Hippity Hoppity Organic Easter Eggs with Natural Dyes (plus Egg and Olive Spread Recipe)


From Lisa Barnes

I just finished my St. Pat’s left-overs and now it’s time for dying Easter Eggs. Of course there are a zillion egg dyes at the supermaket and high end cooking stores to make the most picture perfect eggs. But how about some simple do-it-yourself natural colors?

Here are some suggestions for cooking hard boiled eggs and decorating them with your children — with or without dyes. Be sure to store dyed hard cooked eggs in the refrigerator if you want to eat them. Also, here’s a favorite yummy stuffing/spread to use all the eggs.

A Good Egg – Organic Hardboiled Eggs

Eggs have been served since ancient times because they symbolize spring and rebirth. During March and April they are served at a Seder meal as well as dyed and decorated for Easter traditions. This is also the only accurate way to separate an egg for a baby that cannot have whites (recommended for those under 1 year old). Here’s a way to insure the perfect hard boiled egg.

6 large cage free, organic eggs

Place eggs in a pot with lid. Add enough water to cover eggs. Put pot on stove over medium-high heat. When water starts a rolling boil, cover pan and turn off heat. Leave pot on burner, covered for 15 minutes.

Drain water and rinse eggs under cold running water. Tap the egg all over to break shell. Egg shells peel easiest from the rounder end (where there is air space). Eggs should have bright yellow centers. If gray or green color appears, then the eggs have been overcooked.

Unpeeled eggs keep in the refrigerator for up to one week. If you’re dying eggs and then plan to eat them later, they must be stored in the refrigerator, not at room temperature in a basket.

Egg Decorating Tips: Dying

Here are some fun tips for decorating eggs with children…

1. Start by layering a table with newspapers to mop up any spills or drips.

2. Use empty egg cartons as drying racks for the eggs once dyed.

3. Keep paper towels handy to blot any dye that collects under eggs.

4. Use individual containers for each color. I find ramekins to work well. Container should be sturdy enough to hold liquid and egg, and allow for fingers or spoons to lift eggs in and out. Nothing too tall or plastic that can tip. Be sure to rinse containers of dyes so there are no stains.

5. Use plastic utensils or wooden sticks to stir each color. This makes clean-up a breeze, and there’s no risk of stained utensils.

6. Let children create their own masterpieces, even if all the eggs come out blue. Be patient. If you do not want to use the prepackaged dyes and colors you can make your own natural dyes by boiling common ingredients in water with a tablespoon of vinegar until desired shade is reached. Be sure to strain to remove solids.

Here are the color options and what to add to the water:

Yellow – tumeric or yellow onion skins
Orange – make yellow and add beet juice
Pink – cranberry juice concentrate
Blue – grape juice concentrate, red cabbage
Red – beets, paprika
Green – spinach or kale

Egg Decorating Tips: Other Options

Some children are too small or you may not be up to the challenge or mess of working with dyes. Other ideas include:

Stickers – your child’s favorite stickers can transform an ordinary egg without mess or stained fingers

Collage – using a glue stick or craft glue, how about adding sequins, beads, ribbons, feathers or anything else your child can dream up

Drawing/Coloring – bring out the crayons, markers and pens for children to draw and color on eggs (warn them not to push too hard)

Happy Days Organic Egg and Olive Spread
(from The Petit Appetit Cookbook)

Run out of ideas for all those hard boiled eggs after Easter? Many adults think of egg salad and olive spread as comforting foods from their childhood. This recipe combines the best of both. The lemon and yogurt give this spread a new fresh taste and healthy alternative to the standard mayonnaise flavor, which many children do not like. As an alternative to the usual sandwich bread, try wrapping up in lettuce or stuff in pita bread with spinach leaves.

2 hard cooked, cage-free organic eggs

1/3 cup pitted black olives (about 10 whole), chopped

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon plain organic whole milk yogurt

Salt and black pepper, to taste

Chop eggs finely using an egg slicer or knife. Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl until combined.

Makes 15 (2 Tablespoon servings)
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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Organic Cupcake Chronicles – Part 3


From Lisa Barnes

This is becoming the summer sequel that wouldn’t die. I am happy to announce the cupcakes for my son’s school were a hit. No they weren’t enjoyed by the students (I bought those at a bakery on the way to school).But after school my son and I decorated the homemade batch to enjoy after dinner. It meant he would overdo on cupcakes for the day, but decorating them together made me feel much better about the whole debacle.

