chia seed pudding

chiaMy much-neglected blog got a little makeover today… and a new title! Welcome to the new and improved, celebrating my new credentials as a Registered Dietitian.

Tonight’s recipe features chia seeds (if you haven’t heard of these yet, yes, it’s just like cha-cha-cha-CHIA, the old Chia Pet commercial). Chia seeds are edible seeds originally from an ancient Mexican desert plant. They are full of heart-healthy omega-3 fats, contain about 4 grams of protein and 11 grams of fiber per serving, and have antioxidants and minerals to boot. They look like poppy seeds, and you can sprinkle them on yogurt or salads, cereal or oatmeal, and cook with them in many ways. Unlike flax seeds, which have to be ground in order to be absorbed by the body, your body will accept chia seeds just as they are. However, they taste a little more exciting all dolled up… like this:

Chia seed pudding is super easy to make, and works as a breakfast, snack, or dessert. Mix about 3 tbsp chia seeds w/ 1 cup almond milk (or regular, soy, or coconut milk if you want), 1 tbsp maple syrup (or sweetener of your choice), and a little pinch of salt. For chocolate, add 1 tbsp cocoa powder, and for vanilla add 1 tsp vanilla extract. Stir well, refrigerate 30 mins, then stir well again to break up the clumps, and refrigerate overnight or for a few hours. Top with berries, other fruit, nuts, cacao nibs… the possibilities are limited only by your imagination!

buttermilk banana bread with coconut palm sugar

Truthfully I can’t remember where or when I first heard about coconut palm sugar, even though it was very recently, but when I saw some at the local market and it wasn’t ridiculously expensive I decided to try it. Coconut palm sugar is made by harvesting the nutrient-rich juice from the coconut palm tree flower and evaporating the liquid out in a kettle drum. It has the same number of calories as regular sugar, but it’s got a low glycemic index, meaning that the sugar is released much more slowly and doesn’t spike your blood glucose levels (I read that it raises your blood sugar about as much as milk or cooked carrots). It’s also completely natural and unrefined (read the label though, as I’ve heard of some non-organic brands trying to mix it with regular sugar to make it cheaper), and has the added bonus of containing Vitamins B1, B2, B3, and B6, and potassium, magnesium, zinc, and iron. Now I’m not calling any sugar a health food, but if you’re going to cook or bake with it, why not use a healthiER sugar?

So yesterday I made a banana bread because there were three over-ripe (at least by my standards!) bananas lying around, as well as buttermilk left over from last week’s homemade ricotta experiment. I combined the bananas with 2 eggs, 1/3 cup buttermilk, about 2/3 cup applesauce (instead of oil or butter), and 1/4 tsp vanilla extract. Then I mixed the dry ingredients separately and then added them to the wet mixture: 1 1/2 cups coconut palm sugar, 1 cup white flour & 1 cup whole wheat flour, 1 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ground cloves, 1/8 tsp nutmeg (spices are optional – I like them). At the end I stirred in some Ghiradelli dark chocolate chips (optional, again, or you could add nuts) and baked it at 325 for about an hour and 35 minutes. Between the whole wheat flour and the dark color of the coconut sugar, you will get a very dark looking loaf, but the taste is rich and caramel-y. Good for breakfast, dessert, a snack…. you get the idea…


coconut avocado brownies

So at the beginning of this semester, I spent several weeks writing a proposal for my food science class on avocado as a fat-replacer to make healthier brownies, only to have it deemed not worthy of being tested out for real in the lab! (Only 6% of recipes were chosen, but still. Bitter.) So I figured since I’d put all that work into the idea, I might as well test it out at home. But if you’re going to get experimental with brownies, why not get really experimental?

Those of you who know me know that I hate wasting anything. I had a bag of shredded coconut in the fridge left over from cookies I made in February, and it had gotten all dry. I didn’t know if there was anything I could do with dried-out coconut, so I decided to throw it into the spice grinder and see if I could make coconut “flour.” Well, I wouldn’t call the consistency of what came out “flour” exactly, but for this it seemed to serve its purpose. I also used agave nectar instead of refined sugar and tried egg whites instead of eggs. Also, many of these amounts were sort of eyeballed, so I apologize if you have to adjust. Precision isn’t exactly my thing. (Hmm, why didn’t my recipe didn’t get picked in food science class?). So here’s what I did: In a big bowl, mix the following with a hand blender (or you could puree in a food processor): 1 small/medium avocado, 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 1/2 cup coconut “flour,” 1/3 cup light agave nectar (you could use honey instead), 3/4 tsp baking powder, tiny pinch of salt, 1/3 cup egg whites (if you’re vegan, as I’m sure you know, you can make flax eggs) and 1 tsp vanilla. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.
Warning: these will be fudgy. Almost non-brownie-like, and they don’t rise very much at all! The flavor was good but this batch came out a bit salty, so in this recipe above I already adjusted for that, which hopefully fixes the problem. Try it! And feel free to change things and give me feedback. You pretty much have nothing to lose when playing with chocolate.


