Using Natural Easter Egg Dyes

With all the controversy over food dyes these days, I decided it was time to begin experimenting with natural food dyes.  My first experiment was so successful that I had to end my 6+ month haitus from blogging so I could share.

I participate in the Bountiful Baskets produce co-op.  This past week they offered an additional item for purchase, an egg dye kit.  The kit included: blueberries, chili peppers, beets, carrots, red onions, yellow onions, and strawberries.  The day prior to picking up my basket I recieved a short e-mail with a few hints, along with some links, as to how to turn these colorful fruits and vegetables into beautiful easter eggs.  I did a little additional research, then rolled up my sleeves and got to work. 

The basic idea was to dice, chop, grate, or crush the fruit/veggie then boil in 2-3 cups of water.

I boiled each one for about 20 minutes, then mashed the fruit with a potato masher to get as much color out as possible.  Then boiled a few more minutes adding more water if necessary.  When I was satisfied with the color I strained the juice into a mason jar and added one tablespoon distilled white vinegar for each cup of liquid.  (One suggestion I read said the eggs could be boiled directly in the juice, I tried this and thought that it added more work than it saved.)  I then covered the jars and placed them in the fridge to cool.

I then placed the boiled eggs into the jars for varying lengths of time.  Below are the formulas that worked best for me.

Red/Purple/Pink – Finely dice one large beet.  Boil in 2-3 cups water for 20 minutes.  Mash with a potato masher (the beets wont be soft enough to mash, but go ahead and give them a good stir anyway.  Boil for several more minutes adding more water if necessary. Strain into jar.  Add 2-3 Tbls. vinegar.  The length of time in the dye will make a large difference in the resulting color with this dye.  You can also dilute the dye with water for a softer pink color.  Add additional vinegar if you add a significant amount of water.  I never did get a good red egg.  The best luck I had was to soak an egg in the beet dye for several hours, than in the orange (onion) dye for several hours.  I tried strawberries for a pink dye and was dissapointed with the results, I would rather eat the strawberries.  I tried dried red chili peppers, but got an orange color.  Red onion skins resulted in a color similar to the beet dye.  If you want to try it you can follow the directions below, substituting a red onion. 

Orange –  Peel the skin from one large yellow onion, slice into strips and boil in 2-3 cups water.  Let boil for 20 -30 minutes.  Strain into jar.  Add 2-3 Tbls. vinegar.  It only takes about 20 minutes to get an orange egg, after that it will begin to turn a dark tan color, so check you eggs periodically.

Blue – Boil 1/2 cup of blueberries in 2-3 cups water for 20 minutes.  Mash blueberries with a potato masher.  Boil for several more minutes adding more water if necessary. Strain into jar.  Add 2-3 Tbls. vinegar.  It takes at least an hour to get a nice blue.  The egg will apear a dingy purple color when removed from the water, but will dry to a nice blue.  If it isn’t dark enough when dry, go ahead and put it back in.

Yellow – Grate one large carrot, bring to a boil in 2-3 cups water.  Add 1 tsp. tumeric or cumin, if wanted, to enhance color. Boil for twenty minutes.  Strain into jar.  Add 2-3 Tbls. vinegar.  To get a nice yellow egg it will need to soak for several hours, maybe even overnight.

Green – Soak egg in yellow dye for 2 hours, remove from dye and allow to dry completely.  Place in blue dye for about one hour.  Putting the egg into the blue first will result in a slightly different color.  Experiment with different lengths of time in each color for varying shades of green.  Allow the egg to dry completely.

If you are going to soak an egg in multiple colors allow the egg to dry completely between soakings for best results.  Have fun!

Happy Easter!

I posted this blog over at Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesdays and the Nourishing gourmet’s Pennywise Platter Thursday.  Head on over to these great blogs for more real food ideas!

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2010 in review

Hmm.  Time to start blogging again.  My goal for 2011 – 52 posts.

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads This blog is on fire!.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 2,400 times in 2010. That’s about 6 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 20 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 136 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 167mb. That’s about 3 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was July 1st with 152 views. The most popular post that day was Frozen Yogurt.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were thenourishinggourmet.com, passionatehomemaking.com, facebook.com, twopeasinabucket.com, and slashingtongue.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for http://www.cottonwoodcottagefarm.wordpress.com/, wheatgrass centerpiece, grass, fake wheatgrass centerpiece, and cottage menu planning.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Frozen Yogurt July 2010
2 comments

2

Easter Wheat Grass Centerpiece March 2010
4 comments

3

Soaked Whole Grain Spelt Bread March 2010
3 comments

4

Lentil Curry May 2010
2 comments

5

Quinoa Tabouli May 2010

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Frozen Yogurt

It been a busy month!  I have been out of town for several weeks, and came home to an overwhelming amount of work to be done.  Things are starting to settle back into a routine around here and I have been eager to share the latest with all of you.  The garden is overflowing.  We have been enjoying kale, lettuce, bok choy, and spinach.  I got my first tomato last week and my herbs are thriving.  I will make the time to share some of my favorite recipes over the next few weeks as I try to make the most of the abundance from the garden.  We lost several chickens to a hungry family of skunks, but the ones that survived are about ready for butchering.  Expect to see chicken in upcoming recipes.

