Monday, April 25, 2011

A Yellow and Orange-ish Easter

This weekend it hit me, Easter baskets = lots of candy/junk. Sounds ridiculous that it took this long for me to realize it. Don't get me wrong, I remember Easter baskets filled with candy as a kid but it wasn't until this year, when I was shopping for stuff to fill baskets for the boys that I noticed the Easter aisles were about 80% candy.

I know there is no rule that says the basket has to be filled with candy (or is there?) but again, 80% of the merchandise was candy of some sort. I felt a little like a square because I only bought a chocolate bunny, Dove Chocolate Eggs and Hershey's Kisses and stayed away from the gummy and other multi-colored stuff. As I mentioned previously, I'm not a fan of all the food coloring and whatever else makes up those kind of candies. And speaking of food coloring, we successfully dyed eggs without it!

First, I know it's obvious from my photos, I don't have a nice camera. The images I post are from my iPhone. Our point and shoot camera crapped out a while back so I don't even have that anymore to help with better images. So bear with me and the poor image quality, the hubby and I are saving for a decent camera. Okay, not being certain of how the colors look from screen to screen, we ended up with two colors, yellow and orange. I planned to make more colors but for one reason or another, it didn't work out. I had to improvise with curry instead of tumeric for yellow because the store was out of it. Then, although I remembered the cranberry juice, I forgot the beets so no red or pink. And I just completely forgot the blueberries and spinach. Not one of my best days!

I followed the formula of three tablespoons of spice to one quart of water. I boiled the ingredients for about 10 minutes then let them cool. I chose to use the cold method of adding cooked eggs to the cooled liquid. The boys had fun playing with the eggs while they were in the bowls of "dye" and seeing them slowly get darker. The curry made a beautiful yellow and the chili powder made a mild orange as well as a brownish orange. Even though we only made two colors, the boys, which included my four year old's best friend, loved the eggs. And that is all that matters!

Yes, the process of making natural coloring is involved and takes much more prep time than a kit does but not giving into convenience for convenience sake is rewarding in so many ways. It also provides another teaching opportunity. Although, the kids can't get too close to a hot pot, they can help prepare the mixtures prior to boiling and learn about the foods and spices going in to them. We'll be doing the same method next year. The only difference, hopefully, is that I'll be better prepared and have all the ingredients needed to create a wider range of colors. :)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Easter Eggs

This year will be our first time dyeing eggs with our boys for Easter. I remember how much I loved coloring eggs. My mom would pick up a kit at the grocery store, set us up and let us have at it. Those little cups of dye and the smell of vinegar - unforgettable. What will be different from my experience as a kid is there won't be any Easter Egg Color Kits but still as much fun and still the smell of vinegar.

I've touched on artificial coloring in regards to other products but haven't really discussed the subject in depth. I don't like artificial coloring. And nor should you. From oatmeal and M&M's to yogurt and beverages, food coloring is everywhere. Upon researching how to color Easter eggs naturally, I found a great post at Crunchy Domestic Goddess and obtained not only how to make natural dye but great info on food coloring such as this:

According to, “Many food colorings contain color additives such as Red No. 3 and Yellow No. 5, which, according to a 1983 study by the FDA, were found to cause tumors (Red No. 3) and hives (Yellow No. 5).”

And this:

Blue No. 1 uses coal tar as one of its components. Because of the use of coal tar, many organizations and circles are speaking out and boycotting products using colors with coal tar because it is a carcinogenic in large quantities, known to cause tumors in lab rats.

Red No. 40 can be found in sweets, drinks and condiments, medications, and cosmetics. It has caused allergic reactions in people as well as hyperactivity in children. 

Yellow No. 5 or Tartazine can be found in soft drinks, instant puddings, flavored chips (Doritos, etc), cake mixes, custard powder, soups, sauces, kool-aid, ice cream, ice lollies, candy, chewing gum, marzipan, jam, jelly, marmalade, mustard, horseradish, yogurt, noodles, pickles and other pickled products, certain brands of fruit squash, fruit cordial, chips, tim tams, and many convenience foods together with glycerin, lemon and honey products. Tartrazine, however, does produce the most common allergic react, especially among those with an aspirin intolerance and ashtma. Some research has linked Yellow No. 5 to early childhood Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and hyperactivity. It is banned in Austria and Norway. 

Yellow No. 6, also known as Sunset Yellow FCF, is an orange coal tar-based food dye found in orange squash, orange jelly, marzipan, Swiss roll, apricot jam, citrus marmalade, lemon curd, fortune cookies, sweets, hot chocolate mix and packet soups, trifle mix, breadcrumbs and cheese sauce mix and soft drinks. It is the color most prominently seen in DayQuil. It is capable of causing allergic reactions such as abdominal pain, hyperactivity, hives, nasal congestion, and bronchoconstriction, as well as kidney tumours, chromosomal damage, and distaste for food.

Does this sound okay? It shouldn't. The less of this crap my family ingests the better. It's tough to get away from it 100% but I'm certainly going to try. As Crunchy Domestic Goddess mentions, it's in M&M's, the very thing I used to bribe assist my son with potty training. And M&M's is an obvious one with all the bright colors but there are lots of less obvious places where this stuff resides.

The above detailed information on food coloring has reaffirmed my natural instinct to avoid it and other like additives as well as artificial sweeteners. We mistakenly trust the companies that produce the food on the grocery store shelves. We assume if they can sell it, it has to be fit for consumption. So not true. Bottom line is we have to do our own research and make informed decisions. They will not stop making crap until everyone stops buying it and even then I'm not sure they'll stop. They'll likely just repackage it with new branding that will mislead the consumer again. Don't be a sucker and don't eat a sucker either, it likely has artificial coloring in it!

Image credit: Wikipedia

Friday, April 1, 2011

Recipe: Sweet Potato, Oat and Banana Muffins

I love the Weelicioush site and have had success with every recipe I've tried. This is no exception. The original recipe is for Mini Sweet Potato Muffins. I made only four changes and created full size sweet potato, oat and banana muffins. Both my boys loved them and so did the hubby and I. These are perfect as an on-the-go breakfast or an afternoon snack. The muffins are moist even without the 1/4 cup of oil the original recipe calls for. I think a swap for applesauce would work too if you prefer that over a banana. And it's not that I'm opposed to a little oil, I just like to take the opportunity to replace it when it makes sense.

Sweet Potato, Oat and Banana Muffins
Makes 12 muffins

1 Cup White Whole Wheat Flour
1 Cup Old Fashioned Oats
1/3 Cup Brown Sugar
1 Tsp Baking Powder
1/2 Tsp Baking Soda
1/2 Tsp Salt
2 Tsp Cinnamon
2 Large Eggs, whisked
1 Cup Sweet Potato Puree, cooked*
1/2 Cup Milk
1 Banana, Mashed
1 Tsp Vanilla Extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Put first 7 ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk to combine.
3. In a separate larger bowl, whisk the remaining ingredients.
4. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix just until they are combined (be careful not to over mix the batter).
5. Fill standard muffin tin sprayed with cooking or baking spray and bake for 18-20 minutes.
6. Enjoy.

* To make sweet potato puree, bake sweet potatoes (or yams) in a 400 degree oven for one hour, allow to cool, slice in half lengthwise and mash flesh with a fork until smooth.

Nutritional stats at-a-glance per muffin: 111 calories, 1.5g fat, 192mg sodium, 21.5g carbs, 2.2g fiber, 3.7g protein