Am I the only one whose family traditions center around food? Pick a holiday—any holiday—and I guarantee my family spends most of the time preparing food, consuming food, and talking about food. It’s too bad the Olympic Games don’t include food sports, because we’d have a lock on every medal.
Much as Thanksgiving is Turkey Day, Christmas is Prime Rib Day, and July 4 is Hamburger Day, Easter is the day devoted to ham. One year, in a stark departure from tradition, an out-of-season prime rib roast sneaked onto the menu. Because the weather was nice and the men in the family had been pining to barbecue all winter, they decided the roast would be delicious cooked on a spit over charcoal. In another stark break with tradition, the women acquiesced.
We would live to rue the concession.
While the women slaved away in the kitchen to get the rest of the meal ready, the men… Well, heaven knows what they were doing, but they weren’t watching the roast. The next thing we knew, flames were licking around the closed top of the grill and the heretofore succulent beef had become a charred lump.
We regrouped, moved July’s tradition up by a couple of months, and ate hamburgers…with scalloped potatoes, green beans almondine, and homemade bread (in addition to hamburger buns). At least the men got to grill something.
No matter what other part of a holiday meal took a turn for the strange, the desserts have always been scrumptious (probably because baking seldom requires charcoal).
One of my favorite Easter desserts is lemon bites: a shortbread-like crust filled with tart, sticky goodness that forms a crackly surface as it bakes. This is the recipe my family has used for as long as I can remember.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/4 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp. grated lemon peel (optional)
4 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
4-6 drops yellow food coloring (optional)
Powdered sugar for dusting the top after baking (optional)
- Heat oven to 350° F.
- Mix flour, butter or margarine, and powdered sugar. Press into bottom and 1/2-inch up the sides of an ungreased 8x8x2 or 9x9x2 pan. Bake crust 20 minutes.
- Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat granulated sugar, lemon peel (if using), lemon juice, baking powder, salt, eggs, and food coloring (if using) until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Pour onto crust. (No need to let crust cool.)
- Bake 25-30 minutes or until the center is firm when pressed lightly with a fingertip.
- Cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar. Cut into 2-inch squares.
Don’t double the recipe and bake in a 9×13 pan. The bigger pan requires a longer baking time, and the crust will burn on the bottom.
I used four drops of food coloring to attain the lemon color in the photo.