Basic Chia Pudding Recipe

Chia Pudding

Recently, I bought a ton of chia seeds for a fantastic price at a local grocery store. I remembered seeing chia puddings all over the place online: on Pinterest, blogs, FoodGawker, etc. I’d been wanting to try it again since I’d tried it once before and it wasn’t great.

There are tons of chia pudding recipes out there, but the most basic recipe I love came from the My New Roots cookbook. I’ve changed it up a bit, so here’s the recipe I use. It serves two.

Version 1: Basic Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding

2-3 tablespoons chia seeds

6 tablespoons milk of choice

1 cup yogurt (plain regular or Greek)

Sweetener of choice (such as 5 dates)

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

1 frozen banana or other frozen fruit (such as cherries)

Version 2: Basic Vanilla Chia Seed Pudding

2-3 tablespoons of chia seeds

6 tablespoons milk of choice

1 tablespoon vanilla

Additional spices such as: cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice

Sweetener of choice (dates, agave nectar, maple syrup)

Directions: 

For both: Except for the frozen fruit, add the remaining ingredients into a bowl with a good fitting lid. (I also like to use a mason jar.) Place in fridge overnight. In the morning, blend with frozen fruit until smooth and creamy. (It might be thicker or thinner depending on the amount of liquid you used. If you used the full 6 tablespoons, it might be on the thinner side.)

Make it Vegetarian: Cranberry Sauce Stuffed Vegetarian Bean Balls

Cranberry
I’ve made these vegetarian bean balls stuffed with cranberry sauce at least 10 times in the past three months. They take about 5 minutes to prep and 20 minutes to cook. Serve them with this delicious Brussels sprouts salad (I use feta instead of the blue cheese and slivered almonds instead of pecans) and oven roasted potatoes.

The bean balls were adapted from this recipe from Daily Burn for Cranberry Stuffed Chicken Meatballs.

Cranberry-Sauce Stuffed Vegetarian Bean Balls

1 can white beans, drained and smashed
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon Worchestershire
1 tablespoon ground sage
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
pinch of salt and pepper
Cranberry sauce (the whole berry kind or homemade)

1. Mix all ingredients except for cranberry sauce into a large mixing bowl.
2. Using clean hands, take out a tablespoon of the mixture (either eyeball it or measure with a measuring spoon) and put it in the palm of your hand. Using a teaspoon, scoop out the cranberry sauce and insert it into the center of the mixture in your hand.
3. Cover the cranberry sauce with another tablespoon of the bean mixture, and then work with it until it forms a ball.
4. Place the bean balls onto a greased baking sheet and bake in the oven at 425 for 15-20 minutes.

Energy Ball Recipes

EnergyBall Recipes (1)

I’ve wanted a food processor for years, but every time I decided to go get one, something told me no.  I would put the food processor back on the shelf and walk away. I have done this at least four or five times a year.

And yet, I’d see recipes for energy balls, nut butters, hummus, etc., and try them in my low-powered blender. The outcome was OK, but not great.

But about a week ago, I was blessed with a food processor from my boyfriend’s sister. I couldn’t believe it! I finally had one!

Yesterday, a chocolate craving hit me around 2 p.m. and I decided that after going to the store, I’d use my food processor to make the energy balls I’d been dying to make for years now and have them turn out correctly. (Most energy ball bases, I’ve noticed, are made with dates. Dates in a low-powered blender? Not good. Here’s a trick I heard but haven’t actually tried if you want to make them in a low-powered blender: soak the dates to soften them. I’ve read anywhere from 15-30 minutes will do.)

After seeing so many energy ball recipes, you can build your own easily. It goes a little like this:

Base. Something sticky. Ideas:

  • Dates
  • Agave Nectar
  • Maple Syrup
  • Nut Butter
  • Honey

Fillings. Any combination of the following (but the possibilities are endless!)

  • Nuts (Almonds, pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, peanuts, pistachios)
  • Seeds (Pumpkin, sunflower)
  • Nut butters (Almond, Peanut Butter)
  • Oats
  • Dried fruit (cranberries, raisins, currants, cherries)
  • Chocolate (Cocoa powder, chocolate chips)
  • Canned Pumpkin
  • Coconut

Flavorings and Spices. This is where it gets really fun. Try

  • Crushed Peppermint Candies or Peppermint Extract (holidays)
  • Pumpkin pie spice, nutmeg, and cinnamon
  • Vanilla extract
  • Coconut extract

Phew! Those are a ton of combinations, but again, the possibilities are endless. Play around with the ingredients. Don’t be afraid to get creative.

I made two versions yesterday:  A chocolate date ball adapted from one of my favorite recipes from Chocolate Covered Katie’s cookbook, and a No Bake Cookie inspired one.

And boy, did the energy balls turn out EXACTLY how I wanted them too! They were creaming, not too sweet, and stuck together perfectly.

Version 1: Chocolate Coconut Energy Balls

This recipe was adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie’s recipe for “Anytime Fudge Balls” from the Chocolate Covered Katie Cookbook. (Please go buy it! It’s amazing and a wonderful healthy dessert cookbook. I look through it at least once a day.)

