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Easter egg hunts are still a delight

When I was young, we didn't have candy Easter eggs. Mother always fixed colored eggs, then she'd hide them and say the Easter Bunny had come.

After the egg hunt, we'd eat breakfast - sausage, biscuits and gravy. What a treat!

I did the same thing for my children and grandchildren, who loved the tradition.

My 24-year-old granddaughter still wants her eggs to come from the Easter Bunny when she's at my house for Easter.

I'm 86, and I still enjoy carrying on this tradition.

Cedar Vale, Kan.

Nana made Easter a special holiday

How well I remember the Easter I spent with my grandparents when I was about 10.

It didn't occur to my mother that I didn't have a new outfit to wear to church on Easter, but it occurred to Nana.

She went to the local mercantile store and bought some pretty, light blue material and a pair of white anklets. Without me knowing, she made me a dress with a sailor-type collar.

Easter morning, Nana handed me that wonderful dress and anklets to wear to church. Boy, was I happy, even though I had to wear my old shoes.

Los Angeles

Making dress with mother became a tradition

When I was growing up, Easter was a special time at our house. Every Easter, Dad would bring home a 2-pound plantation coconut cream egg to put in the basket on the dining room table. Mom would decorate the house in warm pastel colors to celebrate the Easter holiday and the beginning of spring.

Mom was an excellent seamstress, and she set a tradition each Easter by making me a new dress. We would visit the local fabric store to select the material, and Mom always let me pick it out.

Once home, Mom would lay the material out on the table, and we would pin the pattern down. Then we would cut around the pattern with pinking shears.

When the pattern was removed from the fabric, we would pin the pieces together and sew them on the sewing machine. I watched Mom carefully and asked questions along the way. I knew that when I had a daughter, I would want to carry on the same tradition with her.

When the dress was finished, I could hardly wait to try it on. It fit perfectly. Then Mom sewed the hem by hand. I'll never forget the dark-green taffeta dress we made; it became my favorite.

Next, we set out to buy a bonnet. There was one I had been admiring in the shop window around the corner from where we lived. It looked like the bonnet Margaret O'Brien wore in the movie Little Women. It had a yellow straw brim, trimmed with pink ribbon and delicate pastel flowers. When I tried it on, Mom and I both decided we liked it. Mom paid for it, and the saleswoman put it in a beautiful hat box. I felt very grown up carrying the hat box home that day.

On Easter morning, Aunt Agnes gave me a purse to match my new dress, and a set of pop-beads.

Mom, Dad, Aunt Agnes and I all sat down and had breakfast, then I went upstairs and got dressed. I could hardly wait to show Aunt Agnes the dress Mom and I had made.

When I came down the stairs, they all smiled when they saw me. Then we left for church, but before I walked out the door, I ran into the dining room and grabbed a little slice of that coconut cream egg Dad knew I loved so much.

Folcroft, Pa.

Making money

Money is a large part of life, and we all have to work for it. Nowadays, some children get a weekly allowance, but that wasn't always the case. Children of yesteryear really had to earn their money.

When you were a child or teenager, what kinds of jobs did you do to earn money for yourself and/or your family, and how did you spend the money you made? Did you cut wood for an elderly neighbor so you could buy a car? Did you help a neighbor with spring cleaning so you could buy a new dress or buy material to make one for an upcoming dance?

Tell us how you earned money when you were younger, and how you spent your hard-earned money. Send your letters to Kate Marchbanks, 1503 S.W. 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609-1265.

A slow-cured ham sweetened with glaze will be the hit of your Easter meal

A ham might be the traditional centerpiece to your Easter feast, so add a twist: serve a spiral-sliced, slow-cured ham with a delicious glaze. Many hams contain fewer than 200 calories per 3-ounce cooked serving, making the robust taste of bone-in ham part of a healthful, tasty diet.

A glaze is simply brushed on the ham for the last 30 minutes of baking time and adds a sweet balance to the ham's naturally salty, old-fashioned flavor.

For great tips for preparing and serving ham, and for quick and easy recipes, visit www.CooksHam.com.

Cherry Sauce

This crimson sauce needs to be brushed on the ham a mere 10 minutes before it's ready to come out of the oven.

- Cook's Ham
TASTY: A spiral-sliced, slow-cured ham topped with Cherry Sauce is irresistible.

1 package ham glaze and dipping
1 pound frozen cherries

In a saucepan over low heat, combine glaze and cherries; simmer for 8 minutes, or until cherries thaw and mixture begins to bubble. Remove half of the mixture and purée in a blender for about 30 seconds. Return puréed cherry mixture to saucepan and stir. Continue to heat on low for an additional 3 minutes. Serve sauce with ham. Yields 2 to 3 cups.

Editor's note: For a more dramatic presentation, do not purée the cherries. Instead, leave them whole. The sauce can be made ahead and warmed over low heat until ready to serve.

Honey Glaze

Honey and mustard complement each other, and the salty taste of ham.

3/4 cup honey, warmed
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Mix honey, mustard and cloves until well-blended. Brush glaze on ham occasionally during the last 30 minutes of baking.

Pineapple Glaze

Pineapple and ham are often combined, but this glaze throws in an extra punch.

1/2 fresh pineapple, finely chopped (about 2 cups)
1/4 cup honey
1/2 serrano chili pepper, seeded, finely chopped
3 tablespoons rum extract
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

In a medium bowl, mix all ingredients until well-blended. Brush glaze on ham occasionally during the last 30 minutes of baking.

Brown Sugar and Mustard Glaze

This simple glaze might fit a more traditional taste.

1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon water

Mix sugar, mustard and water until well-blended. Brush glaze on ham occasionally during the last 30 minutes of baking.

