Which Came First…The Dye or the Stickers? With Deviled Egg Recipe

Last year I dyed Easter eggs with natural dyes.  I was so excited and felt so green, as I boiled onion skins, tumeric, greens and blueberry juice for my hard boiled eggs.  The thing was I was lonely.  This is because it takes so long for the color to appear (some over 30 minutes) and needs to be done over a hot stove.  I thought the eggs came out lovely and like real hen eggs (pastel yellow, purple and green), but my kids lost patience and interest.  Most families are used to the plopping the egg into the fake dye and getting instant color…bright color.  My kids were dissappointed last year and the grandparents answered their call for “the fast, bright colors” this year by sending a princess dye kit and a star wars dye kit.  The farthest thing from natural you could get.  Luckily the kids arranged the dyed eggs in my real nests for photos, and skipped the yoda and tiara stickers.  So the eggs weren’t “natural and green”, but my family had fun and they still became yummy delived eggs.

I decided to try a new deviled egg recipe which incorporated fresh crab.  I’ve had the recipe cut out for some time and never made it (I do that a lot).  My husband and I loved them, but my kids not so much.  They wanted the “regular” ones.  I guess you never know how your crowd will react when messing with a holiday.  Oh well, there were more for my husband and I.  Happy Easter.

Crab Deviled Eggs, Inspired by MarketBar Restaurant in San Francisco

6 hard boiled eggs, peeled

2 cups spinach leaves, well rinsed

4 ounces fresh lump crab meat

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon white ine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon suagr

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon finely ground pepper

Place wet spinach in a small saute pan and saute over medium heat until wilted.  Press out liquid with a tea towel and chop.  Set aside.

Cut hardboiled eggs lenghtwise and keeping white intact, carefully remove the yolk with a small spoon.  Mash the yolks in a bowl with a fork.

Add remaining ingredients (including spinach) to egg yolks and mix well.  Adjust seasoning.

Spoon heaping teasoonfuls of egg/crab mixture into hollowed egg whites.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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FDA to Study Food Coloring Additives…Finally!

Where has the FDA been?  There have been concerns over food additives, especially coloring for years.  Studies in other parts of the world and even banning of certain dyes as far back as the 1950’s (red 32, orange 2, etc).  I even wrote a blog in 2007 that cited a NY Times article and study by Britain’s Food Standard Agency, about the link of ADHD to additives.

So finally this week in response to a 2008 letter, an FDA advisory panel will decide whether available data links artificial food dyes and ADHD.  The results could lead to new warning labels on many colored foods.  The article lists Jello, sugared cereals, and macaroni and cheese (what color would fake food be without coloring? – that’s the real question).  But what about a ban?  Wouldn’t that be safer for consumers and children?  According to an npr.org article, “Food dyes are added simply for their color to make foods fun. They serve no health purpose whatsoever,” says Michael Jacobson, director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.  CSPI wants the FDA to ban eight artificial food dyes. Jacobson is particularly concerned with Red No. 40, Yellow No. 5 and Yellow No. 6, which make up 90 percent of the food dyes on the market.  Their use has gone up fivefold in the past 50 years. “That’s a good indication of how much junk food we’re consuming,” he says.

According to this week’s CBS news article, the government previously ruled that there is no proven relationship between food dyes and hyperactivity in most children. And the panel is unlikely to ban the petroleum-based dyes in question, such as Yellow 5, Red 40 and six others.  But consumer advocates and a growing body of scientists say evidence is mounting that processed foods – including those with artificial dyes – may play a role in the inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsivity that characterize attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

I guess we’ll just have to cross our fingers and wait and see what the panel says.  However, no matter what they decide, I’ll continue to read labels and limit additivesand colorings whenever possible…and make my own macaroni and cheese (real, please!)

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Green My Lunch Box

I want to share a wonderful campaign to raise awareness of using green food packaging products sponsored and supported by many of my favorite local companies, such as Fabkins, KidsKonserve, Wrap-n-Mat and EarthLust.
If 15,000 people join the campaign & pledge to pack a waste-free lunch, we can eliminate 1 million lbs of waste!

Simply log on to Facebook and join the campaign! Enter to WIN A WASTE-FREE LUNCH PRODUCT: Share with others how you’re greening your life to enter to win. One winner every day!

