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Carb Solution: “Cheese-It” Power Crackers

By Dennis Linden
Image of Power Crackers
Over half of the U.S. adult population, some 154 million, qualify as 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 effect these weight-related disorders have on overall mental well-being and happiness. However, diabetes and being overweight are very manageable, even preventable, with a few lifestyle tweaks. By maintaining a sensible diet in conjunction with some regular exercise, no matter how minimal, we can all be in total control of our weight. One easy way to start taking control is to choose the foods we eat based on the glycemic index [G.I.] and glycemic load [G.L.].

Simply put, our bodies convert all foods into sugar calories that provide energy to the body via the bloodstream. The glycemic index assigns a score of 1 to 100 to all foods based on how speedy the body converts that food into sugar. Foods that break down slowly enable the body to assimilate these calories of energy more efficiently without overwhelming the body with more sugar than it can process. While this is especially important for people with diabetes who process sugars much slower than others, everyone can benefit from eating foods with low glycemic scores. They also reduce appetite and encourage the metabolism to burn body fat. Conversely, a diet of foods high on the glycemic charts has been proven to 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 bread, made of processed white flour, is 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.
  • On the other hand, the glycemic load focuses on how many digestible carbohydrates (sugars) a food contains in a typical single serving, defined as approximately 3.5 ounces. For glycemic load, a score of 20 or more is high, while 10 or less is low.
High carb flour-based snack foods are off-limits for the carb counter, including a well-known deliciously addicting cheese-flavored mini cracker. However, here’s a glycemic-friendly version of these tasty morsels that will satisfy those salty-cheesy cravings; plus, these are packed with beneficial nutrients not found anywhere near the grocer’s carbo-loaded snack foods aisle! This recipe also demonstrates that a low-carb diet does not involve sacrifice; instead, just a commonsense valuation on the quality of the foods that we eat and a focus on eliminating the empty calories of processed flour goods with smart replacements.

In this case, we replaced the enriched flour ingredient with a mix of much more nutrient-packed almond and coconut “flours,” which are not really flours at all but instead finely ground meal that reacts like flour in the baking process. Almonds have been studied extensively for their benefits on heart health, diabetes, and weight management. The unique nutrient combination of almonds — plant-based protein, fiber and monounsaturated fats, plus essential nutrients like vitamin E and magnesium — help make them a heart-healthy snack. Compared to wheat flour, coconut flour has more fat, protein, and fiber. Iron is the primary mineral present in coconut flour, making it a good option for people on vegan or vegetarian diets who are concerned about getting enough iron. It’s important to note that although many coconut products contain high amounts of saturated fats, coconut flour is processed in a way that removes these fats.

Including fresh ginger and turmeric from Melissa’s convenient Immunity Booster Pack in the ingredients adds a tasty flavor accent to these crackers but also, as the label promises, some value-added health protections not found anywhere in the grocery “crackers” aisles. Both ginger and turmeric are loaded with powerful antioxidants and beneficial plant compounds. It is commonly believed that ginger can help fight the common cold and relieve upset stomachs. Turmeric contains curcumin, the substance that causes its vibrant color, also has significant anti-inflammatory properties that rival those found in ibuprofen. Curcumin has been shown to protect healthy cells from cancer-causing agents, lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease.

While all the health-related components of this recipe are great, it means NOTHING if these crackers don’t taste good or squelch those cheesy-salty cravings that inspired this recipe in the first place. The recipe below is a healthy makeover of a homemade flour-based cheese cracker that I found online. Though I switched out the flours and added the ginger and turmeric, the first batch of crackers was a disappointment. However, doubling the original measurements of cheese and using a very sharp cheddar in a second batch did the trick and came out much closer to that distinctive flavor of its flour-based, store-bought counterpart. In other words, they were just as addicting but guiltless!

The only prep tip I should pass on is that almond flour is thirstier than wheat flour, so have extra cream and flour on hand so you can adjust quantities until the proper shape and consistency of a dough ball is achieved. Regarding the addiction factor previously alluded to, quoting an ancient Greek poet: “Moderation is best in all things.” A good plan that will no doubt be totally forgotten with the first taste of this cracker!

Power Crackers
Image of ingredients for Power Crackers recipe

1½ cup almond flour
½ cup coconut flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tablespoons fresh turmeric, grated finely
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, grated finely
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon ground paprika
1 clove fresh garlic, minced <2>**
2 cups grated Parmesan or a sharp cheddar cheese
1½ cup heavy cream
1 egg
2 tablespoons water
Coarse salt for sprinkling

Image of ingredients in food processor

Pulse together the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, turmeric, paprika, nutritional yeast, and garlic in a food processor. Add the Parmesan (or cheddar) and pulse to combine. With the machine running, add the cream in a steady stream, then pulse until the dough forms a ball.
Image of dough in a ball and flat cut into pieces
Transfer dough ball to a lightly floured surface, divide in half and refrigerate one half while working with the other half. Roll dough into a rectangle, about 1/4-inch thick. You can make the crackers thicker or thinner, depending on how crispy you want them. Using a pastry wheel or pizza cutter or sharp knife, slice the dough into small 1-inch squares.
Image of crackers on cookie sheet
Transfer squares to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Whisk together the egg and water, then lightly brush the egg wash over the tops of the crackers. Sprinkle lightly with coarse salt and bake at 375°F for about 15 minutes, or until they start to brown around the edges. Remove from the oven and let cool—they'll crisp as they sit. Repeat with the second half of the dough.
Image of Power Crackers
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