Tag Archives: Natural Food Colouring

Little People: Birthday Parties

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Rainbow Rabbit Birthday CakeDInosaur cakeEchidna Ice Cream CakeBigger DIgger CakeBall CakeTurtle Cake

I love having birthday parties for my kids. We are blessed with lots of great family and close friends and undoubtably end up holding big parties when birthdays roll around. I think it is fantastic to celebrate and have some treats at a party, but I definitely think it is good to steer away from too much ‘party’ food. You cannot fill children (and adults) with ridiculous amounts of artificial colours, flavours and preservatives, huge amounts of sugary food and drink, and fatty, processed snacks and expect them all to feel good and have a great time. The kids are going to go crazy, the adults are going to get grumpy and later in the day they’ll all be feeling pretty average.

With regards to birthday cakes, I am a huge fan of homemade birthday cakes ala Women’s Weekly birthday cake cookbooks, but I especially try to avoid using artificial food colouring, packet cake mixes and processed foods. I’ve had great success with Natural Food Colouring and it is easier than you’d think. Click on the link to read more. All of the cakes pictured above were homemade – yes, those are M&M’s on the ball and yes, those are store bought chocolate finger biscuits, but other than that it’s all good stuff. The echidna was made of homemade strawberry ice cream (divine!) and the colourings on the rabbit are all natural. The turtle shell was white chocolate mixed with raspberries and the dinosaur was piped white chocolate mixed with spirulina powder.

As a general rule at parties, my kids have to ask before they eat things and listen if I tell them they are only allowed a certain amount of particular foods. Also when they get party bags they have to show me the contents first and I tell them what or how much they are allowed to have. We have always done this with our kids so they are used to it and don’t think twice about it. Certainly it is hard to change habits but it’s worth persevering with this one. It will save you a lot of hyperactivity, tummy cramps, diahorrhea or constipation, and general poor behaviour from the kids later. I know some people will argue that it’s just a party so why worry, but at the end of the day kids go to a fair number of parties, especially once they start school and enlarge their circle of friends.

Here are some ideas for how to cater a healthier (but still very fun!) party:

  • Try to make as much of the food from scratch as you can – do this yourself or ask friends and family to help out
  • Write a list of all the food you’ll be providing and try to get a balance between savoury and sweet foods
  • Remember that you will have birthday cake too so don’t go overboard with other treats
  • Try to keep artificial colours, flavourings and preservatives to a minimum
  • Make party bags with only a few lollies or treats in them and add some healthy treats or fun stuff like party blowers, bubbles, stickers, notepads, coloured pens or pencils etc

At one of my daughters birthday parties last year we served homemade chicken nuggets and chips to the kids. I totally underestimated how many chips we could cook in the oven at once and only had about 6 chips per child! My mum quickly began buttering slices of bread and I cut cheese sticks from a block of cheddar. 15 minutes later the food was eaten and the kids were asking for more cheese sticks! Sometimes we forget that the simplest things are fun just because it’s a party.

Drinks at parties don’t need to be a big deal either. You can certainly make your own drinks if you have time. Something like homemade lemonade (the EDC recipe is great if you have a TMX) is fabulous and always goes down well, but often kids (especially young kids) are just as happy with water. If that is all you provide then they usually won’t question it. Water from some type of dispenser or cask that they can operate themselves and cups with a permanent marker for them to write their name on offer more entertainment than you might think.

Savoury suggestions for your party menu:

Sweet suggestions for your party menu:

  • Magic bean chocolate cake (this makes a great birthday cake)
  • Choc coconut fudge
  • Homemade icy poles using fruit juice (mix equal parts 100% apple and orange juice to make a ‘frosty fruit’)
  • Chocolate crackles (I make mine with just melted chocolate mixed with Rice Bubbles)
  • I haven’t tried these yet but will report back when I do – Really Healthy Chocolate Crackles
  • Honey Joys – TMX recipe & stovetop recipe
  • The Natural Confectionary Company Lollies are a good, easily accesible alternative to other brands which contain a lot of artificial colours and flavours
  • Fairy Bread – choose a healthier white bread option like Baker’s Delight Hi-Fibre Lo-GI bread and sprinkles with natural colours (these are available at the big supermarkets)

This information is by no means comprehensive, in fact I plan to continue to add to my list of food suggestions for kid’s parties on the Little People page of this blog over time. And my suggestions are designed to make party food healthier while still being fun, tasty and relatively easily accessible. Of course you could be a lot stricter if you wanted to.

A couple of good resources which I haven’t tried yet but which look good are:

  • Hopper Foods: this Victorian business sells a great range of natural food colourings and naturally coloured sprinkles
  • Arch & Jax: this Perth-based business sells organic and additive free children’s party food and eco friendly party supplies

Homemade: Natural Food Colourings

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For my daughter’s recent 5th birthday, she requested a ‘Rainbow Rabbit Cake’. That is, a cake that looks like a rabbit with rainbow coloured icing. Here’s my interpretation (which she totally loved!):

 

I iced this cake with butter icing (butter and icing sugar whipped together) and made my own natural food colourings. I was so proud of the finished product. The colours looked great and contained absolutely no nasty additives.

