The Food Column: Easter treats you can steal from the kids


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I suspect all of us can remember moments when we felt our preschooler innocence being taken away.

Like the time I figured out the Easter bunny (in a very bad costume) was a fake and then forlornly turned to my mom and asked, "Does that mean Santa isn't real either?"

Or ... well ... the stuff that happened on the school bus.

But maybe the one that topped them all was the time I discovered that parents actually filch -- filch -- their kids' holiday candy.

My mom always did the Easter thing up right. It started a couple months ahead of time, when she began sewing our Easter outfits. Then she'd haul out the Egg Tree, based on Katherine Milhous' book by that name -- a tabletop tree decorated with plastic and cross-stitched eggs hung like ornaments.

And she loved dyeing Easter eggs. In fact, she still dyes them all by herself -- or ropes my dad into it -- even though the kids flew the coop a long time ago.

When I was a kid, we always dyed two or three dozen and then noshed on egg salad sandwiches, creamed eggs on toast and pickled beets-n-eggs for weeks on end. Our favorite dyed eggs were the "swirl" variety -- you plopped three or four drops each of several different colors onto the top of the egg water and then swirled your egg around in it. The first eggs were beautiful; the last ones looked like mud.

Mom also hid the dyed eggs on Easter morning, and we scampered around the house in our pajamas, searching for eggs in drawers and vases and china cupboards. Mom finally got smart and wrote down where she put each egg after years of holding her breath and wondering whether we'd have to wait and find the last one by smell a month later.

She also hid two Easter baskets for each of us. We always had plastic grass scattered with jellybeans and little foil-wrapped eggs, plus maybe a little chocolate bunny and a few small toys or books.

One year -- I must have been around 7 or 8 -- she was into candy making, so she made my brother and me each a chocolate fruit-and-nut-filled egg for our Easter baskets.

We had incredible powers of restraint when we were kids. Easter candy lasted at least a good couple weeks.

So I ate one tiny sliver of the homemade egg and left the rest Saran-wrapped in my basket.

When I woke up the next morning, I looked in my basket and the egg was gone. Gone!

"Mom?" I asked. "Where's my candy egg?"

She turned on her heel and shot my dad the stink eye.

"I'm sorry," my dad said, sort of laughing and sheepish at the same time.

And I had this moment of horrified recognition: He'd stolen it!

I've waited 30 years, but now I'm getting even: You're busted in the newspaper, Dad!

The problem was that Dad hadn't covered his tracks. If you're going to steal your kid's candy, you have to be smart about it. Sneak one jellybean. You don't go for the largest and most important item.

But I wouldn't know any of this from experience.


Easter food

Tomorrow: Easter bake sale, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church, Ambridge. Pirohy (as they call them), halushky, paska bread, nut rolls, apricot rolls, nut horns, apricot horns and other baked goods.


Festivals

Two for April 14:

Spring Thaw Wine and Food Fest, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Hidden Valley Resort. Wine tasting, food, live entertainment, artisans. $27 in advance; $32 at the door. hiddenvalleyresort.com or 814-443-8000 ext. 300.

Wine & Art Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 21 participating wineries in Lake Erie Wine Country. Talk with artists while they work, purchase works of art and taste wines. Free admission. lakeeriewinecountry.org.

Classes/demos

April 14: Turkish cooking class, 1 p.m. at the Turkish Cultural Center Pittsburgh, Banksville. Learn to make sarma (stuffed grape leaves) and cacik (yogurt sauce with cucumbers. $10; half price for students. RSVP by April 12 to activities@tccpittsburgh.org.

April 15: Mario Porreca, former Duquesne Club sous chef and coauthor of "The Good, The Bad, The Cookbook," noon at Giant Eagle Market District, Bethel Park. Mr. Porreca will demonstrate recipes that make eating right a pleasure, not a chore. Free.

April 15: 18th Century Cooking Class, 1 to 5 p.m. at Woodville Plantation, Collier. Learn to make onion-based recipes from the 18th century using reproduction cooking equipment. $20; registration required. 412-221-0348.

Charity events

April 17: The Allegheny Front's Bueno Buffet, 6:30 p.m. at Mad Mex, Shadyside. Suggested donation or at least $40 benefits The Allegheny Front's environmental radio programming. Advance reservations only: alleghenyfront.org or 412-697-2933.

Six in the City Dinner Series, 7:30 p.m. at Wild Rosemary Bistro, Upper St. Clair. Five courses with wine or spirits. $110 per person; a portion of proceeds benefits Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. cratecook.com (click "Special Events").

Bakeoff winner

Christina Verrelli of Devon, Pa. (Chester County), won the $1 million prize at the Pillsbury Bake-Off March 26. Want her recipe for Pumpkin Ravioli with Salted Caramel Whipped Cream? Go to bakeoff.com.



Chocolate Cream-Filled Easter eggs

PG tested

I knew my silly kids would hate the nuts if I tried to replicate my mom's fruit-and-nut-filled eggs, so instead I tried these cuties that, on the inside, look like real eggs with yolks. For the chocolate coating, I simplified the process by using a package of CandiQuik, which comes in a microwavable tray.

-- Rebecca Sodergren

  • 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 6 to 7 cups sifted powdered sugar
  • Yellow food coloring
  • 1 pound semisweet chocolate
  • 1 ounce paraffin wax, optional
  • Sprinkles if desired

In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix sweetened condensed milk, butter, corn syrup, salt and vanilla.

Add powdered sugar in 3 or 4 batches, mixing well after each addition. Add more sugar if needed, until mixture holds its shape and is smooth.

Place a quarter of the sugar mixture in a smaller bowl and use food coloring to dye it yellow. Form yellow mixture into 14 small balls and set aside.

Divide remaining sugar mixture into 14 larger balls.

Flatten large ball in palm, place yellow ball in center, then shape white mixture around yellow ball to form an egg shape.

Place eggs on a tray and cover well with plastic wrap. Chill at least 4 hours.

Place chocolate and paraffin, if using, in bowl over hot (not boiling) water (or use microwavable melting chocolate). Use a fondue fork to dip eggs into chocolate. Shake sprinkles on top if desired.

Place eggs on tray lined with waxed paper. Leave tray in a cool place until chocolate is firm.

-- food.com

recipes - foodcolumn

Rebecca Sodergren: pgfoodevents@hotmail.com.


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