Moms

Playing shell games with kids, Easter eggs

Today in our kitchen, my kids and their friends squished up raspberries, squeezed blueberries over pots of boiling water and sprinkled yellow clouds of turmeric all over the countertop.

We raided the refrigerator and rummaged through cabinets in search of natural, food-based dyes and spent an afternoon experimenting with Easter eggs.

The eggstra-ordinary results? A wonderfully messy afternoon that yielded dozens of charming and colorful eggs without a drop of artificial food coloring. We think the Easter Bunny would approve.

You don't need to rely on prepackaged dyeing kits to make vibrant, brightly colored eggs for your kids. Natural substances and foods such as turmeric, berries and cabbage can make dyes that also teach children a few things about the natural wonders of the world around them.

Here's some step-by-step guidance on how to dye eggs the natural way.

What you'll need for each batch of dye:

Food "dye" (blueberries, turmeric, onion skins, grape juice, cabbage, etc. See suggestions, below.)

Quart of water

About 2 tablespoons white vinegar

Pots for boiling dye and eggs

Plenty of eggs (save the carton for drying the eggs after they are dyed)

Strainer

Small bowls

Slotted spoon

Towels for drying

Instructions:

Step 1: Make the dye

Select your dyeing agent of choice -- blueberries and turmeric work especially well, but part of the fun is being creative and seeing unexpected results. This is not an exact science. There are no hard-and-fast rules on amounts or ratios -- if you add more blueberries, the dye will be more intense. If you add fewer of them, you can expect a more subtle hue. Kids will enjoy experimenting to see how much more or less of something yields different shades.

Place your dyeing agent, 1 quart of water and 2 tablespoons of white vinegar into a pot. (The vinegar helps the dye adhere to the egg.) Bring to a boil and let simmer for about 30 minutes. Strain dye into a bowl. In the case of turmeric or other spices, you may use a coffee filter to remove excess spice from the dye. This will help create a uniform color. If you choose to skip this step, the eggs will simply appear more marbled, which also can be attractive.

Suggestions for colors:

Yellow: turmeric

Blue: red cabbage for bright blue, blueberries for a more violet-blue

Green: frozen blueberries mixed with turmeric

Purple: grape juice

Dark orange/red: yellow onion skins

Light pink: beets, raspberries and cranberry juice

Brown: tea or coffee

Suggestions for amounts of dyeing agents:

Blueberries: 2 cups

Red cabbage: 3-4 cups chopped

Turmeric: 2 tablespoons

Yellow onion skins: 3 cups

Beets: 4 cups chopped

Grape juice: 1 large bottle

Tea: 3 bags

Step 2: Dye the eggs

Option 1: Cold-dipping

After the dye has cooled, place hard-boiled eggs into a bowl full of dye. Allow eggs to soak until the desired color is reached. The longer the eggs soak, the deeper the result will be. Eggs may be soaked for a few seconds or even overnight in the refrigerator. Turmeric dyes eggs quickly, while other dyes, like red cabbage and beet, really need several hours to work their magic. Once the desired color has been reached, remove eggs with a slotted spoon and pat dry with a towel. Dry completely in the egg carton or on a wire rack.

Note: This would be a more kid-friendly method.

Option 2: Boil eggs in dye

After the dye has been strained, place raw eggs in a pot of dye and bring to a boil. This method produces more saturated, intense shades of color, and generally eggs turn out more uniformly when boiled in the dye. Boil the eggs in the dye for half an hour and allow to cool. Remove eggs with a slotted spoon and allow to dry completely.

Make an impression

For added fun, organic materials such as parsley, rosemary or leftover yellow onion skins can be used to create beautiful designs on your naturally dyed eggs.

What you'll need:

Hard-boiled egg

Herbs or other organic material that would leave an interesting impression -- be creative!

Cheesecloth

Kitchen twine

Natural egg dye (yellow onion skin dye is suggested)

Instructions:

1. Dip a hard-boiled egg in water. Press parsley (or other herb) against the wet shell.

2. Take cheesecloth and wrap it snugly around the egg. Secure with twine.

3. Boil egg in yellow onion-skin dye for about 10 minutes.

4. Remove and cool completely. Remove cheesecloth and leaf to reveal the design.

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