Looking forward to spring

Ukrainian paska (Photo provided — Yvona Fast)

Spring officially started a month ago. But last week’s snowstorm dumped a foot of heavy, wet snow and knocked out power for many. I have friends who went skiing!

That snow is rapidly melting, and the crocuses it covered are showing through. Other spring flowers like daffodils, tulips and lilacs are yet to come.

April is time to celebrate: Easter celebrates the Resurrection of Christ. Passover celebrates the escape from Egypt to a better life in the land of Israel. On Earth Day, we celebrate our planet. But as we celebrate, we also mourn.

Down under, in Australia and New Zealand, April 25 is their day to commemorate citizens who died for their country — Anzac Day. In 2014, Australian Army Captain Paul McKay, suffering from PTSD, committed suicide by hypothermia in our cold mountains. We mourn the loss of life with his countrymen.

April also brings Earth Day, which began on April 21 in 1970 with the ecology movement to promote environmental awareness. We mourn the destruction of our planet by fossil fuels and plastic waste.

April 20 is the anniversary of the 1999 Columbine massacre. We mourn needless death by gun violence. Time has passed since their lives were taken; many of them would be 40 now.

Sunday, April 24 is Velykden, or “Great Day.” This is the Ukrainian Easter — a time of hope.

Easter is the biggest holiday in Ukraine. Many don’t sleep the night before, spending the night at long church services. Krashenka (eggs painted red to symbolize the blood of Christ shed for our sins) and Pysanka, eggs decorated with beautiful folk patterns, are part of the holiday. The table is set with meat, fish, dairy and vegetables. Kryana Kielbasa and vereniky (special dumplings), caramelized onions, and Ukrainian kraut slaw are served. The meal begins with elaborate yeast cakes, called paska, baked in vertical pans and decorated with religious icons.

They celebrate in the midst of war, when another dictator has history repeating itself. My mom shares nightmares or escaping Warsaw when Nazis invaded.

In the midst of oppressive realities, Easter reminds us of the power of resurrection. Eggs represent new life springing forth from their delicate shells. Spring is a time of fresh growth and new beginnings. Even in the midst of the darkness, there is hope! There is good in the midst of evil. As gestures of solidarity, we pray, send money, march, hold rallies, make art. My friends in Poland take in fleeing refugees. We mourn the people killed this year by the war in Ukraine.

Here in the Adirondacks, we are fortunate to have some of the cleanest air and water anywhere. Earth Day reminds us that we need to work to keep it that way. How do your food choices affect the ecological landscape? Choose local, seasonal, sustainably produced foods whenever possible. Try to minimize plastic packaging.

Even when times seem dark, the sun still shines with rays of light and hope. We look for ways to help, to make a difference in the lives of others. Spring flowers still bloom. “Where man sees but withered leaves, God sees sweet flowers growing,” said Albert Leighton.

“You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep spring from coming,” said Pablo Neruda. “The very first Easter taught us this: that life never ends and love never dies,” said Kate McGahan. Pope Francis reminds us that “God is love and he has defeated evil. We proclaim the resurrection of Christ when his light illuminates the dark moments of our existence.”

Adirondack-Style Maple Almond Anzac cookies


1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup rolled oats

1/4 cup almond meal

1/2 cup slivered almonds

1/3 cup raisins or chocolate chips

1/3 cup sugar (1/4 cup if you prefer them less sweet)

8 tablespoons (1 stick or 1/2 cup) butter

1/2 cup maple syrup

1 teaspoon baking soda


In large bowl, combine flours, sugar, oats, almond meal, nuts and raisins.

In saucepan, combine butter and maple syrup. Heat to a simmer. Add soda, allow to foam and pour immediately into dry ingredients. Mix well.

Take small pieces and press out thinly on lightly oiled cookie sheets, allowing space in between for spreading. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove from cookie sheets while still warm. Store in an airtight container.

Ala’s Babka

Polish babka and Ukrainian paska are similar, except that Ukrainian paska is made in tall, vertical cakepans. If you don’t have any, you can use large cans from tomatoes or tomato paste.


2 cups milk

2 tablespoons yeast

1 tablespoon sugar

6 eggs

2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

4 cups flour

grated orange peel

2 cups raisins

2 sticks (1/2 lb.) butter


Heat milk until warm but not hot. Add the yeast and a little sugar.

In a bowl, beat eggs with sugar and vanilla. Set aside.

In another bowl, combine flour with orange peel. Stir in milk-yeast mixture. Then stir in the beaten eggs with sugar. Stir in the raisins.

Melt the butter and add it slowly, mixing as you go with a large wooden spoon.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place dough in prepared (buttered) pans and allow to rise in a warm place until double, about 30 – 60 minutes.

Bake 45 minutes, or until done.

For glaze:

11/2 cups (6 oz/180 g) confectioners’ sugar

2 tsp (10 ml) vanilla extract

2 tbsp (30 ml) water

sprinkles, to decorate (optional)

To make the glaze: In a bowl, whisk the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla extract, and water together. Brush over the top of the breads, allowing it to drip down the sides. Decorate with sprinkles, if you like.


Author of the award-winning cookbook “Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market,” Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be found at www.yvonafast.com and reached at yvonawrite@yahoo.com or on Facebook at Words Are My World.


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