Julie Morris is a Los Angeles-based writer and graphic designer, established primarily within the natural food industry. Whether advertising organic nutrition, growing her own edibles, creating recipes for green companies, or simply enjoying the strength of beautiful food, she is dedicated to promoting the art and energy in everyday natural living.
The brownie universe isn’t exactly full of surprises. The combination of sugar, butter, flour, chocolate, eggs, a few extraneous ingredients, plus a little oven time, inevitably leads to some form of brownie action. Of course, the resulting degree of deliciousness is all in the details — just talk to the adamant nut-adders, the chocolate chip enthusiasts, or the “fudgy” versus “cakey” people that can seemingly never agree. Yet, by and large, the language of brownies is pretty much the same: delicious chocolate squares that just about everyone loves. Including me.
But I have a secret. With the exception of chocolate (which can be profoundly beneficial in its unprocessed form), I don’t use any of the “conventional” ingredients in my homemade brownies. In fact, I don’t even bake them. (I know — what a rebel.) Instead, by using exclusively natural, whole foods, the inherently gorgeous flavor of each healthy ingredient does all the sweet singing — without needing the crutch of sugar or butter. Undercover health benefits like antioxidants, good omega fats, potassium, magnesium (and more) nutritionally rank this dessert as more of an energy bar than an “extra 20 minutes on the treadmill indulgence.” Best of all, five ingredients plus five minutes is all it takes to go from zero to brownie.
I wish I had a brownie for every time I’ve been informed that eating naturally is simply too hard. While making fancy shmancy meals can be a fun project, uber delicious healthy food doesn’t have to be complicated. Some of my favorite “recipes” are not recipes at all. Take, for example, a fig. Bite into it and . . . whoa! All those little seeds and colors and textures are like whole universe of magnificent complexity tucked inside a shriveled-looking edible fruit package. Imagine if the fig didn’t exist, and some company “invented” the recipe for one: would the fig not be the most amazing “product?” So much of our food experience comes down to mindset.
There’s a style of Japanese brush painting called shodo – a form of calligraphy with an abstract offshoot that attempts to capture energy and kinetics through a few simple brush strokes. Whereas most styles of painting take days, months, even years to complete, shodo takes just a few calculated moments. A swish. A swash. Maybe one last accoutremental zing . . . and then, the decision to end. And within this philosophy of “less is more,” the biggest challenge becomes when to step away and recognize perfection in “just enough.” It’s an empowering judgment call – a kind of discipline in a way – embracing simplicity in this funny world of ours that is obsessed with faster, newer, hotter, and anything that begins with “now with more.”
I find natural foods can take us back to a Tao-like state — appreciating beauty in simplicity.
Poor ol’ “less.”
In the realm of food — for the most part — modern cuisine teaches “just enough” is never enough. Our perfectly lovely foods are processed, packaged, mixed, mingled, extracted, added and bastardized until they’re pretty much unrecognizable. Then we process them again, add healthyish-looking colorings, artificial vitamins and preservatives, and reshape the result into forms that pass for food-like. I don’t think most people would be too impressed if I took a beautiful shodo painting, sprayed graffiti all over it until it turned grey, covered it in white-out to get to a white page again, and then drew a couple of lines mimicking the original painting in magic marker. Continue Reading / Additional Photos / Videos
I have to admit, as a natural food enthusiast, Halloween and the entire holiday season ( Thanksgiving, Christmas ) really puts me in quite a quandary. On one hand, I love the mild madness that ensues around this time of year. The costumes, the parties, the creativity, the (idea of) candyland-come-true . . . clearly there’s some serious residual little-kid excitement in full force here. The irony is that much of what Holidays is about (conventional candy . . . and lots of it) is basically my nemesis. It’s not a matter of fun-size package denial, it’s a matter of reality: hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, red #5, or any ingredient made in a labcoat for that matter, generally equates to things humans should not consume.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to pull a scrooge moment. I understand this isn’t the time of year to tout the benefits of things like toothbrushes, raisins, or a nice apple. But don’t you worry; I’ve got plans for us. Better plans. Plans like, ahem, chocolate hazelnut plans. And while these chocolate hazelnut plans may still totally reside in the treat category (aka – don’t eat the whole recipe in one serving . . . everyday), this dessert is billions of times more beneficial than traditional holiday candy fare. Aside from using clean natural ingredients, it’s full of superfoods too. Raw cacao powder lends its copious antioxidant content and abundant minerals, and the chocolate coating utilizes the natural sweetness of mesquite powder (the milled mesquite pods from a low-lying South American shrub) making the exterior especially low in sugars. I’ve even snuck a little bit of optional adrenal-supporting maca powder into the filling of these candies, perhaps as a preemptive healthy strike against any conventional sugary “incidents.”
