Category Archives: Uncommon Foods

Why I’m obsessed with Chia Seeds and you should be too.

I eat Chia Seeds every day, and they have become such a staple in my diet, that I wanted to begin my CU Culinary Society adventure by sharing my experiences with them. In this article you will learn about the nutritional benefits of Chia Seeds, and how easily they can be incorporated into any diet!


Chia seeds are white or black when fully matured.
Chia seeds are white or black when fully matured.


The Benefits

High Protein Content

Chia seeds have a complete protein profile (meaning they contain all essential proteins) and are also very high in protein compared to other plant-based foods. Approximately 15% of their weight is made up of protein. This makes chia seeds a desirable protein source, especially for vegetarians.

High Fiber Content

For every 12 grams of carbohydrates in an ounce of chia seeds, 11 grams are fiber, which essentially makes it a low-carb food. Chia seeds also contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, unlike most foods, which only consist of insoluble fiber (which our bodies cannot decompose further). Fiber aids in digestion and also slows it down, which reduces blood sugar spikes, thus making chia seeds a great food for diabetics.

High in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Most foods have much more Omega-6 than Omega-3, but Chia seeds have 3.5 times as much Omega-3 as Omega-6. Even people who regularly eat fish and eggs are Omega-3 deficient. Fish, eggs, milk, and meats all lack many valuable nutrients that they used to have including Omega-3. (This is due to the recent shift to feeding livestock grain rather than grass for the sake of convenience, speed and costs.) Note: The Omega-3s in Chia seeds are mostly ALA, which your body needs to convert into EPA and DHA, so if you consume Chia seeds for Omega-3 content, it is recommended to take a tablespoon of coconut oil with the Chia seeds.   This will help your body to more efficiently convert the ALA into EPA and DHA.

In addition to these benefits, chia seeds are also very high in antioxidants, calcium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, potassium and vitamins B1, B2, and B3.


How to incorporate Chia Seeds into your diet:

My favorite way to eat chia seeds is to have chia seed pudding for breakfast. (Because of their high fiber content, chia seeds have the ability to absorb up to 40 times their weight in liquid and form a gel-type texture when put in liquids.) Chia seed pudding is extremely convenient for me, because I make it the night before and it’s ready for me in the morning when I wake up! See the recipe below.

For my chia seed pudding, I use ¼ cup chia seeds with 1 ½ cups of some sort of milk. I usually use soymilk, but sometimes use almond milk, coconut milk, or some combination of the three. Pictured here, I combine them in a bowl because I am making this on a Friday night, but I often make it in in Tupperware, because I can just cap it (instead of wrapping with saran wrap) and then bring it with me to my morning classes.


This variation is made with coconut milk, hence the chunks of coconut meat.
This variation is made with coconut milk, hence the chunks of coconut meat.


Tip: Make sure you put the milk in the bowl first, and then add the chia seeds and mix immediately(!) so that they don’t clump. I have let them sit before mixing before, and de-clumping is an annoying and somewhat time-consuming process.

The simple steps:

  1. Combine ¼ cup chia seeds with 1 ½ cups milk and (optional) sweetener.
  2. Mix well
  3. Mix one more time before going to bed (at least 10-15 minutes later)
  4. Wrap or cover and keep in the fridge overnight
  5. Wake up to a nutritious and yummy breakfast!
Vanilla Chia Seed Pudding


Here are some chia seed pudding variations that I enjoy:

Vanilla (cinnamon) chia seed pudding:

  1. 1 ½ cup soymilk
  2. ¼ cup chia seeds
  3. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  4. (cinnamon)
  5. 1 tablespoon agave nectar or maple syrup

Chocolate hazelnut chia seed pudding:

  1. 1 ½ cup soymilk
  2. ¼ cup chia seeds
  3. 1 tablespoon Nutella
  4. 1 tablespoon cacao powder

Coconut chia seed pudding:

  1. 1 cup coconut milk
  2. ½ cup soymilk
  3. ¼ cup chia seeds
  4. 1 tablespoon agave nectar or maple syrup

I also sometimes top my pudding with fruits and nuts in the morning before consuming (strawberry and sliced almonds on vanilla pudding and mango slices on coconut are two of my favorites!)

