There is this nostalgia I’ve developed for warm bowls of cooked breakfast cereals. I remember my mother making cream of rice cereal for her herself during long cold winters. I can see the bowl of it, with some maple syrup, a few raisins, perhaps a pat of butter melting slowly over it. Despite not being a fan of milk, I was a fan of sugary cereal (Honeycombs anyone?) eaten in a bowl of the moo-juice or simply by the handful out of the box. I graduated to more healthy fare like granola with yogurt or cooked steel cut oats topped with honey later on.
When I gave up most grains and wheat a while back, it was at a point where I had already long given up cold or hot cereal for breakfast and had moved on to protein and fruit smoothies. The very act of being denied a breakfast staple like cereal has driven me to try a number of alternatives including a low carb granola despite not being much of an adult cereal eater. [FYI: this granola is not-entirely grain free, but can be adapted]. The chocolate chia pudding from last week and recipes I have seen online for chia smoothies, and chia “cereals” got me thinking about how chia seeds would fare without chocolate.
To me, breakfast should not overwhelm. Many folks who eat low carb or paleo are great with eating leftovers from the previous night’s dinner. Some days that’s a welcome change from eggs – and there is a certain satisfaction in eating a pork chop or piece of steak for breakfast when your co-workers are nibbling on toast. But I’m not a fan of strong flavors in the morning so anything spiced, or onion-y, or even dark chocolate isn’t going to go over well. And skipping breakfast is a terrible idea that leads me down some dark carb-laden road by mid day.
Chia seeds, with their mucilaginous qualities, may not make anyone think “breakfast” so my first attempt was inspired by my current addiction to lemon pie “Coco-Roons” a paleo treat similar to a macaroon. The batch of lemon coconut strawberry chia “cereal” was meant to evoke a lemony-yogurt topped with granola in both flavor and “feel.” Just as if you had picked up a container of Stoneyfield Farms on the way to work and sprinkled in some crunchy toasted bits. That vision was close to the result: chia seeds added body and texture to the milk substitute, the dried coconut gave a nutty flavor but also a firm texture to bite into similar to nuts or oats that had softened, the strawberries and lemon flavor paired well with the other ingredients. Of course it does not have the sour bite of a yogurt, but it also has a milder overall taste profile which is to my liking.
Lemon Strawberry Breakfast Chia
3/4 cup of milk substitute (I used half whole coconut milk and half unsweetened almond milk)
2 tablespoons of whole chia seeds
1-1.5 Tablespoons of sweetener
a generous 1/4 teaspoon of no-alcohol lemon flavoring*
1/2 cup sliced strawberries
2 Tablespoons of dried unsweetened coconut**
Put sliced strawberries in bottom of a jar or container that has a tight fitting lid. Wisk the milk substitute, chia seeds, sweetener and flavoring together and pour over the strawberries. Sprinkle coconut flakes on top. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, up to overnight. Mix coconut into chia/milk/berry mixture before eating.
* I used Frontier brand, an oil based flavor extract with no alcohol. The alcohol does not cook off, so it may affect the flavor of the dish if you use one that contains it. Please feel free to experiment with flavorings to find the amount and type that works for you.
** I used dried unsweetened coconut, but for a nuttier flavor try toasting lightly.
After the success of the lemon strawberry coconut version, I started wondering if I could reproduce the flavor profile of a bowl of oatmeal with brown sugar and cinnamon. Comforting flavors that evoke apple pie, chilly mornings around the campfire, or a lazy Saturday morning reading a book with a spoonfuls of slow coked grains with maple syrup dipped from a bowl perched a bit precariously on the arm of the couch. All this nostalgia had me setting the bar pretty high and this batch of chia cereal fell short.
The flavors were completely on target, caramel-y warm taste like maple and brown sugar and cinnamon giving that dash of spice to make you think of apples cooking and fall leaves waiting to be crunched through. Without anything other than chia seeds, milk and seasoning the texture that turns people away from chia was ever dominant. The same base ingredients that seemed creamy, and pleasantly gelatinous in the previous recipes, here felt, dare I say it, slimy. Eating it cold didn’t help either. After a turn in the microwave for thirty seconds, the cinnamon and brown sugar flavors made much more sense to my taste buds, but it increased the slippery texture. No good. I ate the entire thing, thinking all the while that it needed 1) some sort of fruit like cooked apples or dried raisins 2) some sort of fine ground nuts like walnuts or pecans or 3) toasted or dried coconut or a combination of all three. I’m including the recipe here, if only to note to improve on it another day. Consider this the base for something better:
Maple Brown Sugar Breakfast Chia (a work in progress)
3/4 cup of milk substitute
2 Tablespoons of chia seed
1 Tablespoon of one of the following: brown sugar Diabetisweet, coconut palm sugar, coconut palm syrup, maple syrup, honey or agave nectar.
1/8 teaspoon of maple flavoring (you can omit if using maple syrup as a sweetener)
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus a dash on top
Plus these HIGHLY recommended additions:
2 Tablespoons of medium-fine ground walnuts or pecans
1 Tablespoon of chopped dried fruit such as raisins, apples, apricots, cranberries
1 Tablespoon of dried coconut
Wisk the milk substitute, chia seeds, sweetener, flavoring and cinnamon together until the cinnamon has blended in (no cinnamon lumps). Pour into a container with a tight fitting lid. Allow to set up at least 30 minutes to overnight. Before serving add the nuts, fruit and/or coconut. Heat briefly in the microwave until warm , about 30-45 seconds. Add a sprinkle of cinnamon on top.