By Lesley Younes
Easter has always conjured up visions of cute bunnies, fluffy chicks, bows and ribbons in all the pastel colors. It’s a world of light pinks, sky blues, soft greens and all shades of yellow. Dyed Easter eggs are found in all of these shades and more. But why? And bunnies, no clue how they got involved! They don’t lay eggs do they?
Just who is this Easter bunny? Long ago he was called the Easter Hare. Hares, the bunny’s first cousin, and rabbits give birth with great frequency most often multiple births, thus becoming a symbol of fertility. The custom of the Easter Egg Hunt began because children believed long ago that the long-legged and furry Hares had laid eggs in the grass. Why we dye or color these eggs before we hide them is a mystery not easily answered.
In Ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome and Persia, eggs were dyed for special festivals and in Europe they were decorated and offered as special gifts.
And, what is egg rolling?
It could have started when Dolly Madison began the custom of egg rolling on the hilly lawn of what was the new Capitol building. The tale that children in Egypt rolled eggs toward the pyramids may be what began what was to become a Washington tradition! The annual Easter custom is rarely broken, usually only during the war years. In the late 1870s, first lady Lucy Hayes, at the suggestion of her husband, invited children to the White House for the egg roll as officials had complained that it was ruining the Capitol lawn. The event has grown in popularity and is still sponsored by the first lady. Easter Monday is the only time when visitors are allowed to wander over the White House lawn. Mandatory tickets are free and distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Call (202) 208-1631 for information.
Hopefully the weather will cooperate this Easter and it will be warm and sunny and we will be able to enjoy the outdoors. A suggestion to keep life simple: Buy the plastic colored eggs, fill them with jelly beans and M & M’s and use the boiled variety to make this great classic devilled egg dish. The rest of the menu will be suitable for children and adults alike.
12 hard-boiled eggs
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/3 c. mayonnaise
1 tbs. minced onion or shallot
1/4 tsp. Tabasco
salt and pepper
Cut eggs in half and remove the yolks. To the yolks add the mustard, mayonnaise, onion, Tabasco, salt and pepper. Mix with a fork until smooth and creamy. Pipe or spoon into the egg halves and dust with paprika.
To make life easy, purchase a pre-cooked ham of your choice. Close to any holiday, the price of the main dish usually drops, making it economical not to prepare it yourself! More importantly pre-cooked hams have come a long way and are now available sliced and flavored to perfection. So take advantage of these offers. There are many choices.
Easy recipe for hot cross buns – dough can be made the old-fashioned way or in the bread machine.
Hot Cross Buns
Prepare your favorite basic sweet dough recipe, adding the following:
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 c. of a combination of any of the following: raisins, dates, currants,
candied citron or dried cranberries.
Punch dough down after the first rising and form into 12 two-inch balls. Place two inches apart on a greased baking sheet. Cover, let rise 30 minutes until doubled. Brush with egg wash. (Egg wash: Whip together one egg with 2 tbs. water.) Bake in preheated 375 degrees for 15 minutes. Allow to cool on rack.
Make cross on tops using 1/2 cup confectionery sugar mixed well with 1 tablespoon milk and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.
A Good English Pub Mustard to go with Ham
Makes 1 cup, can be doubled
1 c. dry mustard
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/2 c. dark brown sugar
6 oz. flat dark ale or beer
1 tsp. salt
Put dry ingredients in a blender. Carefully add beer while machine is running. It should be smooth and creamy.
This is also excellent with sausages and all cold cuts.
Cold Pea Salad
16 oz. bag of petite peas, frozen
6 oz. can Smokehouse almonds, coarsely chopped
1/2 c. green onions, chopped
1 small can water chestnuts, chopped
1/2 c. mayonnaise
2 tsp. yellow curry powder
salt and pepper to taste
Mix all together, leaving peas frozen. Make one hour ahead for flavors to blend and to come to room temperature.
1/2 large onion, finely chopped
2 tbs. butter
3 c. corn (8 ears in season)
(good sweet frozen corn is available all year)
1 tsp. sugar (optional)
1/2 tsp. or less ground nutmeg, to taste
1/2 c. heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
Cook onion in butter until translucent. Add corn, cook for two minutes if using other than fresh corn (10 minutes for fresh). Add sugar, nutmeg and cream. Cook uncovered until liquid evaporates and thickens slightly, about five minutes. Check for seasonings.
Serve warm or cold.
Whip up your favorite batch of biscuits and add one cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese and 1/4 cup chopped chives before baking. Delicious.
For people who would prefer something a little different, try this light version of the Canadian classic:
2 lbs. ground pork
1 large onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 small potatoes, grated
1/8 tsp. mace
1/8 tsp. ground sage
1/4 c. raisins
pepper to taste
Pastry for 2 X 8″ pie crusts
Place the onion, garlic, potato, pork, seasonings and raisins in a Dutch oven. Cover with water and cook over medium heat, uncovered, until water is absorbed and pork is no longer pink – about 30 – 40 minutes. Stir frequently while skimming off excess fat. Do not boil. Cool. Check seasoning.
Pre-heat oven to 400.
Line a pie plate with half of the crust, fill with cooled meat mixture, cover with top crust and cut vents to allow moisture loss. Brush liberally with egg wash. Cook 10 minutes at 400, plus 30 minutes more at 350. Crust should be golden and filling bubbly. Can be eaten hot or cold.
Have lots of sugar cookies on hand that have been cut in the shapes of rabbits and chickens and eggs and frost them with a hard glaze icing, delicately colored in shades of pink, yellow, mauve, blue and green.