Natural Egg Dying

(This is a repost of what I wrote for Handmade Philly this week)




It’s official- spring has sprung, and egg dying season is upon us.  Growing up, we always purchased food coloring kits, but if you’d like to try something a little more traditional, then please read on.  Natural dyes do take a little longer than their chemical counterparts, but I think the results are worth it. 

I like the idea that dying eggs can be safe for the environment, both by using natural elements as well as less packaging, while also paying homage to how I imagine our ancestors must have done it.  For this tutorial, I have also included a stencil technique if you’d like to add an additional layer of interest to your eggs.  

Let’s start with the beets, which will turn your eggs anywhere from pale pink to deep red-violet, depending on how long you leave them in the dye bath.  I boiled two cups of chopped beets with two cups of water, 1-2 tablespoons of white vinegar, and 1 T of salt .  I am told the eggs come out better when the dye mixture is hot, and since you have to hard boil them anyway, you can just put them all into the pot together & boil for 15 minutes.  After that, remove from heat, and leave the eggs in the mixture until desired shade is achieved.  I left mine in for several hours, and this is what I got: 


Since the natural dyes leave the eggs somewhat dull, you can polish them when they’re dry with a little bit of oil.  As you can see from the photo, the oil polish (I used canola) also deepens the color quite a bit.  For the egg on the left, I tried tying rubber bands around it to give it more texture.  For the one on the right, I used wild strawberry leaves as a stencil.  

To achieve the stencilling effect, gather whatever materials you think would make an interesting pattern on your egg.  I went out in my backyard and picked the following: 


Next, you will need some old nylon stockings.  Cut off the feet so you have a little bag big enough for the egg with room to tie it off.  Place the egg inside, with whatever material you are using for a stencil.  I tried to flatten the leaves out against the egg surface as best as possible, but it is a little tricky, and I liked the randomness of it anyway.  Then, tie off the open end of your stockings as tightly as possible with either a rubber band or a knot, and you should have something that looks like this: 


From there, you just put it in your dye bath until you’re ready to remove it.  Here are how some of my other eggs turned out: 


Boil one head of chopped cabbage for about 30 minutes.  Strain the liquid, and add ¼ cup white vinegar and ¼ cup of salt and your eggs so they are covered.  Not only will the eggs turn a beautiful shade of blue, but you can see the difference between leaving them in the dye bath for several hours vs. about an hour (bottom eggs).


For the turmeric eggs, I boiled one cup of water with 1 T. turmeric, 1 T. white vinegar, and 1 T. salt.  I transferred the mixture to dye cups & immersed my eggs for only about an hour.  


2 cups yellow onion skins boiled with 2 cups water, 1T. vinegar, & 1 T. salt.  I wrapped the one on the right in onion skins with nylon over top, and it came out with a really cool marbled texture. 

I haven’t personally tried these, but here are some other natural elements that you can experiment with.  Just remember to add the vinegar so the dye sticks to the eggs: 


Canned blueberries, red cabbage (boiled), purple grape juice 
 Brown or beige: 
Black coffee, instant coffee, walnut shells (boiled), black tea
Spinach (boiled), liquid chlorophyll
Yellow onion skins (boiled), carrots (boiled), paprika(boiled) 
Beets, cranberries or juice, raspberries
Lots of red onion skins (boiled), pomegranate juice, raspberries
Violet or purple: 
Violet blossoms, hibiscus tea, sm. amount of red onion skins (boiled)
Orange or lemon skins (boiled), carrot tops (boiled), chamomile tea, ground turmeric (boiled), ground cumin (boiled), celery seed (boiled), green tea

Snow Day ~ Giant Cookies

Like most of those on the NE Corridor, we are  in the midst of  snownami 2010, which equates to very excited little boys bouncing off the walls at 6 o’clock in the morning.  Good thing I’m a morning person!Anyway, in addition to the digging out and snow play that will be happening, one of my favorite things to do on a cold, blustery, wet, or otherwise nasty day outside is to bake.  It’s something that the kids enjoy doing with me, and, * BONUS *, you’re left with something yummy when all’s said & done.  Since I volunteered to bring something in for Wyatt’s pre-school Valentine’s party tomorrow, I was already prepared for some time in the kitchen. 

