Come late afternoon my munchies kick in full gear. Anyone else with me? And when I have a craving, it is always for something creamy and sweet. Others crave crunchy and salty but not me – it’s sweet all the way, and chocolate is my favorite. The darker the better.
I have learned to look for quick homemade healthy alternatives to satisfy my cravings without expanding my waistline like this chocolate chia pudding. It’s rich, creamy, sweet, and chocolaty – PERFECT.
Chia seeds are a new nutritional rock star – one of the latest to hit the health food scene. I first heard about them from Anne Louise Gittlman in her Fat Flush for Life book, and since then, I love to sprinkle them on all kinds of things.
You probably remember chia seeds as the instant pet that grew out of an animal-shaped ceramic figure. But now, they are being touted as a perfect food – rich in carbohydrates, proteins, fiber, and healthy omega-3 fats.
From a couple of posts back, I talked about those anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats. They are good for your brain, your nerves, your skin, and your heart in addition to any inflammatory conditions. And these tiny little chia seeds are packed with them.
Chia seeds are also one of the world’s richest sources of soluble fiber. There are two kinds of fiber, soluble and insoluble. The soluble type dissolves in liquid and becomes like a gel. The soluble fiber in chia seeds is a friend to those who are detoxing. Chia seeds absorb more than their weight in liquid, so imagine what they do as they move through your digestive tract. They are like little tiny vacuums, picking up and sweeping out of your body whatever is in their path – any old debris, toxins released by your system, and cholesterol.
Eating chia seeds keeps your digestion moving along at a nice pace. You feel fuller longer, as these chia seeds act like a present your body gets to slowly unwrap. The nutrients are gradually released into your system, so you feel fuller longer and eat less – a natural weight loss aid! Speaking of weight loss, this chocolate chia pudding has only 130 calories!
Need a pick me up? Ancient Aztec warriors used to eat these power seeds for energy, as the slow releasing carbohydrates sustained them. Chia seeds also have twice the potassium as a banana, 15 times more magnesium than broccoli, three times more iron than spinach, and six times more calcium than milk. And, they are a good source of complete protein that includes all of the essential amino acids.
Some other ideas for incorporating chia seeds into your diet…
- Sprinkle them over Greek yogurt
- Add them to salad dressings to thicken
- Add them to sauces to thicken
- Soak them in beaten eggs for a frittata
- Add them to other nuts, seeds, and dried fruit and make a grain-free homemade granola
- Soak that homemade granola in almond or coconut milk to make muesli
- Sprinkle them on cooked vegetables
- Sprinkle them on a fruit salad
- Eat them raw with other nuts and seeds
- 1⅓ cups unsweetened almond or coconut milk
- ¼ cup chia seeds
- 2 – 3 tablespoons raw cacao powder (depending on how rich you like it)
- 2 – 3 tablespoon honey (depending on how sweet you like it)
- optional: grated dark chocoalte
- In a medium bowl, whisk together all ingredients until thoroughly combined.
- Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
- Garnish with grated dark chocolate if desired.
To oat or not to oat? Are oats a safe gluten free whole grain? Well, that depends. Pure oats are gluten free, but the risk for cross contamination is high. The only 100% gluten free oats are those marked gluten free, so the average Quaker variety in your grocery store most likely contains gluten. This is because oats are grown in fields side by side wheat and processed in the same plants as wheat. Some batches of oats may have very little cross contamination, but some may have a decent amount of gluten. When purchasing oats, look for gluten free on the label, or find them in the gluten free section of your grocery store.
Oats are considered a cereal whole grain. They are certainly not new on the scene, as they have been a staple food for our Scottish ancestors for centuries. Certified gluten free oats are quite nutritious, as 1 cup packs in 16 grams of protein, 10 grams of fiber, 7 grams of poly and mono unsaturated fats and iron, magnesium, zinc, copper, and manganese. The American Heart Association is oats’ biggest cheerleader because of its high amount soluble fiber and its ability to lower cholesterol naturally. The fiber in oats also serves as a nice prebiotic, as it increases healthy gut bacteria and the short chain fatty acids they produce.
The only potential downfall of oats is that like other grains, oats contain phytic acid, which will bind to and prohibit other valuable nutrients like zinc from absorbing into our bodies. Soaking and then rinsing oats for several hours or overnight lowers the amount of phytic acid. I soak all my grains and highly recommend it, as I find I digest whole grains much better after a good soaking. The other potential problem with oats is the protein called avenin. Although it is different from the gluten protein, it is in the same general category, so a handful of gluten sensitive people cannot tolerate oats either. My advice would be to try oats before crossing it off your list of healthy whole grains. If you experience any of the same symptoms as you did with gluten, you will know it isn’t the grain for you.
Oats can be bought as steel cut oats, rolled oats, or instant. They are all from the same grain but are just prepared differently. Steel cut oats are the whole oat chopped into pieces. Rolled oats are steamed and rolled out flat and are probably the most popular form of oats. Instant oats have been steamed, rolled out, and also precooked.
Granola is just one way to enjoy your oats. I love this version because it is seasonal and so fragrant – filling my whole house with that festive scent while baking. Enjoy your granola served over plain Greek yogurt, soaked in almond or coconut milk, or just by itself as a snack.
