by Julie Morris
Superfoods are simply the most nutrient-dense, benefit-rich foods found in nature.
Per calorie, these foods offer exceptionally high quantities of healthy goodness; and when you incorporate these special ingredients into recipes, they help you get the most goodness out of each and every bite you take. Superfoods are the perfect example of “not all calories are created equal,” in the very best sense. Eating super foods leads to long-term satiation and satisfaction.
Some superfoods have become almost staples, or at least more familiar to most of us, such as hemp seeds (which can be added to smoothies or mixed in a variety of foods) and acai (which has inspired shops offering bowls made with a base of this tropical fruit. Spirulina is another superfood long beloved by health food advocates; here I suggest adding it to a satisfying peppermint pattie recipe perfect to serve to friends and family over the holidays. Other anti-oxidant rich super foods now receiving more attention include the colorful dragon fruit and maqui berry. Try super charging any of your meals with some delicious superfood recipes.
Dragonfruit (also known as pitaya) is a relative newcomer on the superfood scene, but is quickly gaining a major following. Believe it or not, dragon fruit is the fruit of a cactus. There are two types that are most often sold for edible use: one with a white interior and one with a fuchsia interior. Choose the white and you’ll be gravely disappointed with a weak, watery flavor, but it does have a unique white and black-spotted inner aesthetic. But choose the pinkish-purple variety and prepare to enjoy a whirlwind of tastes, ranging from sweet and tangy to floral and nutty.
Dragonfruit is a balanced snack, high in fiber and full of abundant micronutrients including Vitamin C its sweet flesh and some protein and healthy Omega 3 fats in its crunchy edible black seeds. In addition, the pink variety is especially high in antioxidants, including heart-healthy lycopene. Use frozen dragonfruit packs in smoothies, or munch on dried dragon fruit slices (sold at natural food stores) and toss them into salads, desserts, sushi wraps, and morning breakfast bowls.
The recently evolving laws in the US may have sparked some of the recent interest in hemp but don’t be confused: while hemp and marijuana are botanically in the same family, the edible variety of hemp sold at grocery stores does not contain THC, does not make you high, and does not trigger a positive result in drug testing.
In terms of nutrition, hemp foods are one of the best plant-based sources of protein (containing all the essential amino acids), while simultaneously supplying omega fatty acids, fiber, antioxidants, and minerals such as iron. In terms of flavor, hemp seeds have a mild nutty taste, similar to sunflower seeds, with a pleasantly soft chew. For more concentrated protein, use a hemp protein powder, which is fantastic whipped into smoothies or mixed into baked goods as a partial flour replacement.
One of my personal favorites, this blue-green algae may not sound like the sexiest ingredient, but one look at its benefits and it’s easy to understand why spirulina is the gold standard of edible greens. With 2,800% more beta carotene than carrots, 3,900% more iron than spinach, 600% more protein than tofu, and 280% more antioxidant potency than blueberries, these impressive nutrients mean spirulina is absolutely invaluable for skin protection, immune function, cardiovascular health, and cellular function. And of course, some people love spirulina just for its energizing effects. For maximum nutrition, use spirulina in low-heat or raw applications, such as smoothies, dips, desserts, and snacks.
Creamy, with truly unique flavor notes of berries and chocolate, and one of the most amazing beauty superfoods around? It doesn’t take a genius to understand why acai is so loved. Acai is a berry that has enjoyed a longstanding reputation in Brazil as a prime energy food, and has now taken over many an Instagram feed in the form of elaborate smoothie bowls. Rich in protective anthocyanin antioxidants, and a good source of monounsaturated and even Omega 3 fats, acai provides a tapestry of nutrition that makes our cells thrive.
Although unsweetened acai packs are great for making homemade acai bowls, I like using acai powder for more versatility in recipes, such as desserts, snacks, or in sauces and dressings. If you’re buying a pre-made acai bowl, watch out for excess sugar that’s often added liberally, which can negate many of acai’s healthy benefits.
Not that foods are in competition with one another but a fact is a fact: maqui berries are currently ranked the world’s number one antioxidant-rich food (based on their soaring ORAC score). This rating is primarily due to their massively high levels of heart-healthy, anti-aging anthocyanin antioxidants, which is also what makes these dark purple berries appear almost black. Add their high Vitamin C content, fiber, and low sugar, and it’s easy to see what makes these berries such a well-rounded superfood.
