Lacto-fermentation: Ginger Carrot Sticks

As I often do, I think about how people used to preserve the harvest before electricity. Drying, curing and fermenting are a few ways. While I’m interesting in all of the old fashioned ways of preserving, I have done the most experimenting with fermenting, lacto-fermentation to be exact.

Lacto-fermentation occurs when the starches and sugars in vegetables and fruit are converted to lactic acid by friendly bacteria, called lactobacilli. Lactic acid is a naturally occurring preservative. The science of it all may be complex, but the practice of it is super easy. Basically, all you need to do is provide the right environment for the process to happen and then it does it all by itself.

Lacto-fermented foods are rich in probiotics. You may already know about probiotic rich foods like yogurt. Probiotics are often called “friendly bacteria” or “good bacteria.” The Mayo Clinic’s website states that while more research is needed, there’s encouraging evidence that probiotics may help treat diarrhea, prevent infections, treat eczema, and reduce the severity of colds and flu.

While many ways of processing drops the food’s nutritional value, lacto-fermentation actually boosts it. In addition to helping digestion, fermentation increased the vitamin & mineral content of the food.

In “Nourishing Traditions”, Sally Fallon states that, “The proliferation of lactobacilli in fermented vegetables enhances their digestibility and increases vitamin levels. These beneficial organisms produce numerous helpful enzymes as well as antibiotic and anticarcinogenic substances. Their main by-product, lactic acid, not only keeps vegetables and fruits in a state of perfect preservation but also promotes the growth of healthy flora throughout the intestine.”

The great part about lacto-fermentation is that it is super easy and requires little equipment other than wide-mouth mason jars. Sure you can splurge on a $145 Harsch Gairtopf Fermenting Crock Pot (yes, this is a gift hint for anyone looking to spoil me with an expensive kitchen gadget) but I’ve done just fine with mason jars.

When picking out vegetables, go for organic or naturally grown, without pesticide. Pesticide residue can mess the whole thing up! It’s yet another on a long list of reasons to avoid chemicals on your food.

If you really want to get into fermenting, “Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods” by Sandor Ellix Katz is an excellent resource.

Recently I went a little crazy in the kitchen (nothing unusual). I naturally fermented carrots, beets, sauerkraut and kimchi. I don’t think I’m ready to stop. I’m going to have another fermenting session after my trip to the farmers market Saturday. So little time, so much to ferment!

Whey
Whey is often used to jump start the fermentation process. If you are a cheese maker, than you have plenty already. If you aren’t, It is super easy to make with yogurt.

Ingredients
8oz plain whole milk yogurt with live cultures (Around here RonnyBrook is a good choice and easy to find)

Method

  • Line a strainer with a double layer of cheesecloth.
  • Set over a bowl and pour in yogurt into strainer.
  • The liquid collected is whey. You’ll get about 2-3 tablespoons from each 8oz yogurt. The left over yogurt will be nice and thick.

Lacto-Fermented Ginger Carrot Sticks
You can whip this up in a flash. I’m guessing it will take you less than 10 minutes; if you are quick with a knife, maybe less than five.

This is the easiest way to ease into lacto-fermentation. The tasty and tangy carrots make an easy and healthy snack. I always try to keep a jar on hand.

Ingredients
3-5 medium carrots, peeled
1 tablespoon whey (homemade if you don’t have any, use extra salt; do not use commercial whey or dried whey)
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
Filtered water, enough to cover the carrots

Method

  • Cut carrots into sticks. Size them so that they fit in a pint size jar with about an inch of headspace at the top. Place the carrot sticks into the jar. Make sure they fit snuggly. They should be wedged in tightly enough so that none float when the water is added.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients and enough water to cover the carrots. Leave about an inch of space at the top of the jar.
  • Put the lid on tightly and keep it at room temperature (72 degrees) for about three days. If it is cold, you may need to leave it out longer. You can taste to tell if they are done. If they aren’t as sour as you would like them, leave them out a little longer. The fermented carrots will last in your fridge for several months and will get better with age.

