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Candy Of The Season

Easter means many different things to many different people. But, let’s be honest. The candy is pretty important. The treats that fill our Easter baskets are many and they are all delicious, but three top the list as Easter basket classics.

Let’s begin with the treat you either love or hate…Peeps. Put simply, Peeps are marshmallows rolled in sugar. There is no middle ground with Peeps. You say the word, and people either squeal with delight or recoil in disgust. Either way, they are an Easter staple. Peeps were given birth by a man named Sam Born, who founded the Just Born Candy Company in 1953. The company acquired the Rodda Candy Company, which included a marshmallow chick line. Sam’s brother-in-law Bob helped to mass-produce the treats, and Peeps began their marshmallow monopoly.

Peeps were named for the original chick shape, but have since branched out—way out. Today, you can get Peeps for almost any holiday. Christmas results in tree- and snowman-shaped Peeps. Halloween results in pumpkin- and bat-shaped Peeps. Plus, the flavors and colors have expanded over the years. In 1995, lavender was added to the existing color line of yellow, pink and white. You can even get chocolate-flavored Peeps. As mentioned above, there are Peep haters and Peep lovers, but a subgroup does exist. They are the Peep lovers who are split between eating the candy fresh out of the package or letting it sit out and get a little crunchy.

The next sweet Easter treat is arguably the most traditional, jelly beans. The origin of jelly beans is somewhat blurry, but it is believed they were born of a combination of Turkish Delight and Jordan Almonds. Turkish Delight is a jelly candy coated in powdered sugar. Jordan Almonds are almonds covered in a hard candy shell. The two concepts were merged and jelly beans were born.

Jelly beans hit their stride in the United States in the early 20th century, but it wasn’t until the 1930s that they became associated with Easter. The bean stayed pretty standard until 1976. That’s when the world was introduced to Jelly Belly jelly beans. These beans took the concept to a whole new level. They were flavored inside and out and came in a variety of flavors. Some of the wackier flavors include popcorn and cantaloupe.

The Easter candy completing the big three is, of course, the chocolate bunny. Tens of millions of these cocoa hares are produced each year. That’s a big number considering they are not like jelly beans, which can be found year-round. Chocolate bunnies came to the United States in 1842 when Stephen Whitman founded Whitman’s Chocolates. Since then, the bunnies have expanded. They can now be found in a variety of flavors. You can even get them hollow or solid. Some people wonder why these treats were ever made hollow when a solid bunny gives you more chocolate. The answer is simple. Hollow bunnies are easier to eat.

Having a sweet treat is great anytime, but Easter gives you an excuse to really sink your teeth into some candy classics. It doesn’t matter if you’re filling an Easter basket or raiding one, you’ll probably see at least one of the big three.

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Easter Brunch Made Easy
With Delicious Make-Ahead Egg Casserole

Plan an Easter gathering everyone can enjoy with a make-ahead menu that includes crowd-pleasing brunch casseroles packed with everyone’s favorite flavors – and leaves you plenty of time to spend with the family.

"Combine all-star breakfast ingredients like eggs, bacon and cheese into a single dish in this Cheesy Bacon & Egg Brunch Casserole, seasoned with ground mustard and nutmeg," said Chef Kevan Vetter of the McCormick Kitchens. "The best part about this recipe is you can assemble it the night before – just add an additional 1/2 cup of milk – chill it in the refrigerator and bake it off in the morning."

Serve a spring-inspired dessert topped with an array of fresh fruit to complement your brunch casserole.

Find everything you need to create a complete brunch menu and more easy Easter-themed recipes at www.McCormick.com, www.Facebook.com/McCormickSpices and www.Pinterest.com/mccormickspices.

Cheesy Bacon & Egg Brunch Casserole

Serves: 12

8 slices bacon

1 medium onion, chopped (1 cup)

1 loaf (8 ounces) Italian bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (5 cups)

2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Cheddar cheese

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1 cup cottage cheese

5 eggs

1 1/2 cups milk*

2 teaspoons McCormick® Mustard, Ground

1 teaspoon McCormick® Black Pepper, Ground

1/2 teaspoon McCormick® Nutmeg, Ground

Preheat oven to 350°F. Cook bacon in large skillet until crisp. Drain bacon on paper towels; crumble and set aside. Remove all but 2 tablespoons drippings from skillet. Add onion to skillet; cook and stir 3 minutes or until softened.

Spread 1/2 of the bread cubes in 13x9-inch baking dish. Layer with 1/2 each of the onion, bacon, Cheddar cheese and mozzarella cheese. Spread evenly with cottage cheese. Top with remaining bread cubes, onion, bacon, Cheddar cheese and mozzarella cheese.

