Easter Carrot 2015

 

Easter Carrot 2015

Quilt-As-You-Go Carrot Table Runner

The pattern for this cute little guy comes from my friend Carol.  She had us girls over to her house recently and she shared her fabric as well as the how-to for making this adorable Spring decoration.  I busted my butt to get it done in time for Easter.  Enjoy!

Hot Cross Buns

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Recipes courtesy of A Continual Feast by Evelyn Birge Vitz

and The Bread Book by Betsy Oppenneer

A traditional Lenten food, Hot Cross Buns are a spicy yeast bread with candied fruit and an icing cross on top. I bake them every year during Holy Week. The recipe that I’ve used for years comes from A Continual Feast by Evelyn Birge Vitz.

According to the author, Hot Cross Buns were originally eaten only on Good Friday. A monk, Father Rocliff, and the cook at St. Alban’s Abbey in Hertfordshire, England in 1361 made these special buns, marked with the sign of the cross, to give to the poor with a bowl of soup. The custom continued and they became very popular during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in England. Good Friday bread was considered blessed, and people believed it provided protection against disease and danger.

The recipe calls for candied orange peel. We weren’t always stationed where I could find good candied peel so I learned how to make my own. It is somewhat time-consuming, but the flavor is fantastic. I’m including the instructions from Betsy Oppenneer’s book for making the candied peel in case you would like to try making your own, or you can simply use orange zest.  Enjoy!

Hot Cross Bun Ingredients 

2 1/2 teaspoons active-dry yeast

1/4 cup warm water (about 100-110 degrees)

1 teaspoon white or light brown sugar

1 cup milk

1/2 cup butter

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs, beaten

4-4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon ( I like these buns spicy, so I always double the amounts of cinnamon to 2 teaspoons, and cloves, nutmeg and ginger to 1 teaspoon)

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

2/3 cup dried currants (or raisins)

1/2 cup finely diced or julienned candied orange peel (or zest

 

Icing Ingredients

1 cup powdered sugar
1 Teaspoon lemon juice
water

Hot Cross Bun Directions

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1. Sprinkle the yeast into the lukewarm water.

 

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2. Stir in 1 teaspoon sugar, let sit until foamy.

 

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3. Scald the milk. Add the butter, sugar, and salt. Stir until blended. Cool until lukewarm.

 

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4. Beat the eggs until light, combine with the milk mixture, and add the yeast.

 

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5. Sift 3 1/2 cups of the flour with the spices into a mixing bowl. Make a well and pour in the yeast mixture. Beat for 5 minutes.

 

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6. Toss the raisins (currants), and orange peel, with the remaining 1/2 cup of flour. Mix into the dough.

 

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7. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, adding more flour if necessary. The dough should be fairly firm, or else the cuts for the crosses will not hold up.

 

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8. Place the dough in a greased bowl, turning to grease the top. Cover the dough with a towel and put it to rise in a draft-free scene until it is doubled in volume, about 2 hours.  Punch down the dough and shape it into 2 dozen buns. Place them 1 1/2 to 2 inches apart on a well-greased cookie sheet, or in muffin pans. With a sharp knife, cut a cross on the top of each bun. Allow the buns to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.  Meanwhile preheat the oven to 350°F.

 

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9. Bake the buns for about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before piping the icing cross on top.

 

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Icing Directions

1. Mix together the sugar and lemon juice. Add water, a drop at a time, until the icing is of a loose enough consistency to pipe on the buns. It should be quite thick, though, or else it will run off the buns instead of making a cross.

2. Pour icing into a disposable sandwich bag, clip the corner with a pair of scissors, and push the icing out onto the buns, forming a cross on each bun.

 

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Candied Fruit Peel Ingredients

4 large grapefruit (or 6 large navel oranges, or 10 tangerines, or 12 large lemons)

2 1/2 cups plus 1 cup sugar

2 Tablespoons light corn syrup

1 1/2 cups water

 

Candied Fruit Peel Directions

1. To remove any dirt or waxy preservative, wash the fruit with a dish cloth and mild detergent. Rinse well.

2. Remove the peel from the fruit. There are gadgets available that remove just the peel (and not the pith). If you don’t have one of these such gadgets; cut the fruit into fourths, separate the peel from the pulp and trim excess white pith. Peel should be about 1/4 inch thick. Chop the peel into 1/4 inch dice (If making this for a gift, or to snack on, do not cut the peel so small. Longer pieces look pretty in a jar). Rough-skinned citrus fruits have thicker peel and more white pith (very bitter-tasting) than smoother-skinned varieties. If there is too much white pith, trim the peel with a sharp knife so that the peel is only about 1/4 inch thick.

3. Put the peel into a heavy saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat, simmer for 5 minutes, and strain through a sieve.