 

Paper Bag Microwave Popcorn

The oil/butter in this is optional; it just makes it taste better!

Ingredients
1/4 cup popcorn kernels
2 teaspoons olive oil or butter
1/4 teaspoon sea salt (and other desired seasoning)
Paper lunch bag

Method

  • Place the popcorn with the olive oil, salt and seasoning in the paper bag.
  • Fold the top of the bag over twice.
  • Place the bag in the microwave, fold side down. Microwave on high for about 2 minutes. Stay close and listen. Once the pops slow down to about 5 seconds between pops, it’s done. If left on too long, it will burn.

Popcorn Accidents

Making popcorn is dangerous. My top two kitchen accidents happened while making popcorn. First there was fire. In my early 20s, I invited a date over to watch a movie. I thought homemade popcorn would be a nice touch. I placed oil in a pot, turned it on high, and then retreated to my bedroom to quickly finish getting ready. I returned to near ceiling-high flames. Yes, this is how people burn down kitchens. Luckily, that didn’t happen to me. I managed to turn off the heat and place a lid on the pot. We watched the movie while snacking on saltines.

Lesson learned: Ask the date to bring the popcorn.

Second, there was an explosion. I had recently learned that you could make popcorn in the microwave with a paper bag. Brilliant. It’s a fraction of the cost of store bought microwave popcorn, you know exactly what you are eating and there are no perfluorooctanoic acid lined bags. When I ran out of paper bags, I thought why not try a glass bowl with a lid. I recently told my friend Christine this, and she laughed and said something like “Everyone knows you can’t microwave glass covered dishes.” Almost everybody.

I placed the oil and popcorn in a glass casserole dish and covered it with the lid. Shut the door and turned it on high. The gentle popping sound was followed by a big “BOOM.” Oops. One of my much-used casserole dishes exploded. It didn’t just crack in half; it shattered into tiny little pieces. The microwave nicely contained the disaster, but we kept finding glass bits for weeks.

I was surprised the microwave even worked after that. I still shy away from it. This week I started to use it to store flour (a tip I got from “Cooks Illustrated.”) I keep waiting for my husband to protest. I imagine it is coming.

Lesson learned: Microwaves are great for storage.

I finally mastered cooking popcorn. I make it on the stovetop in about five minutes. This method makes the best tasting popcorn and it is easy and cheap. A big bag of popcorn kernels will last forever. You only need a third of a cup to make a large bowl of the snack.

My new favorite popcorn topping is nutritional yeast. I first bought it for our dogs. My aunt told me that a sprinkle or two on their food is good for them. I then discovered that it is delicious. It has a tasty, cheesy flavor. It also supplies a bit of protein and a good dose of B-complex vitamins. I’ve been adding it to everything, but especially love it on popcorn. You can find nutritional yeast in the bulk section of most health food stores.

Of course, I also always add melted butter. Everything is better with a little melted butter!

Stovetop Popcorn

Ingredients
3 Tablespoons olive or coconut oil (I use a combo. Other types of vegetable oils will work, I just feel these two are the healthier option. )
1/3 cup popcorn kernels

Method

  • Heat the oil in a 3-4 quart saucepan over medium-high heat.
  • Place 3 popcorn kernels into the oil and cover the pan.
  • When the kernels pop, the oil is ready. Add the rest of the popcorn kernels. Cover and gently shake pan to distribute kernels.
  • Once the popping starts, gently shake the pan by moving it back and forth over the burner. Keep the lid slightly ajar to let the steam from the popcorn release (but be careful to keep all popped kernels in the pot).
  • Once the popping slows, remove the pan from the heat. Remove the lid, and dump the popcorn into a wide bowl. While hot, season as desired.

Makes 2 quarts.

