Whilst linguistically speaking the cha-cha is "a ballroom dance with small steps and swaying hip movements, performed to a Latin American rhythm. e.g. his feet began to move in an unmistakable cha-cha", the chia seed, like the cha-cha originated in Latin America. Ha!
So why has the re-emergence of this tiny black, white and speckled seed caused so much excitement?
With good merit I say. Salvia hispanica L (aka chia seeds) originated in Guatemala and Mexico in the pre columbian and Aztec periods and are touted for their neutraceutical benefits. The chia seed is well credentialed for its position on the functional super foods' list and has every right to have made its way back onto the dining table.
Nutritionally speaking, they punch way above their weight with 1 tablespoon (12g) of chia containing a whopping 2500mg of the essential Omega 3 Alpha Linolenic fatty acid, 3g protein (including high levels of the lovely Tryptophan) and 4g fibre (hello healthy gut flora).
Omega 3 fatty acids are famed for their anti-inflammatory health benefits including their ability to balance blood serum lipid levels, reduce LDL and increase HDL cholesterol.
Chia seeds are full of phenolic antioxidants including Quercetin, Kaempferol and Myricetin which protect the body from free radical oxidation and reduce inflammation. They are rich in minerals such as Calcium, Phosphorous, Manganese, Iron, Magnesium and Zinc, which translates to healthy bones and teeth, improved immunity and haemoglobin synthesis.
The amino acid, Tryptophan, which is the precursor to one the 3 important mood modulating neurotransmitters, serotonin, is found in high quantities in chia seeds. 2 tablespoons contains 202mg (equivalent to 60g serve of turkey).
Chia seeds are hydrophilic, absorbing up to 10 times their weight in water. This makes them a fabulous hydrator and appetite suppressant. Their high protein and fibre content will ensure that adding them to any dish will decrease Glycemic load (meaning more balanced blood sugar levels.) Their high fibre content will increase gut transit time, assist with the beneficial maintenance of healthy gut flora and induce satiety. But wait there’s more.
Chia seeds are also an incredibly versatile cooking ingredient. Once you learn their magical culinary powers, you will be converted.
Chia seeds can be used to thicken stews, soups, & casseroles, as a base for warm and cold breakfast puddings, as a base for warm and cold dessert puddings, to thicken jams, mousses, custards, sauces & mayonnaises and as an egg replacer (1 tablespoon chia + 3 tablespoons water = 1 large egg).
I have been trying to wean my family off a well known (fairly healthy) breakfast cereal for some years now and I have danced many a cha-cha in the effort. It was the chia breakie pudding that finally converted them ALL at the same time. Alleluia! It is a pretty versatile dish and can be prepared as a raw dish or on cold, rainy days can be served warm. Start with the seasonal fruit, add the liquid base of milk, yoghurt, coconut or almond milk or coconut water. Next add the chia seeds and spices. Ready to break the fast.
The recipe for a delicious chia pudding can be found here
Chia seeds are a member of the mint family and may have an allergenic effect in people who are allergic to sesame seeds and/ or mustard seeds.
I have been pondering the characteristics of the perfect Christmas salad and have come up with the following list;
1. It must be delicious
2. It must look gorgeously festive
3. It must be foolproof
4. The ingredients can be prepped ahead and the salad thrown together an hour or two before the feast.
5. It must have allergen friendly options so you do not need to worry about starving those with challenged immunity.
Armed with my list, I scour my database for inspiration and it is hard to miss the prevalence of quinoa and its many incarnations. It is so versatile and can be teamed with an array of stunning ingredients. It retains its integrity whilst carrying its guests with equal amounts of humilty and charisma.
BINGO! We have lift off. Now what shall we add to the quinoa?
AND it can all be prepped ahead and stored in containers in the fridge until you are ready to throw it together.
Quinoa has really taken over from cous cous on the culinary front and as it is gluten free it is an incredibly handy pantry ingredient. It can also be stored, cooked in the fridge for a few days.
