Three Amazing Chia Recipes!

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I love the versatility of this seed so much that i decided to post about some of my favourite uses. As you can easily google the health benefits of chia, I won’t spend much time detailing its nutritional profile, but will say this – it’s another “super food”, loaded with healthy omega 3’s, calcium, manganese & phosphorus, as well as essential amino acids. You can count on chia as a brain food that gives you an energy boost, as well as keeping your bones & teeth healthy. Apart from just adding it to a lot of recipes & baking, I have a few favourite uses for chia that I would like to share with you.

ONE: As a thickener in recipes calling for things like corn starch or pectin. Jams, jellies, sauces and other dishes that need thickening or a little extra cohesion benefit from added or substituted chia. I personally don’t like using corn starch (because of its low digestibility) or pectin (because of the cost, and it being an extracted ingredient rather than a whole food). I haven’t figured out a super reliable substitution rate, but I would say a safe assumption to start with would be a sub of 2:1 of chia to starch or pectin. If you don’t want the minor seediness that comes with whole chia, you can grind it in a coffee grinder to get the thickening benefits without the seedy texture.

A recipe for quick chia jam:

Combine in a saucepan / small pot:

1 cup of (I use frozen) berries (blueberry, strawberry, blackberry, huckleberry – whatever you like, or a combination).
2 tbsp of chia seeds
Simmer until reduced (and thawed if frozen) for 5 minutes.
If you want a jam with uniform texture, use your hand blender to lightly puree the mixture while still in the pot. If you like it chunky, leave it! For the pureed jam, simmer for another 5 minutes or so after pureeing; for the chunkier jam, give it about 10 minutes on the stove (or longer) to soften up the lumps a bit. After your jam has finished simmering, stir in:

Approx 1 tbsp raw honey (to taste – however sweet you like it – the chia adds a mild sweetness as well).

You can use the jam warm, or transfer to a jar in the fridge. After some time in the fridge, it will thicken even further. And voila! A jam with added protein and omega 3, without the use of other thickening agents or sweeteners. This jam also freezes very nicely.

TWO: For a homemade hair gel. That’s right, I said it! Hair gel! Chia makes a wonderful plant based jelly when combined with any liquid. For a hair gel, you can combine:

1 cup of water with
2 tbsp of whole chia seeds

Simmer in a small pot for 5 minutes on low heat, stirring fairly constantly to separate lumps. Remove from heat and stir in:

2 tbsp aloe vera gel (food grade please)

– and let cool. Once cooled, get out a jar for storage and place fine meshed cheesecloth over top. Begin pouring mixture over the cheesecloth, and when enough accumulates on the top, squeeze the gel through the cloth into the jar – the leftover grit and seeds will stay in the cheesecloth. Continue until you have strained it all. If you have a very fine mesh strainer, this would work as well – but it needs to be very fine or you will get chunks in the gel.

Keep it in the fridge and use as needed – it will work like a “wet” hair gel. Both the chia and aloe are very conditioning for your hair, so it also makes a great dry hair treatment!

THREE: Chia fruit juice jelly: A really fun, refreshing light snack that is super easy is this chia seed jelly – a little like a slightly softer jello :). Combine in a jar:

1 cup of your favourite fruit juice (my favourite for this recipe is grape) with
2 tbsp of ground or whole chia seed (depending on the texture you would like).

Stir well until distributed evenly in the juice. Let sit on the counter for five minutes in the sealed jar. Give it a good shake or another stir, and place in the fridge for several hours (I let it sit overnight). It’s perfect for a hot summer day, especially to get some fun fluids and vitamins in your kidlets.

And there you have it! My favourite chia based recipes both for on your bod and in. Also check out my recipe for chia rice pudding HERE. A yummy gluten free breakfast! What are your favourite uses for chia?

Saying goodbye to suds

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As I’ve been sorting through some of my recipes, I’ve been compelled to write about one characteristic that is missing from some of them, compared to their store-bought counterparts: SUDS! Bubbles, lather, foaming action, whatever you want to call it, some of my recipes do lack this frothy bubbly stuff that many of us attribute to the effectiveness of a product.

