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the haas machine: Wheat Crackers

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Wheat Crackers

My friend Holly is in the middle of a life-changing food experiment to stop eating foods that contain GMO's (genetically modified organisms) because they are terrible for us (read Holly's blog here). Have you heard about GMO's? Do you realize how they are in almost everything processed we eat? Here's just a quick sample of some popular GMO's:
  • Aspartame
  • Sodium Ascorbate
  • Vitamin C
  • Sodium Citrate
  • "Natural or Artificial Flavor"
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein
  • Lactid Acid
  • Malodextrin
  • Molasses (non-organic)
  • Monosodium Glutamate
  • Sucrose
  • Xantham Gum
I encourage you to check out this site that gives way more detailed information on GMO's than I could begin to list here. They have an incredible list of products are are known to contain GMO's (yes, even some that are marketed as "natural"), those without GMO's & best of all, they have an app that you can download, because if you're anything like me, you have a hard time keeping things straight in your head.

Our food industry is in a lot of trouble & I think a lot of people just don't want to deal with it or don't have the resources to, so they continue to eat foods & feed foods to their families that are filled with toxic junk. Companies especially know how to target people that are low-income, have kids, & those with addictions (McDonalds is known to put addictive ingredients into their products) so that they can keep selling their crappy food. We are a society who loves convenience & we are too busy to invest in our health, so we just buy whatever's easiest, cheapest & takes the least effort. And unfortunately, as a society, we are paying the heavy price of extremely high cost medical & behavioral issues that have been linked to our unhealthy diets.

I think we owe it to ourselves & our children to really start reading nutrition labels, making choices based on those ingredients & voting with our forks.

If you are trying to cut back on eating foods that contain GMO's, here are a few things you can do:
  1. Buy organic. Foods labeled "Certified Organic," by law, cannot knowingly contain GMO's.
  2. Buy products with the Non-GMO Project seal.
  3. Look for dairy products labeled "No rBGH or rBST,” or “artificial hormone-free" (however, just because a dairy product doesn't contain rBGH or rBST, it doesn't necessarily mean it's GMO-free because the cow could have eaten feed that was genetically modified, so organic is still best).
  4. Avoid at-risk ingredients. Avoid products made with ingredients that might be derived from GMO's (see the list above). The eight GM food crops are Corn, Soybeans, Canola, Cottonseed, Sugar Beets (if a non-organic product made in North American lists “sugar” as an ingredient & NOT pure cane sugar, then it is almost certainly a combination of sugar from both sugar cane & GM sugar beets), Hawaiian Papaya (most) & a small amount of Zucchini & Yellow Squash.
  5. Download a helpful shopping guide. Both No GMO & Non GMO Project have really great apps & shopping guides to help you navigate this mess.
  6. Shop at your local farmers markets. Click here to discover the farmers markets in Wisconsin.
  7. Check out 100 Days of Real Food for all kinds of great tips for getting kids to make healthier choices, how to read labels & most importantly, recipes for eating whole foods- as in non-processed foods (also become a fan on facebook).
Someone once told me that if you are trying to eat healthier, you should only eat food that your great-grandparents would recognize & half of the portions you normally would. My grandparents lived through the era of wonder bread & margarine, so I need to go back one more generation. My great-grandparents would have no clue what Nacho Cheese Doritos or Diet Coke were (which is a shame because those are two of my favorite junk foods).

So, OK, GMO's are bad- that's pretty obvious to me. But where do we go from here? It's nearly impossible to avoid them unless you can buy everything organic & cook the food yourself. We do try to eat mostly organic fruits & veggies (especially those listed on the Dirty Dozen list), & we eat mostly organic & local meats. I haven't been able to bring myself to buy organic dairy products (only because of the price), but it's where we would eventually like to be. I don't necessarily want the price of organic products to go down too low, though & here's why. In my opinion, we will either pay now or later (health-wise), so why not invest in healthy bodies now instead of trying to fix them once they are broken?

I like the idea of trying to eat this way 80% of the time. That's why I work so hard to make things from scratch. That's why I research food labels before I go shopping. That's why I try to keep most processed foods out of our reach. But I also realize that it's not possible to do that 100% of the time. We enjoy dining out occasionally. We like to eat with friends. We get attend parties. And we realize not everyone has the same convictions about food that we do & that's OK.

But sometimes we really just want a bowl of cereal or some crackers to go with our cheese. I found this recipe from one of my absolute favorite books, The Homemade Pantry, & I'm really excited about finding yet another thing I can make from home. The whole recipe took me about 35 minutes (20 minutes cooking time), so I consider that worth the time & energy. It will save us from not having to dish out major bucks for non-GMO crackers & I can have the peace of mind that they are safe for my family when John & Ruby are having cracker eating competitions.

Wheat Crackers
1 cup all purpose flour (for all our flour needs, we use King Arthur, which is GMO- free!)
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking powder (Frontier brand, & Rumford, which are GMO-free!)
1/3 cup whole, uncooked organic millet (here is a list of a few organic brands)
1/3 cup ground organic flax seeds (Frontier brand)
1/2 tsp kosher salt, plus additional for sprinkling
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
Parchment paper
Cookie cutters, if using

Preheat the oven to 350. In a medium bowl or Kitchen Aid, combine the two flours, baking powder, millet, flax, & salt. Add the olive oil & combine. Add 1/2 cup water & continue to add more water (up to 1/4 cup additional, if needed) to the dough until it holds together. Knead the dough with your hands in the bowl for 2 minutes until it is smooth & very workable.

Turn out the dough onto a piece of parchment paper, press into a flat disc & roll with a rolling pin until the dough is 1/8-1/4 inch thick (too thick dough = soggy-ish crackers). You can either make square crackers by cutting with a pizza wheel or knife, or you can use cookie cutters & make your own fun shapes. And leftover dough can be rerolled for more crackers.

Transfer the dough pieces to a baking sheet, covered in parchment paper. Sprinkle each piece of dough with salt & pepper lightly & bake 20-22 minutes (make sure you switch the position of the cookie sheet midway). The crackers are done when they are hard to the touch.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool. The crackers can be stored at room temperature in a covered container for a week, or in the freezer in a freezer-safe container or bag for 3 months (re-crisp in the oven at 375 for 3 minutes).

Recipe adapted from The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying & Start Making

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