I try to avoid additives and preservatives in my family’s food as much as possible. Children’s birthday parties are often where everyone seems to throw caution to the wind and fill kids up with not only sugar but nasty chemicals found in additives and preservatives. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have treats and yummy party foods, but there is no need to overdo it. I definitely find that if my kids eat some filling, healthy food then have some cake without food colourings their behaviour is so much better than if they’re full of lollies, chips and food colouring. I try to make at least some of our party food from scratch (have a look on my Lunchbox Legends page for some ideas) and minimise the food colourings. It really was easy to make these food colourings and would have been even quicker if I’d only had to do 1 or 2 colours!

When looking at the additives and preservatives in food colouring, common e-numbers include 102, 122, 124, 133, 210, 211, 216 and 218. All of these are considered dangerous, many are suspected carcinogens and linked to behavioural problems, hyperactivity and asthma. Many are banned in some european countries and the USA. It still amazes me how other countries completely ban these chemicals and yet they are readily found in may of our everyday foods. There is an excellent book called Additive Alert by Julie Eady, a Perth Mum, which is a must-read for everyone, especially parents. This book contains excellent information on the dangers of additives and preservatives in our foods, what to avoid and how to read food labels. Most usefully it has comprehensive, easy to use tables of additives and their effects both by name and number. You can order online for $22 including postage or buy from bookstores or Big W. I also have an app on my phone, e food additives, which is handy in the supermarket.

 

Here’s the icing colours I made:

  • Pale pink from raspberries – gently cook fresh or frozen raspberries for a few minutes then juice through a sieve. Add 1/2 tsp at a time to icing and mix well.
  • Dark Pink from beetroot – add juice from cooked beetroots to icing 1/2 tsp at a time and mix well.  (I blitzed a beetroot in the thermomix and cooked for 6 minutes, 100C, speed 1 then pureed on speed 9 and pushed through a sieve)
  • Purple from beetroot and bicarb soda – add juice from cooked beetroots to icing 1/2 tsp at a time and mix well. Add a small pinch of bicarb soda at a time to make more purple. The bicarb tends to keep reacting over time so leave for a few minutes before adding more. (I blitzed a beetroot in the thermomix and cooked for 6 minutes, 100C, speed 1 then pureed on speed 9 and pushed through a sieve)
  • Dark pink from blackberries – gently cook fresh or frozen blackberries for a few minutes then juice through a sieve. Add 1/2 tsp at a time to icing and mix well.
  • Yellow from tumeric – add tumeric powder to icing 1/4 tsp at a time and mix well
  • Orange from carrots – add juice from cooked carrots to icing 1/2 tsp at a time and mix well (I blitzed a carrot in the thermomix and cooked for 6 minutes, 100C, speed 1 then pureed on speed 9 and pushed through a sieve)
  • Green from spirulina – add spirulina powder to icing 1/2 tsp at a time and mix well (Spirulina is a green, leafy superfood. Spirulina powder available from health food stores)
  • Blue from blueberries – gently cook fresh or frozen blueberries for a few minutes then juice through a sieve. Add 1/2 tsp at a time to icing and mix well. Add a small pinch of bicarb soda at a time to change colour to blue. The bicarb tends to keep reacting over time so leave for a few minutes before adding more.

I promise you that no one will taste these additions to your icing. I have served cakes with these icings at quite a few parties now. In total over 40 kids and 60 adults have eaten them without raising anyones suspicions! In fact, my 5 year old and 3 year old girls were very impressed with how I made the colours and declared that ‘you can’t even taste it!’. These are just the colours I experimented with. I’d love to hear how you go making your own. I’ve read that spinach juice can give a good green and I’d say red cabbage would work well too. Definitely experiment by adding a small pinch of bicarb soda and watch how your colours change. Give it a few minutes to work – on this cake my outer circle of icing was fairly purple when I put it on but by the time I served the cake it had turned a very satisfactory blue. Also, I’d say if you had the time to cook down the juices you’ve made that you would get more intense colours.

There are natural food colourings and sprinkles available to buy from an Australian Company called Hopper Foods. I haven’t tried these but they do look good. There are some notes on the food colourings that they need to be kept in the freezer, have a use-by date, react to light and work better in acid environments like lemon icing. I also found sprinkles with natural food colouring (still additives but only those that are considered safe) in my local Woolworths. Another Perth business, Arch & Jax, provides organic (additive free) party supplies like sprinkles and lollies, as well as environmentally friendly party supplies. Again, I haven’t used these guys yet but they look excellent.

Hopefully I’ve given you the motivation to try your hand at making your own food colourings for your next party. Happy Experimenting!