Thursday, March 29, 2012
Another gift from my roommate Tai: My discovery of chia seeds. Yes, chia, as in Chia Pets. Who knew that chia seeds are also an ancient food cultivated by the Aztecs and still used in Guatemala and Mexico to make a drink called chia fresca?
Chia seeds, whole or ground, can be added to baked goods, but the coolest thing about them is what happens when you soak them in liquid. They swell up to several times their size and develop a ring of jelly around each seed, which stays slightly crunchy like a poppy seed. The jelly thickens the liquid, and, depending on how much you use, you can create a smoothie or a pudding consistency. If you love tapioca pudding, you'll love the texture of chia. It's also a perfect blank slate for myriad flavors. Simple vanilla is nice, as are brown sugar, chocolate, and chai flavors.
Why eat chia? It's health benefits are tremendous. It's high in omegas, fiber, protein, making you feel full without a lot of calories. The jelly substance the develops when you soak the seeds coats the stomach and aids digestion. I've even read that chia is a glycemic inhibitor, preventing the stomach from absorbing sugars, thus preventing a sudden spike in blood sugar.
I've found that it makes a great breakfast and is perfect before a hard workout. It fills you up and provides protein and energy without slowing you down or upsetting your stomach.
As chia becomes more popular -it was featured in the New York Post of all places! - you can buy it in bulk in some health food stores. It's also available in packages at health-conscious grocery stores like Whole Foods and online at Lucky Vitamin.
For 2 cups of chia pudding, you will need:
4-5 tablespoons chia seeds. I found 4 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons creates the perfect consistency.)
2 cups milk of your choice. Dairy, almond, soy, rice, and coconut are all fine. You can also use juice or coconut water. If you use a sweetened milk product, you won't need to add additional sugar. I like to use unsweetened nut or coconut milk so I can control the sugar content. You do not have to heat the milk, though you can if you prefer to make a hot porridge. The seeds swell more quickly when soaked in warm liquid.
Sugar or sweetener to taste
Unsweetened cocoa powder
Chai: cinnamon, cardamon, and fresh ginger. (Steep the spices in warm milk for several minutes before adding the chia.)
Almond: almond extract and slivered almonds
Whisk the chia into the milk in a medium bowl. Continue to whisk every few minutes to prevent settling and allow for a smooth texture. It will take about 20 minutes for the seeds to thicken the milk. If it appears too thick, just add more milk; too thin, add more chia. Add the sweetener and any optional flavorings. It keeps fresh for several days in the fridge.