sweet sassy molassey whoopie pies

I’ve never been a big fan of Valentine’s Day. From the moment Christmas ends till the moment Valentine’s Day is over, you can’t walk into a Duane Reade to buy some Advil without being assaulted by aisles full of ugly teddy bears. It’s just tacky. Whether I was single or coupled, I’ve always been in sort of moral opposition to a holiday concocted to make people buy lots of pink and red junk and feel bad if you’re not going out to dinner. But on the other hand, really, if you just look at it as an excuse to eat chocolate, it’s kind of acceptable.

ImageI have to admit, this year was an exceptionally fun Valentine’s Day. Homemade dinner of linguini with littleneck clams and spicy tomato sauce, fancy French wine, a box of Jacques Torres chocolates, and homemade whoopie pies! For non-New Englanders, whoopie pies are traditional Maine desserts that are basically two mounds of chocolate cake/cookie with creamy filling in the middle. They look a little like giant Oreos. So Chris’s mom had gotten me a whoopie pie cookbook for a Christmas stocking stuffer, with a card that said “If you’re going to date a Mainer, you have to cook like one!” The book has not only the traditional chocolate cake with buttercream filling recipe, but more than 20 cake and 30 filling variations and 4 pages of combination suggestions. They even have a jalapeno cornbread whoopie pie, a maple bacon filling, and two completely vegan recipes.

Deciding which whoopie pie to make was probably the hardest part. I was intrigued by the Happy Pilgrim (pumpkin whoopie, maple filling) and the Chip n’ Dale (chocolate chip whoopie, salty peanut butter filling), and Chris liked the Hansel & Gretel (gingerbread whoopie, buttercream filling) and the Crazy Mo-Fo (chocolate on chocolate).
The compromise: we invented our own combo. Gingerbread molasses whoopie pies with dark chocolate ganache filling, which Chris named “The Sweet Sassy Molassey.”


Sweet Sassy Molassey

Recipe is as follows:
For the gingerbread whoopies: Sift together 4 cups flour, 1.5 tsp each ground ginger & cinnamon, 1 tsp each salt & baking soda, 1/2 tsp cloves, 1/4 tsp nutmeg. In a separate bowl, beat together 1 stick unsalted room temp butter, 4 tbs vegetable shortening (I actually used all butter for this which is why they came out kinda flat), and 3/4 brown sugar until fluffy & smooth. Beat in 1 egg & 3/4 cups molasses. Add 1/2 the flour mixture & 3/4 cup buttermilk, then the other half of the flour mixture when blended. Drop about 2 tbs batter about 2 inches apart onto a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes (you’ll need to do more than 1 batch). Cool on a wire rack.
For the chocolate ganache: Heat 1/2 cup heavy cream in a pot or microwave & pour over 8 oz chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate. Stir till melted. Cool.
Then assemble your whoopie pies!

Warning: these are so good, you might develop a Maine accent and start saying “wicked.”

healthy chocolate oat banana coconut almond cookies

ImageMy favorite food blog, 101 Cookbooks, does it again. These little dollops of cookie heaven are moderately guilt-free, delicious, and if you made a few adjustments, they could easily be made gluten free and vegan.

To make them gluten-free, just look for a gluten-free variety of rolled oats such as Bob’s Red Mill or substitute quinoa flakes (I’ve never tried them so I can’t vouch for taste). To make the cookies vegan, just substitute the dark chocolate chunks for carob chips or any chocolate without added milk fat, milk solids, whey, or casein, such as Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s chocolate chips, Organic Equal Exchange chocolate, or Green and Black’s Organic Dark Chocolate.

You can also try adding a number of other ingredients to play with the recipe: peanut butter, chopped nuts, dried cranberries, blueberries… the possibilities are virtually endless and I will definitely make this again and try some variations!

The original recipe is in the link above – I followed it exactly and used olive oil instead of coconut oil.