Coconut Chia Seed Pudding with Mango
Coconut Chia Seed Pudding with Mango


Chia seeds can also be easily incorporated into your diet in other ways! You can sprinkle them on top of oatmeal, cereal, or yogurt, add them to your smoothie or pre-workout drink, or bake them into anything! I also often add them to salads.

I hope that after reading this article, you can start incorporating chia seeds into your diet. Please comment and let me know about your chia-seed adventures and maybe some new variations on chia seed pudding that you discover!


French Market New Orleans

I know that my column is supposed to be about street food in New York, but I’m afraid that I’m gonna have to take the show on the road this week, down south to New Orleans, and of course, try the street food there.

I had always wanted to visit New Orleans, having heard so much about its unique Cajun and Creole food culture and its much-vaunted jazz scene. Just two weeks ago, I was watching “Chopped” on the Food Network, and one of the episodes featured all four contestants who were from New Orleans, each and every one of them proud of the city’s culinary heritage and its legacy of overcoming the wreckage of Hurricane Katrina.

One of the best ways to see the city is to sign up for a free food walking tour. This one was conducted by David, a gregarious chap with an infectious guffaw. David loved his food and he loved New Orleans, and he assured us we were in very good hands as we embarked on a New Orleans food adventure.

The city is fascinating because of its unique blend of cultures. New Orleans was founded by the French, and governed as part of the Louisiana Territory under the French until the French gave it to the Spanish. After some time under the Spanish, the city reverted to French rule, who then proceeded to sell it, together with the rest of the Louisiana Territory to Jefferson and the Americans, and it has remained under the stars and stripes ever since. New Orleans cuisine draws heavily from its long and diverse heritage and the numerous immigrants who arrived in its historic, and densely-populated French Quarter. New Orleans is thus the birthplace of exotic-sounding and one-of-a-kind dishes that have names like Maque Choux, Gumbo and Jambalaya.


New Orleans French Market


Now onto the street food in New Orleans, I didn’t encounter many food carts or roadside markets like the ones here in New York, but New Orleans’ French Market is a thoroughly enjoyable experience. One of the most impressive stalls in the French Market is the Heart Cafe, a nondescript hole-in-the-wall operation that is run by two ladies with very little time and a lot of wit.

The Heart Cafe is well-known for being a thoroughly healthy joint, serving up organic, fresh food that is both good for the stomach, and the heart. Normally anything healthy elicits healthy skepticism for this writer, but the Heart Cafe serves the most mind-blowingly awesome crab cakes in the world, which are what they are truly famous for. Heart Cafe’s crab cakes have been voted the best in New Orleans and you can get one for about $10, which is a little pricey I’d admit, but it comes with a very crisp, tasty salad, and homemade dressing and sauce. Although slightly expensive, the crab cake is literally the best crab cake I have ever had in my life, and quite possibly the best thing I had in New Orleans. The crab flavor is incredibly, unbelievably intense, complemented by a special spice blend that the Heart Cafe employs to bring out the freshest, crabbiest taste of the sea. The Heart Cafe’s crab cakes are truly a treat, and cannot be missed.


Best crab cakes ever
Best crab cakes ever


Should you be feeling a little adventurous, and certainly anyone who appreciates street food ought to be, the French Market serves up alligator. I have never had alligator before, not even crocodile, but alligator meat is very common in this part of Louisiana and I knew I would regret it if I left New Orleans without trying a local delicacy.

I ordered myself an “alligator on a stick”, which is essentially an alligator sausage that has been grilled to perfection. The alligator sausage had a sickly flesh color to it that didn’t make it very appetizing to look at, but 90% of food is in the taste anyway. I bit into it, and it was very, very juicy. With gator juices running down my chin, I was thankful for the free napkins.

The first impression I got was that it was very salty, with the alligator flavor unfortunately masked by spices and salt. The blend was definitely good and the texture reminded me of those Taiwanese pork sausages you can get at night markets in my home country, Singapore. While it was alright, I wasn’t too crazy about the sodium overload, but managed to finish it anyway.


salty alligator on a stick
salty alligator on a stick


Also at the French Market, I had a plate of Boudin balls, which the menu describes as being “pork and rice balls, breaded and deep fried”. I like pork, and I like rice, and when you make them dim sum-sized and fry them till they’re golden brown I couldn’t possibly say no. The Boudin balls were a delight, like tiny versions of the Italian arancini. They were fried well, not overly greasy and small enough to make for a very satisfying snack.


