Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding (Gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, sugar-free): A solo act

I have a couple of roles at my church.  Every single week I teach Sunday School to 3 through 5 year olds. Every week I play some instrumental music at the end of service. Every other week or so, I lead the praise. Every couple of months or so I have to do an opening prayer. Every 10 weeks or so, Husband and I are in charge of snack/light luncheon for our congregation.

These are roles that come with my desire to serve God but every once in a while, something very unexpected happens. I got a glimpse at the calendar last month, and I realized that I would be doing snack and praise on the same week so I switched it out so that I wouldn’t have that pressure. Only then another series of events came into play. Last Sunday, I realized that I was leading praise, I was leading the opening prayer, and I would be doing the scripture reading before the message. On early Sunday morning, I got a text from my fellow praise musician who regretfully informed me that her daughters were both sick so she wouldn’t be able to make it.
I would have to lead praise alone. Gulp. Gulp. Double Gulp. I straightened my spine, straightened my hair, gathered the kids and rushed to church in order to practice a few bars of music as I would have to play and sing on my own. Less than 5 minutes into warmup, my Pastor came up to me and gently asked, “Do you think you could do the announcements today as our two regular people are out?” I quickly thought about it and realized with a rapidly sinking feeling in my stomach that I would be up in front of the congregation ALONE for the first part of the service.
Praise alone. Announcements alone. Opening prayer alone. Responsive scripture reading alone, with the help of the congregation. I looked up at my Pastor and said, “You know that I’m already doing the prayer and stuff too.” He smiled and simply raised his eyebrows as a way to ask for my response.
“Yes.  I will.”  Inside I cringed as I am a person who doesn’t enjoy being in front of an audience speaking.  In other words, I do not enjoy public speaking and any situation where I am alone and everyone is looking at me.  But I knew it was probably the right thing for me to do it and I straightened up preparing for the next 20 minutes of service.
Once the service started, I suddenly found myself in the midst of a Joanne Choi solo act, a personal area of extreme discomfort. I sang and played while closing my eyes so I wouldn’t have to see any reactions, gave announcements while looking down the entire time, gave the opening prayer with my eyes closed, and finished off with the scripture reading. At the end, I felt like saying, “And now, the person you’ve really been waiting for…”
After that kind of stress packed 25 minutes, I needed something to calm my nerves. Something like chocolate. Creamy. Sweet and luscious. Unfortunately for me, I had to go and teach Sunday School with 25 sweet kids, but they weren’t made out of chocolate, nor would it be appropriate for me to consume them with a lion-like ferocity. I simply destressed with them by joking around.
This pudding is the perfect chocolate stress reliever after a stress packed day. I don’t even need to feel guilty eating it. It is free of nuts, dairy, gluten, sugar (yes!) BUT still tastes amazing.  In a series of test pudding runs, (as a I tested this concept out multiple times) I fed it to a group of students. As one of them consumed it, Daughters informed him that there was “no sugar, no milk, no egg, no anything” and he got super confused as to what it could be made of.  As I revealed the ingredients of chia, dates, coconut milk – he yelled, “THIS IS THE TROJAN HORSE OF PUDDINGS!  YOU THINK IT’S ALL THE YUMMY STUFF BUT IT’S HEALTHY!!!” For the record, he ate his entire serving. Snort. Trojan horse indeed.  
I even let Children eat it for breakfast if they like, dipping their berries into it. They LOVE.
You do need a Vitamix, or some other powerful blender and a little bit of time soaking and chilling, but the work involved is WAY simpler than a traditional chocolate pudding, as there is no stovetop cooking involved.   The results much are healthier and less guilt-ridden. 

Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding
Serves 4 to 6
Ingredients
¼ cup chia seed
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk (Coconut Dream coconut milk in the cartoon or Trader Joes also has a version.)
5 to 6 medjool dates, seeds removed
2 to 3 tablespoons cocoa powder (depends on the intensity of your particular cocoa powder – I use a Valrhona chocolate powder which is quite intense so 2 ½ tablespoons is enough)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon espresso powder (optional, but I think it brings out the chocolate flavor)
pinch of sea salt
Special equipment – Vitamix blender or another high-powered blender like Blendtec
Method
Put chia seed in bottom of blender and add ½ cup of coconut milk.  Allow chia seed to soak up coconut milk and become gelatinous, at least 45 minutes, but you could also leave soaking longer.
After chia seed has soaked in coconut milk, add to the blender the remaining ½ cup coconut milk, dates, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, espresso powder and sea salt.  Blend, gradually increasing speed until the mixture is smooth and the chia and dates have been processed, about 3 minutes of blending total.
Spoon mixture out into desired number of serving dishes and refrigerate until cool, about 45 minutes.
Serve with fresh strawberries or on its own and enjoy!
Printable recipe

Guilt-free dessert.  Where is my spoon?

Coconut milk – not a great price, but so you can see the kind I’m talking about.

Organic Chia Seeds I use – available at Costco as well

Cocoa Powder Indulgence – makes this pudding that much better

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