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Making a really healthy "snack cracker"

 
pollinator
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I recently did a new post on my blog site that I thought might be of interest to some Permies folks.  I've adapted the idea of kale chips, which I love, but are way too expensive when buying with too much packaging, to make a more substantial cracker sort of version myself.  I've mostly made them with kale, making kale crackers, but really it works with a much wider range of greens.

I'm liking these for multiple reasons.  First I find them quite tasty.  They are also thick enough to be good for dipping with salsa or hummus.  They are crazy healthy for you and fit the bill for anyone trying to eat a whole food plant based diet as I'm trying to shift my diet toward.  They also allow me to utilize huge quantities of greens in a productive way, including some of the tougher more fibrous bits.  If I can get into the habit of making these whenever I have an abundance of a suitable green it can be a wonderful way to preserve this bounty for eating my greens during the winter months too.

If anyone is interested the full blog post is here:  https://theartisthomestead.com/a-stupendously-healthy-snack-cracker/

To try and briefly sum it up, what I do is grind up a bunch of greens, creating a mash.  When ground and dried long fibers don't seem to be a detriment to eating so I find I can use more of the kale stems or leaves with long fibers like plantain.  To this ground mash I mix in a variety of binders and flavorings.  Generally this will be milled flax seed, ground cooked beans (chickpeas being my favorite so far), some ground nuts, miso paste for a salty taste without the ill health effects of salt, often tomato paste for flavoring, apple cider vinegar, and an assortment of spices.  

I mix everything together, making a rather unsightly bowl of glop.  Then I spread this mix out into fruit leather tray inserts for my food dehydrator and dehydrate for a couple days until I've got thick, crisp snack crackers made of some of the healthiest foods on the planet.  I suspect baking at a low temperature would work as well, but I haven't tried this yet.

There would seem to be lots of potential variations of this I hope to yet explore.  Does anyone else make this sort of cracker?
kale-crackers8.JPG
[Thumbnail for kale-crackers8.JPG]
The mix spread out into the dehydrating trays ready to be dried.
 
garden master
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Nifty!

I have made kale chips for myself -- avoiding the ridiculous cost and packaging of the commercial ones -- in my dehydrator, but I never thought of this "green fruit leather" approach to a snack product.  Do they get to a point of dehydration where they have snap and/or crunch, or are they always soft and bendy, like fruit leather only made from greens?

Edit: Doh!  Just realized I posted that question before I went to read your blog post.  I'll do that next!

Another edit: OK, now I have read the post.  I'm still curious about the final texture.  Chewy? Or do we get snap/crunch?

Either way, kudos from another whole-plant-foods eater.  I want to experiment now!

One barrier for me is that, although I have a surplus of garage sale dehydrators to supplement my one decent one, I only have the one silicone fruit leather tray.  I have seen instructions for improvising with wax paper or parchment paper, but that's an awful lot of fiddly cutting and shaping.  I need to find a better way -- maybe there's a cheap source of fruit leather trays by the six-pack on Chinese-sourced Ebay or something.
 
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Dan, I have used some sheets of the silicone that you use to line the bbq and cut them to size for my dehydrator. My harvestmaid dehydrator is round with a hole in the middle so I cut the sheet of silicone into a square marginally narrower than the diameter of the tray, fold the sheet of silicone into 6ths and snipe the centre out 1/2 the diameter of the hole and cut the outer edge in line with the shortest piece to create a circle. Use a piece of baking paper to practice on to create a template until you have the right size to fit snugly in your tray. If you have a dehydrator with square or rectangular trays then no faffing about needed to get the sheets to fit!😉
 
pollinator
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Wow David, I read the above and your complete blog post. What a great idea for making thicker kale chips, and ones you can combine with other ingredients! Bravo! I will try this soon.

105, still alive

In raw vegan circles (I sympathize but I am not one), they have a saying for dehydrator temps. The objective is to preserve the enzymes naturally present in the raw veg and not allow them to disintegrate as they do above 41°C. (Sorry, as hard-core pro-metric as I am, this saying only works in Fahrenheit.) "A hundred and five, still alive." So you might try a batch that is not heated above 105°F at any point. Of course, it takes a bit longer to dehydrate. You may not notice a difference in the final product, but who knows, your body might.

