Vegan MoFo 2017 Day 15: Behind the Scenes: Rainbow frosting tips

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This is the final day of the second week of Vegan MoFo, where the theme is “behind the scenes.” So far this week, we’ve talked about picking the best unicorn cookie cutters, vegan sprinkles, given you a behind the scenes aquafaba video on Instagram, shared a pitch for the cookbook I am writing, and a look at a rainbow layered unicorn cake.

Today is all about frosting, unicorns practically subsist on the stuff!

Our favorite frostings tend to be like buttercream but veganized to exclude real butter or even palm-laden margarine and vegetable shortening by using solid coconut oil instead. I’ve sort of perfected the recipe, but want to wait a bit to share it.

Today I’ll talk about how to get a real rainbowy look out of whatever vegan frosting you most prefer.

You can use any type of colorant you want, but I’m partial to beet powder for red (or using a fruity powder too, such as freeze-dried strawberry or raspberry powder), turmeric for yellow, matcha for green (tastes way better than spirulina in a frosting, trust me!), butterfly pea tea powder for blue, and either acai or a mix of a red and blue powder for purple.

I have found it easiest to get results like what was pictured above with only 3 colors of the rainbow rather than them all. The reason for this is actually, that if you mix all of the colors of the rainbow together, you get a muddy, ugly, poopy brown. And not the beautiful colored poop of a unicorn, either.

The easiest way to swirl the three colors together is to use a pastry bag with a frosting tip attached (these things always confuse me, so read the directions if you don’t know how to properly set this up). Mix in the colors into frosting placed in three separate bowls or however you want to do it, just keep it separated somehow. Then take a rubber spatula, and spread a big glob of frosting down one side of the bag. Then take the other color, and place a globby stripe of frosting down the next side. Repeat until the bag is filled up with all the colors. They should touch each other and extend down towards the frosting tip.

Then, squeeze out the frosting to the desired amount you like on your cupcakes, using the picture I posted as a guide, or not. They may not all look the same depending on how you layered the frosting colors in the bag. I think it’s more magical when each one looks unique.

They also sell a kit at craft stores from Wilton which is designed to help you make rainbow-swirled frosting more “easily” but I found it more of a pain to use than this option.

Enjoy and have fun!

 

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Vegan MoFo 2017 Day 6: Vegan Cheese is Real (rainbowy) Cheese

Hi, it’s Fluffy the Vegan Unicorn here,

I hope you’ve enjoyed our posts up to now. I hope you realized how important some of the topics are for discussion and to be aware of as we continue towards making a better world for ourselves and animals. I know some of it can be hard to learn about and hear/read, but I feel it is very necessary to address before we can have a magic rainbow unicorn party across the land and seas.

The remainder of this week’s theme posts will be more lighthearted and less serious. Tomorrow I will go back a bit to the initial few days’ sentiments, freeing ourselves of guilt and shame over food and our bodies, and share my vegan dessert food pyramid. On Sunday I will be sharing a unicorn worthy salad, in case that’s more your speed. Unicorns like to make everyone’s different tastes happy.

Today is keeping with MoFo’s Daily theme, Vegan Cheese is Real Cheese. Just because the cheese is dairy free doesn’t make it any less real. Who is to say what cheese really is, anyways? The FDA? USDA? Some kind of patent office? I don’t know, but they fail us all the time.

Last night I inspired Laura with my magic energy to create for me a creamy vegan mac and cheese sauce made of rainbows. While the recipe will still be tweaked a bit further after this post is shared, it is at least, edible and quite a beauty.

The recipe starts by making cashew cream and boiling cauliflower and onions and blending in some other seasonings and nondairy milk. Then you separate the sauces into 5 portions and add color!

This recipe uses all natural powders such as beet for red, turmeric for yellow and orange, and butterfly pea tea powder for blue. Most of these are easy to find, except the butterfly pea tea powder. It also uses fresh spinach blended into the sauce for the green. Laura considered using spirulina but she and I don’t like the taste of it, so she opted for doing the spinach instead.

What even is butterfly pea tea powder? Butterfly pea tea powder comes from Thailand where a type of gorgeous blue flower grows. They make it into tea powder. It is caffeine free and does not have much of a taste. Laura bought it on Amazon because the other websites she found it on were out of the US and charged a lot of taxes and such. Make sure you get the powder and not the dried leaves, although I suppose if you have a good food processor or spice grinder you could make it yourself. A little ends up going a long way, so don’t worry if you see the package and think it is small.