9 pitted dates

½ cup slivered almonds

1 tbsp cocoa powder

2 tbsp dark chocolate chips

Unsweetened flaked coconut

¼ tsp vanilla extract

¼ tsp agave nectar*

Pinch of salt

  1. Add all ingredients to a food processor and pulse until crumbly but stick together when you ball it in your hands by making a fist.
  2. Roll into balls, try not to eat them all, refrigerate.

Version 2: Peanut Butter, Chocolate Chip, Coconut, Oat Energy Balls

9 pitted dates

Heaping ¼ cup crunchy peanut butter

½ cup old fashioned oats

2 tbsp semisweet chocolate chips

¼ cup unsweetened flaked coconut

¼ tsp agave nectar

  1. Pulse in food processor until crumbly but sticks together when you ball the mixture in your hands by making a fist.
  2. Roll into balls, try not to eat them all, and refrigerate.

Throwback Thursday: Popovers

Back in December, my boyfriend and I decided to make one of our favorite soups: broccoli cheddar. We love this Food Network recipe for a “healthified” version.

We wanted bread to go with it, but we didn’t want anything too heavy. We also were bored with buying bread from the store. My boyfriend suggested we tried popovers.

It has changed our lives. We made them several times, and each time, we giggled with delight (or at least, I did.)

It’s the little things.

Popovers, if you haven’t had them, look like a dinner roll, but on the inside are basically hollow. They’re a similar batter to a crepe, but are baked in a muffin tin in the oven. And, you guessed it, they “pop over” when they bake. The result is a light and airy muffin that’s basically hollow on the inside, making it the perfect vessel to put soup in. We love Alton Brown’s recipe, but have also made Mark Bittman’s recipe for popovers too. Both are delicious, but we prefer Alton’s because we weren’t huge fans of the sugar in Bittman’s.

Or, as we discovered, plain yogurt and apricot jam.

Popovers are versatile, easy to make, and delicious. They’re just enough of a change from a dinner roll to make a dinner come to life. They’re great savory and also as a vessel for something sweeter.

Have you tried popovers?

September Blogging Challenge: Link Love

As part of Girl Meets Life’s September Blogging Challenge, here’s my Link Love: a series of blogs, news, videos, music, etc. that I’ve been enjoying or have been intrigued by.

Dog Getting a Head Massage

My sister sent this to me a few weeks ago, and I can’t stop watching it because it’s too cute.

Berlotti Bean and Farro Soup

I love Fresh Princess’s cooking videos, and I’m adding this one to my list of dinner ideas for this week.

Blogilates “Cheap Clean Eats” Chicken Lettuce Cups

I love the Thai twist she adds to it.

Vegetarian Pad Thai

I made this twice last week, and I plan on making it again this week. Can’t get enough of it!

Vintage Lace Scarf knitting pattern from The Casting On Couch
An amazing knitting teacher with amazing knitting patterns. I just finished this vintage lace scarf last week, and I plan on making another.

Small Kitchen Cooking: Sometimes, Simpler is Better

It’s easy, when you discover that not only do you know how to cook but that you love cooking, to get caught up in the pretty food magazines and recipes you find on Pinterest. When I first started out with exploring the kitchen and finally cooking, I would have stacks of complicated or extensive recipes that would leave me standing in the kitchen when I finally got home from the grocery store wandering why in the world I had just bought a bunch of stuff for a one-off recipe.

Over the past four years that I’ve been cooking, I’ve learned something: sometimes, simpler is better. Instead of roasting my potatoes in a bunch of different spices, I’ve discovered tossing them in olive oil, salt, and pepper does the trick. Sure, I still love to make complicated, fun, and new recipes, but I’ve really enjoyed learning that I don’t need all the fancy things to make a really good meal.

Joey Lawrence’s character on Melissa and Joey summed it up recently in an episode I was watching, where he’s teaching the teenage boy, Ryder, how to cook:

“If the world had only olive oil, garlic, and onions, they would be able to rebuild in about a month.”

Sometimes, making a gourmet-tasting meal comes from few ingredients. It’s also fun to make something new and complicated.

Just don’t become overwhelmed. Know that when you’re discovering your kitchen and stretching out your cooking legs, go for the simple things. See how those turn out. See how they taste. Build upon them if you want. And don’t be afraid to try the complicated from time to time.

Happy cooking!

Small Kitchen Cooking: Poached Eggs Aren’t Terrifying [Recipe]

I made poached eggs on Sunday morning because I was tired of seeing so many gosh-darn delightful looking recipes and me being to scared to try them. I don’t know about you, but I’ve stayed away from attempting to make poached eggs because I’ve heard how intimidating it can be.

But this morning, I cracked open one of my cookbook essentials, Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything,” and got to work. And it wasn’t terrifying. I used a 1 cup measuring cup and cracked each egg in there, using the cup to place the eggs into the water, one at a time. And then I turned on the timer and waited for 5 minutes.

But that was it.

Nothing to it.

