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Celebrate the Season: Easter Prep and Meatless Dinners

Mushroom lasagna

By Mary Heyl

There’s something so exciting about turning over the calendar page to March! Although the temperatures are still chilly and many times, the ground is covered in snow, March means springtime is just a few weeks away. March also means that Easter is right around the corner, and now is a great time to try a new way of decorating eggs and enjoy a tasty meal during Lent!

If you think the only way to decorate eggs involves vinegar and a box of egg dyeing tablets, think again! You can take your egg decorating to the next level by learning a silk dyeing technique. Hit the thrift shop or dig through the back of a closet to find some 100 percent silk ties, scarves or shirts—the more vibrant and busy the pattern, the better! You’ll also need a tightly woven white pillowcase, old sheet or t-shirt, white vinegar, twist ties or string, uncooked white eggs and a non-reactive pot.

Cut your silk ties, scarves or shirts into squares large enough to fit around the eggs. In the same way, cut the white fabric into squares large enough to fit around each egg. Smaller eggs are recommended, as they are easier to work with and require less fabric than large or extra-large eggs. Wrap the eggs first in the silk, right side touching the egg. The right side is the printed side of the silk (usually the pattern/color is more vibrant). Make sure to wrap each egg tightly, as there should be as much silk touching the egg as possible. Next, wrap the white fabric around the silk covered eggs. Carefully use a string or twist tie to close the fabric shut.

Once all the eggs are tied up in the silk and the white fabric, place them in the pot and cover them with water. Add ¼ cup of white vinegar. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to simmer the eggs for at least 20 minutes. The longer the eggs simmer, the better— 35-40 minutes allows for better transfer (brighter and bolder) of the colors. Remove the eggs from the water and allow them to cool. Save the silk scraps and white fabric. These can be used again; even though the silk won’t transfer as boldly, the pattern will still be pretty. Once the eggs are cool enough to handle, unwrap them and see what colors and designs have transferred onto your eggs. Part of the fun is finding out how each batch of eggs looks after using and reusing the silk!

Today is the third Friday of the season of Lent, the six weeks before Easter Sunday on April 1. If you’re looking for a tasty, easy meatless recipe this Friday (and are already tired of fish), try this slow cooker Mushroom Spinach Lasagna. Just 20 minutes of prep time goes into this easy meal that serves six and will be ready by the time you get home from work.

Spray the inside of 4-quart slow cooker with cooking spray. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add one 8-oz package of mushrooms; cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add one 6-oz package of baby spinach leaves; cook for 3 minutes more or until the mushrooms are tender and the spinach is wilted, stirring occasionally. Stir in 1 undrained can (14.5-oz) of tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano, 2 cups of tomato sauce, ½ teaspoon of Italian seasoning and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, combine 1 (8oz) container of ricotta cheese, ¼ cup of grated Parmesan cheese and ¼ teaspoon of pepper in a small bowl; set aside.

Spread 1/3 of the sauce mixture over the bottom of 4-quart slow cooker. Layer 3 lasagna noodles over the sauce mixture, breaking noodles to fit. Top with another third of the sauce mixture, ricotta cheese mixture and 1 cup of shredded Italian cheese blend. Top with another third of the sauce mixture and 3 more lasagna noodles, breaking to fit. Spoon any remaining sauce mixture over the noodles.

Cover; cook on “low” for 5 hours or until the noodles are tender. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of Italian cheese and ¼ cup of grated Parmesan cheese. Cover; let stand for 5 minutes or until the cheese melts. Enjoy!

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