Chocolate-Orange Chia Pudding

LVV MoFo 2014 mainIt’s probably impossible to write anything about chia seeds that hasn’t been said before—all the jokes have been made, y’know? And I think we’ve moved beyond regarding chia seeds as a novelty. They’re firmly ensconced in the arsenal of cooks who enjoy experimenting with their gelatinous properties and appreciate their nutritional profile. Three tablespoons offer 20% of your recommended daily value of calcium, 15% of your daily value of iron, and 5 g of protein, along with a substantial amount of fiber.

I personally go through phases with chia seeds. I’ll be all into them for a month, then have a pudding or overnight oat bowl that’s just too gelatinous, and then I’ll be over them. But with this vibrantly flavored Chocolate-Orange Chia Pudding, I’m back in the chia game.

Chocolate-Orange Chia Seed Pudding

Chocolate-Orange Chia Pudding
Serves one

  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1/2 cup water (you could probably use nondairy milk, but I was a little leery of mixing it with the orange juice!)
  • 3 T chia seeds
  • 2 T cocoa powder
  • 2 T maple syrup (you can add more if you’d like a sweeter pudding)
  • Dash salt
  • Cacao nibs, coconut shreds, or mini chocolate chips for topping (optional but recommended!)

Add all ingredients to a jar or container with an airtight lid and shake vigorously for at least 15 seconds. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or until the pudding reaches desired consistency. Add any toppings and enjoy!

Chocolate-Orange Chia Seed Pudding

Although the three tablespoons of chia seeds carry the main nutritional heft in this pudding, the two tablespoons of maple syrup add a surprising 8% of your daily value of calcium. That’s a total of 28% of your daily value of calcium in a single serving of pudding. Not bad for dessert!

What’s your favorite chia seed recipe?

Pumpkin Overnight Oats (and a brief disquisition on calcium needs)

LVV MoFo 2014 mainMany of us think of essential nutrients in relatively simple terms: protein is for your muscles, iron is for your blood, and calcium is for your bones. Though the full story is obviously more complex, it’s not a bad summary in the case of calcium. 99% of the calcium in your body is stored in and used by your teeth and bones, and this is the calcium that’s affected by your diet. The other 1%, called serum calcium, is stored in your blood and isn’t affected by diet. (1) So for our purposes, we won’t concern ourselves with the 1% (insert your favorite wealthy-person joke here).

The other 99% of our bodily calcium takes on the crucial job of keeping our bones and teeth firm and strong. Throughout our lives, our bones actually remodel themselves frequently, taking up calcium and using it to form new bone-bits. (1) That’s why we can’t just stop worrying about our calcium when we “stop” growing—our bones actually don’t stop changing. They need constant sources of dietary calcium to perform that vital work. When we don’t get enough calcium, we’re at risk for osteopenia—a thinning of bone density. (2) Left unaddressed, osteopenia can lead to full-blown osteoporosis (“porous bone”). Folks with osteoporosis have significantly less bone density than they should, and they’re at an increased risk of bone fractures. (3)

As most of us know, postmenopausal women are one of the most at-risk groups for this disease. That’s because decreases in estrogen production during menopause reduce calcium absorption and increase bone resorption (the actual process by which your body breaks down calcium stored in bone and releases it into the blood). (1) But just being female puts you at an increased risk for osteoporosis, as does being caucasian, having a small body size, and being physically inactive. It’s important for children—especially girls—to reach their peak bone mass before adulthood, because having a high bone mass as a young adult is a solid indicator that you’ll retain that bone mass throughout your life. (3)

So, now to the million-dollar question(s): What should one eat to obtain maximum calcium? And how much calcium do we need, exactly? The NIH’s recommendations are a great place to start. As a non-pregnant, non-lactating female between 19 and 50, I need 1,000 mg a day. Where can I find those milligrams? Well, I can get 400 mg in just two tablespoons of my BFF blackstrap molasses. A cup of collard greens has 357 mg. Four ounces of tofu processed with calcium sulfate can offer anywhere between 200 and 400 mg. Various beans, greens, and calcium-fortified non-dairy products are also great places to start. There are a few factors that affect calcium absorption, however:

  • Vitamin D (whether food- or sun-derived) improves calcium absorption. (1)
  • Phytic acid and oxalic acid, which occur naturally in some plants (e.g. spinach) can inhibit calcium absorption. (1)
  • A high-protein diet can increase calcium excretion, but recent research indicates that simultaneous processes actually improve absorption, so the effects could cancel one another out. (1)

Whew! That’s a lot to think about. Let’s get to some food now.

Horizontal view of a small mason jar filled with a thick dark orange oat mixture.

Pumpkin Overnight Oats
Serves one

1/2 C + 1 T nondairy milk
1/3 C pumpkin puree
1 T blackstrap molasses (you can add more if you’re a fan like I am)
1 T pure maple syrup
1/2 tsp cinnamon (I actually prefer closer to 1 tsp, but again, that’s just me!)
Dash nutmeg
1/2 C rolled oats

In a mason jar or other container with a tight lid, combine all ingredients except the oats. Shake vigorously until well-combined. Add the oats and shake again. Place in fridge and cool overnight.