Save 10% off all orders from Green My Lunch Box participating company websites when using the coupon code “Greenit” when checking out.  Click here to learn more and start shopping.

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Happy Birthday to Me (with Mint Chip Ice Cream)

After becoming a parent your own birthdays are not as meaningful or exciting to you, but they are for your kids.  Even if the gifts they see you open aren’t toys like they’d hope for, they still look forward to the cake.  What’s a birthday without cake?  The cake was never as important to me, even as a kid, as the ice cream.  I do appreciate a good layer cake, and I must admit the Ghostly Good Cake was a tasty one.  However we have so many birthdays and desserts the month of July, I’m ready to make something different.  

Of course my husband always brings a cake home.  It’s usually a petit one (so we don’t have left-overs) for the candle and singing ritual from the local bakery or grocer, which is usually fine and tasty.  But I insist on making mint chip ice cream.  The kids protested when I said I was making ice cream and said “It’s your birthday, you can’t make it yourself”.  To which I replied “It’s my birthday and I want MY mint ice cream. Not one you buy in a store.” 

This is my favorite recipe for mint chip ice cream.  Note: it is more mint than chocolate and thus not chocoalte mint.  It’s not a crazy color green and doesn’t have mint extract, but the real mint from the garden.  It makes it like no one else’s.  Even the kids agree, once they’re reminded by the taste.

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Recipe

(from Simply Recipes.com)

Ingredients

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  • 3 cups of fresh mint leaves (not stems), rinsed, drained, packed
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream (divided, 1 cup and 1 cup)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • A pinch of salt
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate or dark chocolate, chopped fine, keep in the freezer until used

Method

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1 Put the mint leaves in a heavy saucepan with the 1 cup of milk and 1 cup of the cream. Heat until just steaming (do not let boil), remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 30 minutes. Reheat the mixture until steaming, remove from heat and let stand for 15 more minutes.

cooling cream in ice bath
2 While the mint is infusing in step 1, prepare the remaining cream over an ice bath. Pour the remaining 1 cup of cream into a medium size metal bowl, set in ice water (with lots of ice) over a larger bowl. Set a mesh strainer on top of the bowls. Set aside.

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3 Strain the milk cream mixture into a separate bowl, pressing against the mint leaves with a rubber spatula in the sieve to get the most liquid out of them. Return the milk cream mixture to the saucepan. Add sugar and salt to the mixture. Heat until just steaming again, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat.

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4 Whisk the egg yolks in a medium sized bowl. Slowly pour the heated milk cream mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly so that the egg yolks are tempered by the warm mixture, but not cooked by it. Scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

5 Return the saucepan to the stove, stirring the mixture constantly over medium heat with a wooden spoon, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spoon so that you can run your finger across the coating and have the coating not run. This can take about 10 minutes.

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The custard base does not coat the back of the spoon, it is not ready.

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The custard base coats the back of the spoon. You can run your finger across the coating and have it not run. It is ready and should be removed from heat immediately, and poured through the sieve over the ice bath to stop the cooking.

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6 Pour the custard through the strainer (from step 2) and stir into the cold cream to stop the cooking.

7 Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator (at least a couple of hours) or stir the mixture in the bowl placed over the ice bath until thoroughly chilled (20 minutes or so). Freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

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8 Once the ice cream has been made in the ice cream maker it should be pretty soft. Gently fold in the finely chopped chocolate. Put in an airtight container and place in the freezer for at least an hour, preferably several hours. If it has been frozen for more than a day, you may need to let it sit at room temperature for a few minutes to soften it before serving.

Makes 1 quart.

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Happy Birthday with Ghostly Good Cake Recipe

My children’s b-days are both in July.  (Actually mine is too, but who’s counting?)  There’s always a lot of gatherings and feasts as the various grandparents each come to celebrate.  Of course this also means birthday cakes.  I’ve talked about my cupcakes and cookies for birthday and my cakes at the half (birthday), but it was time to try someone’s else’s recipe.  Luckily we had been to the library and found a really great children’s book called “The Bake Shop Ghost” by Jacqueline K. Oghurn.

