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Eggs and chocolates and dyes, oh my

Pretty in pastels. Prettier in pinot?

When I wrote about natural egg dyes last spring, I’d just started blogging and I felt compelled to go on a bit about the dangers of artificial food colors. A year later, my position on petrochemical dyes is, um, well-documented. So now I’ll just focus on the fun stuff.

The web is awash in tutorials on natural dyes, including this great simple piece from What’s Cooking with Kids. For more detailed techniques and color effects, check out Martha Stewart and KitchenGardener. Onion skins make gorgeous colors, as shown on these Passover eggs and wrapped eggs.

Green can be tricky, but Kris Bordessa of Attainable Sustainable wrote in Kiwi magazine about using chlorophyll capsules (three capsules to one cup of boiling water). And Melissa Graham of Little Locavores shared in a comment on this Spoonfed post that red wine makes a killer purple. Sparkly, too. But the wine has to be freshly opened, so, you know, get drinking while the kids are dunking.

My contribution to this seasonal fare? An eggsperiment, excerpted from last year’s post, in which I used natural dyes to make fake vs. real more tangible for my daughter:

It’s Easter. Time to color eggs. Why not use fruits and vegetables to dye them naturally? And have a little plant-science lesson on the side? Out came the neon dye tablets leftover from last year. (We dyed. We did not eat.) Then the test tubes from a science kit. Plop, plop, fizz, fizz — oh what a fake color that is.

Me to Tess: “Have you ever seen colors like that in nature?”

Tess: a dutiful grimace and shake of the head.

On to the stove, where we filled pots with eggs, water and various fruits, vegetables and juices. (Here’s where I direct you to folks more kitchen-crafty than me, so you, too, can experience the joy of boiling eggs along with beets and blueberry juice.)

We used brown eggs (instead of the recommended white eggs), so the colors were unpredictable. The beets produced a warm dark brown. Spinach didn’t take at all. The blueberry juice, however, made a deep purple that got a “cool” out of my daughter. And because she really wants pink eggs, we’re going to try another batch with raspberry or pomegranate juice.

As each pot filled with the color of the cooking produce, we talked about how plants have so many beautiful natural colors and how each color represents nutrients our bodies need. With color extracts literally seeping into the water, there was no question at all where they came from, or that we can find all the color we need without putting on a lab coat.

Red cabbage,
blue egg

Not that Tess was entirely sold. After my little lesson, she informed me that she preferred fake dyes “because I like the pretty colors.” But, she did add (dramatic pause): “We don’t have to eat them.” That was a year ago, though, and for whatever reason she’s back on board. (Maybe because when her class at school did the natural-dye thing last week, they got great results. Like the blue egg at right.) And this year we snagged some white and pastel eggs from our local farmers, so I’ll see if I can dazzle her with more vibrant colors this time.

And, at the least, we’ll have chocolate. Because in addition to the additive-free candy I ordered, I’ll be making chocolate bunny pops using this fantastic recipe from Food with Kid Appeal. The ingredients? Coconut butter, coconut oil, raw honey, almond butter, cacao powder, cinnamon, cayenne pepper and sea salt. I haven’t even made them yet, and already I’m addicted.

Are you dyeing eggs? Making treats? Otherwise prepping for visits of the bunny kind?

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{ 13 comments… add one }

  • Michele Hays April 19, 2011, 1:21 pm

    Christine, see if Tess likes these vegetable-dyed hardboiled eggs (not eggshells, but the eggs themselves) Sparky didn’t miss the artificial dyes last year: http://quipstravailsandbraisedoxtails.blogspot.com/2010/04/sundays-with-sparky-vegetable-dyed.html

  • Melissa Graham April 19, 2011, 2:07 pm

    We’ve been dying eggs naturally for 6 years now – I love how the colors look, mottled and rustic. My son and I appearing on one of our local tv stations to show how we do it. And, yes, I will bring my favorite colorant: red wine.

    Thanks for the shout-out!