Shared on http://www.thenourishinggourmet.com/

Almond Date Balls and “I Will Not Diet”

My friend Molly McCaffrey writes a blog called “I Will Not Diet. No, it isn’t a gluttonous free-for-all. She focuses on healthy eating and exercise as a lifestyle, without falling prey to yo-yo fad diets. She also explores our culture’s attitude toward curvy women. It is insightful, informative and often humorous — a good read for sure.

She teaches English and creative writing at Western Kentucky University and September means back to school. For Molly, school means long hours and stressful days — a bad combination when you are trying to eat healthy. She is able to ward off the potential quick fix of a fast-food burger, by following a simple motto — be prepared.

Knowing that her weeknights will be hectic, Molly and her husband do their cooking on the weekend. They each make a big meal and parse it out for the week. They cook once, but make enough to have four healthy ready-made meals during the week. No need to order out for pizza.

She is also prepared when it comes to snacks. Molly finds that if she has a healthy snack every couple of hours, she can avoid junk food during the day, and when she gets home in the evening, she isn’t famished, so she eats a more sensible dinner.

Molly brings small snacks to work. Her snacks range from a piece of cheese and an apple or container of yogurt to a fancy cottage cheese dip with raw vegetables like red peppers, cucumbers and carrots. She makes the cheese dip often. It’s a Moosewood Cookbook recipe and is made by blending cottage cheese, feta, dill and green onions. Sounds like something good to have on hand. When you have easy access to healthy food, you are less likely to be tempted by the processed junk from the vending machine.

I am a big snacker myself, so I decided to experiment with various nut and granola bars. I wanted something easy to eat on the go and a bar fit that bill. The nut bar recipe I made was delicious, but was certainly not a bar. The crumbly mixture was excellent as a yogurt topping, but wasn’t the portable snack I wanted.

The granola bars were just OK, nothing too special, but they were portable. I’ll need to work on both of those recipes a bit more before they will be ready for prime time. Stay tuned. In the meantime, I switched my attention to other healthy homemade snacks.

Date balls were easy and delicious. I don’t know why I’m just discovering them now. You do need a food processor, but no oven is required. They have about 60 calories each. The good thing is those calories are comprised of all nutrient-dense ingredients. Plus it only takes one or two to satisfy my sweet tooth. Candy bars usually check in at about 250 calories, with rarely anything of nutritional value (dark chocolate, containing antioxidants, is the exception).

I made the date balls with almonds. Experiment with other nuts. Next time I plan to try pistachios.

Molly has it right. Instead of not allowing yourself to snack between meals, be prepared with healthy snacks and keep your change out of those vending machines!

Almond Date Balls

Ingredients:
2 cups California dates, pitted
1 cup sliced almonds
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon maple syrup (optional)
1/4 cup shredded dried unsweetened coconut (look for organic coconut with “coconut” as the only ingredient)

Method:

  • Pulse dates, almonds, almond extract and maple syrup in a food processor until the mixture forms a ball and easily sticks together.
  • Roll into balls and then roll in dried coconut to coat.

That’s it. Pretty darn easy!

Makes 25 small balls. Store in the fridge.

Soaked Flour Honey Wheat Bagels

I look forward to Tuesday nights for two reasons. First, we watch Lost. We are helplessly addicted to the show. It is the one show we plan around. Second, it has become bagel and lox night. It’s an easy, healthy dinner. We use wild salmon lox, cream cheese, red onions, tomato slices (in season) and a squeeze of lemon, all on a homemade bagel. We round out the meal with a salad or whatever vegetables we have on hand.

Yes, I did say homemade bagel. I’ve started making my bagels from scratch. And yes, I still consider it an easy dinner. This dinner is not as quick as it would be if you used already made bagels, but homemade bagels are easy and much healthier for you than store bought bagels.

