Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia! I have very fond memories of the adorably lame Chia Pets – which apparently you can still purchase in even more creatively-formed sculptures, like Barack Obama and Scooby Doo!
But now, Chia has a more health-related meaning to me, thanks to Chia Seeds, which offer a range of health benefits. I actually don’t know if you can harvest the seeds from the plant shaped like our current president, but you can definitely buy them at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods for the awesome benefits.
Chia seeds are known to:
- Lower blood pressure and cholesterol
- Provide protein – in higher percentages than other seeds and grains
- Contain antioxidants
- Add fiber to your diet
- Provide a heaping portion of Omegas – 1 tbsp of the stuff has 2.9g Omega-3, and 1g Omega-6
- Stabilize blood sugar
Because Chia seeds do not have a strong flavor – they are just slightly nutty tasting – they can be added into meals and snacks you already eat to give you all of the health benefits without major impact to the food. You can sprinkle them in yogurt, add them to smoothies, or top a salad with them.
Here, though, I made the Chia Seeds the main event. This recipe was adapted from the one on the back of my Chia Seed packet, and couldn’t be easier! With this pudding, the Chia seeds soak up the coconut milk, expanding into little bubbles that give the pudding the consistency of tapioca. This can be eaten as a dessert or snack – but to be honest, it’s probably going to be my breakfast tomorrow! Hey, at least it’s not ice cream…
1/4 cup Chia Seeds
1 cup coconut milk
3 heaping tbsp cocoa powder
2 ripe bananas, mashed
2 tbsp honey
- Combine all ingredients, stirring well.
- Refrigerate for at least 2 hours until pudding is thick and Chia seeds have expanded.
Resources: What’s Cooking America, EatRight.org
The most important meal of the day is also my most boring, meaning I have eggs almost every single day. (I’m really banking that the recent research showing eggs don’t raise cholesterol is true! I can’t get enough of them.) So, I am trying to switch it up at least once a week, and this breakfast quinoa is a good way to get protein – plus, you can make a big batch and save it for future breakfasts. When you warm it up again, add a bit of extra milk and you’re good to go.
Ingredients (Makes 3-4 servings):
1 cup quinoa, rinsed (I used Trader Joe’s tri color quinoa, because it’s pretty!)
1 cup coconut almond milk (or any milk)
3 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp sugar
1 apple, chopped into small pieces and covered in a bit of lemon juice to prevent browning
1/4 cup dried cranberries
- Combine quinoa and coconut almond milk in saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Turn down to a simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add the cinnamon and sugar and combine. Simmer until almost all of the liquid is absorbed.
- Add the apple pieces and dried cranberries and combine.
The recent juicing craze hasn’t appealled to me very much. In fact, I have taken my “I’ll-have-my-fruit-with-the-fiber-please” stance very seriously.
…But a gal can change.
The flip-flop happened on my recent trip to Puerto Vallarta, when I was served a bright green juice with my breakfast. The waiter told me it was a traditional Mexican juice, so, holding my breathe, I decided to give it a try…
And I loved it. I asked for the recipe, and it turns out the green color comes from cactus (not kale or spinach, as I had fearfully suspected).
Cactus, though fairly uncommon in food in the U.S., is packed with vitamins and minerals, and studies cite its ability to lower cholesterol, reduce inflammation and prevent diabetes.
Where can you find cactus? Farmer’s Markets and speciality food stores like Whole Foods often keeps it in stock (and they slice it up for you — no cactus-related injuries necessary!)
I still won’t be purchasing my own juicer anytime soon, but this recipe will have me pulling out the blender now and then!
4 sprigs of parsley
1 nopal cactus
the juice of 1 grapefruit
60 grams (or a little over 2 ounces) natural pineapple
1/2 piece of celery
the juice of 3 oranges
Place all ingredients in the blender and mix it up. Then enjoy!
Looking for a way to spice up your breakfast routine? Try this version of Huevos Rancheros. I was inspired by a recent trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and thought I’d create my own version.
Ingredients (to make 1 serving):
1 corn tortilla
2 tbsp vegetarian refried beans (I use them right out of the can)
2 tbsp Mexican shredded cheese mix
cooking spray or olive oil
Salsa, salt and pepper to taste
1. In a small skillet, heat up the cooking spray or olive oil with a low flame. When heated, brown one side of the tortilla and flip it over.
2. Spread the beans evenly over the tortilla, and then cover with cheese. Cover the pan to allow the cheese to melt. Remove the tortilla and place on a plate.
3. Fry the two eggs to your desired consistency. Place on tortilla.
4. Garnish with salt, pepper and salsa.
The idea of protein shakes used to make me cringe: I would mix a bit of powder into milk with a spoon and it never fully dissolved, which would inevitably lead to sips with clumps of powder. Yuck.
But I have come around to protein shakes, thanks to some important tricks:
1) Get yourself an immersion blender: Blending your drink ensures that the powder is fully dissolved, and using a handheld immersion blender means that you don’t need to take out, dismantle and clean your blender each morning – just stick this hand blender in the cup you’re going to drink out of. Easy! I use one similar to this one on Amazon.
2) Add peanut butter: Using peanut butter covers any unpleasant taste from the protein powder – and you only need a little to get the job done. A banana helps too.
3) Keep it cold: Add some ice to your drink – a room temperature shake is not as appealing as an ice cold one.
My standard base recipe is below. You can also add other ingredients that you have around the kitchen, like strawberries, mango, some yogurt – mix it up! I use both whey protein powder and hemp protein powder, which has a slightly grittier texture, but you can use any protein powder you prefer.
Peanut Butter Banana Protein Shake
6-8 ounces of almond milk (you can use regular milk if you prefer)
1 banana, in pieces
1-2 tsp. creamy peanut butter
1 tbsp. whey protein powder
1 tbsp. hemp protein powder
Combine ingredients in your cup. Use immersion blender to mix, about one minute. Throw in a handful of ice (remember tip number 3), and you are good to go!
I love breakfasts foods – but as someone who is perpetually running late, I never seem to have time to make a real meal in the morning. I like these mini frittatas (made in a cupcake tin) because you can make a week’s worth ahead of time and warm them up each morning (or take them for lunch). The recipe below includes some of my favorite fillings, but you can really use any vegetables or cheeses that you like.
Mini Veggie Frittatas
1/3 cup lowfat milk
1/4 head of broccoli
1/2 cup spinach
10 grape tomatoes
1-2 ounces gruyere (this is a perfect cheese for quiches and frittatas – white cheddar as a less expensive substitute that also works well)
1-2 ounces smoked mozzarella
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
2. Prepare fillings by cutting into bite size pieces.
3. Combine eggs and milk in bowl. Whisk.
4. Add fillings and a few dashes of seasoning to egg and milk combination and mix until evenly distributed.
5. With cooking spray, generously coat the cupcake tin.
6. Fill each slot until almost full.
7. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the tops are golden brown and a knife comes out nearly clean.
**Tip: while still warm, take a butter knife and circle the edges to make sure the frittatas don’t stick to the sides. After five to ten minutes, you can take them out and cool them on a plate. Refrigerate until ready to warm and eat.