Don’t get me wrong, I still use traditional soap in some recipes, which can produce a fair amount of bubbles and lather. It is this lathering action that can be really helpful for physically getting dirt and grime off your hands and other surfaces. But in some cases, the excessive amount of suds that you get with commercial products are just simply not necessary. And if you are looking for truly natural, non-toxic solutions, I hate to be the bearer of difficult news, but you may have to let go of the suds a bit.

The reason behind this is because chemical surfactants (the things that give your products their sudsy action, above and beyond what a typical soap might do) are one of the most toxic ingredients in many cleaning and bath products. And to my knowledge, other than mixing egg whites in with a recipe (ummm, which would not be advisable if you are looking to disinfect), I have not found any super bubbly non toxic alternatives that I am comfortable with.

(See this article for more information on toxic surfactants and other chemicals in your home.)

One of the products I’ve had to give up on the suds with is my dish soap. My dish soap recipe became a solid if I wanted it to have more suds, and then eventually would lose its sudsiness fairly quickly. I was not into using the solid version (too difficult to mix in with the water), so I liquified the recipe and there is not much suds at all now. It still has soap in it, but it doesn’t lather much when diluting it with the sink water. And you know what? It still cleans my dishes really, really well. And in conjunction with the vinegar rinse, actually probably sanitizes them superiorly to regular dish soap. And it doubles as a kitchen de-greasing spray.

I also gave up suds on my hair. I could not find a shampoo alternative that would not be drying, that involved natural suds (ie. soap). It took a bit of getting used to, but I am now completely comfortable with my “no poo.” The only time I find I need suds in my hair is after a haircut – and then I just use my body wash (which is essentially castille soap, glycerin and water).

You know what else I gave up? Bubble baths for my kid. There was nothing available that was satisfyingly benign to me (short of adding egg whites to my recipe, again, which I am not comfortable with and doesn’t seem very practical to me) and I figured, why the heck does he need bubble baths anyway? He has tons of fun just splashing in the water with his bath toys. So we don’t do bubble baths anymore.

And you know what? We are all clean and happy. It took a bit of adjusting for my hubs with the dish soap and no-poo thing, but now he is completely content with them. Especially because it is so much cheaper ;). The sans bubble bath is probably more an adjustment for the grandparents, really, am I right?

You really don’t always need suds to get clean, and when they so often come with a toxic load, I am very happy to say ‘goodbye to suds’ in certain arenas. Do we still wash our bodies with soap? Yuuuppp. I am a firm believer in plain, vegetable oil based soap. Dr. Bronner’s is amazing stuff. But you don’t need bubbles for everything! I say it’s time to let go of the need for so much lather. What about you?

PS: Stay tuned for “sanitizing your home without bleach or alcohol.”.

Also, check out THIS great read by Crunchy Betty on ditching bubble bath.

Yo, “No ‘poo” haters – Ummm, actually I DO wash my hair.

Hey, lovely readers! I have just been so flabbergasted at the recent media uproar about No ‘poo users that I really felt I had to chip in my own 2 cents on the issue. As you may know, I posted on my own use of No ‘poo a while back HERE. So rather than explain how it works again, I am just going to have a mini rant, if that is okay with you. Okay? Okay.

One of the most common erroneous perceptions that I see floating around, is that no ‘poo users don’t wash their hair. Ummm, what? I can’t really understand how this misconception came about. We are not telling people not to shower, we are just using a DIFFERENT METHOD for cleaning our hair. Our hair is still getting clean, we just clean it a different way – a way that doesn’t involve harsh chemicals, fragrances, and toxic ingredients. And did I mention it’s cheap, too? And that it doesn’t strip your hair of its natural oils, so that you don’t have to use other products to then make your hair soft and silky again after washing it? It stays soft and silky on its own, thanks – no conditioner for me!

