Thursday, March 28, 2013

Natural Easter Egg Dyes

Ah, the learning experience from last time was very helpful in getting my rainbow of eggs done.  This time I did it all in one day.  And I cut my dyes down to four items.  I still had some things I learned again.  Like more is better when it comes to the amount of dyestuff you use.  Well turmeric is pretty potent, but the rest give better colors when very saturated.  I was a bit short on beets this year and really had to work to get my color to set well.

Update: Want to try this with brown eggs?  It does work!
I was happy to be able to try out the onion skin method as well this year.  (I saved my dry onion skins for months!)  Since I was already turning my skins into orange dye, I took the opportunity to simmer some eggs in it at the same time.  I put some leaves on the eggs and twisted them up in stockings and got some really cool marbling and outlines.

(These onion skin eggs were done using light brown farm eggs.)  I think I could have gotten better definition of the leaf patterns if I had tied the stockings tighter with a rubber band.  But I'm still happy with them especially since it was a last second thing.

So here is what I used for my dyes and how I made the eggs.

Red/Pink:  Beets
Orange:  Yellow Onion skins
Yellow:  Turmeric
Green:  Red Cabbage + Turmeric
Blue:  Red Cabbage
Violet:  Red Cabbage + Beets

To make the dyes, use 4 cups of chopped or grated (beets, cabbage, onion skins) with one quart of water and 2 tablespoons of vinegar.  Turmeric is 3 tbsp powdered spice per quart.  Bring to a boil, then cover and keep at a hard simmer for 30 minutes.  Strain the dye into a bowl and mix in 1 tablespoon of salt.  Let cool until not steaming, then soak your hard boiled eggs for 30 minutes in the dye.  For all colors except red, rinse and set on a napkin to dry.  The colors will intensify somewhat when dry.  I forgot about that.  I could have taken the orange eggs out at 30 but I gave them another 10-15 minutes.  They turned out pretty intensely orange.  For the red dye, take out the egg on a spoon and set on a napkin to dry.  DO NOT RINSE.  I gave my beet dyed eggs an hour because I didn't have enough beets.  And I re-dipped them a few times.  Last time my beet dyed eggs turned out a vivid dark fuschia.  This time they were more red.

For green I first used a cup of yellow dye and a cup of blue dye.  I decided at 30 minutes that the green was a little yellow and stuck one egg back into some blue for a few minutes.  The egg in back is the yellower one and the front one had the extra blue time.  So maybe 2/3 cup yellow and 1 1/3 cup blue would be better.

For the violet I eyeballed about half blue and half red dye for 30 minutes.

So that is my refined this year's results for natural egg dyes.  Enjoy your Easter!

(I did really like the more navy blue color I got from blueberries last time as well!)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Mini Zucchini Spice Cupcakes with "Un-canned" Cream Cheese Frosting

Do you decide on the cake or the frosting first?  I found this frosting to try and it turned out so great that I needed to find a more acceptable vehicle to transport it to a mouth than a mere spoon.  At first I decided on a simple spice cake.  I may still do that at some point but spring is looming and my garden gloves are calling me.  So I thought something with zucchini in it would be appropriate to add to the arsenal of ways to use up the bounty of the prolific plant.  I adore zucchini bread but for this occasion I did want something lighter and more cupcake friendly.  These little morsels filled the bill.  And the frosting is delightfully fluffy and silky like a true buttercream.

Update: These freeze amazingly well, just freeze first on a rack or plate, then into a ziploc freezer bag or container.  They thaw to just like fresh in only 20-30 minutes.
Mini Zucchini Spice Cupcakes
makes 3 dozen bite sized cupcakes

¼ cup sunflower oil (melted butter or a blend would also be awesome here)
¼ cup orange juice
3 tbsp applesauce
1 large egg
1½ tbsp evaporated cane sugar
½ tsp almond extract
1½ cups light spelt flour (or 1¼ cup all purpose)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp ground cloves
¾ cup finely shredded zucchini (1 small zucchini will yield around a cup)

