Blue Food Coloring for Your Superbowl Cupcakes! … or Any Blue Event

DO try this at home! Especially with the kids.

For some reason, the need for blue food coloring keeps coming up. And even though “all things in moderation” is a beloved maxim around here, I just can’t bring myself to buy the artificial stuff. The latest call for blue food coloring is this year’s (2015) Superbowl teams, both of which are proudly represented by shades of blue. I am thinking cupcakes. There are white frosting recipes out there for traditional cupcakes, or vegan, vegetarian, paleo, whatever you like! Why not dress them up with team colors?

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There are not a lot of blue foods – purple potatoes, blue corn, blueberries all contain that lovely blue pigment. But how to extract that color?

Another option is blue butterfly pea powder. It is a beneficial, mild-flavored ingredient that is often used to make tea. An internet search will lead you to sources for this product, including organic options. Sadly, I do not have this in my pantry… but this is what is looks like…

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Image from Alibaba.com

Hello, gorgeous! bluebutterflypeapowder_alibaba1

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Image from bestfromthai.ru

 

Back to earth…

A product that I do have, that is inexpensive, and utterly cool for making blue food coloring is… wait for it… drumroll… red cabbage!

So, if you knew this already, you are not terribly impressed. But if this is something you have not tried, you should do so, just because it is easy, fun, and a great science/art combo lesson for the kids.

How to…

Start by slicing your red cabbage. Red cabbage is packed with vibrant color. Honestly, it is worth putting this cabbage on your plate JUST for the color.

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Add your cabbage to an pot and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil and cook the cabbage for about 10 to 15 minutes. You are extracting all that beautiful purple color.

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Strain out all that beautiful purple cabbage broth. Set the cabbage aside. The cabbage itself will look anemic, now that it has given you all its color. It has done its job. You need not keep it. But if you hate waste (like me), you can always throw it into a soup or casserole.

The vibrant purple broth is your prize…

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Pour the purple broth into a sauce pot and cook on about a medium heat until it reduces.

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Gently reduce until the broth thickens into a viscous syrup. One good-sized head of cabbage will reduce to about 1/4 cup syrup.

‘Love this color!

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The reduction…

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Before turning this blue, we have to take a moment and admire the purple. 🙂

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The secret ingredient which turns this beautiful purple into beautiful deep blue is baking soda.

Add just a tiny pinch at a time. If you add too much, you will get green. That is fine if you are going for green, or making this a science project to show the kids all the beautiful colors you can make… but if you want blue…

Go slow! stiring in one tiny pinch at a time

… until you get the color you want.

When you sprinkle in your little pinch of baking soda, it immediately turns blue where it lands. So cool! (My apologies for the blurry image.)

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After a couple of little sprinkles of baking powder stirred in, you can see the color changing. Can you see the almost greenish tinge on the side of the bowl? The concentration of baking soda is higher there.

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With a gradual addition of more baking soda, success! We have blue!

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This can be added to all sorts of foods as food coloring. However, anything acidic will further alter the pH balance and turn the product green. A non-acidic plain white frosting would be great! Something like acidic lemon frosting may not yield the color you want.

Mix in blue food coloring into frosting, adding a much as you like, until you are happy with the color.

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If you are worried about cabbage taste, no need to fear! My taste-testers, who have very discriminating palates, did not even detect cabbage in the frosting. They also had no problem with beets in the red frosting – and there was a lot!

Important! Be sure to refrigerate this coloring! It is made with REAL FOOD and should be eaten quickly and kept refrigerated for freshness. We once made the mistake of leaving a cupcake out overnight. This was a bad idea.

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Tip: Use a thick frosting. Mine was a bit too thin, It worked, but ran down the cupcakes a bit… especially the red beet frosting. When using beets, a butter cream frosting works great!

Have fun!!!

Being that this year’s match-up is Patriots vs Seahawks, if you need natural red coloring, beets are the go-to. And gray can be made from black cocoa powder, activated charcoal powder (which is a beneficial ingredient), or squid ink.

Storage Update

In the fridge, the red cabbage color does not last long. It is real food and real food goes bad fast. I would not try to keep it more than a couple days. However, it does freeze very well! Here is a picture from a batch of frozen cubes. When ready to use them, I will just let them thaw, add baking soda to adjust the color, and use it up immediately.

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Helpful links:

Red food coloring from beets – backtoherroots.com

Black/Gray food coloring – WikiHow

Seven Reasons I Hate Artificial Food Coloring from 100 days of Real Food

Enjoy!