This dessert is billions of times more beneficial than traditional holiday candy fare.
Needless to say, these candies are an all-around “yes.” The exterior chocolate coating will remain solid at room temperature, and the inside pocket is a soft, sweet blend of cacao and hazelnuts. You can use ice cube trays for as molds for these, or get fancified and use real-deal candy molds with deep vessels to properly contain the filling. If using candy molds, double the amount of chocolate coating that the recipe calls for (the filling will remain the same). Short on time? Simply melt down a dark chocolate bar and use as the exterior coating instead of the raw chocolate recipe below.
I wonder, will you secretly judge me if I admit to you that I don’t really like pie? Every year I’m reminded of my pie-oriented “skeleton in the oven,” thanks to all the holiday festivities. You can usually spot me fighting a cringe, as one pie after the next is passed before me, and I have to spontaneously compose a new, polite way to decline.
I can’t help it — I don’t like traditional pastry crust (boring), I don’t like perfectly good fruits smothered in some sugar goo, and I’m terribly sorry, but that pretty lattice pattern adorning the top isn’t going to do anything to get me more excited. Luckily there is, however, one exception to my no-pie rule: pumpkin pie.
I really get amped over a good pumpkin pie. (To be honest, I invariably get amped over a good pumpkin “anything.”) But as much my love is genuine, I can’t help but feel our favorite orange globes have enjoyed a little too much pop-star-style dependence in the winter squash world. Pumpkins continually overshadow a vast, deliciously endowed, and diverse spectrum of beautiful winter squash, time and time again in recipes.
I can’t help it — I don’t like traditional pastry crust (boring)
But not this year.
I don’t know who decides the “chic food trends,” but nonetheless this has really been the year of winter squash. These different “pumpkin cousins” have been the new darlings of farmer’s markets and chefs alike, and I am all too happy to participate in the fun. I have so many favorites: delicata, butternut, acorn, and for making pies, the undeniable winner in my book is kabocha squash — aka the “Japanese Pumpkin.”
With a pumpkin-esque shape, and bright beautiful orange flesh, kabocha appears to be very similar to a traditional pumpkin, with the exception of its dark green exterior skin. Where it really trumps other pumpkins though, is in its flavor. Kabocha is one of the most inherently flavorful squashes of all — which makes it ideal for a pie! What I love most about it though, is that it enables using a fraction of the amount of sweetener compared to a traditional pie recipe . . . and in this case that sweetener is healthy molasses-like yacon syrup. Together, these ingredients ensure that this pumpkin pie is not only superbly tasty, but that it also has something to truly be thankful for: health! Now that’s my kinda pie. Continue Reading / Additional Photos / Videos
Light your torches, there’s a new witch hunt in the grocery store. The target? Agave syrup. After hitting the mainstream several years ago as the new “healthy sweetener of choice,” agave recently has been under fire with negative backlash all across the health-food spectrum, with many companies even considering pulling agave from their products due to the extent of customer concern.
But is agave really that bad? Can it be compared to high fructose corn syrup? Should we go out of our way to avoid it? Let’s take a look.
What happened with agave?
It really wasn’t all that long ago that many people were just beginning to fall in love with agave – using it often in the place of cane sugar, corn syrup and honey for its intense and clean-tasting sweetness. Agave’s brief history in the North American marketplace has relied upon being marketed as a “raw healthy sweetener.” This sweet syrup extracted from the agave cactus proved especially valuable to the diabetic community, who embraced agave’s low glycemic index. Then, suddenly, agave was everywhere – in recipes, in drinks, in packaged foods, in restaurants, and of course, in desserts. Between a solid stamp of approval from the health food community, and a new excuse to get simply get some sugary goodness on, the mantra of healthy sweet food became “no sugar . . . just agave.”
Most of us understand that high fructose corn syrup is something we should avoid entirely.
