501 Life Magazine | Parade of Easter memories
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Parade of Easter memories

by Don Bingham

Easter has always been a meaningful and fun season at our house. The minute Valentine’s Day candy has been devoured, the red and pink dissolve into colorful shades of spring! Parts of the house begin to truly look like “Grandma’s house” with the bunnies, the teapots and the marble eggs.

Among our cherished memories is the first year that the Dollar Tree offered the pastel colored marble eggs — for $1 each! What a bargain! Six eggs would never do, we have to have as many as possible because we have a large family. Thus began the visits across the United States to all the Dollar Tree stores. We were going to a conference in Greenville, S.C., so it was easy to stop in every little town in the six-state area to empty their shelves of the marble Easter eggs. We still have scores of them, and they already “grace” our table tops, baskets and everywhere the newest grandchildren cannot reach!

While growing up, one of my childhood goals was to be a “producer” (imagine that!). It was always fun to produce what we called “shows” in the backyard or front porch, or orchestrate parades up and down the neighborhood street. Ziegfeld Follies had nothing over us, and Easter presented the opportunity to truly “parade” with colored ribbons tied to boards and wagons decorated with tissue paper, and become absorbed in the thrilling emotions of strolling down the avenue in our Easter bonnets! 

To this day, I am thankful for the nearby cemetery that discarded the bows attached to the sprays and wreaths; they often served as my supply closet for the parades. It’s a wonder that the police did not terminate this venture and put a stop to my endless use of these rainbow streamers of colored joy. (My apologies to the dear departed who were not aware they were making this contribution to the parade business of the neighborhood!)

My children recently brought me a copy of the old Irving Berlin movie, “Easter Parade” with Judy Garland and Fred Astaire. I have to watch parts of it every Easter season. At this stage in life, my particular body frame and chemistry no longer allow me the joy of “singing in the rain” — but I can “sachet” through the house with the best intentions.

And what would Easter be without the family for Sunday lunch? My wife does the cooking, with an occasional dessert from the rest of us. When we owned a local restaurant, we gathered many traditional recipes that still have to make appearances on our Easter buffet tables. Following a wonderful church service of celebration, the tables, sideboards and kitchen counters are transformed into a feast for all to enjoy! 

One of our favorites is the Easter Egg Bread. It was first printed in a cookbook that we published in 1985 and has remained a holiday favorite for all these years.

The bread is braided before baking, and tinted eggs are placed in the circular braid and baked in the oven along with the break. It can be appointed with colored candies or a powdered sugar glaze. It makes a delightful centerpiece for the Easter dining experience!

In preparation for the Easter season, even the drive to and from a normal day’s activities will present me with the forsythia, the tulip trees, the jonquils – all of these begin to prepare me for the celebration of new life. They serve to remind me of the really important things in life; they encourage me to continue “parading” the reason for the celebration of the Easter holidays and keep “dancing in the streets” with thanksgiving for the real blessings of the Resurrection!

Easter Egg Bread

12 eggs in shell, uncooked

Easter egg coloring

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 tsp. salt

Grated rind of 2 lemons

2 packages dry yeast

1/2 cup warm water (110-115 degrees)

2 eggs (at room temperature)

4 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour (about)

1 egg, beaten

Tiny colored candies

Wash 12 uncooked eggs. Tint shell with egg coloring; set aside.

Scald milk; add sugar, salt, shortening and lemon peel. Cool to lukewarm.

Sprinkle yeast on warm water; stir to dissolve. Add to milk mixture with the two eggs, slightly beaten, and 2 1/2 cups flour. Beat until smooth.

Stir in enough remaining flour, a little at a time, to form a dough that is easy to handle. Turn onto a lightly floured board and knead until smooth and elastic, 5-8 minutes. Place in lightly greased bowl; turn dough over to grease top. Cover and let rise in warm place free from drafts, until doubled — about one hour.

Punch down; cover and let rise again until almost doubled, about 30 minutes. Make two large braided rings or 12 individual rings as follows:

LARGE RINGS: Divide dough into four parts. Form each part into a 36-inch rope. On a greased bakin
g sheet, shape two of the ropes into a very loosely braided ring, leaving space for six eggs. Repeat with other two ropes of dough for second ring. Insert six tinted eggs in space in each ring. 

