No-cook Chocolate Banana Chia Seed Pudding

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

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.

TJ's Chia Seeds

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…

Chia Seed Pudding

Ingredients:

1/4 cup Chia Seeds

1 cup coconut milk

3 heaping tbsp cocoa powder

2 ripe bananas, mashed

2 tbsp honey

Instructions:

  1. Combine all ingredients, stirring well.
  2. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours until pudding is thick and Chia seeds have expanded.

Resources: What’s Cooking America, EatRight.org

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Mango Bean Salad

Mango Bean SaladOkay folks, here’s a super easy and delicious lunch idea with lots of protein to keep you going all day. I give you: Mango Bean Salad! I put it on a bed of spinach and spring lettuce, but I could see this as a good topping for a veggie burger or as a quick side dish.

Ingredients:
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can corn, rinsed and drained (in the summer you can use corn from the cob)
1 red bell pepper, cut up into small pieces
2 medium avocados, sliced into small pieces
1 large mango, cut into small chunks
1 tsp olive oil
dash of salt to taste

Directions:
Mix all ingredients. That’s it!

Mango Bean Salad<

Gourmet Grilled Cheese – Gluten Free

Grilled Brie and Fig Sandwhich

One of the biggest challenges I’ve had with going gluten-free is finding good bread – which is why I’m so psyched to have discovered a bread that makes a good grilled cheese! I like Udi’s Whole Grain Bread – it seems dense and heavy when it’s in the package, but don’t be fooled… Once grilled or toasted, the texture becomes soft and light, and, as you can tell from this picture, gets the perfect crunchy toasted deliciousness on the outside.

For this version, I used brie (my favorite is St. Andre’s) and Trader Joe’s Fig Butter. I also plan on making this using real fruit slices – apples? pears? yum!

How do you make your grilled cheese gourmet? I’ll be looking for new options with my new bread!

Jugo Verde (or Green Juice)

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).

Jugo verde

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!

Jugo Verde

Ingredients:
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

Instructions:
Place all ingredients in the blender and mix it up. Then enjoy!

Huevos Rancheros

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.Huevos Rancheros - vegetarian and gluten-free
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
2 eggs
cooking spray or olive oil
Salsa, salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:
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.

Creamy French Onion Mac and Cheese – Gluten Free

I must admit something to you, blogworld: Despite my love for fine food, my favorite meal is still the same as most four-year olds’. To say I love macaroni and cheese is an understatement. For my entire first grade year, I refused to eat anything but macaroni and cheese for both breakfast and lunch. My more mature second-grade self made the sacrifice of adding PB&J into the mix now and then (in the name of nutritional balance, of course) but I have never tired of this delicious comfort food. This recipe uses three types of cheese, including one that is infused with French Onion flavor to give it a unique and savory taste.

Creamy French Onion Mac and Cheese

Creamy French Onion Mac and Cheese

2 servings quinoa pasta shells (or any pasta will do)
2 ounces swiss gruyere, cut into small pieces
1 tbsp cream cheese (gluten-free)
1 wedge Light French Onion Laughing Cow cheese
3 tbsp half and half
1 tsp butter

  1. Cook pasta as directed and drain.
  2. Place pasta back in pot.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients to the pasta and cook on low, stirring continuously until all ingredients are melted and evenly distributed. If your sauce is too thick, add more half and half as needed.

You can also add some great mix-ins to this classic mac: caramelized onions, broccoli, peas, stewed tomatoes, mushrooms, etc. What’s your favorite mix in?

Gluten-free mac and cheese

Watermelon Feta Mint Salad

The weather is getting warmer and the days are getting longer, which means it’s time for the beach, flip flops and barbeques. This is one of my favorite, Greek-inspired recipes that takes a summer staple and makes a unique and refreshing side dish for an outdoor party.

The combination of ingredients may seem a bit unusual, but the sweet and salty flavors of the fruit and cheese blend naturally, while the mint adds a subtle, refreshing finish to each bite.

I recently served this to my Yia-Yia, who looked surprised and told me, “You know, this looks really odd, but it’s so delicious!” I hope you think so, too.

Watermelon Feta Mint Salad

Watermelon Feta Mint Salad
1/4 watermelon, cubed
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
6-8 leaves fresh mint, cut into small pieces

Combine all ingredients and enjoy!

Protein Powder Shake (that doesn’t suck)

Peanut Butter Banana Protein Shake

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!

Veggin’ Out: Greek (Baked) Fries

Some days, you need a meal that is quick as much as you need one that is satisfying. Cue the Veggin’ Out series – made for lazy days.

Greek Fries

Make frozen fries “gourmet” by baking them as directed until almost crispy. Four minutes before you take them out, sprinkle feta cheese (about 1/2 cup) over the top of the fries. Finish baking. When done, squeeze the juice of half a lemon evenly over the fries – and you have “Greek” fries!

Serve with a Greek salad, or as a side to a veggie burger.