So when the story broke that agave was actually not healthy at all and was actually comparable to corn syrup, it’s no wonder there was a strong outrage. After all, agave was sold to us as a “healthy sweetener,” and we were paying a premium price tag to enjoy its benefits. Health advocate Dr. Mercola released this adamant and influential article, which was posted and reposted in just about every health-oriented nook and cranny. Suddenly agave was the bad guy, leaving consumers feel betrayed . . . and confused. Continue Reading / Additional Photos / Videos
Sweet beets combine with creamy avocados for this alluring, satisfying, and not to mention stunningly-colored soup.
For the Soup
4 Medium beets
1 Avocado, chopped
1 Lime, juiced
2 Cups water
3 Tbsp hemp seeds
1 Tbsp ground coriander
¼ tsp sea salt
Fresh cilantro leaves & black pepper for garnish (optional)
1. Roast: Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Trim the beets and remove stems and end. Individually wrap each beet in tin foil. Roast for 1 hour and allow to cool completely. Using a paper towel, rub off the beet skins. Chop coarsely.
2. Blend: Place the beets, avocado, lime juice, water, hemp seeds, coriander and sea salt in a blender. Blend until completely smooth.
3. Chill: Place soup into refrigerator, and allow to chill for a minimum of 30 minutes.
Serve: Pour into serving bowls and sprinkle with cilantro and black pepper if desired.
The antioxidant powerhouses of blueberries and acai combine forces to produce a colorful, healthy, and refreshing frozen berry dessert. Serve in a wine glass with a sprig of mint for full aesthetic effect. (recipe after the jump) Continue Reading / Additional Photos / Videos
This jam acts just like boysenberry preserves, yet is dense with nutrition, low in sugar, full of whole superfoods, and completely unprocessed. Featuring two all-star superfoods – acai and chia – it’s a fantastic way to sneak extra antioxidants, essential fatty acids, and vital micronutrients into any diet. Acai’s soft berry flavor results in a mild-tasting jam, which is as versatile as it is delicious. For a stronger fruity taste, mix in ¼ cup muddled fresh berries (like strawberries or blackberries) before serving. Use on bread, with muffins, on top of desserts, or enjoy a spoonful solo with zero guilt!
To the dude with the double-shot, extra-dry, vanilla soy cappuccino (V Blak and you other Bad Monkies!), your long-winded order doesn’t even stand a chance — in terms of taste (or lack of pretention, for that matter — to top my delicious, healthy Hempuccino.
Rich, creamy, and boasting a long list of nutritious attributes (including Omega-3), the Hempuccino is made by using steamed Living Harvest Hempmilk as a non-dairy “milk” choice, and combining it with espresso. Coffee shops are quickly catching on to using the hemp milk as an innovative new way to produce impressively frothy and full-flavored drinks and steamers that make an exceptional morning mug.
Especially in the indigenous coffee culture of Portland, OR, marrying steamed hemp milk with ol’ cuppa joe is all the latest buzz. The city — whose vibe infers that a progressive stance on health and environment might just be as important as a really good cup of coffee — is also home to popular hemp food company Living Harvest, who thinks you can indeed have both. To prove it, they’ve been spending plenty of energy as of late promoting their award-winning Hempmilk in the independent coffee shops that line Portland’s streets. Once aware of the new option, many latte lovers and conventional coffee gurus alike have wasted no time in making the switch.
Similar to the traditional Greek sesame candy “Pasteli,” which is made with honey and sesame seeds, these superfood candies take advantage of yacon syrup’s more complex flavor and healthy benefits. Crunchy and chewy at the same time, these all-natural candies are addictingly delicious. If you cannot find pre-roasted/toasted sesame seeds, use raw ones — just pop them in the oven for 5 minutes at 350 degrees ahead of time.
In caveman days, I think I actually would have done pretty well. While my un-evolved cohorts were off worrying about getting stampeded by woolly mammoths in their quest for a meaty entree, I would have stayed at home feasting on berries and nuts and nutritious greens, and feeling – yes – totally fabulous. I probably would have looked hot in my cavelady dress too.
Ironically, it’s some of the modern social settings that can, at times, be a wee bit problematic. Like barbecues. Oh yeah – the smokey grills full of animal-bits, bowls of greasy chips, and ubiquitous offerings of “mystery ingredient” coleslaw have me basically locked into the one thing I can share with everyone: beer. And while beer is great and all it’s not exactly my idea of a well-rounded meal . . . which is why I always BYOB.