Friday, March 20, 2009

Friday Recipes: Easter Goodies

This week I decided to browse our archives for some tasty recipes. I found quite a treasure trove of goodies too! Easter is coming so it's time to start planning what we'll serve for dinner, snacks, desserts and appetizers. This week we'll share some fun and tasty treats:

Easter Sugar Cookies
From Gayla, OFL Moderator

4 cups all purpose flour
3 1/4 sticks butter cut into pieces
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar (I use 2 cups)
2 egg yolks plus 1 egg white
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 lb powdered sugar
3 tbsp. powdered egg whites
6 to 9 tbsp. water
assorted liquid food colors

Mix all sugar cookie ingredients in food processor or mixer until dough forms. Divide in half and wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. (I have made this dough ahead and refrigerated it for 2 weeks) Roll out dough about 1/8" thick and cut out with cookie cutters. Bake 400 for 8 to 10 minutes (I bake longer because I like crisper cookie) Cool on wire racks. Prepare icing by mixing all ingredients and divide into separate bowls and add food coloring. Decorate cookies when they are completely cooled.

This recipe is good to use with cookie cutters because it holds it's shape during baking. You can make those thick decorated sugar cookies like you get at the bakery. ~Gayla

I won Grand Champion at our county fair with this recipe!

Tangy Lemon Bars

2 c. flour
3/4 c. margarine
3/4 c. sugar

4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 tsp lemon peel
1/4 c flour
1/4 c. lemon juice
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

1 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 TBL lemon juice
1 tbsp. margarine 1/2 tsp vanilla

Combine crust ingredients. Pour into ungreased 9 x 13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees F.oven for 20 minutes. Combine eggs, sugar, lemon peel salt and lemon juice. Blend 2 minutes with mixer. Add flour and baking powder, blend well. Pour filling onto crust and bake 25 minutes. Combine glaze and spread on cooled bars.

From Laura Kaye
Bunny Kisses

Put some Hershey Kisses or Hugs in a plastic baggie (or use chocolate chips- they look like mini kisses) and attach the following poem:

This cute little bunny has hopped all day
Been delivering baskets for the holiday.
His paws are so tired and his little nose itches.
He left you something special-something to fill all your wishes.
These cute little hugs and Easter kisses

I am Slovak and would like to share my Grandma's Hrudka (Easter Cheese) recipe. It's simple to make a good to eat!

Hrudka (Slovak Easter Cheese)
This is to be made the night before Easter.

1 dozen eggs
1 quart milk
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Crack eggs in a bowl and beat until smooth. Put eggs into large sauce or frying pan and stir in milk, sugar and vanilla. On medium low heat, stir mixture constantly until curds separate from whey. Pour into cheesecloth, squeeze out as much of the whey as you can and hang overnight. On Easter morning, cut into slices or cubes and serve cold.

My Grandmother taught me how to make hrudka. It is traditionally only made and eaten on Easter Sunday and served with kolbasi, ham, paska (a sweet bread with whole hardboiled eggs baked into it) and freshly grated horseradish. Everything is put on a platter and everyone eats from the same big platter. I teach cheesemaking classes and always add this recipe to my handout!

~Suzanne Nagler Harris

We have a huge variety of Easter features, here are just a few:

See all of our Easter features in our holiday section!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Thrifty Thursday: Birthday Parties for Kids

Seems like every week one of the kids comes home with a birthday party invitation. Buying presents for kids on a regular basis can get very pricey, especially in this economy. Recently, a friend of my youngest son gave him a very creative present and another used homemade wrapping paper, so in honor of the blog event Thrifty Thursday, I thought I would share those ideas here.

Artwork - My youngest son turned 10 at the end of January.  One of his friends is really into drawing with pastel chalk. He drew a wonderful sunset and his mom put it into one of those $2 8x10 frames you can get at WalMart. My son absolutely loved it! It's now hanging proud on his bedroom wall.

Wrapping Paper - Another friend of his wrapped his gift in homemade wrapping paper. He used markers to color a scene on a large piece of paper. He then used cookie cutters to cut shapes from different colored construction paper and pasted those onto the drawing. It was a wonderful idea.

