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Amaranth Crackers

12 August

Amaranth Blog Photo

Food Boredom is no joke. It strikes when we least expect it, and sucks our creative energy out of us like a vampire bat in Transylvania.

You’ve got a stocked pantry, a full fridge, maybe even a garden that’s producing amazing veggies, and all you can think is, “Please, god, let me fall into a deep sleep and wake up with a full belly and no recollection of how I got it.”

There are hundreds of Real Foods available to us at any given American supermarket {yes, even the “non-healthy” ones}, yet sometimes, whether it’s a mind-numbing dinner rut, the constrictions of specific diets, or our own pickiness, it can feel like there’s nothing to make that we’d actually want to eat.

I’ve never met a human who didn’t get Food Boredom, but what brings it on? Trying to eat seasonally at the end of a season? The day before grocery shopping? Overall life exhaustion? Having to come up with something on the spot and on an empty stomach? Using the same ingredients over and over?

I’ve been a vegetarian for 17 years, and there are times when I wish I ate meat just so I can throw a clean sausage into a pan and have a different texture, a different taste, a different smell in my kitchen.

IMG_2769But the bigger question is:
what makes Food Boredom go away?

Well, the obvious answer is: Take Out!  But that’s temporary, because the thing about dinner is that it happens every single day.  If you order in {or eat out} one night, you’re back to Food Boredom square one the next night {I’ve done extensive research on this to be able to verify that it’s true}.

So how about:
* Host a potluck with a few trusted friends: make sure they’re people you are completely comfortable around so you don’t have to clean the house {or anything else that’s stressful}.  You make one dish {like the hummus your whole family’s tired of} that tastes new to others, and then eat and collect ideas from what others bring.

* Do a “task swap” with your partner: he or she gets the privilege of making dinner, and you get the privilege of staying completely out of it no matter how notoriously bad they are at cooking.

* Choose a random new vegetable at the grocery store, bring it home, and search for recipes that you’ve never made before.

* Declare it to be “stir-fry night”, and throw just about anything from the fridge into the wok – when it’s delicious, I feel inspired; when it’s nasty, I feel grateful for the boring stuff.

* Eat “Breakfast for Dinner” until the bored spell passes.

* Browse through a cookbook at a book store, or a food blog that’s new to you, to spark some ideas {or to just start loving food again because of all of the gorgeous photos}.

But my favorite way to end Food Boredom is to
use an old ingredient in a new way.

I know, when you feel un-creative, starting from scratch with something new sounds like the worst idea since “coffee enema” {actually… well, that’s a story for another post}. But think of it like driving to work using a different route to make your entire day feel more exciting. {It works!  I dare you to try it!}

For me, it was amaranth. Amaranth is a very small seed that looks like a miniature quinoa seed. It’s high in protein, fiber, calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, and vitamins A, C and E.

It’s also a gluten-free grain, so it shows up on lots of gluten-free lists as a great new grain to try.

IMG_2758But every time I made it, I got a pot full of sticky porridge that tasted a little something like corn, but had little else to recommend it. When you’re making a choice to limit yourself from the most common and readily available source of a macronutrient {meat}, you need to be able to make the most of what IS available to you, so I felt the pressure to get amaranth into the repertoire.  But I just couldn’t make that stuff taste good!

So I stayed bored, and the jar of bulk amaranth sat in the way-back of the pantry. Until I found a recipe for non-corn, corn chips that used amaranth as its base!

Now, my body can handle eating corn {and, like every single one of you, I’ve been known to down an entire bag of tortilla chips}, but the part of the recipe that saved me from boredom was the author’s new method of using amaranth {which, by the way, can also be popped like popcorn!}.

You make the amaranth porridge, and then use that porridge as batter! It blew my mind, which, as you know, is the best way to truly get rid of boredom.

So here’s the Amaranth Cracker recipe that I came up with. Since it’s a plant-based complete protein, it’s also a carbohydrate, so what you need to add to it is plenty of good fat. Mash up some avocado into a simple “guacamole”, or slather them with your favorite nut or seed butter, for a great snack. You can also top them with a slice of meat and cheese for a gluten-free appetizer.

For dinner, they’re good topped with nacho fixings, or used as the crunchy counter-part to roasted or grilled veggies with olive tapenade {that’s the stacked veggie photo above}. When the weather gets cooler, they’re going to be my substitution for bread with soups and stews.