Boudin balls
Boudin balls


There’s so much more I could write about New Orleans: po boys, where to get the best gumbo, and the differences between Creole and Cajun food, but I’m gonna leave it at that because this post is primarily about street food. The street culture in New Orleans is fantastic, lively, exhilarating and absolutely one-of-a-kind.

In many ways, New Orleans has to be experienced by walking the streets of the French Quarter. Much of New Orleans’ life is to be found on its streets, with great street musicians, street food, and of course, one of the most liberal open container laws in the country, that allow people to carry drinks as they hop from bar to bar (as long as it’s not in a glass container it’s fine). It’s great to hear the story of a city that, having been devastated by a massive Hurricane in 2005, has roared back to life more determined than ever to have a good time. Here’s to NOLA!


New Orleans

New and Unusual: Warique Peruvian Restaurant

Tacu Tacu con Lomo Saltado

While for the past several weeks my friends and I have been traveling downtown to find restaurants with uncommon cuisines, this weekend we managed to stay in Columbia’s neighborhood. Warique Peruvian Restaurant is located on Amsterdam Avenue between 101st and 102nd street. The restaurant is not very large but offers a fairly large selection of Peruvian foods at a range of prices and in a pleasant atmosphere. There are, unsurprisingly, a huge number of Latin American cuisines with most countries and areas having distinct dishes and elements. This diversity is often not represented in the restaurant world in which Latin American food is dominated by Mexican, Cuban, and a handful of other national cuisines. I was therefore every excited to experience Peruvian food and soon came to find that there are many distinct elements.

Warique Interior

The restaurant has a wide variety of dishes including many chicken and seafood options and uses a variety of unique spices, flavors, and preparation techniques. Unfortunately there was too great a diversity of foods and too few people with me to get a real sample of what Warique has to offer. Nevertheless what we did have we very much enjoyed. As an appetizer we ordered Tamales con Pollo, a fairly simple dish with a corn-based dough exterior filled with chicken and served with some onions, a lime spice, and some other accompaniments.


For entrees we ordered the Tacu Tacu con Lomo Saltado, which was a dish of beef sautéed with onions and tomatoes and served with served with potatoes, sweet plantains, and a rice and bean mix topped with fried egg. We also ordered the Arroz Chaufa which was essentially a Peruvian style fried rice dish. Interestingly there seemed to be a fairly large amount of Chinese influence in the food at Warique and perhaps this is due to the large Chinese community of Peru and their influence on the country’s cuisine.

Peruvian Fried Rice

In any case, I was very satisfied with the meal and also with the restaurant as a whole. The atmosphere was bright, open, had a fair amount of traditional decoration and the wait staff was quite attentive. The pricing was very diverse with some entrees reaching $30 but others less than half of that. The portions were extremely large, such that finishing my entrée was quite the accomplishment. In this sense the restaurant seems to me very well priced. Overall, I would recommend a visit to anyone interested or looking for a good meal and pleasant experience.


New and Unusual: Sticky Rice Thai Restaurant

Sticky Rice Interior

Manhattan’s Lower East side is a hub of all sorts of international cuisines; in fact, I’ve found inspiration for all my posts this semester from this neighborhood. This past week, before catching a movie at one of the neighborhood’s cinemas, some friends and I stopped to get dinner at a truly remarkable Thai restaurant. Thai food has made fairly major inroads into American culture and is far more widely found than some of the other sorts of cuisines I’ve discussed. Sticky Rice, located at 85 Orchard St, just off Delancy St, offers some fairly common Thai fare as well as several signature items in a very unique atmosphere and at a very reasonable price point.