It’s the story of a baker named Cora Lee Merriwheather who ran a wonderful bakery and was relied upon by the town for all it’s cakes, pies and pastries.  Cora Lee dies and she haunts the bakery; scaring away all the new owners and sending them out the door in hysterics.  After the shop sits for years a pastry chef from a cruise ship, Miss. Annie Washington, settles in and has it out with ghost Merriwheather.  Annie asks the ghost what she wants and Cora Lee replies “Bake me a cake to fill me up and bring tears to my eyes, a cake like one that I might have baked but that no one ever made for me”.  Annie is stumped and makes hundreds of recipes from around the world but can’t  please the ghost for over a month.  Finally she figures out the thing that Cora Lee never got… a birthday cake with her name on it.  The ghost and Annie continue to get along and bake together (unbeknownst to the towns people, of course) , now for the Washington and Merriwheather Bake Shop. 

At the end of the book is a recipe for that birthday cake that my kids and I made to celebrate the birthdays.  It really is one of the best (for this world and beyond).

Ghost-Pleasing Chocolate Cake

This rich chocolate layer cake would satisfy the hunmgrioest ghost.  Is is adapted from my friend Luli Gray, a wionderful writer and baker, from a recipe published in Cook’s Illustrated magazine.  Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.  Prepare two 8 or 9 inch round pans or one 13 x 9 inch pan, by lining the bottoms with parchment paper. 

In a Large Bowl Mix Together…

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 1/4 cups ll purpose flour, siften before measuring

3/4 cup cocoa

4 tablespoons buttermilk powder (available in supermarket baking sections)

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

In a Medium Saucepan, melt over low heat (or you can use the microwave)…

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter

8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate

Remove from Heat and Add…

1 cup water

4 beaten eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients just until blended.  Pour evenly into prepared pans and bake on the middle rack of the oven about 30 -40 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out with moist crumbs gathering to it.  Do not overbake.  Cool thoroughly on a rack before icing.

Easy Frosting

This frosting can also be tinted with food coloring for decoration or writing.

3 cups confectioner’s sugar

1/3 cup softened unsalted butter

1/4 cup water 

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

pinch salt

Combine all ingreidnets in a large bowl and beat until smooth.  If using an electric mixer, beat at low speed.  Add more sugar for stiffer frosting.

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A Few Green Items of Late…

Green Item #1

My children have a subscription to National Geographic Kids magazine.  It’s full of stories, facts and games about animals, people and places.  There’s also a recipe in each.  My daughter kept asking about a St. Patrick’s shake in the March issue.  There were many things in the recipe I don’t usually buy or make such as lime yogurt and limeade.  But today I said we were going to make our own green smoothie.  We used some of the ingredients as suggested and added and subtracted a few to make it more healthy and less complex.  When my son saw the spinach leaves going in, he was certainly suspect.  However he was first to drink it up and ask for another glass.  Here’s what I did…

Green Snoothie

1 frozen organic banana, cut into 3 – 4 pieces

2 organic kiwis, peeled and cut into chunks

1/2 cup plain organic yogurt

1 teaspoon maple syrup

1 handful (about 1/2 cup) spinach leaves

1/2 cup organic orange juice

Blend all ingredients together in a blender until smooth.  

(My kids commented on the kiwi seeds.  If you add more juice you’ll be able to strain seeds.)

Green Item #2

The Avocado Pit

I finally got an avocado pit to successfully split and sprout.  I remembered doing it as a kid and saw it recently in my daughter’s preschool class.  However until now, I hadn’t been able to sprout one on my own.  I found out the water needs to be changed and I think that made the difference.  So now, I need to know what to do next.  Replant?  When and in what?  Can someone out there advise please?

Green Item #3

 

Obscene (looking) fava bean

I just had to share this.  There’s actually a more obscene image that I’m too embarassed to post.  Many things in my deck garden have not grown to potential this year, such as our tomatoes.  However we planted a few fava beans and we now have 3 huge stalks, over 5 feet tall.  We’re starting to get beans too.  Now we’re just waiting for Jack to come up or a giant to come down.