It was always a tradition to choose your birthday meal growing up, so my son chose steaks and corn (barbecued by dad) and carrots (raw). O.K. by me. That meant I kind of had the night off (after all my baking the night before).While we were enjoying our flat, gooey but yummy little cakes that night, I asked my son about the cupcakes. “Which ones did you like better, the one’s we brought to school or the ones tonight?” I cringed as I waited for the answer…He said “These (meaning the homemade) are better. We should’ve brought these to share”. (Gee hadn’t thought of that) Happily I replied, “But they didn’t look as good and were pretty messy”. My son disagreed and said “No they’re not. You’re being silly Mom”. Just goes to show you, as a mom you can’t win. And MY expectations are not what’s important. I should’ve just asked my son from the beginning. He didn’t see the cupcakes as flat or messy. He just thought they tasted good and liked that we did them together.
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook and lives in Sausalito, California.
Photo Credit: Chicago Cup Cakes
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Nigella Bites – More about Organic Cupcakes – Part 2


From Lisa Barnes

It’s 10:32 on a Monday night and I am seething about Nigella Lawson’s chocolate cupcake recipe. I am making cupcakes for my son’s birthday to share at his preschool tomorrow. When I realized the first batch did not look quite right (10 p.m.) I called a few specialty markets and bakeries to see what time they open in the morning. Even if the next pan turns out, it won’t be enough. But for some reason I still pursue the original goal, – even making the frosting. I am even contemplating making a new recipe.

The idea of buying them on the way to school, saddens me. Not just because I want to make my own son’s cupcakes, (and rarely do I do store bought) but because if I was simply going to buy them, I could’ve saved my time, energy and ingredients and planned to choose something great (not whatever happens to be in the case).

First of all cake is big for my son. If asked what he wants for his birthday he says “cake”. He never mentions a toy or an article of clothing, just “cake”. So how can I let him down? He’s sleeping right now and thinking I’m making his cupcakes. He’s even expecting to help decorate them in the morning. Plus my daughter’s cakes were so cute. I feel bad.

So about the cupcakes…maybe in England you’re not expecting fluffy cake for cupcakes. These are delicious but not even to the top of the paper liners (thus sad looking). Most cupcake recipes have you fill them halfway or two thirds full – so they have room to rise. Well these didn’t. In fact she doesn’t specify how high – just “pour batter into liners”. After the first flat batch, I tried to correct the error and salvage something. They are lovely and normal looking, because I filled the papers to the rim. Now I know, but I don’t have enough good looking ones for the whole class.

Which brings me to recipes and recipe writing. It is not fail proof. I know my recipes work, because I wrote them and tested them. However they are my instructions, I understand myself (most of the time). This is why cooking doesn’t always work for everyone. My instructions may not make sense to you and vice versa. Thus people can make the same recipe and have it come out different. There are so many variables with texture, flavor, and appearance. Unfortunately I didn’t have my own chocolate cupcake recipe and so I went to the “domestic goddess” – Nigella. So tonight she’s let me down, or I let myself down. Either way I’m bummed.

By the way my buttercream frosting is great (same recipe I’ve used for 10 plus years). I sample too much and need sleep. I’ll re-group tomorrow. I secretly hope the cupcake fairies will come and magically “puff up” my cupcakes. Maybe that’s what happens in all the lovely cupcake bakeries that have become so trendy in cities across the globe.
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook and lives in Sausalito, California.
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Let Them Eat (Cup) Cakes! – Part 1 (with Organic Cupcake Recipe for Kids)


From Lisa Barnes

There’re lots of cakes around my house in July. My son, my daughter and I were all born in July. This year cake number one was for my daughter’s first birthday. They were lovely little mini bundt carrot cakes with cream cheese frosting. I love my mini bundt pan. You can’t go wrong. My audience is easy to please too. My daughter has never had cake. Actually she still hasn’t, since all she did like to eat was the cream cheese frosting off the top. My son was happy as he said “I get a whole cake”? The parents and grandparents enjoyed these as well. A success!

Here’s the recipe…

Carrot Cupcakes
Perfect for celebrating baby’s first year. These cupcakes have no nuts or raisins for potentially allergic little revelers. This versatile batter can be baked in mini cupcake/muffin tins, regular tins or mini bundt pans. Just remember to adjust cooking times – 10 – 12 minutes for mini, 15 – 20 minutes for regular, and 20 – 25 minutes for bundt.

Expeller pressed canola or sunflower oil, 1 1/4 cups

Brown sugar, 1 cup firmly packed

Large organic eggs, 4

Unbleached all-purpose flour, 2 cups

Whole-wheat pastry flour, 1 cup

Baking soda, 1 1/2 tsp

Ground cinnamon, 2 tsp

Nutmeg, 1/2 tsp freshly grated

Salt, 1/2 tsp

Orange zest, 2 tsp minced

Organic carrots, 12 ounces, grated (about 3 cups)

Frosting and Garnish

Organic Light cream cheese, 8 oz

Confectioners’ sugar, 2 cups

Fresh organic lime juice, 1 Tbsp

Orange zest, 2 tsp minced (optional)

Preheat oven to 400°F. In a large bowl, beat oil and sugar together, then add eggs one at a time. Add flours, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and zest and beat until combined. Fold in grated carrots. Line two, 12-cup cupcake pan with paper cups. Spoon batter into cups, filling half full, and bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a cupcake comes out clean, 15–20 minutes. If using mini cupcake cups, bake for 10–12 minutes; for mini Bundt pans, 20–25 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan and cool on rack while making frosting. The next cake was not so easy… (stay tuned for cake chronicles part 2).
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook and lives in Sausalito, California.
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Apple vs. Apple


From Lisa Barnes

When did one of the most popular and perfect foods in the world become overshadowed by a computer company?