Diehard readers might recognize this recipe from last year’s MoFo. I have to share it again, though, because it’s a great source of calcium! One jar gives you at least 30% of your daily value (more if you load up on the blackstrap molasses). That’s a great way to start your day.

Sources cited:

(1) http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-HealthProfessional/
(2) http://www.spineuniverse.com/conditions/osteoporosis/osteopenia-osteoporosis-there-difference
(3) http://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone/basics/vitamins/calcium.html

Note:

I’m neither a doctor nor a dietitian; please don’t treat my posts as medical advice! Consult a medical practitioner for specific medical or nutritional recommendations.

Lazy Sunday I: Iron-Rich Recipes You Should Totally Make

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In my exploration of iron-rich foods this week, I’ve come to two conclusions: 1.) Iron is freaking everywhere, and 2.) Blackstrap molasses is a rock star. I honestly could’ve spent the entire week sharing molasses-based recipes, and I had to exercise some restraint to prevent myself from doing so. Rest assured that it’ll show up again this week, because guess what? Not only is blackstrap molasses loaded with iron, but it’s also full of calcium. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Today, let’s check out a few recipes that will help you reach your daily iron needs.

Not a bad selection, eh? I just love the variety of foods that are iron-rich. You could basically have an entire day’s worth of meals just from this list!

Now I’m off to make some spinach-mushroom mini quiches, shower, and prepare for a wine-tasting fundraiser tonight. Ooh, so fancy. :P

What are your favorite iron-rich recipes?

Saturday Eats II

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Time for another installment of Saturday Eats! Just like last Saturday, we started out with a pot of coffee fresh from the Chemex. Unlike last week, however, the weather was chilly enough to make hot coffee more than tolerable; it was quite welcome. While S ground the beans and brewed the coffee, I whipped up a batch of Isa’s Puffy Pillow Pancakes, throwing in a bunch of blueberries frozen just after we picked them last month. I also munched a couple of Chocolate-Hazelnut Buckwheat Bites while I was preparing the pancakes, because why not. Gotta get my iron in! ;)

Lunch was the last of the Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Soup, which I really should’ve called a stew—it’s thick and not broth-y at all. I’ll be making this again as soon as the weather keeps cooling down.

For an early afternoon snack, I had a small bowl of (store-bought) kimchi, a couple of peanut butter-filled pretzels, and a few more of the buckwheat bites. S has taken to calling them bon bons, charmingly. I’ll have to try a few more chocolate variations because these were so damn good. S’s mom stopped by to meet Luna, so we shared a chocolate bon bon with her—she enjoyed them too. And then Luna did the most adorable little gesture while I was holding her.

Yes, she has WRAPPED HER TINY SKINNY LEGS AROUND MY ARM. Holy moly, could she be any cuter?! It almost makes up for the dozens of mucus-pukes we’ve cleaned up in the last three weeks.*

I snacked yet again during the late afternoon. S went out for a nine-mile run, and while he was being all active-like, I parked myself on the couch with a book and snacks—pumpernickel pretzels with hummus, followed by dried apricots.

After a trip to Whole Foods, I made myself a simple and quick dinner: polenta, sauteed eggplant, and Trader Joe’s meatless meatballs in a super simple tomato sauce I whizzed up from jarred whole tomatoes.

And that’s that! I’m sure I’ll have another snack this evening (and maybe my first pumpkin beer of the season!) but here are my nutritional stats so far: 72 grams of protein, 142% of my daily recommended value of iron (!), and 44% of my daily value of calcium. Good thing we’ll be moving on to calcium-heavy recipes next week! :)

What delicious things did you eat today?

*I jest. She’s a sick little pupperdoo, and we’re doing everything we can to help her get better, and we don’t begrudge her the need to puke up all that mucus in her throat. The vet no longer thinks it’s a straightforward (albeit severe) case of kennel cough, so she has an all-day appointment on Monday for an x-ray and a few other diagnostic tests. Right now we’re thinking it could be chronic bronchitis or pneumonia. Yuck.

Chocolate-Hazelnut Buckwheat Bites

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In just a couple days, S and I devoured all the Apricot Buckwheat Bites I made earlier this week. I’m surprised they lasted longer than a day, to be honest!

“Mmm. I really like these,” S said when he tried the first one. And then, a few bites later, “You should make a chocolate version.”

A chocolate version. Once the idea was in my head, it wouldn’t leave. I had to make it happen.

Chocolate-Hazelnut Buckwheat Bites

Chocolate-Hazelnut Buckwheat Bites
Makes 25 balls about 1.25″ in diameter

  • 1 C raw hazelnuts
  • 1/4 C raw buckwheat groats
  • 18-20 raw Medjool dates
  • 2 T raw shelled hemp seeds
  • 1/3 C chocolate chips
  • 1 T maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

Add the hazelnuts, buckwheat groats, the hemp seeds, and about 15 dates to a food processor and process until well combined. Add the chocolate chips, maple syrup, and sea salt and process for 10-15 seconds. Check the mixture—if it’s not holding together at all, add a few dates, process, and check again. Add more dates if necessary until the mixture is sticky but holds together.

