December 10, 2012
Lemme guess: You just sang that song from those silly Chia Pet commercials. “Cha, cha, cha, chia!” Well, believe it or not, the chia seeds that are currently a nutrition rage are the same chia seeds that made grassy porcupines a fad back in the 80’s and early 90’s. It looks like chia seeds may offer more value to our bodies than they do as a holiday gag gift so, perhaps this time, chia is here to stay!
Chia is a very tiny seed that packs a really big punch. I just recently discovered these seeds and used them to whip up a delicious Chia and Almond Baked Oatmeal with Raspberry Swirl that gave me a killer energy boost. This is a big deal to a sitter who has to keep up with little ones all day, so I was intrigued. I wanted to know more about chia seeds and whether they were really worth the hype, so I did some digging and here’s what I found (including that they can be used as a butter and egg substitute… seriously, read on!).
Chia seeds are harvested from a plant in Central American that’s related to mint. The seeds were used by the Aztec and Inca people as an energy source because they are a complete protein. With the combination of high protein and a good mix of amino acids, these little beauties will help you keep your energy up. In addition, chia seeds have three times more calcium than a serving of milk. This makes chia particularly great for the mamas in the house. And there’s more: chia seeds are also a great source of fiber.
Now that we have established that chia seeds are a great addition to any diet, what do we do with them?! The easiest thing is to throw them into smoothies, oatmeal or even cereal. And I literally mean throw them right in. The seeds are virtually tasteless and, unlike flax seeds, don’t need to be ground in order for you to absorb the nutrients.
If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can easily (and in no time!) use chia seeds to make a nutrient-dense gel that can be used as an egg or butter substitute. Check out how below and be sure to grab my recipe for Chia and Almond Baked Oatmeal with Raspberry Swirl, and awesome make-ahead breakfast that will give you a energy boost, too!
– The Hungry Sitter
(can be shared with kids 6+ mos)*
Makes 1 cup of gel
1 cup water
2 tablespoons chia seeds
1. Whisk together water and seeds. Let stand for at least 10-15 minutes until a gel forms. One tablespoon of chia gel is equal to one egg. You can also substitute up to half of the butter in your recipe with an equivalent amount of gel.
*Note: This gel can safely be used in any foods shared with kids 6+ months. It will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
Chia and Almond Baked Oatmeal with Raspberry Swirl
(Can be shared with kids 6+ mos)*
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 tablespoon nutmeg
1 cup almond milk, plus more for serving
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 tablespoons chia gel (see recipe above)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract, you can substitute the resin scraped from 1/2 a vanilla bean
1/4 cup favorite, all-natural raspberry jam
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8″ baking pan or 4 individual ramekins; set aside. In a medium bowl, combine oats, almonds, cinnamon, baking powder and nutmeg.
2. In a separate bowl, combine 1 cup almond milk, butter, chia gel and vanilla resin or extract.
3. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir to mix well.
4. Pour mixture into prepped pan or ramekins. Add raspberry jam on top, all of it if using an 8″ pan or 4 equal portions if using ramekins, and, using a butter knife, swirl it into the oat mixture. Bake for 25 minutes, until cooked through and golden brown on top. If using an 8″ pan, scoop oatmeal into a bowl before serving, otherwise allow ramekins to cool completely before serving. Serve with a splash of almond milk on top.
*Note: This can be safely shared with kids as young as 6 months. Just be sure to cool completely and puree oatmeal into an age appropriate consistency before serving. Also, consider serving little ones portions with less jam. They won’t miss it and it cuts down on the amount of sugar in their meal.