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Game Day Food! Popcorn Style Cauliflower Munchies

In time for Superbowl! If you are going to mindlessly munch, why not mindlessly munch on a snack that is both delicious AND won’t leave you groaning with an upset stomach even if your team wins? Or if you want, throw these in with all the junk food… for a groan-reducer. Maybe the anti-inflammatory properties of the cauliflower will cancel out some of that other stuff.

These little bites are popcorn inspired. I am not a fan of calling things what they are not. If I want popCORN, I will make popCORN. These are delicious on there own. Treat them like popcorn… give them oil so they roast and make crunchy bits… give them whatever seasonings you would put on popcorn… give them salt to make all the flavor shine… and if you can take it, give them heat! That bit of punch in the mouth spice makes these bites highly snackable.

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Popcorn Style Cauliflower Munchy Snacks

Wash cauliflower and break up florets into popcorn sized pieces.

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Place in a bowl and toss with a splash of oil. You will need about 2 T per one head of cauliflower. If you will be using Asian flavors, you may opt for peanut oil.

Sprinkle cauliflower with any seasonings you like! Add as much spice as you like. Salt, to taste. Pepper, if desired.

For TexMex munchies: This one has ancho chili powder, cumin, Mexican oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne for heat. Cumin brings a delicious depth to this mix, but use just a pinch. It will enhance the chili flavor. Of course, if you don’t have Mexican oregano, any oregano will be yummy.

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For “Cheesy” paprika: This batch is generously sprinkled with nutritional yeast, paprika, and a little garlic powder. If you do not want to make a Vegan dish, you can, of course, use Parmesan.

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For Spicy Asian style: This one has ground ginger, garlic powder, onion powder, a few drops of sesame oil, and cayenne for heat.

These flavors go together and are delicious, but more than that – most of these seasonings are very anti-inflammatory. Cauliflower is also and anti-inflammatory food, making this version a one-two punch. Win-Win!

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Spread seasoned cauliflower over a parchment-lined cookie sheet.

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Roast until they are nicely browned. I like to see some very dark crunchy pieces. This will take 20-30 minutes.

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Popcorn Inspired Cauliflower Munchies

Ingredients

  • whole cauliflower – 1-2 heads, or as many as you like
  • cooking oil – preferably olive, coconut, or nonGMO canola
  • salt, to taste
  • spices, any that you like

For TexMex munchies: ancho chili powder, cumin (a little goes a long way), mexican oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne for heat, if desired

For “Cheesy” paprika: nutritional yeast, paprika, garlic powder

For Spicy Asian style: ground ginger, garlic powder, onion powder, a few drops of sesame oil, and cayenne for heat, to taste

Method

Set oven to 450º

Wash cauliflower and break up florets into popcorn sized pieces. Place in a bowl and toss with a splash of oil. You will need about 2 T per one head of cauliflower. If you will be using Asian flavors, you may opt for peanut oil.

Sprinkle cauliflower with any seasonings you like! Add as much spice as you like. Salt, to taste. Pepper, if desired.

Spread seasoned cauliflower over a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Roast until they are nicely browned. I like to see some very dark crunchy pieces. This will take 20-30 minutes.

Serve immediately.

Enjoy!

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What does “Eat Healthy” mean?

 

It is no secret that the pathway to good health includes a good diet. But is there a one-size-fits-all plan? Oh, if only!

Simply stated, a healthy diet is one that fills your body with all the nutrients it needs to be strong and vital, without adding toxins or any detrimental elements.

EVERYONE needs a standard set of essential nutrients – vitamins, minerals, amino acids and good fats.

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INDIVIDUALLY, we each thrive on a unique subset of those nutrients. Clearly, we wouldn’t feed a pregnant woman the same way we feed a PX90 enthusiast. Likewise, good foods for a heart patient will not be the same as those of a diabetic or someone with Crohns Disease.

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This could explain the popularity of diets, such as Paleo, Raw Vegan, and Macrobiotics. Individuals may find, that for whatever reason, they thrive on a very specific way of eating. That’s great! The problem is that not everybody thrives on every diet. Just because your brother, friend, neighbor, coworker feels like a million bucks on Diet X, does not mean that it is optimal for your body.

So how do you decide what is an optimal daily diet for you?

First, consult your physician.

To follow is information for you to consider. It is not medical advice. You should always consult your physician before embarking on any special diet, especially if you have specific health concerns.