It has finally gotten hot!  So I had to share this simple recipe for frozen yogurt with you.

Ingredients

3 cups Greek style plain yogurt (or 5 cups plain yogurt)

1/2 – 3/4 cup sugar (or sweetener of your choice)

1 tsp real vanilla

Your favorite toppings!

Directions

You will need thick yogurt for this recipe so Greek yogurt works perfectly.  You can make your own Greek yogurt by straining plain yogurt through coffee filters or muslin.  I use my own homemade yogurt and strain it in coffee filters set in a strainer over a bowl, in the refrigerator.  It takes me three coffee filters to strain 5 cups, and I get about 2 cups of whey out of the yogurt.  I save the whey, a clear yellowish liquid, for soaking grains.  If I have a lot of whey I will give it to the chickens.  They love it and the protein is good for them.

Scoop the yogurt into a bowl.

Mix in vanilla and sugar.  Stir well so that the sugar dissolves completely.  If the yogurt isn’t nice and cold, let it sit in the fridge for a bit before placing in the ice cream maker.

Pour frozen yogurt mixture into your ice cream maker and follow manufacturers directions.   I have the ice cream attachment for my Kitchen Aid stand mixer and I absolutely love it!  It turns out soft serve ice cream in about 25 minutes, and after an hour or two in the freezer has a nice ice cream consistency.  I just store the ice cream bowl in the chest freezer so I can make ice cream anytime I feel like it.

During the last 5 – 10 minutes you can add fruit or other mix-ins, but I prefer to add mine just before serving.  For the kids I add fresh fruit.  My husband likes chocolate chips in his.  My favorite is to add fresh peaches and a tablespoon of Trader Joe’s raspberry wine.  The sweet tangy flavor of the yogurt is nice all by itself too!  Who doesn’t enjoy a dessert that is healthy enough to eat for breakfast?

This post is a part of Pennywise Platter Thursday

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Lentil Curry

I really enjoy Indian food.  I also love the fact that this dish is so inexpensive.  Lentils served with brown rice make up a complete  protein source, for a fraction of the cost of meat dishes.   When fresh tomatoes are available from the garden the cost is even less.  The following recipe makes about 8 servings, enough for me to freeze half and still have some left over for lunch the following day.  The curry paste that you use will greatly affect the flavor and heat of this dish.  I did not add any curry paste this time because I prefer a milder flavor for the kids.

Ingredients

1 cup uncooked lentils

1 large onion, diced

2 Tbls coconut oil or butter

1-2 Tbls curry paste (opt.)

1 Tbls honey

2-3 cloves garlic, diced

2 Tbls curry powder

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp ground ginger

1/2 – 1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp salt

4 medium tomatoes, finely diced

1/4 cup water

2 cups brown rice, cooked

Directions

If you are soaking your lentils cover with water and add 1 Tbls whey or lemon juice 6-7 hours before cooking.

Rinse lentils, place in a pot with enough water to cover the lentils and simmer until tender (add more water if necessary).

In a large skillet or saucepan, saute the onions in coconut oil or butter.

Combine curry powder, turmeric, cumin, ginger, chili powder and salt in a small bowl.

Add curry paste, honey and garlic to onions.  Add spices and cook for several minutes stirring constantly.

Add tomatoes and water, allow to simmer until tomatoes are soft (or use a can of crushed tomatoes and omit the water).  When fresh eggplant is available from your garden or local farmers market you could also add 1-2 cups of diced eggplant.

Stir in lentils.

Serve with rice.

This post is part of Pennywise Platter Thursday

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Quinoa Tabouli

Tabouli is one of my favorite foods.  Recently I came across a recipe for Tabouli that called for quinoa instead of bulgur wheat.  Since I have been trying to cut down on (not eliminate) my family’s gluten intake, I had to try it.  Quinoa is actually a seed, not a grain.  It is  a relative of spinach, beets, and Swiss chard. All of these foods are loaded with nutrients, but quinoa is the only one that can fool you into thinking you’re eating a grain. It is high in protein, minerals, vitamins, and fiber.  It has a light slightly nutty flavor and it makes a very nice pilaf with fresh vegetables.  In Tabouli the other flavors, particularly the lemon, are more distinctive so the flavor is not noticeably different from using bulgur wheat.

