As I work to decrease/eliminate grains from my diet, I have become quite fond of this simple little cracker recipe. Hold up, no grains? Phf! “I thought grains were good for me?” you say. Well, not all grains are created equal and most of them air on the “not so good for you” side. The topic of grain free diets has become increasingly popular these days between an overwhelming increase in gluten allergies/sensitivities and the new obsession with Primal/Paleo diets. This is a good thing as we learn more about the current process of producing grains and the health effects that come along with the large amount of grains most people are consuming due to the good ‘ol Food Guide Pyramid (7-13 servings of grains per day…you have got to be joking!)
What are grains? Cereal grains include, but are not limited to, wheat, barley, rye, rice, corn, millet, etc. In their post-processing form these grass family cereal crops transform into breads, cereals, pastas, rice dishes/cakes/pastas, cookies, chips, etc. Now remember, not all grains contain gluten, which I find clients/patients to be quite confused about. Pseudocereal grains, such as quinoa, amaranth and buckwheat, do not contain gluten. There are also grain legumes and pulses which do not contain gluten and include the soybean, chickpea, lima bean, lentil, fava bean, mung bean and even the peanut.
Ok, enough with the agronomy lesson. Even though we know gluten to be an obvious irritant/allergen to so many people, it is also important to realize that many of these grains can also be irritating to the digestive system. If our digestive tract is not strong, healthy and thriving, eating can be more of a burden on us than an act of nourishing. Our microflora, all the little buggies that live in our gut (2-4 lbs worth!), live within a very fine balance of good and pathogenic. In a healthy gut, the good bugs help keep the pathogenic dudes in check. BUT with all the antibiotics, processed grains and sugary foods and environmental factors that affect the colonization of those bugs, we can have a very scary mess in there. Grains can feed these pathogenic bugs and yeasts and should be avoided for a period in people who are experiencing digestive issues/diseases, ADD, ADHD, depression, asthma, allergies, eczema, etc, etc, etc…and the list goes on and on. The GAPS diet (“Gut and Psychology Syndrome,” a book and diet developed by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, MD) is an amazing way to heal the gut, colonize the “good” flora so that fine balance can be achieved and reverse some of these debilitating diseases.
Another thing to consider when discussing grains is the affect they have on our blood sugar and all that comes along with this business. Grains fall under the macronutrient category of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are broken down into usable energy called glucose, or sugar. This is fine and dandy when consumed in the appropriate ratio to the other macronutrients, fat and protein (we’re shooting for 40% carbs, 30% fat, 30% protein…FYI…), but when we are eating grains along with all the fruit that is recommended then adding on the sweets that we now crave after every meal, we’re in trouble here people. We are inundating our bodies with refined carbohydrates and our blood sugar handling organs are taking a hit. This can lead to chronic fatigue, weight gain, Type 2 Diabetes and so many other less than desireable ailments. Elevated glucose is also irritating to the vascular system causing our cholesterol, the bodies vascular “Band-Aid”, to go to town on the inflammation. Are your labs showing your cholesterol is high despite being on a low cholesterol/low fat diet for the past decade? There’s your answer folks.
So, now that I’ve totally scared you all away from your morning bowl of Cheerios or super bready Subway sandwich, let’s get back to that recipe I mentioned earlier. These grain free crackers are delicious, nutritious and super easy to make! I’ve adapted them from Elana Amsterdam’s “Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook” pizza dough recipe. Enjoy them with raw cheese, your favorite nut butter, fresh veggies or organic sliced turkey or ham. Send them to school with your little ones or in your hubs big manly lunch box!
Herbed Almond Flour Crackers
½ cup almond flour
¼ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp baking soda
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large pastured egg
Fresh of dried herbs of choice (I use basil, oregano, parsley, or whatever seems tasty)
Preheat over to 350F. Combine almond flour, salt, baking soda and herbs of choice into a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg and olive oil until combined. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well. It should create a nice little dough ball. Place a piece of parchment paper on the counter, then the dough in the center and another piece of parchment paper on the top. Use your hands or a dough roller and roll out the dough until about 1/8 inch thick. Remove the top sheet of paper and place bottom sheet with dough rolled out onto a baking sheet.
At this point you can use a knife or pizza cutter and cut lines into dough so the crackers will brake apart easily once cooled. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until crackers begin to turn golden brown. Once you remove them from the oven, allow them to cool completely then brake apart and store in an airtight container on the counter for about a week. You can also put them in the fridge, but I’m not a fan of cold crackers.
You can also use this recipe to make a delicious pizza dough…
Make the dough as described above (minus the cutting to make cracers, obviously). Once you pull the crust out of the oven, put your sauce, fresh toppings (onion, bell peppers, mushrooms, broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes, chicken sausage, etc.) and cheese of choice right on top. Place pizza back into the over until cheese is melted and begins to brown. Remove from oven and ENJOY!