Several years ago when my family was on a squeaky tight budget cooking came even more to the forefront of my daily life. Boxed and frozen food "starters" can be surprisingly expensive to purchase and need dictated that I resort to buying the basics in bulk. This was the genesis of my giant jars of rice, beans, a cabinet full of spices and many hours in the kitchen. Freshly laden with a mortgage and with a recession on strong there was no money for nights out on the town - no movies, no drinks, and no restaurants. I might have felt trapped but instead to keep myself occupied and spirits up I spent my Saturdays and Sundays cooking enough food to keep the family steady for the busy week to come.
Cooking during this time felt empowering. It was something I connected to not only creatively but also gave me a small corner of the world where I had a reasonable chance of success. The wide world might be chaotic and bills might be suffocating me but the assurance of a tasty batch of baked beans had me glued to my oven, watching as they simmered for hours.
|photo courtesy Julie and Julia|
This comes back to me often as I'm hovering over my stove watching a recipe come together. Food for me is always an interesting mix of daring and repetitive. Once you have some basics down you can generally venture forth and start throwing things together with some reasonable assurance it will come out all right. It has the alluring quality of living on the edge with all the safety of knowing that the worst that may happen is something will get dumped down the drain, a minor consequence in a world filled with far scarier ends. Bravery can be practiced as you fiddle with flavor and confidence gained.
The most exciting thing about alternative dietary practices like raw, vegan, and grain-free diets is the fact that they completely blow the hinges off the structure that is conventional American cooking. Think you really knew something? Get ready to be a beginner again. The ingredients and combinations are completely different. This isn't just adding lemon flavor to a cake and feeling novel, it's reinventing the very flour from which the cake is made, the entire structure, and whether you bake it at all. While to some this might seem daunting to me it is the very thing that makes it fun. I love "first times" and the improvisational feel. The thrill of not knowing what will happen is the very reason to show up. I do this dance with the known and the unknown in cooking all the time, choosing each day whether I want a foray into foreign territory or another rendezvous with an old friend.
While I don't have a stringent need to eat dairy or grain free it is enjoyable to practice these guidelines on occasion to experiment with flavor and test boundaries. Rather than feeling like restrictions it instead resonates as just a separate palette. We've actually been missing a lot by sticking to our grain and dairy staples and I enjoy forcing myself to see what works in this new realm.
For a sales event lately I made some raw, vegan, and grain free snacks as hospitality. People raved about them. When I served them again at my daughter's birthday party a week later the response was the same. They are different, but they are tasty! With the right recipes and flavors there is no sacrifice to eating nutrient rich foods.
"Doughnut" balls have been popping up on raw blogs for months and I had been meaning to try them. The 2 types I made give an option with nuts and one without. Grain free and raw recipes tend to be heavy on nuts but I didn't want to exclude those who had nut problems.
And if we can say anything about me it is that I am a cracker fanatic. I figured if I could find a cracker that would satisfy my urge for savory crunch I'd be doing myself a favor. Enter the "cheezy" kale grain-free crackers...
Two of the base recipes were found courtesy of Rawmazing, who lured me in with her beautiful photography, because a delightful picture of food is almost as good as eating - almost. I tweaked both recipes, though, and so the versions I am posting here are revised. You can visit her site to get the original versions and of course offer her some kudos on her amazing work. I prefer my updated versions and my guests were also hooked, so I wanted to post the changes I made.
I ended up adding water to both of the "Doughnut" ball recipes I found. Both were too dry and flaky without it. The addition of water means you may wish to store them in the refrigerator, but made them so much more soft, tasty, and easy to eat and store. Anyone who ate raw cookie dough as a child (or as an adult) will adore these dough balls. They have all the allure of unbaked cookies and far less guilt.
