn't wait to take it to school and share it with his class.

To celebrate, what could be better than a cake replicated as a sunflower, which happens to be the state flower of Kansas.  Coincidently, it just so happens to be the time of year when Peeps are available everywhere, easily making the petals on this cake.

Overall, the cake is very striking and would look beautiful on your Easter table.  I also think it would make an adorable birthday cake for a little girl's "Sunflower and Ladybug's" party.

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