Natural Plant Based Food Coloring

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There are all kinds of reasons to avoid artificial colors in food. Some color dyes are made with petroleum, they have a history of being tested on animals, and some people are or can become highly allergic to certain color dyes, as well as some people believe they can cause a host of other health problems. I personally make some exceptions to my

I personally make some exceptions to my no artificial color rule as long as they are derived from vegan ingredients, but I’d prefer to use natural colorings in my fun food experiments rather than fake stuff. Especially if I may even be adding to the foods’ nutritional value.

So, I set about to make my own set of natural food colorings.

I’m not going to lie, the blue was the hardest to figure out and I’m still working on making it more vibrant. When I researched how to do it, I also found that the method I used does not retain it’s color if the food you put it in gets heated up. So, I’m not happy with that either. I think I might try to find a company that makes a good plant-based blue dye and use that. Or, I’ll just use green instead of blue if it’s acceptable in what I’m trying to do. I tried to find the blue (as opposed to blue-green) spirulina powder but the only place I found it online, it was $60 for a tiny bottle. No thanks.

Anyways, without further ado, here are my steps for making vibrant red, yellow, green (and a weaker purple and blue), homemade natural food coloring. The agar agar powder might be optional.  I added it in because I thought it would make it more gel-like and thicker. You could experiment with adding xantham gum, arrowroot, or cornstarch as well.

Plant-based natural food colors

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

Directions:

  1. Mix each color in a small glass jar.
  2. Shake well before using.
  3. Keep refrigerated until needed.

The purple and blue follow a different method:

Blue and Purple

  • 1 small head of red (purple) cabbage, chopped roughly
  • Enough water to cover the cabbage in a saucepan
  • ½ tsp Agar agar powder (recommended in this case, but you can get around it perhaps if you boil the water after you’ve taken out the cabbage longer), divided
  • ⅛-½ tsp Baking soda (as needed, for blue color only!)

Directions:

  1. To make the purple and blue coloring, you will need to boil the cabbage for 20 minutes (time after the water begins to boil, not just how long it’s on the stove for)
  2. After boiling, separate the boiled cabbage and strain the water into a bowl.
  3. Place the vibrant purple water back into the pot you boiled it in, and boil for 15-30 minutes until slightly reduced.
  4. Place ½ cup of purple water with ¼ tsp agar agar in your small glass container. Set aside and keep in the fridge until needed.
  5. Place another ½ cup of the purple water into a larger glass jar. Add the rest of agar agar (¼ tsp)
  6. Allow to cool fully.
  7. Slowly begin mixing in baking soda, ⅛ tsp at a time, stir, and continue until the water turns blue. If you’re having trouble determining if it’s blue or not, keep going until you know for sure. You can also test it out in some nondairy milk to see if it’s the correct color. If it begins to turn green, you know you’ve added too much baking soda. Also, try not to add more than a ½ tsp because it will taste rather foul. Keep chilled in the fridge until needed. Do not use if you are coloring something that will be baked or heated as the blue will not retain its color. Works well for frosting and such.

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

 

Italian Rainbow Cookies Veganized

During Christmas, I had this bad habit of being at the grocery store and looking at the ingredients of the Italian Christmas cookies hoping some of them would be vegan. Not a chance. I’ve been craving these all season.

After Christmas, I looked up some recipes for this type of cookie. I wasn’t sure what they would actually be called, but it was easy enough to find. I found this recipe, which I knew I could veganize with the magic vegan ingredient, aquafaba.

I was so worried I’d really mess up making these a lot earlier on. The parts I thought would fail were not as difficult as I thought. The hardest part was cutting it after I put the chocolate on top, which ended up crumbling a bit and making it not as pretty as I would have liked. The recipe makes it sound much more complicated and some of the steps are needlessly complicated, so I’m re-writing the recipe in the way I did it with the vegan substitutions.

This recipe also required making vegan almond paste (with aquafaba as well!)

That is the first step to making these babies.