Greens intended for use as dried herbs or for teas tend to be dehydrated at about 35°C (95°F) to preserve the delicate leaves and the volatile essential oils. As far as I understand, this is mainly a matter of taste, though in the case of some volatile essential oils from certain plants, the difference might be medicinal too I suppose. I don't know if these concerns would be very relevant to your kale chips. At least taste-wise, I doubt the flavor is so subtle that the delicate essential oils of some green you've used would be ruined! Though who knows, with some sorrell or spinach and shiro miso... ??? Anyway, just throwing that out there for what it's worth.

The only thing I worry about when whizzing up veggies and fruit is oxidation. Once whizzed, there's a huge surface available to be oxidized. As far as I know, an acid such as lemon juice or cider vinegar is what best helps keep the degree of oxidation down. So I think the vinegar in your recipe is valuable for more reasons that just the taste.

Congratulations on opening new doors in ultra-healthy eating. This one has endless possibilities behind it! Thanks!
 
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This is something I've been meaning to try for ages. The miso sounds like a tasty addition.

I used to drink a lot of carrot juice while doing a modified Gerson therapy. I made dehydrated crackers with the carrot pulp, adding flaxseed and thinly sliced onions. They were too oniony for me, but other people loved them.
 
David Huang
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Dan Boone wrote:


 I'm still curious about the final texture.  Chewy? Or do we get snap/crunch?

Either way, kudos from another whole-plant-foods eater.  I want to experiment now!

One barrier for me is that, although I have a surplus of garage sale dehydrators to supplement my one decent one, I only have the one silicone fruit leather tray.  I have seen instructions for improvising with wax paper or parchment paper, but that's an awful lot of fiddly cutting and shaping.  I need to find a better way -- maybe there's a cheap source of fruit leather trays by the six-pack on Chinese-sourced Ebay or something.



Thanks Dan, nice to meet another whole plant food eater here.  :)  To answer your question I find I get a snap rather than a chewy bendy thing.  The crunch isn't quite like a grain based cracker though.  Also they snap the best straight out of the dehydrator.  The longer they sit the more moisture then pull in from the atmosphere slowly shifting it to an eventual bend/chew I would imagine, though mine have never lasted that long.  I tend to store them in a tin or tupperware type container.  If I was really going for longer term storage I might seek better ways to keep air out.  I should note it can get rather humid where I live.

As for sourcing the trays I wish I had a good answer.  It seems like I sucked it up and just bought a bunch on Amazon or Ebay at one point so all my dehydrating screens had trays.  I also got the "clean a screen" flex things to go on the screen which I find handy for other stuff.  I forget what I paid now.  It sure seems like there should be a bulk supplier.  Megan's approach sounds like it could work well too, though I must admit I've never seen the silicone sheets she's talking about.  I've just heard they exist.  I'm guessing they are fairly cheap?
 
David Huang
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Dave,

Thanks.  Years ago I did do a period of only raw food eating and remember there was a number for max temp. to dehydrate at.  105 degrees F.  Thanks for the reminder.  I probably should try a batch at or below that.  I suppose I tend to get impatient, which is kinda silly since so often they end up staying in the dehydrator running longer than needed just because I get too busy with other stuff to pack them all away.  I don't think my pallet is refined enough to taste any differences if I kept it to 95 degrees though.  

Nice point about the oxidation and vinegar too.  I hadn't considered that though I have used some lemon juice for flavor in the past too.  Bonus that they add good flavor and help with the oxidation.  Still even if they oxidized a lot the volume of greens in these just has to be healthy for a person, esp. anyone who might otherwise be eating a standard American diet!

I am quite excited about the range of possibilities this whole approach opens up.
 
David Huang
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Jan White wrote:This is something I've been meaning to try for ages. The miso sounds like a tasty addition.

I used to drink a lot of carrot juice while doing a modified Gerson therapy. I made dehydrated crackers with the carrot pulp, adding flaxseed and thinly sliced onions. They were too oniony for me, but other people loved them.