Birthday Card - Wow, have you seen the price of birthday cards lately? They START at $3.99 and go up from there! Add in wrapping paper, a bow and a present and you're lucky to walk out of the store for less than $40. Be sure to check the dollar store for birthday cards! While they may not have a huge selection, you can very often find appropriate cards there. Another idea is to find a funny picture on the internet, print it out, then cut out the picture. Paste it onto a homemade card and write your greeting inside. 

Money Envelope - These days many kids would prefer to receive money or gift cards instead of presents. We always keep a box of envelopes in the cabinet, so we grab one and have our kids color it or otherwise decorate it. We put the money or gift card inside and that acts as both the wrapping and the card!

Dollar Store - The dollar store can be a great place to find birthday cards, discount wrapping paper and small toys. Beware though, sometimes you can find similar items at WalMart and Target for even less! For example, while shopping for school supplies they had crayons for $1.00, but WalMart had the same box for $0.79. 

Stock Up Box - If you are at the store and there's a clearance sale on toys, games or coloring books that fall in your child's age group, grab an extra and save it for the next birthday party. While shopping, if your kids are with you, ask if anyone is having a birthday soon that they know of so you can be prepared.

Creativity - Kids know what their friends like. My teenage daughter had 5 friends spend the night a couple of weeks ago. Knowing my daughter's love (obsession is more like it) with pickles, one of the girls bought her a big jar of pickles and put a big bow on the lid. She really appreciated the gift and it was very thoughtful!

Do you have any great ideas? Please share!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Reader's Questions: Seeds & Recipe Search

Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush. ~Doug Larson

Hello, I live in Utica Michigan. I am starting plants in the house now. Did I start them too soon? Thanks for an answer! ~Keith

This is a good time of year to start seeds indoors for Zone 5, which is what we are in lower Michigan. Now is a good time to start tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, marigolds, zinnias. As soon as the soil is workable and no longer frozen you can direct sow peas, lettuce, radishes and carrots. Late in month you can start perennials like columbine, campanula, bellflower, and blanket flower inside too. By the end of the month it's usually okay to put pansy plants outside and direct sow nasturtium and sweet peas. Remember, if they predict a super cold night you should cover plants to be sure they make it okay. All the Zones above 5 can be putting out transplants of cool weather crops right now-- again, just watch the weather for unexpected cold nights.

I am looking for a recipe we learned in 4-H over 20 years ago, called "Pizza Bake." Thank you. ~Mrs. David White

I found two recipes that might be what you are looking for. They are simple and just vary slightly. You could easily swap meats in the recipes or add more meat if you wish.

Pepperoni Pizza Bake

1 pound ground beef chuck
1 medium onion, chopped or diced
1 (15 ounce) can pizza sauce
8 ounces elbow macaroni, just cooked and drained
2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 (3 1/2 ounce) package pepperoni slices, quartered
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a large skillet cook the beef and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; Drain. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Transfer to a greased 2 quart baking dish. Bake uncovered at 350 for 40-45 minutes or until heated through. Serves 6.

Pizza Casserole

1 pound ground beef chuck
1/3 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup diced green peppers
1(4-ounce)can sliced mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 (10 -ounce) cans pizza sauce
8 ounces cooked spaghetti
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Brown the ground beef, onion, and green peppers in a skillet for abut 10 minutes. Drain the grease off and add the pizza sauce; stir. Place the mushrooms, cooked spaghetti and salt into the greased baking dish. Pour the meat sauce over the top and sprinkle with the cheese. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and the casserole is bubbling.

We have more casserole recipes, including another pizza casserole, on OFL:

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tuesday Tips: Wicker and more

This week I thought it would be fun to just pick something that's on my mind. It was 63 degrees in southern Wisconsin yesterday and that has me not only smiling, but thinking of spring! Of course, that made me think of cleaning the yard, planting flowers, and pulling out the patio furniture. Well there you have it: patio furniture = wicker, at least at my house. ;)


To prevent yellowing, scrub wicker furniture with a stiff brush moistened with warm salt water and allow to dry in the shade.

Remove dust from wicker by vacuuming with the dust-brush attachment. To remove grime, wash with a solution of 2 tablespoons ammonia per gallon of water; use a paintbrush or a toothbrush to get at hard-to-reach places. Rinse well; air-dry in the shade.

