Natural Food Dyes and Cashew Icing

If you have been following my blog you know that my son (who is turning 3 years old next week) has never had any dairy, processed food, white sugar/flour or artificial colors. If you want to know more about why we decided to keep him so “healthy”, feel free to read this blog post. At my son’s school when someone has a birthday, the parents bring a birthday treat for the class. This usually consist of popsicles,ice cream, pre-bought cupcakes or cake. Since they have ingredients my son can’t eat, I send him with a different treat. I made healthy cupcakes (dairy, vegan and gluten free) that they keep in their freezer and defrost for him when it is time for someone’s birthday party. It makes me sad that my son has to be different but I care way too much about his health and immunity to ignore the fact that high fructose corn syrup, refined sugar, artificial dyes and flavors are not real food.

A few weeks ago someone had a birthday party at school and they brought in bright purple and green cupcakes. Eitan was so excited to see these colors and even though he didn’t complain about his plain white cashew icing, he asked if he can have purple and green icing for his birthday. I have spent the past two weeks experimenting with gluten free cupcake and icing recipes.

I love this cashew icing recipe (makes 1 1/2 cups):

  • 1cup raw cashews, soaked 3 hours and rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  • 3 tablespoons  honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1-2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

(You might need to add 2-4 tsp. of water to thin it out)

Throw it all in the blender and blend it until smooth!

I started to experiment with making natural food dye colors. First I juiced 1 beet and a handful of grapes and I got this color:

778684_424662514276871_1811867369_oA little too pink for my son’s birthday but isn’t it an awesome color??!?!?

I then decided to try another batch of icing but this time I added add some juiced blueberries and I got a very blueish/blackish color which was too dark. For the 3rd batch I decideed to add freeze dried blueberries to my icing (blending it in my Vitamix) and this is what came out:

2013-02-01 14.52.14

2013-02-01 14.55.44

I love the color but it was also too dark and I didn’t like the taste of bits of clumped blueberries. Next time I want purple, I will grind it into a powder and add a little at a time .

I decided to try my hand at making green icing. So I made a batch of icing and added an avocado. It came out a lime green color that I wasn’t thrilled with. I then tried Spirulina (FYI this is equivalent to 7 servings of vegetables in terms of antioxidants…I put it in my smoothie every morning). I added a few dashes to the icing and got a pretty light green (I used 1/4-1/2 tsp):

2013-02-14 21.37.05Since my son wanted both colors. I decided to turn the freeze dried blueberries into a powder and sprinkle them on top.

You are probably wondering why I am spending so much time on this birthday “project”. Not only do I care about my son’s health but as a teacher I have seen from first hand experience (and the overwhelming research out there) the effects artificial dyes have on behavior, hyperactivity, ADHD, neurological responses etc. “Dr. David Wallinga at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy said he believes the science is there for customers to be concerned (when it comes to artificial food dyes). He cites more than two dozen studies that point to problems. Wallinga said dyes mess with our metabolism. The yellow dyes deplete zinc levels enough in some kids, he said, to cause hyperactivity. An added concern: The chemicals come from petroleum products that Wallinga said have shown carcinogenic to cause effects.” If you need more proof please do the research and see for yourself the studies that show how these pretty synthetic dyes are not as innocent as they may seem.
How to make  your own natural food-based dyes:

Red or Pink: Juice beets or blend red berries in a blender and strain through a cheesecloth

Orange: Juice carrots

Yellow: Add Turmeric (spice)

Green: Add Spirulina or liquid chlorophyll or juice spinach with an apple (to sweeten it)

Purple: Turn freeze dried blueberries into a powder or boil cabbage (and use the water)

Blue: Add a tiny bit of baking soda to the boiled cabbage water (add a little at a time,if necessary)

If you don’t have time to make your own food based dye then you can buy non synthetic dye at WholeFoods or Amazon. India Tree Natural Decorating Colors is a great brand!