Quinoa is not a grain but a highly nutritious seed which unlike most plant sources actually contains all of the essential amino acids - so truly fabulous for vegetarians, coeliacs and all self respecting foodies.
Quinoa comes in red, white and black and sometimes mixed together as tricolour. Cooking times vary slightly between them but as a general rule the white tends to cook more quickly than the red and tricolour, so adjust accordingly.
NOW ON WITH THE SHOW
The sweet potato can be cooked in advance, the dressing made a day ahead, the herbs can be washed, dried and plucked a few days in advance. Just wrap in a clean Tea towel and store in a plastic bag or container in the crisper until needed. Even the pomegranate can be seeded a day ahead.
The full delicious salad recipe follows, so if you know how to cook quinoa go to it directly.
I do hope you enjoy it.
Conventional cooking method
Measure 1 cup quinoa and rinse well in warm water until water runs clear. Drain well and then soak in 1 cup water for 30 minutes (if using the cooktop method, rinse and soak in a small saucepan).
The reason we are draining the quinoa well is that we are cooking the quinoa using the absorption method and too much water will make it gluggy and then it's yuk!
Bring the quinoa and water to the boil, reduce to a simmer, remove the lid and cook for 10 minutes for white. After the 10 minutes, stir with a fork and check for the presence of "halos", a white ring that forms around each grain. If this is present then the quinoa is cooked. If there are some grains without haloes it does not matter, it will continue to cook a little once removed from the heat.
Transfer to a shallow plastic container and place in the fridge uncovered.
Thermomix cooking method
As in the conventional method measure, rinse and soak your quinoa (in a bowl)
After 20 minutes, transfer the quinoa to the thermomix basket and fill the bowl with 1 litre of water. Cook 11 minutes, aroma, speed 2. Stir well, transfer to a plastic container and store in the fridge until needed.
Herbed quinoa & sweet potato salad with christmas sprinkles
Creative cooking with veggie scraps
Since my Asian journey, I have become acutely aware (that is a level above aware, which is what I think I was before I went away) of how we in developed countries are so removed from our food...every part of it.
One of the most delicious meals we had, was prepared for us in a simple dirt floor kitchen from a "bit passed it looking" pumpkin, a piece of taro, some pumpkin leaves, sweet basil leaves and water. The resultant soup was warm and tasty. The pigs looked hungry the next morning so I reckon that particular corner in that particular hut WAS the compost heap.
Anyhow my compost heap is way too full of veggie scraps that I reckon we could probably eat really well from.
So now I rise to the challenge - I am cooking with (pre) compost - that would be the stalks, stems and leaves of veggies that are usually tossed. Some of them have amazing properties, leading to very pleasing outcomes.
Can you guess why my rhubarb is sooo red? And no it's not photo shopped.
Anyone interested in this type of recipe? Oh sooo much fun in the kitchen.
Whilst Asian food is often difficult for people with gluten intolerances, Cambodian and Laos food has an abundance of dishes that are gloriously soy and of course wheat free.
Laos in particular is a land locked country and has not been as open to trade as its neighbours. Food in Laos is still very traditional - ignoring for a moment, the French influence that has led to some marvellous fusion dishes and baguettes and croissants to die for, a fabulous culinary diversion after a month in Asia.
The recipes I am sharing however are the traditional recipes found in the hills and on the streets where gluten is still not a common ingredient.
The flavourings that are more popularly used are herbs and spices grown in the gardens that are literally everywhere.
The dishes we will be making, whilst divine, are quite simple and the ingredients accessible. I have made a big effort to ensure that the dishes we create in the classes will be dishes that feature on your menus for years to come. Some are special occasion and some you will cook more often.
I hurt my right hand and wrist quite badly on our volcano trek and then fell on it again trying to escape the leeches near the hill tribes. As a result I have been in a splint for 4 weeks and have cooked all of the dishes in the Thermomix.
