Chia Seed Pudding

Chia seeds are relatively new on the health food market, and I’ve been experimenting with them in a lot of my baked goods. They are a complete protein, and are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. They also have a decent amount of vitamins and minerals. They also pack a good amount of fiber, too. Click here for the nutrition data breakdown.

Chia seeds have a unique ability to absorb large amounts of liquids, opening interesting possibilities for consumption. They become thick and gelatinous when soaked in liquid, and can be consumed as a beverage (a chunky beverage, which is better than it sounds), or made into a nutrious gel that you can eat with a spoon. I have been using ground chia seeds in all of my gluten-free baking because they help things stick together.

It’s a nice travel food for those with food sensitivities–easy to pack, and when mixed with any liquid it becomes a nourishing and filling food source. I’ve been seeing juices on the market with chia seeds floating in them–just make your own by adding some to your favorite juice.

One of the tastiest ways I’ve been enjoying them is as a pudding. It’s easy and fast, involves no cooking (and few dishes), and is open to infinite variables. I don’t have a picture of it for you, though, but at the request of my patients I wanted to get the recipe up (and maybe I’ll add a picture later). It’s a bit like tapioca pudding, but it’s healthy instead of starchy.

I enjoy it both as a post dinner snack (it’s a great ice cream substitute). Depending on how much sweetener (and what type) you use, it can be a nice breakfast too (maybe with some granola or nuts stirred in).

It’s hard to call this a recipe, it’s really a ratio: 1/2 cup chia seeds to roughly 2-3 cups of liquid. I used coconut milk the last time I made it, but you can use any tasty, creamy base that you like.

The infinite variety come in with how you choose to flavor the liquid. Vanilla or almond extract? Chocolate? Warm spices like cinnamon, cardamom, cloves? All are nice, so it’s up to you. If you are using whole spices like cinnamon stick, cardamom pods or cloves, you’ll get a richer flavor if you gently heat the base for a few minutes, and then leave the spices to steep (and then remove before you add the chia seeds).

Here is a rough sketch for a vanilla pudding and a chocolate:

Chia Seed Pudding

1/2 cp Chia seeds
2-3 cups coconut milk, soy milk, rice milk or whole milk
2 tsp vanilla
2-4 tbsp of your favorite sweetner (I use 1/2 palm sugar, 1/2 maple syrup)

Combine all ingredients and stir with a wire whisk. Let chia seeds soak for at least 10 minutes, whisking occasionally to prevent clumping. Start with less liquid, adding more to achieve your desired consistency. You can also add more chia seeds if it’s too liquid-y

It’s ready to eat as is, or you can chill it for a while.

To make this chocolate, add 2 tbsp. cocoa powder, and maybe use the larger amount of sugar.

Taste for sweetner, add a bit more if you need it.

A quick-and-dirty chocolate chia pudding can be had by mixing your chia seeds into chocolate soy milk (or whatever chocolate milk makes you happy).

Best brownies ever

I’ve been playing with this gluten-free brownie recipe that I found at Gluten Free Goddess, and it really is one of the best brownie recipes I’ve ever made. It uses almond flour and some rice flour, and it’s completely delicious. I’ve made it using a combo of almond flour and a gluten-free flour mixture (which includes brown rice flour, quinoa flour, coconut flour and potato and tapioca starch). Even though they are gluten-free, I would confidently serve them to gluten eaters, and not feel like I was giving them a second-class pastry.

The Goddess includes directions to make your own almond meal, but it’s available in my local Whole Foods. I use Bob’s Red Mill brand. They also make a hazelnut flour which would probably be equally lovely in this recipe.

I’ve been playing with the chocolate, and have gotten good results by using 1 tablespoon of Ghirardelli’s cocoa powder plus 3 tablespoons of coconut oil to replace 1 ounce of chocolate. Any oil will do–I like coconut oil because it’s a healthy fat, and adds only the slightest hint of coconut flavor (which I really like). I also like to use this chocolate substitute because I can make it dairy-free. You could also use melted butter or margarine, olive oil, safflower oil, or really any oil with a mild flavor.

In the last batch I made, I used 2 ounces of Trader Joe’s semi-sweet chocolate chips and 3 tablespoons of Ghirardelli’s cocoa powder plus 9 tablespoons of coconut oil. The flavor of these brownies is screaming for some sort of alcohol flavoring, so I’m working on a way to include brandy or maybe some Kahula to give them an extra depth of flavor.

Good quality chocolate or cocoa powder makes a difference here, so don’t skimp!

Here is the recipe, as it appears on Gluten Free Goddess. You can read the Goddess’s original post here.

Dark Chocolate Brownies.

5 ounces Belgian dark chocolate (I used Trader Joe’s)
1/2 cup butter or vegan margarine such as Smart Balance (or Spectrum Organic Shortening)
2 organic free-range eggs
1 cup packed organic light brown sugar
1/2 rounded cup almonds, processed into a fine meal
1/4 cup brown rice flour
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or 1 teaspoon vanilla plus 2 teaspoons peppermint extract)

Optional:

1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, if desired
1/2 cup extra semi-sweet chocolate chips for the top, if desired

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8×8-inch square baking pan with foil and lightly oil the bottom.

Using the microwave, melt the dark chocolate and butter in a large (microwave safe) measuring cup. Stir together to combine. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs on medium high till frothy. Add the brown sugar and beat until the mixture is smooth.

Add the melted chocolate mixture into the egg-sugar mixture a little at a time – incorporate it slowly- and beat well for a good minute. The chocolate will look smooth and glossy.

In a bowl, combine the dry ingredients: almond meal, rice flour, fine sea salt and baking soda; whisk together. Add the dry flour mix into the chocolate mixture and beat well for a minute. Add the vanilla, beat another half a minute or so.

You now have your brownie batter.

If you are adding nuts, stir in the nuts by hand and spread the batter into the prepared baking pan [this brownie batter is much thinner than any brownie mix batter I’ve tried- don’t worry, it’s going to be wonderful]. Shake the pan a little bit to even out the batter.

Layer the semi-sweet chips all over the top of the batter and press them in slightly, if adding.

Bake in the center of a preheated 350 degree F oven for 33 to 35 minutes, or until the brownies are set. Don’t overcook. (Err on the side of gooey, if you must- that’s what I do; I find gluten-free brownies taste better slightly undercooked and soft in the middle than over-cooked and crumbly.)

Cool on a wire rack; and remove the brownies from the pan by gripping the foil edges. Chill before cutting. We saved out two squares, and wrapped the rest for freezing.

These brownies were outstanding slightly chilled. Intense, chocolaty and tender. This is a fabulous recipe. And I have to Clare to thank for it.

Makes 9-12 servings. We got nine squares out of it.