Bless Your Spoon: Easter gift is more than food

Published 9:49 am Thursday, April 6, 2023

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By Stephanie Williams Dean

My favorite childhood memories come hippity-hoppity, hot on the heels of a big, fluffy, white-tailed, and furry rabbit. Many of us have precious remembrances on Easter Day — ones that include entertaining bunny tales, rambunctious egg hunts and heritage foods.

On Easter morning, my family always attended church with my paternal grandparents. The service was followed by a mid-day, sit-down supper in the dining room of their home. For the holiday meal, my granny served her delicious, homemade, rolled and cut, flour dumplings with shredded chicken, fresh green beans, scalloped red tomatoes, marinated cucumbers, and homemade fried apples. All was served with lightly sweetened cornbread. A tangy citrus or chocolate pie was the dessert of the day. The mouthwatering meal was always the same, my family’s tradition.

Of course, the kiddos couldn’t appreciate such a delicious meal as we were eager to get on with the day’s activities. When the adults were fully satisfied and had chatted around the dining table for a while — what we loved and anticipated most, finally arrived — the egg hunt.

My grandparent’s garden grew what I called, an Easter tree — a huge hardwood, with low, crooked and snarly branches that formed a wide canopy, fully shading a rock garden. The tree’s trunk was full of holes and hollows where I imagined little tiny gnomes and fairies lived. Under the tree, many brightly colored, foil-covered, chocolate eggs and bunnies were hidden. A carnival of colors glistened and tantalized under the shade of those branches. In my mind, the scene is as beautiful today as it was then.

With several acres of land, my cousins and I would run and play outdoors for hours. There were large concrete planters and full-sized deer that we’d climb on — that was, until the day a heavy urn fell over on my cousin, Bobbie Jeanne. That put an end to that.  But Granny still harnessed her little donkey, Jenny, to a two-wheeled cart and let us ride around the yard. The cousins would climb onto the seat, still donning our pretty, smocked Easter dresses.

Like the twisted, old, oak tree I remember as a kid — today’s recipes feature traditional Easter favorites — some with a slight twist.  As Granny ladled the steamy dumplings onto our plates, I can still hear Daddy saying, “Take all you want, but eat all you take.”

His words were a simple reminder to not be wasteful with what was offered.

The older I get, the more precious opportunities, words, time and good food have become to me, both in the physical and spiritual sense. I want to make the best use of the gifts I’ve been given — I want everything I say, do, or accept to be of good use and without wastefulness.

Sugar-Glazed Ham and Vegetables

• 2 Tbsp. melted, salted butter

• 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

• 1 cup sliced onions

• 1 cup sliced carrots

• 5- to 8-pound cooked ham

• 2 cups Madeira wine

• 3 cups beef broth

• 6 parsley sprigs

• 1 bay leaf

• ½ tsp. thyme

• Confectioners’ sugar

• 3 Tbsp. arrowroot

• 2 Tbsp. cold wine or beef stock

• ½ cup diced mushrooms

• 3 Tbsp. sliced, salted butter

In a Dutch oven, sauté onions and carrots in butter and oil for 10 minutes. Place ham, fatty side up, on the vegetables. Pour in wine, stock and herbs. Bring to a simmer on top of stove. Cover and bake in a preheated 325-degree oven for 2-2½ hours, while basting every 30 minutes. Glaze with powdered sugar on top and all sides. Bake in a preheated 450-degree oven for 15 minutes. Ham should stand at least 20 minutes before slicing. For gravy, degrease braising liquid and boil down to 3 cups on high heat. Strain into a saucepan. Blend arrowroot into wine, and whisk into the hot boiling liquid. Stir in mushrooms and simmer 5 minutes. Season to taste. When ready to serve, reheat and beat in butter bits until melted and pour into gravy boat.

You can add black-eyed peas or your favorite beans to a traditional Succotash with Limas, Corn, and Tomatoes.

Succotash With Limas, Corn and Tomatoes

• 1 package frozen lima beans

• 1 package frozen, fresh corn

• 1 large can, or 5 chopped, fresh tomatoes

• 1 stick salted butter

• ¼ cup sugar, or to taste

• Salt and pepper to taste

In a saucepan, cook limas and corn according to package directions, and do not drain. In a large skillet, add limas, corn, tomatoes and butter. Mix well. Add sugar, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer uncovered for 1 hour on low-medium heat.

Take the recipe for Squash Pie and add some sliced zucchini and top with puff pastry for a fancier, two-squash pie.

