Color of love: All-natural food coloring

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My husband and I are not really crazy about Valentine's Day, for all the reasons you'd guess. We'll still go out to dinner, though, and I'm sure we will buy each other more than one red heart cookie, with hard shellac frosting colored with red dye. There's nothing wrong with that, but I wanted to try something else this year.

I do own food coloring for special occasions, but if possible, I like to either go without or come up with a natural option. Beets color everything they touch — I did some research and found out that you can impart the color, but not necessarily the flavor, if you boil them down with water and reserve the water. You can also do this with carrots and with many green veggies, but you'll have to reduce a lot more than you do with beets.

The pink you get is brilliant and perfect for Valentine's Day, a bright fuchsia that was not concocted in a lab somewhere. A little goes a long way, and I promise there is no beet flavor. I whipped it into whimsical whipped cream and used a sugar frosting to glaze homemade baked donuts.

I love this because it seems so impressive, but it's really incredibly simple. It's a recipe you can make in the background while you're cooking dinner, you can spin it into all kinds of dessert ideas, and it's great for people who have food allergies or are trying to avoid certain kinds of food additives.

Beet food coloring

Ingredients:

Two beets, washed and cut into quarters

Enough water to cover beets in a saucepan

Directions:

Add beets to saucepan and add enough water to cover them. Simmer until liquid has reduced by two-thirds. Pour beet food coloring into a small container and keep up to one week. Scoop out beets and save to use in salads, smoothies, etc.

Beet-pink frosting

Ingredients:

1 to 2 cups powdered sugar

1 tsp beet food coloring

2 tbsp milk, more if needed

½ tsp cornstarch

Directions:

Whisk sugar, food coloring, milk and cornstarch together with fork until all sugar is absorbed and frosting is shiny and thick. If too thin, add more powdered sugar, about 1 tablespoon at a time.

Pink whipped cream

Ingredients:

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp sugar

½ tsp beet food coloring

Directions:

With a hand mixer (or with a whisk if you're strong), whip cream, food coloring, sugar and vanilla extract together until stiff peaks form. Serve in a layer cake, with ice cream, or on top of any other dessert you desire.

About making donuts

I happen to own a heart-shaped donut pan. I know that's not a common household item. It's not a big investment, though — I got mine on Amazon for about $6. If you don't have one, make cupcakes or sugar cookies, or find an easy donut recipe on Pinterest (I used sallysbakingaddiction.com/2014/04/25/chocolate-frosted-donuts and bunsinmyoven.com/2013/04/01/glazed-chocolate-donuts) and make hole-less donuts in a muffin tin.


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