Braided Easter Bread

Sweet braided easter bread

Nothing smells or tastes better than freshly baked bread, and it is a sure way to win over your friends and family at a gathering. It can be, however, a long and tedious process and, as a busy mother, it can be hard to find the time. This recipe for traditional braided Easter bread only takes 30 minutes of active prep time, making it easy to fit into any busy schedule!

Recipe yields one 1 pound loaf of bread

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
2/3 cup milk
2 Tablespoons butter
2 eggs
5 whole eggs, dyed if desired (for in the braid)
2 Tablespoons butter, melted

1. Heat milk and butter in a small saucepan until milk is warm and butter is soft (but not melted). Combine 1 cup flour, sugar, salt and yeast in a large mixing bowl, stirring well.

2. Slowly add the butter and milk mixture to the flour, constantly stirring. Add 1/2 cup flour and two eggs. Beat well. Add the rest of your flour in 1/2 cup intervals, stirring well after each. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead until elastic and smooth. This will take about 8 minutes.

3. Place dough in a lightly oiled large bowl and coat the dough with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size. This will take about 1 hour.

4. Punch down the tough and turn onto floured surface. Divide the dough into equal halves and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Roll each piece of dough into a long roll, roughly 36 inches longer, 1 1/2 inches wide. Use these pieces to loosely braid a ring. This is when you should leave room for whole eggs, if you are using them. Pinch the dough together at the ends to form a seal. Optional:  Use your fingers to slide in the whole (uncooked!) eggs into your braid where desired.

5. Place loaf on an oiled baking sheet and cover loosely with a damp towel. Allow to rise until doubled in size in a warm place, about 45 minutes. Lightly brush with melted butter after doubled in size.

6. Bake in a 350 degree oven until golden, 50-55 minutes.

The traditional way to make this braided Easter bread is with the five whole eggs in the braid, but this is not required. For added fun you may use colored eggs in your braid!

This bread can be made a day or two in advance to your gathering. Store loosely wrapped at room temperature. Once baked, this bread can be frozen. Thaw on the counter for 8 hours, then reheat in a 350 degree oven when ready to serve.


Thanksgiving’s Almost Here: You Can Do It!!

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Thanksgiving is again almost upon us. For many of us that means the traditional holiday meal. The thought of Thanksgiving may evoke images of Grandma's stuffing or Mom's pumpkin pie, or the pictures of the golden turkey featured in the television commercials. What if the thought of trying to create the perfect dinner sends you into a panic? Don't worry. Thanksgiving is about family and friends, not food. There are many ways that you can replicate a traditional dinner with minimal effort.

Use a turkey breast instead of a full turkey

If you are cooking for a small group, consider purchasing a turkey breast. Cooking a turkey breast requires less prep time and less overall cooking time.

Consider purchasing the turkey already made

Many supermarkets and restaurants offer a ready-made turkey. To many, the turkey is the most important thing. Having it already prepared leaves you free to be innovative with the side dishes.

Use boxed stuffing

If you don't have a favorite stuffing recipe, consider using the packaged variety; it has the advantage of being incredibly easy to make.

Purchase frozen or ready-made pies or other desserts

Frozen pies have come a long way. Consider serving traditional pumpkin, pecan or apple pies. Pies can easily be baked the night before. Bakery cakes or cookies are also a good option.

Pick your favorite things to make from scratch

The major advantage to using shortcuts is not simply to save effort and time. It is to give you the freedom to create your own dishes and have fun with cooking. Knowing that the expected parts of the meal will be there gives you the opportunity to focus on making the things you want to make, so choose a favorite recipe and enjoy!

While it may sometimes not seem so, it is actually the positive family memories that you create that are important. While planning the holiday meals, take time to think about the impressions you want to create. Let the kids help with meal preparation. It's really not just about the food.

It’s Getting Chili: Classic Chili Recipe

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When the weather turns cool and the leaves begin to fall from the trees, you know it's the perfect time to whip out your stock pot or slow cooker and make a batch of chili. As your family and friends gather around for a tailgate party or to watch a football game, you can ensure that their bellies will be full when you serve them this traditional hearty dish.

The great thing about this recipe is that you can serve it the day you make it or freeze it for use at a later time. Whether you want to eat a steaming hot bowl of chili, top hotdogs with it or slather it on top of spaghetti noodles, chili is a versatile dish.

Here is a traditional recipe you can make anytime:

1 pound of ground beef (or ground turkey, for a healthier alternative)
2 - 15 oz. cans of kidney beans
2 - 15 oz. cans of diced tomatoes
2 - 15 oz cans tomato sauce
1 medium onion, diced
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. chili powder
sugar (optional: 1/4 - 1/3 cup for a sweeter mixture)

While your ground beef is frying in the skillet over medium heat, peel, slice and dice your onion into 1/4 inch pieces. Once your ground beef is almost cooked, throw the onions into the pan and continue cooking until the onion is translucent. Once done, drain the grease from the mixture and place it in your stock pot or slow cooker.

Drain and add the kidney beans to your meat and onion mixture. Add the tomato sauce and the diced tomatoes to the pot, as well. Choose your level of heat. You can turn the fire up to medium-high when you're in a hurry, or use medium-low when you plan to let your concoction simmer for several hours.

Now it's time for seasoning. Start with one teaspoon each of the chili powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Taste your dish frequently and adjust the amounts to suit your taste if necessary. If you prefer your dish to have a sweet quality, add 1/4 to 1/3 of a cup of sugar to the mixture. Add seasonings slowly and taste as you proceed. Once you have the amounts just right, record them for future use!

As the days grow shorter and darker, you can rest assured that everyone who tastes this dish will request it again and again, and by planning ahead, you can always have it on hand to fulfill those requests.