Originally ran Feb 9, 2008
As anyone with kids can tell you, food coloring can bump up one's perception of taste--one reason why they're so widely used in the U.S. But the day-glo colors of traditional food colors scare me--and with good reason. Many food colorings approved by the U.S. are actually banned in other countries.
A few cases in point: A known carcinogen, FD&C Red No. 40 is banned in Denmark, Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Austria and Norway. FD&C Yellow No. 5 is banned in Austria and Norway, since it's linked to asthma attacks and thyroid tumors.
Natural food coloring how tos:
Using about 1/4 cup of vegan buttercream icing as a base for each shade, I came up with 4 shades: yellow, mint green, blush, and raspberry. I wanted to add as much color as possible without altering the flavor. You'll need to double or triple the recipes and experiment with the intensities, depending on the quantities of and types of food you want to color. Mix in the coloring well to avoid streaking.
Yellow: Add 1/4 tsp and a large pinch of stale turmeric to the icing. Turmeric is often used to give vegan puddings and tofu scrambles that "eggy" shade. This is a good use for turmeric that's past its prime, since stale turmeric is fairly flavor neutral.
Blush: Using a sieve, mash the juice from 3 fresh or thawed frozen raspberries directly into the icing.
Mint green: With a fork, mash 1/4 of a small avocado until creamy. Mix this into your icing. [The avocado makes your icing thinner, but in a fluffy, pleasant way.]
Raspberry: Using a sieve, mash the juice from 6 fresh or thawed frozen blueberries and 6 fresh or thawed frozen blackberries directly into the icing.
This list is certainly not definitive. Other natural sources of color include carrots [orange], annatto [yellow], beet juice [pink to red] and chlorella or spirulina [green]. Experiment and color your world! And if you don't have time to make your own food colorings, please be safe and buy all-natural versions.
As most of you know, I took down my original blog (urbanvegan.blogspot.com) several years ago after the dissolution of my marriage. It was too painful/weird for me to leave up what had become a visual diary of my life, meals and travels with my ex. While closing down the original blog was healing for me, it had its downside in terms of frustrated readers. People still email me, inquiring as to the whereabouts of certain posts and recipes. In response, I've decided to occasionally republish some of the more popular articles in a new feature,"Blasts from the Past." If there's a recipe or article you'd like me to repost, please comment or email me.