INDIVIDUAL RINGS: Divide dough into 12 parts. Form each part into a ring around a tinted egg.

Cover and let rise until doubled. Brush evenly with beaten egg. Sprinkle with decorating candies. Bake in moderate oven (375 degrees) 15 minutes for individual rings, 20 minutes for large rings or until lightly browned. Serve warm. Makes two large or 12 individual rings. 

Note: Easter Egg Bread can be baked the day before. Refrigerate. At serving time, reheat in moderate oven (350 degrees) for eight minutes.

Easter Basket Salad with Avocado Accompaniment

8 hard-boiled eggs, shelled

Red, yellow and green food colorings

1 large head Boston lettuce 

1/4 small head chicory 

1 small avocado

1 small tomato

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup dairy sour cream

2 tsp. grated onion 

1/2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. lemon juice

Fill several small, deep cups with water. Stir in few drops food coloring into each to tint pink, green, yellow, orange or other colors of your choice. Place one egg in each cup; let stand, turning several times, until delicately tinted. Remove from water; drain on paper towel. Repeat with remaining eggs; chill.

Wash lettuce and chicory; dry well. Separate leaves; chill.

Cut avocado in half; pit and peel; mash well in a small bowl. Dice tomato and stir into avocado with mayonnaise, sour cream, onion, salt and lemon juice; chill.

Just before serving, line a large salad bowl with small leaves; break remaining leaves into bite-sized pieces and place in bowl; top with chicory. Nestle eggs in greens. Pass dressing separately to spoon over each serving. Serves 8.

Chicken Breasts Tarragon

4 whole chicken breasts (about 1 pound each)

2 tbsp. salad or olive oil

2 tbsp. butter or margarine

6 shallots, chopped

2 pared carrots, (sliced into 1/4-inch rounds)

1/4 cup cognac or brandy

1 cup dry white wine

1/4 cup chopped fresh tarragon or 2 tsp. dried
         tarragon leaves

1 1/2 tbsp. fresh chopped chervil or 1/2 tsp. dried
         chervil leaves

1 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. pepper

1 cup light cream

1 egg yolk

1 tbsp. all-purpose flour

1/2 pound mushrooms, washed, thinly sliced

2 tbsp. butter or margarine

Sprigs of fresh tarragon

In six-quart Dutch oven, heat oil and two tablespoons butter. Add chicken breasts (half at a time, enough to cover bottom of pan); saute, turning on all sides, until brown. Remove chicken as it browns. Brown rest of chicken.

To drippings in Dutch oven, add shallots and carrots; saute, stirring, five minutes, or until golden brown. Return chicken to Dutch oven; heat. When hot, slightly heat cognac in ladle and ignite. Add white wine, chopped tarragon and chervil; salt and pepper.

Bring to boiling; reduce heat and simmer gently, covered, 30 minutes. Remove chicken to heated serving platter; keep warm. Strain drippings in Dutch oven; return to Dutch oven. In small bowl, combine cream, egg yolk and flour; mix well with wire whisk.

Stir in drippings in Dutch oven; bring just to boiling, stirring. Add more wine if sauce seems too thick. Meanwhile, sauté mushrooms in hot butter for five minutes, until tender. Spoon sauce over chicken. Garnish with tarragon and mushrooms. Serves 8.

Chicken Bourbon

8-12 skinned, deboned chicken breasts, flou
red lightly and sautéed in one stick of butter

Pour 1/2 cup Bourbon over chicken and place in baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove chicken from pan; pour juices into skillet; add one cup whipping cream to make sauce. Sautéed mushroom buttons may be added, if desired. Serve chicken on platter with sauce and mushrooms. Season with white pepper and salt to taste. Serves 8-12.

Carrots with Walnuts and Honey

1 pound scrapped, cleaned, julienned carrots

1/4 cup butter 

1/4 cup honey 

1/2 cup walnuts

Cook carrots until crunchy. Drain carrots. Melt butter and honey, add walnuts. Toss carrots in butter-honey mixture. Serves 4-6.