Indigenous to Patagonia, you can find maqui in powdered form in health food stores in Los Angeles. While maqui doesn’t have a strong flavor (it’s like a very faint blueberry) it is an especially fun ingredient to add to things like smoothies, juices, or pale desserts, as everything it touches turns bright purple.
Every Berry Smoothie Bowl
Well, almost “every berry” is in this smoothie bowl. In essence, it’s a low-sugar cross between a smoothie and an acai bowl, with tons of berry varieties (including acai) mixed in, to offer a broader spectrum of antioxidants. You can make this wonderfully creamy, refreshing, and exceptionally energizing smoothie bowl in about the same amount of time it takes to prepare a bowl of cereal. If you really want to go to town, sprinkle the top with more fruit, cacao nibs, nuts, seeds, or even chopped herbs like mint or basil.
MAKES 1 BOWL / 1 SERVING
1 cup frozen mixed berries (raspberries, blackberries, etc.)
1?3 cup vanilla coconut yogurt or yogurt of your choice
1?3 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 tablespoon acai berry powder
2 tablespoons dried white mulberries
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup of toppings (such as granola, fresh chopped fruit, dried berries, nuts and seeds, cacao nibs, mint or basil, etc.)
Blend the frozen berries, yogurt, almond milk, acai berry powder, dried mulberries, and vanilla extract until smooth. Pour the mixture into a serving bowl, and decorate with desired toppings. Serve immediately.
SUPERFOOD BOOST: Blend 1/4 teaspoon of camu berry powder into the smoothie base for extra Vitamin C, or use 1 teaspoon maqui berry powder in place of the acai berry powder. You can also incorporate some greens by blending in a handful of spinach leaves or 1/2 teaspoon wheatgrass powder, without ever tasting (or seeing) the difference.
Maqui Parfiat with Popped Amaranth
Popped amaranth enhances recipes with a satisfying, nutty note without adding many calories. I sprinkle it on just about anything—sweet or savory—for both a flavor and a protein boost.
MAKES 2 PARFAITS / 2 SERVINGS
12 ounces unsweetened vanilla coconut yogurt, divided
1½ teaspoons maqui berry powder
Yacon syrup or maple syrup
1 cup fresh chopped fruit (such as peaches, plums, or mango)
3 tablespoons popped amaranth (recipe follows)
In a small bowl, whisk together six ounces of the yogurt with the maqui berry powder. Mix in a touch of syrup to taste. If you’re assembling the mix as a parfait, layer the maqui yogurt, vanilla yogurt, chopped fruit, and popped amaranth in small glass jars, and drizzle a little syrup over a couple of the layers in each to create a striped effect. Alternatively, divide the vanilla yogurt into bowls, spoon the maqui yogurt in the center, and scatter the fresh fruit, amaranth, and additional syrup on top.
The first batch of popped amaranth can be a little tricky—you may need to slightly adjust the flame or temperature on your stove if the amaranth isn’t popping quickly or if the grain is burning. The best advice is to have a very, very hot pan, or else the amaranth will not pop.
MAKES 2 CUPS
½ cup amaranth
Heat a large pot over very high heat—wait until the pot is very hot before you begin. Keep a bowl for the amaranth on
Pour a tablespoon of the amaranth into the pot. The amaranth should begin to pop within a few seconds. Stirring constantly, let the amaranth pop as much as possible, and when the popping slows or the grains begin to brown, pour the amaranth into a bowl. Place the pot back on the stove, and repeat with the remaining amaranth, 1 tablespoon at a time. Store in an airtight container.
with superfood spirulina
Disks of soft and sweet minty magic enveloped in dark chocolate . . . yes, please.
MAKES 24 PATTIES / 12 SERVINGS
1 cup dried shredded coconut (unsweetened)
¼ cup agave nectar
1½ teaspoons peppermint extract
6 drops liquid stevia
½ teaspoon spirulina powder
1 batch basic superfood chocolate
In a food processor, combine the coconut, agave, mint extract, and liquid stevia. Process for several minutes, until the coconut has broken down and a coarse paste has formed. Add the spirulina and process to mix in. Stop the machine and form the mixture into a ball. Line a flat surface with a one foot-long piece of plastic wrap. Place the peppermint ball in the middle of the wrap, along with any excess oil that may have separated in the bowl, and cover the ball loosely with a second piece of plastic wrap. Use a rolling pin to flatten the ball into an even ¼-inch-thick slab. Use a 1½-inch diameter round cookie cutter to cut the dough into rounds. Place the rounds on a plate lined with parchment paper. pumpkin any excess dough, flatten it again, and form it into rounds to use up all of the dough. Cover it loosely, and freeze for 30 minutes.
