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Chia seeds pack satisfying nutritional punch

Apr. 16, 2013
 
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Chia seeds are included in this vegetable frittata. / GANNETT
Chia seeds are full of nutrients; try them in Chia Seed Muffins. / Gannett News Service
Chia seeds are full of nutrients and help you feel satisfied. / Jessica J. Trevino, Detroit Free Press/Gannett

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What if you could get a good amount of nutrition and feel satisfied all from a tiny seed?

Think ch-ch-ch-chia.

Many of us remember that jingle advertising the terra-cotta planters in the shape of pets. Once you soaked the seeds and slathered the gooey mixture on the planter, it sprouted fuzzy greens in a few days.

Turns out those black seeds are full of nutrients.

“They are an amazing tiny seed and really inexpensive, and a little goes a long way,” says Andrea McNinch, 37, owner of Healing Yourself Institute and Regeneration Raw in Royal Oak, Mich.

McNinch has been using chia for at least seven years and says the seeds have “two times the potassium as bananas and three times the reported antioxidants that blueberries have.”

Chia seeds are often compared to flax seeds because they have similar nutritional profiles. But the main difference is that chia seeds don’t need to be ground the way flax seeds do. Chia also has a longer shelf life and does not go rancid like flax does.

From a culinary perspective, McNinch says, chia acts as “a binder, thickens and emulsifies things.”

Raw and sprinkled on foods or soaked in water to create a gelatinous thickener, chia seeds are a source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids and fiber. They are available in health food stores, national chains such as Whole Foods, and, increasingly, your local supermarket.

How to use raw chia seeds

• Sprinkle over yogurt, oatmeal and cereals.

• Stir into drinks and smoothies.

• Toss in mixed greens, rice, pasta or potato salads.

• Add to muffin and cookie recipes.

• Make a pudding, stirring the seeds into almond milk (or other dairy, rice or coconut milk).

• In a clean coffee grinder, grind the seeds into a coarse flour (often called milled chia) and use it in baked goods.

Basic chia gel

Soak about 2 tablespoons of seeds in 1 cup cool water. The seeds will swell and the mixture will become gelatinous. You can thin the gel if it’s too thick. You can then:

• Add the gel to water and drink as is.

• Use the gelatinous mixture as an egg replacer in some recipes. You may need to adjust the other liquids in the recipe.

• Use it as a thickening agent in salad dressing and some sauces and soups.

Green super smoothie

With green juices all the rage, try this one that uses chia.

1 tablespoon chia seeds

1 1/2 cups pear juice, coconut water, water or a mixture

3 romaine lettuce or kale leaves

1 small cucumber, peeled

3 parsley sprigs

Add all the ingredients to a blender and liquefy using the most powerful setting. Blend until smooth. Drink immediately.

Source: “Chia: The Complete Guide to the Ultimate Superfood” by Wayne Coates (Sterling Publishing, $17.95). Tested by Susan M. Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.

Chia seed muffins

These make a generous size muffin. You also can make them in a mini muffin pan.

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup raw or regular sugar

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

3/4 cup plain yogurt

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour or unbleached all-purpose flour

1/3 cup chia seeds

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Optional topping:

2 tablespoons sugar and one-fourth teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line muffin pans with paper liners or lightly grease.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Blend in the eggs, yogurt and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, chia seeds, salt and baking soda.

Slowly add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture and blend until just combined. Do not overmix.

Fill each muffin cup two-thirds full of batter.

Sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar if using. Bake until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool slightly before removing from the tin. Makes 12.

Source: “Chia: The Complete Guide to the Ultimate Superfood” by Wayne Coates (Sterling Publishing, $17.95). Tested by Susan M. Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.

Chia frittata

Use whatever vegetables you have on hand for this recipe.

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon chia gel

1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped cooked vegetables

Vegetable oil as needed

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs until smooth. Add the chia gel and whisk until combined. Add the vegetables and stir until combined.

In a large skillet over medium heat, add oil. Pour in the egg mixture and cook, without stirring, until the eggs are set completely through. Allow to cool in the pan slightly before sliding onto a cutting board. Cut into wedges to serve. Makes 2 servings.

Source: “Chia: The Complete Guide to the Ultimate Superfood” by Wayne Coates (Sterling Publishing, $17.95). Tested by Susan M. Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.

Chia rice salad

You can use any variety of vegetables in this salad.

1/2 cup chia gel (see note)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 to 2 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon fresh rosemary or oregano leaves, minced

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 cups cooked brown rice (long grain, basmati or short grain)

1 small zucchini, julienned

1 medium tomato, seeded and chopped

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

In a small bowl, combine one-half cup chia gel, oil, lemon, garlic, salt, herbs and cayenne. Whisk until well-blended. (You can also put ingredients into a tightly closed jar and shake vigorously to mix.)

In a large bowl, combine the rice, vegetables and Parmesan cheese, if using. Pour the dressing over the rice mixture, combining gently and thoroughly. Makes 6 servings.

Cook’s note: To make chia gel, pour 1 cup cool water into a sealable plastic or glass container. Slowly pour 1 3/4 tablespoons chia seeds into water while briskly mixing with wire whisk. Wait 3 or 4 minutes, then whisk again. Let the mixture stand about 10 minutes before whisking again. Store this mixture in the refrigerator up to 1 week.

Source: “Chia: The Complete Guide to the Ultimate Superfood” by Wayne Coates (Sterling Publishing, $17.95). Tested by Susan M. Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.

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