Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Citrus and Spice (and everything nice) Chia Pudding

Citrus and Spice and everything nice Chia Pudding {Gluten Free, Vegan/Vegetarian, Lower-Carb}

Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia!:  Or, Kate's Merciless Gobbling of Chia Pets

Citrus and Spice (and everything nice) Chia Pudding
Have you ever heard of chia?  Let me guess, you have!  But this is the context you've heard it in: "Ch-ch-ch-Chia!"  Yes, those silly chia "pets" that were constantly advertised in the late '80s and the 90's as the perfect gift for a loved one...or yourself.  As they say on Parks & Rec "Treat yo self!"  Well, I always thought chia pets were kind of cool when I saw ads for them as a kid.  

As a kid I admittedly thought ads for lots of things seemed pretty cool.  But, chia is one of the products that has stood the test of time in my appreciation. It's just that my interest in them has taken on a new form.  No longer (as much) wanting them to be my furry-living plant friends I want them in my belly.  Yeah, that's right.  I'm out to eat chia pets everywhere.  I am a lean, mean chia-eating menace.  Okay, so I'm not that lean or very mean at all, but I still like to eat those suckers.  Here's why...

Chia Seeds:  The Cutest Super Food you Ever did See

As you can tell I'm having some fun with this.  It's a bleak, rainy day where if fun is to be had it has to be manufactured and goofiness seems, to me, the way to go.  But, really, Chia seeds aren't a joke, they're not goofy, they're just...well, super.  Why?
  • Low Glycemic Index: Chia seeds have a low glycemic load (with a glycemic value of 1) and according to research discussed by the Nutritional Science Research Institute, chia reduces blood sugar spikes 1 hour after food consumption.
  • Low Carb: With a carbohydrate to dietary fiber ration of 13:12, chia sees are incredibly low in carbs.
  • Protein: Chia is relatively high in protein (4g/ounce)
  • Omega 3 + 6:  Chia is high in omegas 3 and 6 (omega 3= 4915mg, omega 6= 1620mg).
  • Gluten Free / Vegan / Vegetarian:  Chia seeds are gluten free and vegan/vegetarian.  However, always be sure to check packaging materials to ensure that you are purchasing chias processed in a facility where cross-contamination won't pose complications to your dietary needs.
  • Other Benefits:  It is believed that consuming chia delays digestion and allows energy bursts from eating chia to occur over a greater space of time post-consumption than other foods (for example carb-heavy foods that provide a fast, short-lived burst of energy).  This is supposed to keep hunger levels steady over longer periods of time and provide a more sustained block of energy for use by your body.
For more detailed nutritional information on chia seeds you can see Chia Nutritional Facts here.

Okay, I'll Eat These Suckers: How Should I Eat Them?

You can use chia seeds in everything from smoothies to puddings.  You can add them to pancakes, put them in banana (and other) breads, you can use them in homemade granolas  You can mix them into your morning oatmeal or your morning yogurt.  This is only touching the tip of the iceberg, but you can see many of these chia suggestions and others here at Shape Magazine's 9 Quick and Easy Chia Seed Recipes.  A google search will uncover many other possibilities!

Photo from the LA Times
For my own part, just about every morning I eat 0% plain Greek Yogurt, mix in about 1-2 tablespoons hydrated chia seeds (about 1 part chia seeds to 2-3 parts water let sit so the chia will expand and absorb the water).  I sometimes add in some powdered peanut butter (PB2 brand) that has been de-oiled and, therefore, reduced in fat and some of its heaviness.  I throw on some frozen berries and top with a tablespoon or two of hemp hearts.  Now THAT is a healthy, hearty breakfast.  Half the time I don't want to eat lunch after that until pretty late in the afternoon.  

RECIPE: Citrus and Spice (and everything nice) Chia Pudding

But, chia seeds can also become a super food DESSERT.  Yes, that's right.  This healthy super food can be transmogrified--rather easily, too--into pudding!  The consistency of chia pudding is much like a tapioca or a rice pudding.  There's some firmness to the chia balls as you'd get with either of the aforementioned products.  The chia itself has little flavor and takes on the flavors surrounding it.

I flavored my chia pudding with the spices of winter--nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, and ginger--and paired these spices with fresh orange juice, almond milk, shredded sweetened coconut, hazelnut and cashew.  For sweetness I added some maple syrup and a touch of agave.  It was AMAZING.

  • ½ c. chia seeds
  • 3 - 3 1/2 c. vanilla almond milk (sweetened or unsweetened—I used sweetened because it’s what was on hand)
  • 1 1/2 c. water
  • 1/2 c. freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon agave
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 1/3c. shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened at your discretion)
  • 1pinch salt
  • 1/2 c. hazelnuts (raw)
  • 1/2c. cashews (raw)
  • Clove; ½ teaspoon or to taste (use sparingly because it’s strong!)
  • Cinnamon; 1 tablespoon or to taste
  • Nutmeg; 2 teaspoon or to taste
  • Cardamom; 1 teaspoon or to taste
  • Ginger; 2 teaspoons or to taste**NOTE:  The key to using spices is to start off with a small amount and gradually add a little while tasting as you go.  You could very easily over spice if you don’t add them gradually.  And, if you’re a fan of the show Chopped on the Food Network you know how important it is to taste your food as you go!
To garnish (optional):
  • Dried cranberries, cherries, and/or currants
  • Raisins, golden or regular
  • Chopped hazelnuts and cashews
  • Fresh Fruit, such as mango or orange
  1. Blend almond milk, hazelnuts, cashews and coconut in a blender until liquefied.
  2. Place blended contents in large container.  Add water, spices, orange juice, spices, agave, maple syrup, vanilla, and chia seeds.  Mix to combine.  
  3. Refrigerate 6 hours or until chia seeds are hydrated and the pudding is thick and creamy looking, with a rice pudding or tapioca like consistency.

