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Superfoods and Two Delectable Recipes by chef Julie Morris

Superfoods1Superfood – Micronutritional Powerhouses 

On the quest for a balanced life, chef and author Julie Morris’ mission is simple: to share recipes and nutrition tips that make a vibrantly healthy lifestyle both easy to achieve and follow. 

Superfood. Admittedly, this term has been tossed around in the marketplace a lot, to be fair, it’s a rather broad term with no official parameters. But in the Oxford Dictionary, superfood is defined as, “A nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being.” Through my own research, I can attest to these as being some of the most concentrated natural foods in terms of their phytochemical and antioxidant constitution. They can turn an omnipresent “slump” upside down. Trust me, I can speak from experience.

In my twenties, while studying advertising in college and juggling a heavy workload, I turned to a diet of coffee, high-powered energy drinks, and more coffee. As a consequence, I ended the school year exhausted, with chronic stomach pains, an experience of overall achiness, and most frustrating of all, low productivity. I knew I needed a change.  After finding little luck with conventional over-the-counter medications, I turned my focus over to one of my most favorite subjects: food.

I’ve always been interested in food. On an exploratory quest to “eat my way to health” I researched a new category of ingredients: superfoods.  Understanding that they had the potential to nourish, satisfy, energize, and heal, I swore off the stimulant drinks I had become so reliant upon and began to slowly experiment with superfoods, starting with maca and goji berries. Long story short, after a month of including them in my diet – as a snack, or in my own recipe creations — I began to feel good. Not in a heightened buzz or extreme rush kind of way, but in the sense of better energy, balance, and clarity in focus. Epiphany or not, I wanted to learn more.

Since that time, ten years ago, I attribute “superfoods” to transforming the way I feel, enhancing the way I look, and changing the way I think about my body as well as my ability to experience self-love. Food plays two important roles: function and taste. Eating doesn’t have to be blind consumption, rather it can be a powerful opportunity to better ourselves with every bite. Eating should be a taste-oriented and body-oriented pleasure — and superfoods make seizing this opportunity easy.

It wasn’t long after my personal transformation that I committed my career to creating sumptuous superfood recipes. I’ve had the fortune to work in the natural food industry, as a recipe developer for Navitas Naturals and an author.

Important to the definition of superfoods, however, is the concept of nutrient density — the ratio of micronutrients per calorie of food. These are not the macronutrients we hear so much about: the fat, protein, and carbohydrates that make up calories. Rather, our focus here is on the micronutrients: the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals. Micronutrients are substances we need in very small quantities, yet are essential to our health and wellness and are becoming less prevalent in the standard American diet. It has been said that many of the major diseases that trouble our society today including diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis, heart disease, and obesity in one way, shape, or form relate back to various micronutrient deficiencies. It’s an empowering practice to pursue health outside of the doctor’s office, looking to our kitchens as source of healing superfoods.

superfoods 2CREATING A SUPERFOOD PANTRY

Every superfood has its own flavor, texture, and colors, which means any meal can be transformed with these items. The following list includes some of my favorites. Most can be found in your neighborhood health store and even online.

