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Updated: March 7, 2014 1:23PM

If you hear someone say “chia,” and you don’t immediately hear the jingle “cha, cha, cha chia pet,” then you’re part of an immeasurably small percentage of the population.

Chia was popularized in this country by the clay sculptures embedded with seeds that, when watered, sprouted green “hair.”

Today, chia is acclaimed as a “super-food,” with lots of omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, minerals and protein. We found a 5.3 oz. bag at Trader Joe’s for $4.99.

Chia belongs to the mint family, and it’s indigenous to Central America (Chiapas in Mexico gets its name from chia). In the Aztec language of Nahuatl, chia means “oily,” and if you put the seed in water you’ll understand why: chia gels up in minutes, creating a lightly viscous broth.

The thickening properties of chia make it useful in, for instance, smoothies. When you put yogurt, fruit juice and banana into a blender, you can add heft and more nutrition to your beverage with a spoonful of chia.

Chia can also be added to granola and baked goods or sprinkled on salads. With a slightly nutty flavor, a little chia is an easy recipe enhancement. We used chia to make buckwheat pancakes, and even with syrup and berries added, the chia gave the cakes a subtle, somewhat sesame-like flavor, discernible crunch...and a nutrient boost.a

1. Blend 1 cup milk, 1 cup pancake mix, 2 tbsps. chia seeds, 1 tbsp. canola oil, 2 eggs

2. Let sit for 10 minutes to allow chia to “gel”

3. Ladle 1/4 cup portions of the mixture onto a hot pan with melted butter; fry

— David Hammond

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