Once the patties are chilled, melt the chocolate gently in a small saucepan over very low heat. When the chocolate is fully liquefied, remove it from the heat. Leave the chocolate in the warm pan—if it begins to solidify, simply place it over very low heat again to remelt.
One at a time, place a cold patty on top of a fork. Submerge the patty in the melted chocolate, then quickly remove. Tap the fork against the pan to shake off any excess chocolate and transfer to a large plate. Repeat with the remaining patties. If there is any chocolate left over, drizzle it on top of the patties to create decorative stripes. Return the patties to the freezer, and freeze until the chocolate has set, 20 to 30 minutes. The patties will remain solid at room temperature but will soften, and are best when served cold. Wrap the patties and store them in the refrigerator, where they will keep for several weeks.
TIP: If you don’t have a small cookie cutter on hand—use a bottle cap instead! Or, simply use a knife to slice the “dough” into 1 1/2-inch squares.
Basic Superfood Chocolate
This recipe appeared in my first book, Superfood Kitchen, and remains a standby recipe for all kinds of superfood treats. To keep the chocolate fully raw, you can use a double boiler to gently melt the cacao butter, but the method below is much quicker and just as gentle.
Makes 4.4 ounces (by weight ) / 4 servings
1?3 cup solid cacao butter, chopped into shavings
5 tablespoons cacao powder
Dash sea salt
2 tablespoons agave nectar
Heat a small saucepan over very low heat. Add the cacao butter and stir to slowly melt into a liquid. The moment all of the shavings have melted in the saucepan, remove it from the heat.
Add the cacao powder and salt to the mixture, and use a whisk to thoroughly mix the ingredients. Whisk in the agave nectar. To keep the chocolate warm for dipping, leave it in the warm pan—if it begins to solidify, simply place the pan over very low heat to remelt the chocolate. Or if you want to use the chocolate later, pour it onto a ceramic plate and leave it in the freezer for 30 minutes until it has hardened, then use a dull knife to snap off shards of chocolate. Place them in a resealable container or bag until you are ready to use the chocolate again.
Dragonfruit Sushi Rolls
With their dramatic presentation, these sweet and savory sushi rolls showcase well-balanced flavor in an exotic form.
1 package dragonfruit slices (Navitas Naturals has bags of dried dragon fruit)
¾ cup black (forbidden) rice
1 Tbsp coconut sugar
1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
¼ tsp sea salt
1 large avocado, pitted and peeled, cut into ¼-inch-thick slices
4 sheets nori
Place the dragonfruit slices in a bowl, and cover with water. Let soak for 10 minutes. Drain the water and set the dragonfruit aside.
Rinse the rice. In a small saucepan, combine the rice with 1½ cups, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to a low, and cook for 25-30 minutes or until water is absorbed and rice is tender. Remove from heat and let sit for five minutes, then mix in the coconut sugar and vinegar. Refrigerate until rice cool enough to handle.
Use the nori sheets to roll ingredients into cut sushi rolls, using pieces of avocado and dragonfruit as the filling (dragonfruit may be cut in half if desired. Arrange on a serving plate and serve with soy sauce, wasabi, and plenty of ginger.
Cucumber Dragonfruit Salad
Light, delicate, and vibrant, this simple starter salad is as eye-catching as it is refreshing. Note that sesame oil has a strong flavor, so you’ll only want to use just a light drizzle for serving.
Makes 4 servings
1 tsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp tamari
2 cups mixed baby greens
½ cup fresh mint leaves
12 dragonfruit slices, cut into thin strips
toasted sesame oil, for serving
Using a mandaline, slice the cucumber into paper-thin rounds. Transfer to a small bowl, and gently toss with rice wine vinegar and tamari. Set aside for five minutes to allow the cucumber to marinate and crisp.
Divide the baby greens amongst four serving plates. Top with marinated cucumber, mint leaves and dragonfruit slices. Drizzle with a few drops of sesame oil, to taste, and serve.
Smoothie Bowl, Parfait, and Peppermint Patties Reprinted with permission from Superfood Snacks © 2015 by Julie Morris, Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. Photography by Oliver Barth
Julie Morris is a superfood chef and the best-selling author of cookbooks including Superfood Kitchen, Superfood Smoothies, and Superfood Snacks: juliemorris.net
Photos by Oliver Barth: zariastudios.com