Energy Saving method of Hard Cooking Eggs

Beautifully Cooked Egg

I read someplace a long time ago that you should not boil your eggs for hard boiled eggs and that they really should be called hard cooked eggs.  Whatever.  Sometimes I do boil them but lately I’ve switched to a new method to save some electricity. 

You may question this method at first but give it a try with a couple eggs to see what you think.  Supposedly eggs are less rubbery this way and don’t have that green ring around the yolk that signifies over-cooking.  I can definitely say that they are much more tender and I’ve never had a green ring.

  1. Put eggs in saucepan and fill with cold water to cover.
  2. Bring water to a boil uncovered.
  3. As soon as water boils, cover the pot and turn off the heat.
  4. Allow pot to sit on the same burner for 20 minutes.
  5. After 20 minutes the eggs will be cooked perfectly.

Now some sources say to do it for only 15 minutes but I have had some undercooked eggs that way so I do 20 minutes.  This works for medium and large eggs.

In case you don’t believe the egg will be done, the picture at the beginning of this post is a large egg done this way.

Natural Egg Dye Experiment – Day 1

First Day's eggs (W/O means no vinegar)

I posted earlier that we would like to use natural egg dyes this year for Easter. I didn’t really say what my goals were for this but what I’m looking for are dyes that meet the following criteria:

  1. Are naturally derived: food based if possible
  2. Can be made on short notice: like when it is Saturday night and you realize Easter is tomorrow
  3. Do not require mordants or anything else other than vinegar and the dye substance
  4. Are reasonably priced: sorry Saffron is out for yellow eggs
  5. Will last for more than one day so you can make the dye ahead of time
  6. Can be composted when finished: so as not to waste anything

I know I could have researched all this on the internet, but that really doesn’t fit with my sense of adventure.  I have read about this topic before so did know a few things.  I figured I’d start with what I had on hand and see what I could come up with for orange/yellow.

Carrot Water - doesn't dye

My first attempt failed miserably.  I used grated carrots – 1 C to 2 C water boiled for ten minutes in the microwave.  The water looked orange but in the end did nothing to the eggshell with or without vinegar.

My second attempt was better and has a lot of promise.  I used 1 tsp of Turmeric to 2 C water boiled for 3 minutes in the microwave.  This produced a light yellow color with and without vinegar.  I have it in the fridge now to see if I can use it again.  If you added more Turmeric you would definitely get a stronger color.  I think probably 1/2 T to 1 cup water might be about right, plus 1 T vinegar.  (I’m seeing if that is really necessary like EVERYONE says it is.) UPDATE 4/4:  I did redo this with 2 tsp turmeric to 1 C water and the egg dyed faster but did not get any more color.

I ran out of eggs at this point – mostly we use brown eggs – so I’ll have to work on this again later when we need to restock.  Check back later or subscribe to our feed for other results.  When I’ve got the whole thing pulled together I’ll be publishing an ebook you can download with all my findings to keep on hand when you need emergency egg color.  I hope to have it ready before Easter so you can use natural dyes too this year.

Light Yellow Dye - 1 tsp Tumeric, 2 C water, 1 T vinegar

So we’ve got a yellow.  I’d like to find options for five or six colors and know some for sure colors already like blue/blueberries, red-pink/beets, green/spinach and brown/tea or coffee but I need to see how well they last overnight. Not sure what will come next.

3/31/11 update – The turmeric dye will NOT work straight out of the fridge if you try to keep it overnight.  It DID work after 2 minutes of heating in the microwave and some stirring BUT the results were not as good as what I got with the fresh dye.  The good thing is this one is so easy to whip up you can do it in a couple of minutes fresh.   Also want to warn folks, this dye doesn’t just dye eggs, it stains things – like my counter.  And my kitchen towels.  And my fingers. (Hmm… might be good for fabric dyeing, have to try that in the summer.)

