Chia Fresca

Chia FrescaAlso known as Mexican Lemonade, Chia Fresca is simply lemon water with chia seeds and sweetener. This version is sugar-free and only ever so lightly sweetened with liquid stevia or maple syrup. Super refreshing, you can sip this all day long, keep hydrated and gain the nutritional benefits of the chia seeds. Winning.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 cups filtered water
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon or lime juice
  • 1/2 cup chia gel or seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon liquid stevia or 1 tablespoon maple syrup (or sweetener of choice)

Simply combine all ingredients, shake, and you’re done. The seeds will settle to the bottle of the container. Shake intermittently if you want to keep the seeds in suspension. Just like a summer snow globe…

Chia Fresca Separated

NOTES:

How to Make and Use Chia Gel
Chia Seed Nutritional Information

 

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How to Make and Use Chia Gel

Chia Gel

Have chia seeds been massively over-hyped as a ‘superfood’ by marketers? It seemed that way to me. As a result, I was a bit slow to warm up to them. But, learning that the word “chia” means strength created intrigue in these seeds.

Grown in Mexico since the era of the Mayans and Aztecs, chia seeds have been known for centuries for their energizing and hydrophilic properties. Chia seeds are able to absorb up to 10 times their weight in water. As such, these sponge-like seeds became a favorite among ancient, and now modern athletes, for their hydrating as well as endurance properties. This absorbent quality also makes chia-containing liquids very filling, creating a following among dieters. However, researching the culinary uses for chia seeds, they seemed little more than a substitute for ground flax seeds.

So, how do chia and flax seeds compare nutritionally? Both chia and flax seeds are high in fiber, calcium, phosphorous, omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. Of note, chia seeds score bonus points for being a complete protein, of which flax seeds are not. Also, unlike flax seeds, chia seeds don’t require grinding to render the nutrients bioavailable and they are less prone to rancidity. Hmmm.

The next question, naturally, was how do chia seeds taste compared to flax seeds? My informal taste test involved topping a salad with chia seeds instead of my usual ground flax seeds. Instead of flax seed’s nutty flavor, the chia seeds tasted …almost tasteless. Boring? Perhaps. But, their neutral taste is what I now love about Chia seeds, in particular when made into a gel.

Chia and Water

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1 cup filtered water

Chia seeds, water, a mason jar and about 15 minutes are all it takes to make a chia gel. Simply add the chia seeds to water and stir well. If using a mason jar, secure the lid and shake intermittently to make sure the seeds don’t clump together into a gelatinous mass. Or, stir with a fork. After about 15 minutes the gel will be thick enough to hold a spoon upright (if using the ratio for an egg replacement). Chia gel will keep refrigerated for about two weeks.

Spoon in Chia Gel

WAYS TO USE CHIA GEL

  • Use as an egg-substitute in baking.
    1 egg = 1 tablespoon chia seeds + 3 tablespoons water = about 1/4 cup gel
  • Add to smoothies. Yes, you can add the seeds directly into smoothies, without creating a gel. But, the little seeds tend to stick to the sides of the blender. Clean-up is easier when you add the seeds in gel form.
  • Make your own boutique juice beverages. You’ve seen them at the grocery store, now make them at home. Simply add some gel to your freshly juiced beverage to make it even healthier and more festive.

Shown below: Ginger Beet Juice with Chia.

Chia Beet Juice

NOTES & MORE CHIA IDEAS:

 What are your favorite ways to use chia seeds and chia gel?

 

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Cold Brew Coffee

Cold Brew CoffeeSeptember through May, good quality, freshly ground coffee and my French press are all I need when I’m in a coffee state of mind. But in the summer, my efforts failed to satisfy the inner coffee elitist inherent in us Seattle natives. My DIY iced coffee attempts (serving a concentrated brew over ice cubes, regular strength brew over coffee ice cubes) proved less than satisfying; watery and sometimes leaning towards bitter. The horrors. Continue reading “Cold Brew Coffee” »

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How to Make Whipped Coconut Cream

Whipped Coconut CreamBelieve it or not, there is something more irresistible than coconut milk. That would be whipped coconut milk. Airy, light and slightly tropical, coconut whipped cream is about to become your topping of choice for desserts, fresh fruit or licked straight off the beaters. Isn’t that the best way to eat any kind of whipped cream?

