Superfoods – Bulk Up!

Superfoods – Bulk Up!

by: Carl Haakensted, Bulk Buyer

Another Iowa summer is fast approaching, and I can hear a lot of you say, “Thank goodness.”  For many of us summer means active outdoor pursuits: from canoeing to biking to gardening.  To get the most out of all summer has to offer you have to be healthy and full of energy.  There are two “superfoods” in bulk that can help give you the energy necessary to live the summer life to its fullest.  These two “superfoods” are chia seeds and cacao nibs.  Chia seeds have been getting a lot of attention by the likes of Dr. Oz and the mighty Oprah lately because of their nutritional benefits.  Chia seeds come from a flowering plant native to Central and South America and these tiny seeds are literally packed with nutrients.  One tablespoon of chia seeds contains approximately 3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids (that’s as much as a can of sardines, another tasty source of omega-3s), 5 grams of fiber, 3.5 grams of protein, plus antioxidants and calcium.  Chia seeds’ mild nutty flavor makes them easy to incorporate into your diet: simply sprinkle them on any dish, from salad to toast, or mix them in a glass of juice or water and drink them down.  I should also mention that you should add chia seeds to your food after it is cooked as heat can degrade some of their nutrients, especially the omega-3s.  To get the full health benefits of chia seeds you should consume 2-3 tablespoons a day and according to my advanced calculations 3 tablespoons of chia seeds costs about $.60, which is a reasonable investment in your health and well-being.  Visit hidalgofoods.com for more nutrition information about chia seeds and suggestions on how to use them.

Cacao nibs are the dried and cracked beans of the cacao or cocoa tree (the beans can be further processed into chocolate of various forms).   Everyone was really excited to find out that chocolate has been shown to contain flavonoid antioxidants that improve cardiovascular health along with other important antioxidants that help to prevent cell damage from free radicals.  But an important thing to realize is that cacao nibs contain an even stronger dose of these antioxidants because they are a less processed version of cocoa beans.  We sell two varieties of raw cacao nibs at the Co-op: the unsweetened nibs have an earthy, slightly bitter taste while the sweetened nibs taste more like dark chocolate with some of the same earthy flavors.  Cacao nibs can be snacked on plain or mixed with nuts and dried fruits for a super-healthy trail mix (you can include walnuts, goji berries, or dried blueberries for even more antioxidants).  Cacao nibs can also be mixed into your favorite dessert recipes for an increasingly complex chocolate flavor.

Cacao Nib Brownies

• 6 tbsp (3/4 stick) butter, salted or unsalted
• 8 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
• ¾ cup sugar
• 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
• 2 large eggs
• ¼ cup flour
• ¼ tsp salt
• 1 cup toasted and chopped walnuts (or other nuts)
• 1/3 cup dry cherries, chopped
• 1/3 cup cacao nibs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch square cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.  Melt the butter in a medium-size saucepan. Add the chocolate to the butter, stir over low heat until melted.  Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar and vanilla. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.  Add the flour and salt and stir energetically for 1 minute, until the batter loses its graininess and becomes smooth and glossy.  Stir in the chopped nuts, cherries and the cacao nibs. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 30 minutes. Cool completely before removing the brownies from the pan.  The brownies will keep well for up to 4 days at room temperature.