Check this: I found an Easter activity that a) appeased my inner (and outer, named J) environmentalist; b) rightly celebrated the colorful fertility of spring; c) was appropriately eggy; and d) was ultimately delicious!
Follow along with the pictorial essay of our eggventure...
Part I: We Crack a Dozen Eggs
In point of fact, it was a baker’s dozen. We cracked them by tapping the skinny ends of them against the floor (where we were sitting, and working on newspaper) until little cracks formed; then we gently chipped away at the hole until the top quarter of the eggshell was gone. They looked like little birds had wriggled their way out! We poured the insides out, separating whites and yolks and putting them in separate bowls, which we refrigerated.
Part II: We Concoct Natural Dyes
How cool is that?! We made red dye out of beets,
Blue out of blueberries (we used fresh, but apparently canned blueberries work too),
And brown out of instant coffee (although I’m sure regular coffee grounds would have had the same effect; for maximum recycling, the best would be used coffee grounds—but we’re not coffee drinkers, so we didn’t have any). (Green can be made out of spinach, but I didn’t have that either.)
We added enough water to the ingredients to cover the eggs, added a teaspoon of white vinegar to each, and brought them to a boil. Then we removed the pots from heat and added the eggs. We let them steep for about an hour while:
Part III: We Make a Soufflé
My first soufflé, ladies and gentlemen. I didn’t have a soufflé dish, and after sending J out on an unsuccessful venture to acquire one, I gave into my own disreputable creativity and built one out of a small stewpot and aluminum foil. It worked quite well! The perfect Easter food: we used the separated yolks and whites from our eggs to make the soufflé.
GRUYERE AND PARMESAN CHEESE SOUFFLE
Grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
5 tablespoons unbleached all purpose flour
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Pinch of ground nutmeg
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1/4 cup dry white wine
6 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons (packed) coarsely grated Gruyère cheese (about 6 ounces)
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
8 large egg whites
(Fallen soufflé, an hour after baking)
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 400°F.
Generously butter one 10-cup soufflé dish or six 1 1/4-cup soufflé dishes; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese to coat. (If using 1 1/4-cup dishes, place all 6 on rimmed baking sheet.)
Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour, cayenne pepper and nutmeg. Cook without browning until mixture begins to bubble, whisking constantly, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk, then wine. Cook until smooth, thick and beginning to boil, whisking constantly, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
Mix yolks, salt and pepper in small bowl. Add yolk mixture all at once to sauce and whisk quickly to blend. Fold in 1 1/4 cups Gruyère cheese and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (cheeses do not need to melt).
Using electric mixer, beat whites in large bowl until stiff but not dry. Fold 1/4 of whites into lukewarm soufflé base to lighten. Fold in remaining whites. Transfer soufflé mixture to prepared dish. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons Gruyère cheese.
Place soufflé in oven; reduce heat to 375°F. Bake soufflé until puffed, golden and gently set in center, about 40 minutes for large soufflé (or 25 minutes for small soufflés). Using oven mitts, transfer soufflé to platter and serve immediately.
(Recipe courtesy of Epicurious.com)
We prepared the soufflé exactly as directed and it was a smashing success. The cayenne and nutmeg are clever additions that add a lot of flavor and experience to the dish. The soufflé rose into but did not exceed the limits of my aluminum makeshift dish; nor did it spill!
I whipped up some whole wheat pancakes and topped them with fresh strawberries, pure maple syrup, and mascarpone cream; we ate them with the soufflé.
WHOLE WHEAT PANCAKES
1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 ½ cups of milk
2 eggs, well beaten
2 tablespoons canola oil
Combine all ingredients and mix well. Heat two additional teaspoons oil on griddle or heavy skillet over medium heat; pour batter into pancakes of desired size, tilting pan to spread batter around. When batter begins to bubble, flip pancake; cook one more minute. Transfer to plate, garnish with mascarpone cream and syrup, and serve hot.
SWEET MASCARPONE CREAM
6 oz. mascarpone cheese
¼ cup heavy cream
¼ cup 10x powdered sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
Blend all ingredients with an electric mixer for 2 minutes or until thick and fluffy.
Part IV: Back to the Eggs
We removed the nicely dyed eggs and allowed them to dry. The beet (it was just one big beet) was the least potent of the dyes; it just left the eggs a little pink and spotty.
The blueberries, on the other hand, were a great success, and the coffee eggs were lovely. Look at them all together!
For the final part of our project, we went out to the park to soak up some sun and music.
Part V: Potting
We filled each egg with organic potting soil, then planted herbs and veggies in each of them. Our egg-pots contain oregano, lavender, arugula, sage, cucumbers, and parsley!
Placing a ball of cotton in the bottom of each egg will help soak up excess water and prevent molding.
When the plants begin to outgrow their pots, just crack the eggs and drop them in a bigger pot, shells and all—the nutrients in egg shells are good for plants, and the shells help aerate the soil.
Further updates to come when the little guys begin to sprout!