Vegan Aquafaba Almond Paste

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups blanched almonds
  • 1.5 cups vegan powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons aquafaba (chickpea water/brine from a can)
  • 1.5 teaspoons almond extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. In a food processor, blend the almonds until smooth and pasty.
  2. Add the powdered sugar, aquafaba, extract, and salt.
  3. Process again until smooth and dough-like (it should form into a big ball).
  4. You may need to scrape the sides down frequently throughout the process.
  5. When finished, set aside 3/4 cup for your Italian Rainbow cookies. You can save the leftovers, it’s super yummy!

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Veganized Italian Rainbow Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 sticks plus 4 tablespoons Earth Balance sticks
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup almond paste (recipe above)
  • 3/4 cup vegan sugar plus 2 tablespoons
  • 4 tablespoons aquafaba (liquid from a can of chickpeas)
  • 12 tablespoons aquafaba
  • 2 tablespoons vegan sugar
  • food coloring method of choice (red and green)
  • 15 oz Apricot Jam (not the kind with clumpy pieces in it, you want it to be smooth)
  • 10 oz vegan chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Place parchment paper on three jelly roll pans or rimmed cookie sheets and spray parchment with cooking oil.
  3. In a stand mixer bowl, place the almond paste and 3/4 cup with 2 tablespoons of sugar. Mix on the medium speed setting until crumbly.
  4. Cut the Earth Balance into small pieces and place into the the mixture while beating together until all the Earth Balance is in there and the batter is smooth.
  5. Sift 2 cups of flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt into a bowl. Add into the mixer slowly and continue to mix until combined. Do not over mix.
  6. In a large metal bowl, using a handheld electric mixer, place the 12 tablespoons of aquafaba. Whip until foamy. Slowly add in the 2 tablespoons of sugar while continuing to whip on the highest setting. Stop when you have created firm peaks (if you take out the whisks from the meringue, and place them upside down, it will not drip down).
  7. Add 1/3 of the meringue into the batter and fold in with a rubber spatula. Add the rest of the meringue and mix until fully incorporated.
  8. Place the batter evenly into 3 bowls. 1 bowl keep plain, and then add green and red to the other two bowls.
  9. Transfer the batters onto their respective cookie sheets one at a time with a wet rubber spatula . My sheets were too big to be able to spread out the batter entirely, so I tried my best to make the most even shaped rectangles on each cookie sheet so they’d match up when layered together after baking.  Don’t worry too much about it, you’ll cut the edges so they’re prettier when it’s all assembled anyhow. Just worry about making relatively even thickness rectangles for now.
  10. Bake for 4 minutes, rotate the pans around in the oven so that one pan is not on the bottom rack the whole time, and bake for another 4-6 minutes until the edges are slightly browned.
  11. Allow to cool completely.
  12. Spread a thin layer of apricot jam on top of the red layer.
  13. Cut any excess parchment paper from around the white layer. Holding the bottom of the cookie with both hands, carefully line up and flip the white layer onto the red.
  14. Spread another layer of jam. Repeat step 13 with the green layer, but do not place anymore jam on top.
  15. Cover with plastic wrap. Place a clean cookie sheet on top to press down the layers. Place something heavy and even (like two cans on either side) on top of that, and place into the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.
  16. Take off the cans, cookie sheet, and plastic wrap. With a sharp knife, trim the uneven sides into a clean rectangle shape. Let sit for a moment or a few.
  17. Melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler or microwave.
  18. Spread over the top layer and sides with a spatula.
  19. Allow to set, and then cut into smalls squares.
  20. Place in a container and store in the refrigerator or at room temperature.

Enjoy! I know I certainly will!

 

 

Vegan Mofo 2014: Pizza day! (Day 26) Walnut Meat Cheeseburger Pizza!

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I think this is one of the prettiest pizzas I’ve ever made. So many colors and it was amazingly tangy, cheesy, crunchy and meaty all in one bite! The crust is the same pretzel crust that I made on this pizza too, because I realized it’s my favorite pizza crust now whether it’s pretzel dough or not.