When  Jackson turned one last month, his birthday fell on a Wednesday.  To make it easier on everyone, we decided to have a brunch on the Sunday before to celebrate, complete with cake, ice cream, singing, etc.  That left us with the question of what to do on his actual birthday.  I didn’t want to do a whole other cake, but I also wanted to celebrate in some small way, too.  At some point I thought it would be fun to try making one of those giant cookies that you get at the mall.  It couldn’t be that difficult, right?  And my favorite go-to website for all things recipe-related, All Recipes, just happened to deliver on my search request of “giant cookie”

So, check out the link for the recipe, I won’t bother to re-post it here.  Be sure to check out the reviews for alternate ideas/tips.  I did take one person’s suggestion of baking it in a cake pan to achieve perfect roundness and even baking, but this does make it turn out more like a bar cookie than, well, a cookie-cookie.  Today, we are going to try out a heart-shaped variation, with my cool new heart-shaped silicon bake pan alá Targét.  I’ll try to post pictures when we’re done.  For now, here’s the Jackson version:

I have to say, it was super easy, and SO delicious!  I used a recipe I had on hand to make the icing, and pulled out my Wilton pastry tips, but honestly, store-bought frosting works just as well, if not better.  I tinted mine with some food coloring & piped it through a freezer bag with the pastry tip on the end. 

One more thing: you don’t need the icing, or an event for that matter, to enjoy these cookies!  If anyone tries them, I’d love to hear how they turn out.

******** Updated 2/14/10 *******  Here is our Valentine’s cookie:

We used candy hearts and “glued” them on with icing globs.  Too bad Wyatt’s party was cancelled due to the snow storm…. it totally sucked that we had to eat it ourselves…

Turkey, Murkey, Fo’ Furkey

Today is the day we give thanks.  Today is the day we relax, kick back, enjoy family, and stuff ourselves like no other day all year.  Traditionally, Thanksgiving was celebrated as a way to give thanks for the bountiful harvest that nature afforded the early settlers.

I do not even attempt to cook Thanksgiving dinner.  I usually do my part by bringing some type of side dish and a dessert.  This year, I opted for the candied sweet potatoes and this bad boy:

Yes, that is a pie.  Nothing says “Happy Thanksgiving” like an apple pie on ‘roids.  Eight, that’s right, eight extra large Granny Smith apples were stuffed into this thing, and, while it did settle down a bit after baking, it still carries with it quite a presence:

Ahhhh, let the gluttony begin…

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

I’m Loving/What’s Your Gadget?

I have not been doing a lot of crafting lately.  Ok, “not a lot” = none.  Jackson, the sweet little boy that he is, has been struggling with sleeping on his own, which has kept me up in the wee hours, and thus made me ready for bed every night essentially before it’s even dark out.  I have never been much of a night owl, but generally, before #3 child came along, the time after the kids went to bed has been my work time.  *Sigh*  I will get back to it again someday soon…

Anyway, I have been doing more cooking lately.  I have always liked to cook & experiment in the kitchen (it’s the cleaning up that I can do without).   Bill likes to cook, too, which is why, at Christmas time a few years back, I started a tradition of stuffing his stocking with cool culinary gadgets on which we wouldn’t normally splurge for ourselves.   And hey, it doesn’t hurt that I happen to use these gadgets as well (I’m selfish that way, but hey, I figure it’s a win/win).  In years past, among other things, I have gotten him extra-nice spatulas, silicon pancake molds, and a garlic wheel (which in theory, seemed like it would be really cool, but actually ended up being a dud). 

