Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Easy Almond Crackers

The Recipe: Easy homemade crackers made with almond meal (also called almond flour) or a mix of almond meal and pecan meal or almond meal and flax meal plus pantry ingredients – that's right, naturally gluten-free and no hard-to-find ingredients to invest in. Using nut flours instead of wheat flours means the crackers are low-carb but contain protein too.

I like to carry crisp, peppery Easy Almond Crackers and DIY Power Balls along on trips for quick, sustaining whole-food snacks. For those who follow Weight Watchers, Whole30 or paleo regimes, these are your crackers! And if you don't? No problem, they're just easy to make and taste good.

And for the bakers who follow Kitchen Parade, especially those who haven't baked since the holidays, it just feels good to be back in the kitchen to bake again, albeit without sugar and flour.

Easy Almond Crackers, crisp, peppery gluten-free crackers made with almond meal, also pecan meal, flax meal. Whole30, vegan. #LowCarb. For Weight Watchers, just #PP2.

OUR WORLD IS SO-O-O SMALL!

One of the world's great wonderments is that travel, media and the online world invite connections with real people from all-ll-ll across the world.

Case in point. Last summer, I attended a photography workshop.

In Finland.
Led by Meeta, born in India, now a photographer, stylist and writer living in Germany, whose parents live in Dubai.
Joined by Simone, a photographer and food blogger from the Netherlands.
Workshop participants came from Scandinavia, Europe, North Africa, even me from the U.S.

Twas a miracle of the modern world!

Ever since, I've followed Simone's Kitchen as she experiments with Whole30, I Quit Sugar. Guys will especially appreciate Dude Food Tuesdays, when Simone's husband Tom takes over the kitchen: think protein and guy-cooking sensibility. So again: a modern miracle, that you and I learn from the goings-on in a kitchen in the Netherlands. The Netherlands!!

Who's familiar with the Whole 30 eating plan? The idea is to set your sights on following the Whole 30 definition of a whole-food diet for 30 days. Honestly? Not everybody makes it.

It's a very conscious, conscientious way of eating. You need to really pay attention. You need to plan ahead. You really need to cook. That said, if you already eat a diet of vegetables, fruit and healthy protein, there's less adjustment. And it's totally worth it.

Whole30 appeals to me because it puts the kabosh on not only wheat and legumes and refined sugar but all processed foods. If you need a little mayonnaise? Oops, you can't just open a jar, so either skip the mayo or make it. If you want crackers? Ooops, that box in the pantry is off limits so go without or just make crackers.

Luckily, making mayonnaise is easy. And making crackers is easy-easy too.

ALANNA's TIPS Play with the meals! The first batch of Easy Almond Crackers, I was short on almond meal so supplemented with pecan meal. Another time, I used some flax meal. Turns out, that first almond-pecan mix is my favorite mix! When made with 100% almond meal, the crackers are the most tender: read "easy to break". Play with the seasonings! I like using an Italian seasoning mix but also had really good luck using those savory meat rubs that seem to collect in the spice cupboard. The only thing is, if the seasoning includes salt, use your judgment on whether to separately add salt or not. The crackers "do" need to be slightly salty – and generous pepper is really important – but it's easy to both over-season and under-season. Play with other flavorings! One batch made with 100% almond meal, I added some leftover orange zest, it added a great undertone.

EASY ALMOND CRACKERS

Hands-on time: 15 minutes up front, 5 minutes to finish
Time to table: 1 hour
Makes six to eight dozen small crackers
  • 1-1/4 cups (150g) almond meal
  • 1/2 cup (100g) pecan meal, flax meal or more almond meal
  • 2 tablespoons seasoning – Italian seasoning, any savory spice blend
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt or kosher salt (omit if seasoning has salt)
  • Four or five grinds of pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 tablespoons water

Set oven to 300F/150C.

In a large bowl, combine almond meal, pecan meal (or other meals), seasoning, salt and pepper with a spoon.

In a small bowl, stir together olive oil and water. Pour into the first bowl and stir to combine. The dough will be thick but not especially sticky.

Roll out the dough between two pieces of parchment, the "right" thickness is the exact size of a sheet pan.

