Low Carb Kitcchen
NO CARB CRACKERS
By Dennis Linden
Over half of the U.S. adult population, some 154 million, qualify as being overweight or obese. Another 29 million of us have Diabetes, many as a direct result of being overweight. Then there are the 23.9 million overweight children who are dutifully following the example of their XXL adult role models. Diabetes and these extra pounds cost this country billions annually in both medical and economic resources; not to mention the affect these weight-related maladies have on a person’s overall mental well-being and happiness. However, both diabetes and being overweight are very manageable, even preventable, with a few lifestyle tweaks. By maintaining a sensible diet in conjunction with some consistent exercise, no matter how minimal, we can all be in total control of our own weight. One easy way to start taking that control is to make decisions about the foods we eat based on the glycemic index [GI] and glycemic load [GL].
Simply put, our bodies convert all foods into sugar calories that provide energy to the body via the blood stream. The Glycemic Index assigns a score of 1 to 100 to all foods based how speedy the body converts that food into sugar. Foods that break down slowly enable the body to assimilate theses calories of energy more efficiently without overwhelming the body with more sugar than it can process. While this is especially important for diabetics who process sugars much slower than others, everyone can benefit from eating foods that have low glycemic scores since they also reduce appetite and encourage the metabolism to burn body fat. Conversely, a diet of foods high on the glycemic charts have been proven to actually increase appetite and impede effective fat oxidation.
A QUICKIE GLYCEMIC PRIMER:
The glycemic index of a food compares its effect on blood sugar level to that of pure glucose, which has a score of 100. White breads, which are made of processed white flour, are at the top of this scale, scoring a “perfect” 100 on the glycemic index. For perspective, a score of 55 or below denotes a low-glycemic-index food; 70 or above is considered very high. Serving size is not a consideration in arriving at a food’s Glycemic Index number.
The glycemic load, on the other hand, focuses on how much digestible carbohydrates (sugars) a food contains in a typical single serving, which is defined as approximately 3.5 ounces. For glycemic load, a score of 20 or more is high, while 10 or less is low.
Both the Index and Load scores should be checked to determine how a food affects the metabolism. A parsnip, for instance, has a very high glycemic index (97) but the fiber in a parsnip slows the conversion of its starch to glucose, so its glycemic load score is a very “digestible” 10.
As a carb-counting NFL football fan, this month not only kicks off a new season of competition, but also begins another weekly search for glycemic-friendly nibbles to accompany the hours (and hours!) of broadcast viewing of most all of the games for the next five months. I thought I had found EXACTLY what I was looking for a few weeks ago in a package of lentil crackers being sampled at a well-known big box store. So excited at the prospect of this “safe” treat that I neglected to read the ingredients until I got home…corn! Lentils, processed somehow, then blended with corn. Since corn has a glycemic rating that is off the charts those crackers became wild bird feed. Still, the concept of a lentil cracker gave me the inspiration to try to create my own low-carb version using Melissa’s packaged Steamed Lentils.
To save the reader kitchen time, that inspiration was followed by two false starts. Both used a basic cracker recipe lifted from the ‘net that called for baking a sheet of rolled out dough until half-done that was then cut into individual crackers prior to a final bake. The first batch contained no binder at all. I simply puréed, rolled thin and baked the Steamed Lentils right out of the box. That was a messy failure that could not be rolled due to texture and consistency issues. The second attempt puréed a mixture of Melissa’s Peeled & Steamed Garbanzo Beans with the Steamed Lentils to form a dough that could be rolled out. This concoction made it to the oven, but came out looking more like a parched and cracked desert floor. However, the third time was the charm by using an equal amount of almond flour to Steamed Lentils and decreasing my two-step baking process by one! The result was a perfect dough loaf that could be divided easily and rolled out thin but still held its shape. I then cookie-cut the dough into cracker rounds and baked each batch just once, though it was necessary to flip them twice during the cooking process.
Once the dough and procedure had been solved, it was just a matter of enhancing the cracker with a little more flavor and texture. I tried both Green and Red Hatch Chile Powder for flavor, which really added a pleasant spicy zing. And I did have a personal preference – but that’s all I will say – try both! While I added the chia seeds because of all the beneficial nutrients they contain, the seeds also really make this cracker a cracker both texturally and visually. The seeds turned out to add a strength and foundation to each wafer. It would not be a stretch to call these Chia-Lentil crackers!
A couple of tips learned along the way: roll out the dough and use a cookie cutter to form the crackers, then carefully transfer each to a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Once you have cut all the crackers out of the rolled dough, gather the scraps of dough and roll out again to form more crackers. Do the same if a cracker breaks during the transfer to the baking sheet. After a batch has been flipped, watch closely, being careful not to over-bake as the crackers will turn dark and bitter tasting. Enjoy the games carblessly!
1 package Melissa’s Steamed Lentils
4 TBS Chia Seeds
5 TBS olive oil
1 cup almond flour
2 TBS Hatch Chile Powder, red or green to taste
1 tsp salt
1 TBs baking powder
Purée lentils, chia seeds and olive oil in a food process until smooth.
Whisk together the flour, Hatch powder, salt, and baking powder in a large bowl. Then fold in the lentil purée and gradually add water by teaspoons until dough ball can be formed that is neither too crumbly nor too sticky. Cover dough ball and chill for 10 to 15 minutes.
Divide dough into 2 portions. Place a large sheet of parchment paper on a cutting board, center one portion of dough on the paper then lay another sheet of parchment on top. Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough evenly to wafer-thin thickness.
Square crackers can be made by simply scoring the dough at even increments to form a grid. To make round crackers, use a round cookie cutter to cut shapes. Carefully transfer each shaped cracker dough piece to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake crackers in batches at 300°for 20 minutes, before flipping them and cooking slowly for another 20 minutes.