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Sherrie Norris Lovin’ Spoonful Cooking Column: Keeping Easter Traditions Alive

By Sherrie Norris

When Easter comes to mind, I often think of those my childhood, when my mother dressed her two little girls in the best her family could afford. Even then, likely the only “new” items were white shoes, frilly socks and maybe a dress. The older three kids were already past the age of dressing up too much, but my younger sister and I loved the Easter bonnets, white gloves, shoes and of course, our Easter baskets. Times sure have changed and with it, many traditions have fallen by the wayside. But, to me Easter dinner cannot be altered

As my siblings and I plan a rare Easter get-together on Good Friday, we’ve already established the menu: Of course, we’ll have ham, potato salad, green beans, deviled eggs and that’s just the beginning. Turkey and dressing, lime Jell-O salad, sweet potato casserole and corn pudding have been added to the mix. Oh, yeah, can’t forget the coconut cake. 

We’re surrounded by differing traditions and religious beliefs these days, and while respecting each with its own observances, I will never veer too far from the traditions of my childhood: Early morning church services with the rest of the day spent in a quiet, reverent mindset, considering above all, the Christian observance of the crucifixion and our risen Lord.

I hope you find the meaning of Easter a special time in your heart and minds, and hopefully you are planning to share the day with your loved ones.

We’ll kick off the season with a few ideas, followed by more next week.

Spring Cake 

  1. can (11 oz.) mandarin oranges, undrained

1 yellow cake mix 

1 ¼  cups cold 2% milk

1 pkg. (3.4 ounces) instant vanilla pudding mix

1 can (20 oz.) crushed pineapple, well drained

2 cups whipped topping

8 z. cream cheese, softened

½  cup powdered sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Drain mandarin oranges and reserve liquid. Add reserved liquid to a liquid measuring cup (there should be about ½  cup) and fill with water to measure 1 cup. Prepare cake mix according to package directions, using the juice and water mixture in place of the water called for on the package.

Bake in two greased 9-in. round baking pans according to  directions. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.

In a large bowl, whisk milk and pudding mix for 2 minutes. Stir in pineapple. Spread 1 cup between cake layers.

In a small bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth. Beat in 1 cup whipped topping. Fold in remaining topping. Spread on top and sides of cake. Cover and refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight. Decorate with mandarin oranges prior to serving.

Carrot Raisin Salad

4 cups shredded carrots

¾  to 1 ½  cups raisins

¼  cup mayonnaise

2 Tbsp. sugar

2 to 3 Tbsp. 2% milk

Mix the first four ingredients. Stir in enough milk to reach desired consistency. Refrigerate until serving.

May also add drained pineapple tidbits

Easy Scalloped Potatoes

2 Tbsp. butter

3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

1 tsp. salt

¼  tsp. pepper

1 ½  cups milk

½  cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese

2 lbs. potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced (about 4 cups)

1 cup thinly sliced onions, divided

Preheat oven to 350°. In a small saucepan, melt butter; stir in flour, salt and pepper until smooth. Gradually whisk in milk. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly; cook and stir until thickened, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in cheese until melted.

Coat an 8-in. square baking dish with cooking spray. Place half of the potatoes in dish; layer with ½  cup onion and half of the cheese sauce. Repeat layers.

Bake, covered, 50 minutes. Uncover; bake until bubbly and potatoes are tender, 10-15 minutes longer.

Slow Cooker Ham

1 (8-9 lb.) ham

1 (20 oz.) can crushed pineapple

1 cup brown sugar

½  tsp. cinnamon

¼  tsp. nutmeg

¼  tsp. ground ginger

Add the ham to the slow cooker and pat dry with paper towels.

Pour in half the can of the crushed pineapple. Mix  brown sugar with spices and pour it over the ham.

Reserve the rest of the pineapple for topping when the ham is served.

Cook on low for three hours.

Easter Crockpot Candy

2 large blocks white almond bark

24 oz. roasted peanuts

1 ½ cups pastel Easter M&Ms

1 ½ cups pastel mini marshmallows 

Easter sprinkles

In slow cooker, place almond bark and peanuts. Cover and cook on low for 2-3 hours, stirring often. Once chocolate is melted and smooth, turn off the slow cooker and let the chocolate mixture cool until room temperature.  You don’t want the chocolate to start to harden up, but you also don’t want it so warm it melts the M&Ms and marshmallows.

Stir the M&Ms and marshmallows into the chocolate mixture and stir gently until just combined. Scoop 1 – 1 ½ Tbsp. scoops onto parchment paper.  Top with more M&Ms and sprinkles. Let set and serve.