With spring officially dawning today, warm breezes and sunny days, also on the horizon are pretty shades of clothes; professional, college, high school and Little League baseball; and, of course, Easter.
Spring marks the rebirth of flowers, trees and grasses; the return of birds; and the planting of garden seedlings in a warm spot to be ready for putting into the garden at a later date.
But in the midst of all of this, the reason for the Easter season should be remembered, celebrated and felt in the heart.
Dragana Lazic shows off some fancy treats at the Cooking Club at the Schiappa branch of the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County. She is wearing a fancy, coral-color chapeau to match her jacket. Spring is the time for pretty hats and colorful clothes, just in time for Easter. -- Esther McCoy
Young people are intrigued with the idea of hunting for colorful, plastic eggs and collecting the treats inside. Women at one time were excited about buying a new Easter hat - the bigger and the frillier the better. This doesn't happen as often now. With the fancy hairstyles that abound, hair is the focal point now.
Dragana Lazic had her Monday evening cooking class students wear pretty hats to her March session. She wore a fluffy, wide-brimmed hat in a bright shade of coral, with a jacket to match. and looked great preparing her foods, without an apron, no less. But after a time, the hat was making too much shade on her cooking, and she removed it to avoid frustration.
One of the sweet treats made by Dragana at the cooking seminar were candies very reminiscent of the Ferrero Rocher candies that are purchased enclosed in gold wrapping and in a clear box.
As a matter of fact, the recipe bears the same name. See if you don't think that they are quite identical.
3.5 ounces hazelnut wafer biscuits, crushed, or use chocolate wafer cookies, the kind where you can get vanilla, strawberry and chocolate in one package or just all chocolate or vanilla
5.5 ounces finely chopped hazelnuts
7 ounces Nutella, the hazelnut chocolate spread
9 ounces dark chocolate or milk chocolate
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celcius. Spread the hazelnuts on a rimmed baking sheet and roast in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, until they are warmed throughout and very aromatic. Remove from oven and let cool. Next, rub their skins off with a tea towel. Finely chop nuts. Combine wafer biscuits and chopped nuts. Add Nutella and mix with the hands. Roll approximately 1 heaping teaspoon of the mixture into a ball. Repeat and make between 30 to 40 balls, depending on the size. If the mixture is not firm enough to roll, put it in the refrigerator for 45 minutes to firm up. Melt the dark chocolate and let it cool. Remove the balls of dough from the refrigerator and dip them into the melted chocolate until well coated. Let set at room temperature or in the refrigerator if the weather is too hot. Put into little petit-fours muffin liner cups for a sophisticated look.
Now who says the Easter bunny is the only one to bring good chocolates?
This is another candy with a wonderful raspberry coconut taste. It is from the Martha Stewart magazine.
Raspberry Macaroons in Chocolate Shells
2 cups sweetened, flaked coconut
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg white
Pinch of coarse salt
1/2 cup fresh raspberries
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 teaspoons coconut oil or corn syrup
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine coconut, sugar, egg white and salt in a food processor and pulse until combined, scraping down sides of bowl, if necessary. Add raspberries and pulse until just incorporated. Do not over process. Scoop mounds of coconut mixture 1 inch apart onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, using a 1 1/4-inch ice cream scoop or a tablespoon to form small mounds.
Bake until macaroons are lightly golden 28 to 30 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through. Transfer macaroons to a wire rack and let cool. Place chocolate in a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water and stir until melted. Add coconut oil, stirring until combined; then remove from heat.
Dip bottoms of macaroons in chocolate or completely cover with chocolate, transferring as dipped to a wax-paper-lined rimmed baking sheet. Garnish as desired while still warm, then refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes and up to one day. Serve chilled.
Here is a fluffy candy that has only 1 gram of fat. It takes a bit of skill to make sure that it is at the desired consistency but if mastered well, it is a delicious candy that almost melts in your mouth. This is from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook.