Squash Pie

• 3 beaten eggs

• 1½ cups sugar

• 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

• 2 tsp. lemon extract

• Dash of salt

• ½ stick melted salted butter

• 1 cup grated raw yellow squash

• 1 9-inch pie pastry

In a mixer bowl, beat eggs until thick. Add sugar and mix well. Beat in flour, extract, salt and melted margarine. Mix well. Fold in squash and mix well. Pour into unbaked pie shell. Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for 40-45 minutes.

Orange-Pineapple Coconut Cake

• 4 beaten eggs

• 1 box Duncan Hines Butter cake mix

• 1 stick softened, salted butter

• 1½ tsp. vanilla extract

• Small can undrained mandarin oranges

• ½ cup flaked coconut


• 1 package instant vanilla pudding

• 1 cup cold milk

• 15 ounce well-drained, crushed pineapple

• ½ cup flaked coconut

• 1 cup Cool Whip

In a mixer bowl, beat eggs. Add cake mix, softened butter, extract, Mandarin oranges with juice and coconut. Mix well. Bake in 3 greased and floured 9-inch baking pans in a preheated 350-degree oven for 30 minutes or until tests done. For the icing, in a mixer bowl, mix vanilla pudding and milk and set aside until firm. Fold in crushed pineapple and coconut. Then fold in Cool Whip. Frost cake between layers and top. Also use cake tint colors to make cake or icing more colorful for Easter.

Sweet Potato Dumpling Dessert

• 1 drained large can sweet potatoes

• 1 package (12) crescent rolls

• Light brown sugar

• 1½ cups water

• 1½ sticks salted butter

• 1½ tsp. vanilla extract

• 1½ cup light brown sugar

• Ground cinnamon

• Large granulated sugar

• Whipped cream

Cut sweet potatoes into 12 even pieces. In the brown sugar, roll each piece of sweet potato. Roll each one up in a crescent roll. Place rolls seam downward in a lightly butter greased 9 x 13 baking dish. In a saucepan, heat water, butter, vanilla and brown sugar until sugar is dissolved. Pour brown sugar mixture over the stuffed rolls. Evenly sprinkle over the top with cinnamon and decorator sugar. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 30 minutes or until toasted. Serve with whipped cream.

Pretty Pistachio Cake

• 5 beaten eggs

• 1 Duncan Hines yellow cake mix

• 2 packages pistachio pudding mix

• 1 cup Wesson vegetable oil

• ¾ cup whole milk

• 1 tsp. almond extract


• 1 package Pistachio pudding

• 1 small tube of Cool Whip

• 1 tsp. almond extract

• ½ pint of heavy whipped cream

In a mixer bowl, beat eggs. Add cake mix and pudding mix while alternating with oil, milk and extract. Mix well for 2 minutes Bake in a greased and floured tube pan in a preheated 350-degree oven for 45-60 minutes or until tests done. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan. For the icing, in a mixer bowl, combine pistachio pudding, small tub of Cool Whip and extract. Mix well. In another bowl, whip the heavy cream until stiff. Fold whipped cream into the pudding mixture. Frost a completely cooled cake. Cake must be kept covered and refrigerated.

Leg of Lamb with Spinach

• 1 bunch fresh spinach

• 6 ounces ½-inch thinly sliced prosciutto

• ¼ cup finely chopped pine nuts/walnuts

• 4 minced cloves garlic

• 2 Tbsp. water

• 1 boneless leg of lamb

• ½ tsp. salt

• ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

• ¼ tsp. each, thyme and rosemary

• ¼ cup white wine

• 2 tsp. cornstarch

• ¼ cup beef stock

In a Dutch oven, add fresh spinach, prosciutto, garlic and nuts with water. Cover and cook on stovetop until spinach wilts. On a board, pound meat to uniform thickness. Spread with spinach mixture. Roll and tie with string. Rub all over with salt, pepper and herbs. Roast in a preheated 450-degree oven for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350-degrees, turn roast, add wine, and stir in browned particles. Pour in beef stock and roast for 1½ hours or until meat thermometer reads 150-degrees. Remove cooked meat from the Dutch oven and place on warm platter. Thicken juices with cornstarch and cook until smooth. Remove string from meat, slice, and arrange on platter with some of the gravy. Serve with a gravy boat filled with remaining gravy.

