Here's a funny thing. I was just about to write a post about seedy pudding and stress. I've just received an urgent fax from down in the research department, letting me know that I have already done that, with this post right here. There are no new ideas under my sun. Everything I said there about stress and the temple of the body: still think that. But at least this is a new pudding.
There was an article a couple of weeks ago in a venerable newspaper about the health benefits of chia seeds. This is the same venerable newspaper that is so concerned with veracity that it published the following correction:
Correction: October 19, 2012
An earlier version of this article described incorrectly a beverage that Ahmed Abu Khattala was drinking at a hotel in Benghazi, Libya. It was a strawberry frappe, not mango juice, which is what he had ordered.
It now reads:
"But just days after President Obama reasserted his vow to bring those responsible to justice, Mr. Abu Khattala spent two leisurely hours on Thursday evening at a crowded luxury hotel, sipping a strawberry frappe on a patio and scoffing at the threats coming from the American and Libyan governments.”
So we know without a doubt that they are deeply committed to getting the facts straight, so whatever they want us to know about chia seeds must be grounded in truth. In case you do not have time to read their article, here's my summation of their findings: it's possible that they are good for you.
I am not a big fan of concealing nutritional weapons, despite what you may have heard about me. I like to make them palatable, certainly, especially for the dubious, but I am not going to lie about things. I'll tell, if asked. After the meal.
So if your roof, like mine, covers either people with active memories of Chia Pets, or a carbon-steel resistance to whatever category you might assign chia seeds to ("Small & Slippery"? "Health Food"? "Things I Have Never Tried Before & Probably With Good Reason"?), then let me just say I have seen them tolerated in two ways here at home.
In fried rice or any busy stir-fry, a few tablespoons of 'bloomed' chia seeds or chia seed powder are hard to object to and they play the part of the sauce-thickener that nutritionally neutral cornstarch normally plays, to boot.
For the rice, I soaked a couple tablespoons of chia seed in some tamari, and dumped it over stir-fried greens and rice and tofu that had been cooked with a liberal amount of ginger (there is never enough ginger for me) and garlic and cooked brown rice. The next time, I put ground chia seed into the sauce (tamari, water, sesame oil) that dressed some stir-fried greens. The whole seeds in the rice: no one noticed. The ground seeds over greens: someone asked. But everyone ate it.
The second application: chocolate pudding. Even people with strong mental objections to chia seeds, it turns out, will eat a lot of chocolate pudding that contains them. They may say they are doing so just to see if it is as bad as they think it will be. They may spout long diatribes against the very notion. But here in the Raisin test kitchens, it seems they keep eating the pudding. The little jars go off in the lunchbox (if they are not raided beforehand) and come back empty.
I made the straight-up, no-cook chia powder pudding that one can find on the web, and I will tell you flat-out that it is a snotty experience. Glooby. Not for the unsure. I kind of like glooby food, but I recognize that not everyone does.
I've made about five versions of what we might call 'Chia Pudding For Skeptics' now, and I think I have a formula that works. No gloob. It's made with cane sugar, which maybe does not bother you, but not much of it and anyway there is all of that whatever in the chia seeds to mitigate that. I made it with coconut palm sugar and some testers objected to the flavor. I bet maple syrup or agave would work. In the next batch. Most puddings tolerate a switch-up of milk (almond, soy, etc) pretty comfortably, too, and I bet this is true here as well. You don't have to add the chopped chocolate, but it enhances things. Mini chips got better reviews here than the fancy stuff pictured below, I think because they had a better texture.
chocolate chia pudding
- 2T ground chia seeds (I ground mine in a coffee grinder; you could use a blender if you have a good one, or buy chia powder, which would probably be even finer and less obvious)
- 2T cornstarch
- 3T cocoa powder
- 1/3 c sugar
- pinch of salt
- 2 1/2 c milk
- 1/2 t vanilla extract
- 1/4 c mini chocolate chips or finely chopped chocolate
Have six little dishes or jars ready on the counter.
In a heavy saucepan, mix the dry ingredients with a whisk until entirely blended and no big lumps are visible. Stir slowly and do not peer into the pot and inhale. Not kidding.
Slowly add about half the milk, stirring all the while.
Whisk until totally combined, then add the remaining milk.
Cook over medium heat, stirring the whole time, until it begins to thicken. This will take 5 minutes, which may feel like 5 years if that is how your day is going, but really isn't all that long and the price of wandering off to do other things is high. Just stir. It's fun to watch. When it begins to thicken, turn the heat down, and continue to stir for another minute or two, until the pudding is thick enough to show a trail as you stir.
Remove from heat, stir in the vanilla, and then dump in the chocolate bits. Don't stir much, so you retain their textural interest. Scrape into the waiting dishes. Cool and then refrigerate.