Pause for dramatic effect.
Let’s back up for a second.
Last Thursday, I received an email from a producer at The Doctor Oz Show asking whether I’d like to participate in a segment they were doing on chia seeds. Needless to say, I was pumped. I obviously love chia seeds, but more importantly, I’ve been waiting 26 long years to make my television debut. SIGN ME UP.
After agreeing to be part of the segment, the producer called me to discuss the details. She was fabulous, but she spoke very fast, and I was moderately to severely confused during most of the call. What I took away from the conversation was that the segment would have six guests, and each guest would discuss a recipe using chia seeds. That sounded easy enough. Then she read me a long list and asked if I had done, or would be willing to try, various recipes/techniques involving chia seeds (i.e. using chia seeds to thicken soups, as a coating for fish or chicken, as an oil replacement, etc.). I told her that I was mostly just a fan of chia seed pudding, but that I would happily tackle “chia seeds as a binder in meatballs.” Meatballs rock.
I hung up the phone, dropped all of the busy and important things I was doing, and immediately commenced chia meatball experiments. Priorities! A few hours later, Chia Seed Pork Meatballs with Spicy Ginger-Soy Glaze were born. They were truly magical little balls (I ate seven to be sure), and I was very excited to share this recipe with Dr. Oz and my his legions of adoring fans.
Just as I was about to send in my recipe, I received another email from the producer. Subject: CHIA CHALLENGE. The word “challenge” did not sit well with my panic disorder, and the body of the email was even worse. “Please bring your chia creation to set for Dr. Oz to taste on the show. The winner will have their recipe posted on the Dr. Oz website as the recipe of the month.” UGH. I was clearly at a disadvantage, since bringing chia meatballs to the set first thing in the morning would be weird and gross. If I were Dr. Oz, I would be very angry with the person that forced me to eat cold meatballs at 8am. Just saying.
In order to combat my anxiety, I created an elaborate fantasy of exactly how CHIA CHALLENGE would play out. This is what I pictured…
I arrive on set perfectly coiffed, armed with a Tupperware of warm balls (sorry), a conservatively sassy selection of tops for wardrobe to choose from, and the confidence of a thousand Beyoncés. A trained makeup artist works her magic on my dark circles, I do not sweat through my shirt or have any panic attacks, and when I walk on stage to beat out my Chia Challengers, I’m as cool as a vodka-soaked cucumber. I was born for this.
Dr. Oz enters to introduce me and my chia nemeses, and amidst the chaos in the studio, he catches my eye. After surveying the chia dishes before him, he winks surreptitiously at me, as it’s obvious that my chia creation blows the others out of the water. When he finally tastes my meatballs, Dr. Oz nearly faints from the deliciousness, but he’s a professional and manages to pull it together long enough to declare me the victor of Chia Challenge!!!
Still not sweating, I accept my win by graciously chest-bumping Mehmet (we’re already on a first name basis at this point), hugging audience members and doing this dance. I spike a few of the winning meatballs on the floor for good measure. People are simultaneously shocked and enamored with my clear enthusiasm for both chia seeds and entertaining television. When the taping is over, Dr. Oz takes me under his wing and asks me to be his resident culinary expert. He thinks I’m the smartest, prettiest, funniest person he’s ever met, and he wants to be my Oprah.
It’s the best day of my life.
I arrived at the Dr. Oz set at 7:55am this morning bearing a fresh batch of chia meatballs that I baked at 5:45am because I am nothing if not competitive. I was brought to a dressing room with my fellow “chia ladies,” where the producers briefed us on exactly what we would be doing during the segment and then left us to our own devices for two and a half hours. Given that much time to ponder all the things I could potentially screw up was painful. (I mostly kept reminding myself not to say, “I love balls!!” on national television.) Truth be told, there were times when I got pretty sweaty, which was not ideal since my fantasy makeup artist did not exist in this version of events.
The good news is that the producers decided to remove the competition element of the chia seed segment. Instead of fighting to the death, each of us simply had to say a few sentences about how we used chia in our creation and call it a day. HALLELUJAH. (This development made making friends in the dressing room significantly easier.)
When it was finally time for my debut, I was taken back stage, mic’d up, and given a blown-up photograph of my meatballs to hold. Fancy. The chia troop was led on stage, and then it was lights, camera, action! Dr. Oz ate my meatballs. I smiled and sold those gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, egg-free wonders like it was my job. The audience clapped. And just like that, it was over.
While I didn’t win anything, chest-bump Dr. Oz, or get offered a job, I feel pretty great about today. Maybe not “best day of my life” material, but it was definitely the best day in a while. Baby steps.
You know what else I feel pretty great about? My meatballs. THESE MEATBALLS ARE DANK. And I swear on Logan’s chest hair that I’m not just saying that for the sake of Dr. Oz. These tender little pork miracles are ridiculously juicy and bursting with flavor, and the ginger-soy glaze is the perfect sweet-and-spicy finishing touch. Instead of eggs and breadcrumbs, I used chia seeds to bind these balls, which was a glorious discovery. They kept the balls moist (sorrrrrry!) and held them together without weighing them down or dulling their flavor. Plus, the seeds add tons of badass health benefits.
I like to serve my chia seed pork meatballs over some stir-fried vegetables for maximum nutrition, but you could also try them with quinoa, brown rice or noodles, or banh mi-style in a sandwich. Oh, and for the record, you can use chia as a binder in any type meatballs, friends. Just add 2 tablespoons of chia seeds per pound of meat. And in case you were worried, you won’t actually taste the chia seeds, and no, they won’t give your meatballs a weird texture. I promise.
NOTE: If you forgot to DVR The Dr. Oz Show today, don’t panic. My segment won’t air until some point next week. I will obviously publicize the event, but you should probably start following me on Facebook and Twitter so you don’t miss such groundbreaking announcements…
Chia Seed Pork Meatballs with Spicy Ginger-Soy Glaze: (Serves 4-6)
1 pound ground pork
3 cloves garlic, minced
1½ teaspoons fresh grated ginger
1/3 cup minced yellow onion
¼ cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1½ tablespoons low-sodium tamari
2 tablespoons chia seeds
For the glaze:
¼ cup low-sodium tamari
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
1 teaspoon unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce
Preparing your Chia Seed Pork Meatballs with Spicy Ginger-Soy Glaze:
-Pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper and set aside.
-Place all the ingredients for the meatballs in a large bowl.
-Use your hands to mold the pork mixture into 1-inch meatballs, and arrange them on the prepared baking sheet, making sure they aren’t touching. (You should have approximately 20 meatballs.)
- 1 pound ground pork
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1½ teaspoons fresh grated ginger
- 1/3 cup minced yellow onion
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
- 1½ tablespoons low-sodium tamari
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds
- ¼ cup low-sodium tamari
- 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
- 1 teaspoon unseasoned rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce
- Pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper and set aside.
- Place all the ingredients for the meatballs in a large bowl. Using your hands, mix all of the ingredients until well combined. (Kind of gross, but kind of fun.) Cover and refrigerate the pork mixture for 20 minutes to allow the chia seeds to work their gelling magic.
- Use your hands to mold the pork mixture into 1-inch meatballs, and arrange them on the prepared baking sheet, making sure they aren’t touching. (You should have approximately 20 meatballs.) Transfer the meatballs to the oven and bake for 20 minutes until lightly browned and cooked through.
- In a small bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients for the glaze. Pour the glaze into a large non-stick pan over medium heat. When hot, add the meatballs and toss to coat.
- Serve meatballs warm over your stir-fried vegetables or noodles of your choice.