One of my college friends has been sharing Easter treats on Facebook. They looked cute, and I thought I would give them a run. Well, some turned out great and others were not such a hit. The sweetest recipe was for Easter blossom cookies. They are just Christmas blossom cookies but rolled in colored sugars. Instead of buying the expensive sugars, I figured I could make them, since I already had my Easter color stash pulled out for the season. Another treat using my color stash is an Easter poke cake. It is clever and will leave your dinner guests guessing how you did that.
    We butchered, and I had them set the brisket aside for me. I’ve always wanted to cook up a brisket, and now I know what I’ll be serving for Easter dinner along with the honey-glazed ham. Hope everyone comes home hungry.

Slow-cooked brisket
1/2 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons corn starch
1 tablespoon beef bouillon
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 large carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 large onion, chopped
1 medium rutabaga, cut into 2-inch pieces
8-10 Yukon potatoes, quartered
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 1/2 pounds beef brisket
Salt and pepper
    In a 6-quart slow cooker, whisk red wine, tomato paste, starch, bouillon and Worcestershire sauce. Toss with carrots, onion, rutabaga, potatoes and rosemary. Season brisket with salt and pepper, then nestle into vegetables. Cover and cook until brisket is fork-tender, 6-7 hours on high or 7-8 hours on low. Transfer beef to cutting board and thinly slice. Arrange meat and vegetables on platter; sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Ham with honey glaze
1/2 fully-cooked bone-in smoked ham (about 7 pounds)
1 cup honey
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Pepper
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
    Heat oven to 375 degrees. Fit rack in large roasting pan. Place ham, cut side down, on top of rack. Score ham on all sides in a diamond pattern, cutting only 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep. Add 1/2 cup water to pan. Cover with foil and bake 90 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, whisk together honey, brown sugar, ginger, cayenne, cloves and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Heat on medium, whisking often, until sugar dissolves; let cool completely. Stir in lemon zest. Brush one-third of glaze over ham and bake, uncovered 15 minutes. Rotate ham in oven and baste with another third of glaze and bake another 15 minutes. Brush remaining glaze over ham and bake until ham is heated through and internal temperature registers 140 degrees, about 15-20 minutes more.

Wild rice, cider and cranberry pilaf
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 small cinnamon stick
2 large cloves garlic
2 cups wild rice blend (wild rice, brown rice, white rice)
1/2 cup apple cider (or apple juice)
2 1/2 cups water
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup dried cranberries
2 onions, chopped
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
4 scallions, chopped
    Heat 1 tablespoon oil in medium saucepan on medium heat. Add cinnamon and 1 clove of garlic, smashed. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add rice and toss to coat. Add cider, 2 1/2 cups water and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until rice is tender, 15-17 minutes, adding cranberries during last 10 minutes of cooking. Meanwhile, heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in large skillet on medium heat. Add onions and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are tender and beginning to brown, 15-20 minutes. Add chopped garlic clove and cook, stirring until fragrant 1-2 minutes. Stir in vinegar and parsley. Add scallions and onion mixture to rice; toss to combine and serve.

Easter poke cake       
1 box white cake mix
Ingredients listed on the box (eggs, water, oil)
2 (3.3-ounce) boxes instant white chocolate pudding
3 1/2 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Food coloring (blue, green, yellow, red/pink)
    Preheat oven as specified on box. Grease 9-by-13 pan with baking spray and set aside. Prepare cake mix according to directions listed on box. Next, divide batter into four equal portions in smaller bowls. Add a few drops of food coloring in each bowl and stir well. Using a spoon, make small drops of colored batter in bottom of greased pan. Batter will spread, so do this quickly. Might want to drop one color at a time leaving a few inches apart between drops, then make the drops with a second color, then the third, then the fourth, until you cover the bottom of the pan. Then drop another layer on top until all the batter is gone. Finally, tap the baking pan on the counter to flatten the surface. Do not spread with the spatula to avoid mixing colors. Using a toothpick, swirl the colors just a bit. Do not over mix. Bake as directed on the box. When the cake is baked and has cooled for 10 minutes, poke holes all over the cake using the handle of a wooden spoon about an inch apart. Finish cooling. In a bowl, combine white chocolate pudding and milk, whisking until the pudding is dissolved. Before the pudding sets completely, pour it over the cooled cake, trying to fill all the holes. Spread remaining pudding on top and place in the fridge to set completely. When the pudding is set, top the cake with whipped cream. Mix chilled heavy cream and vanilla extract until soft peaks form. Add powdered sugar and mix until stiff peaks form. Spread over pudding layer. Garnish with sprinkles before serving. Store in the fridge. Can be made up to three days before serving.

Colored sugar
1 cup sugar
Gel food coloring
    Put 1/4 cup sugar in four small bowls. Add 10-15 drops of food gel coloring to sugar. Using the back of a spoon, push gel into sugar until sugar reaches desired color. Repeat with each color. Sprinkle on pancakes, frosted cakes or sugar cookies.
    As their four children pursue dairy careers off the family farm, Natalie and Mark are starting a new adventure of milking registered Holsteins just because they like good cows on their farm north of Rice, Minnesota.