As with all things you make from scratch, you know exactly what is going into it.  Bagels from a bakery probably have less junk than pre-packaged bagels (find a bag and see if you can pronounce all of the ingredients), but those jumbo bakery bagels can pack 400 calories (before you add the cream cheese). Make your own and you know exactly what you are eating and you can make normal sized bagels. These bagels have about half as many calories (even less if you make 3-ounce bagels) than a bakery bagel.

There are bagel recipes that you can make from start to finish in less time than my recipe, but since I like to do things the long way, you’ll need to start my version the night before. Don’t be afraid, this actually saves time. I can get home from work, shape and bake the bagels in a jiff with the already-risen dough.

There is also an extra benefit to letting your dough rise overnight. The yogurt helps breaks down the phytic acid. According to the Weston A. Price Foundation, soaking grains, “… neutralize phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors. Vitamin content increases, particularly B vitamins. Tannins, complex sugars, gluten and other difficult-to-digest substances are partially broken down into simpler components that are more readily available for absorption.” Sounds good to me, especially if all you really need to do is add yogurt to your dough and let it rise overnight.

There is more than one way to roll out a bagel. I’m always impressed with the speed and grace of a professional bagel baker. It’s like some sort of slight of hand trick. They roll a long rope, cut with one hand and somehow make a perfect bagel with the other. I have neither grace nor speed when I’m forming bagels. I use a more pedestrian method of rolling a ball and poking a hole through it. It works just fine.

It may take more than a few tries before you can pull off H&H quality bagels (and you would probably not be able to do that using my whole-wheat-only recipe). But in my book, I’ll take a hot out of the oven bagel over a store-bought one any day!

Ingredients
2 cups water
1 cup yogurt
3 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 tablespoon ground flax seeds
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons honey plus 2 tablespoons honey (for the water bath)
5 to 6 cups whole-wheat flour (if you want a less dense bagel, use half regular unbleached white flour or white wheat flour)
Oil for coating bowl and baking sheet

Method

  • Combine the water, yogurt, yeast, flax seeds, salt and 3 tablespoons of the honey. Mix by hand or in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. I just mix it by hand.
  • Gradually add 5 cups of the flour and mix until the mixture comes together.
  • Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and no longer sticky, about 5 minutes. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour.
  • Grease a large bowl with oil. Place the dough in the bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft-free spot for 12 to 24 hours. The dough should almost double in size.
  • Remove from the bowl and punch down the dough. Divide into 12 to 14 equal pieces.
  • Form each piece of dough into a smooth ball. The smoother you make it, the smoother your bagel will be. No worries if it is a bit lumpy, it will still taste good.
  • Punch a whole in the middle of each ball and widen the hole to about 2 inches. Repeat with the remaining dough. Place on a lightly greased surface, cover with a clean cloth and let rest until risen, but not doubled, for about 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Lightly grease or line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • In a medium sized, heavy pot, bring 1 quart of water to boil. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of honey.
  • In batches, add the bagels to the water and boil for 30 seconds on each side.  I use a smallish pot, so I only do one bagel at a time. You don’t want to crowd them. Place bagels onto the prepared sheet pan and place in preheated oven.
  • Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.

Want to make your our cream cheese? Go to Cream Cheese and Whey.

Curried Deviled Eggs

Ingredients
6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 cup raisins
1/8-1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice or vinegar
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
Paprika for garnish

Method

  • Peel eggs and cut in half lengthwise. Carefully remove yolks and place in a medium mixing bowl.
  • Add all ingredients to cooked egg yolks and mash well.
  • Spoon into egg white halves and garnish with paprika.

Guacamole Deviled Eggs

Ingredients
6 hard-boiled eggs
1/2 ripe avocado
1/2 small onion minced (about 1/4 cup)
Juice from 1/2 a lime
1 tablespoon minced jalapeños (optional)
1-2 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
1/8-1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Cilantro sprigs for garnish

Method

  • Soak onion and jalapeños in lime juice for 10 minutes or more
  • Peel eggs and cut in half lengthwise. Carefully remove yolks and place in a mixing bowl.
  • Add all ingredients to cooked egg yolks and mash well.
  • Spoon into egg white halves and garnish with a cilantro sprig.