Let Your Body Tell You What it Needs

Have you ever eaten some whole food that made you just feel great? Could you almost feel the little molecules and nutrients entering the cells in your body to give you peace and energy? Conversely, have you eaten junk food only to feel heavy and icky and stagnate? If so, good! Then you are able pick up on the clues your body gives you. If not, then a little mindful eating may just turn your world around.

A roadblock to reading your boy’s signals – Processed foods 

Trying to find which foods are best for you while on a processed foods diet is a bit like trying to see your feet when you are standing in a muddy pond. It is impossible to see anything below the surface. A processed foods diet will “muddy” and confuse a body’s signals. This may have a person jumping from one diet to the next, with mixed results and never quite finding his or her ideal foods. In clear clean water, you can see all the way down to the floor. When your diet is clean from chemicals and processed foods, your can pick up on those signals your body sends you. You may find that a bowl of pho makes you feel immense peace, or that beans and rice make you feel nourished, or green juice makes you feel refreshed, and you can take on the world!

feetinclearwater1Yes, organic foods are more expensive. Although, an organic diet is much cheaper than disease and there are tricks for eating organic on a budget.

Cleaning out chemicals and pesticides allows you to get clear signals from your body. Try this, and you will find that your own body will let you know when you have eaten the “right” or “wrong” foods for YOU.

You don’t have to change everything all at once. Add in one new healthy habit, or real whole unprocessed food, at a time. After a while, you may find unhealthy habits, or processed foods, dropping away. And you won’t miss them. Meanwhile, if you like sugar and butter, and your doctor has not told you otherwise, go ahead and eat REAL cane sugar and REAL whole butter without growth hormones… maybe even delicious Irish butter from grass-fed cows. Baby Steps.

What next?

Maybe nothing. Maybe your body, mind, and spirit are strong enough that you can stop there. Still, to get all your nutrients, here are some recommendations:

  • Eat whole foods in season. They will be at their best in nutrition and at there lowest in cost.
  • Organic is usually better. For example, a conventional apple may sit on the grocery store shelf up to 14 months! …losing all its nutrition. Organic food can’t sit that long. And, of course, it is free of pesticides and is nonGMO.
  • Eat local foods when possible. This will maximize nutrition (and minimize that green footprint thing)
  • Eat a variety of foods… aka Eat the Rainbow.
  • Remember your healthy fats.

If you still have Concerns…

If you are dealing with specific health concerns, or believe that you are suffering from food allergies or intolerance, than you may want to consider customizing your personal diet. -With your physician’s blessing, of course.

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This is often the point at which people start thinking about popular diets and becoming very overwhelmed.

You may know someone who swears by the Paleo diet and can offer you science to back it up, and someone else on a Vegan diet who has never felt better, or maybe even someone who eats only grapefruit and believes they have cured disease. But how can you determine what is right for YOU? You are unique.

A few years ago, a friend of mine was told that she MUST eat only raw foods… a diet of salads. However, she found that her body does not digest raw foods. If your body can’t process raw foods, unlocking the wonderful nutrients they contain, and you are left feeling tired all of the time, what is the point of this? Have a slow-cooked bowl of stew!

Tip: A recipe that is both Paleo and Vegan is good for just about everyone! 

But I digress…

Most of these diets are elimination diets of sorts. Paleo eliminates all grains, legumes, and dairy. Vegetarian diets limit most, or all, animal protein and products. Macrobiotics is grains-based and eliminates most meats, dairy, and other specific foods.

But what if you feel great on a Paleo diet because you have eliminated all grains, but really only need to eliminate wheat… maybe you have a wheat intolerance. Perhaps you can do well eating quinoa and nonGMO corn. That is for you to determine (with your physician).

To figure it all out, elimination diets are a useful place to start. Dr. Oz and J.J. Virgin have their own versions of this process. Essentially, you grossly simplify your diet for a couple of weeks, or until you feel better. Then you add back in one food item at a time. Your body WILL tell you, usually very quickly, if it does not like this food.

There are also elimination diets specific to health disorders. Many IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) sufferers have found good results from using the LowFODMAP diet. Usual suspect foods are eliminated, like lactose, gluten, and fructans, then added back in.

Another Option

Some of us don’t do so well with sticking to an elimination diet long enough to get results.

Getting more and more attention are diet plans that consider your personal constitution and suggest foods that are optimal for you as an individual.

