February 4th, 2010
Today was our first raw food class at Green School — thanks to all who were able to join us, and we look forward to journeying further into the world of raw food together. For the younger folks in the crowd who had no clue when I started singing, this is the commercial that started it all:
And you can head on over to our Bodega and find quite a few Chia Pets, as well as chia seeds by the pound to boost the nutrition of your smoothies, salads and more.
A member of the mint family (Latin name Salvia Hispanica), this tiny black seed was used as a staple by the indigenous populations of the southwestern US, Mexico and down into South America. Mountain Rose Herbs gives us this brief history lesson, adding context to our appreciation of this important plant: “Chia was a staple for Incan, Mayan, and Aztec cultures. “Chia” is even the Mayan word for “strength”, and Chia seeds used to be referred to as “Indian Running Food” because they are so energizing. Apache and Aztec warriors sustained themselves by bringing the seeds along while on conquests, Aztecs used Chia as a legal tender, Indians of the southwest depended upon them during long trading expeditions, and they were also used by the Indians and missionaries as a poultice for gunshot wounds and other injuries.” I found this image with the tag “Mural depicting Aztec chia harvest (Courtesy of Missouri State)” but couldn’t actually find it at Missouri State, or any other information but included it anyway to give some Aztec flair to this section.
So what about the chia seed could have brought about this reverence throughout human history? According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, chia seeds are 16% protein, 44% carbohydrates (the majority of which are fiber) and 30% fat, most of which are essential fatty acids, or EFAs you read so much about these days. If you mix a spoonful of chia in a glass of water and set it aside for half an hour, the glass will be full of a mucilaginous substance upon your return. The high content of soluble fiber in the chia seed which brings about this transformation creates a physical barrier between carbohydrates and the digestive enzymes that break them down, thus slowing the conversion of carbohydrates into sugar. The result is that you feel “full” and that sugars hit your bloodstream at a slower rate, thus releasing “fuel” for your body over a longer period and contributing to chia’s reputation as an endurance food.
You can peruse a 16 page chia seed nutrition report/recipe collection at goodcausewellness.com, which lists the following benefits of chia seed consumption:
- High In Omega-3 Acids. Chia seeds have higher levels of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) than flax seed. ALA is an essential acid because it is not produced by the body. Chia contains almost a third of its mass as omega-3 and omega-6 oils. In fact, chia seeds have the highest whole-food source levels of Omega-3 acids, as measured by percent of weight.
- Rich In Antioxidants. Chia is a great natural source of antioxidants, including chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, myricetin, quercetin and flavonols.
- Full of Important Nutrients. Chia is an excellent source of calcium, phosphorus, manganese, potassium, iron, zinc and copper. Chia contains six times more iron than spinach per serving.
- Low In Sodium and Cholesterol-Free. Chia contains less than half the sodium of flax seed, per serving. This is
important to those with high blood pressure and concerned about sodium intake. As a plant-based source of Omega-3, chia is cholesterol-free.
- Promotes Hydration. Chia soaks up water and this promotes hydration and electrolytes retention.
- Helps in Weight Loss. Chock full of soluble fiber, chia is very filling. As more chia is eaten, there’s less room for higher caloric foods.
- Builds Endurance. The Mayan word for chia is “strength” chia builds stamina and endurance because it steadily releases slow-burning glucose into the bloodstream
- Gluten-Free. The protein in chia seed is gluten free.
- Stays Fresh. Unlike flax seed, chia seed stays fresh for extended periods of time.
I myself use chia primarily as a supplement in my smoothies, tossed into the blender after the rest of the ingredients have homogenized. Dante loves chia seed pudding with fresh or dried fruit mixed in. He’s not a big chocolate fan, but I would also consider making a chocolate chia pudding by adding some cacao powder to the mix. Either way, this makes a great cooling breakfast or snack, though we’re not looking for “cooling” foods much this winter so we haven’t had some in months.
I also toss them on top of salads, salads, oatmeal, etc., but since chia seeds absorb up to seven times their weight of water, they swell into tapioca-like balls. This can add a odd texture in your salad if you’re not expecting it, so I tend to sprinkle these on just as we sit down to eat them, not ahead of time. You can take advantage of this property and make chia gel to use as a thickener for dressings, jams, and other condiments.
Mix 1 part chia seeds to 8 parts water, stir several times in the first 10-20 minutes to ensure no lumps
So why all this about chia? Because I used ground chia seeds to the Ani Phyo’s Halva recipe from her new dessert book, also found in the Bodega.
- 1/2 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
- 1/4 cup pitted Medjool dates
- 1/4 cup agave syrup (didn’t add)
- 1/4 cup water
Combine well in blender. Will keep for 3 days in refrigerator or a few weeks in freezer.
- 3/4 cup sprouted chia seed powder
- 1/2 cup tahini
- 3/4 cup almond meal
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup pitted semi-soft Medjool dates -chopped
- 2 tablespoons Raspberry Sauce
- Combine dry ingredients with tahini and mix well. Add in agave, mix well. Add in dates and mix with your hands. I also added a little water to help them stay together.
- Roll dough into 9-12 balls place on sheet preferably lined with parchment paper.
- Use your thumb or end of wooden spoon to make an indentation into the center of each cookie. Fill each with generous amount of sauce.
- To serve, chill in the refrigerator for 20 min. or more to firm up. Will keep for several days or many weeks stored separately from jam. Enjoy
As you have probably noticed by now, we often make changes to the recipes based on the availability of ingredients at the time inspiration strikes as well as our own ideas of ingredients we like to use or avoid. For this recipe, I made the following alterations:
- I thought the oblong nuts lurking in my refrigerator drawer were almonds when I was making my shopping list, but as I discovered when I pulled them out to make this recipe, they were brazil nuts. Different flavor, but since they were all I had, I used them anyway.
- I did not have sprouted chia powder, so I ground the chia seeds in my spice grinder and replaced that 1:1 for the powder.
- I had only 1/4 cup tahini, so I quickly ground some sesame seeds in the grinder and added that to the Brazil nuts as I whirred them in the food processor.
- I had forgotten that when watching Kevin and Ann Marie Gianni make this recipe on the Renegade Health Show that they mentioned how sweet it was. After making the “dough” by putting everything in the food processor and mashing it (not following the directions above) I tasted it and found it to be unbearably sweet. So I rummaged through the dried fruit and nut drawer and found some walnuts which I processed and added to the dough to cut the sugar.
- I replaced agave nectar with honey.
- I did not add honey or agave to the raspberries, just the dates and water.
I would like to give this recipe another shot using the almonds, and cutting the sweetener upfront so I don’t have to fiddle about on the back end. Luke loves these and ate half the batch I’d left home while I was at Green School, but I find that it has a funny taste, which I attribute to the chia powder, as well as possibly a bit to the Brazil nuts. I would probably not grind the seeds and just add them to the dough next time as is. The raspberry sauce was amazing and I plan on making it for other uses as well, and as Luke said, it made this recipe.
This entry was posted on Thursday, February 4th, 2010 at 1:07 pm and is filed under desserts, raw food. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.