When you are 14 years old and incredibly self-conscious, even a 6am Easter Sunday Sunrise Service warrants a finished hair-do and makeup. It was practically the only day of the week I could sleep until 7am, so I wasn’t exactly thrilled at the idea. I grew up attending Sunday School and church every single Sunday, in a family church dating back to our family’s German immigrants, so it wasn’t like I was protesting attending church on one of the busiest Sundays of the year – it was all about the hour! And watching the sunrise at the same time was not exactly what I would consider necessary, or even all that special. The sun rises every day! Interestingly, this year, we actually considered attending a sunrise service, which made me chuckle just a bit thinking back to those least favorite Easter memories.
For me, Easter is about family. It is a day to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. It is a season of rebirth, spring, sunshine and white shoes. I was raised on the family farm and every Easter Sunday started with an extra special gift my father would bring home from my Grandmother. After feeding the cattle, he would stop into my grandparents home to say ‘good morning’ and chat for a few minutes, and on this particular day, she would carefully cover and hand over the basket painstakingly decorated and filled with chocolate marshmallow rabbits and eggs, solid chocolate eggs, and pastel colored m&m’s. My sister and I could hardly wait for the basket to arrive on this one day each year, diving into it as soon as it landed on the kitchen counter. When my children were growing up, I took great pleasure in filling their baskets with chocolate treats, a new outfit, a toy, video or in later years, gift cards for their favorite stores.
Now that our children are grown, each Easter can look a bit different and the traditions from my childhood are distant memories. No matter the details, time with those you love seems to be the right and best place. For the last several years, my sister has hosted Easter and while this year the gathering was slightly smaller, the time together with extended family is such a pleasure. I know not every family feels the same way, and it is possible even members of my own family don’t agree. However, we lived thousands of miles away from family for 25 years and one holiday a year spent together was often the most we could arrange. I don’t take any of it for granted and whenever possible, I am happy to be the one to host the big event, but sharing a special dish (or two) can be a lot of fun as well.
Strawberry Pretzel Salad (Revisited)
A less sweet and delicious berry salad, sometimes swapped in as a dessert…
2 cups crushed pretzels (gluten free sticks are a thoughtful touch for some of your guests)
3/4 c. butter, melted
3 tbsp. sugar
8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
3/4 c. sugar
8 oz. container frozen whipped topping, thawed
3 oz. package strawberry flavored Jello-O
3 oz. package (sugar-free) strawberry flavored Jello-O
2 cups boiling water
20 oz. frozen triple berries (raspberries, blueberries, boysenberries)
1. Preheat oven to 400º
2. Stir together crushed pretzels, melted butter and 3 tbls. sugar; mix well and press mixture into the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish.
3. Bake 8-10 minutes, until set. Set aside to cool.
4. In a large mixing bowl, cream together softened cream cheese and 3/4 cup sugar. Fold in whipped topping. Spread mixture onto a cooled crust.
5. Dissolve gelatin in boiling water. Stir in frozen berries and allow to set briefly. When thickened (but not set) pour and spread over cream cheese layer. Refrigerate until set.
6. Cut into squares for serving.
Recipe adapted from Allrecipes.com (less sugar and berries other than strawberries)
1 cup graham cracker crumbs, about 1 sleeve
2 tbls. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
3 tbls. butter, melted
24 oz. (3-8 oz.) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup flake coconut, tinted green with food coloring
green frosting and a grass decorator’s tip
egg chocolate candies
1. Preheat oven to 350º. Line 18 muffin slots with cupcake liners; set aside.
2. In a food processor, pulse crackers into fine crumbs. Add to a medium bowl. Add in sugar and cinnamon, mix thoroughly. Add melted butter and mix until crumbs resemble fine sand mixture.
3. Add a heaping tablespoon to lined muffin trays. Press mixture down with the bottom of a small juice glass or a mini tart shaper. Bake 5 minutes, set aside until ready to use.
4. Lower your oven temperature to 325º.
5. In a stand mixer, cream cream cheese until smooth. With the mixer on slow add the sugar, then eggs one at a time making sure fully incorporated. Add the vanilla extract.
6. Using a large muffin scoop, evenly distribute the cheesecake filling among the 18 muffin trays. Bake 18-20 minutes, or until set.
7. Let mini cheesecakes cool completely on a wire rack, then add them to the refrigerator. Chill for a minimum of 4 hours or overnight.
8. Once cooled and set, remove them from the muffin tray. Remove from the wrappers, if you choose.
9. Decorate the cheesecakes with tinted coconut grass or a bit of grass frosting, then add a marshmallow peep and/or egg candies.
10. Not Easter? Decorate with berries, a dollop of your favorite pie filling, or drizzle dulche de leche and sprinkle mini chocolate chips on top.
Adapted from https://mykitchencraze.com/mini-easter-cheesecakes/
I have already adjusted the recipe for more cheesecake filling per serving, a suggestion I strongly share after following the original recipe with only 2- 8 oz. packages of cream cheese, where there is nearly equal amounts of filling and crust in each serving. The addition of one more package of cream cheese does not need to result in an increase in sugar. 1/2 cup is still sufficient. Since my husband will not eat anything with coconut on it, I had to find an alternative for the decorations, thus the green frosting grass. I wish I had used less frosting, so be light handed or they will be a tad too sweet. Cadbury chocolate sparkling eggs and caramel m&m’s worked perfectly for the finishing touch. I look forward to trying this again for a large gathering and including a variety of the toppings I suggested above.
Blessings (and Happy Easter),
Copyright © 2019 Montana Mountain Maven / Tina R. Cusker. All rights reserved.