Last year, he returned the favor and got me one of the things I am now unable to live without:  my OXO Salad Spinner by Good Grips.  This thing has single- handedly changed the way we eat.  I used to never make salad, because I hated the washing of the lettuce, then the drying.  I can remember practially using up half a roll of paper towels just to dry off a head of lettuce leaves.  I’m not really one for bagged salad mixes, so it was enough to keep me from making it regularly.  Now, thanks to my gadget, we have it almost every day, and we’re probably a bit healthier for it. 

I realized the other day that there is another kitchen device that I have become completely dependent on:  my garlic press.  I tend to go a little nuts when it comes to garlic.  If a recipe calls for 2 cloves, I’ll most likely put in six.  Yeah…. maybe this is why I don’t have more friends.  When we first got married,  I was lucky enough to recieve a really nice press for my bridal shower, and I have been using it ever since.  In my opinion, not all garlic presses are created equal.  Again, I have to hand it to OXO for creating something that is comfortable and doesn’t take the strength of a sumo wrestler to use.  The problem?  After 7 years of use, it finally pressed its last clove and went to that great garlic farm in the sky.  The funny thing is, it didn’t break at the joints, or some other place that would make sense, but the actual metal broke right in half!  And this wasn’t some flimsy little garlic press, it was heavy-duty.  The point where it broke had to be at least a half inch thick.  I guess I don’t know my own strength, yuck, yuck. 

Anyway, believe it or not, I did have a backup (I know… it’s sick).  I scoured through my drawers and found it:  the lesser press.  The red-headed stepchild of the garlic pressing world.  No rubberized handles.  No comfort grip.  If I put more than one clove in at a time I basically have to jump on the thing to get it to press.  Now, you may be wondering why I don’t just buy minced garlic in a jar?  This is where I get all persnickety:  jarred is just not the same as fresh.  Yes, I am a garlic snob– and chopping it won’t do, either.

I do feel somewhat guilty, in these economic times, when people are losing their jobs and having trouble putting food on the table, getting all fussy about a garlic press.  But it could be worse, I could be addicted to Gucci (I’m not judging, I’m just sayin’, garlic is a little easier on the wallet).  As I’ve been ‘suffering’ these past weeks with an inferior garlic press, I’ve been thinking–  Does anyone else have a gadget, etc. that they have come to depend on?  I’m not necessarily talking about cooking instruments, just something that you can no longer live without?  If so, please share, I’d love to hear.

Gym Wisdom

So, for the past several weeks (months?) I’ve been making an effort to get to the gym more.  My post-baby body has made it clear that it’s happy where it is, and it’s not going down without a fight.  Fine, I’m up for the challenge.  Never in my life have I had to work so hard at losing weight, but if a fight it wants, a fight it will get.

Anyway, after my recent running debacle I thought it best to stick to indoor activities for the time being, so I’ve been making it to my gym fairly regularly.  I have been a member at this particular gym since I was 19.  It’s fascinating to me that even though there have been long stretches of time that I haven’t been back,  I still see a lot of the same people that I did 15+ years ago.  

If I recognize them, I wonder if they recognize me, too?  I am definitely, ahem… curvier since then, and catching those glimpses of myself in the full length mirrors is at times both shocking and distressing.  Are these people wondering what the heck happened to me?  But wait–  a quick look around assures me I’m not alone.  Apparently 15 years of crunches haven’t done that guy much good-  he’s still sporting the spare tire.  And yeah- miss stair climber hasn’t changed a bit, still looks great…  But, whoa– what happened to all of that guy’s hair?   And I see that woman still won’t let the ’80 leotard and sweatbands rest in peace…

As much as I’ve changed from my svelte, karate-kicking days, I have to accept that 15+ years and 3 kids aren’t going to leave me unchanged without some serious effort.  So I’ve stepped up my time & speed on the treadmill.  It’s funny how some things never change.  Like, if a woman is on the treadmill next to a young-ish guy, he will never allow her to run at a faster pace than him.  Even if this means he will be hacking and cramping later, guy pride dominates.   Speaking of treadmills, another unspoken “rule” of which I’ve been recently reminded (the hard way)– never, EVER, under any circumstances, breathe in through your mouth if someone is on the treadmill next to you, or even in your vicinity.  Especially if they look like the type of person who *may* have had burritos for lunch.  (side note, and this probably goes without saying:  Never, ever have burritos for lunch the days you plan on going to the gym.)