Beat eggs in medium bowl with wire whisk. Add milk, mustard, pepper and nutmeg; mix well. Gradually pour into baking dish. Press bread cubes lightly into egg mixture until completely covered. Let stand 10 minutes. (*To prep the night before, add an extra 1/2 cup of milk and refrigerate overnight.)

Bake 40 to 50 minutes or until center is set and top is golden brown.

(Family Features)

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Easter Gifts that Inspire
Children’s gifts that encourage creative play

From the brimming basket itself to the goodies within, Easter has become a true gift-giving occasion. With sugar-coated marshmallow chicks and giant chocolate bunnies, there are endless ways to give your little ones gifts that fit this beloved holiday’s traditionally sweet offerings. But with the health of children top of mind, some parents are using this special springtime occasion as a way to give better-for-you gifts that stimulate the brain and inspire creativity.

Gifts that promote creativity

This Easter, instead of giving unhealthy candy that only lasts a few bites, consider long-lasting gifts that inspire the imagination and provide endless hours of enjoyment. Here are some creative gift-giving ideas for your little recipient.

Explore artistic worlds

Foster some artistic spirit with a basket filled with paint brushes, pastels, papers, molding clay and other imaginative tools. Just be sure to buy supplies that are age appropriate and safe for the recipient.

Encourage pretend play

Give kids toys that allow them to express themselves, such as the Hopscotch Rabbit Family from Calico Critters. It is one of many cute and lovable critter families your child can collect this Easter. These award-winning miniature animals promote wholesome family values and inspire the imagination.

Begin a love for books

Let the adventures begin with stories your little ones will want you to read them over and over again. Look for seasonal books that share the stories of the Easter holiday or those with a springtime theme.

Dress up for fun

Let their inner princess, super hero and ballerina shine through by lining their basket with a variety of colorful, fun outfits and accessories. Dress up play encourages hours of imaginative play and can even allow the parents to join in on the role playing excitement.

Build the mind

From oversized pieces suitable for tiny tikes to complete, intricate sets for older kids, there are many great building toys for children of all ages. Since they’re loved by all, building block sets are a great choice for families with boys and girls.

Create beautiful music

From mini xylophones to tambourines and recorders, add some booming beats and expressive harmonies to their day with musical instruments. Include a lesson book with songs and they’ll be playing a tune in no time.

Discover outdoor play

Unglue them from their tablets, smartphones and televisions, and encourage outdoor play for stimulating physical activity. Tuck a basketball, kite or even a jump rope inside those baskets and it’s game on.

Plant the seed

For the budding gardener, fill those plastic eggs with seeds and give them gloves, shovels and terra cotta pots to begin their own garden. They will learn a valuable lesson about how plants are grown and some pointers on responsibility, too.

Get crafty

Beads, baubles, yarn and other craft goods allow children to create anything they put their mind to. Visit the clearance section at your local craft store to find a variety of materials young hands will love to work with.

Inspire theatrical performances

From birds to humans to dinosaurs, puppets allow kids to put on a show wherever they are. Look for those that engage in learning, such as puppets in the shape of farm animals or even fruits and vegetables.

From exploring new worlds in a picture book to learning to play a musical instrument, your little ones will adore receiving these thoughtful and brain-boosting gifts this Easter.

Making Easter memories

Many families use this special holiday as an opportunity to create new traditions and teachable moments for their youngsters. Here are some ways your family can do the same:

Make discovering the basket part of the fun with a treasure hunt using a series of hidden clues or a hand-crafted map.

Ask your children to join you in preparing and delivering baskets to a senior living residence in your community.

Theme your baskets for a family activity, with each child receiving a critical piece of the overall project. For example, one child receives a garden spade; another gets packets full of seeds, and so on.

Baby wants a basket, too

Although the littlest members of the family certainly won’t be sinking their teeth into gooey chocolate bunnies, these ideas for creating a small basket of age-appropriate items will let baby join older siblings in the fun.

Rather than a traditional woven basket, choose a snuggly plush container reflecting a favorite character or an Easter-themed animal such as a bunny, chick or lamb.

You’re never too young for an Easter present. Include your infant in the holiday festivities by introducing them to a world of wonderment with Earlyears toys, such as their award-winning Soft Baby Blocks or Baby Farm Friends Bowling. These products are not only fun and colorful, but they help your baby learn and develop every step of the way.

Look for gifts that celebrate the season that can be used every day. This can include a hooded bath towel in the character of a duck or bunny.

Avoid using plastic grass as filler, which can pose a choking hazard. Instead opt for shredded paper or tissue paper. Or get creative and line the basket with useful items such as new washcloths or burp rags.

To round out baby’s basket, consider the developmental stage and incorporate relevant items. For example, if you’ll soon be saying farewell to bottles, use Easter as an opportunity to get your baby excited about using a brand new sippy cup.

(Family Features)

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