“Eat What You Want…”

“Just cook it yourself.”

What a great message from Michael Pollan!

Check it out.

Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding with Toasted Almonds

There’s been a stir lately about chia seed pudding and this recipe for Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding with Toasted Almonds is one of the best I’ve tasted. Yum, Chocolate!

When I first bought the bag of chia seeds, honestly, I had no idea how I was going to use them.

I kept having flashbacks of smearing the soaked, slimy seeds over a rough damp terra-cotta pot shaped into some absurd shape. In college, my roommate and I had some; mine was an animal that grew chia fur, my roommate had a head that grew chia hair.

I think this is my favorite though:

But enough of silliness, on with the recipe! Best part is the seeds aren’t sprouted for the pudding.

The thing about chia seeds are they absorb quite a bit of liquid compared to their dried mass. This thickens products they are used in and results in a bit of an off-putting gelatinous substance. Hold your judgement.

The chia seed has good nutritional value providing omega 3 fatty acids, protein, fiber, magnesium, potassium, calcium and zinc. It’s a powerhouse of good nutrition.

Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding with Toasted Almonds

Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding with Toasted Almonds

Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding with Toasted Almonds

Yield: 1-1/2 cups

Dry Ingredients:

  • 2 Tablespoons organic granulated sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons dark chocolate cocoa powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup of chia seeds

Wet Ingredients:

  • 1 cup non-fat milk or use almond milk, soy milk, or coconut milk, use plain rather than already sweetened varieties
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Garnish:

  • 1/4 cup toasted almonds
Method:

Mix the dry ingredients together so there are no lumps.

Mix the wet ingredients together; add a small amount of liquid to the dry ingredients. Stir this until it makes a smooth batter-like paste. Fold the rest of the liquids into the dry ingredients and mix well.

TIP:

Dry cocoa powder does not combine easily with the milk if you just add everything all at once. There could be lumps of dry cocoa in the finished pudding which would be kinda yucky. SO add just a bit of milk and stir it in to get the cocoa wet and lump free before adding all of the milk.

Cover and set aside then stir every 20 minutes 3 times.This ensures the seeds are not clumping and will hydrate correctly.

Then put the covered pudding into the fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight.

To serve, fold in toasted almonds, reserving some for the top garnish. Spoon the pudding into a small bowl or cup, sprinkle with a few toasted almonds on top, add a small mint leaf and a berry or two if you have any on hand.

About the milk and ways to modify the recipe:

You can use any milk you prefer, even half and half but that sort of defeats the “healthy” part of this recipe. If you choose coconut milk, read the label and make sure of the ingredients before you buy it.

You can add spices like ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, use almond extract or orange or raspberry extract for flavor enhancement.

Leave the nuts out, add fruit  or nothing instead.

Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding with Toasted Almonds

Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding with Toasted Almonds

I’m thinking coconut, rose-water and cardamom, or chocolate raspberry next!

Since I had to taste this while writing about it, I didn’t realize I ate the majority of the dish and now have to make more to photograph the final plate up. Duh! It’s like the time I walked into the kitchen and ate the photo shoot. I dream of having a staff to help keep things straight!

Monk Fruit in the Raw VS. Sugar

Monk Fruit In The RawOK, so at the start of every new year, almost everyone says “I’m going to lose weight or get fit” or something. So I decided to see what this zero-calorie Monk Fruit In the Raw “all natural sweetener” is about.

The ingredients are: dextrose, monk fruit extract. In the larger bulk pack, the ingredients were: maltodextrin, monk fruit extract.

I wonder why the difference? I wonder what percentage of dextrose to monk fruit extract am I getting? Theoretically, they could simply add a few drops of the extract to the bin of dextrose and call it Monk Fruit in the Raw, but it is far from raw and since dextrose is the first ingredient, it is also far from being monk fruit.

So, I bought some to explore since I didn’t think the store would appreciate me trying this in the store. I opened a pack and poured it into my hand. I put some in my mouth and tasted it.

Sweet on the front, but it had an odd numbing sensation, slight, but numbing. Then the bitter after taste came on a few minutes after I had finished tasting the newly discovered miraculous ‘have your sweets and no calories too’ monk fruit sweetener. Yuck!

Then I put some in a perfectly good cup of coffee and totally ruined that too.

While the initial taste is sweet, it’s the dry bitterness of dextrose (yes another ‘natural’ sugar) that gets you in the end. Not being a diet soda drinker, I suppose my taste buds are more sensitive to those kind of flavors, but I didn’t like it at all. It actually numbed my taste receptors for a while after I finished  tasting, that I didn’t like at all!

I read the website the claim “Has the least after taste . . .” but whats with that tongue coating effect?

After washing my tongue off and getting it back to normal, I tried the same with a bit of organic sugar. Yup! Pleasure, smooth and sweet.

Sugar Bowl

Sugar Bowl

So what’s the conclusion? Use sugar, just use a lot less. I’m learning to like my tea with no sweetener but Earl Grey really likes a small bit of sugar.
Unless you enjoy the sensation of diet/low-calorie food things in your mouth, stick to using sugar. Train yourself to use less. I know that’s not an option for diabetics., but maybe use the real fruit instead of this processed junk?

The packaging is romantic and describes the ancient history of using monk fruit as a sweet ingredient. I’d bet they didn’t have granulated sugar then either, let alone dextrose or maltodextrin to mix it with. What they used back then is not what is wrapped up so neatly in bright orange packages and presented to you as monk fruit.Monk Fruit In The Raw Packets

And the zero calories? The say on the side of the box that each package contains less than 3 calories per serving which the FDA recognizes as zero calories. But whose counting?

This is my opinion and your tastes and experience may differ. I love that!

