Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia!

As a child, 1982 was the year I yearned for a Chia Pet. I wanted the ram. I didn’t even know what a ram was, but I wanted it. It was the commercial that won my heart, with it’s catchy tune and fancy time-lapsed photography. Who knew that 30 years later, Dr. Oz’s team and even Nuts.com (one of my favorites) would be all over their nutritional benefits.

Chia seeds (‘chia’ is actually Mayan for “strength”)–which were used widely by the Mayans and Aztecs as early as 3500 BC to increase stamina and energy–are a SUPER superfood because they have a crazy high amount of nutrients for a crazy low amount of calories. And unlike chia’s friend the flax seed (also a Super), they don’t have to be ground to reap the benefits.

Chia seeds are high in:

  • Soluble fiber: the one responsible for lowering LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, filling you up, and keeping you full for a scarily long amount of time. It absorbs 12 times its own weight in 5 minutes. Take THAT, “Grow Your Own Boyfriend“!
  • Calcium: 16% of your daily requirement per ounce (2 tablespoons), which is 3 times the amount you’ll get from dairy foods
  • Omega-3’s and Omega-6’s: Chia is a more concentrated source of skin- and heart-healthy essential fatty acids than salmon
  • Protein: 6 grams per ounce (2 tablespoons)–that’s similar to meat, but it’s a seed!

So how do you eat them? How DON’T you eat them is more the question! You can literally toss a tablespoon or two into anything. They’re tasteless and simply contribute a fun, crunchy texture to your food. Here, I added them to a dessert and a pina-colada-type smoothie with only positive feedback. Here are 40 more ideas. Chia Cheers!

Chia Blondie Ingredients

Chia Blondies
Makes 16 small squares or 9 large squares

1/4 cup chia seeds
1/4 flaxseed meal
1/2 cup filtered water
1 15.5-ounce Trader Joe’s Blondie Bar Baking Mix (or other blondie or brownie mix that bakes in a 9″ X 9″ pan)
1/2 cup melted Earth Balance margarine
1 medium zucchini squash (green or yellow), shredded
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Soak chia seeds and flaxseed meal in water in a medium bowl for 5 minutes, until a thick gel forms.

Stir remaining ingredients into chia flax mixture until well mixed.

Spread mixture into a lightly greased 8- or 9-inch square or round baking pan.

Bake for 40 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Feel your cholesterol dissolving, one bite at a time.

Chia Blondies, made with green zucchini

Nutrition Info Per Small Square (1/16th of recipe): 178 calories, 9 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 1.5 g polyunsaturated fat, 1.5 g monounsaturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 232 mg sodium, 39 mg potassium, 22.5 g carbohydrate, 3.2 g fiber, 13.3 g sugar, 2 g protein, 5% vitamin A, 1% vitamin C, 2% calcium, 6% iron.

Nutrition Info Per Large Square (1/9th of recipe): 317 calories, 15 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 2.5 g polyunsaturated fat, 2 g monounsaturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 412 mg sodium, 68 mg potassium, 40 g carbohydrate, 6 g fiber, 23.5 g sugar, 4 g protein, 10% vitamin A, 2% vitamin C, 4% calcium, 10% iron.

What the critics said:
Bitchin’ Husband: “If I have a second, will my hair grow green?” (Ha ha, Funnyman)
6-Year-Old Daughter: “Two more please!”
4-Year-Old Son: “Mom! You never gave me dessert!” (Trying to get another)
2-Year-Old Son: “I not like this.” Two minutes later: “Why you eat my dessert?!?!”

Chia Colada

Chia Colada
Makes 3 1-cup servings

Chia seeds are rich in soluble fiber, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, & help to lower cholesterol, blood pressure, & promote heart health. Salud!

¼ cup chia seeds soaked in ½ cup filtered water for 5 minutes
1 cup frozen pineapple chunks
1 banana
2 cups refrigerated coconut milk
(or 1 cup canned coconut milk plus 1 cup water)

Blend and do the hat dance.

Nutrition Info Per 1-cup Serving: 202 calories, 10 g total fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 20 g carbohydrate, 10 g fiber, 9 g sugar, 8 g protein, 11% vitamin A, 52% vitamin C, 15% calcium, 34% iron.

Celery Root: The Unsung Vegetable Hero

Celery Root by Lee Court Farms, found on WiveswithKnives.net

Guest Post by Robyn Selman

You don’t see recipes for celery root (celeriac) very often. It’s definitely one of the ugly ducklings at the produce stand. But once you peel off that gnarly brown exterior (resembling the surface of the moon), you get a low-starch, low-calorie root vegetable that smells and tastes like a mixture of celery and parsley, and is a champion source of fiber, potassium, and cancer-fighting antioxidants. When baked until tender, the texture reminds me of cooked carrots. I always find myself turning to Mark Bittman’s cookbooks when I want to cook with a less familiar vegetable, and I was not disappointed with this recipe. Gratins with root vegetables make perfect winter meals, especially when you add beans and whole grains to make them really filling.

