No. 10 – Adventures in chia seeds

What if I told you there was an ingredient which had more protein than eggs, more calcium than milk, more fibre than oats and more omega 3s than salmon? You’d say, “what is this amazing superfood”, right? Well, its this little guy, the chia seed! Packed with fibre, omega fats, potassium and magnesium, chia seeds are said to boost energy, improve endurance and help to regulate digestion. Pretty impressive!

*Disclaimer* I only know all of this because my in laws recently handed me a ginormous bag of chia seeds that they didn’t know what to do with, after using a few spoonfuls in a recipe themselves. Not wanting to waste them, I set about researching and finding lots of tasty ways to use the little superheros up. And when I say a ginormous bag, it certainly was. See the picture below!

I put out a call on my Facebook page for any tried and tested recipes, and friends responded with some great ideas; chuck them in smoothies, in soups, in stews, in porridge, anything saucy that could do with thickening up – all great ideas! I wanted to find some new recipes which championed chia seeds rather than just adding them to my current repertoire of recipes however, and I think these 5 beauties below are rather special. If you ever find yourself drowning, literally, in chia seeds like I did, why not give some of them a try!

“Why are you eating frogspawn, Mum?”

First off, a couple of breakfast recipes; a chia seed pudding and a fruity jam. I’d been through a phase of eating chia seed puddings when I was living in Chicago, but I’d never really liked them that much. All that gelatinous gloop, or as my eldest observed, “why are you eating frogspawn, Mum?” But that was then, and this is now, and I’ve got a massive bag of the blighters to use up. I experimented with different milks, ratios, and a whole range of toppings, and now I’m seriously obsessed with chia seed puddings again! Here’s my favourite version:

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of coconut milk
  • 4 tablespoons of chia seeds

Method

  1. Mix the seeds into the milk, cover and leave in the fridge for a few hours, preferably overnight.
  2. In the morning, stir the pudding. You may need to add another splash of milk to loosen the pudding a little.
  3. Next, layer up the chia seeds in their gloop into a tall glass, with your favourite fruits and nuts.

My current favourite combination is layers of chopped pear and mango, with crushed cashews and dessicated coconut on top to add much needed texture and crunch. The pudding would also work well with layers of berries and bananas, crunchy almonds and pecans, or flavoured with cinnamon or some vanilla extract before chilling overnight. The key to enjoying this for breakfast or as a snack is to layer it up, add lots of colour and flavour and a crunchy topping. Give it a whirl and see what you think – maybe you’ll develop a chia seed pud obsession too!

*****

Strawberry chia jam – I have a romanticised vision in my head of me making jams in the kitchen, stirring a big bubbling pot, with sweet smells of fruit wafting through the house. No idea where this vision has come from, but I blame the Great British Bake Off!

My kids love jam. Perhaps a bit too much. I definitely don’t love the amount of sugar and additives you find in most shop bought jams however, so perhaps making my own jam which is just fruit, seeds and a little pure maple syrup (less refined than sugar) will keep us all happy. I’ve never made jam before, but was inspired by some recipes I’d found for simple strawberry and chia seed jams, which only take 10 minutes to make. They all looked way too good to be true, but armed with a punnet of strawberries, my still very full bag of chia seeds and some maple syrup I set to work. I hulled 250g of strawberries, then added them to my food processor along with 2 tablespoons of chia seeds and a tablespoon of maple syrup.  Quick blitz then into a pan on a medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes, until the mixture has thickened. And that’s it – I’ve made jam!

I blame the Great British Bake Off!

Mary Berry, eat your heart out! My eldest tucked straight into this for an after school snack, spread thickly onto hot buttered toast, which he grudgingly shared with his baby brother. Yes, I gave the baby jam, don’t judge me. He loved it!

Tuck in lads!

The remains of the jam was stirred into our favourite porridge for an extra fruity kick the next morning. And a certain somebody in our house turned 4 this month, so a thick layer of jam nestling on top of buttercream in his birthday cake worked really well too. But the majority was eaten spread onto bread and shovelled into hungry boy tummies after school and nursery. And I’m totally ok with that, because it’s mainly fresh fruit plus superfood chia seeds. Tuck in lads!