The Blood Type Diet can be included in this group, as it recommends lists of foods which are generally optimal for each blood type… Type O requires high protein diet, whereas Type A calls for plant-based, etc. Some have found this a very useful starting point, adding and subtracting foods from the general list as needed.

Ancient and Time Tested Methods

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You may be hearing more about Ayurvedic principles. There is a reason for this. Traditional Chinese Medicine works by similar principles. These diets are based on centuries of observational studies. They make connections between specific health issues, your demeanor, you as a whole person, and optimal nourishing foods for you.

Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic diets, are more fluid, for lack of a better word. Each person will fit into a specific category, or categories. Each category suggests optimal beneficial foods for this person. But as the seasons change and health needs change, so may specific food choices.

While these are Eastern medicine principles, studies in Western medicine consistently proves them valid. For example, a hot-tempered person (pathology) may be likely to have heart problems (physiology). This person should eat heart healthy foods. Chinese medicine and western medicine are in agreement.

This is an extremely useful, and fun, place to start. You can read more about Traditional Chinese Medicine here and here.

If you like personality quizzes, here is one to help you determine your Traditional Chinese Medicine Element. Keep in mind that this little quiz is highly simplified. Chinese Medicine is an art, and you are complex. Still, the quiz is helpful. Have fun!

Getting from Point A to Point B

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Baby steps are fine. You don’t have to be perfect. Every little step you take toward healthful eating for YOU, will make you just a little bit stronger.

There is more than one way to get from point A to point B. Rather than letting options overwhelm you, why not embrace to opportunity to choose what appeals most to you? Whatever you choose, Food Highs supports you! Watch for recipes. 🙂

… and no, I am not recommending the eating of elephants.

 

Information on this site should NOT be taken as medical advice. Always consult your doctor in matters of health.

Nourishing Chicken Broth

The old wives had it right! Broths and stocks are so nourishing and healing. While chicken is the standard and may add a layer of nostalgia, vegetables broths and other stocks certainly earn their place on the well-nourished table.

Today… Chicken stock and broth.

Which factors differentiate a stock from a broth are debatable. In my view, terms are much less important than results. It is better to understand the product.

Bones (and cartilage and skin) provide gelatin which thickens the stock and gives it body.  The result is a richer, thicker mouthfeel. The term for simmering bones, with little or no meat and flavorings, then straining the liquid, is generally regarded as “stock”.

Meat provides flavor. Simmered meat, with seasonings, to enrich water, is generally regarded as “broth”. The strained liquid will be thinner, but very flavorful.

When making your broths and stocks, you decide. Throw in anything you like. It’s your creation.

Store-bought Stocks and Broths

  • When it comes to store bought stocks and broth, in my experience, definitions pretty much go out the window. They generally are thin and flavor varies. When using store-bought, I opt for an organic brand and then transform the flavor.

What goes in?

Bones

Collagen in bones is beneficial for skin and bone health. As we grow older, we tend to lose collagen, resulting in wrinkling and joint issues. Collagen can also be important for people with connective tissue issues, like EDS (Ehlers Danlos Syndrome).

Collagen gelatanizes and makes the stock rich, thick, and delicious.

Money-Saving Tip: Buy whole chickens and collect bones in a plastic freezer bag. Keep frozen until you are ready to make stock.

Meat

Meat brings flavor. If you are making a chicken noodle soup, or want to simmer chicken for a dish, like BBQ Pulled Chicken, go ahead and throw in the whole bird. You will get a thin broth, which you can use many ways.

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Vegetables

For flavor and nutrition, carrot, celery, onion, and garlic are standard. Depending on what your broth will be used for, feel free to throw in any other vegetable you have on hand. I have thrown in kale, parsnips, and just about anything else that needed to be “used while it is still good”.

Wash your veggies, but there is no need to peel them. A lot of nutrition lives in carrot peels. You bought the carrot; you can use the peel.

Tip: If you feed scraps to your sweet dog, be careful of what you include in the broth. For example, onion is not recommended for a doggie diet. You can always add it in later to your soup, stew, or sauce.

Carrots, however, are great for dogs. My little dog will only eat carrots that come from my chicken broth. She LOVES stock and broth days.

Nutrition and flavor enhancers

If you are all about maximizing the nutrition you get from every bite, either bay leaves or a piece of kombu should go into every broth you make. Bay leaves and kombu break down the other ingredients as they cook, making the nutrients in them even more bioavailable. In other words, you will increase the nutrition you get from each bite.