White Bean and Celery Root Gratin with Bulgur Crust
Adapted from Mark Bittman – How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
Serves 4

½ cup fine-grind bulgur
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing the baking dish and drizzling
1 ½ pounds celery root, peeled, and cut into 1-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
1 onion, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cans cannellini (white kidney) beans, drained but still moist, liquid reserved
1 teaspoon sweet or Spanish smoked paprika
2 teaspoons chopped fresh marjoram leaves or 1 teaspoon dried or fresh oregano

Photo by Robyn Selman

Put the bulgur into a heatproof bowl and pour 1 cup boiling water over the top. Stir, then cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 15-20 minutes. Once the water has absorbed, fluff with a fork, drizzle with a little oil, season with salt and pepper, and set aside.

Lightly oil a 2-quart soufflé dish, gratin dish, or a 9×13 inch baking pan and set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 °F.

In a large deep skillet, add 3 tablespoons of oil and heat over medium heat. When hot, add the celery root and cook for about 8 minutes, until it starts to brown. Add the onion and some salt and pepper and cook for another 3 minutes or so, until the vegetables are soft and golden brown.

Off heat, stir in the garlic, beans, paprika, and herbs. Add some of the reserved bean liquid if it seems dry (it should resemble a thick stew). Taste and season with more salt and pepper if needed.

Spread the bean and vegetable mixture into the pre-oiled pan. Top evenly with the bulgur and drizzle a little olive oil over the top. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until the edges and top are browned and bubbling happily. The time might vary depending on how deep your baking dish is.

Serve immediately or let rest for up to an hour and serve at room temperature.

Notes:
If you can’t find finely ground bulgur at your store (I couldn’t), then you should just buy regular bulgur and grind it yourself in a coffee or spice grinder at home. The first time I made this recipe I did not grind it and I was sorry. The bulgur pieces became so hard from baking that it hurt my teeth to bite down on them. So I made it again, this time grinding it first in my small coffee grinder reserved for spices until it looked similar to fine bread crumbs, and the result was MUCH better. Just goes to show that recipe instructions are chosen for good reasons and I should really pay attention to them!

Don’t have celery root? Other vegetables you can use include: potatoes, parsnips, eggplant, cauliflower, broccoli, fennel, carrots, summer squash, green beans, asparagus, or cabbage.

Robyn Selman is a recovering “picky eater.” After eating pre-packaged, processed foods her whole life she decided to make the switch to fresh, homemade meals and has never looked back. Now she approaches cooking with the mindset of “the more vegetables, the better” and loves trying out new recipes. She tries to buy local whenever possible and loves Community Supported Agriculture. Her life happily revolves around her work, her husband, and their crazy cat. She loves board games, hiking, dancing, good books, and good coffee. You can read more on her blog, Robyn Cooks.

Top 3 Meatless Meats for Meat-Lovers

Are you digging plant grub but can’t get full on tofu? Or maybe you just don’t want to get full on tofu. YET. So until you’re there, here are 3 of the BEST plant-powered meatalicious products around. Obviously there’s nothing wrong with good ole beans and rice or pasta fagioli, but these dudes are perfect for vegetarian flirts and XL appetites.

Photo by: WhatsGoodatTraderJoes.com

1. Soy Chorizo. The package and casing scared me at first. But, once I stabbed through it, I realized the possibilities were endless. It’s spicy, has a great chewy and meaty texture, and is super filling. There are lots of brands, but the Trader Joe’s 2.5-ounce serving has 140 calories, 9 grams protein, 4 grams fiber, 8 grams carbohydrate, and just 1.5 grams saturated fat. Add it to soups, chili, nachos, potatoes, tacos, or potatoes for a hearty Mexican hash dish. Normally, I panic with processed foods and their list of 900 chemical ingredients, but the one at TJ’s tastes incredible and has just 8 completely identifiable ingredients (1 being water): textured soy protein, water, soy oil, distilled vinegar, salt, spices, red pepper, garlic. Whats Good at Trader Joe’s?–unrelated to Trader Joe’s or Bitchin’ Dietitian–has a cool review of it.

Photo by: LaziestVegans.com

2. Field Roast’s Frankfurters. These grain-based (compared to soy-based) veggie hot dogs are THE BOMB. I knew it last night when my soy dog UNenthusiastic husband had a second one. They have a mildly spicy taste, but still made it past my anti-spicy child’s taste buds. The ingredient list is longer than the chorizo’s, but contains all recognizable items: filtered water, vital wheat gluten, expeller pressed safflower oil, naturally flavored yeast extract, organic expeller pressed palm fruit oil, barley malt, natural liquid smoke, garlic, onion granules, tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, spices, paprika, sea salt. Each frank has 190 filling calories and 21 grams of protein. The rest of the nutrition info is here.

Photo by: WhatsGoodatTraderJoes.com

3. Trader Joe’s Beef-Less Ground Beef. Another wheat gluten concoction, this stuff is incredible mixed with brown rice, black beans, and salsa and then stuffed into cooked peppers. Or, add it to marinara sauce with frozen chopped spinach atop elbow macaroni for a healthy spin on Hamburger Helper. It’s basically fat-free with a 1/3-cup serving containing 60 calories, 10 grams protein, 2 grams fiber, and 0.5 grams fat. Check out another review and more ideas here.

Serve these up with gobs of veggies for maximum nutrition. Recipes here or in Skinny Dish.