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Chocolate-Banana Chia Pudding: It's super easy

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When a friend of mine told me her husband was at the grocery store picking up some chia seeds, I did what anyone who watched television in the 1980s would do. I sang. "You mean, ch-ch-ch-chia?" The catchy tune of the singing chia pet commercial popped right out of my mouth.

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My friend assured me they did not have a terra cotta animal that allows chia seeds to sprout and grow, creating shaggy green hair on the clay figure. She was planning to prepare a recipe that included chia seeds.

I guess I had been so busy grinding flax seeds that I missed all the excitement about the miniscule dark seeds that have become popular with health conscious people as well as endurance athletes.

I did some research and discovered edible chia seeds (salvia hispanica), a cousin of the green hair-growing chia, are wild seeds with origins in Mexico and Guatemala dating back to pre-Columbian times and have a long history as human food.

For centuries this tiny little seed was used as a dietary staple by Native American and Mexican cultures. Known as the running food or "magical food," its use for supporting endurance has been recorded as far back as the ancient Aztecs. It was said the Aztec warriors subsisted on chia seeds during their conquests as they helped them maintain strength, energy and stamina for a prolonged period of time.

Chia seeds are considered to be hydrophilic, meaning they can absorb large amounts of water quickly. They can hold 10 times their weight in water, making them a great enhancer in hydrating our bodies, a valuable tool for athletes or anyone looking to improve their day-to-day performance and endurance.

Chia seeds reportedly offer more alpha-linoleic acid, an omega-3 fat, than flaxseed. They are a good source of dietary fiber. Chia seeds do not need to be ground in order for the human body to digest them and benefit from their nutritional value. The tiny seeds offer a generous amount of calcium, antioxidants and protein and even some iron. The seeds have been touted to balance blood sugar levels, support cardiovascular health and squelch hunger pangs.

I've been getting my super seeds in pudding.

Chocolate-Banana Chia Pudding thickens naturally as the chia seeds absorb coconut milk and become gelatinous. A banana pairs nicely with cocoa powder and adds natural sweetness, along with a little honey or pure maple syrup. A little bit of coffee brings depth of flavor to the pudding. Best of all, the pudding is easy to make in just minutes.

Because the pudding is no-cook and all you need is a blender and a bowl, it's a great recipe for children to prepare for Mother's Day. The silky pudding can be blended up the day before serving. Flavor develops as the pudding thickens in the refrigerator overnight.

A bit like poppy seeds, raw chia seeds have a slightly nutty, but not overpowering flavor.

They can be stirred into breads, bars, muffins and cookies. Sprinkle them over a bowl of oatmeal or granola in the morning. Blend them into a smoothie. Add them to a salad.

Get your super seeds in Chocolate-Banana Chia Pudding. Don't expect to grow green hair, but do plan on singing.

Chocolate-Banana Chia Pudding

1 (13.5-ounce) can lite coconut milk or 1 1/2 cups

2 teaspoons instant espresso powder dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water

1 large ripe banana, cut into chunks

5 tablespoons chia seeds

3 tablespoons local honey or pure maple syrup

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

Raspberries (optional)

Put all ingredients into a blender, except raspberries, in order listed. Blend until smooth. Pour the pureed mixture into a bowl. Refrigerate for at least two hours to thicken. Spoon into small bowls and top with raspberries. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Recipe adapted from active.com.

Tips from the cook

--Taste for sweetness before pouring the mixture out of the blender. That's the time to add more honey or syrup, if you like.

--Change up the flavor of the pudding by adding 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne. Or, use extract of your choice.

--Find chia seeds in the natural/organic section of your grocery store. You can often find the seeds in bulk at natural food stores, allowing you to buy just the amount you need.

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