The herbs you use in them can vary, depending on how you’re eating them: I like oregano and smoked paprika when I’m making nachos, and Herbs de Provence with grilled veggies and tapenade. But any and every dried herb would taste good here, since the amaranth cracker is a mostly-blank slate.

Oh, wait!  Before you make these awesome Amaranth Crackers, please save someone else’s dinner by sharing how YOU ban Food Boredom below!

Here’s to Inspiration!
Liz

Amaranth Crackers {inspired by Healthful Pursuit}IMG_2761
Ingredients
1 cup amaranth seeds
2 cups water
1 Tb nutritional yeast
1 tsp sea salt
2 tsp dried herbs {here’s where you can get creative! Or start with your favorites, and get creative after the Food Boredom has passed.}

Directions

  1. Combine amaranth and water, plus a pinch of salt, in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until amaranth has become a sticky porridge.
  2. Stir in nutritional yeast, sea salt and dried herbs, and set aside until porridge is cool enough to handle.
  3. Preheat oven to 400, and cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Fill a small bowl with water.
  4. Dip your fingers into the water, scoop up some of the amaranth, place it on the cookie sheet, and flatten it with your fingers. {The water will keep the amaranth from sticking to your fingers and making you so angry that you throw the whole thing into the trash.}
  5. Repeat this until you’ve used all of the amaranth, then bake them in the oven for 40 minutes. The amaranth will go through 2 phases in the oven: first it will puff up.  Next, the puffy amaranth “cookies” will deflate, and start to get crunchy. When they’re completely flat and browned at the edges, or you touch them and they feel hard, they’re ready to take out of the oven. They crisp up a little more as they cool, but not a whole lot.
  6. Use your new spark of creativity to dunk, dip, or top the crackers in an inspired way!

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Liz Flint-Somerville, Nutritional Consultant

Liz was a partner in Grub for 3 amazing years and helped author many of our most beloved recipes and posts. She is now dedicating her time to caring for her family, writing poetry, and continuing to cook delicious Real Foods.

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9 Responses to “Amaranth Crackers”

  1. Donna Chi August 13, 2014 at 1:38 pm #

    Would it work to mix cheese in with the batter? Or sprinkle Parmesan on them while they’re baking?

    • Liz Flint-Somerville August 13, 2014 at 3:13 pm #

      I think that’s a great idea, Donna, especially the Parmesan sprinkle before baking them! Please let us know how it turns out!

  2. Makeda August 13, 2014 at 3:28 pm #

    Awesome post! I mix Amaranth with creamed brown rice for a hot cereal breakfast sometimes. Coconut oil, maple syrup and a lil homemade cashew milk makes my children gobble it up! I am excited about trying this cracker recipe. It’ll be great to have a whole food snack around that is homemade! I need to know what to do with these two eggplants in my fridge.

    • Liz Flint-Somerville August 13, 2014 at 4:28 pm #

      ooo, amaranth breakfast cereal! Great idea Makeda, thank you for sharing it!

      As for eggplant, in my house we are obsessed with grilling it. Slice it in rounds (you don’t even need to peel it), salt it and let it sit for 20 minutes. Then grill it ’til it’s soft and browned. It gets so tender and delicious. And it’ll work baked in a 400degree oven, too, just takes a bit longer.

  3. Cathleen August 22, 2014 at 12:48 pm #

    We’re always looking to try ingredients and last we gave amaranth a go. I cooked it just like rice and served it as the base for spicy sautéed onions, sweet potatoes, and kale. Wow! The amaranth was delicious on its own but paired so well with the vegetables. Thanks for the inspiration Grub!

    • Liz Flint-Somerville August 23, 2014 at 6:41 pm #

      Hooray! Real Food eating can be so adventurous and fun!

      Thanks for reporting back – we eat vicariously through others’ recipes. 🙂

  4. Kristen February 28, 2015 at 1:13 pm #

    Should the amaranth be soaked first? So much out there these days on soaking grains. Do you think soaking would change the texture of these crackers? Looking forward to trying these! Thanks!

    • Liz Flint-Somerville March 2, 2015 at 12:46 am #

      Hi Kristen,
      Soaking grains (and legumes and nuts and seeds) makes them easier for the body to digest, so, yes, go ahead and try soaking the amaranth first. I don’t think it will change the texture of the crackers, but if it does, please let us know!

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