With all of that said, this week’s class is focused on breakfast and snacks, two meals which easily become dull and repetitive, not to mention processed. They also have the highest rates of being skipped, which is not good if you are trying to lose weight. We want to introduce some of our favorite “go to” fare: (1) using almond flour, (2) creating nut butters, (3) making homemade crackers, and (4) making homemade yogurt. Hopefully, you can take the ideas we present and run with them. They are all customizable so you can use ingredients that are in season and within your budget. Get creative!
1. Almond Flour
Gluten-free, low-carb, nutrient dense, and packed with flavor, this stuff rocks. It’s just finely ground almonds and you know how good almonds are for you, right? They have long been tauted as a superfood for their heart-healthy, monosaturated fat content, Vitamin E and magnesium levels, among many other things. The best part, though, is that almond flour makes some of the tastiest baked goods you will ever have – diet or not. A couple of notes about almond flour. First, it is expensive if you buy it at the grocery store. I either order mine from Honeyville Grain and for 5 lbs. pay around $30 or I make my own by grinding whole almonds in a food processor to a fine enough consistency then sift it to get the larger pieces out. Without future adue, here is the recipe:
Almond Granola Bar
This recipe can be modified a million different ways. You could add cocoa power, cinnamon, chocolate chips, mashed banana, dried cranberries…the list goes on and on.
1 ¼ cup blanched almond flour, packed
¼ teaspoon celtic sea salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ cup coconut oil
¼ cup agave nectar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup shredded coconut
½ cup pumpkin seeds
½ cup sunflower seeds
¼ cup almond slivers
¼ cup raisins
In a small bowl, combine almond flour, salt and baking soda. In a large bowl, combine coconut oil, agave and vanilla. Stir dry ingredients into wet. Mix in coconut, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, almond slivers and raisins. Grease an 8×8 baking dish with grapeseed oil. Press the dough into the baking dish, wetting your hands with water to help pat the dough down evenly. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes
Recipe from http://www.elanaspantry.com/
2. Creating nut butters
This may be one of my favorite things ever, which says a lot considering how much I play around in the kitchen. Making your own nut butter is so incredibly easy you will wonder why you never did it before. But that’s not my favorite part. Neither is the fact that it is cheaper to make it yourself. My favorite part is that you can customize your nut butter to use the ingredients that you want to use. Again, back to the idea of using ingredients that work for you. You can use coconut oil, if you choose. You can use raw honey. Or pure maple syrup. Or leave the sweetener out, altogether. You get the idea. It would be rare to look at the back of a peanut butter jar and find the exact ingredients you were looking for.
I use coconut oil in my nut butters. I use it in a lot of things, actually. For years coconut oil has been a source of controversy, because it is comprised of saturated fat. Research has found, however, that because it is a medium chained fatty acid (MCFA) versus a long chained fatty acid (LCFA) our bodies metabolize it differently. Better. Some say it actually promotes fat burn by triggering an increase in metabolism. Click here and here to read more about the benefits of coconut oil. How cool is it to have the option to have coconut oil in your almond butter or peanut butter instead of some gross hydrogenated oil?
Roasted Rosemary Cashew Butter
This is more of a savory nut butter, but would be delicious served with apple slices or on toast drizzled with honey. Carrots also make a nice dipper. If you cannot find raw cashews, feel free to use roasted and skip step 1. If you buy salted cashews, though, omit the pinch of salt in the recipe.
8 ounces raw, unsalted cashews
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spread cashews out onto a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes, stirring once or twice to prevent burning. Remove from oven and add to a food processor. Turn the food processor on and run until a thick ball is formed, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl, as needed. When the thick ball is formed, remove the lid and add the coconut oil and honey. Turn the machine back on. Continue to run until the butter loosens up and it reaches the desired consistency. Transfer the cashew butter to a bowl and stir in the rosemary. The longer the butter sits, the more the flavor will develop.
3. Homemade Crackers
Making your own crackers is so fun and easy. Literally, you can make crackers with flour, water, salt, and butter. Think about what you want to serve your crackers with, though, to make the perfect accompaniment. Change up the seeds, add cheese, dried fruit, herbs, or spices to make your own delicious cracker. This recipe is very forgiving, easily adaptable, and impossible to mess up. I find it easiest to work with smaller amounts of dough at a time when rolling to ensure the center is as thin as the outsides. If you find when baking that the center crackers are thicker, just remove the thinner pieces when they are done and bake the rest for a bit longer. I think it goes without saying how much better these are for you than store bought crackers. If you need convincing, though, check out the label on your favorite crackers and see how the ingredients compare to the list below.
Whole Wheat Seeded Crackers
If you cannot find whole wheat pastry flour or white whole wheat flour (most likely in the health food section), use regular whole wheat.
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour or white whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
¼ cup milk (plus more, as needed)
2 tbsp sunflower seeds
¼ cup ground flax
2 tbsp poppy seed
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp brown sesame seeds
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a food processor add the flour, salt, and grapseed oil. Pulse until mixed together. Next add the remaining ingredients and process until a ball of dough is formed. Add 1 teaspoon at a time of milk if dough is too dry. Dump dough onto a lightly floured surface and kneed just a few times to bring the dough together. Form a disk and allow the dough to rest 10 minutes.
Cut the dough in half (It is easier to roll the dough out more evenly if you are working with smaller pieces at a time). Place one half in the center of a large piece of parchment paper. Roll the dough out as thin as possible, ensuring the center is not too thick. With a pizza cutter or knife, score the dough into 1 inch squares in the shape of the crackers. Transfer the entire piece of parchment paper with dough onto a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes or until the crackers are lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool. Store in a tin for several days.
Everyone is eating Greek yogurt these days, because of the high amount of protein it contains. The biggest complaint, though, is it feels like you are eating sour cream. You get used to it, but still long for Yoplait Boston Cream Pie. Consider making your own yogurt. You can control the tanginess with how long you let it process. I like mine right in the middle. To make Greek yogurt, just strain your yogurt in a cheesecloth lined fine meshed strainer suspended over a bowl for several hours in the refrigerator. The whey will drain out leaving you with the protein. Strain overnight and you will have yogurt cheese. There is a million things you can do with this. It has the consistency of cream cheese, so use it as a substitute in your favorite recipes. I have used it in the recipe below in a spread packed with finely minced vegetables. You can use it as a dip with the crackers above, spread it on a bagel, or anything else you can imagine. This could easily transform into a fruit dip by using vanilla extract (or vanilla bean), any fruits (peaches would be especially nice), lemon, lime, or orange zest, or fresh grated ginger just to give you a few ideas.
Yogurt Cheese Vegetable Spread
Chop your vegetables fairly small before putting into the food processor. They will end up finely minced when finished so it can spread easily onto a bagel or crackers. To make more of a ranch flavored dip, add mashed garlic, parsley, and dill. Add the fresh herbs after most of the processing is finished. You just want to pulse it a few times to mix them in, not pulverize them.
16 ounces yogurt cheese (strain yogurt overnight in a cheesecloth lined fine meshed strainer suspended over a bowl)
2 tablespoons minced scallions, white and green parts
2 tablespoons finely chopped carrot
2 tablespoons finely chopped celery
2 tablespoons finely chopped radish (2 radishes)
2 to 3 pinches kosher salt
1 pinch finely ground black pepper
Place the yogurt cheese, scallions, carrot, celery, radish, salt, and pepper in a food processor and process until the vegetables are minced very fine.