In searching for an image to go with my post about apple puree, I came up with 4 pages (over 120 website entries) that were for Apple Computers before finding any reference to apple the food. Since the beginning of time the apple has been a significant part of history, stories and folklore – Adam and Eve, Snow White and the poison apple, Johhny Appleseed, etc. Not to mention all the phrases concerning “apple” – “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”, “american as apple pie”, the “apple of my eye”, etc.

In 2004, per US Department of Agriculture’s Economic Reasearch Service, apple consumption reached an all time high of 50.4 pounds per person. That’s a lot of apples!

Yes, I know Apple computers sells many computers and is a huge corporation, but more important, relevant, mainstream, or popular than apple, the fruit? I prefer to indulge in a warm slice of apple pie on an autumn evening or bite into a just picked juicy apple on a sunny day, over typing away on a computer any day.
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook and lives in Sausalito, California.
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Want S’More? (with Graham Cracker Recipe for Kids)


From Lisa Barnes

In an effort to overcome being considered the “healthy” mom (and not stigmatize my son), I made s’mores for my son’s preschool class. Kind of a large departure from my usual healthy treats, but let me explain. It wasn’t the Hershey milk chocolate, trans fat laden graham cracker, kind of s’mores. It was a semi sweet fair trade chocolate, homemade (heart shaped) graham cracker cookie treat. The childhood favorite with a gourmet, healthier twist. One of the teachers was surprised about not bringing milk chocolate, but I explained about the antioxidant benefits of dark chocolate. I didn’t go all out with homemade marshmallows (just ran out of time), but I did find a trans fat free version and bought mini ones. Mini because kids like getting more of something (4 minis seem like more than 1 large).

I was a bit intimidated coming in to the classroom. I feel like this is the teacher’s turf, and I too have lots of learning to do. I’m used to teaching parents and they are not as honest with their thoughts or critiques (at least not to my face). Of course I teach my own children and sometimes their friends in the kitchen, but this was a group of 16 children.

They put together a great campfire (made of construction and tissue paper) and the children sat around putting marshmallows on sticks (recycled from a tree that went down in the neighborhood) and “roasting” them. Very cute. Then I helped them assemble the s’mores on cooking sheets for me to bake in the teacher’s oven. I worried some kids wouldn’t like them as some said “I don’t like the chocolate melted”, “I don’t like marshmallows” and “I eat the chocolate separately” (my own purist son). The teacher told me “it’s not about the end product, but the activity and the journey with children”. I did learn something. I know how much fun my own son has cooking with me, so being part of a group would be no different – whether they’re playing in a home kitchen or around a make believe campfire. I appreciated the reminder and look forward to going back.

Maybe I’ll try something healthier next time – hummus anyone?

Here’s a recipe for homemade graham crackers minus the trans fats of many of the processed, store bought varieties. Roll them thinner for crisp grahams or thicker for a cookie version.

Greatest Graham Crackers from The Petit Appetit Cookbook

1 cup organic graham or whole wheat flour

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

¼ cup unsalted butter

½ cup honey

¼ cup organic milk, plus 1 tablespoon extra for brushing

Preheat oven to 400 F. Combine flours and baking powder in a medium bowl. Cut in butter until consistency of cornmeal. Mix in honey; dough will still be lumpy. Mix in milk until a stiff dough comes together.

Roll out dough on a liberally floured surface to ¼ inch thickness. Cut into squares or use cookie cutters to make desired shapes. Prick each cracker with a fork and brush with milk.

Bake crackers on ungreased baking sheets for 12 – 15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove pan from oven and let crackers cool about 2 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Makes about 48 crackers.

Cut it out. Of course these can be cut to look like traditional store-bought graham crackers. However if you want something more fun (toddlers can help) use your cookie cutters to create desired shapes. Little hands love hearts, flowers and stars.
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook and lives in Sausalito, California.
Photo Credit: Lisa Barnes
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Dads and the Barbeque


From Lisa Barnes

How is it that every father loves to barbeque? Is there a special BBQ gene that men are born with? Or is it some right of passage given from father to son, generation after generation?

