Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Something Seedy

Seeds may be tiny, but they pack a big nutritional punch. Adding flavor is only the bonus, what they really add is nutrients and antioxidants that help protect you against heart disease, cancer, and arthritis. There are lots of ways to incorporate seeds in to your daily diet. Read on to learn about a few of my favorites. Keep all your seeds in the fridge or freezer so they stay fresh longer.

Sunflower Seeds
This is the easy one. Chewing and spitting seems to be as important as batting when it comes to Little League, so come baseball season, my youngest son will be getting plenty of these. ¼ cup serving of sunflower seeds provides 82% of the Vitamin E and 34% of the selenium you need for a day. They're also loaded with folate. These are powerful antioxidants, so load up. It’s easy to toss sunflower seeds on salads and in your baking, but try sprinkling some on your pasta or stir-frys for an interesting nutty crunch.

Pumpkin Seeds
Another easy one when it comes to snacking. Make your own when you carve your pumpkin, or buy them ready to eat. They are a nice neat snack to take in the car or hiking (if you drop a few, you might start a wild pumpkin patch). Besides serving up some protein, pumpkin seeds also offer magnesium and zinc. Eat them with the shells on and you add some fiber to boot.

Shelled pumpkin seeds (also called pepitas) are the secret ingredient in my yummy whole wheat bread. I grind them up so that no children notice their green color or suspect I’m adding nuts (heaven forbid!) to their bread. They are also delicious added to salads and granola. Experiment with adding pepitas to your cooking for their sweet, nutty flavor.

Whole Wheat Bread with Flaxseed and Pumpkin Seeds
(for bread machine)
1 ½ cup water
2 Tablespoons oil or melted butter (I use butter-flavor grapeseed oil)
3 Tablespoons honey
¼ cup Flaxseed Meal
¼+ cup chopped pumpkin seeds (I process them in a big bunch and freeze them to use in recipes)
2 Cups Whole Wheat bread flour
1 ½ Cups White Bread flour
1 ¾ teaspoons yeast
Place ingredients in bread machine in the order above and bake on whole wheat setting.

Flax Seeds
I’ve written so much about flax seeds, there’s no need to repeat myself. You can catch up by clicking here.

Chia Seeds
And what’s not to love about chia seeds? They are chock full of omega 3’s, calcium, and antioxidants. A serving (1 oz) of chia seeds gives you 43% of the fiber you need for one day! Many people say that after eating chai seeds on a regular basis you will notice clearer skin and glossier hair. Plus, the seeds digest very slowly making you feel fuller longer and aiding in weight loss. Several websites proclaim that eating chia seeds helps you think more clearly, increases your energy, and puts you in a calmer, happier mood. I’m also thinking if you plant your chia seeds in fancy pot, you can grow that cute little grass patch you see sold as a decorative touch in fancy magazines. Again, what’s not to love?

Chia seeds are tiny black seeds (but can also be white). I bought a small bag from the bulk aisle at Sonnewalds. They sat on the counter for the first few days while I wondered what to do with them. My daughter enjoyed using the bag as a stress reliever saying she liked the way the seeds felt when you squished the bag. I was determined to find a better use for them. 

First I mixed up some cinnamon chia pudding. I found this recipe in a comment on a blog called chowhound. The commenter who goes only by alexa52, says her 9-year-old loves it. I have my own suspicious 9-year-old who needs some healthy options, so this was all I needed to hear to send me off to the kitchen. I happened to have almond milk on hand (the only odd ingredient beyond chia seeds), so I whipped it up in a matter of minutes.

Cinnamon Chia Pudding
1 ½ cups almond milk
¼ cup chia seeds
1 T honey or maple syrup (I went with honey on this and was very heavy-handed)
1 vanilla bean or a dash of vanilla extract
½ t cinnamon
Pinch of sea salt

I have to admit it looked pretty unappetizing when I slipped it in to the fridge. The directions said to chill it for 1-9 hours. Apparently when you add liquid to chia seeds they become gelatinous. That would be good, because otherwise what you would basically have is poppy seed pudding and that could be pretty tough on the teeth. They have a subtle nut-like flavor and one of the cooking sites I checked said they take on the flavor of whatever they are mixed with which makes them excellent for thickening.

When offered the lovely chia pudding (see pic), my older children put on a brave face and each took a spoonful. My son said it was fine, but didn't need another taste. My daughter had a bowl for breakfast!  My nine-year-old wouldn't even consider a spoonful. It reminds me of tapioca and tastes like chia tea. While I'm not sure I'd make it again, if I had an unsuspecting (and trusting) younger child, I might pass it off as dessert and raise them on it. So much good stuff in there. 

I also used chia seeds to make banana bread. Although there isn’t a ton of chia seeds in there, I am treading lightly on this first run-through. I don’t want to scare off the natives. The bread turned out delicious. The recipe directs you to make mini-loaves, but that’s just too much pan cleaning, so I made one big (relatively short) loaf, and that worked out fine. The banana bread was gone in less than 24 hours, so that’s a “yes” on the question of did they like it (one of them even chose the last piece as the dessert for his lunch box).

