a "been-there" mom of six offers encouragement
to wives, young mothers, and those not so young,
and simple common-sense approaches to
the "ings" of life:
child-rearing (hints and helps), homemaking (all areas),
cooking (simple, cheap, and do-it-yourself)
making (toys and gifts), preparing (for the unexpected),
maintaining (sanity and peace in this increasingly crazy world) and more---
all aspects of making the most of making do on little---
and having fun in the process.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Helping the Hoppity Hare and Your budget continued

            Putting the Shell on your buttercreme Easter eggs!

The cheapest, and very satisfactory, way is to buy "almond bark" for your covering. It is found near the chocolate chips and comes in chocolate, vanilla and sometimes, butterscotch flavors.

Melting it in the microwave is the easiest way but you may use whatever coating type and melting method you prefer.

Whatever method you use, be extremely careful not to let liquid or even steam get into the coating!

  • Melt coating over very low heat or in the microwave, stirring often until melted and smooth. Note: the coating usually holds it shape until you stir it so don't be fooled by it looking like it is still hard.
  • Only remove one tray of eggs from the refrigerator at a time so they will stay cold. 
  • Using a fork or similar item, spear the bottom of each egg and dip into the coating. Allow excess to drip back into the pan.
  • Return the egg to the tray, and when full, return the tray to the refrigerator.
Note: If you have coating left but have to put it aside for a while, just leave it in its pan or bowl, remove from heat, cover, and leave at room temperature for a few hours until you can get back to it. For a longer period of time, store the container covered in the refrigerator.

Most years that completed the eggs. 

In more ambitious times, I drizzled squiggles of another flavor or color of melted bark on the coated eggs. To do this: place a small amount of melted coating in the corner of a snack-size
zip-lock bag, cut off a tiny piece of that corner and made "swirly" patterns on the previously dipped and hardened eggs.  

The eggs can be sprinkled, before the coating hardens, by sprinkling with tiny candy decors, colored "glass" sugars, chocolate shot, etc. 

On rare occasions I used decorating icing to make small flowers, bowls, chicks and bunnies on the eggs. 

Different toppings can be used to identify the different fillings, you can leave the bottoms un-dipped to identify the flavors, or you can dip them completely and take "potluck" when distributing the eggs or choosing one to eat yourself. 

AND. . .The Dipping Can Go On When The Fillings Are Gone

If you have melted coating left after you have finished your dipping, look around for other things to coat. You are limited only by your imagination. Possibilities include:
  • washed and well-dried strawberries, stemmed cherries, pineapple pieces
  • frozen banana chunks
  • marshmallows
  • cookies or peppermint sticks (maybe dip them only halfway)
  • crispy Chinese noodles or nuts (then drop by clusters)
  • pretzels, or even potato chips!
Sixteen years ago when I first self-published the "bookette" containing this recipe, well known mail order catalogs were selling chocolate or white dipped pretzels that were "drizzled" with the opposite flavor for approximately $1.00 per ounce!!!

When our kids started leaving the nest --- the eggs flew to them --- to colleges around the country, missionary apartments and military bases throughout the United States and the far reaches of foreign countries. Some landed in better shape than others. 

In our efforts to have the eggs arrive somewhat intact, many packaging methods were tried with varying degrees of success. No matter what condition they were in when they finally arrived, they were excitedly received. 

Wrapped in plastic wrap and nestled in popped corn worked best. However, what a revelation when our grandchildren were old enough to talk on the phone and, to the dismay of their parents, thanked us for the popcorn!

Homemade Sweetened Condensed Milk 
(recipe equals one 15 ounce can)
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 boiling water
1/4 cup margarine
1 to 1-1/2 cups dry powdered milk (amount will vary with types/brands)
Put sugar, boiling water and margarine in a blender or food processor. Process at low speed until smooth. While turning processor on and off, add dry milk 1/4 cup at at time until the condensed milk is the right consistency (thick and creamy like the commercial product).
Note: success varies when using this in a recipe that requires baking.

Now that I have shared recipes for our fun part of celebrating Easter with small 
(and used to be small) children I cannot leave it without saying that these eggs were just a small part of the celebration. 

Our main focus was/is celebrating the true meaning of Easter --- the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. May His blessings be with you always.

Until next time,
        I am Simply, Gail

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Helping the Hoppity Hare and Your Budget by . . .

Making Your Own Buttercreme Easter Eggs!

          When I was young there was a wonderful candy store in our town ---  the kind where I longingly pressed my nose to the glass so my eyes could devour the tempting confections nestled there.
          Each Easter, as a teenager, I would enter that special store and purchase a cellophane-grass-filled box containing three small icing-rose-decorated, cream-filled, chocolate-covered eggs as a gift for my current boyfriend.
          Even then, more than 50 years ago, the small, two-bite morsels were quite pricey, selling at three for $1.00.

Several years later, with six children and resources that  were constantly challenged, my mind wandered to that candy store as I scanned the food section of the newspaper.

There, right before my eyes, were mini, buttercreme-filled, chocolate-covered eggs ---- with directions!!!

One recipe's worth and our family was convinced this needed to be a yearly tradition!

With hundreds, no, thousands, of buttercreme eggs under my belt (unfortunately I mean literally as well as figuratively), I pass this recipe on. Please don't be put off by the length of the instructions. The eggs are very simple to make, they can be done in advance, and can be made over a period of time.We have made them (and shared them)  in small groups with friends and neighbors and in classes.  As well as simple, they are very affordable.

Although you can make them any size or shape you wish, we prefer the small two-bite size, and at this size, the following recipe makes approximately FIVE DOZEN!

Basic Buttercreme
1 15 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
2 cubes margarine or butter at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. salt
3 pounds (approximately) powdered sugar

With electric mixer, combine all but the powdered sugar and beat until smooth. Gradually add the powdered sugar. When it becomes too stiff for the mixer, continue to knead the powdered sugar in with your hands until you have a smooth dough that is not stick, but not too dry. 

When you are ready to form the eggs, decide how many flavors you want to make, and divide the buttercreme accordingly into bowls and cover each so they won't dry out. 

Choose from the following possibilities or create your own:

  • mint flavoring with green or pink coloring
  • orange flavoring with red and yellow coloring
  • powdered chocolate drink mix or cocoa powder
  • well-drained and finely chopped maraschino cherries and/or chopped nuts
  • shredded coconut and almond flavoring
  • maple flavoring
  • mini-chips or other mini-candies
  • crushed peppermint sticks or candies
  • cocoa powder and orange or raspberry flavoring
  • malted milk powder
Working with one flavor at a time, take walnut-size portions (for small eggs) and, using palms of hands and fingers, form into an egg shape. Place on waxed-paper lined cookie sheets. Chill several hours or overnight.

Friday I'll be back with the simple chocolate coating, and ideas for decorating them if you are that ambitious! Also, our experiences with packaging them for mailing and a cheapskate recipe for homemade sweetened condensed milk. 

Until then, I am Simply Gail with Simple and Cheap Ideas --- Have a great week!