Carrot Souffle

• 2 pounds chopped carrots (7 cups)

• 3 lightly beaten eggs

• 2/3 cup sugar

• ¼ cup sour cream

• 3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

• 2 Tbsp. melted butter

• 1 tsp. baking powder

• ¼ tsp. salt

• 1 tsp. vanilla extract

In a pot of boiling water, cook carrots for 15 minutes or until very tender. Drain well. In a food processor, process carrots until smooth. In a mixer bowl, beat eggs. Add processed carrots, sugar, sour cream, flour, butter, baking powder, salt and vanilla. Mix well. Bake in a lightly greased 2-quart baking dish in a 350-degree oven for 40 minutes until set and puffy.

For Minted Peas, always use fresh or frozen green peas and not canned peas, and add carrots, pimentos, or mushrooms, if desired.

Minted Peas

• 2 cups fresh or frozen peas

• 2 Tbsp. salted butter

• 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint leaves

• 4 mint sprigs, garnish

In a saucepan, steam or boil peas for 5 minutes. Drain and toss with butter and mint. Allow excess butter to drain off. Garnish with fresh mint.

A pot of Granny’s Roll and Cut Dumplings simmering stovetop.

Roll and Cut Dumplings for Chicken

• 1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour

• 2 tsp. baking powder

• 1 tsp. salt

• 1 beaten egg

• 1 cup whole milk

• 16 ounces chicken broth

• Salt and pepper to taste

• 1 cup water

In a mixer bowl, sift flour, baking powder and salt. Add beaten egg and milk. Either knead or use a bread hook, to mix until a soft dough forms, adding more flour if necessary. On a floured surface, roll dough out with floured rolling pin. Dough should be slightly tacky but not sticky. Cut into 1-inch strips. Bring pot of boiling chicken broth with water to a boil. When boiling, add strips, one at a time to the pot. Keep broth gently boiling for 20 minutes or until all dumplings are cooked. Remove from heat, and stir in warm, pulled chicken. Allow to sit in pot for 10 minutes before serving.

Sesame Green Beans with Cashews

• 2 pounds trimmed green beans

• ½ cup extra virgin olive oil

• 1 stick, cut up salted butter

• 6 Tbsp. almond butter

• ½ cup grated Romano cheese

• 1 cup toasted sesame seeds

• 1 cup shredded Swiss cheese

• 1 cup cashew halves

Steam green beans for 10 minutes and set aside to cool. In a 2-quart baking dish, spread beans in bottom. Add olive oil, butter pieces, almond butter and grated cheese and mix thoroughly. Add sesame seeds and toss. Cover and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle Swiss cheese evenly over top. Cover and bake additional 10 minutes. Before serving, add cashews and toss thoroughly.

Cucumbers in Cream

• 2 medium cucumbers

• 1 tsp. chopped onion

• ¼ tsp. minced garlic

• 2 Tbsp. salted butter

• ½ cup heavy cream

• Salt and pepper, to taste

• 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Peel cucumbers and slice in half, lengthwise. Remove seeds with a spoon. Cut into half-inch slices. In boiling salted water, blanch for 2 minutes and drain well. In a sauté pan, melt butter, and sauté onion and garlic. Add cucumbers and cream and simmer for 20 minutes while occasionally stirring until thickened. Season, to taste. When ready to serve, add lemon juice.

Favorite Cornbread

• 6 beaten eggs

• 3 cups self-rising cornmeal

• 1/3 cup sugar

• 1½ cup Wesson vegetable oil

• 3 cups sour cream

• 2 2/3 cups cream-style corn

Honey Butter

• 1¼ cups softened butter

• ½ cup honey

For the cornbread, in a mixer bowl, beat eggs and add cornmeal, sugar, vegetable oil, sour cream and cream-style corn. Mix well. Pour into lightly greased 9 x 13 pan. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 30 minutes or tests done. Cut into squares and spread with honey butter. For the honey butter, combine soft butter and honey and blend well.

Freshly Juiced Lemon Pie

• 2 Tbsp. softened salted butter

• 1 cup sugar

• 3 egg yolks

• 3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

• ½ tsp. salt

• 1 finely grated rind and juice of lemon

• 1 ½ cups hot whole milk

• 3 beaten egg whites

• 1 9-inch pie pastry

• Whipped cream/coconut flakes

In a mixer bowl, cream butter and sugar well. Beat in egg yolks, one at a time, beating well between each addition. Add flour, salt, lemon juice, lemon rind, and whole milk. Mix well. In a mixer bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Fold whites into lemon mixture. Mix well. Pour into unbaked pie shell. Bake in a preheated 325-degree oven for 35-40 minutes. Allow to cool before serving. Top with whipped cream and tinted flaked coconut.