The addition of banana to these mini loafs makes them both moist and flavorful. Bake two mini loafs and freeze one for later, or give one to a friend or coworker to share the love!
Makes 2 full mini loafs or 3 smaller loaves
½ c. sugar
¼ c. brown sugar
1 egg
¼ c. canola oil (I used grapeseed oil)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 ½ ripe bananas, smashed
¼ c. whole wheat flour
1 c. all-purpose flour

½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. salt
1 tbsp. chia seeds


Preheat oven to 325 degrees and spray two mini loaf pans with cooking spray. Beat sugars, egg, oil and vanilla extract in a large bowl. Once sugar mixture is combined, beat in bananas. In a separate bowl, combine flours, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Slowly beat flour mixture into sugar mixture. Beat in chia seeds. Pour batter into two loaf pans. Bake for approximately 40 minutes, until the tops of the loaves are light brown.

For breakfast, I whipped up Chai Pumpkin Pancakes. This caused quite a stir. Instead of heading out the door or downstairs to the treadmill to run, I was hanging around with the kiddos at breakfast time. Plus, I only make pancakes for them on special occasions. So the mere fact that I was cooking breakfast instead of grumbling at them not to miss the bus, made them sit up and pay attention. They loved the pancakes! They were delicious and although I occasionally found a seed stuck in my teeth later in the morning, it wasn’t a bad thing. Especially knowing that I’d loaded the kids up with lots of healthy goodness (under all that syrup!). Even the fussy one who wouldn’t touch the hemp cookies (see below), loved the pancakes and asked for seconds.

While normal pancakes may not pack much of a nutritional punch, these pancakes, made with whole wheat flour, oats, honey, and chia seeds are full of fiber and whole grains.
Makes 8–10 pancakes
1 c. milk
1 egg

1 tbsp. canola oil
1 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. old fashioned oats

1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. honey
1 tbsp. chia seeds (plus more for garnish)
Syrup or other desired toppings

Spray griddle or pan with cooking spray and heat to a medium heat. Beat egg and add milk and oil. In a separate bowl, combine flour, oats, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder and salt. Slowing stir flour mixture into egg mixture. Add honey and stir until combined.
At the last minute, stir in chia seeds. Pour 1/4 c. portions of batter onto griddle and cook until edges of pancakes start to bubble and bottoms are light brown. Flip and cook until centers are completely done (about three to four minutes). Top with syrup, additional chia seeds or desired toppings and enjoy.

Hemp Seeds
Hemp seeds were my other project this week. Luckily, my hubby was away and I was spared the endless cannabis jokes that would have ensued had he been here to witness my efforts. Two of my kids are either too young or excellent actors because they raised nary an eyebrow when I told them I was making hemp cookies. My 15-year-old came closer and whispered, "Really?" He excuses much of my behavior by joking that I'm a hippy, but maybe now there would be proof!  Yes, hemp seeds do come from the same Cannabis species as marijuana, but they have drastically lower levels of the psychoactive chemical that gives pot its power. I'm not sure he completely believes me.

At any rate, cookies being the operative term, most everyone was game. They thought the cookies were a bit crunchy (they are), but passable. They even came back for seconds and knowing these cookies were loaded not just with hemp seeds, but plenty of flaxmeal as well, I served them right up. My 9-year-old heard the words “seeds” and “good for you” and ran the other direction. He’s seen too much to trust me when I tell him, “It’s delicious!”

Joking aside, there is much to appreciate about hemp seeds. Hemp is loaded with protein. Two tablespoons cover 24 % of your daily requirement. It’s the best kind of protein too, with all the essential amino acids. Hemp is also a rich source of omega 3 & 6 and contains plenty of antioxidants like vitamin E and chlorophyll.

Christina's Hemp Seed Cookies (from the blog, A Few Scraps)
2 Tbsp butter, melted
1/4 cup applesauce (a little single serving applesauce cup happens to be 1/4 cup!)
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup hulled hemp seed
1/2 cup ground flax meal
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 handful each chopped hazelnuts and chocolate chips (I went heavy on the chocolate chips, figuring chocolate covers a whole host of evil)

Preheat oven to 350 and grease a cookie sheet. Mix butter, applesauce and brown sugar together in a small bowl. (I had to add a little more melted butter because the mixture was too dry) Mix all remaining dry ingredients (except nuts and chocolate chips) in a large bowl. Add wet ingredients to dry, mix with a spoon. Add chocolate chips and hazelnuts. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls and flatten with the palm of your hand. (I didn’t notice this directive to flatten cookies, but they flattened on their own) Bake for 10-12 minutes, let cool on a cooling rack. Makes about 24 cookies depending on how much of the dough you eat.

I know I left out several other fabulous seeds, but my kids could only take so much of my experimenting this week. If you’ve got your own favorite seed recipe, I’d love to hear about it.

1 comment:

  1. Made the Cinnamon Chia Pudding for the kiddos tonight..fingers crossed! Smells yummy, though!