Another good rule to live by:  Don’t wear pants in a color that shows your sweat marks if you plan on doing any kind of hip adductor machine (the one that has you spread eagle for the world to see).   Unless you’re into displaying how much your crotch sweats, of course…. which then, by all means, go for it.  However, if you’re not into seeing other people’s crotch sweat (or other fun stuff, if they’re wearing, say, short shorts) then it might be a good idea to look anywhere but in that direction when they’re using this machine or otherwise “thigh mastering”.

So, after a brief plateau, and realizing that those little snacks throughout the day really do add up, I’ve been exercising regularly and keeping a food journal and have started to drop poundage again.  I hated the idea at first of having to log everything I ate, but it really is helpful in so many ways.  Not only am I so much more aware of what and when I eat, tools like the calorie counter on igoogle make it so easy to see how things are adding up throughout the day.  Plus, it gives me the nutritional info for stuff that doesn’t have a label, like fresh fruits & veggies.  And by counting my calories, I’ve also realized that I can still have a lot of things that don’t seem like diet food, like pizza and london broil.  Do I sound like a commercial, or what?

Stretch marks aside, I hope to be fit and MILF-worthy by summer.  In the past month, I’ve shaved a minute off my mile, and I’m even considering doing some local 5Ks.  Take that, baby flab.  Now if I could only do something about the dark circles under my eyes….

Philly Makes! Week 2

I’ve been cooking a lot lately, and cooking a lot of vegetables at that. While one of my goals is to drop some poundage (this body’s not going back to the way it was without a fight!), my ultimate objective is health and nutrition.  So, my contribution this week to Philly Makes! is a recipe for Veggie Burgers- they’re quick, healthy, and way better than the store bought variety.  Click on over & check it out!

Creative Eats and a Sale!

Today is Jackson’s 2 month birthday, and I’m finally starting to feel the stirrings of what seems like my creative itch returning.  Maybe it’s the promise of spring, and all things new.  Maybe it’s just that it’s been so long, that whatever it is inside of me that says I must make things simply cannot be squelched anymore.  I seem to be always full of ideas, but no time lately to give to creative ventures (at least not if I feel like sleeping!).  But I’m hoping that will all change with my budding motivation, and the Philly Etsy Team‘s new Thing-A-Week challenge (based on the slightly more commitment-intensive Thing-A-Day challenge).

Anyway, until that happens, most of my creative energy has been put into Max’s party and FOOD!  This is what I managed to get done:

Two flag/pennant banners as pictured hanging above Max for re-usable party decorations,


Double chocolate-raspberry birthday cake, as requested by the birthday boy.  I used a delicious chocolate sour cream frosting recipe, and the largest raspberries known to man for the decorations.  In the middle was a deadly but delicious raspberry cream layer.  Only 46 grams of fat per serving!



As promised 6 or so months ago, Bakerella‘s cupcake bites to bring to Max’s preschool.   Mine don’t look quite as refined as hers, but they still turned out ok… I didn’t have the right size cookie cutter, so I basically had to “sculpt” them by hand.  By the time they were covered in chocolate, they sort of lost their cupcake shape a little.   They didn’t last long, though, so they must’ve tasted good!

Also, since we’re on the subject of the coming spring, I’ve decided to do some spring cleaning in ye olde Etsy Shoppe.  There’s not much left in there, but if you include “spring cleaning” or a reference to this blog post in the notes to seller, I’ll give you 20% off everything in the store through the weekend.  Some of my listings recently expired, so if you’ve been eyeing something that you don’t see anymore, just ask- I might still have it, but  just didn’t relist it.

Speaking of weekends, have a great one!!