Monday, April 7, 2014

All Natural Egg Coloring

When we decided to start our unprocessed life, I had, and still have, a pretty laid back attitude about it when we go someplace besides our home. I'm not going to freak out about store-bought cupcakes at a birthday party or a girl scout cookie from the neighbor. That is too stressful, and stress is probably the most unhealthy thing to have! We don't eat out, and eat almost all of our meals at home, so the occasional party or holiday doesn't concern me. My kids have to be kids, and heck - I grew up on those treats - it's nice to enjoy them every once in a while!

However. There is a new exception to this rule. Food colorings. You know the ones - Red 40, Yellow 5 & 6, and any other artificial color. I've done quite a bit of reading on the matter, especially when it comes to the connection between these additives and hyperactivity. I wasn't entirely convinced, though, until I experienced it myself.

We have for quite a while now bought UNREAL candy when we want m&ms, because they use all natural ingredients and colorings. They taste great, and are pretty! My son likes the peanut version. We avoid anything with added colors. My kids, especially my son, are really chill. He doesn't run around in public, he listens well, and is honestly the best behaved 3 year old I know.

One day a couple months ago, I took my daughter to the store and left hubby in charge of snack. I came back and it was like some other entity had taken possession of my son. He was supposed to be getting ready for bath, but instead was being goofy, not listening, and being hard to manage. It wasn't like him at all. I asked my husband what he had for snack, and found out that he had seen some cookies that were left here by some friends. Pumpkin cookies. He had wanted one of those. Well, I looked at the ingredients, and to enhance the "pumpkin" color, they had added yellow food colorings...the same ones associated with ADHD and hyperactivity.  Aha. I had no doubt. By next morning, my son was back to normal, and I made a new vow to avoid food colorings as best I could, wherever and whenever and whatever the occasion.

So when it came to coloring Easter eggs this year, a tradition I love and is close to my heart, I couldn't bare to think of buying the HAAS coloring set. I decided that I would do natural colors, using food, as I had seen many blogs and DIY sites that had done the same thing and I had their guidance.

So my reason for natural egg dyes was clear. What I did not expect, was to LOVE it. Yes, the dyes took some extra effort and planning, but it was exciting! It added a whole other level to egg coloring. I was once again surprised and delighted at the site of my eggs being lifted out of their bowls of color. The colors weren't dull and diluted. They were bold and bright. I was so extremely satisfied. Furthermore, I was able to teach the kids how they were made. It was a learning experience.

The process is quite easy. I'll give you each color and how I did it.

Purple - Grape juice. I boiled it down on the stove for about half an hour to reduce it a bit. Let cool.

Yellow - Tumeric. 3 tablespoons to 2 cups of water. I boiled it and let it sit. The mixture got thick and gelatinous almost as it cooled, but the eggs turned out great. *

Blue - Red Cabbage. By far my favorite natural food dye. I boile dhalf a head of lettuce in 2-3 cups of water until the cabbage was limp. I strained it and let it cool.

Rust - This was a hodgepodge of ideas. I brewed some tea, and then added cayenne and chili powder to the mix. The result was a rust-colored egg, with some bright orange specks and bursts. Pretty neat.

I really wanted to try beets for pink, but our little County Market didn't have any. Next time!

You can let the eggs sit for as long as you want depending on how dark you want them. I wanted pretty bold colors, so I had the kids put the eggs in the night before and let them sit. Then the next day we took them out, let them dry, and decorated them with stickers, markers, and ribbon.

I would highly recommend giving this a try - if not for any of my reasons, then just because it is fun and new.

Also, I like to hard boil my eggs by placing cold eggs in cold water, bringing it slowly to a boil over medium-high heat, and once it comes to a rolling boil, let them boil for 8 minutes. Then remove from the heat and rinse.

I didn't notice any weird tastes in the eggs from the dyes. I've heard that sometimes it can flavor the egg. I didn't have that problem!

We had a surprise Easter egg hunt the next morning - so much fun!

*Tumeric will not only stain your eggs, but anything plastic it comes in touch with, or fabric, or cheap countertops like mine. Beware.

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