Therefore, you can choose in the class whether to follow the traditional or more contemporary method.
Whichever way you choose - I guarantee you will be satiated. Scroll down for recipes and details of the apron give-away.
I can't tell you how inspiring my Asian culinary journey was. I was wowed on so many different levels by the food experiences.
It was a divine kaleidoscope of colours, tastes, smells & sounds that I hope will remain with me for some time to come. The food we ate was truly unique and very different to Asian food that I have eaten before.
I want to transport you there with dishes like simple sticky rice and smokey eggplant jeow we made & shared with the mung hill tribe in far Northern Laos and the Cambodian Amok trey, their delicious national aromatic fish curry, which we ate at every opportunity and had the pleasure of cooking in a Siem Reap cooking class.
Crispy fried crickets with garlic and chilli sold by street vendors in Cambodia, amazing pork sate with Javanese and Balinese peanut sauces at a cooking school in Bali, chicken stuffed lemongrass stalks in Laos and glass noodle, dried beef and herb salad on the streets of Hanoi were just a few of the scrumptious dishes we enjoyed on our travels.
We were humbled by the people and their self sufficiency, generosity and positivity. Our journey was punctuated by smiling faces and quick wit. Their incredible attitudes reflected in their unique cuisine.
I attended cooking classes wherever I could and learnt some new techniques and flavour combinations. I collected many delicious recipes from eating on the streets and in some amazing restaurants. I cooked in the mountains with minority ethnic tribes and learnt what it really means to live off the land.
I am ready to share some inspiring recipes with you so please book in for one or even two of the wonderful August classes.
I had some beautiful aprons hand made in Laos by a lovely lady who sells her goods at the night markets. I think she thought all her Christmases had come at once when I put in the order - needless to say I was also chuffed that Nourishing Nosh was able to work with the Laos locals.
To view the apron and be in the running to own your own for FREEEE, jump onto the home page.
So much to say, so little time. I will be back with daily waffles. I hurt my hand whilst away and could not type or write so I am full of info that needs to come out.
For all the newest cooking classes which by the by are totally GLUTEN FREE in August jump onto the timetable.
My daughter has been wheat free for just shy of 30 days. She has coped remarkably well...perhaps better than I in fact! It's tough work coping with the removal of an ingredient and I have a renewed and healthier respect for those battling with Coeliac and other ailments that dictate the removal of said ingredient.
People tell me that of all of the foods that they have to give up, the most pined for is bread.
I could definitely relate to that as I love nothing more than the aroma of baking bread in the wee hours of the morning. A close second is biting into a crunchy crust to reveal a chewy moist interior. I must say I have not had that experience with many gluten free breads.
The bread pictured is an adaptation of Cindy O'Meara's recipe. It is a little cakey as it contains eggs and I will experiment further but for now it is a perfectly acceptable loaf.
Here is mine. Enjoy.
We often talk about hiding the vegetables in meals from the kiddies.
To be honest I find it really difficult myself sometime to eat the daily recommended amount of veggies.
Fruit recommendations (2 per day) I find easy to eat as we usually have a fruit smoothie for breaky or afternoon tea.
The NHMRC (National Health and Medical Research Council) recommends 5 serves a day - that's 2.5 cups of veggies or 5 cups of salad.
Diana from the Natural Chemist also tells us that 50% of the food on our plates should be vegetables. When you take a moment to visualise your daily consumption patterns, most people realise that it can be tricky to eat enough veggies.
We all know that Vegetables are full of vitamins and minerals and we mostly know why our bodies need them. for example Vitamin C is an antioxidant and the B vitamins are critical in the production of energy in our bodies. What is less well understood is the benefits of the phytochemicals in vegetables. It is believed that it is the phytochemicals that protect us from chronic diseases such as heart disease, artherosclerosis, diabetes and stroke.