The menu offers a fairly common selection of Thai dishes including several soups, stir-fry, Pad-Thai, and satay. Our party decided to try several appetizers including a signature dish they called Firecrackers, a sort of chicken stick with a coating of fried tofu somewhat spiced and with dipping sauce. Despite the name, this dish was not terribly spicy, which was no cause for dissatisfaction for me. Additionally we ordered Thai Dumplings, which were stuffed with a mixture of chicken and pork, came with a dipping sauce, and were extremely flavorful. My favorite appetizer, however, was the Pineapple Pork Satay, which is (unsurprisingly) a sort of grilled pork with some flavoring accompanied by pineapple slices and a sauce. The pork was well cooked and quite flavorful, and the combination of sweet and savory very pleasing. For entrees our group ordered only stir-fry dishes; I myself got the Stir-Fry Basil Chicken, which included a mixture of chicken and vegetables with basil as the primary flavoring, and multi-grain rice. I was quite satisfied with this dish as it was fairly light and the basil was far from overpowering.

Firecrackers, Thai Dumplings, and Pork Satay with Pineapple

In terms of food the restaurant was quite pleasing, particularly considering the price point–our entrees and appetizers came to a mere $20 a person, an impressive accomplishment for a sit down restaurant in Manhattan. The wait staff was very friendly and the atmosphere was really remarkable. The restaurant is aimed to be something along the lines of a Thai Wine Bar and so has a bar area and a very large drink menu. The entire restaurant has a sort of pseudo-club atmosphere: they play somewhat loud but not deafening electronic trance music and the extensive decoration is a mixture between traditional Thai items and modern ones. Personally, I loved this environment; it was festive, lively, and visually stimulating. I recommend paying the place a visit, even for just a drink, if one is in the area.

New and Unusual: Maharlika Filipino Moderno

Maharlika Filipino Moderno Interior

Although there are millions of ethic Filipinos in the United States and a large community in the New York area, restaurants offering this cuisine are not terribly common. There are, however, several options in Manhattan, one of which is Maharlika, a restaurant that serves modern Filipino food and is located on 1st Avenue between 6th and 7th. This past weekend I went to visit this establishment with a group of friends. The previous weekend I had attempted to arrive without a reservation and found the restaurant packed, but even after calling a day ahead as I did this weekend I found there were few unreserved tables. My experience at this restaurant soon justified the hassle and explained why it is so popular.

Fried Chicken Skins & Sauces

The sort of food offered by the restaurant was very unique and best described as a sort of fusion of Asian, American, and Spanish cuisines, perhaps explained by the history of the Islands. In lieu of bread we were given fried chicken skins with a variety of dips including banana-ketchup (basically a sweeter version of ketchup with a distinct banana flavor), house vinegar, chili, and soy sauce. For appetizers we ordered some unique items: Spam Fries (beer battered sticks of fried spam and a clear case of cross-cultural culinary development); Lumpianh Barquillos (rice paper cigars with beef, pork, and vegetables) ; Pampanging Style Sizzling Sisig  (pig ears, snout, cheek and belly cooked with garlic, chili, and onions, served with scrambled egg and garlic fried rice). All of these appetizers, strange though they are, were delicious and enhanced by the various dipping sauces I mentioned above.

Spam Fries

Our entrees included Chop Suey (grilled marinated tofu with steamed vegetables and peppers); Prok Adobo (spare ribs braised in soy sauce and other flavorings with potato); Beef Short Rib Kaldereta, served with potatoes, fried chorizo and grilled pineapple; and Filipino Fried Chicken and Ube Waffle, the waffles were made with purple yam, the butter contained anchovy, and the syrup was caramelized. Once again every member of the party was satisfied with their dish.

Waffles and Fried Chicken

The restaurant is not terribly large but the atmosphere is lively, with both a bar as well as a number of tables and some thematict decoration. I was asked multiple times by various staff if this was my first time at the restaurant and they were truly delighted to find that it was. They staff was extremely helpful and enthusiastic and seemed very proud of the food and experience that they were providing. While the food was undeniably good, I think what was most enjoyable was the experience and novelty of the place, as well as the cozy, friendly, and fun environment. My only word of caution is that the food is very meat focused (though there are some vegetarian options) and most of it is also quite heavy. In any case, I’ll certainly be planning another visit at some point and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a new culinary experience.