The process is as simple as whipping regular heavy cream with just a few tips to consider. The main ingredient is full fat coconut milk, chilled overnight. Do not use light coconut milk. I repeat, do not use light coconut milk. Not ever. Not for anything. Use full fat coconut milk.

I prefer organic, GMO-free coconut milk, ideally in a BPA-free can. But, my buying preferences and full fat requirement aside, the brand you select does matter. But, more about that later.

Whipped Coconut Cream Ingredients

INGREDIENTS:

1 13.5 ounce can of full-fat coconut milk
1 tablespoon maple syrup (or agave or sugar)
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract

DIRECTIONS:

1. Place your can of coconut milk in the refrigerator overnight so that the thick coconut cream will separate from the liquid. Chilling the beaters or whisk and mixing bowls is also helpful.

2. Turn the chilled can of coconut milk upside down, so that the liquid is at the top. Open the can (removing the bottom) and pour off the liquid. Set it aside for other use. This is prime liquid for smoothies and can also be used in baking or cooking. Note: If the solids have not separated from the liquid, use the coconut milk for something else as it will not whip up.

If you removed the top of the can, simply scoop out the solids on the top and place them in the bowl you will use for whipping.

Coconut Milk Separated

3. Using a mixer or immersion blender, mix on high-speed until the cream is fluffy and forms soft peaks, about 4 or 5 minutes. Keep an eye on it. It may not become as light and airy as whipped heavy cream. But, like heavy cream, you can whip it too much.

4. Add the sweetener and extract of choice and whip again until blended.

5. Whipped coconut cream will keep refrigerated for at least a week. If it separates or loses its mojo, simply whip it up again.

HEALTHY USE OF WHIPPED COCONUT MILK

Whipped coconut cream lends itself to enjoyment in all the same ways you would enjoy traditional whipped cream. However, most individuals should feel free to indulge more liberally in coconut cream than in its dairy cream cousin. True, this is a high-fat item. But, coconut milk is full of healthy fats, which give us a sense of fullness and satiety. True, the fat in coconut milk is saturated fat. But, not all saturated fats are equal. The saturated fatty acids in coconut oil are predominately medium-chain fatty acids or MCFAs, also known as medium chain triglycerides.

MCFAs are transported directly to the liver. In the liver, they are immediately converted into energy, rather than being stored as fat. So, MCFAs may help promote weight maintenance without raising cholesterol levels [1].

WHICH BRAND OF COCONUT MILK IS BEST?

Does it really matter? It turns out it does matter, quite a bit. I’ve been making whipped coconut cream since finding Oh She Glow’s tutorial. I loved the idea, not only for its simplicity and delicious taste, but also because I always have a can of coconut milk on hand. Now, I always keep one in the back of the refrigerator, ready for action. Doesn’t a whipped topping make any treat a little more special?

Excited to share this treat via a blog post, I was less than thrilled when my most recent attempt was a wimpy FAIL. No soft peaks here. Not so thick. Instead, it was a droopy, wet mess. What happened?

Just be sure to chill down the can overnight in the refrigerator. 

I typically buy Native Forest or Thai Kitchen Organic coconut milk. This time, I used Native Forest, but did not get the usual satisfactory results, which led me to do a little research.

Beth of Tasty Yummies to the rescue. Her comparison of different coconut brands pointed out that brand differences in stabilizers and origin of the coconuts may greatly affect their whipping potential. Check out her site to see how gorgeous your desserts can look with whipped coconut cream. She too had experienced inconsistency with trying to whip up the Native Farms brand. Native Farms – it’s you, not me.

Frustration and culinary ego-bruising behind me, I purveyed a few more cans of Thai Kitchen coconut milk and deposited them directly into the refrigerator. The result was the top photo in this post. That’s what I’m talking about. Now, I’m ready for the 4th and hope you are too! 

[1] “Physiological Effects of Medium-Chain Triglycerides: Potential Agents in the Prevention of Obesity”J. Nutr. 132(3): 329–332. 1 March 2002.

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Chipotle Coleslaw

Chipotle Coleslaw

This dish is all about the creamy chipotle avocado dressing. Silky avocado and zesty lemon dance with the smoky, kick of chipotle pepper. You won’t miss the mayo.

