Monday, May 6, 2013

Nut and Seed Crackers (and a Year out of College)


One year ago I graduated from college, donning purple robes with 4000 others who were all equally as excited to bring a certain stage of our lives to a close. I recall wondering how many were in the same position as I, putting on a smiling face while on the inside thinking how college was just the easy part, how the elusive and supposedly worse “real world” was yet to come. I remember three days prior, after my last final exam, I came home and proceeded to have what could probably be described as a full-blown meltdown over the fact that “it’s all over!” I wasn’t really sad for the experience of college to be over. In all honesty I didn’t particularly enjoy a good portion my times at college. Mostly I was terrified, terrified that this safety net called “my education” was ripping at its seams and I was about to go tumbling out, grasping at mere loose threads, before falling into a dark and deep abyss.


So now here I sit 365 days later wondering where on earth all of that time in-between went. It’s as if I hit the bottom of that abyss, passed out and woke up one year later only to think I had slept for merely a night. It’s strange, but, although it feels like no time has passed at all, so much seems to have happened. So many things that I thought would become my entire life, I have now left behind and the things I wished to release and forget, I now embrace with all of my being. I graduated with slight feelings of regret, wishing I had done something different. I wished I hadn’t “wasted” my time on studying film and design and gone off to culinary school instead. Now, with nearly eight months of post-graduate restaurant experience under my belt I can assure you that my educational decision to keep my cooking hobby separate from my career was quite wise. During those eight months there was no light at the end of the tunnel. It was a place where crying was a normal daily occurrence and verbal abuse was accepted without restraint. There were moments where I began to think that this could actually be the norm. If I weren’t so stubborn and wanting of a genuine cause for leaving, I wouldn’t have put up with it for nearly as long as I did.

And just at the moment when I thought I could go on no longer, I didn’t have to. I landed a job using all of those skills that I learned in college. I finally got my career. And though I now spend my days sitting at a desk and staring at a computer, the very things I thought I did not want, I could not be any happier. In fact I can’t remember a time in the last few years when I have been this inexplicably happy. Maybe its because I work at a t-shirt design company where things like spirit days, mid-day bbqs, sporadic food extravaganzas, and the best coworkers exist, but that “real world” that everyone warned me about, feels like the best dream I could imagine. I know I’m in the right place, that everything it exactly as it should be, and it can only get better from here.


Which brings me to a recipe. I don’t think I’ve taken the time yet to express how much I love the The Sprouted Kitchen Cookbook. Sara and Hugh are the dynamic duo of this creation and it has become a favorite among my collection of cookbooks. I not only reach for it endlessly for recipes but also for tips to improve my photography and cooking and my ability to embrace the simpler things in life. It is truly a work of art and one of the best examples out here of the perfect combination of food and photos. I love Sara’s dedication to her husband at the beginning, that he was the one that helped her escape from a life she didn’t enjoy and lead her to one that means the world to her. I like to think that we are alike in this way, that we were both lost for a time and although we found our ways in totally different fields, we found them nonetheless.




I was flipping through the book the other day and found a recipe for “nut and seed crackers” tucked away inside the snack section. It’s an understated recipe, no picture and a very small caption about how great they are with hummus. After skimming through the ingredients list I found that I had everything I needed and a nearly empty tub on hummus I was looking to finish off.  So of course I made them. Though the recipe almost slips by unnoticed, these crackers certainly speak volumes. Made of nothing but ground up nuts and seeds and a splash of oil and sweetener, they start out as a crumbly greasy ball of dough but end up with a deep, toasty flavor and a soft delicate texture. They still have a good bit of dexterity though, strong enough to hold a hefty amount of topping and enough chew and protein to fill you up nicely. 


I tried them with hummus, per Sara’s suggestion, with much success, but tried a few other toppings too. They were nice with peanut butter and a sliver of apple and also with cream cheese and cucumber slices. But my favorite was a dreamy combo of whipped goat cheese and sliced strawberries with a good sprinkle of fresh cracked black pepper. Yes, black pepper…on strawberries. It’s weird but it works. Just how sea salt makes chocolate all the more chocolatey, the black pepper almost brightens the acidity and sweetness of the strawberry. And not only are they great for either breakfast or lunch, they are also vegan and gluten-free. Sounds like just the perfect way to start off the beginning of the 2nd year out of college, this one looking much brighter than the first.



Sara’s Nut and Seed Crackers
slightly adapted from the Sprouted Kitchen Cookbook

Ingredients
½ cup almond meal
½ cup raw cashews
1 Tbs flaxseed meal
1 Tbs whole flaxseeds
1/3 cup sesame seeds
a sprig of rosemary
¾ tsp sea salt
1 Tbs agave syrup
1 Tbs olive oil
1-2 Tbs water

Combine the almond meal, cashews, flaxseed meal and whole flaxseeds in a food processor and pulse until the cashews resemble a meal. Add the sesame seeds, the leaves from your sprig of rosemary, ½ tsp of the salt, the agave, and the olive oil and pulse for a few more seconds until the rosemary is chopped up. Drizzle in 1 Tbs of the water and pulse until everything comes together into a ball. If it doesn’t, add more water 1 Tbs at a time until it does. Place the ball of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.

When ready, preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove the dough from the fridge and roll out with a rolling pin. This will be easier if you put the dough between two sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap first. Roll out to 1/8-inch thickness. If it starts to crack at the edges you can gently push it back together before continuing. Cut the crackers into whatever shape you desire. I made 10 large-ish wedge shapes but smaller crackers would be nice too. Use a spatula to transfer them to the baking sheet and bake for about 12-14 minutes until toasted and brown. Sprinkle with the remaining salt after removing form the oven. Let cool before serving with the toppings of your choice. 

3 comments:

  1. What a beautiful post. I am so flattered. This stage of life you're in...it's an adventurous one, I will say that. The twenties are years of self discovery. Keep going at it enthusiastically.
    I LOVE the shape you cut them! and all those toppings sounds incredible!
    Thank you for the kind words.

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  2. Hey, nice site you have here! Keep up the excellent work!

    Crackers

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  3. So lovely. Any idea how these keep? Do they last more than a day?

    ReplyDelete