Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Cracker of a Challenge

My painting of a Current Critter on a plate for my Dad
I am a creative person. I realized this long, long ago. My creativity has come out in different areas as my life went along. I drew pictures as a child, and they were pretty good. I was still drawing, going into high school and my one semester of university. When I moved to Guatemala as a young wife, I learned to cook, finally, and this was a logical step in the creativity department. I learned to cook and eat far different foods than I grew up with. I learned to can foods; make jams. Then I learned to do macramé. I always loved plants and had a relatively green thumb. I made the macramé hangers for plants and sold them along with a potted plant to set in them. Later I learned from my friend Elena how to crochet. I made doilies, baby blankets, sweaters for my kids and lots of other things. I learned to knit, though not as well as I could crochet. I learned to work with ceramics and paint lovely pictures, copying the "Current Critters" of the era.


A Cooking Class at the Dacotah Prairie Museum
Through all this, I still did a lot of cooking with 4 young children at home. Then I met my second husband who is into computers in a huge way. We usually have software and hardware that was termed "bleeding edge", rather than just cutting edge, as it was so far out there in the vanguard of what was the norm. He taught me to use computers and my artistic creativity went wild with the advent of graphic art. I have been asked to give cooking classes at or for the local museum. And now, not quite a year ago I started a website, this blog site, a Pinterest site. I wrote about 100 articles which my husband posted onto many, many online 'zine sites. He posted them all to a Tumblr account. Many of the articles were about herbs and spices and I used sections of those to flesh out the section in my website about "Flavors."



And for the first time in my life, as I started my "A Harmony of Flavors" website I realized I didn't need a recipe to make a new food!  This was such a revelation. It shook my little world. I have been making recipes, but changing things about them to my own taste, for as long as I can recall. This first happened in Guatemala. I had a cookbook my Mom gave me, called "Jiffy Cooking". As one might expect, it used time-saving/labor-saving things like cans and boxes. All of which were not available to me in Guatemala, so I had to improvise and make those "time-saving/labor-saving" ingredients from scratch. I mean, what the heck does one do when a recipe calls for cream of celery soup and no such thing exists?

I have been merrily making up my own recipes now for nearly a year. So when Cindy, a new friend with an extremely restrictive diet gave me a challenge to make her some crackers yesterday, my mind went crazy with possibilities. I had a hard time focusing on our conversation after that little challenge was set down. It percolated in my mind all day yesterday, and this morning I got going. Before I even had breakfast, I set some brown rice to cook!

Two kinds of Crackers this morning
Cindy is not on a gluten-free diet, per se, though she is not eating gluten. She cannot eat much of seeds or nuts. Beans of various sorts, brown rice, quinoa and many vegetables are her staples, along with some little meat or fish. Nothing from the nightshade family, no citrus or anything at all with acid. I wrote down those things that she could eat, and with those parameters I came up with two different kinds of crackers for her. As they baked this morning I was so excited. The first batch smelled wonderful while baking, and my only concern was that they be too fragile to hold a topping. This seems not to be a problem after all. I called them: 

Garbanzo Brown Rice Crackers with Herbs and Onion

set on parchment, scored and ready to bake

Makes about 35 to 40 (1½ x 2-inch) crackers

1 cup cooked garbanzo beans (drained, canned beans work just fine)
1 cup cooked brown rice (¼ cup before cooking)
2 tablespoons onion, very finely minced
2 cloves garlic, very finely minced
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely minced
½ teaspoon fresh thyme, finely minced
½ - 1 teaspoon salt, as needed
¼ cup olive oil

Place in the bowl of a food processor all ingredients except the brown rice. Process , scraping down sides as needed, until a smooth paste has formed. Add in the brown rice and process again, until well combined.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees (350 on Convection Bake). Cut a piece of parchment that will fit on a baking sheet. Pour the cracker dough onto the parchment and smooth with a spatula as much as possible. Cover with another piece of parchment that has been sprayed lightly with cooking spray, sprayed side downwards, onto the dough. With a rolling pin, smooth the dough to about 1/8-inch thick. Peel off the top parchment sheet very gently and discard. Slide the parchment onto the baking sheet. With a pastry cutter or knife, score the dough into whatever size or shape desired, but keeping them relatively small. Bake them for about 35 minutes. Remove from oven and slide the parchment onto a rack to cool.

Once cool enough to handle, carefully peel the crackers off the parchment. Some will be crisp and many will not. If they need more crisping, reduce the oven to 300 degrees (275 on convection bake) and bake them for another 10 to 12 minutes, or until they reach the desired crispness.


I went ahead with a second variety as the first kind came out of the oven. The second variety I named: 

set on parchment, scored and ready to bake

Quinoa Brown Rice Crackers with Bragg's and Garlic


Makes about 35 to 40 (1½ x 2-inch) crackers

1 cup cooked red (or white) quinoa (½ cup before cooking)
1 cup cooked brown rice
2 cloves garlic, minced fine
1 tablespoon Bragg's Liquid Aminos
2 tablespoons olive oil

Place all ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and process until fairly smooth. The quinoa will remain visibly "whole" even though it is cooked. The mixture will look rather like a whole-grain mustard.

Preheat oven to 375 (350 on Convection Bake). Cut a piece of parchment that will fit on a baking sheet. Pour the cracker dough onto the parchment and smooth with a spatula as much as possible. Cover with another piece of parchment that has been sprayed lightly with cooking spray, sprayed side downwards, onto the dough. With a rolling pin, smooth the dough to about 1/8-inch thick. Peel off the top parchment sheet very gently and discard. Slide the parchment onto the baking sheet. With a pastry cutter or knife, score the dough into whatever size or shape desired, but keeping them relatively small. Bake for about 35 minutes. Remove from oven and slide the parchment onto a rack to cool.

Once cool enough to handle, carefully peel the crackers off the parchment. Some will be crisp and many will not. If they need more crisping, reduce the oven to 300 degrees (275 on convection bake) and bake them for another 10 to 12 minutes, or until they reach the desired crispness.
 

Both turned out so very good. Cindy loved them and was so happy with the crunch. I set some out with slices of plain avocado on top and they were excellent. The crackers are highly flavored on their own, so they do not need flavor enhancing and go well with anything not highly flavored.

These crackers are gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free, vegan. Simple ingredients, with a most flavorful outcome. I hope that your diet does not need to be so restrictive as Cindy's for you to try these crackers. They are just too good to miss.



My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.  

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