Thursday, February 28, 2013

chia: the superfantastic food!


Chia seeds are all the rage these days. For those of you out of the loop, you may recall the 1990s commercials advertising Chia Pets. If you don't, you need to watch this. Chia seeds have been primarily used in recent years as the seeds that make sprouts grow out of decorative ceramic pets and as the primary ingredient in bird seed. That's right, one of the world's greatest superfoods has literally been left for the birds. Chia has a long history though and humans didn't always give these little seeds to their pets. Basically it has been prized as a superfood since the Aztecs. The Aztecs used chia as a food for long journeys, added the seed to other foods, mixed it in drinks, ground the seeds into flour, pressed the seed for its oil and presented chia as an offering to gods.The seed was banned by Spanish colonizers in the 1500s and survived only in a small area in Mexico for the past 500 years. By the 1990s American and South American scientists and nutritionists began to cultivate the seed again in Argentina for commercial production. It is mainly grown today in South America and Australia.

Today chia is once again embraced as a superfood. You can find recipes using the seeds all over the internet and in books and magazines. Some of the most common ways to use the food today are as a healthy addition to smoothies and juices, tossed on top of salads and entrees for a crunchy component, blended into soups and sauces to bolster nutrition and to thicken. Chia has recently been embraced by bakers, particularly vegan and gluten free bakers. When soaked the seeds create a gelatinous outer layer, binding them together. They absorb liquids and flavors well, so many people use them to create healthy puddings and dips and puddings resembling tapioca. Lots of companies have begun selling raw cereals that include chia seeds. These cereals are sold dry. The customer soaks them to create a breakfast treat reminiscent of oatmeal, only twice as nutritious and raw. If you soak ground or whole chia seeds you can make something known as "chia gel". This gel can be used as an egg replacement in baked goods and even to substitute for part of the fat content in baked items like cakes and cookies. Most of the time when people want to eat chia, they opt for a healthy version of chocolate pudding. Basically, cocoa or cacao powder is added to the seeds, along with a sweetener and non dairy milk. The seeds soak up all the chocolatey liquid creating a chocolate tapioca style pudding. For those who don't like tapioca, the mixture can also be blended to a smooth pudding in a high speed blender or food processor.

Chia is mostly prized for its nutritional profile. It contains several minerals including phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc and copper. It is high in antioxidants and a good source of omega-6 essential fatty acid, or EFA, linolenic acid. It is an outstanding plant source of omega-3 EFAs.If you haven't experienced it, you should give it a try. To lean more about chia's nutrients, click here.

I am fascinated by chia seeds because of their thickening and gelling abilities. To create these effects, one normally has to either reduce a liquid through cooking (eliminating many of the nutrient properties of the food being prepared), incorporate an animal product, or add a starch to a liquid. I mostly add starches to my cooking for thickening but often feel queasy as a result. Chia doesn't make me queasy, in fact, it makes me feel awesome. I attribute this feeling of zen to its magnesium and EFA content. These two nutrients are often lacking in my diet so any food that introduces them to my body is usually a winner.

There are many sweet and thick foods that I now rarely enjoy. Jam is one of those foods. To me jam is a sugary nightmare. Refined sugar and I are not good friends. I usually sweat through my sleep after a sugar rush so I try to limit them to a few rare occasions, like when ice cream (my weakness) is in my freezer.  I used to LOVE peanut butter on hot toast with some cold rasberry jam on top. I still eat peanut butter but the toast and jam haven't passed my lips in years. So why not chia jam? The jam will be the right gooey texture and the fruit will provide the right flavor notes. I did a google search and found a few recipes, even recipes for raw jam. I knew what I was writing about today. 


Without further ado I bring you Sugar Free Raw Raspberry Chia Jam! If you don't like stevia, you can omit it altogether for a more tart jam, or add a squeeze of blood orange to the mix for sweetness.

The best thing about this recipe is its simplicity. It blends together in mere minutes and sets effortlessly in your refrigerator. I recommend you blend it tomorrow morning and come home to it tomorrow night.

OR

...don't even wait half an hour and enjoy some RAW RASPBERRY BLOOD ORANGE CHIA GELATO!



This recipe makes great gelato! If you refrigerate for 20 minutes and use frozen berries the texture is just right.

Sugar Free Raw Raspberry Jam/ Gelato

Part I:

1 package FROZEN raspberries(1/2 lb, or 227g)
1tbsp filtered water
dash cinnamon

Part II:

1-2 tbsp chia seeds

Part III:

5 drops stevia OR 1 tbsp blood orange juice (+ stevia to taste(optional) if you want it sweet)

To make JAM:

Pulse all ingredients from Part I together in a food processor until small chunks appear. Add Part II and pulse all ingredients. Transfer to a mixing bowl and stir in Part III ingredients.Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight. Stir. Add extra chia seeds if the jam is too runny. Transfer mixture to a jam jar. Your done!

To make GELATO:

Pulse all ingredients from Part I together in a food processor until small chunks appear. Add Part II and pulse all ingredients. Transfer to a mixing bowl and stir in Part III ingredients.Cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Your done!

Here is my photo lesson!