Preheat oven to 325ºF and line two mini muffin pans with paper liners.  In a mixing bowl, combine the oil, juice, applesauce, egg, sugars and extract until thoroughly mixed.  Combine the dry ingredients and stir into the egg mixture.  Add zucchini and stir well.  Using a tablespoon cookie dough scoop to portion batter into pans will yield exactly three dozen mini cupcakes.  If you only have one or two pans, the batter may sit between batches, just don't stir it or the cakes will be slightly smaller.  Bake for 15 minutes or until done.  Cool for a few minutes before removing to a wire rack.  Cool completely before frosting as desired.

Un-canned Cream Cheese Frosting
makes about 2 cups

8 tbsp butter
¼ cup unhydrogenated shortening
2 oz cream cheese
1 tbsp tapioca syrup
1 tbsp golden syrup
1 tbsp vanilla
1½ cup confectioner's sugar
½ tsp sea salt
pinch baking powder (finger pinch, NOT 1/8 tsp)
pinch citric acid (finger pinch, NOT 1/8 tsp)

Cream the butter, shortening and cream cheese in a stand mixer for two to three minutes until smooth and fluffy.  Scrape down the sides.  Add the syrups and vanilla and beat for another two to three minutes until silky smooth.

Add the sugar, salt, baking powder and citric acid and combine on low speed until moistened.  Turn the machine up to medium high and beat for four minutes until smooth and glossy, like you would see in a canned frosting.  Scrape down once or twice during mix time.

Use immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days.

Adapted from TOH and Kitchen Daily

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Banana Bread

I tried a banana bread recipe I saw in a cookbook I have recently.  It  made a double batch and called for six bananas I think.  When the loaves came out, they tasted okay but lacked flavor and moistness as well as being flat and missing that lovely golden color of a good quick bread.  I was quite disappointed as I had expected much better results.  I decided to go back to my favorite recipe, modified just slightly to hold the two very overripe bananas I had sitting around.  When it comes to banana bread I take a purist approach.  Simply banana.  I don't mind nuts in a nice moist banana bread but tend to leave them out of my own.  My girls love this bread plain while hubby and I like ours slathered in fresh butter.  Well, I like it either way.  Yum!

Simple Banana Bread
makes one loaf

¼ cup butter, softened
2 tbsp sunflower oil
¼ cup sour cream
2 overripe bananas, mashed
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup evaporated cane sugar
1 egg
1 cup all purpose flour (or 1¼ cups light spelt)
½ cup white whole wheat or whole spelt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp sea salt

Lightly butter an 8x4" loaf pan and preheat oven to 350º.  In a bowl, cream together the sugar, butter and oil.  Blend in the banana, sour cream, egg and vanilla until well mixed.  Mix together the dry ingredients and beat in just until fully combined.  Scrape batter into prepared loaf pan.  Bake at 350º for 35-45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.  If the crust is perfectly brown but the center still needs time, turn down the temp to 300º and give it another 5-10 minutes.  Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.  Enjoy!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Frozen Berry Parfait

My daughter came up with this treat last year as a special concoction just for me.  She had found a yogurt parfait recipe in a Fancy Nancy book of hers but we didn't have all the ingredients.  So she improvised and came up with something great.  She has made it numerous times since then for both her sister and me and I promised I would post it for her someday.  Little sis devoured this one with relish.  She always requests extra crisps as she eats each layer.  ☺  Now I realize not everyone will be able to find quinoa crisps, though they are fabulous, so feel free to use your favorite alternative; granola, grape nuts, crushed cereal...

Frozen Berry Yogurt Parfait
serves one

Greek style yogurt, stirred smooth (Honey, Strawberry or Lemon flavors are great)
Frozen berry medley
Quinoa crisps

In a glass, put a dollop of yogurt.  Top with a few frozen berries and continue layering yogurt and berries to the desired amount.  Top with a generous sprinkle of quinoa crisps or desired crunchy topping.  Finish with a few more berries and whipped cream if desired.