Anyways, without further ado, may I present you my magical rainbow vegan mac and cheese:

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Ingredients:

  • 1 small head of cauliflower, chopped into pieces, stem and leaves removed
  • 1 small onion, chopped roughly
  • 1 cup raw cashews soaked in water overnight
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbsp potato starch
  • 1 tablespoon white miso or chickpea miso
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 cups unsweetened plain nondairy milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

For the red sauce:

  • 1/2 tablespoon beet powder

For the yellow/orange sauce:

  • 1/2 tablespoon turmeric powder

For the green sauce:

  • A handful of baby spinach

For the blue sauce:

  • A little less than 1/2 tablespoon butterfly pea tea powder

For the purple sauce:

  • 1 teaspoon beet powder and 1 tsp butterfly pea tea powder

 

  • 1 lb elbow pasta, gluten-free if necessary

Directions:

  1. Boil cauliflower and onion in water for 10 minutes or until soft.
  2. Blend cashews and water in a blender until smooth.
  3. When the cauliflower and onions are as soft as my unicorn mane, drain them, rinse under cold water, and add to the blender along with the cashew cream.
  4. Add all ingredients up to the nondairy milk. You may need to slowly add the milk instead of putting it all at once to prevent an ugly overflow mess in your blender. Blend until creamy and smooth.
  5. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  6. Now for the magic part. Separate the sauce into 5 equal portions as best as you can, leaving one portion in the blender.
  7. Blend the spinach into the sauce that’s in the blender until it becomes a light, natural shade of green.
  8. Stir in the powders to each individual portion one by one until they become vibrant and brightly beautiful.
  9. When the pasta is cooked, grease a casserole or lasagna dish and pour the pasta inside.
  10. Spread out each color of the rainbow in stripes in order of the handy acronym ROY G BIV (except we are not doing the orange and indigo). To make it easier, you may want to start by placing a stripe of the red to the far left first, and then doing the purple to the far right so you know how much space you have for the other colors in between. It would make us all sad if your rainbow was missing colors.
  11. Cook the pasta in the oven for 20-25 minutes.
  12. When serving, try to get a taste of all the colors. Just don’t swirl them too much or they become a muddy, poopy, un-unicorn ugly, gross color.
  13. Enjoy this savory rainbow of vegan cheezy goodness!

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Why I’m going to avoid artificial colors from now on. (Update 8/31/17)

 

I have been hearing all sorts of bad things about artificial and synthetic food colors for a long time. I had heard that they were tested on animals at some point, that they’re harmful to our health, that they’re not environmentally friendly, and that they are unnecessary. Yet, I kept seeing products labeled as vegan that had them in them and I assumed I could eat them despite what I believed were rumors. They are in, after all, in some of my favorite mainstream candies that are widely accepted as being accidentally vegan.

Realizing that many people avoid synthetic food colors for the reasons I listed above, I set out to begin to find some alternatives when I cook for other people and for the cookbook I am writing. I was not thinking I would decide to avoid them for the most part until I began to research them more as I was writing this.

However, I discovered some facts that upset me and convinced me otherwise:

Synthetic colors can be present in almost any product in the market, from food and drinks to toothpaste, chewing gum, medications, cosmetics, and even tattoos. They are typically made in a laboratory from petroleum products (Jacobson & Kobylewski, 2010, p. 10) or Coal (FDA, 2007). The petroleum and coal industries are destructive to our environment, and produce products and byproducts that are not exactly considered food!

To identify an artificial food coloring in your foods’ ingredients lists, you must look for the prefixes FD&C, D&C, or Ext. D&C, followed by the name of a color, and a number. Sometimes the artificial color may be listed just as the color and number. These labels mean that these colors have been “certified” by the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and have been approved by them to be safe for use in food (FDA, 2007). Today, there are nine dyes that are approved to be used in food, and these are (minus the prefixes): Blue 1, Blue 2, Citrus Red 2, Green 3, Orange B, Red 3, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 (Jacobson & Kobylewski, 2010, p. 10).

However, the FDA does not require certain colorants derived from plants, animals, or minerals, though some are still considered artificial colorants and need to be regulated differently (FDA, 2007). This list includes some unappetizing options for colorings such as carmine and cochineal extract (which are produced using beetles and therefore not vegan), canthaxanthin, Sodium copper chlorophyllin, Toasted partially defatted cooked cottonseed flour, ferrous gluconate and ferrous lactate, synthetic iron oxide, mica, etc. The same list includes ingredients we vegans are more familiar with, such as beets, turmeric, vegetable and fruit juices, spirulina, saffron, paprika, carrot oil, and annatto (FDA, 2015). For more information on these lists you can check them out here.

In order to certify a synthetic colorant’s safety, they are tested on animals. The FDA requires that there are tests on at least two different species of rodents (Jacobson & Kobylewski, 2010, p. 11). That alone may be a reason to avoid these dyes. However, if it does not sway you for whatever reason, know that even scientists are critical of the ways in which animal testing is used and applied in research. In order to test the carcinogenicity of these colorful products effectively, scientists believe that more animals needed to be tested, that the tests need to be performed on pregnant animals and their fetuses, and have a longer duration than the two years they are conducted for at present (Potera, 2010). Personally, I would rather avoid or even encourage a ban these questionably safe products than advocate for more extensive animal testing.

