Monthly Archives: March 2016

Spice Dyed Easter Eggs

Natural Dyed Eggs
The Easter weekend was a grand success. The weather was pleasant and Lavender Lemon Chocolate Chip Pancakes were enjoyed (with a spontaneous batch of lavender infused chocolate sauce that I whipped up to accompany them). We went to pick out plants at The House By The Side Of the Road.

We also had lots of fun dying eggs the “old fashioned way”. Old fashioned as in “before there were concentrated food coloring dyes in convenient little teardrop shaped bottles with rather predictable results” sense of the word. One great thing about natural dyes is that you can most likely find a pretty decent palette by rummaging through your pantry. I took the opportunity to use up some VERY old annatto and turmeric, some very freezer burned blueberries and the scraps of beetroot skin sitting in my compost bin. I got to do a little spring cleaning along side our Easter fun!

Natural dye
This is less of a recipe and more of an idea for a process. The general idea is to take your found natural dye elements and essentially make “tea” with them. Some things require longer “steeping” or even boiling to get the richness of color out. The more of something you use and the longer it sits the more vibrant the color. A little splash of vinegar helps the egg shell to absorb more of the dye. It’s as simple as that.Natural Egg Dye

We decided to avoid any system of measurement and simply add what we had on hand and see where it took us. I really enjoyed the element of surprise in this project. I did grind the turmeric and annatto seeds before adding them to the water. I would have used more blueberries if I had had them but they still turned out a beautiful pale cornflower color. I would also have boiled the annatto and the paprika for longer as the colors could have been much more vibrant as I did add a good amount. We also chose to let them sit overnight in the dye baths. All in all I think the results were quite beautiful!

Natural Dyed Eggs Carton
Everly enjoyed watching the process but the part where he got to EAT the egg was his favorite, of course!
The color from the beetroot was the most surprising. It’s such a rich shade and there are little blooms of rust color on it. SO beautiful! Some other great ideas for things to use as natural dyes include: Purple Cabbage, Chili Powder, Spinach, Raspberry, Red Onion Skins, Chamomile Tea, Grape Juice. Think to yourself “would I be worried about this staining my white shirt?” if the answer is “yes” then chances are good it would make a nice dye!

Lavender Lemon Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Rich lavender field in Provence with a lone tree

Ah Spring! The fresh, clean, newness of it all. This year my partner’s birthday falls on Easter Sunday. I was trying to think of something special to do for breakfast that morning so it seemed pretty appropriate to come across this gem of a recipe in the archives this morning. Flowers, Chocolate and Pancakes in one fell swoop.

When most us think Lavender we think SPA. It is, after all, well known for its aroma-therapeutic ability to help us relax. The French don’t shy away from the use of lavender in culinary applications and for good reason. Lavender can be intimidating to use in cooking but if done right it can be absolutely divine. Adding too much can definitely spell disaster and make your food taste like a bar of soap, so when in doubt add less. It doesn’t take much!

This recipe really hits the nail on the head with that delicate floral balance.

Lavender Lemon Chocolate Chip Pancakes
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/4 cup Milk
1 tbs baking powder
3 tbs vegetable oil or melted butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbs sugar
pinch of salt
1 egg
1/2 tsp granulated lemon
1 tsp freshly ground lavender flower (grinding releases the volatile oils that make it smell so lovely)
1 tsp whole lavender flower ( this is mostly for visual appeal)
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (or more! this is Easter after all)
Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl. Whisk together wet ingredients in a separate bowl and stir into dry ingredients. Fold in Chocolate chips.
Cook on a lightly oiled or buttered skillet on medium-high heat.

Did you know lavender is also one of the essential oils that can effectively deter insects including ticks? How perfect for an Easter stroll through the field!

The Spice of Life

Well, there’s good news and bad news. Myles came home from college last week for a quick visit. It was the usual: quick load of laundry, get a haircut and eat some food. It was only for one night but it doesn’t even matter. I’ll take quality over quantity everyday. Oh, so for the good news and bad. I’ll start with the bad. The food at school is horrible. That’s disappointing because the boy eats all his meals there and the boy eats a lot of food! The good news,however, is that he has gained a very real appreciation for home cooked food. Not that he didn’t have it before, but there’s nothing like absence to make the heart grow fonder and a little distance to provide some perspective.

Since his visit was unplanned and brief I hadn’t prepared anything special for dinner. As it turns out he had already eaten but was happy to sit with us and enjoy second dinner. While the five of us were sitting there talking, laughing and sharing I realized it really didn’t matter at that moment what we were eating. The act of gathering around the table together for nourishment is not one dimensional. Yes, our food is important. Healthy food is extremely important. But as we come together the community aspect of the dinner ritual is equally as important as what we are putting in our mouths. With our busy days and everyone going in different directions I have come to really appreciate how the family dinner creates a necessary pause and regrouping within our family. Its an exhale at the end of the day. A reminder to say thank you. We have food. We have each other. Some days the food is great and some days it’s not. It’s in the sharing with each other where we are deeply nourished.

As a food column and in particular one that focuses on spices….sometimes the most important spice is the Spice of Life. Wishing you many gatherings around the table with family and friends this spring season.

Written by Melissa Spencer for the Monadnock Ledger Transcript