We have an ancient juicer (that has to be coaxed into finishing the job somedays but I don't love the concept of composting all of that gorgeous fibre.)
Check out the veggie smoothie I made today. It is so smooth and so delicious I just had to show you a piccie.
1 whole carrot, chopped
1 whole orange, peeled
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 whole vine ripened tomato
3cm cube beetroot, halved
few sprigs parsley
tray of ice cubes
125ml water to thin (plus extra if desired)
Place all ingredients in the thermomix. Process at speed 10 for 2 minutes. You might wish to add more water for a thinner more juice like consistency. The one I made is thick like a boost style juice (but about $5 cheaper). Enjoy!
Thelma (the new Thermomix & Kit's replacement) unlike her movie namesake is headstrong, powerful and completely predictable... I am told. Thelma arrived last Wednesday.
To me she is still a total mystery! I am not really the instruction manual reading type (one of my few flaws) and I do cook by feel, rather than recipe book regimentation, so Thelma and I do not always see eye to eye. I realise as the alpha cook in the relationship that our success as a team rests pretty much on my shoulders. So I must keep them horizontal and step it up a notch.
My husband, his hungry eyes evaluating one of last week's meals with which Thelma had helped, said he felt as though he had come home to a novice cook's experiment and he was intrigued to know what else I could do with my new $1939 investment.
That's all I needed really - a challenge! I read the manual. I read the basics cook book. It made a difference. We understand each other better now.
I cooked the basics. I made butter & babaganoush, whipped cream, cooked rice, steamed beans, made sorbet, juices, smoothies (with celery that no-one even detected), cooked mushroom & spinach risotto (and yes to the purists, it was just perfect.) I made an entire meal with the steamer including rice, vegetables, chicken and a creamy tomato sauce. I made bread dough with buckwheat, concentrated vegetable stock, hommus, herby cream cheese dip, beetroot salad (twice) and a gluten free blueberry chocolate cake.
This morning I made sweet dukkah and cinnamon, quinoa porridge. Remember Thelma arrived last Wednesday.
Thelma has been completely predictable. I am happy. My husband is not scared to come home for dinner. Life is good.
Yesterday my food processor kicked the bucket. She was a fabulous draught horse of a kitchen appliance. Not much to look at or talk about, a sensible, frumpy, hard working model. She had toiled tirelesssly beside me for years, 10 in fact. She was a loyal, compliant member of the kitchen team. Her name was Kit.
Replacing Kit had been on my mind for a couple of years. Being a member of the cutting edge healthy foodie business, it is of course my duty to ensure I am up to date with all of the latest kitchen gadgets...and yet the thought of jumping on the Thermomix train made me a little scared of losing that wonderful traditional wholesome cooking experience. Would the thermomix replace all that I hold dear in my beautiful kitchen? The wooden spoon, the french oven and the egg beater - yes I know that most people think this is a party trick these days but I still have one!
On Tuesday morning I attended a thermomix cooking demonstration. I did not tell Kit. The demonstrator was a friend of mine, a brand spanking new consultant, a cult virgin. She did a great job. She sold a machine and signed up a new consultant.
That afternoon, Kit helped me make a batch of Bliss Balls. When cleaning up I could not remove the food processor bowl from the motor. Kit looked a little pale. I filled her with water and ran out the door to the New Thermomix consultant's sign up meeting...
When I came home, Kit had been washed and was sitting peacefully on the drying up rack. I replaced her bowl on the motor and then tried to refit the blade. I could not help her. The blade shaft was cracked in two places. I think it was her telling me it was time to move on. Thank you Kit for all you have done for me and my family and friends.
I took it as a sign that I had done the right thing. I had not rushed out and bought the newest kitchen applicance and thrown out a perfectly good one. I did not feel guilt as my husband and I carried her tenderly to the garbage bin and bid her a fond farewell.
So now with the mourning period over I embark on a new relationship with a new kitchen appliance and I feel that the time is right.