2 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup light-colored corn syrup
2 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla or 1/4 teaspoon peppermint or almond extract
1 or 2 drops food coloring, optional
1/2 cup chopped nuts, such as walnuts, pecans or almonds, toasted
Line a tray or baking sheet with waxed paper. Set aside. In a 2-quart heavy saucepan, combine sugar, water and corn syrup. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until the mixture boils. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan. Reduce heat to medium; continue cooking, without stirring, until the thermometer registers 260 degrees, hard ball stage, 15 to 20 minutes. Adjust the heat as necessary to maintain a steady boil. Remove saucepan from heat; remove the thermometer. In a large mixing bowl, beat egg whites with an electric mixer on medium speed until stiff peaks form, meaning that the tips stand up straight. Gradually pour the hot syrup mixture in a thin stream over egg whites. Scrape sides of bowl occasionally. Add vanilla and food coloring if desired to make a pastel shade.
Continue beating on high just until candy starts to thicken and lose its gloss, 5 to 7 minutes. When beaters are lifted, mixture should fall in a ribbon that mounds on itself. To test, drop a spoonful of candy mixture onto waxed paper. If it stays mounded, then mixture has been beaten sufficiently. If mixture flattens, beat one-half to one minute more and check again. If mixture is too stiff to spoon, beat in a few drops of hot water until candy is a softer consistency. Immediately stir in nuts. Using two teaspoons, quickly drop divinity onto prepared baking sheet. Store tightly for up to a week.
Note: If using a stand mixer with a single beater that moves around the bowl, stop the mixer, pour a small amount of syrup over the whites. Immediately beat on high speed for 5 seconds. Stop the mixer and add more syrup. Beat on high speed for 5 seconds. Continue stopping and adding the remaining syrup in batches. If using a hand-held mixer, beat the syrup into the whites in a steady stream. Avoid pouring the syrup onto the beaters, as this will splatter it onto the sides of the bowl.
This is another Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook recipe for a prized chocolate candy - truffles. They can be rolled in chocolate or in chopped nuts. Either way it's delicious.
12-ounce package semisweet chocolate pieces, 2 cups, or an 11.5-ounce package milk chocolate pieces, 1 3/4 cups
1/3 cup whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup ground, toasted almonds or hazelnuts
Line a baking sheet with waxed paper; set aside. In a medium heavy saucepan, combine chocolate pieces and whipping cream. Cook and stir constantly over low heat until chocolate melts. Remove saucepan and from heat; cool slightly.
Stir in vanilla. Beat chocolate mixture with an electric mixer on low speed until smooth. Drop by teaspoons onto prepared baking sheet. Chill about 20 minutes or until firm. Shape chilled chocolate mixture into balls; freeze for 30 minutes. Roll truffles in ground nuts. Place on waxed paper. Store in a tightly container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Let truffles stand at room temperature about 30 minutes before serving.
Note: To make chocolate-covered truffles, prepare as above except omit the chopped nut covering. Dip the truffles, one at a time, into chocolate. Let excess chocolate drip off the truffles. Place on waxed paper. Let stand until set. If desired, in a small saucepan, combine 1/2 cup white baking pieces and 2 teaspoons shortening. Cook and stir over low heat until melted and smooth. Decoratively drizzle over chocolate-covered truffles and let stand until set.
Here is another candy recipe that makes a confection that simply melts in your mouth. It is another Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook recipe.
Cream Cheese Mints
3-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
3 cups powdered sugar
Few drops desired food coloring
In a small bowl, stir together softened cream cheese and peppermint extract. Gradually add powdered sugar, stirring until mixture is smooth, Knead in the last of the powdered sugar with your hands. Add the food coloring; knead until food coloring is evenly distributed. Form cream cheese mixture into 1/4-inch balls. Roll each ball in granulated sugar. Place on waxed paper. Flatten each ball with the bottom of a glass. Or sprinkle small candy molds lightly with sugar. Press 3/4 to 1 teaspoon mixture into each mold. Remove from molds. Cover mints with paper towels and let stand overnight. Store, tightly covered in the refrigerator or freezer for up to one month. These are 33 calories each with 1 gram total fat.
(McCoy can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)