Good morning and Happy Monday!! I hope all the Patriots fans out there are having a super day… I am. What a great game, huh? Everyone I watched the game with was rooting for the Seahawks (except one friend who was pity-rooting for the Pats for my benefit, haha), so that just made the victory even sweeter. I’ve seen some pretty awesome memes popping up on Facebook this morning, but I think my favorite: They hate us ‘cuz they ain’t us! GO PATS!
Anyways, speaking of sweet… I made you some Valentine’s Day cupcakes. They’ve got a little secret ingredient in them to make them all pretty in pink, and it’s not red dye #40. I’ll give you a hint: it came from my garden…
BEETS?! If you’ve ever prepared beets at home, I’m sure you’ve been a victim of stained countertops and pink fingers. Super duper healthy phytonutrients called betalains give beets their red hue. With such a powerful and good-for-you all-natural dye, why on earth do we put chemicals into our festive baked goods? Beet juice works just as well! And beet juice is such a concentrated coloring agent that you really don’t need to use much… meaning that it won’t affect the flavor of whatever you’re dyeing (unlike something like raspberry juice).
I won’t say I never eat artificial food colorings, because if I’m offered a cookie or cupcake or candy, I rarely turn it down, regardless of its rainbow hue. But I do like to eat as healthy as possible when I cook for myself, and when I’m baking at home, beet juice is just as easy peasy to use as red food coloring.
So how do you get beet juice out of a beet?
Well, the easiest way, of course, is to juice the beets! Since I own a juicer, so that’s a no brainer for me. If you aren’t lucky enough to own a juicer, there are a couple things you can do. You could shred the beets (a food processor would be the least-messy method), place them in a cheesecloth or dish towel (dark colored or one you don’t care about) and wring out the juice. You could also simmer chopped beets in a very small amount of water (just barely covering the beets) until they are tender, then use the cooking liquid, which will now be bright red. If you just don’t feel like doing the work… lucky for you, juicing is all the rage these days so you can find already-pressed beet juice at Whole Foods or other similar healthy grocery stores! (Or juice bars if you’re lucky enough to live in a real city!)
Now… once you’ve got your beet juice, how do you use it? Just like you would food coloring! You can add as much or as little as you’d like, depending on what shade of pink or red you’re going for. Do be warned: this method works great for frosting, icing, and no-bake treats. Baking is a little trickier, because the betalains can change to a more brown color when exposed to heat. So I’m not sure how well this would work in say, vanilla cupcakes. But I haven’t tried it! Has anyone out there?
Here’s the recipe I used for my frosting. And in case you’re curious, I used this recipe for the chocolate cupcakes and they were pretty darn delicious.
- 1½ sticks butter, at room temperature
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp milk
- ½ to 1 tsp beet juice
- Using an electric or stand mixer, beat butter until light and fluffy.
- Add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time, and beat until well incorporated.
- Add the vanilla extract and milk, and beat until combined.
- Add the beet juice and beet until the desired color is reached and frosting is light and fluffy. (You may need to scrape down the sides of the bowl.)
For the record (and in case you’re still skeptical about putting a little veggie in your cupcakes), I served these to 6 kids and 5 adults and no one was the wiser. They were gobbled up without any questions or complaints! So seriously, you can’t taste the beets. Not even a little bit. So please, please do yourself a favor and stop putting chemicals in your food. Food can still be fun… you’ve just got to get a little creative. 🙂 Happy Valentine’s Baking!