Posts made in November 28th, 2012

all-natural beet juice red food coloring


Posted on Nov 28, 2012 in Food

There are so many things I love about the holidays, but one of my most favorite parts is that we’re pretty much given carte blanche to color and bedazzle and glitterize all of our food. Cookies are frosted with a thick layer of red and green swirls. Cupcakes are topped with sprinkles. Heck, I’ve even been known to put colorful sugars on my hot chocolate and food coloring in my snow.

This love of all things colorful is in direct competition of a new charge in my life—to strip away as many chemicals as possible. I cleaned up my diet for the most part a few years back but never really got around to stripping away everything yucky (in my diet and other areas of my life). Yup. I’m the girl who spends a small fortune on organic produce, but washes her dishes using Cascade. Something tells me that’s kinda like stopping smoking cigarettes, but still smoking cigars…

So I’m trying to change that (and have an awesome recipe for dishwasher soap coming at you soon).

Anywho, today’s post is a teeny tiny part of that bigger charge to strip away chemicals from my world. I rarely use food colorings, but around the holidays, they are definitely part of my baking supply stash. And the grand-daddy of bad-for-you food colorings? Red. The red food color you get in that little bottle is usually made up of Red 40 and Red 3. Independent research studies have shown that Red 40 (and its nasty counterpart Yellow 5) might cause ADHD, migraines, hives, and asthma in folks with reactions. And Red 3? It’s been recognized as a known carcinogen by the FDA (but is still allowed if levels are under a certain amount). I don’t know about you, but I don’t want any amount of a carcinogen in my holiday treats—especially if I can easily avoid it.

So I started doing some research on natural food colorings. I’ve touched on it a bit before here (with dying Easter eggs), but I really wanted to find some things that are highly concentrated and true color like the chemically ones in the bottle. It turns out, beet juice is the answer. By boiling down beets and concentrating the liquid, the result is a very strong, very bright red-violet color.

You say, “But I didn’t want red-violet! I wanted Christmas red, yo!” and I’m definitely catching what you’re throwing. What I realized (thanks to my color theory classes in college) is that to get a true red, you just have to work with a base that is tinged slightly yellow. Sugar cookie dough works (actually, most cookie dough) as does most butter-based frostings. Using a cream cheese frosting? Try tinting it with a touch of pure vanilla extract or maple syrup first.


Take three large red beets, remove the green and root end and slice into bite-sized chunks. Place in a small saucepan and cover beets water. Bring to a boil over medium heat, reduce heat and simmer until beets are tender and there is only a couple of tablespoons of water remaining. Reserve the water (this is your food coloring) and then peel and eat the beets for lunch.

I actually used my beet food coloring in a terribly failed attempt to make marshmallows (nothing to do with the food coloring–I didn’t boil the sugar in the ‘mallows long enough) and the food coloring made a beautiful, strong, flavorless swirl of deep, dark red with only a few drops. The base of the marshmallow was (obviously) white, so the end result was more pinkish than I would have gotten if I tinted the marshmallow base beforehand.

I cannot wait to make another batch and use it for all of my holiday baking!

Do you use natural food colorings? What’s your favorite that you use?

what i ate wednesday: slim pickins


Posted on Nov 28, 2012 in Food

We’re down to some pretty slim pickins in the Johnston family fridge. We really should have gone grocery shopping last weekend, but I’m convinced we have enough food stockpiled in our two fridges, deep freezer and numerous pantries to make it until the end of the month (and payday). So we’re kinda scraping the bottom of the barrel here. Although, admittedly, it doesn’t look that way in my eats. I’m a notoriously bad overshopper/grocery hoarder, so I could probably not go shopping for a full six weeks and still eat just fine. But I definitely prefer to have three extra tubs of Greek yogurt stashed away at all times.

  1. One of my favorite breakfasts—a yogurt bowl! This guy had a base of plain yogurt (not Greek, boo) and that was topped with oats, chia seeds, baked apples, almonds, pumpkin puree and pomegranate seeds. It really could have used a banana to sweeten the pot, but we ran out of those days ago.
  2. Morning snack was an attempt to get in more protein in the day. I had a Babybel, pumpkin seeds and baby carrots with a really sad white bean dip I tried to make with our last can of beans.
  3. We are still working through a ton of leftovers in the fridge, and this five bean soup from a few days ago was my lunch, plus a small side salad and a few crackers.
  4. Lunch dessert was a peanut butter Nutella cookie rescued from the freezer! I redid my old recipe to be a lot healthier and lower calorie for a side project. I’ll let you know when the recipe is available. It’s delicious!
  5. For afternoon tea, I had a mug of chai cut with a splash or two of egg nog.
  6. For dinner, I found a big package of salmon tucked away in the corner of our deep freezer. Yay! I had a giant portion of baked salmon with a big pile of steamed green beans on the side. I hear protein and vegetables are good for you. Or something.
  7. For dessert, I had the last little sliver from our little pie plate of pumpkin cheesecake that I made for Thanksgiving. Half of this recipe was the perfect amount to fill up our little pie plate (which is perfect for four little servings of pie).

What’s the best thing you’ve eaten so far this week?