It’s Food Coloring Season
‘Tis the season for rolling pins, sugar cookie dough, cookie cutters, and little drops of color added to a bowl of white frosting that turns it into pumpkin orange, Christmas tree green and ornament red. The problem is what is in those little jars of color.
Did you know that every season is food-coloring season? Americans consume
15, 016,634 pounds of dyes per year and just three dyes—Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6—account for 90 percent of all dyes used. The FDA’s data show a five-fold increase in consumption of dyes since 1955 pointing to the increase in the consumption of processed foods, such as soft drinks, breakfast cereals, candies, snack foods, baked goods, frozen desserts, and even pickles and salad dressings, that are colored with dyes. Synthetic dyes are produced from petroleum or coal tar, something none of us need in our bodies.
Recent studies have linked artificial food colorings to cancer and brain tumors as well as links to hyperactivity ADD, ADHD, and other disruptive behaviors in children.
So now what? Luckily you have choices. Avoid processed foods with synthetic food coloring-check those lists of ingredients- and when it comes to making all those holiday cookies and baked goods, use food coloring derived from vegetables, fruits and spices. If you don’t want to create your own food coloring, there are some companies that produce food colors and sprinkles produced from natural sources. Maggies’s Naturals is one of my favorites, but there are others as well.
Creating Natural Colors
Yellow: Saffron flowers and turmeric powder work well, but be careful as these spices are strong and a little goes a long way. If the recipe called for liquid, just combine the spice with the liquid and let sit a while to infuse the color into the liquid. This is infusing and is a method that works well in creating natural food color.
Orange: Carrot juice works great. If you don’t have a juicer just buy some fresh 100% carrot juice at the market. Carrots are naturally sweet so you won’t notice added flavor.
Red and Pink: You have options here. Just juice some beets, or boil them in very little water to make a concentrated liquid or roast them and add 2 tablespoons finely grated and then mashed, roasted beets into the frosting. Red berries and pomegranate juice work as well. Just mash them or blend them, then strain the liquid through mesh to remove the seeds.
Green: Spinach juice works well. Use your juicer to obtain the juice or infuse the liquid with spinach leaves, blend and strain. You can even whip whole spinach leaves right into your frosting if you have a powerful blender. Liquid chlorophyll adds anice green color and adds nutrients to that otherwise bowl of sugar, which I don’t worry about as it’s rarely consumed in my house.
Purple and Blue: Boiling red cabbage until you get a dark, concentrated broth. Easy as pie. To make your purple dye blue, add a little baking soda at the end. Kitchen chemistry!
Remember all these tips if you color Easter eggs. With eggs I find that adding a little white vinegar to the infused water helps to set the color. Obviously you don’t want frosting to taste like vinegar, so this tip is just for eggs.