Pomegranate Glaze

Serve the remaining portion of this glaze with the ham as a side dish.

1 cup pomegranate juice
1/2 cup corn syrup with brown sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Dash of ground red pepper

In a medium saucepan, mix all ingredients until well-blended. Cook over medium heat for 3 minutes, or until thickened, stirring constantly. Occasionally brush 1/4 cup glaze on ham during the last 30 minutes of baking. Serve remaining glaze with ham.

Baked Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Apricot

Sweet potatoes add a spot of color to a holiday table, and they taste great, too!

6 medium sweet potatoes (about 8 ounces each)
1 can (15.25 oz.) apricot halves, drained
1/3 cup milk
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 tablespoons minced chives

Heat oven to 350°F. Place sweet potatoes on a baking sheet and bake until tender when pinched, about 1 hour. Set aside until cool enough to handle.

Cut each potato in half lengthwise. Scoop out pulp, leaving shells intact. Place pulp in food processor or mixing bowl; add apricots, milk, butter, salt, pepper and nutmeg; mix until puréed.

Fill potato shells with purée and place back on baking sheet. Sprinkle tops with chives. Bake until warmed through, about 10 minutes.

Savory Ham Breakfast Tarts

You'll be surprised at how fast leftover ham disappears when served in these delicious tarts.

1 package (15 ounces) refrigerated pie crusts (2 crusts)
1 cup thin matchlike sticks of leftover cooked ham
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Gruyère or Swiss cheese
3 eggs
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Heat oven to 400°F.

Let pie crusts stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before unrolling. Unroll crusts and place them on a lightly floured surface. Cut each crust into 4 wedges. Roll out each wedge to a 6-inch circle.

Place 1 circle in each of 8 (4 1/2-inch) tart pans and flute the edges. Line each crust with parchment paper; fill with pie weights or dry beans. Place tart pans on a baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes.

Remove parchment paper and pie weights. Fill crusts evenly with ham and cheese.

In a medium bowl, beat egg, milk, thyme and pepper with a wire whisk until well-blended. Pour egg mixture evenly into tart shells.

Return tart pans to baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, or until fillings are set in centers. Let tarts stand for about 10 minutes before serving. Yields 8 tarts.

Cambozola, Peach and Spinach Turnovers

A sweet dessert is a great ending to any meal, especially a special holiday feast.

1 egg
1/4 cup milk
4 square sheets puff pastry, 5-inch squares
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 ripe peach, peeled, pitted and thinly sliced
1 jar (4 oz.) pimiento strips, drained
1 cup baby spinach leaves, washed and stemmed
4 ounces Cambozola OR other creamy blue cheese, sliced into 4 pieces

Heat oven to 400°F.

In a bowl, whisk together egg and milk; brush onto one side of pastry squares. Reserve egg wash for later use.

Combine sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over pastry squares. Layer 1/4 of the peach, pimiento and spinach in the center of each pastry square and top with cheese.

Fold dough around the filling to make a triangle, sealing edges. Brush tops with remaining egg wash and place them on a greased cookie sheet.

Bake turnovers for 12 to 16 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve hot. Yields 4 servings.

Editor's note: Cambozola is a cross between Camembert and Gorgonzola. Look for Cambozola in a cheese shop, or use creamy Gorgonzola or Camembert instead.

Mango and Black-Eyed Pea Salsa

The flavors in this salsa go perfectly with ham. Stir in freshly chopped cilantro, if desired, just before serving.

1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup vinegar
Juice of 1 lime
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 cans (15.5 oz. each) black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
2 mangoes, diced
3 tomatoes, diced
3 green onions, finely chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

Combine oil, vinegar, lime juice, cumin and garlic powder in a medium bowl. Add black-eyed peas, mangoes, tomatoes and green onion; toss gently to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving. Serve with tortilla chips. Yields about 4 cups.

Together with God

Easter has always meant a celebration of life to me. No matter how cold or snowy or long the winter has been, we can look forward to Easter. Hope lingers closely below the snow, ready to burst forth in the promise of life.

We celebrate spring with all the excitement of new life. We splash color on eggs and on ourselves, as we dress for a special church service in our best Easter hats and clothes.

Nature celebrates, too, with the promise of warmer days, and bright flowers that break through the frozen ground to delight us with their beauty.

Father, thank You for Your promise of life that is renewed each year in the celebration of Easter, and also in the visual signs of spring. Thank You for the beauty of this world. May we always appreciate the warmth and glory of Your love. Amen.

D. Susan Rutz

A Letter From Kate

Dear Readers,

Even though I'm an adult now, and I know that Easter isn't really about new outfits, I have to admit that it feels like heresy to let Easter come and go without buying at least a new dress for the occasion. New gear was my family's tradition, just like the Easter ham and singing special music in church. Back then, my sisters and I received not only new dresses, but also new white gloves, shoes, hats, purses and anklets.

We purchased these ensembles on our family trip to the big city, with Daddy driving, and Mom trying to keep my sisters and me behaving like little ladies until we were at least out of the city limits. We went the rounds of department and shoe stores with our lists in hand, finishing the day with a late lunch in a cafeteria, which I thought was one of the loveliest, most sophisticated things ever invented. I discovered this exotic thing called tartar sauce there, and I found that there were other salad dressings in the world besides Thousand Island.

My first pair of high heels came as part of an Easter outfit, and didn't I feel stylish tottering off to church that morning wearing a pair of dyed-to-match lilac heels? I must have been all of 14, and the 'heels' about an inch high - because my parents certainly wouldn't have let me wear anything racier than that.

I love this time of year not only because it is truly a time of new life, but also because of all the family traditions celebrating that renewal, as well as the opportunities to gather with people I care about - often over a plate of very tasty food.

To Life!

Kate Marchbanks