Friday, September 20, 2013

Gluten Free Vanilla Maple Chia Pudding

The precise moment escapes me, but sometime over the past year I introduced chia seeds into my diet. Do you ever learn about or notice a new type of food, and then all of the sudden you start seeing that food everywhere? The evolution of my relationship with chia seeds was not dissimilar.

We all know I'm a sucker for healthy foods. So let's be perfectly honest: chia seeds had me at omega-3 fatty acids and fiber.

If you've eaten chia seeds before, you'll know that when soaked in liquid, they develop an interesting texture. Almost slimy and gummy-like. In other words, not for everyone. But don't let that deter you. If you're turned off, you don't have to eat them on their own, like in a pudding. They blend seamlessly into smoothies.

When I decided to write this post, I figured I'd do a little digging to find out exactly what the health benefits of these curious little seeds are. I came across a great article on The Huffington Post that lists ten reasons why you should add chia seeds to your diet. To start with, they can help boost energy, stabilize blood sugar, aid digestion, and lower cholesterol. And as I mentioned previously, they're also full of omega-3 fatty acids and fiber. One ounce has 11 grams of fiber, which is 42% of the daily recommended value, not to mention 4 grams of protein. If you're interested you can read the nutritional information here.

Adding chia seeds to my daily breakfast smoothie was as far as I'd gotten, but recipes for chia pudding kept popping up on my favorite food blogs. Last weekend when I was home in Bethesda, MD, I stopped to pick up a green juice from Purée (a new-ish juice bar in the area that I highly recommend), I grabbed a container of their chia pudding to see what all of the fuss was about. I was an immediate convert. Mixed with cacao and almond milk, and topped off with a big heap of cashew butter and more cacao, it was perfect. The texture of the cashew butter melded nicely with that of the soaked chia seeds, and the combined flavors were delightful. The pudding was sweet without being too sweet, and the infusion of cacao added an incredibly satisfying flavor. (I'm hoping that after this glowing review, Purée might be so kind as to share the recipe with me.)

In the meantime I'll share with you a simple recipe of my own that I developed this week. What I've come to like the most about this is that for a dish relatively small in volume, it's very filling. A perfect energy-booster before a morning workout (necessary for those 45-minute SoulCycle classes I love oh-so-much), or an easy on-the-go snack for those days when you're running from one thing to the next. In fact, I'm eating some right now.

Gluten Free Vanilla Maple Chia Pudding

Time: 2 minutes active, 30 minutes inactive
Servings: 2


1/2 cup chia seeds
1 cup plus 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 teaspoons pure maple syrup, depending on desired sweetness

Place chia seeds, 1 cup almond milk, and vanilla extract in a jar and mix with a small whisk or fork for 5-10 seconds. Let sit for a minute or so, and then mix again for another 5-10 seconds. Do this for about 2-3 minutes, or until chia seeds start to absorb almond milk and expand. Add maple syrup. Transfer to a refrigerator and let sit for at least 30 minutes (can also be made the night before).

When you're ready to eat the pudding, test the texture. You may want to, as I do, add more almond milk to break up the consistency. If the flavor isn't quite to your liking, add more vanilla extract, maple syrup, or even cinnamon. Strawberries, blueberries, or blackberries would also make a nice topping.


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