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Sunday, October 9, 2016

Coconut Arroz con Leche with Chia Seeds & Cacao Nibs!

To celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15th to October 15th), I decided to make this really unique arroz con leche (Latin American rice pudding). As a child, I would have chosen my mother's arroz con leche over a pudding snack pack any day. The idea of recreating this comfort food and making it just as good, I'll admit, seemed a bit of long shot but I promise you: this rice pudding hits the spot! Not only that, it's also vegan and has two awesome super foods.

While rice was brought by the Spanish, cacao and chia seeds are natural gifts native to the Americas. About 3,000 to 4,000 years ago in southern Mexico, cacao plants began being cultivated by the Olmec. The nibs from the cacao plant were often made into a paste and mixed with water to make a chocolate drink called “xocolātl”1 (this is where the word "chocolate" is derived). As for chia seeds, evidence has shown they've been used by humans since 3500 BC. They were a staple food to the Aztecs and Mayans. Chia was ground into flour, pressed for oil or mixed with water as a drink.2 One thing these two ingredients have in common is that they were both believed to hold mystical qualities, and with good reason.

Cacao and chia seeds have amazing health benefits. Cacao nibs contain fiber, iron, are loaded with antioxidants, and help boost energy.3  Chia seeds also contain fiber, as well as protein, calcium, phosphorus, manganese, and omega-3s.4  So with all this in mind, I just had to incorporate these ingredients in my arroz con leche, and the end product was delicioso!

Note: This recipe serves 4 people

Soaked Chia Mix*
1/3 cup of chia seeds
1 cup of unsweetened almond milk (or any other non-dairy milk)
1/4 teaspoon pure Mexican vanilla extract (in-store product)

Rice Pudding
1/2 cup of arborio rice
1 cinnamon stick
1 (13.5 oz) can of of coconut milk
1 1/2 teaspoons of Mexican vanilla extract
1/3 cup of turbinado sugar (in-store product)
Water (enough to cover rice)

3/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1/4 cup of cacao nibs


The night before...

Pour almond milk into a glass and stir in vanilla extract. Then, pour your chia seeds and stir. Cover the top of the glass with plastic wrap, stick it in the fridge and let it soak overnight. (This what I did, but you could just use a jar)

The next day...

Place rice and cinnamon stick in a pot and cover with water. Bring the rice to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer for about 15-20 minutes or until water is absorbed. Remove cinnamon stick. Stir in coconut milk, vanilla extract, and sugar. Then simmer until almost all the liquid is absorbed (about 15 minutes).

Turn off the heat and add chia seed almond milk mix and stir. *I ended up using about 3/4 of the mix and saving the rest.

As it cools...

Preheat oven or toaster oven to 350 degrees. Spread the coconut flakes in a thin layer over a baking sheet and bake on the lowest rack setting for two to three minutes or until lightly toasted (make sure they don't burn).


Sprinkle coconut flakes and cacao nibs for each serving and enjoy!

**(Recipe Modified inspired by: http://www.food.com/recipe/rice-pudding-made-with-coconut-milk-113661 and http://www.washingtonian.com/blogs/wellbeing/healthy-eating/chocolate-coconut-rice-pudding-breakfast-recipe.php) 
1 - http://www.history.com/news/hungry-history/hot-chocolate-for-strength
2 - http://www.doctoroz.com/blog/lindsey-duncan-nd-cn/chia-ancient-super-secret 
3 - http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/08/02/cacao-nibs_n_3695571.html 
4 - http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/06/03/chia-seed-benefits-_n_3379831.html 

Sara is currently studying romance languages at the University of Maryland, College Park. As a student and a team member of Bazaar Spices, she is able to fuel her interest in understanding different cultures. For Sara, understanding different cultures is key to connecting with people, and there is nothing more gratifying to her than that. 

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