  1. Maqui Berry – Although this fruit is a dietary staple for Mapuche Indians of Chile, the deep purple maqui berry is a “new” superfood to the US scene. Usually found in powder form, it has a mellow berry flavor, similar to a less-sweet blueberry. Recent tests have shown maqui to have a higher antioxidant concentration than any other fruit known; it’s especially potent in circulation-promoting anthocyanins. Try it in drinks and smoothies, salads and dressings.
  2. Cacao – This is one of the most antioxidant-rich foods in the world, and is the raw, natural source of the beloved chocolate. Cacao is one of the best plant-based sources of magnesium and contains phytochemicals and amino acids that support mood-elevating brain chemistry.  Before people make the “No Bake Brownies” from my first book, Superfood Kitchen, which includes cacao powder, they are usually are quick to claim “brownie expert” status first, and are dubious about the use of all-natural ingredients. Of course, this just makes the later exclamation of, “This is the best brownie I’ve ever had!” all the more wonderful.
  3. Mulberry – Dried mulberries offer a sweet flavor; think of a cross between raisins and vanilla. A top anti-aging food, mulberries contain a high concentration of resveratrol, an antioxidant compound not found in many foods (but made famous by its presence in grapes and red wine). While fresh mulberries are an enjoyable treat, they are usually confined to their local growing areas during a short harvesting season (they don’t ship well). Mulberries make a great snack or smoothie addition.
  4. Hemp Seeds – Tiny in size, and with a nutty, sunflower seed-like flavor, hemp is high in Omega 3’s and iron. It is one of the few alkaline-forming seeds in nature, due to the small green filament on the inside of the kernel. Hemp seeds boost the nutrition of anything they are added to, whether tossed into stews, mixed with oatmeal, or blended into smoothies.
  5. Kale – Rich in alkalizing and cleansing chlorophyll, vitamins, amino acids, and fiber, kale can be used just like any other green vegetable: in salad, whipped into a green smoothie, or gently baked/dehydrated into crunchy kale chips (a well celebrated game-changer for the snackers among us). Green vegetables in general feature high nutrition at a low calorie cost.

It’s exhilarating to play with these foods in the kitchen. While testing the recipes for my latest book, Superfood Smoothies, nothing made me happier than to see my friend’s toddler squeal with joy as she slurped down the book’s (now popular) mint chip smoothie –- an ice-cream-like blend secretly action-packed with spinach.  Truly, there is unlimited potential when it comes to the use of superfoods in our kitchens. Superfoods are a daily, rejuvenating investment in our bodies and in ourselves.

Julie Morris is a Los Angeles-based natural food chef and advocate of whole, plant-based foods and superfoods. She has worked in the natural food industry for more than a decade as recipe developer, writer, cooking show host, and spokesperson and executive chef for Navitas Naturals, a fair trade company that specializes in 100% organic superfoods. To learn more visit: juliemorris.net.

Photos by Jeff Skeirik: Rawtographer

Orange Goji SmoothieRecipes by Julie Morris

Orange Goji Smoothie 

Makes two 16-ounce servings

2 peeled, de-seeded, and chopped oranges

1 frozen banana

1/3 cup dried goji berries

2 tablespoons hemp seeds

½ cup coconut water

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

2 cups ice

Sweetener, to taste (optional)

Blend all ingredients together, except for the ice, until smooth. Add the ice and blend once more until frosty. Taste and adjust sweetness if desired.

Reprinted with permission from Superfood Smoothies. ©by Julie Morris, Sterling Publishing Co, Inc

Mizuna, Fennel & Mulberry SaladMizuna, Fennel & Mulberry Salad

Makes 4-6 servings

1 large fennel bulb, including fronds

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 ½ tablespoons fennel seeds

½ teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon freshly cracked pepper, or to taste

1 large bunch wild mizuna

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

2/3 cup dried mulberries

*If Mizuna is unavailable, arugula makes a fine substitute.

Trim off the fennel root and fronds, leaving a one-inch handle on top of the bulb. Reserve the fronds. Use a mandolin to carefully shave the fennel bulb into paper thin slices, yielding around six cups. Fill a large bowl with water and ice and place the fennel in the bath for about 10 minutes until crisp.

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, fennel seeds, sea salt, and black pepper to form a simple dressing.

When the fennel is crisp, remove the shavings from the ice bath and drain thoroughly. Gently pat dry with towels to remove any excess moisture, and place in a large bowl along with arugula, parsley, and 1/3 cup mulberries. Toss to combine, add the dressing, and gently mix by hand to distribute the ingredients evenly. To serve, place in serving bowls, then top with remaining mulberries and a few small sprigs of fennel fronds. Add additional black pepper, if desired.

Reprinted with permission from Superfood Kitchen © by Julie Morris, Sterling Publishing Co, Inc

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