4. Return the peel to the saucepan and repeat step 3. Strain the peel.

5. Combine 2 1/2 cups sugar with the corn syrup in the saucepan. Add 1 1/2 cups water and bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves. After the sugar dissolves, there is no need to stir.

6. Add the peel to the sugar mixture and return to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes.

7. Strain the mixture through a sieve (you can save the sugar mixture to use in tea, lemonade, etc.).

8. Pour the remaining 1 cup sugar into a plastic bag. Add the peel and shake the bag until the peel is completely coated with sugar. Separate the pieces of peel if they stick together.

9. Line a large baking sheet with parchment or wax paper. Spread the peel out on the paper to cool and air dry for 6 hours, or until it is completely dry. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks, or in the freezer for up to 4 months.

*You can skip the last step of coating the peel in sugar, and instead allow the peel to dry a bit before carefully separating the sticky peel and then allowing it to dry before using.*

Split Pea Soup

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Recipe adapted from Betty Crocker Cookbook

published by Golden Press 1983

 

Easter week is the perfect time to make this soup.  The leftover ham (and bone if you have it) flavors split pea soup so wonderfully. However, if you do not have a ham bone,; smoked chops, kielbasa, smoked sausage, ham steak, or salt pork will all work just fine.  A crusty bread and some fresh fruit should round out the meal.  Enjoy!

 

Ingredients

20 oz. bag, dried split peas

1 large onion,chopped

3 carrots, peeled and chopped

leftover ham, sausage, kielbasa, smoked chops,etc.

fresh ground pepper

water, approximately 3 times the amount of beans

 

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Directions

1. Rinse peas, checking for rocks and clumps of dirt.

2. Put everything in the pot and bring to a boil.  If you like your carrots to be a little crunchy, put them in much later.  They tend to get very soft if you add them in now.

3. Reduce heat and simmer for about 2 hours.  Check to see if peas are done.  At this point the soup will look quite watery.

4. Bring the pot back to a boil and reduce heat again so that it just boils gently for about 25 minutes. Stir it often and don’t allow the peas to stick to the bottom.  This is when the soup thickens up nicely and smoothes into a pea puree all by itself, just keep stirring.

5. Serve hot with some crusty bread.

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Sugar Cookies

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These cookies come from one of my favorite cookbooks, Betty Crocker’s Christmas Cookbook, that I bought shortly after Mark and I got married in 1985.  These are the only sugar cookies I ever bake.  The dough is very easy to handle (once it is chilled), and I have many happy memories of baking these cookies with our kiddos when they were younger.

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This dough has been cut into; letters to spell out names on birthday cakes, gigantic cookies for kids decorating parties, cookie pops for little league treats, a free-standing sleigh with reindeer, and of course cookies for every holiday.  Easter cookies are especially pretty because of the pastel colored icings, sugars and decorations.

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This dough can be made weeks in advance and frozen until you are ready to use it.  Sometimes it is easier to manage your schedule if you can break down the cookie making process into 2 or 3 shorter bits of time (make the dough one day, roll out and bake the cookies on another day, then decorate the cookies the following day).  Have fun, show off your artistic flair!  I have included the recipe below for the cookie icing.  Enjoy!

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Recipe courtesy of Betty Crocker’s Christmas Cookbook

published by Golden Press

Sugar Cookie Ingredients

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1 cup butter, softened

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

 

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Sugar Cookie Directions

1. Mix powdered sugar, butter, egg, vanilla and almond extract.  Stir in flour, baking soda and cream of tartar.  Cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours.  At this point you can freeze the dough for future use.  Wrap it in plastic wrap, then put it down in a plastic freezer bag.  To defrost, put the dough (bag and all) in the fridge the night before you want to roll out the cookies.

2. Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Divide dough into halves ( the half I’m not working on I put back in the fridge, loosely covered until I’m ready for it so that it stays cold).  Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to about 1/4 inch thickness.  Cut into desired shapes using cookie cutters (if you do not have any cutters, use a glass or clean empty can).  Place on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake until the edges are light brown, about 7 or 8 minutes.  Frost and decorate as desired.

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Poured Cookie Icing

from Wilton

1 cup powdered sugar

2 teaspoons milk

2 teaspoons light corn syrup

1. Place sugar and milk in a bowl. Stir until mixed. It will be very stiff, add more milk if you absolutely have to, but not more than 1 teaspoon.  Add corn syrup.  This icing is stiff, yet pliable.  It dries glossy and hard and looks beautiful on a platter of cookies.  It takes color well (use paste food coloring , not the liquid kind).   Although it does dry hard, you need about 1 day for it to really harden, so plan accordingly.