Korean Scallion Pancake With Soaked Flour

I’ve been soaking almost all my flour these day. Apparently it neutralize phytic acid, which interferes with the absorption of certain minerals and vitamins. Read all about it here.

This recipe is adapted from http://koreanfood.about.com.

Ingredients
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups water
1 bunch of scallions, chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt
Olive or coconut oil for cooking


Method

  • In a large bowl, mix flour, yogurt and 1.5 cups of water.
  • Cover and place in warm place for 12-24 hours. (Your counter top will do).
  • Add eggs. This is a little tricky, since the flour mixture has already bonded together. I just use my hands, though a mixer would probably do the trick. The batter should be a bit runny so that it will spread evenly in the pan. If it is too thick, add water.
  • Heat a sauté pan over medium heat and coat with a thin layer of oil.
  • Pour batter to fill pan in a thin layer.
  • Cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until set and golden brown on bottom.
  • Flip and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Add more oil for each pancake, if necessary.
  • Serve with spicy dipping sauce.

Serves 4 to 6 as an appetizer.

Spicy Scallion Pancake Dipping Sauce
This is as basic as it gets. Mix equal parts of soy sauce and hot chile sauce like Sriracha. If you want it less spicy, cut back on the Siracha. Dip away!?

Maple Molasses Popcorn Balls

My sister gave me this recipe. She altered the recipe she found by changing the syrup to 3/4 cup honey and the sugar to 1/4 cup brown sugar. Experimenting with recipes must run in the family, because I altered her recipe.

Ingredients:

1/4 cup cooking oil (I use olive oil)
1/2 cup popcorn
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon molasses
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method:

  • Place oil in four-quart kettle. Add a few popcorn kernels in the pot, cover with a lid and heat over a medium heat. Once you hear the kernels pop, add the rest of the popcorn. Shake the pot frequently until popping stops.
  • Transfer popcorn to large bowl. I scoop out the popcorn from the top. This helps keep the unpopped kernels out of the popcorn balls.
  • In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, water, syrup, vinegar and salt. Bring to a gentle boil and cook for five minutes on medium high (or heat until mixture reaches 235º F). Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour over popped corn, tossing gently to coat.
  • When mixture is cool enough to handle, firmly press a handful of popcorn into a ball with buttered hands. If the balls aren’t sticking together, let it cool a bit more. Cool completely on waxed paper.

Makes about 10 popcorn balls

Spicy-Sweet Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

If you ask my friend Eric, I’m not the one to give anyone advice on how to roast seeds. One fall, years ago, in Eric’s West Virginia cabin dubbed “The Shack,” we roasted pumpkin seeds. For the record, I wasn’t the one who turned the oven to broil, which ignited the seeds, sending flames up through the burners. Yes, cooking can be dangerous.

Luckily, while six adults stood around debating what you throw on a kitchen fire (water=bad, wet towel=good), Eric quickly donned heavy-duty potholders, reached in the oven, grabbed the flaming pan and shouted, “Get the camera!” and “Get the door!” (in that order) as he headed outside to the grill, a perfectly safe place for flames.

I didn’t give specific quantities here because the amount of seeds you get from a pumpkin or squash will vary. Just eyeball it … a little of this and a little of that. Go easy on the cayenne pepper unless you really like it extra spicy.

Ingredients:
Seeds from a pumpkin or winter squash
Olive oil
Sugar
Salt
Cayenne pepper

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cut squash in half and scoop out the insides. Separate the seeds from the stringy pulp. Don’t fret too much about getting all the strings, they won’t hurt you. Rinse the seeds.
  • Toss seeds in a bowl with olive oil, sugar, cayenne and salt.
  • Spread seeds in a single layer on an oiled baking sheet.
  • Bake for about 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown, stirring occasionally.