Turmeric stain on my countertop

How to Remove Stamped Dates from Eggs

Dates on Egg

Some of you may not have seen these yet, but some egg producers are putting use by dates on their eggs in either blue or red ink.  Unless you like the high-tech look of a digital dated photo, you probably want to remove this date before you color your eggs.

The general rule of thumb is to use white vinegar.  It is “supposed” to take off the date.  I have found that it doesn’t always remove the date if used straight, but it will work if you put a Tablespoon of vinegar in the water while you cook the eggs.  (And most of the time plain water works too.)

So you can remove the dates easily – it might be harder to keep them on if you like them.

Make a Cereal Box Puzzle Book

Cereal Box Puzzle Book

This idea came to me the other night while breaking down our cardboard boxes.  I saw a really neat game on the back of a Mini Wheats box that I thought my kids might enjoy when they were a little older and I hated to throw it away.

A matching game on a cracker box

Corn Maze on Kix box

We eat cereal and other foods packaged in cardboard boxes and often the products have puzzles and games on the back or sides.  Rather than lose the opportunity to entertain our kids for free, I’ve begun to cut out these things and make a puzzle book for our littlest ones to enjoy as they get older.

Before someone blasts me on this, yes we are trying to cut down on GMOs (like in cereal) and extra packaging (like crackers) but we have yet to eliminate them entirely so we’re recycling the packaging as much as possible and trying to avoid GMOs in our own garden at home.

Here is how to make your ceral box puzzle book:

  1. Keep an eye on your cardboard food packaging (or other packaging) for games or puzzles or factoids or anything your kids might like to do or read about – perhaps on a car trip or while waiting at a restaurant.
  2. When you find something, cut it out.  Trim it to 8 1/2 x 11 inches or if it is smaller tape it to an 8 1/2 x 11 inch piece of scrap cardboard for a backer.  Make sure to include the solution if it is on another piece of cardboard.
  3. Slide the cardboard sheet into a page protector and put into a 3 ring binder.  The heavier page protectors are best for this project, but you can use the economy ones too.  We recycle them over and over and keep extras stored in an extra binder.
  4. I put two of these back to back to get maximum use out of the page protector.  You can also put one cardboard piece and one lighter piece that needs stability together to kind of act as a hard surface when the kids write on them.
  5. If your kids are really small and still tear or chew paper, use clear tape to seal the top of the page protector to keep them from removing the cardboard.  It is easy to slit with a knife later to recycle the page protector.
  6. Use white board crayons or markers to draw on the page protector.  We prefer Crayola 8ct Dry Erase Crayons Large Size because there is no brain-cell-killing smell to them.  They work much better on the page protectors than they do on wipe off boards.
  7. For ultimate portability put a pencil pocket into the binder that zips shut to hold the crayon and a scrap of flannel or tshirt for clean up.

Natural Easter Egg Dye and our secret egg weapon

Egg Decorating Secret Weapon: Crayons

Over the years our family has tried most of the egg kits that are out there.  I remember as a kid begging my mom to buy me “Dudley’s Shake An Egg” (See the commercial for it here) and she did.  And it was disappointing.  My mother always favored Hinkle’s dye which comes in little bottles that you put on with q-tips.

These days though we try to do things a little less commercial since there is so much packaging with those kits.  Last year we used McCormick liquid food coloring to dye our eggs and it worked out just fine.  (Find the how-tos for it here.)  

This year though we are going to try natural dyes instead.

My grandmother always dyed her eggs with onion skins and they were the most beautiful russet red color.  I have no idea how many skins she used or what kind but I have never been able to duplicate her effects.  We’re going to do beets, blueberries and a few spices plus probably coffee.  What I really like about natural dyes is that the eggs have a muted finish that is just beautiful.  If you’ve never seen a natural dyed egg, watch this video from the American Egg Board on using natural dyes.  At the end you get to see the finished results.

