I have a love-hate relationship with recipes. Despite the best of intentions, a page from my favorite cookbook or foodie website ends up serving as ‘‘inspiration’’ rather than instruction. About five ingredients into any given list, I inevitably go off the rails, throw in a cinnamon stick, and realize that I don’t have a 9-inch cake pan. What starts as Martha Stewart’s holiday carrot cake turns into sugar-free, gluten-free mystery loaf. Yes, I was trying to optimize the nutritional profile, but really, I just didn’t have any sugar… or flour…or baking powder… or the cake pan. Honestly, what was I thinking? I admit this willingly, knowing that others of you find yourselves in the same situation.
For us laissez-faire cooks out there, when we do seek out recipes they A) utilize few enough ingredients to hold our attention span, and B) don’t boss us around too much. ‘‘Who do they think they are?! Telling me not to ‘overmix’ the batter. I’ll mix it as long as I want to, thank you very much.’’
The most perfect example of a non-bossy, health-conscious recipe are these homemade flax seed crackers. Five ingredients and four easy steps ensure a fail-proof, crispy batch of crackers. The only downfall is the length of waiting time required until eating. The actual hands-on prep time, however, is minimal. A quick mix of the matter, soak, and thin spreading on a greased baking sheet takes just fifteen minutes. The longer portion—letting them dry out for a few hours in a low temperature oven—is a non-engaged waiting game. But feel free to leave the house, get some work done, or just chill out.
The easiness of this recipe prompts me to make them once per week. I have fun adding flavor twists in the form of different spices, dried fruits, sun-dried tomatoes, chili, nuts, salt, and sometimes a sprinkle of nutritional yeast or cheese. My hope is that you too will include them in your weekly, or monthly, repertoire. Eat them alone, dip them in homemade hummus, or build them into elegant appetizers with a layer of pesto, a slice of tomato, and a leaf of basil. Do whatever you like with them. I’m not going to boss you around!
The Nutritional Benefits
If you can get your hands on a bag of flax seeds at a good price, then these crackers are relatively cheap for the amount of servings yielded. And, not to mention, they are crazy healthy. Flaxseeds are believed to prevent heart disease, hormone-related cancers and osteoporosis, thanks to their high lignan content (polyphenols found in fibrous plant foods). Flaxseeds are actually the richest dietary source of lignans! In this category, they score first ahead of whole grains, kale, sesame and sunflower seeds, broccoli and berries. Flaxseeds also contain an impressive amount of fiber, Omega-3 essential fatty acids and vitamin B1.
Flax seeds belong to a special category of plant foods called mucilages. When mixed with liquid, they swell up into a gooey, gelatinous mixture, thanks to their soluble fiber. This offers a variety of useful culinary applications and digestive benefits. Some examples include: chia pudding, flax ‘’eggs,’’ okra jambalaya, vegan agar agar-thickened foods, aloe vera juice and gel, cassava flour and stew, dishes flavored with fenugreek seeds, herbal mallow or licorice root supplements (such as cough syrup) and even over-the-counter fibre drinks (like Metamucil and Benefibre). All of these harness the power of mucilage.
Oh, And The Weight Loss
High-fiber foods create bulk in the digestive tract and offer an excellent “volume for calorie” ratio. That is, you can eat a lot of fibrous or mucilaginous foods for very few calories. A steady, high-fiber diet contributes to reaching or maintaining your optimal weight. (Think of a monster green smoothie with chia and flax seeds versus the same calories worth of steak and potatoes. Which has more volume? Which makes you feel your best? Which is less/more dense?) The real magic of these mucilaginous foods, however, happens in your colon.
In the large intestine foods such as flax seeds add volume and hydration to your stool, clinging to old debris, and allowing for healthy, full-sized bowel movements. Consistent uptake of such foods will aid constipation, bloating, IBS and general digestive health. On a psycho-spiritual level, a healthy elimination regime is crucial to ‘’letting go off’’ the old and welcoming in a lightness.
HOMEMADE FLAX SEED CRACKERS
- 3/4 cup whole flax seeds
- 1/2 cup ground flax seeds
- 3/4 cup water
- 1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
- Salt and pepper
- Your favorite dried herbs (garlic powder and thyme are my favorite)
1. Mix everything together in a big bowl. Let sit for fifteen minutes. The flax seeds will congeal and turn the mixture into a sloppy goo.
2. Check the viscosity. It should be a spreadable mixture that you can spread thin (1-2 seeds high), but not so liquid-y that it runs everywhere creating gaps. If it’s good, continue to step 3. If not, add another few tablespoons of water or ground flax, depending on what the mixture needs.
3. Spread as thinly as you can on a greased baking sheet using a spatula or the back of a spoon.
4. Put in the oven and dehydrate at the lowest oven temperature (usually between 120-170F) for five hours.
5. Remove from oven and cut into pieces. Scissors are excellent to utilize here! Return the pieces to the baking sheet and cook for two more hours, until crispy. If you like, before returning the crackers to the oven the second time, you can brush the tops with a little oil and sprinkle more salt and spices.
6. Let cool until crunchy before eating.
Note: To qualify as part of a raw food diet, the oven temperature must not exceed 104F. To do this, keep the oven door slightly ajar and let some heat escape. If you are strict about maintaining the rawness of your foods, then it is worth using a proper dehydrator, or, at the very least, monitoring the internal temperature of an open-door oven with a thermometer. If raw versus cooked doesn’t matter to you, then a normal oven set to its lowest temperature with its door closed will lightly cook the seeds.
Try these flavor twists.
Mix in the following ingredients after the fifteen minute soaking stage, just before spreading.
- Chili and lime: 1 finely minced chili (with or without seeds depending on how spicy you like it) + zest and juice of 1 lime + extra pinch of salt. Omit water for amount of lime juice added.
- Pumpkin and cranberry: A little handful each of pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries.
- Cheesy garlic: 1 teaspoon of garlic powder in the mixture, and then a big sprinkle of parmesan cheese before the second and final bake.
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