Quick Pickles

Biting into a chilled cucumber is like biting into ice water. The taste is cool and clean. It’s no wonder because they are made up of 95% water.

While cucumbers don’t pack as much nutritional value as some of their garden neighbors, they do have a bit of vitamin A, vitamin C, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, and potassium. Plus with skin intact, they provide a healthy dose of fiber.

Cucumbers are often used topically for skin problems. The oft shown cliché of two slices on each eye actually will help lessen the damage from a night out on the town. The coolness of the cukes can sooth tired, puffy eyes. Plus eating one will help re-hydrate you.

I love these pickles. They are quick, easy and delicious. I see no need to buy store-bought pickles again!

Ingredients
2-3 cucumbers, trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch round slices
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup cider vinegar (or enough to cover the cucumber slices)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup onion, sliced thin
1 cloves garlic crushed
1 teaspoon dill seed
1 teaspoon mustard seed


Method

-Combine vinegar, brown sugar, onion, garlic, dill and mustard seed in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil.
-Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
-Place cucumbers in a heat proof bowl.
-Pour the hot liquid over the cucumbers; stir to combine.
-Cover and let steep for at least 20 minutes. Store in refrigerate for up to 10 days.

Crispy Seaweed Snacks

Ever since our friend Melanie visited a few weeks ago and told us about snacking on seaweed, I’ve been intrigued. I decided to give this healthy snack a go. I tried two types. Nori and alaria. The nori chips were a little too, well, seaweedy for me. The alaria chips were nice, light, crisp and only slightly reminiscent of the sea.

If it is humid where you live (believe me, it is humid here) you’ll need to eat the chips shortly after you make them or they will get a bit soggy.

Crispy Alaria

Ingredients
2-3 strips of Alaria
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

Method
– Using kitchen shears, cut the seaweed into bite-sized pieces.
– Place in skillet with toasted sesame oil and cook over medium heat. The color will change from black to a dark to mid green.
– Let cool, then eat!

Crispy Nori

Ingredients
2-3 sheets of nori
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
sea salt

Method
– Using a pastry brush lightly coat the nori with toasted sesame oil
– Cook nori in skillet over medium high heat 15 to 20 seconds each side.
– Sprinkle with crushed sea salt.
– Cool, cut into bite-sized bits and enjoy.

Crispy Kale

*******
Excerpts from my column in the Register Star and Daily Mail:
*******

I am a late bloomer to kale. In my mind I used to lump all greens together as something you cook all day in a big pot with a hambone. Maybe that’s just my Southern roots showing. As a kid, I steered clear away from anything green stewing in a pot. As a health conscious adult, I started to get interested in greens but didn’t have a clue how to cook them.

Several years ago, while visiting Washington, D.C., I was standing in front of the produce section trying to figure out which greens to choose. They had mustard greens, collard greens and kale. I happened to overhear a lady say something to her husband and was happy to hear a melodic southern drawl. I thought that she would be a good one to ask. So I did.

She said, “Well, some people like kale because it is mild. Some people like the collards because it’s more flavorful. I like mustard greens because they have a bit of bite.” She paused then continued, “But you really almost have to be Southern to cook them right.”

I grew up in Virginia. To my Deep South relatives, I am a Northerner and to my Northern friends I’m Southern.

I tried to impress her with my Southern lineage. “I’m from Virginia and most of my relatives are from Georgia.”

“Well” she said as she turned to walk away, “maybe you ought to get them to cook them.” Clearly, to her, Virginia wasn’t far enough south.

Maybe I’ve been on a vendetta to prove the Southern lady in the grocery store wrong, because since then, I put kale in everything. Everything… soups, meatloaf, tomato sauce, mac and cheese, scrambled eggs, smoothies. It’s not the taste I’m going for, since kale is rather innocuous and blends in with the other flavors, it’s the nutritional boost. It is a true superfood.

