Monday, June 17, 2013

Meatless Monday: Powering Up with Chia

I am not a runner, so I have arrived late to the chia craze. And, once again, I have to thank my friend K for a good tip.

For centuries chia seeds have been a staple in Meso-American diets. They became popularized as a super food among runners after the publication in 2009 of Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seenan exploration of the life and habits of the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico’s Copper Canyon

The word chia means “strength” in the Mayan language, and ancient warriors and athletes relied on the tiny seeds to enhance their endurance.

And, yes, they are the very same seeds that sprout into fur for those Chia Pets that have appeared in holiday infomercials since the late 1970s. 

Bob Moore, of Bob’s Red Mill in Milwaukee, was one of the first to introduce Chia seeds to the health food market, including them in his Grains-of-Discovery line. Bob himself appears in this short YouTube video promoting chia. 

One tablespoon of chia seeds contain 5 grams of fiber, as well as 3 grams of protein, significant amounts of calcium and iron, and a whopping 3382 mg of Omega 3, and 753 mg of Omega 6!

Chia Nutrition, according to Bob's Red Mill

Many people like to start their day with a chia energy boost, sprinkling the seeds on top of morning yogurt or cereal, or adding a tablespoon to a smoothie.

One caveat. Chia seeds gel when left in liquid. This means that if you want crunch, you should down your chia without delay. However, this property does open up the opportunity for creating highly nutritious, no-cook “puddings.”

I found a host of chia “pudding” recipes online. Some were designed to be high-powered breakfast porridges. [I have one of these gelling in the fridge and will report on it next week.]

Others purported to be desserts. I gave a chocolate pudding a try. Here is the recipe I used. It appeared on the ohmyveggies site: 

Mexican Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding 
Two Servings

1/3 cup Chia Seeds
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of cayenne (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl.
Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours.
Transfer to a blender and blend until completely smooth.
Put into serving dishes and chill slightly.

My result:

The verdict? 

The “pudding” looked even better than this photo shows — just like a chocolate mousse.

And here, I think was my problem. The chia pudding looked like something it was not, and I was disappointed.

One tablespoon of sweetener was not nearly enough. 

I saved the day by topping with some honey vanilla Greek yogurt. [Whipped cream would also have done the trick.]

I am on the hunt for a easy and nutritious dessert that will please everyone — vegans, Paelo Dieters, and omnivores with a sweet tooth.  A dairy product topping does not fit the bill

I haven’t given up on this recipe. Next time I plan to use 3 tablespoons of syrup, still keeping a topping on hand just in case. 

One more thing — I’ll be using 4 serving dishes. Chia is touted as a diet food because the chia gel makes you feel full. This dish of “pudding” after my dinner left me feeling stuffed.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Have a great week. Happy eating.

I often blog on food or food issues on Monday in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”

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