‘Gluten-free, vegan, raw, no-added-sugar, grain-free, oil-free’
If I see these words all used to describe a chocolate recipe, I am running away like Flo Jo. That’s really fast.
Then I see pictures like these. And I’m like, yeah. Maybe I can give this a shot.
I’m talking about chia pudding. A trend I have resisted ever since chia became all the rage for eating and not just making cute little furry, green, animal-shaped pets on infomercials with the most annoyingly catchy phrase ever: chi-chi-chi-CHIA!
My decision to sample the chia Kool-Aid occurred when Little One started pre-school, adding a specific time schedule to our previously-unstructured mornings. Breakfast now needs to be eaten shortly after she wakes up, which is in stark contrast to ‘whenever mommy gets home from the gym, showers, and puts a full-cooked plate in front of me.’
When you need to lure a kid to the breakfast table when she could not be any less interested in the fact that people will judge Mommy if she sends her cherub to school on an empty belly, you need to go big.
Chocolate pudding is big.
But toddlers have scary advanced palates, so when you throw out the chocolate pudding pitch, you better deliver chocolate pudding and not some health freak’s impostor version that tastes like seeds used to grow green garden gnomes.
So I started tinkering.
I learned that blending chia takes away the seedy texture, leaving you with something smooth with only a slight grittiness that resembles finely-ground flax seed. The reason chia is so popular in puddings is that, like tapioca, it expands in liquid. Grinding chia allows it to turn its surrounding liquid into pudding-like texture. Goal #1: achieve very smooth texture. Done.
Using whole milk instead of a milk substitute makes it really creamy, and it also adds way more protein than milk substitute. But if you want to keep it vegan or paleo, it would totally work with almond or, be still my beating heart, canned coconut milk. Mmmmm. Goal #2: creamy taste. Done.
Here’s the thing about pudding: it has to be sweet. Minimally sweet pudding is nasty, and yes, I will tell you how I really feel. But I don’t want to pump toaster strudels through my kid’s veins, so rest assured that this is sufficiently sweet for breakfast (SSFB). Not only do dates provide a caramel-y sweetness, but once pureed, they contribute to the rich, creamy texture AND add even more nutrients to this already-impressive breakfast spread. YES, this makes my dietitian mouth curl into a smile, thanks for asking!
The cocoa makes it really chocolatey, and the vanilla adds sweetness, too. Put this business in the fridge overnight, top with fresh berries, and hot damn- pudding for breakfast.
Except that it’s still chia pudding, and I am sure many of you are not convinced. I get it. I consider every healthy-food-made-into-something-decadent trend to be a snake oil scheme.
You know me by now, and you know that I love freaking awesome food because it tastes freaking awesome and not because it has a freaking awesome amount of niacin, fiber, or nutrient du jour. Right right?? And I am very clear in stating that this is no sub for rich, dessert-sweet chocolate pudding. It’s definitely less sweet, but totally sweet enough to be a really delish breakfast treat.
And let’s be honest: it passed the toddler test. Not just my toddler, either- other toddlers. I sent this to my mama friends, and it has been well-received by tiny humans around Knoxville. I also have foodie friends- like, serious foodie friends, who give it a gold star. Looks like it’s time to buy some chi-chi-chi-CHIA!!
- 1⅓ c whole milk (sub almond, coconut, or canned coconut milk if you want)
- ¼ c chia seeds
- 5 large Medjool dates, pitted (more to taste, or if you use smaller dates)
- 3 T unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- Pinch of kosher salt
- Blend all ingredients in a blender at high speed until completely smooth- at least 1-2 minutes to really grind those chia seeds into fine powder. Pour into jars or glasses, cover, and chill in the fridge overnight to really let them thicken up. If they end up a little too thick, stir in some milk just before serving. Great topped with fresh berries!