2. I used a small off-set spatula to frost all the cookies pictured above.  I used colored sugar on the bunny’s ears, edible sugar pearls on the eggs, and royal icing for the flowers on the crosses, carrot tops, and bunny faces.  The recipe for Royal Icing and for all the techniques needed to make flowers and such, please visit Wilton.com.

Mini Easter Cheesecakes

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Recipe courtesy of Chicago Metallic

 

Cheesecake Ingredients

1-8 oz. package cream cheese, slightly softened

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 cup sugar

Graham Cracker Crust Ingredients

recipe courtesy Honey Maid Graham Cracker Crumbs

(this will make enough for 2 batches of cheesecakes)

1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs

1/4 cup sugar

5 Tablespoons butter, melted

 

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Using the mini cheesecake pan, place a disc in each cup.  Spray each cup lightly with Pam.

 

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2.Mix crust ingredients together with a rubber spatula. Place approximately 2 teaspoons of crust mix into each cheesecake cup. Press crumbs into cup.  I have a little tool called a tamper that I use for this.

 

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3. Using a mixer, blend cream cheese with egg, vanilla, and 1/4 cup sugar.  Fill cups evenly with cheese mixture.  Bake about 14 minutes.  Remove pan from oven and place on rack to cool for about 20 minutes.  The tops will fall as they cool.

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4. Lightly loosen the cheesecakes around the edges.  Carefully remove the cheesecakes by pushing the handle of a wooden spoon through the hole at the bottom of each cup.  When cool, remove discs from bottom.  Refrigerate until firm and then garnish as desired.

As you can tell from the first picture, I made these for Easter.  To garnish them like I did, grate some chocolate ( a soft Hershey© bar works great for chocolate shavings and curls) and whip some cream (or use Redi-Whip©).  Remove the mini cheesecakes from the refrigerator, pipe some whipped cream on top, place a chocolate egg on top of the whipped cream, and sprinkle the cheesecake with chocolate shavings.  Serve immediately.  I used canned cherry pie filling on one little guy, and whipped cream and caramel sauce on the other one.  Enjoy!

Cheesecake Berry Baskets

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Recipe courtesy of Pepperidge Farm

Ingredients

10 ounce package Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Shells

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

6-8 Tablespoons powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2-4 Tablespoons milk

raspberry preserves

raspberries

optional garnishes: chocolate sauce, mint leaves, sifted powdered sugar

 

Directions

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1. Bake, cool, and remove “tops” of pastry shells according to package directions.

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2. Using a mixer, blend cream cheese with powdered sugar and vanilla extract, mixture will be quite thick (I did not wait for the cream cheese to soften).  Slowly add milk until mixture is of desired consistency.

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3. Layer cream cheese mixture and preserves into cooled pastry shell, starting with cream cheese and ending with cream cheese. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

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4. Add fresh berries just before serving.

 

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5. Garnish as desired.

 

The nice thing about this dessert is that you can do all the prep work early, and the baskets can remain in the fridge all day until you garnish them with fruit and or a sauce of some sort, just before serving.  I got this recipe from the side of the Pepperidge Farm box, it is not on their website.  Enjoy!

This could be a cute Easter basket;

1. Use licorice to make a handle.

2. Sprinkle some green tinted coconut on the top layer of cheesecake.

3. Top the Easter grass with mini chocolate eggs, jelly beans, or a Peep©.

Open-Faced Smoked Salmon Finger Sandwiches

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courtesy of The Food Network.com

These sandwiches were made in honor of the Seattle Seahawks, for Super Bowl XLVIII (I made Cowboy Beans in honor of their opponent, the Denver Broncos).  They turned out so pretty and would be perfect served for Easter brunch, a bridal shower or even for a Mother’s Day luncheon.  If you want all the flavors without the fuss, serve the cream cheese mixture in a bowl, with the salmon and some crackers on the side.  Enjoy!

Ingredients

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 1/2 Tablespoons minced chives

2 heaping Tablespoons horseradish

pepper and salt to taste (smoked salmon is very salty, so go easy on the salt)

zest of 1 lemon

pumpernickel cocktail loaf (you will not need the entire loaf)

lettuce

8-10 ounces smoked salmon

Garnish-

6-8 chives, green parts only, cut into slim 1 inch match sticks

 

Directions

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1. Combine cream cheese, minced chives, horseradish, pepper, salt, and lemon zest.

 

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2. Spread a thin layer of the cream cheese mixture on a slice of pumpernickel cocktail bread.  Top the cream cheese mixture with a piece of crispy lettuce, followed by a thin slice, or chunk of smoked salmon.  Garnish the sandwich by placing a small dollop of the cream cheese mixture on top of the salmon and placing 2 pieces of the 1 inch chives in the dollop.