A Cookbook Devoted to Chia Seeds? Yes, Indeed.

Sure, it immediately calls to mind those sprouting terracotta planters first popularized in catchy 80s commercials, but chia certainly shouldn’t be relegated to kitschy "pet" status. A staple of Aztec and Mayan diets, the ancient chia seed — it comes from the desert plant Salvia hispanica, grown in North, Central and South America — is a nutritional dynamo, packed with Omega-3s, calcium, iron, fiber and antioxidants.

Luckily, cooking with it is also a breeze, as Janie Hoffman, founder and CEO of the organic food and beverage company, Mamma Chia, reveals in her new book, The Chia Cookbook: Inventive, Delicious Recipes Featuring Nature’s Superfood (Random House). "The power in this little, bitty chia seed is amazing," says the San Diego-based entrepreneur and author, who likes weaving it into creations as diverse as Serrano-pineapple-papaya smoothies and grilled chicken meatballs paired with linguine al limone. "It can be easily used in absolutely anything."

How did you first get turned onto chia?

I was using flaxseed, but I hated grinding it. My friend said I should consider chia seeds instead because they had more fiber and were loaded with antioxidants. I don't believe in a magic bullet, but having said that, there's no doubt that once chia entered my life the results were remarkable.

How so?

I had struggled with autoimmune disorders for over 20 years and had reached a point of acceptance. Still, even in that state I was searching for something that could help me become more vital and live in the everyday. I was skeptical of chia and never anticipated it being a miracle ingredient, but when I first incorporated it into my meals I noticed an increase in my energy and strength. After three months I didn’t even have a rash anymore.

And this awakening propelled you to launch Mamma Chia?

Once I experienced this I knew I wanted to somehow share it with the rest of the world. But it wasn't until a couple of years later that everyone around me told me I was so passionate about chia. It had changed my life, and so I decided to create the very first organic chia-based food and beverage company. Eating organically had been a huge part of my healing, so it was important to me to use USDA-certified organic ingredients and work with sustainable-minded growers.

You're busy introducing health-conscious shoppers to your products, like black and white chia seeds, Chia Squeeze (fruit and vegetable-infused snack pouches) and Vitality Beverages (chia seed fruit juices), yet you found the time to write The Chia Cookbook. What was your mission?

My first book, Chia Vitality, was more emotional, about how chia changed my body, mind and soul. This cookbook is a reflection of how chia has now gone mainstream through simple and sophisticated recipes for all times of the day. They are highlights of the most engaging, fun and delicious things I’ve been cooking. Chia goes into everything I make in the kitchen, and I’m grateful my husband's used to it.

What are some of your favorite recipes from the book?

There's a sticky brown rice with an egg and a creamy coconut ginger-carrot soup that's just fabulous. We have an avocado farm, so you'll notice the book features a lot of avocado — another great source of nutrition — like plantain chips with avocado-chia dip.

It's particularly nice to see breakfast, a meal that tends to be skipped because of rushed mornings, gets attention.

Mornings are great. I usually make a frittata or fajita-style wrap, but it's also easy to make our chia-banana nut muffins or roasted turkey, thyme and chia breakfast sausage patties. People love our chia-peach jam, too.

Sticky Brown Rice with Egg

Serves 2

This dish was inspired by tamago kake gohan, a popular Japanese breakfast food. It’s best made with leftover rice (freshly made rice tends to become too mushy). If you don’t have any on hand, make the rice the night before.

1/2 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
1 green onion, sliced on diagonal, green and white parts separated
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon black or white chia seeds
2 cups cooked, chilled short-grain brown rice
1 1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon tamari soy sauce

In a small saucepan, stir together the broth, white parts of green onion, and 2 tablespoons of the chia seeds and let stand for about 20 minutes. (Makes about 2/3 cup green onion– chia gel.)

Bring the green onion–chia gel to a boil over high heat. Add the rice and stir for about 30 seconds. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook until rice is steaming hot and has a sticky consis­tency, about 4 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a nonstick (PFOA-free) skillet over medium heat. Add the eggs and cook until desired doneness, such as sunny-side-up, about 4 minutes.

Divide the sticky rice mixture onto plates or into bowls and top each with an egg. Sprinkle with the tamari, the remain­ing 1/2 teaspoon of chia seeds, and the green parts of green onions. Serve immediately.

Recipe and photos reprinted with permission from The Chia Cookbook, by Janie Hoffman, copyright © 2014. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Random House LLC. Photographs copyright © 2014 by Eric Wolfinger

Alia Akkam is a New York-based writer who covers the intersection of food, drink, travel and design. She launched her career by opening boxes of Jamie Oliver books as a Food Network intern.

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