Kate's Vegetarian Pot Pie: A Yummy Winter Treat

Kate's Vegetarian Pot Pie: A Yummy Winter Treat!

Stage 1: Comfort Food Gone Bad

As a kid I ate a lot of pre-made chicken pot pies.  I remember the blue cardboard box the pot pies came in, the little rainbow decoration that marked the off-brand product, and the oh-so-alluring 50cent price tag.  And, I remember when my love for them eventually turned into a distaste.  Good thing it didn't last forever...

Vegetable Pot Pie Filling
Much like I overdosed myself on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and salads in middle and high school (easy lunch options for my younger, vegetarian self), my parents overdosed me on pot pies early in my life.  Pot pies were incredibly cheap, easy, and because they were bought frozen they lasted just about forever.  These were all strong considerations for two working parents of minimal income.  Pot pies were about as comforting, in ways both gustatory and economic, as our food at the time could get.  When the comfort finally wore off for me from over-consumption I had to wait a certain amount of time for my desire for the pot pie to reset itself.  It took years.

Stage 2: Learning to Love the Pot Pie Again

By the time pot pies started sounding good again they were no longer a staple of my household.  We'd graduate to slightly more swanky fare--only slightly though!--and I'd made the decision to become a vegetarian.  For a few years Morningstar Farms had a vegetarian pot pie with fake chicken in it that I tried out in place of the off-brand chicken pot pies of my past.  The Morningstar pot pies were okay, but certainly not authentic tasting and sometimes even a bit plastic-y tasting, which is probably why production was stopped.

Since then, pot pies have been one of those things that I think about in the coolness of winter when the leaves are falling and the skies are dark and comfort is wanting.  

I've thought of them fleetingly the past few winters and never mustered the appropriate desire to try my hand at making a vegetarian version.  But, finally, this year I gave it a go.

Pot Pie with unbaked Puff Pastry Crust

Stage 3: Making the Pot Pie

Tastier than the pot pies of my memories past, my vegetarian version was simple to make and packed with healthy veggies including butternut squash, sweet potato, yukon potato, peas, carrots, white button mushrooms, celery, onion, garlic and leek.  

For the base I used all natural cream of mushroom soup (Pacific Natural brand and Trader Joe's Portobello type) thickened with nutritional yeast.  The combination of cream of mushroom soups and nutritional yeast give the pot pie that hearty, meaty and creamy taste that all good pot pies ought to have without the addition of butter or extra cream and without the need for chicken stock.

Seasoning the filling were ample amounts of salt and pepper, dried sage and thyme.  The sage and thyme recalled the flavors of Thanksgiving and Christmas, both seasonings being traditional to stuffings and other holiday food fare.

For the crust I opted simply for store-bought sheets of puff pastry coated with an egg wash for optimal browning.  You can't get much easier than that, and you can't dislike the browned crusty goodness that results!  It's perfect for a pot pie crust.

Stage 4: Having your Pot Pie and Eating it, Too

I won't say much here apart from the fact that I ate my vegetable pot pie with a vengeance   Or, to put it another way, I gobbled it up and really enjoyed it.  

So, too, did my boyfriend who remarked just the other night that I was "an awesome cook" and further remarked that my pot pie was especially good and (hint hint) he hopes I make it again!

RECIPE: Kate's Vegetarian Pot Pie

Vegetable Pot Pie, look at that golden crust!
  • 2 12-oz containers of condensed cream of mushroom soup (I used comination of Pacific brand organic and TJ’s cream of protobello)
  • 5-7 white button mushrooms, cut into sixths
  • 1/2c. cubed butternut squash
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and small-diced
  • 1 regular potato, peeled and medium-diced
  • 1/3-1/2 cup carrots, diced
  • 1/2c. frozen organic peas
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • ½ green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 leek, cut in half and sliced
  • ¾ small yellow onion, minced
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2tblsp olive oil
  • ½ tblsp sage (or to your taste)
  • ½ tblsp Thyme (or to your taste)
  • 1/4c. nutritional yeast (I used Bob’s Red Mill brand)
  • Pepper
  • Salt
  • Puff Pastry Sheets (buy frozen at store, defrost before using)
  • Egg Wash: 1 egg + 1 tablespoon water
  1. Steam cubes of sweet and regular potato (I used a yukon), carrot and butternut squash until al dente in texture--cooked but still firm because you'll be further cooking the vegetables when you pop the pot pie in the oven later!
  2. In a large saucepan combine olive oil, garlic and onion.  Cook until onion begin to turn translucent.
  3. To saucepan add cream of mushroom soup, spices (salt, pepper, sage, thyme), leeks, celery and frozen peas.  Add nutritional yeast.  Simmer for 7-10minutes.  Turn off heat and add steamed vegetables (potatoes, squash, carrots).
  4. Pour into a large baking dish and make sure contents are distributed evenly.
  5. Place defrosted sheets of puff pastry over top of the baking dish.  Lightly coat top of puff pastry sheet with egg wash (1 egg + 1 tablespoon of water)
  6. Using the tip of a knife, make small incisions in the crust to allow steam to escape crust as pot pie bakes (like you would do to a pie crust!).
  7. Place baking dish on cookie/baking sheet and cook in oven at 400degrees F. for 30-40minutes or until puff pastry crust is browned on top.