- 3 cups gluten free rolled oats
- ½ cup chopped pecans
- ½ cup chopped walnuts
- ½ cup slivered almonds
- ½ cup sunflower seeds
- ½ cup pumpkin seeds
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ginger
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon cloves
- ¾ teaspoon sea salt
- ⅓ cup honey
- ⅓ cup maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons blackstrap molasses
- ½ cup cooked pureed pumpkin
- ¼ cup applesauce
- 2 tablespoons raw coconut oil
- ½ cup fruit juice sweetened dried cranberries
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- In a large bowl, stir together oats, pecans, walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and salt.
- Add honey, maple syrup, molasses, pumpkin, applesauce, and coconut oil.
- Spread out on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.
- Remove from oven, stir, and bake for 20 more minutes.
- Remove from oven, stir, and test for desired crunchiness. Return to oven for up to 10 – 15 more minutes if you like a crunchier granola.
- Remove from oven, and stir in cranberries.
Ok, these are just downright delicious. I admit it. I was skeptical when I was first introduced to them while on vacation this summer at the Turks and Caicos Islands. But, the sweet and smoky flavors of the banana and bacon create quite a savory snack or appetizer, and of course they provide some good nutrients for our bodies as well. They are super easy to make, and the protein and fat in the meat combined with the carbohydrate in the banana make them a well-balanced after school snack for kids. Plus, who can turn down bacon??
When choosing any packaged meat like bacon, be careful to choose the freshest, highest quality and consider the following:
- go organic or hormone-free
- pick one with the least number of ingredients
- look for nitrite/nitrate free
- best bet is to buy fresh if available
For this recipe, I chose a nitrate-free turkey bacon. Nitrates/nitrites are in pretty much all processed and packaged meats unless noted on the package and can be dangerous to your health, as they are believed to cause: hardening and narrowing of blood vessels leading to heart disease, difficulty regulating blood sugar so increasing the risk for diabetes, an increased risk of thyroid disease, and increased risk of cancer because they contain a precursor to known carcinogens.
- 2 bananas, each cut into 5 chunks
- 5 slices of bacon, cut in half
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- ½ teaspoon natural cajun seasoning
- 10 toothpicks
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- In a small dish, combine maple syrup and cajun seasoning.
- Roll each chunk of banana in the maple syrup mixture, and then wrap each chunk with a piece of bacon, securing with a toothpick.
- Place each wrapped banana in a baking dish, and brush a little of the maple syrup mixture on top.
- Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes, flip, and then brush a little of the maple syrup mixture on the other side.
- Bake for an additional 15 minutes or until bacon is completely cooked.
It doesn’t get quicker than the Miracle Muffin for a healthy breakfast, and I am loving it. I made my favorite version this morning with cacao and goji berries. The fiber, protein, and healthy fat kept me full until lunch. Let me know your favorite way to make the Miracle Muffin!
- ¼ cup flax seed meal
- 1 teaspoon aluminum free baking powder
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon raw coconut oil
- 1 egg
- 1 dropper vanilla creme liquid stevia
- 1 tablespoon raw cacao powder
- 1 tablespoon goji berries
- Stir to combine all ingredients in a coffee mug.
- Microwave for 50 seconds.
- Turn over mug onto a plate, and muffin will fall out.
Today was the first day of school, so we made frozen yogurt for an after school snack. Making frozen yogurt with our Cuisinart Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker is easy and fast. We always use Greek yogurt to make ours, as adding Greek yogurt to your diet provides an additional gram of protein over typical non-fat yogurt per ounce. A 6-ounce serving of Greek yogurt has 15 grams of protein, which helps you feel full and satisfied. Because of the way Greek yogurt is made, much of the natural sugar is removed, so it has half the sugar of unsweetened, non-fat American-style yogurt. Greek yogurt is minimally processed and has not been heat-treated, which provides you with essential healthy bacteria that improve intestinal health and help to keep yeast at bay.
- 1⅓ cups unsweetened almond or coconut milk
- 2½ cups 0% Greek yogurt
- ½ cup agave nectar
- 3 peaches, pits removed and cut into chunks
- juice of a lemon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Freeze ice cream bowl for 24 hours.
- Combine all ingredients in a Vitamix or other blender, and blend until smooth.
- Assemble ice cream maker, and turn on.
- Slowly pour contents of blender into the ice cream bowl while it is on.
- Wait about 20 minutes for contents to freeze, checking often for desired consistency.
- Serve immediately because it melts fast!
The kids are at home so much more during the summer, and that means I visit the grocery store twice as often trying to keep up with their growing appetites. Their food of choice at the moment is all of the stone fruits that are in season; my daughter loves the peaches and nectarines, and my son prefers the plums. We made this sweet treat with nectarines this week, and it was a big hit.
- 5 nectarines, halved and pitts removed
- 1 cup almond flour (www.honeyvillegrains.com)
- 2 tablespoons slivered almonds
- 2 tablespoons chopped pecans
- ¼ teaspoon Himalayan sea salt
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- dash of ginger and nutmeg
- 3 tablespoons grapeseed or coconut oil
- 2 tablespoons agave nectar
- ½ tablespoon vanilla
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- In a medium bowl, stir together almond flour, almonds, pecans, sea salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.
- In a small bowl, stir together oil, agave nectar, and vanilla.
- Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, and stir to combine.
- Place nectarine halves skin side down in a 2 quart baking dish.
- Divide the almond mixture evenly between the 10 nectarine halves, putting a spoonful in the center of each nectarine half.
- Bake for 40 minutes, lightly covered with a tent of foil.
- Remove foil, and bake for 10 more minutes.
- Serve warm.