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In the Kitchen with Caitlin—Cooking with Chia and Flaxseeds

Posted by Caitlin Quinn Dunn, MS, RD, LDN on Jan 19, 2017 10:30:00 AM

Today I am introducing two special ingredients, chia and flaxseeds.  While small in size, these seeds pack a big nutritional punch. You may have heard of these seeds before—maybe you even have some deep inside your pantry or freezer.  Well, now’s the time to pull them out and learn a little more about why they are so good for you!

Let’s start with chia seeds. 

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I was first exposed to chia seeds in the form of Chia Pets, the adorable clay creatures that sprouted hair.  As a kid I used these seeds solely for my amusement, but now that I know just how nutritious and versatile they are, I eat them on a regular basis.  Chia seeds look a lot like poppy seeds, and have a very mild flavor so they can be added to sweet or savory dishes. 

Since they are so small, you wouldn’t think they would have much to offer—think again!  In just one ounce (about two tablespoons) you will be getting 10 grams of fiber, about 5 grams of protein, and 9 grams of healthy fats, mostly coming from ALA, a type of omega-3 fatty acid that is heart healthy.  If that’s not enough, an ounce of chia seeds provides about 180 mg of calcium, a little more than what you would find in half a cup of milk. 

With such an impressive list of benefits, can flaxseeds even compare?

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Yes! As with chia seeds, flaxseeds are another great source of omega-3, ALA .  Two tablespoons will provide about 9 grams of fat, 5 grams of fiber, and 4 grams of protein.  They have a bit more of a nutty flavor compared to chia seeds, but are still mild enough to add to just about anything.  Unlike chia, flaxseeds are not digested very well in their whole seed form.  It is best to grind the seeds in a small food processor or coffee grinder before adding them to foods.  You can also buy them pre-ground at the grocery store.

Tasty Bar ground flaxseeds.jpgBoth chia and flaxseeds may show up in different places depending on the grocery store.  Be sure to check out the health food aisle of your local grocery store. They may also be found with other nuts and seeds or sometimes even with the baking ingredients.  Once you get the seeds home, it’s best to store them in the refrigerator or freezer.  The high unsaturated fat content of these seeds will cause them to spoil quickly if not kept cold.     I add chia and flax to smoothies, baked goods, and I’ve even sprinkled them on toast and salads. 

Tasty Snack Bar – Download recipe now.

Today I am featuring both ingredients together in a delicious snack bar.  This bar only requires seven ingredients, some of which you may already have on hand—dates, agave (or honey), nut butter, slivered almonds, rolled oats, and of course chia seeds and ground flaxseeds.
Tasty Bar ingredients.jpgThe first step to making these bars is to preheat your oven to 350°F so that you can toast the almonds and oats.  Toasting the nuts really enhances the flavor, so while this isn’t 100% necessary, it definitely adds a layer of flavor to the bars.  Toast them for 13-15 minutes or until they just start to turn golden brown. 

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While the nuts are toasting, it’s time to prepare the dates.  I used my food processor for this step, but if you don’t have one, no problem!  Just grab a knife and start chopping!  You will also want to get a small saucepan to heat up the maple syrup and nut butter over low heat, just until the ingredients melt together. 

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By this time, the oats and nuts should be toasted.  Combine them with the chia, flaxseeds and dates in a large mixing bowl, and then add the syrup mixture.  To combine, you can use a large spoon, but I think a pair of clean hands works best. 

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Once mixed, line an 8x8 dish with plastic wrap, or parchment paper, or, in my case, since I was out of both, aluminum foil.  You could even just lightly spray the pan with non-stick cooking spray or oil if you’re out of all three.  Drop the mixture into the pan and start to press it in.  I think the easiest way to do this is to grab another piece of foil or paper and cover the top so that you can press with your hands without getting too sticky, but clean hands would work as well. 

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Now the key to getting these bars to set properly is to stick them in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.  Once chilled, you will be able to cut and remove them easily.  You can store these in an airtight container in the fridge for about a week.  They make for a great snack or even a grab and go breakfast paired with a piece of fruit.  If you give this recipe a try, be sure to let us know!  See you in the kitchen!

-Caitlin

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In the Kitchen with Caitlin is a blog series where Caitlin features an ingredient and takes you step-by-step through delicious recipes that highlights that ingredient.  One of her favorite parts of being a dietitian at Boston Heart Diagnostics is that she gets to introduce people to healthy and delicious foods with which they might be unfamiliar.  This blog will help guide you through the process of incorporating new foods into recipes that support your health goals.

 

Topics: Health and Wellness