The result? Well, I will admit, I don’t think I added enough water to my saucepan, because the eggs had no white tops! It was kind of cute, actually. Despite their missing tops, the poached eggs were everything I’ve heard they are: silky, smooth, and light. Gorgeous to look at, and delicate to eat. I savored every moment. And now I don’t think I’ll ever look at fried or scrambled eggs the same way again. I’ll always be left with this sinking feeling of “if only I had poached eggs.”

Believe me, they’re worth trying. They’re not terrifying. Just go out there and try it.

Next on my list of intimidating foods I’ve avoided making? Souffle. I have no plans to make it anytime soon.

Happy Tuesday! What’s your favorite way to have poached eggs? I had mine over hashbrowns, sauteed bell peppers, and sharp cheddar cheese.

Here’s another way I want to try them:

Arugula, Asparagus, and Poached Eggs

Small Kitchen Cooking: Learning how to cook

Learning how to cook isn’t difficult, but from the overwhelming amounts of cookbooks, online recipe sites like FoodGawker and AllRecipes, blogs, and good ol’ fashioned cookbooks, it can seem like an overwhelming task to take on. But it isn’t. Or it shouldn’t be. It’s actually very simple: just cook.

After college and while I was unemployed, in between searching sites for job listings, I stumbled across Oh She Glows. It came from the Glamour Vitamin G blog, and it was for apple cupcakes. This involved no cooking, obviously, but it was so different in a such a simple way that I became curious. And so I kept searching. I discovered blog after blog, asked for a cookbook for Christmas, and started trying out different recipes on my two roommates and my sister. (Lesson No.1 I learned: do NOT use fresh spinach in a quiche.)

Anyway, what I’m trying to say here is that cooking isn’t challenging at its core. There are complicated or tiresome recipes such as beouf bourginion (see the movie Julie and Julia and you’ll know what I’m talking about) or souffle (still haven’t tried to attempt that one) but at its core, cooking is simple. And don’t worry about being creative right at first: start simple. Here are some of my tips to get you into your kitchen.

1. Read the recipe before deciding to make it. Too many times I’ve started a recipe and halfway through realized it took an hour of cooking, when I only had a half hour. Or one of the ingredients I could have sworn I had was gone. Cooking is easier when you look over the recipe and go through your kitchen. Take everything out that you’re going to need and place it on your counter. As you use the ingredients, put them back.

2. Sometimes simple is better. Just last week, I had a craving for pasta sauce. I went over to my pantry and thought about what I’d needed. I had tomatoes, oregano, fresh basil, garlic, and olive oil. Toss it all together and it was the best pasta sauce I think I’ve had ( with the exception of my middle sister’s amazing meat pasta sauce.) Do you love pasta and avocado? Then this avocado pasta from Oh She Glows is an incredibly easy dish to make. Pizza Margherita is easy too and gorgeous. (If you’re worried about making the dough, you can buy fresh premade dough.)

3. Don’t be afraid to look it up or call a friend. I can’t ever remember how to boil eggs. Do I put the eggs in with the water before I start to boil it? Every time, I look it up. Something so simple you think I’d remember right? (And I can remember how to make crepes from scratch without looking up the recipe.) Don’t be afraid to look up recipes, techniques, or call a friend. There are great Youtube channels out there such as this one from Tara Stiles and this other one from Fresh Princess. You’ll notice that their recipes are simple and easy to make. (Not to mention that Tara has a cookbook coming out in November that I cannot wait to get my hands on.)

4. Start slow. If you’re just starting out getting comfortable with your kitchen, try cooking at least one meal a week homemade. Find a simple recipe (if it has over 10 ingredients, I’d skip it. Go for the easy recipes, like this 4 ingredient pasta sauce inspired by Mark Bittman’s tomato pasta sauce recipe in his How to Cook Everything cookbook.)

I’ll leave you with those for now.

Monday Night Pasta Sauce

Last week I wanted a bright and very tomato-y pasta sauce. Mark Bittman, in his cookbook “How to Cook Everything,” has several variations on tomato pasta sauce. I combined the spiced, garlicky, and spicy versions together to make this very simple and delicious pasta sauce. It doesn’t take very long to prep or cook, making it a great and quick weeknight meal. Try it and let me know how you like it!

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 28 ounce can whole tomatoes (or diced), in their liquid
1 small can of tomato sauce
8 leaves fresh basil, minced
pinch of red pepper flakes
salt, pepper, oregano, to taste
2 servings spaghetti noodles, cooked according to package instruction
shredded Parmesan or pecorino Romano, for garnish

1. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large saucepan.
2. Add the garlic to the pan and saute for 2 minutes, or until the garlic starts to brown slightly. (I’ve learned that if you can smell the garlic, it’s ready.)
3. If you’re using whole tomatoes, chop them first before adding them. Add the tomatoes and tomato sauce, and season with the oregano, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Add about 1 1/2 teaspoons of the minced basil.
4. Let everything simmer over medium heat for 10-20 minutes.
5. While the sauce is simmering, boil water and cook pasta according to package directions.
6. Strain the pasta and add into the sauce. Turn off the heat to the pasta sauce. Top each individual serving with the rest of the fresh basil and cheese.
7. Enjoy!