(Here's how I do it, it took a little figuring out. On the counter, cut a piece of parchment slightly larger than a sheet pan. This piece will actually go in the oven – easy, easy clean up! Cut another piece of parchment (waxed paper will work here too or I use this re-useable non-stick "super parchment") that's the exact size of the sheet pan. This second piece will be the "measuring guide" but won't go into the oven. With your hands shape the dough to run almost the length of the long side of the bottom parchment, top it with the smaller parchment. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough right to all four edges of the top sheet, no less, no more. If you need to tear off a place where there's more than enough dough to patch a place where there isn't enough, no problem. The dough is really easy to work with, don't overthink this step.)

Score the crackers. Remove the top piece of parchment. Use a pizza cutter to cut the crackers, about an inch wide and two inches long. With scissors, trim the bottom piece of parchment to fit the baking sheet.

Gently slide the parchment onto the baking sheet.

Bake the crackers until crisp, about 25 - 30 minutes. (In my bottom oven, 28 minutes is the magic timing.)

Let the crackers cool a bit, then gently break apart into individual crackers. Store in an airtight container, preferably in the refrigerator.

NUTRITION INFORMATION
Per Cracker (if eight dozen, if six dozen): 17/23 Calories; 1/2g Tot Fat; 0g Sat Fat; 0mg Cholesterol; 12/16mg Sodium; 1g Carb; 0g Fiber; 0g Sugar; 1g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS POINTS WW Old Points .5 & WW Points Plus 0/1.
Per Four Crackers (if eight dozen, if six dozen): 70/93 Calories; 6/8g Tot Fat; 1g Sat Fat; 0mg Cholesterol; 48/64mg Sodium; 2/3g Carb; 1/2g Fiber; 0/1g Sugar; 2/3g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS POINTS WW Old Points 2 & WW Points Plus 2.
Adapted from Herb Crackers from the Dutch food blog Simone's Kitchen.

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via recipes@kitchen-parade.com. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. Follow Kitchen Parade on Facebook!

More Quick 'n' Easy Cracker Recipes

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Lavosh - Armenian Cracker Bread Quick Crisp Flatbread Herbed Saltines

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Cast Iron Meatloaf

The Recipe: Meatloaf cooked in a cast iron skillet, tender, moist and full of flavor thanks to milk-soaked bread crumbs and a pile of chopped vegetables that texture-wise, "melt" into the meatloaf. This is my go-to recipe for meatloaf, the one I make again and again. Great for meatloaf sandwiches? You bet!

The Conversation: Would you / do you / serve meatloaf for company?

Cast Iron Meatloaf, my go-to meatloaf recipe, tender, moist and full of flavor thanks to milk-soaked bread crumbs and a pile of chopped vegetables that melt into the meatloaf. For Weight Watchers, #PP6. #LowCarb

THANK YOU, MEATLOAF!

Last fall, we invited some people to dinner. My dad's cousin and his wife were in St. Louis from out of town to organize a reunion between her aunt and her uncle, a sister-brother pair, the last of eleven children who grew up on a Missouri hard-scrabble farm.

Now know this. Naomi, the aunt, is in her 80s, and Melburne, the uncle, he's 97!! Both are spry and definitely living the good life but I really struggled with what to make.

It turned out that we had such a good time that night. I swear, the meatloaf had something to do with it!

You see, when we sat down that night to a simple weeknight dinner of meatloaf, potatoes and green beans, Naomi flashed a big, big smile – "thrilled" might not be an overstatement. She told us, "This is my very favorite meal!" She even wondered if her niece had secretly told me about her favorites!

But it was just my good luck – and maybe good meatloaf! Meatloaf to the rescue!

ALANNA’S TIPS For bread, any fresh bread works, just make sure it has some heft and good flavor. I’ve used cornbread, rye bread, whole-wheat sandwich bread, you get the idea. When you run the bread through the food processor, don't go so far as "fine" bread crumbs, think the size of panko or grated cauliflower. If you're not eating bread, try cooked rice that's also run through the food processor a bit. For the “something else”, check your fridge, you’ll have something. I’ve used fennel, fresh kale, leftover mashed sweet potatoes, leftover brown rice. Just keep it plant-based. For meat, I use ground beef, ground venison, ground elk or some of each but this mixture would work beautifully with ground turkey as well. Proportion is important! If you have 1/3 more meat, say, be sure to use 1/3 more of the other ingredients. There’s no need to be spot-on precise, just try to stay kinda-sorta close. For example, I know that 1-1/4 pounds of meat perfectly fits a Le Creuset loaf pan we like to use for small, perfect meatloaf slices, that's about 2/3 of 2 pounds so I'll use about 2/3 of the other ingredients. In turn, I know that 3 pounds of meat (1.5 times 2 pounds) perfectly fits an extra-large cast-iron skillet so I'll use half again as much of the other ingredients. Again, without exactitude, honoring the premise and getting close enough. You’ll note that there’s no onion in the vegetables: no onion, no “burpy” meatloaf. For marinara, a jar of commercial marinara works well, so does the “Tomato Gravy” aka Homemade Marinara from Skillet Burgers with Tomato Gravy. It freezes beautifully, just thaw it in the microwave when you first start making the meatloaf. Watch the temperature! A meat thermometer insures that meatloaf doesn’t overcook and dry out. But a recent meatloaf cooked in record time, about 45 minutes, and I have No.Idea.Why. If it weren’t for the thermometer’s alarm, dinner in might have converted to dinner out.

