April 4, 2012

Natural Foodie: Easter basket full of natural holiday treats

What's more fun than a basket full of super-sugary processed holiday treats?

By Avery Yale Kamila akamila@mainetoday.com
Staff Writer

As a child, Kirah Lynn Brouillette never awoke to find Cadbury Creme Eggs, Peeps or jellybeans in her basket on Easter morning. Instead, her mom filled antique baskets with books, fruit, homemade bread and cookies made with applesauce rather than sugar.

click image to enlarge

What's in the basket? Clockwise from the top: Little Lad’s Herbal Corn, $1.99, made in Maine with non-GMO popcorn, herbs, spices, soybean oil and sea salt; Eden Organic Wild Berry Mix, $3.69, made with organic dry roasted almonds, dry roasted pumpkin seeds, raw sunflower seeds, raisins, cranberries and wild blueberries; Aimee’s Livin’ Magic Golden Chocolate Eggs, $8.50 for two, made in Maine with organic and raw cacao powder, cacao butter, walnuts, acai powder, suma, camu camu powder, stevia powder, vanilla, coconut oil and Maine sea salt; Naturally dyed eggs, priceless; Organic mango, $2.99; MOM’s Crunch Bar, $4.29, made in Maine with organic brown rice crisps, almond butter, cashew butter, raw agave, dried cranberries, dried apples, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, sunflower seeds and cinnamon; Organic Baby Carrots, $2.49.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Kirah Lynn Brouillette’s macaroon recipe calls for brown rice syrup and agave syrup instead of refined sugar, and yields a flavor that Brouillette says reminds her of Caramel DeLites Girl Scout cookies.

Contributed photo

Related headlines


2 cups shredded, unsweetened organic coconut

1½ cups raw organic almonds processed in a food processor to flour consistency, about 1 to 2 minutes

½ cup organic agave syrup

¼ cup organic coconut oil, melted

¼ cup organic brown rice syrup

1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

2 teaspoons almond extract

¼ teaspoon salt

1. Put all ingredients in a large bowl and mix until combined.

2. Using a small ice cream scoop (1-inch deep), scoop mixture, pressing mixture into scoop to tightly pack. (You can also use two teaspoons to form egg-shaped macaroons by pressing the bowls of the spoons together with the dough inside and sliding apart to loosen.) Remove macaroon from scoop, and press together to create a well-formed cookie with a rounded top.

3. Place macaroons, well-spaced, on dehydrator trays.

4. Dehydrate for 8 to 12 hours, depending on how you like the texture of your macaroons. (I like the 9½-hour mark – it lends a nice caramel-like goo to the undersides while keeping the outsides crispy and the insides chewy.)

– Source: Kirah Lynn Brouillette


1. Hard-boil eggs. You can use either white or brown eggs; however, you'll get darker and less vibrant colors from brown eggs.

2. Prepare the natural dye by filling a saucepan with a few cups of water, a couple tablespoons of white vinegar (which acts as a dye fixer) and the plant material.

3. Boil the mixture for about 15 minutes, until the color is nice and deep.

4. Strain the dye (using cheesecloth) into a wide-mouthed canning jar or other container.

5. Carefully add the boiled eggs to the dye mixture.

6. Let the eggs soak overnight to achieve the best color.

7. Carefully remove the eggs from the dye and let dry on paper towels.

8. If you want shiny eggs, polish each one with a little bit of vegetable oil.Easter egg dyes, courtesy of nature

Now that she's a new mom, Brouillette plans to follow suit and make a healthy Easter basket for her son, Oliver Richard.

"He's only 4 months old, so I'm trying to start this family tradition really early," Brouillette said. "The treats are going to end up being more for myself and my fiance."

Brouillette, who lives in Westbrook, has been on a food dehydrator kick lately, and she's turned to this kitchen tool to make raw treats for her son's first Easter basket.

"I'm making raw magic macaroons and chocolate dipped banana chips," she said.

The macaroons use brown rice syrup and agave syrup instead of refined sugar. Brouillette says the flavor reminds her of Caramel DeLites Girl Scout cookies.

Certified holistic health coach Maria Clark of Kennebunkport says it's a smart move when parents like Brouillette opt to keep candy and sweets to a bare minimum.

"One thing parents can do, especially for younger kids, is to really never get them started on sugar," said Clark. "The whole sugar piece is hard to control. Even if you think it's just a one-time thing, it sets up triggers in the brain to want more sugar."

Clark's concern is based on decades of research that reveal the addictive power of sugar. For instance, a study conducted at the National Institute for Physiological Sciences in Japan found that the brain reacts to the expectation of a sugary treat in a way that makes us less able to resist temptation. Hundreds of peer-reviewed studies demonstrate that when we digest sugar, our bodies produce pleasure chemicals called opioids – commonly associated with heroin and cocaine.

Clark, who has a 10-year-old daughter and a 20-year-old son, said she is very selective about what she puts in their Easter baskets.

"I try to buy my kids one piece of really high-quality dark chocolate without milk or high-fructose corn syrup and have that last more than a day," Clark said. "The dark chocolate definitely has some health benefits to it, especially in small quantities. It generally has less sugar."

Instead of hiding chocolate eggs, she fills reusable plastic eggs with money or dried fruit and hides those.

"Another thing to do is introduce a piece of exotic fruit or something they've never seen before, like star fruit, mango or papaya," Clark said. "Something novel like that for a kid could be a really fun thing."

Making sure children have a high-quality breakfast before they dive into their baskets is another important Easter consideration, says Susan Fekety, a nutrition and lifestyle counselor at Healthy Living Health Care in Falmouth.

"Anticipating a sugar adventure like Easter, the rule of thumb I like to use is, first of all, you want to avoid it, and if you're not going to avoid it, you want to protect yourself from it, and that comes from (food filled with) protein, fat and fiber," Fekety said.

Given that eggs are traditionally associated with this ancient fertility holiday, Fekety recommends serving the classic hard-boiled variety as a breakfast treat.

"Eggs are a beautiful source of protein, which makes them a great stabilizer, especially if you're going to be eating a lot of candy," Fekety said.

Because conventional food colors are made from artificial colors, Fekety said anyone who plans to eat colored Easter eggs should make sure they're dyed using natural materials, since the dye inevitably seeps through the shell.

The issue of artificial colors is one both Fekety and Clark say parents shouldn't overlook on Easter.

"Artificial dyes and chemicals have been linked to behavioral problems in kids," Fekety said. "If you're going to talk about a toxic combination for a kid, it's going to be sugar, high-fructose corn syrup and dyes."

In 2007, the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom conducted a landmark double-blind trial that revealed a dramatic link between hyperactivity and the consumption of artificial colors and food preservatives by kids under age 10.

Because the vast majority of mainstream candies contain artificial food dyes and artificial preservatives, Easter morning can become a behavioral perfect storm. Too often, the day starts with a candy hunt, followed by a sugar high, then a sugar crash before ending with tantrums and meltdowns.

But parents who choose Easter basket treats with an eye toward health can avoid these candy-coated pitfalls.

As Fekety said, "to the extent a family's willing to re-claim their Easter basket, they can have a different experience."


Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at: akamila@pressherald.com

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila


Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors

Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)



More PPH Blogs