And remember, if you use a crayon (any color) to draw a design the dye won’t stick in that place.  My favorite design is to do a “strawberry” egg by using a green crayon to draw the leafy cap and a yellow crayon to draw on the seeds and then dye it pinky-red.  Always makes me smile.

Happy Coloring!

Poisonous Plants can hurt your pets – be careful what you grow

Kitties enjoying the sunshine on a plant free deck

A fact sheet I picked up at this year’s Farm Show talked about the problem of pets eating poisonous plants.  I remember as a kid my mother always warning me about our cats eating the pointsettias at Christmas time.  We had one cat who would eat them and be sick repeatedly throughout the holidays – seemed he would never learn.  Well, neither did we.  We still kept bringing them into the house.

Since then I’ve tried to avoid having house plants that will make my cats sick.  Not too difficult since I can’t really grow house plants anyway – but what about garden plants? 

One year I was growing tomato plants on my deck and let my cat Puss E Cat out to get some sun.  I walked out a few minutes later to find him laying on the deck unable to move and breathing heavily – with a half eaten tomato leaf in his mouth.  I was lucky, and so was he, and he made a full recovery in a few minutes, but I was more careful with him after that.

Folks who have dogs and roaming cats may be growing things in their garden or on their decks or patios that will make their pets sick and not even realize the danger. 

Here are some common garden items that are poisonous to your pet from a list put out by the PA Veterinary Medical Association:

  • apples – seeds and leaves
  • apricots – pits and leaves
  • azalea  (highly toxic)
  • buttercups
  • cherry – leaves and pits
  • clematis
  • coleus
  • chrysanthemum
  • foxglove (highly toxic)
  • garlic
  • geranium
  • hyacinth
  • hydrangea
  • iris
  • ivy
  • kalanchoe
  • lily (highly toxic)
  • lily of the valley (highly toxic)
  • morning glory
  • narcissus
  • peach – leaves and pits
  • peony
  • periwinkle
  • plum – pit and leaves
  • poppy
  • portulaca
  • potatoes – leaves, sprouts
  • rhododendron (highly toxic)
  • rhubarb – leaves (highly toxic)
  • tomato – green fruit, stems, leaves
  • tulips
  • wisteria
  • yew (highly toxic)

Signs of plant poisoning are: drooling, diarrhea, lethargy, seizures, unconsciousness, irritation of skin and mouth and vomiting.  If you suspect your pet has been poisoned call the pet poision helpline at 1-800-213-6680 for guidance.

The ASPCA has a wonderful web reference discussing plant poisoning and your pet.  It includes a comprehensive list of dangerous plants and a searchable database so you can find safe plants for your pet. Check it out here.

My favorite book on Homesteading and Self Sufficiency

In case you haven’t noticed there are a ton of new books being printed about Homesteading and Self Sufficiency.  Though they are all very beautiful books and in some cases they are worthwhile reads, I prefer a book that was printed back in 1979 when we were moving back to the land the first time.

Janet Chadwick published “How to Live on Almost Nothing and Have Plenty” to educate people on what her family did to make a difference in their lives by moving to some land and growing as much of their own food as they could.  If you read the early chapters of the book you can see that her family was concerned about losing skills, food safety and availability, dependence on foreign imports and keeping the earth in good shape for those to come later.

All of the reasons she moved to the land are reasons that people are still talking about today.  It is sad that in nearly 3 decades we haven’t learned a thing.  Perhaps with rising gas prices, world unrest and high unemployment we will finally see the need for change.

The book covers many aspects of home food production from gardening to bee keeping and the raising of small livestock.  The tone is conversational – as if you were over for a cup of coffee in the morning – but there is a ton of information presented.  Many of her sources are no longer valid (I doubt Sears still sells ducks and geese) but you can always source via the internet.  The final chapters are of recipes and gift ideas to keep costs low and life enjoyment high.

If you want to read a blast from the past about self sufficiency, pick up a copy of this book. It is far more genuine than any book being published today.