QUICK SUPPER:
CAST IRON MEATLOAF

Hands-on time: 30 minutes
Time to table: 2 hours
Serves 12
(easy to halve; better yet, make one for dinner, another for the freezer)
    BREAD CRUMBS
  • 1 slice fresh bread (or enough to yield 1-1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs)
  • 1 cup skim milk
    VEGETABLES
  • 1 carrot, trimmed & peeled
  • 1 rib celery, trimmed
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup parsley or other fresh herbs
  • 1/2 cup “something else” – another vegetable, leftover rice, leftover vegetables, mashed sweet potatoes, etc.
    MEAT MIXTURE
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 pounds lean ground meat
  • 1 cup grated parmesan or another dry-ish cheese
  • 1/3 cup marinara sauce
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • Chopped Vegetables
  • Bread Crumbs, squeezed hard to remove liquid
    FOR TOPPING
  • 1 cup marinara sauce

Set oven to 375F/190C. Get out a 10-inch (25cm) cast iron skillet or another oven-safe skillet.

BREAD CRUMBS In a small food processor, blitz bread to form soft, loose crumbs. In a small bowl, combine bread crumbs and milk, let soak at room temperature.

VEGETABLES In the same food processor, chop the vegetables until fine. Set aside.

MEAT MIXTURE In a large bowl, one big enough to really get your hands into, whisk the eggs, add the eggs, parmesan, 1/3 cup marinara, salt, oregano and pepper. Add the Chopped Vegetables and squeezed Bread Crumbs.

With your hands, mix all the ingredients, really working the mixture to distribute all the ingredients evenly.

BAKE (COVERED) Gently pack (without pressing hard) the mixture into the skillet. Cover the skillet with foil and bake for 1 hour.

BAKE (UNCOVERED) Spread 1 cup marinara across the top. Return to the oven uncovered until meat reaches 160F/70C or is cooked through, 15 - 30 minutes.

REST (COVERED) Remove meatloaf from oven, cover with foil and let rest for about 5-10 minutes before slicing.

TO SERVE Serve hot with mashed potatoes and green beans.

OR GO "DELUXE" Or hey – I haven't thought of this in years but not can't get it out of my brain – go for my childhood favorite, "The Deluxe". Meatloaf mashed into a big pile with mashed potatoes, canned creamed corn and hmm, maybe some cottage cheese cheese too. Mmmm but just a suggestion.

NUTRITION INFORMATION Per Serving, assumes 12 servings/8 servings: 231/347 Calories; 11/17g Tot Fat; 5/8g Sat Fat; 110/165mg Cholesterol; 593/890mg Sodium; 7/11g Carb; 1/2g Fiber; 2g Sugar; 22/33g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS POINTS WW Old Points 5/8 & WW Points Plus 6/8. CALORIE COUNTERS half serving = 115 calories (11g protein).

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via recipes@kitchen-parade.com. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. Follow Kitchen Parade on Facebook!

Let's Talk Meatloaf


Cast Iron Meatloaf, tender, moist and full of flavor. For Weight Watchers, #PP6. #LowCarb

So yeah, sure, many people do love meatloaf. But isn't meatloaf, y'know, kind of every-day food? not something to serve to company?

I had such good luck serving meatloaf to our guests last fall, maybe I'm missing something. Where does meatloaf fall in your meal planning, what do you think?!


More Winter Comfort Food

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Hamburger Soup Hamburger Casserole Skillet Burgers with Tomato Gravy
Homemade Spaghetti Meat Sauce Mini Porcupine Meatballs Chocolate Chili

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© Copyright 2015 Kitchen Parade