And does anyone’s hair actually feel great with all of the product in it that you need after regular shampoo use? I know when I used to use hair spray, mousse, gel, wax and the like, my hair felt like crap. Crap. And it looked like crap, too. With no ‘poo, you are cleaning your hair GENTLY without the use of harsh surfactants and toxic fragrances. I don’t need suds to clean my hair. I don’t need suds to clean my dishes, either – and they are spotless and germ free.

Okay, so my hair might not smell like Mountain Mist or Athena’s Armpit or whatever after I am finished, you’ve got me there. It just smells like, well, hair. Just like my clothes (washed in natural detergent) smell like, ummmmm……clothes. Why do we need to be dancing in roses and splashing ourselves with rainbow dust every day? I don’t need to smell like the perfume department at The Bay to be clean. Sometimes clean is just the absence of stank, not the addition of perfume.

Have an issue with that? Fine. I also have an issue with your fragrance overload. Myself and my son find ourselves sneezing and coughing when we walk by some beauty queen doused in Chanel. Or some dude who sprayed on the Axe a little too heavy that morning. Yikes. I find that repulsive.

Let’s all congratulate those who are choosing to live toxin free, and not stretch the facts. And if even you choose to just wash your hair using only nature’s cleaner, water, that’s perfectly fine too! I find plain ol’ water to be pretty darn effective at cleaning my hair if my no ‘poo bottles are empty. Because we choose a different method for washing, doesn’t mean we aren’t washing, or are unclean. Shampoo isn’t the only way to clean your hair! If you like it, great. But keep your nose out of my business, literally. If you need artificial fragrance to tell you something is clean, maybe your nose needs a check-up!

What the heck is ‘no-poo’, anyway?

So I have replaced my shampoo with a very simple alternative, and have been going strong for months now. It’s called ‘no-poo’, and it’s trending, even among some celebs. How many ingredients do you need? Three! Baking soda, apple cider vinegar, and….wait for it…..water. You will also need two shampoo bottle sized squirt-able bottles. I used my old dishsoap bottles. A bit of the essential oil of your choice if you so desire. The howto? Up next!

Start with mixing, in the first bottle, about 3 – 4 tbsp of baking soda to about 3 cups of water. Experiment to get the dilution that feels right in your hair. I like a bit heavier concentration. Shake it up before use – depending on how much hair you have (I have very little), your bottle may last a few uses or many.

In the second bottle, mix about one part apple cider vinegar to one part water. Reduce ACV if you find this too strong. Add about 5-10 drops of the essential oil of your choice if you want to mask the vinegar smell during use (it doesn’t linger on your hair afterwards, so the scent is mainly for your own benefit).

Wet hair. Apply the baking soda mixture to your hair so it is saturated with the stuff and massage in. Next, saturate your hair with the apple cider vinegar mixture and massage again. The reaction between the baking soda (a base) and the vinegar (an acid) creates a wonderfully pH neutral environment in your hair, leaving it silky smooth and healthy with no residue. Rinse thoroughly!

You can also experiment with adding some vegetable glycerin (about 1 tbsp) to your baking soda mix for extra moisture. Furthermore, some folks choose to rinse each step separately instead of combining the two. And others skip the ACV entirely. You do what feels right for you hair – after experimenting a bit, you will get used to what works for you!

According to some, there may be an ‘adjustment period’ (anywhere from a few days to a few weeks) where your hair’s natural oils (which have been stripped with traditional shampoo) come in a little strong, and you may get a slight oiliness to your hair. Once your hair adjusts to not having the oils stripped from it so frequently, the oil will tone itself down. I myself didn’t notice this happen with my hair, but the warning is due as I have heard that this happens!

No parabens or other harsh chemicals for your hair, just good, clean, natural ingredients that pH balance your hair and scalp! Give it a shot and let me know how it goes!

UPDATE 01/06/2014: I have had some questions re: using No-poo on colour treated hair. From researching folks’ anecdotes on many a forum, it seems to be either a non-issue, or to protect your colour BETTER than shampoo. If in doubt, use a lower concentration of baking soda.