Carnivorous Cravings: Peking Duck House

Peking duck. Most of my other carnivorous indulgences are classics like barbeque or burgers, but Peking duck–this is my favorite. For my 20th birthday, I took a group of my friends, most of whom were unfamiliar with Peking duck, to indulge in what is supposed to be some of the city’s best peking duck. This mecca is more commonly known as The Peking Duck House. It is a nicely decorated and small spot on Mott Street in Chinatown.

Now, for those of you who have never had Peking duck, it is the best. Someone even told me once that it is globally known as the most balanced meal. You have your protein, the duck, your greens, the scallions, and your carbs, the pancakes. Ok, the most balanced meal may be a bit of an exaggeration or just wishful thinking, but it is pretty damn good. The dish is composed of a thin, crepe-like pancake filled with plum sauce, duck, and sliced scallions and then rolled up like a burrito.

Peking Duck House, of course, specializes in this Chinese treat. Almost everyone at the restaurant had ordered at least one duck. However, in addition to the duck, they provide all of the classic Chinatown treats like dumplings, lo mein, and fried rice.
The dinner began with a slew of appetizers, including steamed pork buns, chicken dumplings, barbecue spare ribs, vegetable dumplings for the vegan at the table, and spring rolls. My favorites were the steamed pork buns. They are no Joe’s Shanghai, and the dumpling dough is a little too thick, but they sufficed for my pork fix. The little barbeque spare ribs were even better. While all of this was good, we weren’t there for dumplings, after all, but for the duck.

After the duck has been roasted, the waiters carry it out head and all to the customers for our approval. After giving the go-ahead, the waiters returned with two platters filled with sliced duck and its crunchy skin, huge bowls of plum sauce, bowls of scallions, and a huge pile of pancakes.
I immediately dug in, ignoring the plates of chicken, lo mein, and rice surrounding me. The duck was delicious. The pancake is a little thicker than I am used to, but it was still perfect. The duck is rich and the skin crisp and fatty. It is complemented perfectly by the tangy plum sauce and the crunch of the scallions. I think I blacked out because of pure joy as I scarfed down one duck-filled pancake after another.

As a palate cleanser, I dug into the delicious and simple vegetable lo mein, again for the vegan, the pork fried rice, and the chicken. Again, every plate was good Chinese food, but I’m sure you could get equally comparable versions at any number of the restaurants surrounding Peking Duck House.

The duck may be a little pricy at $48, but splitting one between four people makes it only $12, so don’t feel bad, just enjoy!

Thai street food

Pok Pok NY serves up Thai cuisine that you are unlikely to find on menus of most Thai restaurants. The unfamiliar dishes are meant to be shared and they are delicious and unexpectedly filling. One of the desserts, described as a staple street side treat is the ice cream sandwich. It features sweet sticky rice inside a bread bun, with jack fruit ice cream on top, topped with crushed peanuts and chocolate sauce.  Indulgent doesn’t even begin to cover it!

Ice cream sandwich at Pok Pok NY

Photographed and sampled by: Onella Cooray, CC’14

Learn more about Pok Pok



Sur La Table Chocoholics cooking class

For my birthday this year I received one of the best birthday presents of my life from my little Hosanna Fuller. When she found a Chocoholics cooking class at Sur la Table, she knew that we had to do it (her chocolate addiction may be as bad as mine). My excitement was quite evident when she told me about it, and the class, as well as the food we produced, certainly lived up to these expectations. I had done a lot of cooking with chocolate before, but this class taught me new methods of tempering chocolate as well as new, delicious ways to use it. Throughout the course of two hours we were able to make balsamic cherry chocolate truffles, sea salt caramels dipped in chocolate, chocolate almond biscotti, and chocolate soufflés!
The chocolate truffles and sea salt caramels were very new to me, so I was excited to learn how to make them. I had never really attempted to make candies because I had always assumed that they were extremely difficult and easy to mess up. However, I soon realized that they are not as terrifying as I had thought, especially if you have a candy thermometer to us. For starters, the balsamic cherries blew me away. They were the perfect amount of savory and sweet. The cherries were simmered in balsamic vinaigrette and absorbed tangy flavor to complement their sweetness nicely. We made the truffle by melting 72% dark chocolate and adding cream to it after it had cooled for a minute or two, so that it didn’t seize. We let this mixture chill in the fridge until it was workable into round balls that we could fill with the cherries and roll in a bit of cocoa powder. It came out to a rich, chocolate truffle with a delectable surprise inside. The mixture of flavors complemented one another so that neither the savory nor the sweet overpowered the other. The chocolate was dark so it wasn’t overly sweet so as to taste like you were eating a Hershey kiss filled with cherries. It truly tasted like a culinary masterpiece, so if you want to impress your friends this is the recipe to use.