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Vegetarian Cookbook Review with Cheese Fondue Recipe

When I was offered a look at the new cookbook, The Vegetarian Slow Cooker: Over 200 Delicious Recipes by Judith Finlayson, I was intrigued.  As you may know I’ve been toying with the idea of purchasing a slow cooker.  Read about my hesitations in my blog.  My family is also doing Meatless Mondays and I am always looking for new vegetarian dishes.  And my sister is vegan and while many of the recipes use dairy, there are some which note how to make them vegan, which I find helpful.  Anyways the cookbook arrived and the recipes looked great.  I wanted of course to make something, but still am not sure I want another appliance (especially to store).  The great thing is, I can and have made some of these recipes without a slow cooker with great results.  Of course some dishes (those with beans) need extra work (soaking) not required of the slow cooker, but it can be done.  Also some of the dishes can be cooked in a braising pot for a few hours (which I already have) – but no I wouldn’t leave the house.  The convenience isn’t there without the slow cooker.   The author does give info about various slow cookers and use, which is helpful if I do buy.

So while I didn’t buy a slow cooker I did buy a retro 70’s fondue pot.  Why?  Because it is lovely and orange.  Seriously my friend put a photo of this fondue pot on her blog and I immediately bought it on Etsy.  Who knew Etsy had kitchenware?  I’m in trouble now.  I’ve had it over a month and it’s only been a display item on the open shelf in the kitchen.  The slow cooker wouldn’t have such a prominent place.  Not sure what I was waiting for to use it.  However the perfect opportunity came with the arrival of the The Vegetarian Slow Cooker.  There are some inspiring dishes that are from all kinds of food flavors and origins and then I saw the section on fondues.  One in particular is a new favorite at my house… Kid’s Fondue.  This is like a bowl full of rich gooey pizza.  I am not kidding.  So while the recipe said to cook in the slow cooker for 1 hour, I simply heated and cooked low on the stove and then poured it into my fondue pot.  Super simple.  My family loved it.  My son was quite skeptical at first.  He likes fondue and is not a huge tomato lover.  When he saw it he said he wasn’t going to eat it.  However after dipping a piece of baguette and red pepper he exclaimed “This is the best fondue I’ve ever had!” 

And really I think the whole book is straight forward and pretty simple.  It may end up putting me over the top to buy a slow cooker…  But for now I’m enjoying the book without it.  I think making a recipe your own is what cooking is all about, and me wanting to use the book not as intended means the book is interesting.  So whether you are vegetarian or not, or have a slow cooker or not you can make this book yours too.  Here’s the recipe…

Kid’s Favorite Fondue

(page 108, The Vegetarian Slow Cooker)

Need: small (max 1/2 quart slow cooker)

fondue forks

1 can 28 ounces tomatoes (I used Pomi)

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. black pepper

3 cups shredded cheddar cheese

sliced baguette, celery sticks andsliced red pepper to serve and dip

Process tomatoes with juice.  Transfer to cooker.  Add spices and cook on high for 1 hour, until hot and bubbly. (I used a pan on the stovepot on low for about 30 minutes)

Add cheese in handfuls, stirring to combine.

Reduce heat to low and serve.  Dip bread and/or veggies into fondue.

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Jamie Oliver – Look Out America

I’ve been a fan since the days of The Naked Chef and Pukka Tukka (way back).  Who doesn’t love Jamie Oliver?  He’s cute, has a funny accent, makes yummy and easy (peasy) looking food and seems like a great dad and friend.  I’ll tell you who…the lunch ladies in the town of Huntington, West Virginia.  If you haven’t seen the show Jamie’s Food Revolution, you should.  It’s a great look at the American school system’s archiac nutritional rules and guidelines, staunch opposition to change and how overall poor eating habits are hurting our kids, families and comunities.

There are certainly some wonderful voices and movements of change in the area of food and food production.  Some that come immediately to mind are Michel Pollan, Alice Waters, Eric SchlosserSlow Food USA, Morgan Spurlock, as well as others.  It’s great that food is getting so much attention – whether you see it as a political issue, safety issue, health issue, economics issue, human rights issue, animal issue…there’s no doubt it is an ISSUE that affects everyone.

I’m excited to help anyone that raises awareness about the lack of fresh, safe, healthy food for everyone, especially children.  Lately I’ve been doing more parent education at local preschools and elementary schools in the Bay Area to assist with healthier food guidelines, tips and ideas for packing a healthy lunch, and how to create waste free lunches.  I’d love to be doing more in the area, and helping the cause.

Read more about Jamie Oliver’s campaign to keep cooking skills alive, and change and improve school lunches in America,  then sign the petition to join the revolution.

