Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Incorporate this Mexican superfood into your next indulgent treat

I will admit I was slow to jump on the chia seed bandwagon. I didn’t see them as a food; all I could think of was the Chia Pet I longed for as a child and was never allowed to have. That all changed a few years ago when I discovered chia “pudding.” While there are many ways to make it, my favorite is simply with yogurt and fruit. (Recipe below.)

Chia seeds are another one of those foods that seem to be readily available in Mexico (at least here in Mazatlán, where all the grocery stores have them in bulk and packaged), but I was unable to find a single local friend who actually eats them. Searching online for recipes, the majority seemed to be for Agua de Limón y Chia (recipe below) as a supposed aid in losing weight. (Hasn’t worked for me. Sigh.)

Turns out chia seeds — from the flowering salvia hispanica, a member of the mint family — are native to Mexico and have a long, storied history of cultivation by the Aztecs, who prized them for the sustainable energy they provided. The tiny black (or sometimes white) seeds are 16% protein and a rich source of fiber, omega-3s and B vitamins.

Another thing that makes chia seeds so unusual is that they absorb up to 12 times their weight in liquid when soaked and become gelatinous in the process. (It’s actually really interesting to see this happening in your bowl or glass.) It’s that expansion and gel making you feel full that may help you eat less and thus lose weight.

Chia seeds also work as a thickening agent in a plethora of recipes, from puddings and smoothies and agua frescas to pancakes, muffins and other baked goods.

Just about any fruit on hand goes well in chia yogurt pudding.
Just about any fruit on hand goes well in chia yogurt pudding.

Simple Chia-Yogurt Pudding

I love this for breakfast or a light lunch! Use whatever fresh or dried fruit you have on hand.

  • 2 Tbsp. chia seeds
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 2-3 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 cup cut-up fruit (pineapple, apple, mango, banana, berries, papaya, etc.)
  • Toppings: Dried coconut, chopped almonds or pecans

In a bowl you’re going to eat from, whisk chia seeds and water till combined. Let sit about 20 minutes, stirring once or twice, till all water is absorbed and seeds are softened.

Stir in yogurt. Add chopped fruit, honey and toppings.

Seedy Oat Crackers

  • 1 cup whole oats
  • ¾ cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • ⅓ cup raw sunflower seeds
  • ⅓ cup sesame seeds
  • 3 Tbsp. chia seeds
  • 3 Tbsp. poppy seeds
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. coconut or vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbsp. pure maple syrup

Preheat oven to 375 F. Mix oats, all seeds and salt in large bowl. In another bowl, mix oil, syrup and ¾ cup room-temperature water.

Pour liquid over oat mixture; mix well. Let sit 10 minutes; mixture will absorb water and thicken.

Form oat mixture into one big ball and transfer to parchment-lined baking sheet. Press a second sheet of parchment on top, and use a rolling pin to flatten to ⅛” thick (the shape doesn’t matter). Remove top parchment. Bake cracker in one piece until edges are golden brown, 15–20 minutes.

Remove from oven to cooling rack and place more parchment on top; carefully turn over, using plate or tray so as not to break it. Slide parchment and cracker back onto baking sheet with other side up.  Bake until firm and golden brown around edges, 15–20 minutes more.

Remove from oven, cool completely, then break into pieces. Store airtight at room temperature.

These oat crackers, with five types of seeds, are rich in omega-3s.
These oat crackers, with five types of seeds, are rich in omega-3s.

Chia Limeade

  • 2 Tbsp. chia seeds
  • 2 cups fresh lime juice
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • Lime wedges for serving

In a pitcher, whisk chia seeds and 5 cups water. Let sit until seeds soften, about 10 minutes.

Add lime juice and sugar; stir until sugar dissolves. (Add more sugar if needed.)

Stir well before serving in ice-filled glasses.

Overnight Chocolate Chia Pudding

  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • 3-5 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon (optional)
  • Pinch salt
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups almond, coconut or regular milk
  • ½ cup chia seeds

In a small bowl, mix cocoa, cinnamon, if using, and salt.

Whisk in maple syrup and vanilla.

Add a little milk at a time, whisking until a paste forms, then add remaining milk and whisk until smooth.

Whisk in chia seeds, cover and refrigerate overnight, or at least 3–5 hours (until it’s pudding-like).

Serve with whipped cream or sprinkled with coconut or fresh berries.

This tasty chia chocolate pudding has a bonus: it's good for you.
This tasty chia chocolate pudding has a bonus: it’s good for you.

Berry Chia Jam

  • 3 cups fresh (or frozen, thawed) blueberries, strawberries or raspberries
  • 2 tsp. grated lemon zest
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp. (or more) maple syrup
  • ¼ cup chia seeds

Bring berries, syrup, lemon zest and juice to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.

Using a spoon, lightly mash half the berries to release juice. Increase heat to medium-high; bring to a boil.

Cook, stirring occasionally, until juices are reduced by half, 5–10 minutes. Remove from heat; taste and adjust sweetener.

Return to a boil, stir in chia seeds. Cook 1 minute to soften seeds.

Remove from heat, cool slightly, then transfer to jar. Cover and let cool completely. Store in refrigerator.

Chia Seed Chips

For Cheesy Chips, stir in ¼ cup shredded cheddar cheese before adding water.

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup chia seeds
  • 1½ tsp. garlic or seasoned salt
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ cup water
  • Regular or seasoned salt for sprinkling on top

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a bowl, mix flour, chia seeds, 1½ tsp. seasoned salt and salt; stir in water until dough is completely combined. Form dough into thin, bite-sized rounds. Arrange on baking sheet; sprinkle with seasoned or regular salt.

Bake until crisp, about 15 minutes. Cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Janet Blaser is the author of the best-selling book, Why We Left: An Anthology of American Women Expats, featured on CNBC and MarketWatch. A retired journalist, she has lived in Mexico since 2006.

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