The same goes for the sea salt caramels. It takes only a few minutes to mix and heat the corn syrup and sugar to a medium-dark caramel color where it is time to remove it from the flame. Then, we added the butter in little pieces at a time with a whisk to make sure that it was all melted in evenly. Afterwards, this mixture was cooled and cut into bite-size candy pieces, dipped in chocolate, and sprinkled with sea salt to produce a delicious caramel. Caramel and chocolate is one of my weaknesses. I could probably have eaten this entire brick of caramels if I hadn’t shared them with my suitemates. The caramels were a chewy consistency that didn’t hurt your teeth to bite into and the flavor was out of this world. The butter and sea salt were a bit overpowered by the corn syrup and sugar to give a sweet caramel with a slight hint of salt. Plus, a chocolate coating never hurt any desert. These were Hosanna’s favorite recipe of the day because they “had a balanced taste and were easy to make”. This simple recipe will impress anyone and will be gone in the blink of an eye.
After the two candies we made chocolate almond biscotti which Hosanna and I preferred as an unscotti. The batter was made by creaming the butter and sugar, adding eggs and vanilla, and then adding a flour/baking soda mixture. It is a similar process to making cookies up until that point. But, the dough is a bit thicker than cookie dough so we were able to mold it into a think loaf (about 5×12 in.) and then bake it once. After it was baked the first time and cooled, we cut it into 1 inch slices, sprinkled with a bit of sugar and cocoa powder, and baked a second time. However, we tried this unscotti and were in love, it was gooey and moist with a little almond crunch mixed in. We weren’t loving the idea of baking it a second time to get a dry, crunchy cookie….so we didn’t! We learned that unscottis are a very popular dessert in Italy so we aren’t the only chocolate fanatics who prefer our cookies baked once as opposed to twice. We took home our unscottis enticingly moist and introduced our friends to the delectable unscotti.
Last but certainly not least, we made the chocolate soufflés. This was the only item on the list that I had made prior to this class. I have tried various recipes at home because they are the perfect way to end any dinner party as well as heavenly with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. They are all made in a similar fashion by beating the egg whites and sugar until fluffy and then adding in a melted chocolate, butter, and egg yolk mixture. The recipe I use at home uses bittersweet chocolate and a splash of Grand Marnier for extra flavor whereas this one used in class uses only dark chocolate. It produced a creamy, sweeter chocolate taste than I had expected, but it was nevertheless incredible.
All in all, the cooking class was informative, fun, and delicious. The chef running it was highly trained and knowledgeable about all sorts of cooking so we were able to ask a lot of questions during the class. It was a calm atmosphere where everybody wanted to learn to cook but there were all different levels of chefs there so even if you are a beginner you will be able to follow the course. Best of all, we got to take home everything we made in cute little boxes to share with our friends. Although the box of chocolates didn’t last me more than a few hours, the memories from this class will. So if you need a birthday present, an anniversary present, or an “I’m just feeling nice today” present, no girl is ever going to be opposed to attending this chocoholics cooking class.

Superfood Sunday: The Magic of Maca

Maca root, a tuber similar in size and shape to a beet, hails from the high plateaus in the Andes of South America.  This relative of the radish has been cultivated in Peru for at least three millennia, where ancient Incan warriors ate it for energy boosts before battle.  Also known as Peruvian Ginseng, Lepidium meyenii has been used for food for both humans and livestock, and traditional Andean preparations include steeping the root in tea or eating maca whole, like a baked potato.

maca powder

Of course, Maca increases more than just energy level.  It also enhances libido.  A rumored aphrodisiac, maca has been shown to improve fertility.  Other effects include easing anxiety and depression – perhaps as a direct result of the increased energy and libido.  However, maca comes with a caveat, like most superfoods.  It turns out, your body can actually build up a resistance to maca.  Therefore, if you decide to consume it regularly, you should take a week off for every three or four weeks that you eat it.