The first time I met my father-in-law it was 10 p.m. and he was outside grilling steaks in a parka in 35 degree cold. (There may have even been a skiff of snow on the ground). My husband was apparently given the BBQ password and doesn’t mind grilling when it’s raining (not a downpour, but a sprinkle). I’m not complaining (the food is yummy). I’m simply curious.

I didn’t see a ceremony, but now my almost 4 year old son loves to eat anything that comes off the barbeque. Most nights when I’m starting to prep dinner, my son asks “Is Daddy going to barbeque tonight?” My son’s favorite is steak and corn on the BBQ, but he also enjoys the act of barbequing. When they light the grill there’s a bonding while my husband scrapes and cleans. Then my husband pitches balls to my son while they’re waiting (they didn’t get the patience gene). Then they bring in the food and discuss how it went. They talk about flare-ups, smoke, the standing time and of course the grill marks. They’re very proud of themselves. I’m happy for less clean-up, tasty food and hungry boys.

It’s not just my family. I recently went to a gourmet tailgating cooking class at TWO Restaurant in San Francisco. The topic of gas vs. charcoal vs. briquette was very heated among the men and I heard about the “Green Egg” (apparently a BBQ, smoker and grill all in one), as well as many other grilling gadgets and accessories. Then the men’s eyes lit up once the beef and prawns were revealed.

So here’s to Dads! Whether they’re grilling grass fed beef, tofu or vegetables – thank you for cooking.

Surprise Burgers

1 pound lean grass fed ground beef or lamb
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
4 ounces goat cheese
1 teaspoon fresh chopped basil
1 teaspoon chopped chives

Optional Toppings:

4 whole wheat buns
4 organic spinach leaves
organic ketchup

Heat outdoor or indoor grill. Combine beef, salt, pepper and balsamic. Form beef mixture into 4 patties. Combine goat cheese, basil and chives in a small bowl, and mix until combined and creamy. Cut patties in half lengthwise, remove top half and stuff cheese mixture onto center of burger half. Place top of burger over stuffed half and pinch together so stuffing is encased.

Grill burgers over hot indoor or outdoor grill for about 5 minutes on each side, or until cooked through. Eat patties on own or in buns, with suggested (above) or favorite toppings.
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook and lives in Sausalito, California.
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Why Organic for Kids?


From Lisa Barnes

According to the US EPA Department of Health and Human Services, the greatest exposure to pesticides and chemicals is in a child’s first 4 years. This is why many advocate for providing organic foods for children whenever possible. Sometimes organic is more costly than conventional foods, due to the higher cost of growing methods, land conversion and raising practices. Consider the cost of health and well being, as well as a decision to support the environment – preserving water resources and preventing agriculture-related problems. The extra cost most likely outweighs the worry and concern you have of the possibility of harming your child’s health and development.

However if you can’t always buy organic you can lower your family’s exposure to pesticides by up to 90% if you avoid the 12 most contaminated conventionally grown fruit and vegetables. What The Environmental Working Group calls the dirty dozen:

• apples
• bell peppers
• celery
• cherries
• grapes (imported)
• nectarines
• peaches
• pears
• potatoes
• red raspberries
• spinach
• strawberries

Reducing Health Risks
Buying organic reduces health risks that can be attributed to commercial pesticides and herbicides. No matter how well you wash certain fruits and vegetables there are still remaining traces of potentially harmful chemicals. Babies’ bodies are much more vulnerable to pesticides because their brains and immune systems are still in a state of development. Also pound for pound, babies eat two to four times more fruits and vegetables than adults, and thus are exposed to a higher percentage of possible contaminants.

Increasing Health Benefits
A study at the University of California at Davis (my Alma matter) shows that organically grown strawberries, corn and blackberries are richer in cancer fighting antioxidants, sometimes 60% more, than the same conventionally grown crops. Other studies have proven the same for organically grown peaches and pears too. Researchers theorize that organically grown plants may produce more antioxidants because they have to work harder to fight off pests and disease, otherwise killed by pesticides and chemicals.

Reducing Nitrites
Some fruits and vegetables you’ll want to introduce to your child have high levels of nitrites, due to the fertilized soils in which they grow. The nitrite levels also increase when these food items are stored in your refrigerator.

High nitrite produce includes: beets, turnips, spinach, mustard, carrots, green beans, butternut squash, strawberries and cantaloupe.

Nitrites are difficult on a baby’s system, because their stomach acidity is too low to properly break them down. Over exposure can cause anemia, or encourage oxygen to be displaced into bloodstreams, resulting in rapid breathing and lethargy. Buying these items (see below) grown organically, will lessen exposure. If you buy high nitrite foods grown conventionally and make your own baby food, wait to introduce these foods until your baby is over 8 months old or buy these food items in jarred options (manufacturers are able to test nitrite levels).
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook
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