Raw Vegan Vanilla "Doughnut" BallsIngredients:
30 Medjool Dates
2 Cups of real Dried Coconut Flakes (unsweetened, natural coconut)
2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 pinch fine Sea Salt
2 Tbsp Grade B Maple Syrup
2 Tbsp water + more as needed
Put all ingredients but water into a food processor and let the machine run until the mixture is crumbly. Add water and run until it looks like cookie dough. This may take a while for the coconut to break down into small enough pieces, so run and scrape the sides as needed and then run some more. Add a bit more water if the "dough" is not sticking together well enough.
Spoon up approximately a Tablespoon of "dough" at a time and roll into a ball. Serve and eat them room temperature or chilled as you like. Store in the refrigerator.
Raw Nutty "Doughnut" Holes(modified from the Raw Doughnut Holes recipe on Rawmazing)
2 Cups Brazil Nuts
1 1/2 Cups Oat Flour or Raw Flaked Oats
1/3 Cup Coconut Oil
1/3 Cup Grade B Maple Syrup
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 cup water, added slowly
1/3 cup Sucanat
1 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
Place Brazil nuts and oats in the food processor. Run the food processor until the Brazil nuts are finely chopped and the oats are finely powdered. Add the oil, syrup, cinnamon, and water and blend thoroughly until the mixture resembles cookie dough.
Spoon up approximately a Tablespoon of "dough" at a time and roll into a ball.
Combine the topping ingredients and roll each ball in the sucanat/cinnamon blend.
Serve and eat them room temperature or chilled as you like. Store in the refrigerator.
"Cheezy" Kale Almond Crackers(modified from the Cheezy Kale Almond Crackers recipe on Rawmazing)
I adjusted the amount of water, spices, added garlic and created my own baking strategy. These can be dehydrated in order to be completely raw but I had only an oven and a more limited amount of time (and a LOT of crackers to produce).
1 cup ground Flax
1 1/2 cups water
2 cups Almonds, soaked overnight, drained and rinsed
1 bunch Kale (I used Lacinato/Dinosaur Kale and really only put in about 3/4 of a bunch)
1 cup Coconut Flour
3/4 cup Nutritional Yeast
2 tsp Chipotle
2 tsp Paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
Salt to taste
Mix together ground flax and water. Set aside.
Place soaked almonds in food processor and run until finely chopped. Remove to a large bowl.
Wash and de-stem kale and place leaves in the food processor. Pulse until finely chopped.
Add nutritional yeast, coconut flour, paprika, chipotle, and garlic powder to the chopped almonds. Mix well. Stir in kale.
Add flax and water mixture. Mix with a sturdy spoon or with your hands until thoroughly combined. Add salt and taste test to determine the level you desire.
Preheat the oven to 225 F.
Lay out a sheet of aluminum foil the same size as a baking pan. Scoop out a ball of dough and press to shape into a thick rectangle. Dust with coconut flour. Roll the dough out to approximately 1/4 inch thick and rectangular on the foil, pressing the dough together to make it stick to itself.
Use a pizza wheel to cut crackers in the size you desire, slicing off the loose, crumbly edges if you like. Slice lightly through the dough as to not cut the foil beneath.
Pick up the entire foil and transfer to a baking sheet without disturbing the crackers.
Bake at 225 F for 2+ hours until fully crispy and no softness remains. Check periodically to gauge progress.
Remove from the oven and cool on the baking sheet. Once cool peel the crackers off the foil and put in a tin to store.
What a fantastic way to get your flax and kale in! These crackers are great with hummus and other dips or stand alone perfectly well. My sincere compliments to Rawmazing's Susan Powers for a lovely recipe concept. I'm going to be continuing to follow her blog for more food adventures and gorgeous photos.
These three recipes are friendly to your skin as well, providing a boost of nutrients, minerals, healthy fats and only a moderate amount of sugar in the "doughnut" holes. Snacks and desserts can be good for you and your looks if you step outside the plethora of processed options at the store.
Here's to your health! Hopefully you'll have some fun in the kitchen and give these recipes a try.