There was a time when I didn’t like cooking. I didn’t know how to do it well, and I thought it was so much less hassle to eat prepared foods or even snack on packaged goods for my meals. Needless to say, my energy was sluggish, and I didn’t feel particularly vibrant. One of the mindset shifts that helped me achieve my healthy eating habits was to approach food preparation as a fun activity. Once I brought the excitement into the kitchen, it didn’t matter if I just got home from a ten-hour work day at my exhausting job or that I had to prep my juice ingredients the night before to prepare for my 4:30 wake up time. Food preparation became a priority for me, and thanks to the drastic improvement in my overall health, I no longer related to that girl who thought cutting corners actually saved anything.
But, even those of us who find it to be an absolute joy in the kitchen have our moments when we don’t feel like being fancy. For ease of prep work and assurance of optimal nutrition, I’ve lately been focused on the practicality of buying frozen or in-season, preferably local, fresh fruits. However, the creative chef in me (oh, there you are!) has been completely stoked on using freeze-dried berries to bring more excitement into the act of preparing food.
Freeze-dried berries are delicately crunchy and almost weightlessly airy. What sets them apart from traditional dried fruits is that the flavor doesn’t suffer when the water is removed in the drying process, and there is no need to add in sugars and oils to correct the flavor. Freeze-dried fruits not only retain their burst of sweet and tart freshness, but the taste is amplified. Look for them on the shelves of your favorite health food store. If you don’t have luck there, they are also widely available online.
My favorite ways to use them are:
In a bowl of granola – You may think you don’t want any extra crunch in your already crunchy granola, but think again! The berries have a slightly different texture than granola, and the result tastes almost reminiscent of the marshmallow cereals of my youth.
As a healthy smoothie topping – Coconut flakes, nut butter, chia seeds, handfuls of chopped fresh fruit, granola; smoothie toppings are endless, and the surface of smoothies has become a new art canvas for many. I love to beautify my smoothies as well, but there are times in which I don’t want to pile more calories on top of a nutritionally complete smoothie that’s already 500-700 calories. Enter freeze-dried berries! They add bold flavor and, again, crunch. The crunch isn’t only great because it introduces other texture to the smoothie. It also requires chewing, which will slow down the eating process and allow the saliva and other digestive components to better do their jobs therefore increasing nutritional power!
Powdered or crushed to roll bliss balls in – Bliss balls, like smoothies, are great on their own, but they look so much prettier with a colorful outer coating.
As a food coloring/ folded into coconut whipped cream – With the increase of food allergies along with the wide-spread interest of achieving high levels of health, natural food colorings are all the rage. Using freeze-dried berries, you can easily make your own by grinding them into a powder in a small food processor or spice grinder. I like to use it in homemade coconut whipped cream, but you can also use it to color frosting, cakes, and more. Get creative with it!
What’s your favorite way to use freeze-dried berries?