Well color me surprised! If you ever told me I would be writing about Pumpkin Chia Pudding, I would have called you a big fat liar. Not really my thang. But a couple weeks ago I ran across a post called Chia Seed Pudding Is Disgusting, and You Know It and
I also felt compelled to set the record straight. True, the commercially produced products that the author referenced can be “gelatinous, slimy, and look like frogspawn”, but I have the secret ingredient for a homemade version, and it’s probably already in your pantry. Pumpkin puree. The author of the post, Bailey Bennett, seems to be most horrified by the mouth-feel (“chewy mucous”………are you howling yet?? Come on!!! It’s a healthy seed, people, not the apocalypse). I propose that with the mere addition of pumpkin, it is neither slimy nor looks like tadpoles in training. This is not the first time I have let pumpkin do my heavy lifting. A client once had me try to sneak a secret healthy ingredient into a dessert bar. They wanted brownies, but I knew it would be too obvious – I went with pumpkin pie bars, figuring that pumpkin was already famous for making the leap from vegetable to dessert. I needed to merely ride her coattails.
Adding pumpkin to chia goo actually makes for a hearty breakfast pudding (or porridge, your call) that takes zero cooking and can be made ahead. To serve, I just zap it in the micro with a splash of coconut milk (the beverage in the refrigerated milk alternative section, not the canned full-fat Asian ingredient) and top with chopped almonds for added protein. It’s also great straight from the fridge – kind of like Siggi’s pumpkin yogurt, minus the dairy devil.
Mine is a creamy, full-flavor, dessert-like breakfast dish, ready on the fly. None of the “gelatinous mold that wiggles, jiggles and squelches with every touch of a spoon”. I can’t be sure, but I suspect Bailey’s brother stuffed chia pudding in her sneakers at some point. I had a similar experience with Vienna Sausages and I feel her pain.
Chia is an herb in the mint family and a rich source of Omega 3, B Vitamins, Calcium, and Manganese. (For more on those nutritional benefits, check out Health Ambition). For me, the real rock star is its protein content. A life-long struggler with eating in the a.m. (I went to work in television at 4am way too often, sometimes after closing the restaurant at 2 am), breakfast was for me theeeeee meal to skip. And if I grabbed something in the studio, I can assure you it was not worthy. No doubt, it was carb-heavy and protein-free. Though I wanted to….I. Just. Could. Not. The elusive fantasy meal needed to be tasty, high protein (or sleepless me would sugar-crash soon), portable, and bonus points for being able to be sucked down. Fast. During my Bush’s Best Beans days, I concocted a smoothie secretly filled with Great Northerns. It worked really well for a long time, but then Greek Yogurt came on the scene and caught my eye. I am nothing if not a serial breakfast loyalist. More recently I have wanted to find several options of the perfect combo (delish, hi-protein, fast, portable) with less reliance on dairy. After devouring everything written by Lyn-Genet Recitas, creator of The Plan, I committed to 10 grams of protein for breakfast – non-dairy. Whaaaaaaaaaat? You’re scaring me!!!!!! How will YOU EVER do that?????? That’s when I started dabbling with spelt flakes, flax granola and chia pudding. And, we’re back. Chia Pudding! Pumpkin Chia Pudding!!
This recipe is made in 2 minutes – dump and stir – and packs 8-10 grams of protein (depending on how many almonds in your topping (shout out to pumpkin seeds – a small handful has 9 grams of protein and is a great source of zinc)). It’s very low in sugar (bonus in preventing late morning crashes) and is high in fiber – 45% of your RDA. And of course, all those spices are amazing for digestion and so much more. Cinnamon alone aids digestion, is helpful with controlling type 2 diabetes and cholesterol, and serves as an anti-inflammatory. It’s all good!
But most importantly, it’s tasty and easy to take to work or eat on the fly. And it does not, I’m quite sure, include, as Bailey suggests, the “tears of all the poor souls who’ve wasted their afternoon snack on a bowl of grayish goo.”
How is it exactly that “Salad Days” has gone from meaning green and naïve (Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra) to the more current American connotation of being at one’s heyday or pinnacle? So American, right? Wait long enough and it can mean whatever you want. And what I want is green – as in green salad with green (and yellow) summer squash. It’s reparation for making you go to that 425o kitchen last week, chasing a cherry pie. This one is perfect for these oppressive muggy days. You won’t have to turn on a thing.
I have to admit, I never really thought about raw squash as a tasty treat, finding it a bit pithy and bland. However a couple summers ago I was on a media tour for a client and met a journalist at a farm to table restaurant in NYC where I promptly fell in love with a version of this salad. The trick is to thinly slice the squash – as paper thin as possible. I like using a mandoline and particularly like the Matfer Mandoline.
I once styled a cooking segment on the Today Show for the best chef in the Army, and he turned me on to this fine piece of equipment. I have had it for 15+ years and it is still in great shape. It’s got good safety features, so it’s not scary like some mandolines, and it doesn’t pit or corrode like the one I got in France a zillion years ago and need to toss. Chef arrived on some kind of Army transport so he didn’t have to worry about blades at TSA. However his most important travel companion was an 8 1/2 x 11” flat piece of striped genoise sponge cake that was created by piping razor thin lines of alternating chocolate and vanilla batter. He used it to line a tall glass trifle bowl for an elegant presentation. And he carried it in a manila file folder. Filed under P for pastry? I was pretty much speechless. Given the turn of world events, I often wonder if our military still carry pastry in their file folders.
After first tasting that salad in NYC, I have tweaked it pretty much every time I make it and this is how it rolls this summer. A dear friend recently delivered a spice jar filled with a pepper blend which I found I couldn’t live without. I burned through that jar in short order and have now made my own. Mine seems a lot darker than hers so I suspect mine has more black pepper. She even recommends adding green peppercorns to the mix, but so far I have not tried that. I love the KitchenAid coffee grinder to grind all my spices – and now they have an even better model that comes with an additional bowl fitted with a blade optimized for spices, in addition to the primary bowl specifically tooled for coffee – two gadgets in one – KitchenAid Blade Coffee and Spice Grinder Combo.
Zesty Pepper Blend
1 cup ground black pepper
1/2 cup cardamom seeds
1/2 cup coriander seeds
Grind each seed separately in a spice grinder or mini chopper. Mix all spices together and store in an airtight container.
Summer Squash and Arugula Salad
1 yellow squash
3 cups arugula
¼ pound sheep’s milk cheese, such as Ewephoria, cut in shards or with a cheese planer