Oh man, I made this awhile ago and now I want it again. My mouth is watering thinking of it, but I am also feeling a bit lazy today, so that’s not going to happen.

😦

Ingredients:

One batch pretzel pizza crust dough (recipe here)

1 batch of the walnut meat (recipe here)

Sauce:

1/2 cup canned tomato sauce

  • 1 tsp agave nectar
  • 1/2 tsp ume plum vinegar (optional)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp yellow mustard

Other fixings:

  • 1 dill pickle, sliced into thin circles
  • 3/4 cup daiya cheddar cheese shreds
  • 1/2 cup shredded iceberg lettuce
  • 1/2 cup shredded red cabbage

Directions:

  1. After making the batch of walnut meat, turn the oven up to 450 degrees F.
  2. Roll out the dough into a large circle and place on a pizza pan.
  3. Combine the sauce ingredients and spread across the crust.
  4. Sprinkle the walnut meat all over.
  5. Place pickle circles around the pizza.
  6. Sprinkle 1/2 cup daiya cheddar on top, then sprinkle the lettuce and cabbage, and top with another 1/4 cup of daiya.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes.

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Vegan Mofo Day 17: Worldly Wednesdays: French Onion Soup

Okay, so this could have easily also went into Saturday’s theme, but I felt for some reason that having it in Worldly Wednesday was more fitting.

French onion soup with melty cheese on top of French bread croutons

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French onion soup with melty cheese on top of french bread croutons

This recipe took a lot of research and was referenced to two different recipes, one vegan from the start and one not. The main recipe I want to give credit to is the recipe I based the cheese off of, http://vedgedout.com/2013/03/11/individual-vegan-margherita-pizzas-with-homemade-fresh-moxarella-cheese/. I tweaked it quite a bit because I wanted it to have a sharper flavor that tasted more like the cheese I remember from this dish and rewrote the directions based upon my own experience with making it.

My entire family (none are vegan themselves) all ate it and said it tasted like the real thing. My mom (although full disclosure: has not eaten real cheese since the 90s, longer than I have abstained from it) said the texture and melty-ness of the cheese was spot on and was of excellent flavor.

Here is the recipe:

Ingredients:

For the soup:

  • 1 stick earth balance (1/2 cup or 8 tbsp)
  • 4 vidalia onions, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 cup vegan red wine (See barnivore.com to be sure the wine you select is vegan)
  • 3 tbsp unbleached all purpose flour
  • 2 quarts (8 cups) vegetable broth (I used Trader Joe’s Low Sodium variety)
  • Salt and pepper to taste (I only added 1/2 tsp black pepper because I’m watching my sodium and it didn’t seem bland at all)
  • 1 french baguette, sliced thick
  • 1 batch melty tapioca cheese (see below)

For the cheese:

  • 1/4 cup raw cashews
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 2 tbsp plus 1 tsp tapioca starch
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika

Directions:

For the cheese (it is best to make this first because it can sit while you cook the rest):

  1. Blend ingredients in a good blender until totally smooth/liquid.
  2. Pour into a saucepan and cook while stirring constantly on medium-high heat.
  3. After it begins to look as if it is separating (and is), turn the heat to medium and continue to stir until it becomes very thick and is a melty, stretchy consistency. It will also be bubbling quite a bit. Pretend you are a witch making a fancy vegan potion or a mad scientist doing a new experiment. 😛
  4. Set aside or place in the fridge when cool for use a bit later when the rest of the soup is done.

