Saturday, 1 June 2013

Ingredient of the Month 21: Chia Seeds- and Chia Champions recipe event

They don't look like much, but chia seeds are packed with nutrients!

See how tiny they really are...

In recent years the nutritional benefits of chia seeds have come to the world's attention, but for the indigenous peoples of Central and South America, chia has been a staple food for centuries; maybe even millenia. Chia, also known by its botanical name salvia hispanica, is actually a member of the mint family and related to sage. The Aztecs valued chia so much that they offered it up to their gods in religious ceremonies and used it to pay taxes. (Aztec warriors could march for 24 hours on just a teaspoon of chia, it is said.) Roasted and ground chia seeds were used to make a flour called pinole. Although the Spanish conquerors banned the cultivation of chia, wild chia was gathered and used secretly. Today chia is again widely cultivated in Mexico, both for domestic use and export. Chia seeds mixed with water, lemon/lime and honey are used to make a thirst-quenching drink called chia fresca. Here are some great reasons to include chia seeds in your diet:

1: Nutrition:
  • Just one tablespoon of chia seeds contains more omega- 3 oils than salmon (great news; don't let anyone tell you you have to eat fish to get these fatty acids!) In fact, it's one of the richest known sources. Omega-3s build strong and flexible cell walls in the body, are essential for the vital organs, can prevent cancer and promote cardiovascular health.
  • Antioxidants and minerals are abundant in chia seeds; they are weight for weight higher in calcium than milk and higher in antioxidants than blueberries, for example.
  • Vitamins B, C, E and K are also found in chia seeds.
  • Chia seeds are rich in good quality protein. (ie: made from all the essential amino acids.) They are 20% protein, in fact, and 1oz (about 2 tablespoons) of chia contains 4.4g.
  • Fibre is another great benefit from eating chia seeds; they contain even more than flax seeds.
2: Healing: Indigenous peoples have used chia for dressing wounds, treating colds and sore throats, stomach upsets and constipation; even body odour and prostate problems.

3: Sport: Chia means strength in the Mayan language; chia seeds were called  "Running Food" by the Aztecs- and with good reason, too: not only do the nutritional benefits of chia (see above) help build a fit and healthy body, but chia's ability to hold water- around 9-12x its weight- also makes for great hydration and retention of electroytes; better than artificial sports drinks, in fact. Another chia secret is that the gel which forms round the seeds as they absorb water causes slow release of carbohydrates as well as slow conversion of carbohydrates into sugar for energy. To put it simply, chia seeds in your diet will help you perform better: a glass of chia seeds in water every morning or 45 minutes before you train/ compete can result in greater energy and endurance. (I can vouch for this!)

4: Weight loss: Chia seeds have been found to help in weight loss in 3 ways: 1: Their superior nutritional properties mean you will feel more satisfied and be less inclined to overeat or snack, plus chia gel is filling in itself. (Definitely true!) 2: As outlined above, they can regulate blood sugar levels by releasing carbs slowly. 3: Chia seeds taken with water are a very good source of fibre so they ensure an efficient lower digestive tract..

Some culinary uses for chia seeds:
  1. You can use chia as an egg replacer, the same as a flax egg
  2. Chia seeds, ground or unground, can thicken sauces without the need for corn or wheat flour.
  3. Ground chia makes an excellent naturally set chilled dessert, along with your favourite fruit, plant milk and natural sweetening agents; just throw it all into the blender and leave to set in the fridge.
  4. You can slip chia seeds into your baking for added nutritional benefits.
  5. Chia seeds can be sprouted, although I have to admit I haven't had any success in this yet. Apparently you should spray them with water rather than soaking them to avoid the gelatinous mess I ended up with! (All helpful comments on sprouting chia gratefully accepted!)
Chia recipes from this blog:

Come join our Chia Champions event!
Are you a chia champion? Do you include chia in your favourite recipes and find creative ways to slip it into the family's food? If so, we'd love to hear from you- and please feel free to spread the word about this event all over the blogosphere so we can make a useful collection of chia recipes and knowhow. Just use the linky tool below (and click on it to see what other links are there) anytime during June 2013. No need to re-post, just amend your post to link to this announcement and mention the event; that way we'll both stand to benefit from more traffic and with any luck get to know about some awesome new blogs too. No need either to include an event logo- there isn't one this month!

Friday, 31 May 2013

May was Quinoa Month: event roundup

Well, our first monthly event featuring our Ingredient of the Month got off to a modest start! We linked some of our own quinoa recipes and also a big thankyou to Kitchen Queen of Home Cook Food for sharing her yummy quinoa salad:
Tomorrow we launch a new event for June, based on June's Ingredient of the Month- can't wait to reveal what it is- to be posted at 10am BST... so get ready to put your aprons on and create! Or trawl your archives ;)

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Pink Hummus- A Vegan Thursdays Post

This picture, taken in strong sunlight, just doesn't do the mauve-y pink colour of the hummus justice!
If you are interested in joining this event, or wish to know more about it, please visit:

We have been too busy to go to the right shop to buy our favourite kala chana for ages, but that's no reason not to make hummus; who says you have to use chickpeas? I found some red kidney beans in the cupboard and substituted them for the chickpeas in our hummus recipe. The delicate colour and flavour was superb, so I think they'll become a regular from now.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Our New Polytunnel

Nothing like a spot of gardening on a sunny day...

Here are some pictures I took this morning of our new polytunnel in the garden: Yes, in true Tom and Barbara style (remember "The Good Life"?) we have carved up part of our pretty suburban garden in order to make room for a 25'x12' polytunnel in which we are growing tomatoes and all our salad needs for the Summer. (We have given over our allotment polytunnel to French beans, mangetout, spinach etc. in case we get another cold and wet Summer like last year.) It's a great way to afford tons of organic produce!

We are putting potted plants outside to break up the outline: on the right is  a blackcurrant bush

Delicate flat beans won't mind the UK weather in this snug corner!

We should get plenty of courgettes and courgette flowers from this little beauty...

Part of a row of  14 cucumber plants

Mixed lettuces

Some of our 70-odd tomato plants of various colours and varieties; fed with lawn mowings and homemade compost from the bins we also keep in the garden.

Sunflower plants waiting to be planted out in a border

Sweet peas doing well in the warm and sheltered conditions

A chilli plant that's been indoors all Winter getting used to its new surroundings

Closeup of some bedding plants we raised from seed

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Sunny Morning Smoothie- superfoods for breakfast

Drink with a liberal sprinkling of sunshine!

We love having fresh fruit for breakfast, but not fresh fruit juice, as it's too sugary and lacks fibre. This smoothie has nuts and seeds as well as whole fruit so it's a source of minerals, protein and calcium. The plus side is it tastes really good too! The amounts here made enough for two generous smoothies.

a large handful of diced fresh pineapple
one medium-sized banana
6 unsorbated prunes
about 70-100g almonds
about a tab chia seeds
a dash of unsweetened soya milk (optional)

  • First soak the prunes on hot water- don't worry if you forgot to do this overnight; just 10 minutes or so will do. They need to be a bit softer, that's all. Put them in a small bowl and add enough water to just cover them. Remove the stones.
  • If you don't have one of those blenders that can cope with anything, grind the almonds and chia seeds finely first.
  • Then just throw all the ingredients onto your blender or food processor including the prune soaking water and blend on high speed until smooth. If your almonds weren't quite enough to make the smoothie creamy, then you can add a dash of unsweetened soya milk if you like.
  • Drink the smoothie sitting in the warm sunshine with someone you love- you are now set up for a great day!