Crispy Kale

Vegetables that taste like potato chips…what’s not to love? This recipe is adapted from Bon Appétit. I experimented with different greens, including Swiss chard, collard greens and radish leaves. I liked kale the best, though all variations were interesting. The radish leaves tasted like crunchy, salty air (but tended to burn easily).

Ingredients
Kale leaves, rinsed, dried, cut lengthwise into 2-inch strips, center rib and stem removed
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt, pepper, cayenne pepper to taste

Method
-Preheat oven to 300°F.
-Toss kale with oil in large bowl.
-Sprinkle with salt, pepper and a dash of cayenne pepper.
-Arrange leaves in single layer on a baking sheet.
-Bake for 10 minutes; flip and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until crisp. When done they will be light and airy.
-Transfer leaves to rack to cool, then serve.

Cheddar-Millet Crackers

I’ve become a big millet fan. I love the crunch it adds to baked goods. According to The World’s Healthiest Foods, millet is a good source of magnesium and like other whole grains has heart-protective properties and can lower the risk of type two diabetes.

I also added flax seeds and turmeric for an extra nutritional boost. Heck, unlike store bought crackers, these are actually good for you!

You can pretty much add whatever you want to crackers. You just need to keep a balance between the dry and wet ingredients so that you are able to roll them out thinly. (Too sticky? Add more flour. Falling apart? Add more liquid).

Ingredients
1 cup wheat flour (more if needed)
1/4 cup millet (rinsed)
2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
3 tablespoons coconut oil or unsalted butter
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 tablespoon water (or more if needed)

Method
1. Heat oven to 400º F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (thanks Christine!).
2. Add flour, coconut oil or butter, salt, cheese in bowl of a food processor. Pulse until flour and butter are combined.
3. Add yogurt and pulse until mixture holds together but is not sticky.
4. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface until 1/4-inch (or thinner) add flour as needed to keep from sticking.
5. Transfer dough to prepared baking sheet. For a crispier cracker, roll the dough out a bit more on the baking sheet. I like them 1/8-inch. I find it easier to thin them out on the baking sheet rather than transferring the flimsy dough.
6. Score lightly with a knife or pizza cutter. Sprinkle with salt, fresh cracked pepper or other topping if you like (poppy seeds?) .
7. Bake until lightly browned. Start checking at 10 minutes. The thicker the cracker the longer they take. My last batch took almost 20 minutes.
8. Cool on a rack; and break apart. They should stay fresh for a few days.

Garlic Roasted Beans

A few weeks ago my friend David made a delicious snack by roasting Garbanzo beans. They were tasty, salty, and crunchy—the three things I look for in a good snack. I ate them with impunity, knowing I was getting protein and folic acid along with my snack-food fix.

Roasted garbanzo beans are a traditional Spanish tapas— but why stop at garbanzo beans? I had a jar of beautiful anasazi Beans so I tried them. I also tried white beans. The garbanzo beans held their shape the best; they went in the oven looking like garbanzo beans and came out looking like garbanzo beans. The other beans opened up as they cooked. This gave them a delicious, airy crunch.

2 cups of cooked beans, drained (I start off with dried beans. Click here for bean-cooking details.)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon of sea salt (or more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon of pepper (black or cayenne, I use both)
1 Tablespoon of olive oil (you can actually omit this if you want)

Preheat oven to 375º F.

Toss all ingredients until well coated.

Spread out in a single layer in a baking sheet with sides (if you omitted the olive oil, lightly grease the pan).

Bake for 35-50 minutes (smaller beans will take less time, large beans, more), stirring every 15 minutes or so. When done, they should be crispy.

Experiment with different spices/herbs. Cumin? Rosemary? Wait until after the beans are roasted before you add fresh herbs (or cheese…ymmm). Buen apetito!