Ingredients

1/2 cup uncooked quinoa

1 medium tomato

1/2 english cucumber

3 green onions

1/3 cup lemon juice

3 Tbls olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp crushed mint

sea salt to taste

Directions

Place quinoa and 1 cup water in a small pot and bring to a boil.  Cover and remove from heat.  Let sit for 15 – 20 minutes.  If you are using bulgar wheat, cook according to the package directions.

Dice tomatoes, cucumbers, and onion.  White onions can be substituted for green onions for a slightly stronger flavor.  If you are using a regular cucumber you will probably want to peel it.  Mix cooked quinoa and diced veggies in a small bowl.

Add lemon juice, olive, oil, garlic, mint and salt.  Mix well.  Refrigerate.

I made up my tabouli in the afternoon while the kids were napping, and at the same time marinated some fish.  Then 30 minutes before dinner I placed the fish in the oven, and served with the tabouli for a fresh, EASY dinner.

This post is part of Pennywise Platter Thursday

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How I Render Beef Tallow

I know that we have all been taught that animal fat (saturated fat) is BAD for us, but guess what it is REAL FOOD.  It has not been engineered by food scientists or made in a factory somewhere.  You can render tallow (beef or sheep fat) or lard (pig fat) in your own kitchen.  I’ve seen several different methods for rendering lard or tallow, but this is the one that I use.  I have the butcher package up all of the fat for me when we have our steer butchered and keep it in the freezer till I get tired of it taking up space.  I have never rendered lard before, because we don’t raise pigs, but I understand the method is the same.  Most butchers will give you fat for free if you request it, but I prefer to know what the animal it came from has been fed.  At some point I intend to get pig fat when a friend is having a pig butchered.  Lard is ideal for baking, especially pie crusts!  Never use the shelf stable lard from the grocery store, it has been hydrogenated – eek!  I will use this tallow for making soap (when I get around to it).  Tallow is also excellent for frying (because it has a high smoke point).  I’m not advocating eating fried food every night, but for an occasional treat french fries fried in beef tallow can’t be beat.


I used about five pounds of fat this time.  I try to do this on a day when I can open all the windows because boiling a pot of fat on the stove for several hours doesn’t give the house the greatest odor.

Cut beef fat into small chunks (smaller chunks will cook faster).

Place in a pot on the stove and heat over medium low heat for 1 – 1 1/2 hours.

Drain the fat (I use a metal strainer).  Save the solids for the dog.

Add twice as much water to the pot, as the amount of liquid fat that you have rendered (I ended up with 4 cups of fat and added 8 cups of water).

Bring fat to a boil and boil for 2 hours.

Strain the fat again to remove any remaining chunks.

Pour fat  into a 9 x 13 pan.

Refrigerate overnight.

Invert the fat onto a plate over the sink.  The tallow will have risen to the top of the pan and the water underneath will pour off into the sink.  On the underside of the tallow there will be a layer of scum.  Using a butter knife scrape the scum off, until all that you can see is pure white tallow.

Cut the tallow into chunks and refrigerate for up to 4 weeks, or wrap in plastic and freeze.

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Cottage Flaxjacks -with soaking instructions

The weather has been really lousy this last week.  Between the wind and the cold I’ve hardly ventured out of the house unless it was absolutely necessary.  Being stuck in the house has kind of killed my desire to do much of anything.  Last night I decided it was time to get something done, so I thought I would start Thursday morning with a nice breakfast.  This morning I woke up and saw icicles on the wheel line, and for a minute I thought about getting back in bed.  But, I got up and made pancakes, and now I’m thinking about cleaning the house… maybe.

These pancakes are a favorite at my house.  They are an easy way for beginners to start soaking grains, but even if you forget to soak the flour the night before, they are a great breakfast.

Ingredients

1 cup whole wheat flour (spelt flour works great too!)

1 cup buttermilk

Before going to bed combine flour and buttermilk (if you don’t have buttermilk you can use milk + 2 Tbls yogurt).  Cover and let sit out on the counter overnight.

Ingredients cont.

1/4 cup ground flaxseeds

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 Tbls sugar

1 egg

1/2 tsp salt

1 Tbls olive oil

In the morning mix remaining ingredients into the flour and buttermilk.

Pour onto a hot griddle (I like cast iron).  Flip when pancake bubbles in the center.

Serve with butter and real maple syrup.  Makes about ten pancakes.

This post is part of Pennywise Platter Thursdays

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