These tips are great, but I thought I would do a quick search on Old Fashioned Living for the term "wicker" to see what it came up with. Quite a variety in fact! Take a look:

Caring for Wicker Furniture - This article has some great advice or cleaning and caring for wicker, as well as what to do if you notice damage. There's also some tips on sprucing up your painted wicker and giving it a fresh look!

Choosing Wicker Furniture - This piece offers an explanation for the different types of wicker furniture available and how to choose the right type for your particular use.

Of course, those were the most obvious articles, but look at what else we found when searching "wicker" on our site. So many wonderful uses! Who knew? And the icing on the cake? Just by searching on "wicker" look at all the other wonderful features I found!

Unique Containers for Herbs & Flowers
"I have done this for years, but beware, the wicker rots after one or two seasons. What I do is use wicker baskets that I've picked up for change at garage sales or thrift stores and use them as long as I can. One long thin basket lasted almost three years before it gave out. Nasturtiums or pansies look charming `in wicker baskets grouped together."
Read more about other containers for herbs & flowers

Ddi you know you can construct a porch swing out of a wicker love seat with the legs removed?

Table Decorations
"A simple centerpiece can be made with a shallow wicker basket and natural ingredients. Line your basket with fall leaves of different colors. In the center place a small pumpkin (pie pumpkins work well), and surround it with small gourds of various shapes and colors. You can stop there or you can add pinecones and milkweed pods for variation."

"Use wicker baskets lined with napkins in Autumn colors for the silverware, napkins and muffins."

Read more ideas on having a festive brunch!

Frugal Flower Girl Accessories
"My husband had a hand in decorating the flower girls' baskets. He is always one to fix up something instead of throwing it away, so he came up with the idea of spray painting wicker Easter baskets. It was perfect--we already had the baskets and the white spray paint."

See more ideas on frugal flower girl accessories

Bean Soup Mixes
"Gift ideas: Line a wicker basket with one or two red bandanas. Place in a jar the beans and the seasoning packet, put on the lid and tie with natural raffia, using a hot glue gun carefully glue several small dried hot peppers to the raffia bow, or thread floral wire through the peppers and attach to lid. In the basket you can include two bags of cornbread mix, a bottle of hot pepper sauce (I like the brands with fun names), bowls and if you wish, a cast iron cornbread pan."

See the bean soup mixes and recipes!

Beautiful Button Crafts
"I like to find old wicker baskets at thrift stores or garage sales, wash them with hot soapy water, and decorate with buttons and ribbon. Line with cloth and you have a perfect basket to place baked goods, candy or other small gifts."

See all the fun button craft ideas here

All that from a quick search on "wicker"! Did you find any great "wicker" ideas, or even any leads after looking?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Garden Tips: Spring Chores

Ireland is rich in literature that understands a soul's yearnings, and dancing that understands a happy heart. ~Margaret Jackson

Rhododendrons & azaleas: Place 3 cups or so of used coffee grounds beneath and around each bush. It will help build up the acidity, which they love.

Buying roses: there should be at least three nice canes with no gouges or damage. Unless you are REALLY getting a bargain price you don't want to see black or dark brown wood. When you buy a dormant plant it will look "dead", but if you gently scratch the wood with a fingernail you'll find green. If you don't, then it's dead
or very close to dead. Usually there are instructions on the rose package, but if not you should remove all the packing and soak the rose for several hours in warm water before planting. A five gallon pail works well for this. (Don't forget to slip a banana peel in the planting hole before placing in your new rose.)

Alliums: give any of your bulbs/plants in the allium family a sprinkling of bone meal when you see them popping out of the ground. You can also divide them at any time, and replant. Be sure to keep the plants evenly moist for about a week afterwards if you don't get enough rain.

Beets: If you've planted the "seeds" before you'll remember they are wrinkled, dry looking things. They are actually a dried "fruit" that has several seeds inside! Beet seedlings must always be thinned as soon as the first true leaves show up (these are the second set of leaves that appear after the seedlings germinate). You can use a tweezers or your fingers if you wish. Then, you'll no doubt have to thin a second time when the little beets start to form and need more room. The neat thing is you can use these in salads (both the tiny beet and the greens), so they don't go to waste. The final beet plants should be 4 inches apart after both thinnings.

We have more tips on spring cleaning in the garden: