I’m officially back in Nashville and so happy to be home! As much as I loved exploring and traveling around Thailand, finding so many places of inspiration, there’s no better spot to come home to than my own kitchen. I have heaps of recipes inspired by my travels that I can’t wait to share with you here on the blog and with some more project coming up; but first, I need a chocolate fix. This little number, Crunchy Chocolate Seed Bark, is a combination of chocolate bark with a crispy component that reminds me of a rice crispy candy bar, only with a healthier fare, made with chia seeds, hemp seeds, and popped amaranth!
When I hosted a retreat with the amazing team at Blackberry Farm this past spring, I hosted multiple cooking demonstrations for the guests; one cooking demo in particular I remember asking the chef and staff to bring multiple ingredients to the table, one of them being chia seeds. During my cooking demonstration, I couldn’t find the chia seeds- I’m looking all around and then ask my suox chef where they are and she pointed to a bowl right in front of me with what looked like chia seeds…but not really. Chef Josh came out and assured me they were chia seeds, toasted. Insert mind blown emoji here. Of course I know about toasting nuts and seeds, this isn’t a revelation here at all, but toasting chia seeds and popping them to create a delightful crunch, crisp, and pop that resembles popped rice is beyond what I thought I could do with chia seeds. This recipe is a fun way to utilize these delicately toasted and popped chia seeds that compliment a pantry staple of mine, popped amaranth.
I love squeezing in any nutrient dense food I can in all recipes including dessert. Amaranth, hemp and chia seeds are well equipped in the nutrient dense category containing heart healthy fats, inflammation fighting omega-3 fatty acids, protein, fiber, vitamins E, B, and minerals like iron, calcium, zinc, manganese, and magnesium. Not to mention chocolate has health benefits of it’s own as well- read up on them here! The chocolate used in this recipe is actually just high quality cocoa powder mixed with coconut oil, which is high in healthy saturated fats (read more about coconut nutrition here). When coconut oil is melted, mixed with cocoa powder and a couple other ingredients, then chilled it becomes solid just like chocolate bark. The one thing to note is to keep this chilled until serving, if your home or room is above 75-80 degrees F, the bark will start to melt and you’ll miss out on the correct texture.
Amaranth is one of my favorite gluten free grains, especially when popped! Here’s the trick, I know many of you will need help with popping amaranth because I take it from personal experience of burning so many batches when I first learned how to pop this grain. It’s best to treat popping amaranth exactly like you do popcorn- here’s my guide to making the perfect popcorn every time; otherwise you’ll start with a medium-hot pot or skillet with a lid. Start by using about 1/2 of the amount you need, for this recipe it’s 1/4 cup. After adding the amaranth to a dry hot skillet/pot, cover with the lid, vigorously shake back and forth over the heat and watch the little grains pop- this whole process takes around 30 seconds. Amaranth, unlike popcorn, doesn’t make a loud noise when it’s popped, you’ll need to visually pay close attention to the color and “jumping” of the grain. All the popped amaranth typically will rise to the top while shaking. If it fails, no worries, try it again!
- ½ cup raw hemp seeds
- ½ cup chia seeds, popped
- ½ cup amaranth, popped
- 3.5 ounces dark chocolate
- ½ cup cocoa powder
- ½ cup coconut oil
- 2-4 tablespoons maple syrup, adjust to taste
- Sprinkle of coarse sea salt
- In a medium-hot skillet, add chia seeds and continually stir chia seeds until fragrant, less than 1 minute. Taste test a couple, they should have a light nutty flavor and should "pop" or be crunchy in comparison to the raw version. Set aside to cool.
- Empty skillet and return to medium heat, add in ¼ cup of amaranth at a time and vigorously shake the skillet back and forth over the heat, while covered. The amaranth will start to pop, unlike popcorn it doesn't make a loud noise, so pay close attention to visually seeing the amaranth turn a slight white color and gently pop. Total time takes less than 30 seconds or they'll burn, you'll know they're burnt by the flavor. Continue with remaining amaranth.
- Add popped amaranth to chia seeds and hemp seeds in a large mixing bowl, set aside.
- In a small saucepan, melt coconut oil, maple syrup (start with 2 tablespoons and adjust to desired sweetness), cocoa powder, and dark chocolate together until fully melted. Let this mixture cool to room temperature, coconut oil should still be in melted state.
- Pour chocolate into the bowl with popped chia and amaranth, and hemp seeds; stir until everything is coated.
- In a parchment paper line mini baking sheet with edge, pour the mixture in, sprinkle coarse sea salt on top, and let sit in the fridge until hard.
- Enjoy out of the fridge and slightly chilled.
Give this one a try and tell me what you think! Do you like the popped variation of chia seeds and amaranth?