  • Gwen~healthymamma April 19, 2011, 7:26 pm

    I havn’t bought any foods with added dyes in years (it’s amazing what they add dye to!) I too believe that they cause many health problems. I’ve been seeing a lot of this natural egg coloring on blogs I read and in all honesty I don’t really see what the big deal is. I don’t buy the little bottles of food coloring but are the packets they sell for coloring Easter eggs really that bad to use once a year? Do the dyes soak through the egg shell enough to cause any harm or is this more of a principal of the matter sort of issue.
    btw, I’m genuinly asking, not being fecicious. 😉

    • Christina April 19, 2011, 11:54 pm

      Gwen, you’re right — little dye tablets once a year are no big deal. For me, though, it is a principle thing. I so oppose the idea of artificial food dyes that I don’t like to use them for anything anymore, even eggshells. Plus the natural colors are so beautiful. And unpredictable. Which makes it even better.

  • Kira April 19, 2011, 8:45 pm

    So happy the dyes took with the pastel eggs! If you want to try more, I can bring another batch of light colored eggs to market again this week.

    • Christina April 19, 2011, 11:59 pm

      Farmer Kira! We actually haven’t dyed the pastel eggs yet (the blue egg in the picture was from school). But I’ll post a picture with our results either on the blog or on Facebook, so stay tuned. Kurt is supposed to bring white eggs for me this week, but I’ll check in with you if I need more. Say cluck to the girls for me.

  • jenna @ Kid Appeal April 20, 2011, 8:40 am

    thanks for sharing the chocolate recipe here. let me know what you think of it. as long as you’re not expecting it to be like hershey’s you’ll probably enjoy it.

    • Christina April 20, 2011, 8:59 am

      Jenna, not to worry. I can’t remember the last time I even had Hershey’s, much less wanted something to taste like it. Yikes! I’m sure this will rock. Really, how could it not with those ingredients? Thanks again for posting the recipe in the first place.

  • Bri April 20, 2011, 9:49 am

    We’re dyeing eggs, though I’ll be totally honest and say that after all the natural-dye experiments I did last month for P.’s birthday, I’m not 100% sure whether we’ll go that route again or just cave and let the kids do the tablets. (They won’t eat the eggs anyway — L. says eggs give him a tummy ache, and P. doesn’t like hard-boiled, so I’m not super-worried about deleterious effects!)
    But we are doing homemade Easter baskets for the most part. I think a chocolate bunny is a rite of Easter passage, and we’ll get little ones from a local chocolate shop that does things (IMHO) the RIGHT way, but otherwise I’ll be making bunny-shaped lemon shortbread cookies for their baskets and possibly experimenting with some homemade (corn-syrup-free) strawberry marshmallows. The boys want something pink in their baskets. :-) Beyond that, if we do anything else, it’ll be small books or little wind-up toys or the like. No need to be excessive.

    • Christina April 20, 2011, 10:09 am

      Bri, I hear you on the frosting dyes. Getting the right concentration/shade can be tricky (which is one reason I just copped out and bought the India Tree dyes). Egg dyes are a lot easier. And, bonus, it doesn’t matter what they taste like! But yeah, those tablets are the easiest of all.

      And yes on the chocolate bunnies. Can’t imagine an Easter basket without one. Tess will get a bunny, a couple other junk-free treats, and then things like art and gardening supplies. The EB usually also throws in one bigger item. One year it was Crocs. This year it’s a carrying case and sound cards for her birdsong Identiflyer. We try to make the basket more about spring than candy. But that chocolate bunny is non-negotiable.

  • Bevie April 24, 2011, 12:08 am

    I decided not to dye eggs this year, but instead we are doing t-shirts! Kids chose two colors of dye and I got a couple cheap packs of white shirts and turned them loose. They tie-dyed the shirts, a pair of socks, their hands, my patio… I guess we got a little carried away. But they will be showing off their dye project long after this weeks eggs are tasty, fried memories.

  • Uly April 24, 2011, 12:29 am

    Have you considered blowing the eggs out first, so you can save the shells?

    • Christina April 25, 2011, 11:53 pm

      Uly, the ephemeral nature of the dyed eggs is part of their appeal, I think. But saving the shells could be fun, especially if we made them into gifts. Hmmm.

      BTW, I posted the results of our egg-dyeing on the Spoonfed Facebook page.

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