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After the cheese is done

For the soup:

  1. In a large soup pot over medium heat, melt the stick of Earth Balance.
  2. Add the onions, garlic, bay leaves, and thyme sprigs and cook covered for about 20-25 minutes until the onions are browned, soft, and caramelized. Check about every five minutes or so and stir gently to make sure it doesn’t start to burn.
  3. Add wine, boil, and reduce the heat to simmer until the wine is mostly evaporated and the onions are somewhat starting to dehydrate. Leave the pot uncovered for this step. This will take at least 10 minutes, maybe longer.
  4. Add the flour and stir. Reduce the heat and cook for about 3 minutes or less if the flour really starts to stick to the bottom of the pot.
  5. Add the vegetable broth and stir the contents of the bottom of the pot to deglaze the flour and onions stuck to the bottom.
  6. Bring to a simmer and cook for at least 10 minutes.
  7. Add pepper and/or salt as desired. Don’t be tempted to add too much salt as the salt in the vegetable broth should be enough (unless you bought a salt free brand). I just added 1/2 tsp black pepper, you might like more or less.

To put it all together:

  1. Preheat the broiler.
  2. Place the baguette slices on a baking sheet, spray both bottoms and tops with cooking oil, and place a good sized dollop of the cheese (about 2 tbsp) on top.
  3. Broil for 3-5 minutes watching and checking quite carefully. Don’t let making the soup distract you because you could easily burn them beyond recognition if you don’t.
  4. Place soup in bowls or pretty ramekins and place the croutons on top of the soup, allowing the soup liquid to seep into the bread.
  5. If you have any leftover cheese, it might be a great idea to add a bit more to the soup and float it around for more of that gooey, stretchy, deliciousness.

I actually veganized it! My Family’s favorite. Tarragon Grape Unchicken (soy curls) Salad!

First of all, most of the credit for this recipe’s delicious flavors go to my mother, who makes the non-vegan version. I just basically veganized it.

Second, I want to rave about how awesome soy curls are. I don’t know if any other companies make them besides the Butler brand, and whether I can find them locally (I usually buy them online when I make a veganessentials purchase) but they are the best. They have the best texture, taste, and are so versatile to work with.

I’ve made them breaded and broiled, in buffalo tarts, and probably other things I can’t remember prior to this. All were delicious.

This time I thought, hmm, I bet they’d make a good faux chicken salad!

So I put a vegan spin on one of the rest of my family’s all time non-vegan favorite recipes, so now I can eat it too!

tarragon grape unchicken salad

 

This makes a lot, you can half it pretty easily I bet.

Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
  • Water
  • Whole package Butler Soy Curls
  • 1/2 tsp poultry seasoning (the one I found is various spices and herbs and some salt and pepper in it–completely vegan)
  • 21 grams (a small package at my grocery store in the produce section) of fresh tarragon
  • 1 cup vegenaise
  • 3 medium stalks raw celery, chopped
  • 1 cup seedless red grapes cut into halves

Directions:

  1. First, re-hydrate the soy curls. Basically what I did was pour the whole package of those weird looking things into a medium sized mixing bowl, and then poured in the vegetable broth. The vegetable broth didn’t cover them completely, so I added enough water after that to cover them. I think you could use just water for the whole thing, but the soy curls absorb some of the flavor of the broth which makes it extra tasty.
  2. Let the soy curls sit in the bowl and broth/water mixture for 10-15 mins until soft.
  3. Drain most of the liquid out with a strainer. You still want them wet but you don’t want a lot of extra liquid, maybe only like 3 tbsp extra at most.
  4. Take out your food processor. Pour the soy curls into it.
  5. Add the poultry seasoning.
  6. Pulse several times until the soy curls are chopped and the seasoning is combined into them. You do not want them mushy or pureed-like at all. Just kind of flaky and still a little rough.  Keep your food processor out because you’ll need it again.
  7. Place the soy curls back in the mixing bowl.
  8. Add vegenaise and combine.
  9. Remove the stems from the tarragon, and place into the food processor.
  10. Chop them finely but leave them still slightly whole.
  11. With a spatula, fold into the soy curls and vegenaise mixture.
  12. Add chopped celery and grapes, fold.
  13. And voila! It’s done! Gobble it up and tell me how it is!

I’m going to place this unchicken salad over lettuce and add some raw almonds and eat this for my salad this week, so this is essentially my salad of the week post.

 unchicken salad