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The Mystery of the Dissappearing Kale…

Someone’s been eating our kale…and it’s just about gone.  We have a container garden on our deck.  I’ve been amazed by how much we’ve been able to eat and enjoy from this experiment – lettuce, strawberries, tomatoes, peas, beans, herbs, etc…  Once the peas were done, we planted some kale and chard starts.  It was all growing well, about 6 – 8 weeks in, until we noticed the leaves of the kale dissappearing.  Take a look…

eaten kale

The reason we have the plants on our deck is because of our deer friends and other critters that live around the house.  My daughter found a colorful caterpiller on the radishes one day and said “He (the caterpiller) can have the tops and we can have the bottoms.  We need to share”.  This was a very nice sentiment and acceptable because there was only critter.  Of course the garden is organic (no spraying or funny stuff) so I suppose anyone is welcome.

the investigator

But the kale was different.  And why is this creature just have a taste for kale?  What’s wrong with the beans and chard?  My son went out and examined more closely and found the culprits.  Many of them.  Over 40!  They are cute little looping caterpillars that blend right in to the kale leaves.  My son was so proud and just kept pulling more and more off the plant.  We decided on a relocation program to the park below our house.  My son assured me it would take them a year to get back up to our house.  We’ll see… 

the culprits

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Eat Your Flowers – With Organic Blooming Salad Recipe

From Lisa Barnes

My son has always been an adventurous eater (think mussels, clams, shitake mushrooms), and luckily (in the eating arena) my daughter does everything her big brother does.  Although sometimes I worry they will eat something they shouldn’t while exploring outside, such as a poison mushroom or wild cherry that is not edible.  I’ve explained many times about eating things not purchased from a store, or farmer’s market.  However from as young as I can remember my son would eat rosemary and fennel from the neighbors’ yard or pick wild blackberries from vines on the road.

Last month the Sunset Magazine arrived with a beautiful salad on the cover.  Like most photos of foods, my son sees it and asks “can we make that?”  But then asks “are those flowers?”  I explain they are edible flowers.  This however really peaks his interest and I realize I may be in for some trouble.  I read the recipe and the article about growing edible flowers and promise to make the salad for Easter.  I thought it was perfect since it was so beautiful, plus I’d been assigned salad for my family’s gathering.

Unfortunately I had to disappoint my son (and myself).  I couldn’t find the edible flowers anywhere.  No stores in the Bay Area were able to get their supply in time for Easter.  For reasons I don’t know.  I explained to my son we would find them for another time.

We were at the farmer’s market a few weeks later and there they were – Calendulas.  My son was longingly looking at them with a “can we, can we?”  The grower said to go ahead and try it (but cautioned just to eat the petals).  My son of course liked them (his sister seemed to as well) and we were off to make the salad.

Surprisingly my daughter was more excited about actually making the salad (she loved pulling off the petals).  But I must say it was beautiful and tasty (although I credit mostly the dressing and fresh spring peas) and worth the wait.  I’m dreaming of planting them myself to be able to find them when I need them next year.  (However like the house was a fixer, so is the yard – so stay tuned)  In the meantime I’m researching and reading (especially Rosalind and Gene) and have started our gardening foray with some small lettuces, tomatoes and herbs…

Here’s a variation of Sunset’s “Blooming Salad”

Dressing:
2  ½ tbsp. organic Safflower or canola oil
½ tsp. unseasoned rice vinegar
¼ tsp. kosher salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. minced tarragon
Whisk all ingredients in a small bowl.

Salad:
Rinse and dry handfuls of mache, mesclun and chervil sprigs and out in a large glass bowl.

Add slices of Persian cucumber, sugar snap peas and radish slices

Drizzle vinaigrette over salad and toss.

Pull petals from organic edible flowers* such as calendulas, nasturtiums, bachelor’s buttons, borage and violas and sprinkle over salad.
~

See also Lisa’s two new books out now at local bookstores:

Cooking for Baby: Wholesome, Homemade, Delicious Foods for 6 to 18 Months

Eat, Drink and Be Merry: Easy, Organic Snacks, Beverages, and Party Foods For Kids of all Ages.

… and Bay Area’s New Crop of Gardeners Digging In
~~
*Edible Flower Disclaimer
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler, and lives in Sausalito, California.

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