Scientists, medical doctors, nutrition experts, and even psychologists, teachers, parents, and other concerned folks also take issue with some of the research findings of some dyes when the FDA has not. For example,  Potera states, “Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 contain free benzidene, a human and animal carcinogen permitted in low, presumably safe levels” (2010). However, benzidene has also been found to be bound to the chemical structure of the dyes at a greater level than the free benzidene. The tests the FDA does do not consider or identify bound contaminants, only free ones (Potera, 2010). Yellow 5 (also called tartrazine), can cause allergic reactions that can be severe in some people. Tartrazine is now required to be listed by name on food labels, but that isn’t the only concern with this colorant. In a majority of the test-tube and animal experiments for it, this yellow colored dye was shown to damage DNA, which may indicate that it is a carcinogen. Unfortunately, the studies that showed the data was not considered by the FDA (Jacobson & Kobylewski, 2010, p. 11). Furthermore, it has been suggested by researchers that artificial food colorings can increase hyperactivity in children diagnosed with ADHD, as well as children without the diagnosis (Arnold, Lofthouse, & Hurt, 2012).

Some food dyes used today are even banned for use in cosmetics and topical drugs but not food. Red 3 has been banned from these applications by the FDA. It has been shown in animal testing to cause thyroid cancer. Today, five million pounds of Red 3 are present in the food supply (Jacobson & Kobylewski, 2010, p. 10).

It is, as always, up to you to decide what you will tolerate ethically and put into your body. Personally, now that I know that these products are harmful to my health, animals, and the environment, I am going to try to do away with synthetic food colorings as much as I possibly can. I will use natural colors instead.

References

Arnold, L. E., Lofthouse, N., & Hurt, E. (2012). Artificial food colors and attention deficit/hyperactivity symptoms: Conclusions to dye for. Neurotherapeutics, 9(3), 599-609. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13311-012-0133-x

Jacobson, M. F., & Kobylewski, S. (2010, September). Color Us Worried. Nutrition Action Health Letter, 37(7), 10-11. Retrieved from Nursing & Allied Health Database.

Potera, C. (2010). Diet and nutrition: The artificial food dye blues. Environmental Health Perspectives, 118(10). https://doi.org/10.1289/ehp/118-a428

US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (2007, December 10). How safe are color additives? Retrieved August 30, 2017, from https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm048951.htm

US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (2015, May). Summary of color additives for use in the United States in foods, drugs, cosmetics, and medical devices. Retrieved August 31, 2017, from https://www.fda.gov/ForIndustry/ColorAdditives/ColorAdditiveInventories/ucm115641.htm#table1A

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For the purposes of the cookbook I am writing, unfortunately, I had bought a bunch of sprinkles that were labeled vegan that used the artificial colors before I did this research. I feel guilty letting them go to waste and so I plan to use them. However, I feel the need to point out that there are naturally colored vegan sprinkles available. Let’s Do Organic… brand makes a fairly easy to find variety. India Tree makes some too, but not all of them are vegan. You will need to look out for ingredients such as confectioner’s glaze or beeswax (made from insects) before buying. Additionally, there is an Etsy store called Naked Sprinkles that makes a beautiful range of vegan and naturally colored sprinkles that  I’m really excited to support in the future!

Since my cookbook is all about creating fun, rainbowy, unicorn-inspired foods, I felt it especially necessary to provide options for creating these beautiful colors without the cruelty, environmental destruction, and health risks involved.

If you are short on time or these are not cost effective for you or difficult to find, there are pre-made natural colors that you can buy as well. India Tree, Color Garden, and Color Kitchen, all make natural and vegan food coloring that you can buy in stores or online.

The following are my alternatives to artificial dyes, using natural ingredients. I recommend that you mix each color in a small glass jar and keep chilled in the fridge until needed to color all sorts of foods, such as smoothies, cakes, donuts, frostings, cookies, etc. Always shake the jar before using as separation will occur. I will be using these dyes I created in many of the recipes in the book I am writing.

*Though I have not included it in the official recipes, you can make orange colored dye by mixing the beet color with the turmeric color until you get a satisfactory shade of orange. It may be easier to mix into the food item you are making rather than in a jar, as the colors appear darker than they will in the food you are mixing them into.

Vegan Friendly Natural Food Dye Recipes

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Red

  • ½ cup hot water
  • ¼ tsp agar agar powder (optional, you could use cornstarch or arrowroot if you do not have it)
  • ¾ tsp beet powder

Yellow

  • ½ cup hot water
  • ¼ tsp agar agar powder (optional)
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric

Green

  • ½ cup hot water
  • ¼ tsp agar agar powder (optional)
  • ½ tsp spirulina powder

Blue

  • ½ cup hot water
  • ¼ tsp agar agar powder
  • ½ tsp butterfly pea tea powder

Purple

  • ½ cup hot water
  • ¼ tsp agar agar powder
  • ¼ tsp butterfly pea tea powder
  • ¼ tsp beet powder

IMG_3695Here is a picture of some cookie dough I colored using red, purple, yellow, and green dye I made.