I found a bag of maca powder online and gave it a try in my morning oatmeal.  The best way to describe its taste is malty, like eating the ground innards of a Whopper candy.  While I cannot be sure if my energy that day was from the teaspoon of powder in my breakfast or the good old placebo effect, I managed to forgo my morning tea without too much caffeine withdrawal.

If you find yourself with a bag of this pale, slightly sweet powder and are wondering what to do with it, maca would be an interesting flavoring addition for banana soft-serve or a vegan milkshake of ice, plant-based milk, and dates, and cacao.  In a fitting end to a highly experimental culinary summer, I decided to toss a tablespoon of everything I have tried this summer into a blender and watch what happened.  Honestly, I cannot recommend this course of action to anyone.

The mixture of chia, goji, hemp, wheatgrass, spirulina, and maca blended up into a superfood cocktail that looks like a dangerous brew.  It tasted heavily of spirulina and wheatgrass, and I couldn’t tempt any of my taste testers into taking more than one dubious sip.  Overall, it was a highly gag-inducing blend and an oddly perfect end to my summer foray into the world of superfoods.

superfood smoothie
My superfood macarita. Bottoms up!

Superfood Sunday: A Little Kelp from my Friends

Ok, so spirulina isn’t exactly kelp. It’s technically Arthrospira platensis, a blue-green freshwater algae, but “a little cyanobacteria from my friends” didn’t have the same ring.

Up until the late 16th century, Spirulina was believed to have been harvested from Lake Texcoco by the Aztecs, who called it techuitlatl. Across the Atlantic, the Kanembu population along the shores of Lake Chad collected algae and dried it in the sun before mixing it into sauces, millet, beans, fish, or meat. European phycologists and botanists noticed its usage during expeditions in the middle of the 20th century, and in the 1970s, it gained popularity among researchers as a possible inexpensive protein source.

Spirulina PowderThis blue-green algae, which arrived on my doorstep in a cheery orange package a few weeks ago, joins the cadre of superfoods with exhaustive beneficial qualities, if its proponents are to be believed. It is a source of B vitamins, iron, and dietary protein, making it popular in both its powder and pill forms. Some experiments have shown that spirulina increases the body’s production of cytokines, which fight infections and colds.

Other studies show that it worked as an antihistamine in rats and that it killed cancerous cells in chickens. However, experts are cautious about downing algae like Jacques from Finding Nemo.

Image courtesy of Disney and Pixar

Other doctors have noted that the benefits of spirulina are negligible at best, and that one would do better to eat a piece of fruit instead. Most of the warnings, however, center around the lack of regulation.

Spirulina isn’t currently regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, and because it grows on the top of water, it is highly susceptible to contamination. Sincerely hoping I wasn’t poisoning myself for the sake of a blog post, I spooned out some of my spirulina powder for a taste.

It has a similar odor to the wheatgrass I sampled before – and haven’t touched since – so I was a little wary. My powder was very finely ground and highly pigmented, like someone had crumbled up a blue-green chalk pastel. This did not help my poisoning suspicions. Despite their similar odors, however, spirulina and wheatgrass don’t share much in the way of taste. Mixed with a little bit of water, spirulina takes on a distinct seaweed flavor, unsurprising given its origins. Although I am a fan of all types of seaweed, especially when it’s wrapped around sushi, my fellow food adventurers were not so enthused. When I decided to mix up a salad dressing, I thoroughly enjoyed its tangy, briny taste, but my mother and sister were not so enthused.

I have included the recipe anyway, in case you get your hands on a big bag of algae!

Spirulina dressing
I promise it gets more visually appealing when you whisk it!

2 tbsp. hummus
2 tbsp. rice vinegar
1 tbsp. water
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. spirulina powder
1/4 tsp. dill weed
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
a few drops of liquid sweetener, if desired.

Whisk ingredients together and pour over a grain salad (perhaps one with hemp seeds).