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Celebrate the Season: Late February Fun

Salt dough medals

By Mary Heyl

We’re already halfway through the six long weeks of winter that Punxatawney Phil predicted, but there is still much to look forward to at the end of February. From the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics to spring equinox, there are so many opportunities to say “goodbye” to winter and welcome a new season!

Feb. 25 marks the last day of the Winter Olympics. As you’re keeping an eye on the medal counts, you can make your own medals to proudly wear when the closing ceremony kicks off at 8 p.m. on Sunday night. These salt dough Olympic medals are easy, fun and can be personalized in a variety of different ways.

To get started, combine 1 cup of salt and 1 cup of all-purpose flour in a bowl. Gradually add ¾ cup of water and knead the mixture until it forms a dough. Add more flour if the dough is too sticky or, if the dough is too dry to hold together, add more water a teaspoon at a time. If you like, add some glitter confetti to make sparkly medals!

Roll out the dough to at least ½” thickness and use a round cookie cutter to cut out the medals. Push a straw into each medal to create a hole for the ribbon. Make plain medals or use wooden numbers or refrigerator magnets to make impressions in each one for first, second and third place.

Place the medals on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake in the oven for 2 hours at 210 degrees. Turn over once halfway through. Once the medals are cool, use acrylic paints to paint them gold, silver or bronze. Allow the paint to dry and thread a wide ribbon through them. Wear with pride!

Last week marked the start of the season of Lent, which comes from the Anglo Saxon word for spring, lencten, and marks the 40 days before Easter Sunday. Today, many Catholic and Protestant Christians observe this sacred time of year through reflection, prayer and fasting, most notably abstaining from meat on Fridays.

So why was Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, on Valentine’s Day this year? And why doesn’t Easter fall on the same date every year? The answer is in the stars…or the moon, to be more precise. According to the Bible, Jesus held the Last Supper on the night of the Jewish festival of Passover; he died the next day on Good Friday and rose on the third day (Sunday). The date of Passover is determined by the first full moon after spring equinox (the day on which the lengths of daytime and nighttime are the same, due to the earth’s position in its orbit around the sun).

In keeping with Passover and the Bible’s timeline of events, in 325 CE the Council of Nicaea decided that Christians would observe Easter on the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after March 21, the official date of spring equinox. Depending on the date of this full moon, Easter can fall anywhere between March 22 and April 25.

This year, the first full moon after March 21 occurs on March 31; therefore, Easter will be on April 1, as this will be the first Sunday after the full moon. Celebrate this first full moon of spring with a sweet treat like the Full Moon Chocolate Pie.

In a medium bowl, mix one 9-oz box of crushed chocolate wafer cookies with ½ cup of melted butter. Press firmly in the bottom and up the sides of an ungreased 9 ½-inch glass pie plate. Freeze for 30 minutes.

In another bowl, beat 4 egg yolks with a fork and set aside. In a saucepan, mix 2/3 cup of sugar and 3 tablespoons of cornstarch. Gradually stir in 2 cups of milk, and heat to simmering over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium. Slowly stir half of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolks and return the mixture to the pan. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and boils.

Remove from the heat. Immediately stir in 8 ounces of chopped bittersweet baking chocolate and 1 ½ teaspoons of vanilla until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Spoon the filling into the crust and cover in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 8 hours or until set. In a small bowl, beat ½ cup of whipping cream and 2 tablespoons of sugar with an electric mixer on high speed until soft peaks form. Spread whipped cream over the filling to within 1 inch of the crust and enjoy!

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