Jan,

I was just thinking I should get some carrots the next time I'm at the store to try!  Carrots, flax seed, onion (or some dried wild leek bulbs I have), and miso paste sound like they could make a fantastic cracker.
 
Dave de Basque
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David Huang wrote:
Still even if they oxidized a lot the volume of greens in these just has to be healthy for a person, esp. anyone who might otherwise be eating a standard American diet!



🤣🤣🤣 Ain't that the truth!

David Huang wrote:
I am quite excited about the range of possibilities this whole approach opens up.



So am I! If I could award you a Michelin star, I would, but unfortunately I'm not on the committee... 🙁 You got my thumbs up though...
 
Dan Boone
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David Huang wrote:
As for sourcing the trays I wish I had a good answer.  It seems like I sucked it up and just bought a bunch on Amazon or Ebay at one point so all my dehydrating screens had trays.



It looks like this is a reasonable approach.  I am finding round ones and square ones  on Amazon in a wide variety of materials at a wide variety of price points.  I didn't make any effort to shop before grabbing those demonstrative links because I need to survey my dog's breakfast of random dehydrators -- I think I have at least one oval shaped one as well. And for people concerned about plasticizers and VOCs and similar toxins, studying the comments and product listings, making sure they get real quality silicone or another food grade plastic they can live with, not a cheap outgassing Chinese vinyl or some random plastic,  will take some time.  

 
David Huang
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Yes, hunting down the right type trays can be a pain.  I seem to recall when I did I looked for the round ones for my brand of dehydrator, comparing prices from all the vendors before buying.  Then when I got them realized I hadn't paid enough attention to the exact model dehydrator I had.  The trays I ordered were for the same brand but different model, and were too large.  Doh!  So I had to do it all over again.
 
pollinator
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Thanks, David!  These look tasty.  As Dan said, it's nice to have another wfpb person here.  :)  

P.S. Your art is gorgeous!
 
David Huang
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Sonja Draven wrote:Thanks, David!  These look tasty.  As Dan said, it's nice to have another wfpb person here.  :)  

P.S. Your art is gorgeous!



Thanks Sonja!  Nice to meet another wfpb person as well.  Knowing more of you will likely help me get into the groove of it better.  I don't struggle so much with meat cravings as I do with salt and processed food.
 
pollinator
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Dave de Basque wrote:
105, still alive
In raw vegan circles (I sympathize but I am not one), they have a saying for dehydrator temps. The objective is to preserve the enzymes naturally present in the raw veg and not allow them to disintegrate as they do above 41°C. (Sorry, as hard-core pro-metric as I am, this saying only works in Fahrenheit.) "A hundred and five, still alive."



Forty One, not overdone!  :)
 
pollinator
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Just FYI - if you want to keep your crunchy foods crunchy - storing them with a dessicant like uncooked rice works well. The way we do it, is spread uncooked rice in the bottom of a tin, top with parchment or something like that and then the product you wish to store. I generally reuse the rice for quite a long while, when I worked in restaurants they didn't reuse it for as long.
 
David Huang
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Thanks Stacy!  That's a great tip.  Something I kinda knew but have never really put into practice and thus it became vague knowledge lingering forgotten in the dark reaches of my brain.  I need to try that out!
 
Dave de Basque
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Also my raw foodie friends insist that things last longer if you keep them in glass jars rather than plastic containers.

Thanks for the rice and parchment trick, Stacy! That's brilliant. I had been saving the little dessicant packets ("do not eat") that come with various products, and thinking I would like to have some alternative.
 
Megan Palmer
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Uncooked rice is a great idea Stacy, will put some in with my apple rings which go chewy even when stored in a jar. Will put a handful into muslin bag so that it can be removed easily. David, the silicone sheets we buy are sold at the hardware store in the bbq section and ironically, are made in the US https://us.cookina.co/
They aren’t cheap but can be reused over and over again.
 
David Huang
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I've been saving the dessicant packets too, Dave.  Thanks for the tip Megan.  I would never have thought to look at a hardware store with BBQ stuff.  :)  
 
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