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Chocolate Pudding {GF, DF, SF, Veg}

23 July

My brother stayed with my family for 7 weeks this summer. It was awesome.

It was really neat getting to spend time with the little guy (standing 1 foot taller than me) I never really got to know growing up. I left for college when he was 3 years old!  We enjoyed taking him to the beach, listening to the wonderful music he created, and  watching him bond with Miles. He and I spent many late nights talking about life, love and food.

He is 19, so naturally, he does not eat well. And he is not healthy in his body. His symptoms and struggles are somewhat genetic, but are exacerbated by his food choices. So it pained me to see him in pain. He drank 4 sodas per day. He ate cheese melted on bread in various forms I gawked that each meal included absolutely no vegetables, ever. He laughed at my shock. Understandably, he was not willing to make changes, but he was open to conversation. And so, I talked. And I decided not to push him. And the weeks went on, I could see he was beginning to listen. Not just to me, but to his own body.

By the end of the visit, he came to a few conclusions. While he was not going to stop eating cheese on wheat in all of its forms, he did say several times that he never noticed how nauseous he felt after eating it for the third time in a day. So he began to pull back, and make some different choices. He ate broccoli! He pared his soda consumption down from 4 per day to a few per week. He marveled that it was easier to get through the day without crashing three different times. He also noticed how good he felt when he drank water. He actually said “when I take a sip of water I feel like my whole body is freeking out, in a good way.” I’m fairly certain his cells were screaming “YES! GIVE IT TO ME! YEEES!” He left  promising us, up and down, that he would work to drink one glass per day. It’s not enough, but its something. It’s his first real step towards shifting his eating habits. And I’m proud of him.

During the visit, although he was forbidden to bring soda into the house, he made his weekly grocery run and brought items I remembered from my youth right into my kitchen. Potato rolls, sliced yellow american, cocoa puffs, macaroni and cheese, frozen pizzas, peanut butter cups, white tortillas, shredded mexican cheese…the list goes on.

Truthfully, most if it did not bother me. Sure, I picked up and squeezed the package of potato buns in my hands, marveling at how soft and springy they were, and remembered fondly how that billowy potato goodness felt when my teeth sunk through it. But the moment was quickly gone when I reminded myself the torment they would cause my system. I did not falter.

Even the cocoa puffs, as much as they had stood by me all those years in college as my staple late night snack of champions, they didn’t set me off. I simply had to take one look at the label and my nostalgia turned to disgust.

But then, he got me.

It was something I didn’t suspect would bring a tear to my eye, but as soon as I saw it, I gasped a little. There, nestled right in my meat drawer (he never put things away in the right spot) was a very familiar and lovely sight. Something I had forgotten ever even existed. It was a childhood food, a comfort food, a young adult food, a munchie food, a treat, a snack, a smile in a cup.  It was Jello-o brand pudding cups. The kind that have the strip of vanilla nestled between the silky milk chocolate in that thin plastic cup with the foil tear off top. A classic!

In vain, I turned the package over, secretly hoping by some miracle of the-gods-who-never-give-me-a-break-when-it-comes-to-food that they would be dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free, and additive-free. CRAP! No such luck. I knew the pain they would cause wouldn’t be worth it, and I threw them back in the drawer, bummed as all heck. But it only lasted a moment, because I realized, hidden in the depths of the interweb was my answer!

I had exchanged an email with a GRUB community member just the week before about the power of the amazing chia seed to thicken anything, and in a flash I googled “Chia Chocolate Pudding.” Wouldn’t you know, dozens of savvy bloggers had gone before me and paved the way. Score!  I took my favorite parts of a few recipes and concocted this very simple and very chocolately treat. It took approximately 6 minutes to do, chilled for an hour, and was gone faster than the time it would have taken to peel back the foil, eat the triple-layered toxic stuff, throw the cup in the recycling bin, mutter something about wasted packaging and burp.

Dare I say, it turned out better than the Jello cups?! I even put it in a little glass dish, topped with fresh blueberries and ate it with an extra tiny spoon. It’s absolutely worth a try! Not only is it free of common allergens, its also sweetened naturally.

Are you ready to try this? First, gather your ingredients. They will all get tossed in the blender at the same time, making this a no-brainer. I do have a Vitamix, and like most people, love and reccommend it. But, I think this would work just fine in a regular blender or food processor.

Here’s what you need:

Chia Seeds – These nifty seeds are just what you think they are, from the ch-ch-ch-chia! craze of the 80’s. And they are amazing. High in Omega 3’s, fiber, protein, anti-oxidants and more, these tiny seeds can actually absorb 8 times their weight in liquid! They create this gel type substance that normally confuses me, but for pudding – it’s perfect!

Raw Cacao – This raw form of cocoa retains all the benefits of pure chocolate because it is not heated, and in my humble opinion,  is the most super delicious superfood on the planet. It’s chocolate, and its good for you! It has significantly more antioxidants than red wine, green tea, and blueberries. The most fascinating part? It raises the level of seratonin in the brain. I swear, I feel happier after my daily cacao/banana/coconut/hemp smoothie treat.

Pitted Dates – Dates are getting a lot of attention lately as a fantastic natural sweetener. And I agree with the love. They are loaded with nutrients, vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. And they puree into a lovely sweet paste that works wonderfully in many  naturally sweetened treats.

Milk – Pick your favorite! Rice, Hemp, Coconut, Almond, whatever. I would go with an unsweetened version though.

Also grab: Vanilla extract, a splash of maple syrup for extra depth of flavor, pinch of real sea salt, and anything extra you want to add or top the treat with, be it shredded coconut, fruit, chocolate chips, etc. Here’s the actual recipe:

Chocolate Chia Pudding

1 cup milk
1/2 cup packed pitted dates, plus 1 tbsp pure maple syrup if extra sweetness is desired
3 tbsp chia seeds, either black or white
1 1/2 tbsp raw cacao powder
1/8 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

In a blender, add the milk, dates, chia seeds, cacao, salt, and vanilla.  Blend, starting low and then working up to high speed for at least a minute, more if your blender requires it, until the seeds are fully pulverized.

Give the pudding a taste, and if you like things sweet, add another few dates or that tablespoon of maple syrup.  If you enjoy a thinner pudding, add a few drops of milk and blend again. As the pudding chills, it will thicken a little more, so keep this in mind.

Transfer the warm pudding deliciousness mixture to your preferred bowl or dish, and stir in any extras you might want to experience when you dig in (I like mine silky smooth but I imagine shredded coconut would be yummy) then refrigerate until chilled, about 1/2 hour or more.

Truthfully, the pudding can be eaten warm if this is your thing, but the Jello-o cups were always cold, so I opted, as torturous as it was, to let them sit. When you can’t take it any more, take the pudding out, top with fresh berries or shredded coconut and then

eat the living heck out of it!



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Ryanna Battiste, Integrative Health Coach

Ryanna is a coach, accomplished speaker, and recipe developer with extensive experience helping women cultivate a mindset of self-love so they may heal and thrive while developing new habits in the kitchen.

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3 Responses to “Chocolate Pudding {GF, DF, SF, Veg}”

  1. Liz F-S July 24, 2012 at 2:13 pm #

    Inspiring, well-written, and hunger-inducing, what more could I ask for?

  2. Heather July 25, 2012 at 12:02 am #

    I’ve been enjoying Zen’s new almond milk pudding, but I’ve been wondering how I could make my own vegan pudding. I found a recipe using agar-agar but that is just way too expensive to experiment with! Thanks ladies!


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