Pioneer Potluck: About Easter Dinners

Growing up in the 1940s and '50s on a farm in Colorado
Easter Dinner was always planned at least two weeks ahead of time on the farm where we grew up. Mom planned the menu, drove into town in her old Pea Green Dodge and shopped at Steal's Market. The she drove the 14 miles back home, put paper sacks loaded with groceries away, and began baking cookies, pies, bread and rolls. She would put the baked goods in the freezer and begin thinking about the china, the silverware and serving dishes that she would need for Easter Dinner. Dinner was served at 1 o'clock and the leftovers were served for supper at 6. 


Good Friday, usually a half a day of school, or spring vacation, was the day we colored Easter eggs. Then Mom would have me wash and hand dry all the china and silverware. It was stacked on the dining room table beside the heavily starched linen table cloth that she had washed on Monday, in the old wringer washing machine, starched in a tub of starch water, and hung on the line to dry. Our Easter dresses, Dad's white shirt, were also washed and heavily starched. The tablecloth and other starched clothes were brought in from the line, sprinkled with water, rolled up and put in a basket to be ironed on Tuesday. Mom taught me how to iron, and in later years, when I had a family of my own, I took in ironing, and babysat two small children. I loved to iron standing in front of the old black and white TV, watching Bette Davis movies. I still like to iron. (I also loved to make my two girls Easter Dresses, applying the lessons I had learned in Home Ec.)

On Saturday, at the farm, the whole house was cleaned from top to bottom, and tarnished. (My sister, Elaine, called polishing the furniture "tarnishing.") We were assigned different jobs. After our job was finished, Mom would inspect and redo most of it. The piano and the dining room table and chairs, and a buffet that held all the silverware and china were in the dining room. I was responsible for polishing all of the dining room furniture. I can still smell lemon scented Johnson's Furniture Polish. I am sure mom went over my polishing job because I used an excessive amount of polish.

Saturday night was bath night. Mom curled my white, straight as a string hair, with bobby pins, and later those little pink rollers. Ginger had thick auburn curly hair. Then we polished our shoes, with the help from Dad, and planned exactly what we were going to wear for Easter Church Services.

I can remember how excited I was to crawl into nice clean smelling sheets and blankets so I could go to sleep real fast, because the Easter Bunny was going to leave us beautiful Easter baskets on Sunday morning. Somehow the Easter Bunny hid all of those colored eggs around the house for us to find.

Then it was time to get dressed and go to church. After a quick breakfast, usually bacon and eggs, fried potatoes and toast, milk and juice, we were allowed to get dressed in our "Easter Sunday Go To Meeting Clothes" (my Dad's words). Mom took the bobby pins or the pink rollers out of my hair. Combed and bushed, she put barrettes or ribbons in our hair, and for a few years we wore Easter hats, which I adored. I felt so grown up. My brother wore a suit and starched white shirt and tie just like Dad. He also had a hat he wore (just like Dad). We were lined up at the kitchen door, inspected one more time by our mother, and sent off to church with Dad.

Mom went to church with us, all dressed up, with a hat, several times on Easter and Christmas, but after my little brother and sister were born, she stopped going. Her excuse was she had too much to do to get dinner on the table after church. She really did! She had to put the huge ham in the oven, bake the sweet potatoes so they could receive brown sugar, butter, maple syrup and marshmallows at the last minute for Easter Dinner. We always had company for Easter Dinner. Usually Grandma and Grandpa and uncles, and in later years, cousins from Greeley. After dinner and dessert, us kids could eat the candy from our Easter baskets, which got shared and given to Dad.

It was a great holiday, treated like the great day of the Resurrection. So many Happy Easter Memories. And how did you celebrate your Easter Sunday, growing up?

Bernie's Birthday Cake

I have discovered a new way to spruce up a cake mix. I am sure in my travels through my numerous cookbooks I found parts of this recipe somewhere. Read through, gather ingredients. Because you do this over a period of cooking and cooling time, plan to do this the day before the party.

In a large bowl combine the following:
1 lemon cake mix
1 small can crushed pineapple* undrained (about 11 oz)
1/2 cup applesauce
4 egg whites - reserve the yolks
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
*or a 11 ounce can of mandarin oranges undrained
Beat the ingredients until light and fluffy, about 3 min.
Pour into an oiled 9 x 13 X 2 baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 min. Be sure and test with the tooth pick as it may take a little longer depending on your oven. Completely cool and chill in refrigerator for at least four hours or overnight.
First topping:
Because I had four egg yolks leftover from the cake, I made my own lemon pudding.
In a large sauce and (I use glass Vision Ware) place the following:
1 1/2 cups sugar
6 tablespoons cornstarch
Pinch of salt
2 cups of water
With a whisk combine sugar, cornstarch, salt, water and bring to a boil. Turn down heat stirring constantly until thick and bubbly. Take off heat
4 egg yolks
2 tablespoons butter
Grated lemon peel - grate and then juice lemon
1 teaspoon lemon extract and juice from lemon.
Stir about a tablespoon of the hot filling into the four egg yolks, then stir to the hot pan and stir constantly. Place back on stove on low heat, stirring constantly for 1 min. or longer until it's clear and thick. Take off heat and stir in lemon peel, lemon juice, lemon extract and butter. Mixture will be very thick. Cool to room temperature.
Spread the lemon mixture on top of the cold cake. Set aside and make the final topping
Top topping:
1-8 ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup of powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups cold 2% milk
2 packages - 3.4 ounces each instant lemon pudding mix
1 teaspoon lemon extract.
In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and powdered sugar until smooth. Beat in milk until smooth. Add pudding mix, beating 2 min. longer. Let set for 2 min. until it soft sets and spread over the top of the pudding on the cake. Sprinkle with crushed walnuts and coconut if desired
NOTE: I used a deep 13 x 9 x 2 foil pan and this cake raised to the top. I placed the lemon pudding on top of the cake. I piped the cream cheese topping around the outside of the cake and spread crushed fresh strawberries mixed with cup sugar and tub Marie Glaze for Strawberries. The cake was moist and the toppings were not overly sweet.

Black Forest German Chocolate Cake

Another twist on a cake mix.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare a 13 x 9 X 2 baking pan. Oil the pan and pour one can cherry pie filling into the bottom of pan, making sure the cherries are evenly distributed. Set aside.
1 box German chocolate cake mix or devil's food chocolate cake
1 cup of water
2 eggs
1/2 cup applesauce
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Beat with electric mixer on low 1 min. and on medium or high for 2 min. until mixture turns a lighter color. Drop by large spoonfuls over the top of the cherry pie filling. Smooth cake batter and bake in the oven for 35 min. at 350, testing to see if the middle is done. This takes a little longer to bake with the cherries on the bottom.
Cool completely and chill. Spread with one can of the prepared German chocolate frosting mix. My can was Coconut Pecan Frosting. Sprinkle with crushed walnuts and shredded coconut. Chill until serving. Very good with of vanilla bean ice cream or a big dollop of whipped cream. Moist and flavorful.