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Basic Nutrient-Rich Chicken Broth

Ingredients

  • chicken bones (with or without meat attached)
  • water – enough to cover chicken
  • vegetables – recommended: 1-2  carrots, 1-2 celery stalks, 1 onion, 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1-2 bay leaves or one strip of kombu (an inch or two)
  • optional: dried herbs, to taste (thyme is very good)
  • optional: salt and pepper, to taste

Method

Place chicken bones into a large stock pot and cover with cool water. Rough chop vegetables into large pieces and add them in. Add bay leaves or kombu. Add seasonings, if desired.

Bring pot to a boil. Reduce to simmer. Cover and simmer for at least 45 minutes, or up to 2 1/2 hours. After about 2 to 2 1/2 hours, you have extracted just about all the flavor you are going to get.

With a large spoon, skim fat and any scum off of the top. (There should not be scum if you have slow simmered the broth.) Through a fine-mesh strainer, strain out the liquid into a large bowl.

If you are making your broth in advance, you can cool the broth and refrigerate it. If you do this, you do not need to skim the fat because it will separate itself as the broth cools. You then need only to remove the chilled fat from the top and discard it.

Your broth is ready for a plethora or recipes. Use immediately, or refrigerate, or freeze.

Enjoy!

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Healing with Onion

While most normal people were ringing in the new year, I began 2015 with a hacking cough. It didn’t interfere with any special plans; in my house December 31, 2014 would be pretty much just an evening of convincing my 16-year old Terrier that those loud fireworks outside do not mean that the world is coming to an end – again. But catching a “bug” was a surprise. It had been so long since a virus had overtaken me that I had forgotten what it felt like. I didn’t like it. But lack of sleep and failure to practice what I preach can do that.

So in the first few days of January 2015, while most people are thinking of fresh starts and new goals, I was watching “Whatever happened to Baby Jane”, drinking hot tea and vegetable soup, and thinking of healing foods. My January goals will definitely include LOTS of my healing foods.

Healing with Onion

If the onion makes you cry, it is stronger than you are. 

– Traditional Chinese Medicine Principle

Onions are used to combat bronchitis, cough, and the common cold. They act to decrease inflammation and draw out phlegm. For this reason, it is said in Chinese medicine that if an onion makes you cry, it is stronger than you. In other words, there is likely a health imbalance present for the onion to act upon.

Sulfer in onion acts as a powerful detoxer. Onions are also beneficial for lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, possibly because they are a rich source of quercitin. And possibly due to their folate, they produce a calming effect. They are also beneficial for hair and skin health, and are cancer-fighters.

Onions are also a great prebiotic food. Prebiotics are the food for probiotics. Probiotics are important for maintaining a healthy digestive health.

How to use the Onion

Eat them!

While I have this annoying cough, I am making good use of the quintessential onion dish – French Onion Soup. Oh my goodness! How wonderful it feels to consume this hot brothy savory soup… I can feel it chasing away my cough with every bite. Even the act of creating this soup feels healing. As the onions saute and brown, they release that intoxicating aroma… soothing. You can make a very simple onion soup by sauteing thinly sliced onion, and adding beef broth and seasoning. Go slow and let those flavors develop. Add a crusty piece of bread with melted Gruyere on top and this dish can’t be beat.

If onion soup is not your thing, you can incorporate onions in an endless variety of dishes, from scrambled eggs or hash for breakfast to raw onion salads for lunch, and stir-fries for dinner.

Onion simmered in water with a little honey added is a traditional cough remedy. It can be eaten this way every few hours.

Juice them!

Juiced onions can be consumed or used externally in a compress to draw out pain and swelling from an insect bite.

More external use.

Onion packs can also be placed directly on the chest to relieve congestion. Some people claim that placing onion slices on the bottoms of your feet under socks (while you sleep) will draw out toxins. I do not know whether or not there is science on this. I can tell you that it will make your room smell delicious.

Air purifier

Onions cut in half and placed on a counter in the room are used to draw toxins from the air. For this reason, it is best not to eat an onion that has been sitting out. If you use an onion in this way, throw it out. When you refrigerate a cut onion, be sure to seal it well.

Tip: White onions are generally preferred over red for remedies.

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This image comes form kitchen.net where you can also read about the history of French Onion Soup.

In any event, we are going through bags of sweet onions in my home and I am loving every minute of it!

Information on this site should NOT be taken as medical advice. Always consult your doctor in matters of health.