Using your hands, roll the mixture into balls about 1.25″ in diameter. Store in the refrigerator for best results.

Chocolate-Hazelnut Buckwheat Bites

Between the chocolate chips and the crunchy buckwheat, these little bites taste more like candy than anything else. But five balls give you 20% of your daily value of iron, along with 9 grams of protein, 7% of your daily value of calcium, and a decent dose of fiber. Sweet!

Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Soup

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11 days into Vegan MoFo and I’ve yet to feature a soup. Shocking! That oversight gets remedied today with a hearty tomato-y red lentil soup that couldn’t be easier to throw together. This ain’t your typical red lentil soup, though—the addition of quinoa not only boosts the nutritional profile, but adds a textural counterpoint to the softer lentils.

This soup is versatile, too. Yellow potatoes could easily stand in for the sweet potatoes, and diced carrots would make a fine addition. If you don’t have quinoa, I suppoooose you could leave it out. And if you prefer a creamier, richer soup, just add some full-fat coconut milk towards the end of cooking. That kiss of lemon juice added at the end is non-negotiable, though. Trust me, you’ll want to keep it.

Sweet Potato & Red Lentil Soup

Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Soup
Serves six

  • 1 T coconut oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 medium-sized yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2″ knob ginger, minced
  • 1-2 T your favorite curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 3 small sweet potatoes, chopped into small chunks
  • 3 C water
  • 15 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce (or puree)
  • 2 C red lentils
  • 1/2 C quinoa
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Diced scallions or chopped cilantro for serving

In a large stockpot, heat the coconut oil over medium heat and sauté the garlic for 30 seconds or so. Add onion and ginger and sauté for another 5 minutes or until the onion is translucent. Add spices and sweet potatoes and stir until the sweet potatoes are well-coated. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, red lentils, quinoa, and two cups of the water and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and let simmer for 25-30 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are fully cooked and the lentils are soft. Check every 10 minutes and add extra water in half cupfuls if necessary.

When the sweet potatoes and lentils are fully cooked, turn off the heat add salt and pepper as desired. Stir in most of the lemon juice, reserving some for serving. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with the leftover lemon juice, freshly ground pepper, and diced scallions or chopped cilantro.

Sweet Potato & Red Lentil Soup

Red lentils boast an impressive nutritional makeup, and this soup adds a few other key ingredients to nourish you. One serving offers 24% of your daily value of iron and 17 grams of protein… but you might not want to have just one serving.

What’s your go-to soup recipe?

Apricot Buckwheat Bites

LVV MoFo 2014 mainOne of the best parts of MoFo this year has been discovering new and unexpected nutrition sources. The internet is full of top-ten lists, touting the best ways to get various nutrients on a vegetarian/vegan/paleo/gluten-free/whatever diet. But those lists only take you so far—I’ve found plenty of great protein and iron sources simply by rifling through my pantry. Today’s mostly raw recipe combines a few surprising sources of iron into a super satisfying snack.

Apricot Buckwheat Bites

Apricot Buckwheat Bites
Makes 20 balls about 1.5″ in diameter

  • 1/3 cup raw whole hazelnuts
  • 2/3 cup raw buckwheat groats, divided
  • 8-10 medjool dates, pitted and halved
  • 2/3 cup dried apricots, roughly chopped (measure before chopping)
  • 2 T raw shelled hemp seeds
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • Dash sea salt

Add the hazelnuts and half the buckwheat groats to a food processor and pulse a few times. Add the dates (start with 8), apricots, and vanilla extract and process until all ingredients are combined—the mixture will be a little sticky, but it should hold together. If it’s too dry, add the remaining dates. Add the remaining groats, hemp seeds, and sea salt and pulse a few more times until all new ingredients are incorporated.

Using your hands, roll the mixture into balls about 1.5″ in diameter. Store in the refrigerator for best results.

Note: Vanilla bean seeds would work great here, but I couldn’t find mine… so, vanilla extract it was.

Apricot Buckwheat BitesThese little bites have a satisfying crunch to them thanks to the raw buckwheat groats. If you’ve never used raw buckwheat, do yourself a favor and try it. Just be careful not to buy toasted buckwheat accidentally—that satisfying crunch will be much less satisfying and a little more unpleasant in that case. (Toasted buckwheat is also called kasha, and it makes a nutty replacement for your favorite cooked grain.) Raw buckwheat is—surprise!—a great source of iron, as are the apricots, dates, and hemp seeds. Four of these bites will give you 13% of your daily value of iron, along with 4 grams of protein and 6.4% of your daily value of calcium. Impressive!

Have you tried raw buckwheat groats? How do you like to use them?