Archive for March, 2011

Easter Traditions: Chocolate

posted by Karen Hood
Saturday, March 19, 2011

Chocolate bunnies and eggs are as much a part of Easter as a ham dinner or Easter egg hunt. But is this chocolate fetish a modern invention, or do its roots go deeper than that?

In the ecclesiastical calendar, Easter follows immediately after the end of Lent, a time when Catholics and some Protestant denominations refrain from certain foods and festivities in honor of Jesus’s 40 days of fasting in the desert. Rich foods like eggs, milk, cheese, and most meats have traditionally been popular choices for abstaining since the early Middle Ages, and chocolate was added to the list once it was introduced to Europe by the Spanish in the 16th and 17th century. Following the enforced abstinence of Lent, many people enjoyed celebrating Easter with a return to all the delicious foods that they had been missing, and eventually this became a tradition of eating chocolate at Easter time. In addition, chocolate was seen as a luxury item for many centuries, making it a natural choice for the traditional gift-giving that occurred during many Spring festivals.

The chocolate eggs and bunnies that are so popular these days are a more recent addition to Easter lore. As we have seen in our previous discussion of Easter traditions, eggs and rabbits have strong symbolic ties to the holiday through the pagan goddess Eostre and the rabbit’s natural fertility. This made them a natural choice for shaped hard chocolate candies, which were not invented until the 1850’s. Decades later, the Industrial Revolution enabled the chocolate making process to expand into mass production, and with the higher availability of chocolate eggs and bunnies at Easter time began the establishment of it as a widespread tradition.

This concludes our series on Easter traditions. Please enjoy the following recipe from Karen Hood’s wonderful cookbook Easter Delights. It is the perfect way to enjoy the tradition of chocolate this Easter.

Chocolate-Covered Peanut Butter Eggs

Children love chocolate-covered peanut butter eggs,
so these will disappear quickly.

Ingredients:
¼ c. butter
¼ c. brown sugar, firmly packed
¾ c. powdered sugar
½ c. creamy peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 pkg. semisweet chocolate chips
2 Tbs. shortening

Directions:

  1. In 1-quart microwave-safe bowl, microwave butter and brown sugar on full power for 1 to 1½ minutes, stirring every 30 seconds or until brown sugar is melted.
  2. Stir in powdered sugar, peanut butter, and vanilla.
  3. Shape by teaspoonfuls into egg shapes; chill.
  4. In double boiler or heavy saucepan, melt chocolate chips and shortening over low heat.
  5. With wooden pick, dip each egg into chocolate mixture, coating completely.
  6. Place on wax paper-lined baking sheets.
  7. Store in refrigerator until ready to serve.

© Karen Jean Matsko Hood 2011

Order your copy of Easter Delights today!

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Easter Traditions: The Symbolism of the Egg

posted by Karen Hood
Friday, March 18, 2011

Author: Silar
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Decorating and hunting for Easter eggs is a huge part of celebrating the Spring holiday. In many cultures around the world, the egg has been a symbol of immortality, fertility, and rebirth since ancient times. The ancient Persians, for example, painted eggs during their celebration of the Spring Equinox, and there is evidence that the symbolism of the egg was important as far back as the Neolithic era 7000 years ago. The correlation is not hard to see: many newborn animals are hatched from eggs, and Spring is the time of year for most animals to give birth.

Many of the Easter games and activities involving eggs that we participate in today date back to customs in Medieval Europe. Decorating eggs was popular at this time, and the tradition was eventually carried to America with the first German settlers. Hunting for eggs and egg rolling games also come from medieval times. Furthermore, the name of the holiday itself comes from the pagan deity Ostara, known as Eostre to the Anglo-Saxons, goddess of the dawn and rebirth of the year. As Ostara, she appeared as a beautiful maiden carrying a basket of eggs and accompanied by a rabbit; as Eostre, her symbol was a rabbit that laid eggs itself.

Stay tuned for the third part of this series, in which we discuss the importance of chocolate in the Easter tradition. In the meantime, please enjoy this sample recipe from Karen Hood’s fabulous cookbook Easter Delights. It is a unique way to enjoy the rich symbolism of the egg during your Easter celebration this year. With more than 250 delicious recipes, Easter Delights will make planning for this holiday easy and fun!

Poached Eggs in Roman Red Sauce

The red sauce in this recipe for poached eggs makes this a delightfully zesty dish. If you like a creamier sauce, you may add ½ cup of cream to the sauce as it is simmering, before you add the eggs for poaching.

Ingredients:
2 Tbs. olive oil
½ c. chopped onion
½ c. sliced mushrooms, fresh or canned
1 clove garlic, diced
1 can peeled tomatoes
½ c. cream (optional)
4 eggs
salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. In skillet sauté onion, mushrooms, and garlic in olive oil.
  2. Add tomatoes, salt, and pepper; heat to simmering, and simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. For creamier sauce, stir in cream and heat through.
  4. Crack eggs into sauce and let eggs poach.
  5. Serve eggs in dish with red sauce and French bread.

© Karen Jean Matsko Hood 2011

Order your copy of Easter Delights today!

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Easter Traditions: Easter Dinner

posted by Karen Hood
Thursday, March 17, 2011

Author: EinPole
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Easter is just around the corner, and with it comes a whole host of traditions. But where do these traditions come from and why do we celebrate Easter with a ham or lamb dinner, decorated eggs, and chocolate bunnies? Let’s begin with a closer look at the main course of a traditional Easter dinner.

In the Jewish tradition, lamb is served during Passover. The Last Supper was Jesus’s final meal with the twelve apostles, and it was held on Passover night. Any meat that Jesus ate at the Last Supper would have been lamb, and so it became traditional for Christians in Europe to eat it at Easter in honor of this. Furthermore, Jesus himself is often referred to as the Lamb of God.

The use of ham at Easter comes from Northern Europe and North America, where lamb has never been an important meat. In the harsh winters of the North, ham was extremely important as a food source because it could be smoked and salted and would keep throughout the winter. In the spring, this preserved pork would be ready to eat at a time when no other fresh meat was available.

Stay tuned for the second part of this series, in which we discuss the symbolism of eggs in the Easter tradition. In the meantime, please enjoy this sample recipe from Karen Hood’s fabulous cookbook Easter Delights. With more than 250 delicious recipes, Easter Delights will make planning for this holiday easy and fun!

Raspberry and Rosemary Grilled Lamb Chops

Raspberry-flavored vinegar and minced rosemary
add excellent flavor to these chops.

Ingredients:
2 Tbs. raspberry vinegar
1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
1 Tbs. soy sauce
2 Tbs. fresh rosemary, minced (or ½ tsp. dried)
1 tsp. olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
8 lamb loin chops

Directions:

  1. In large, shallow dish whisk together vinegar, mustard, soy sauce, rosemary, oil, and garlic; add lamb chops in single layer, turning to coat well.
  2. Cover and marinate in refrigerator at least 2 hours or up to 8 hours, turning occasionally.
  3. Discard marinade; place chops on greased grill over medium-high heat, and cook about 5 minutes per side for medium-rare or to desired doneness.
  4. Transfer to platter; tent with foil, and let stand 5 minutes before serving.

© Karen Jean Matsko Hood 2011

Order your copy of Easter Delights today!

Format & Price