Southern Iced Tea

Southern Iced Tea

Organic VS. Conventionally Grown Vegetables

Vegetables ready to pickle!It can be confusing to shop for vegetables these days trying to figure out whether to buy organic vs. conventionally grown produce.

Some say if it has a thick peel organic doesn’t matter, but sometimes it does.

Here’s a couple of lists: One of foods you should always buy organic and the other a list of produce that is alright to buy conventionally grown items.

Always Buy Organic:

Why? These foods have been found to have high levels of pesticide contamination.

Always wash all fruits and vegetables just before cooking and preparing.

Fruit:

  • Apples
  • Grapes
  • Imported Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • Strawberries

Vegetables:

 farmers market radishes

  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Cherry and Grape Tomatoes
  • Corn – to avoid GMO
  • Cucumbers
  • Collard greens
  • Hot peppers
  • Kale
  • Potatoes
  • Spinach
  • Summer Squash
  • Sweet Bell Peppers

OK To Buy Conventionally Grown:

Why? These crops are safely grown with the low usage of pesticide resulting in lower pesticide residue on your fruits and vegetables.

Always wash well before preparing.

Fruits:

Fresh Blueberries

  • Cantaloupe
  • Grapefruit
  • Kiwi
  • Mangoes
  • Papayas – Check it for GMO
  • Pineapples

Vegetables:

  • Asparagus
  • Avocados
  • Cabbage, all varieties
  • Eggplant
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Sweet Potatoes

This list features the most pesticide contaminated foods which are advised to purchase organically whenever possible. The conventionally grown foods on the list are the ones grown with the least amount of pesticide contamination.

if it’s not on the list, you’ll have to do some research and decide for yourself whether to buy organic or conventionally grown.

Most produce in the USA will come with a PLU number on it. It is not required by the government but the PLU system was designed to streamline things for processors and pricing, not consumers.

Here are a few basic guidelines for selecting fruit and vegetables using PLU codes.

Conventionally grown produce will bear a 4-digit number in the 3,000-4,000 range

Organic produce will bear a 5-digit number starting with 9

Supposedly GMO produce bears a 5-digit number starting with 8, but you don’t see it  because they really don’t use those PLU codes to identify GMO grown foods. Why don’t they use the 8-digit code? Growers are afraid consumers won’t buy if it bears a code starting with an 8, so they choose to leave the code off the product. Use of the PLU code is optional, not required.

So the best thing to do is not totally depend upon PLU codes but know who grows your food and know where it comes from.

 

I hope this helps all of us eat better this next year!

In My Kitchen, January 2014

Wow! A New Year already and another In My Kitchen Post for January 2014. Shout out to Celia who is the host of this wonderful series!

My kitchen was quite busy in December. This year, I decided to make Spa Baskets for the women of the family and Kitchen Baskets for the families. The spa baskets were such fun! I got to play with making bath fizzies, lip balm, body butters and lotions. I had a blast.

We went to a holiday party where they passed out bags of organic produce as we left.

Burlap potato sacs

Burlap potato sacs

The bags were made of this nifty burlap that make perfect places to store potatoes in the cabinet. I am strangely drawn to them.

Like Joanne in her January INK post, I too got some things to cook hard-boiled eggs in only this package is called “Eggies” while hers are “Easy Eggs”. It doesn’t matter but I haven’t tried them out yet.

Eggies!

Eggies!

Tyler is in my kitchen! I swear he’s grown another inch!

It’s been wonderful to have him home. He goes back to grad school Saturday; we will miss him. Tyler's in the kitchen

In November, I started taking a class on Learning Herbs.

My herbal study nook

My herbal study nook

I got to set up an area just off the kitchen to house all my new ingredients, tools, tinctures and all the great fun stuff needed for the lessons. I really like my little herbal nook.

Tinctures brewing

Tinctures brewing

Spring can’t come too early, I want to plant some herbs!

In my kitchen is an entire drawer devoted to tea.

The Tea Drawer

The Tea Drawer

Since getting the tea pots and cups out of storage, we’ve been making and drinking a lot more tea. I change teapots every week or so. We have two pots brewing almost all of the time. One for regular black tea which gets used mostly for iced tea or the occasional cuppa with a cookie or two.

The other pot is for an herbal tea, kept under a cozy to keep it warm as long as possible. Lately the tea finding its way into the herbal pot is Earl Gray. I love it with a thin slice of lemon and a small bit of sugar, in a china cup , of course. If I could find fresh bergamot, I’d be in heaven.

A student of mine and his wife took a trip to China and brought me back this lovely tin of “Fruit Tea” with the strainer.

Chinese Fruit Tea, love the label!

Chinese Fruit Tea, love the label!

Inside the tea looks like diced dried bits of various fruits and roses. It has a delicate sweet taste that is quite pleasant! I put the spent bits of tea out for the birds with their winter food. They like the fruit! Doug told me the tea was for “graceful aging.”

Since we’ve started drinking more tea, I’ve realized a new tea cozy or two would come in handy and have decided to make a couple. I haven’t started that project yet. This morning, I saw the adorable knitted tea cozy on Celia’s IMK post with knitted olives! I know I won’t be that elaborate, or even knitted but I’m looking forward to seeing what happens. I used to quilt and embroider and tailor so who knows what the tea cozies will look like!

Cozy Update: Celia tole me the knitted olive cozy belongs to Glenda! So if you want to see it, go here to check out the neatest cozy! (Sorry Glenda!)

Anyone out there ever make a tea cozy? What do yours look like? Do you have a pattern or tips you can share?

It’s about to get real cold here in the next week. Down to 8°F which to me is unthinkably cold. I’ll be staying in so maybe working on those cozies may come about.

Here’s to drinking more tea!
Chinese Fruit Tea

Chinese Fruit Tea

Keep comfortable where ever you are.

I’m ready for a great new year, how about you?