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COOKING WITH JESSICA KARLEY: Cooking with superfood chia seeds

Chia seeds help to ensure the tilapia breading stays light and crisp. (Photo by Accent contributor Jessica Karley)2 / 4
Chocolate Coconut Chia pudding is a healthy option for those with a sweet tooth. (Photo by Accent contributor Jessica Karley)3 / 4
Raspberry Almond Chia Jam is an easy and delicious spread for your morning toast. (Photo by Accent contributor Jessica Karley)4 / 4

“Chia” comes from the Mayan word for “strength,” and the seeds were a staple in Aztec and Mayan diets. Chia seeds are a good source of fatty acids, fiber, calcium and antioxidants. They’re thought to help stabilize blood sugars, reduce joint inflammation, sustain a high level of energy and lower your blood pressure. They’re also thought to have more antioxidants than fresh blueberries.

Chia seeds can be black or white and used raw or cooked. They have a mild, nut-like flavor and can be sprinkled on your cereal, salads or yogurt. The seeds, unlike flax, do not have to be ground, so they can are very easy to use. The seeds also swell when mixed with liquids, so they can be soaked in a liquid of your choice to form a gel or pudding. That same swelling nature makes them a great substitute for egg in baked goods. In Mexico, they’re mixed with water and lemon or lime juice to make a drink called “Chia Fresca.”

My first recipe is one of the easiest ways that I can get chia seeds into my family’s diet. Those tiny seeds can absorb 12 times their weight in liquid, so I like to use them a lot in puddings. You can check out EverydayGourmet.AreaVoices.com for my Chia Seed Tapioca Pudding, but today, I’m going to share my recipe for another favorite, Chocolate Coconut Chia Pudding.

It has a similar texture to tapioca, with a little bit of chew from the coconut flake, and all of the indulgent flavors you crave in a dessert. Simply melt dark chocolate and coconut milk together then stir in vanilla, toasted coconut flake and the chia seeds. Let the mixture cool at room temperature on the counter, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes. Pour into serving bowls and enjoy.

Raspberry Chia Jam is another recipe that uses the seeds’ ability to absorb liquid and form a perfect jam for toast without a lot of added sugar. I used raspberries because they already have a texture that works well with the chia seeds, but any fruit puree would work. I simply cooked down 4 cups of raspberry that I froze this summer (you can use store-bought frozen or fresh) until the fruit was tender. I then placed the fruit into my food processor with a touch of almond extract, honey and chia seeds. Give the mixture a few quick pulses then put the mixture into a jam jar to cool for serving.

When chia seeds are not soaked in a liquid, they have a nice, light and crunchy texture. That light crunch is what makes them a perfect breading option for delicate fish. Corn meal and Chia Crusted Tilapia is a great swimsuit-friendly way to work fish into your weeknight meal plans. It only takes 20 minutes to prepare, and the Chipotle Yogurt Sauce adds a nice kick to keep your taste buds happy!

Chocolate Coconut Chia Pudding

1 14-ounce can of lite coconut milk

1/4 cup dark chocolate

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup chia seeds

½ cup toasted coconut flakes (plus extra for garnish)

In a microwave-safe bowl, place coconut milk and dark chocolate. Microwave for 1½ minutes. Whisk mixture until smooth. Let cool to room temperature. Whisk in vanilla, chia seeds and coconut flakes. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes or place in refrigerator until ready to serve. Stir before serving. Serves: 4-6

Raspberry Almond Chia Jam

4 cups frozen raspberries

¼ cup honey or agave nectar

¼ cup chia seeds

1 teaspoon almond extract

In small saucepan over medium-low heat, cook raspberries until tender, broken down and texture becomes saucelike. Let raspberry mixture cool slightly, add to food processor with honey, chia seeds and almond extract. Pulse 4 times. Remove from food processor and place in serving container. Let cook in refrigerator for 30 minutes or overnight. Spread mixture on toast, baked goods or add to yogurt or oatmeal. Makes 1.5 cups

Cornmeal and Chia Crusted Tilapia with Chipotle Yogurt Sauce

4 tilapia fillets

1 cup yellow cornmeal ground

¼ cup chia seeds

½ teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon cracked black pepper

8 ounces Greek yogurt, plain

¼ cup chipotle flavored hot sauce (Tabasco or Cholula brands work well)

Pan spray

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a shallow bowl, mix cornmeal, chia seeds, garlic powder, salt and pepper. In another small bowl, mix Greek yogurt and chipotle hot sauce. Set aside. Lay tilapia fillets on a cutting board and spread one generous tablespoon of chipotle yogurt sauce over fillets. (Do not double dip into the mixture because the remaining amount can be used as a serving sauce.) Lay fillet, yogurt side down in the cornmeal mixture and press lightly. Remove from cornmeal mixture and place on a greased baking sheet cornmeal side up. Spray each fillet with pan spray to help cornmeal mixture brown evenly. Bake for 15 minutes or until fillets are cooked through and the cornmeal mixture is golden brown. Serve with reserved yogurt mixture. Serves: 4

Karley can be reached at everydaygourmetnd@gmail.com. Read her food blog at EverydayGourmet.AreaVoices.com.

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