**By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by the Wild Blueberry Association of North America and I am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.**
I often develop dessert recipes because I love to bake (I was on a little tv show called The Great American Baking Show in case you didn’t know), but what many people do not know is that I love to cook too, and just like my desserts, my everyday cooking tends to be very ‘farm to table’ and even ‘forest to table’. And with all the sweets being created in my house, you better bet that we try to be as health conscious as possible in all other areas…No, I’m not a registered dietician. No, I’m not vegan or gluten-free. No, my Instagram feed isn’t filled with #buddhabowls or #detoxes. But my grocery list is always filled with foods I’ve found to be anti-inflammatory for my body. My plate is usually a balance of protein, good fat, and nutrient-dense vegetables.And my garden is filled with fruit and vegetable varieties I’ve sourced to have the highest levels of phytonutrients. I bake to create, but I cook to live a long and healthy life.
One of my biggest missions in life, one that I try to weave through everything I do, is to bring light to all that nature has to offer, far beyond the cultivated, genetically modified, and processed. I crave the forgotten, the untouched, the WILD!!!…Which brings me to the topic of WILD BLUEBERRIES. These beauties are small blueish-black berries filled with antioxidants and more “blueberry” flavor than the larger, cultivated blueberries. They pack a punch of tangy and sweet goodness.
There’s a recipe competition being held to promote wild blueberries, and it’s a competition that, should I win, would be very meaningful to me as both a foodie and horticulturist. The Wild Blueberry Association of North America is holding the competition to promote awareness of the wild blueberry, Vaccinium angustifolium, which is a native blueberry of North America. This low bush berry thrives in the thin glacial soils of Maine, Massachusetts, and Eastern Canada. (sidenote: my research shows that V. angustifolium can be found as far South as The Great Smoky Mountains, so now I’m itching to trial a few in my Great Smoky Mountain kitchen garden. I’m sure I’d only have success given that we get several consecutive harsh winters, but that’s a research project for another day!) Up north, the wild blueberries thrive in environments known as barrens. Barrens are vast rolling plains of sandy soil that cater to only a select few plant species – the wild blueberry, rhodora, bracken, and tea-berry to name a few. The barrens are virtually tree-less, which results in a stark, dramatic, overwhelming landscape.
It’s very important to preserve all plant species, but it’s especially important to preserve those that are native and wild. I could go on and on about the importance of natives, but the biggest benefit that you’d probably appreciate is the fact that natives require far less pesticides/herbicides/etc. to cultivate than non-natives. Plus, the wild blueberry reigns over its hybridized and cultivated counterparts in terms of nutritional value. It has 2X more antioxidants than large, cultivated blueberries, with a high concentration of anthocyanins. And as with many wild or heirloom fruits, the flavor is outstanding!
I decided to pair my wild blueberry smoothie with chocolate and dark cherries because 1) it’s almost Valentine’s Day, and I keep thinking of chocolate covered cherries and 2) I like the challenge of making something super healthy taste like dessert.
Raw cacoa, cherries, and wild blueberries mingle in this smoothie to achieve a familiar, yet guilt-free, indulgence. All 3 are super high in antioxidants. I’ve also added acai berry puree to complement the berry theme and join rank among the other antioxidant-rich superfoods in this smoothie. The honey and vanilla boost sweetness, while the coconut milk, packed full of good-for-you fatty acids, enhances the flavor and creaminess.
To make the most out of your smoothie, here are some tips, tricks, and substitutions:
- If you have cacao nibs but not cacao powder, you can blitz the the nibs in a coffee bean grinder or food processor to achieve a fine powder. Throwing cacao nibs straight into my blender tends to leave my smoothies very grainy, so I like to process them first into a powder to seamlessly blend the chocolate flavor into my smoothie concoctions.
- Raw cacao is the healthiest option, but you can easily substitute it with unsweetened cocoa powder.
- Substitute the coconut milk with any milk (rice, almond, soy, etc.) that you like. Vanilla almond milk tastes really good with this recipe, too! Or make a low-fat option by simply replacing the milk with water.
- Add greens if you want to pack in some nutrient-dense vegetables. This smoothie stays pleasantly sweet even with the addition of savory greens.
- In case you need a source for acai berry puree, check out Trader Joe’s or Target.