Customize the vegetable and fruit blend to make it your own. Savoy cabbage is particularly good for slaw salads. Savoy cabbage is more tender and less bitter than the green or red cabbage most of us typically select. As such, there’s no need to salt it before serving it uncooked. Dice, grate, slice…it really doesn’t matter much. But, keeping the produce sections thin will ease even dressing coverage. Customize the volume as you like. But, who doesn’t like having a salad ready to go in the fridge? Chop now and be veggie-ready for days!

Continue reading “Chipotle Coleslaw” »

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Organic at Costco: Deep Greens Blend & Baby Beets

Costco Organic Deep Greens BlendCostco is responding to demand for organic packaged foods as well as produce. You never know what you will find! Here, my newest discoveries, a deep greens blend and baby beets are tossed with red onion and my favorite lemon vinaigrette. Simple. Delicious. Easy. 

Earthbound Farm – Organic Deep Greens Power Blend

Earthbound Farm’s Spring Mix is fantastic, but Deep Greens is a welcome change. This blend of triple washed tender baby greens; kale, red and green chard and spinach is ideal for juicing and smoothies as well as salads. Deep Greens is a power dose of vitamins A and C in a 1.5 lb bag for $5.99. This goes on my perennial Costco shopping list.

Love Beets – Pre-Cooked Organic Baby Beets

You’ve got to love the name. These are true baby beets, none more than 2-inches in diameter and at their most nutrient-rich stage. Love Beets are available plain or dressed in vinaigrette, making them a great add-in for salads or other sides. But, for a feature dish, I would probably opt for fresh beets. Twenty baby beets are conveniently packaged in 4 units of 5 beets each for $7.99.

What are your favorite organic finds at Costco?

Love BeetsEarthbound Farm Power Greens
 

 

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Cabbage & Avocado Slaw

Cabbage and Avocado Slaw

If cabbage and avocado are good, then coleslaw and guacamole must be even better! This variation on a classic Chilean salad is simple to make, refreshing to eat and a powerhouse combo of fiber and healthy fats with mashed avocado replacing the mayonnaise in traditional coleslaw. Generously salting cabbage for an hour or more makes it tender and withdraws the bitter juices. Add lemon, and mashed avocado and you are picnic ready. Continue reading “Cabbage & Avocado Slaw” »

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Manhattanhenge Cocktail

Manhattanhenge

Manhattanhenge, a coconut water-based cocktail with mint and ginger was inspired by an ABC Kitchen libation. The name however, was inspired by a natural Manhattan event. Manhattanhengecoined by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, occurs twice each year when the setting sun aligns perfectly with the Manhattan east-west street grid. The result is a stunning glow reflecting off the north and south sides of each cross street. The next Manhattanhenge falls on May 29th and then again on July 12th. This event is a photographer’s dream and an exquisite natural phenomenon. Surely it deserves a cocktail in its honor. I’ll drink to that. Continue reading “Manhattanhenge Cocktail” »

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Cilantro Yogurt Roasted Chicken

Cilantro Yogurt Roasted Chicken

Cilantro Yogurt Roasted Chicken just might be one of the most tender and moist birds you’ll ever serve. The magic is in the marinade. Specifically, the yogurt’s lactic acid gently tenderizes the meat. The tangy marinade also doubles as a vibrant dipping sauce. No need to shy away from this recipe if you’re not a yogurt fan or are lactose intolerant. The yogurt is actually wiped off the bird before roasting. Don’t let the words ‘advance planning’ deter you. This recipe is worth it.  Continue reading “Cilantro Yogurt Roasted Chicken” »

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Black Bean Pasta. Thumbs Up!

Black Bean PastaPasta. Between the carbs, the gluten and the glycemic response, few of us enjoy this Paleo devil as often as we would like. Common sense tells us to enjoy pasta as a side dish, rather than the main feature. Right. I haven’t quite mastered that exercise in moderation, gluten or no gluten.

Black bean pasta to the rescue. This gluten-free, vegan, organic product from Explore is availabe at Costco and Amazon. The ingredient list (black beans, water) and stellar nutritional profile sold me. Compared to wheat pasta, black bean pasta has less than half the carbohydrates, six times the fiber and more than three times the protein and iron.

Continue reading “Black Bean Pasta. Thumbs Up!” »

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