*****

Seedy loaf – I did a detox in January, where I cut out wheat, dairy, refined sugar, soy, alcohol and caffeine. It was a very dull month, haha! One of the things I missed the most was bread, so I was desperately searching for a bread substitute and discovered an amazing seedy loaf in one of my favourite new cookbook books, by Clean Eating Alice. Packed full of seeds, including the famous chia, and made with ground almonds and eggs, it’s gluten free and dairy free with no chemical nasties or additives at all. It’s also delicious and really easy to make – just mix all of the ingredients together and into the oven to bake for 40 minutes until the crust is golden and crunchy. The loaf is best toasted then topped with your favourite toppings. I love it adorned with avocado mashed with chilli flakes or with hummus and tomato slices, or slathered in one of my favourite nut butters. It’s so good, and really filling from the fibre rich seeds, so why not give it a try and let me know what your favourite toppings are.

It’s so good, and really filling from the fibre rich seeds

Ingredients

  • Coconut oil for greasing the tin
  • 120g ground almonds
  • 100g sunflower seeds
  • 100g pumpkin seeds
  • 75g sesame seeds
  • 30g chia seeds
  • Pinch of salt
  • 5 eggs
  • 75ml unsweetened Almond milk

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°c.
  2. Combine all of the dry ingredients together in a bowl, then slowly add the eggs and milk.
  3. Mix well, then pour into a greased 1lb loaf tin.
  4. Into the oven for 40 minutes, then allow to cool before slicing, toasting, topping and devouring!

*****

We eat a lot of curries and lentil bakes in our house, so when I came across this recipe for chia seed poppadoms I thought it would be the perfect accompaniment, and a great way to use up more of the seeds at the same time.

Made just from chia seeds, an onion, plus herbs and spices, it looked really easy to make – always a bonus! Everything gets mixed together in a bowl and left to soak for 20 minutes. *Warning – this stage looks like a cross between a muddy puddle and a science experiment gone wrong! The mixture is spread onto a lined baking sheet and popped into the oven.

Once baking, the poppadoms have a heavenly aroma; a mix of sweet aniseedy fennel seeds, lemony, earthy ginger and fragrant, citrusy coriander. Half way through baking the poppadoms need to be turned over, and mine got a bit (actually, a lot!) broken up at this stage, but who wants a uniformly round poppadom anyway? I served the poppadom pieces with a turmeric and spinach lentil bake, and they worked really well, adding a satisfying crunch to the soft lentil dish.

…a cross between a muddy puddle and a science experiment gone wrong!

*****

Now, how about pudding? This final recipe starts where all good sweet treat recipes start in my book, with a full jar of peanut butter. And it uses every last scraping of that jar, 280g to be precise. All the yums! I use my favourite brand, Meridian, as the peanut butter is 100% peanuts, with no added sugar, salt or oil. Therefore, making these cookies virtually a health food! Sweetened only with a tablespoon of maple syrup, and containing just 5 ingredients (peanut butter, chia seeds, maple syrup, unsweetened cocoa powder and an egg) these cookies are delicious in a rich, crumbly way, yet way healthier and more nutritious that shop bought cookies.  They are gluten free and low in sugar, with no nasty additives, and the peanut butter and chia seeds combined make them a great source of protein and fibre to satiate hungry tummies.  They lasted all of 10 minutes in our house – hope you and yours love them as much as we do!

Peanut butter and chia chocolate cookies 

Ingredients

  • 280g peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup

Method

  1. Put all the ingredients into a bowl and mix well. I used a fork to make sure everything was evenly mashed and mixed together.
  2. Roll into about 12 balls, then flatten with a fork and put onto a lined baking tray.
  3. Into a preheated oven at 180° for about 10 to 12 minutes.
  4. Remove and allow to cool and firm up, if you can wait that long!

All the yums!…Heaven in the form of a dark, chocolatey, crumbly piece of pure joy.

This recipe would work just as well with other nut butters, such as almond and cashew. I’ve had my eye on a jar of coconut and peanut butter for a while – sounds perfect for this recipe!

*****

So, what have I learnt during my adventures with chia seeds?

They are a really versatile ingredient that can be used in loads of recipes, sweet and savoury, and at breakfast, lunch, dinner and for snacks. Puddings made with coconut milk and the seedy loaf are now part of my everyday eating. I love them, without even considering the numerous health benefits and nutritional punch they deliver. The crunchy poppadoms are a great addition to lots of family dinners, although the kids declared them “weird”. And the cookies; what can I say?! For a self confessed peanut butter addict they are heaven in the form of a dark, chocolatey, crumbly piece of pure joy. Only problem is that we now get through an extra jar of peanut butter each week in our house! #badtimes

The main thing I’ve learned however, is the next time the in laws wave a massive bag of a random ingredient at me to use up, I should maybe think twice about accepting it!

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