Almond Pulp Crackers
July 30, 2010

One of my favorite mantras–stolen from my friend Gil–is “progress, not perfection.” It’s a handy little proverb for people like me, who are perfectionists about everything, and it’s especially helpful to share with clients who are trying to improve their dietary habits. Most of my clients are perfectionists too, and they tend to envision the journey toward healthy living as a one-hundred-meter dash toward a spotless finish line.

The reality is that improved eating habits take time and practice, and that living well doesn’t mean living like a saint.

I’d also apply the “progress, not perfection” mantra to culinary skill. Six years ago, when I graduated college, I knew nothing about cooking. I could make sandwiches, salads, and pasta, and that was about it. I gazed at Chloe–who has always had a knack in the kitchen, an effortless talent for composing meals in her head–with envy and awe.

Now I’m hardly a Deb Madison or Matthew Kenney, but I like to think that I’ve accumulated some talent in the kitchen in recent years. The single most important lesson I’ve learned is that there’s no magical talent that good cooks have and other people don’t (though I do think that professional chefs have extraordinarily fine-tuned palates, and they’re better at conceptualizing dishes than most people). Cooking well, like most life skills, is simply a matter of practice, persistence, and fearlessness about making mistakes. The more kitchen disasters you allow yourself to have, the better: it means you’re learning something. I’ve had no shortage of catastrophic recipe flops, and each one has made me a more able cook in the longrun.

The buckwheat and almond crackers I made this week certainly don’t belong in the “kitchen calamity” category. But I can’t say that I would put them in the “resounding success” category, either. They were a first try, and they were respectable as far as first tries go. With a little fine-tuning (and some sea salt), I expect that they’ll soon be better.

Each time I mention a new nut milk recipe, a get about five emails asking me what I do with the leftover almond pulp that comes from straining the nut milk. My response is usually “get thee to Google.” If you google “almond pulp recipe” you’ll quickly see that there are plenty of suggestions floating around the ether, from cookies to nut burgers. I haven’t yet tried these myself (though I have experimented widely with uses for juice pulp), but I know they’re out there.

Last week, I decided to give almond crackers a try, using the pulp from one batch of almond milk. In order to add texture to the recipe, I added some buckwheat flour (which I make by grinding soaked and dehydrated buckwheat finely in my food processor). The texture of the crackers was just right: I wanted them to be thick and crunchy, and they were.

The flavor? Comme ci, comme ca. These crackers were seriously in need of salt, and next time I’m going to increase the amount I used (I’ve already increased it in the recipe). I also think that some Herbamare would have come in handy, or perhaps some sundried tomatoes. With that said, I finished them all and enjoyed them plenty: I don’t like heavily salted food, so the lack of it didn’t really offend me. More importantly, the crackers were a great way to use up what I otherwise would have thrown away. They’re cheaper than storebought raw crackers, and they’re pretty dense, so they add a lot to a meal. Here’s how you make them:

Almond Pulp Crackers (yields about 30 crackers)

1 cup almond pulp (well strained)
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1/3-1/2 tsp salt (I used 1/4 tsp, but that isn’t enough)
2 tbsp ground flax meal
1/4 cup water (and more as needed)

Blend all ingredients in a food processor and process till smooth. Add water as needed: you may need more than 1/4 cup to get the right dough texture. The dough should be firm and hold its shape, but it shouldn’t be too dry to spread on a dehydrator tray.

Divide the dough in half, and spread till it’s about 1/4 inch thick on two teflex lined dehydrator trays. Score the dough into generous squares.

Dehydrate at 115 degrees for 5-6 hours. Flip the dough over and dehydrate for another 5-6 hours, or until the crackers are totally dry. Break them into crackers and serve.

These guys hover someplace in between “simple” and “bland.” I like bland food. If you don’t, then add some oregano, some sundried tomato, some cayenne, some nori — well, you get the idea. Experiment with flavors. And if you get a great combo, come back and let me know about it!

As with all dehydrator recipes, you can make these in the oven by baking them at 300 or 350 for 20-30 minutes (that, by the way, is a total guesstimate, so if you do this I suggest you keep an eye on the crackers to make sure they cook right).

If these crackers embodied the notion of “progress” (or at least, the potential for future progress), then the side dish I served them with was, I’m proud to say, a little whisper of “perfection.”

My pizza cheese, which I first made last spring, is one of my easiest and most foolproof recipes, and there’s nothing I would add or subtract to make it better. I love it just as it is. In fact, I was glad that the crackers were sort of bland, because they were a transparant vehicle for its flavor.


If you’re a new cook, and you’re just starting to get your kitchen legs, remember that the education of a home chef is lifelong. I’m a better cook than I was six years ago, when I didn’t know how to flip a pancake or chop an onion (gross, but a necessary kitchen skill), let alone make fermented nut cheese or raw falafel. I’ve come a long way, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t frequently make recipes that are, well, nasty, or that I don’t sometimes mess up recipes I’ve made perfectly in the past. At the risk of echoing the same tired cooking/life metaphors that we’ve all read in every intro to every cookbook we own: cooking, like life, is a journey.

And if you happen to make something perfect along the way, so much the better.

Speaking of really good cooks, my friend Ani is in NYC right now, and she’s got some fun events planned. If you’re a local reader and you want to hear more about her awesome new book, I suggest you check them out!

Happy Friday guys!

xo

Categories: Gluten Free, Raw

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    22 Comments
  1. Hi Gena,

    I don’t know if you respond to new comments in old posts, but hopefully you will 🙂 . I would love to start getting more omega-3’s in my diet and I would like to make it easier for myself by using pre-ground flax seeds (I don’t have a grinder, nor do I wish to buy one) to use in different recipes. Also, if I use pre-ground or freshly ground flax seeds in cooked or baked recipes, will that destroy the beneficial nutrients in the flax seeds?

    Thanks in advance!

  2. […] glad that people enjoyed the message of my last post, but for the most part I’ve been scatterbrained blogger this week. My twitter feed has been a […]

  3. Gena-Have I told you lately that I love you? Well, thank you so much for another great post that I needed to hear RIGHT NOW! Ever since losing 50 pounds on a very healthy almost vegan diet, I have been struggling with keeping the weight off. Your thoughts just helped me to put this all into perspective and I can’t thank you enough.

  4. I love that quote!!! I think that will help me through a lot these days. Thank you. 🙂

    Those crackers look fab and are so versatile. I love using almond pulp because it really gets things crispy. Drying it and using it in raw desserts is also one of my favorite ways to use it up.

  5. Hey Gena,
    Okay, so what’s the deal with you and onions? Is that a raw food no-no? Or do you personally just hate them? I’m kind of on the fence. I love the flavor, but my digestive system doesn’t like them much. I’m really curious to hear your take. Thanks!

    • Molly,

      Oh, no, it’s not a no no (tongue twister!). If you browse raw recipes, they’re loaded with onion. I just HATE raw onion, and I semi-hate cooked onion. Same with garlic. If I can taste it on my palate more than five minutes after I eat it, I’m NOT a fan. Blech! I use garlic now and then if I’m cooking it down a lot, but that is IT.

      G

  6. Love the “progress over perfection.” In being Type A, and perfection driven, I have gotten a lot accomplished professionally… But! I am by no means perfect, even as it applies to nutrition. I have found that it can be quite easy to want to be mad at myself for having taken a step back. It has taken me years to be “ok” with those “step backs.” I think “progress over perfection” is a fabulous mantra to recite.

  7. Those crackers look so simple and delicious, just the kind of recipes I like! Oh and that cheese..drooooool!

    I am seeing Ani next Wed. in NJ! I already bought tickets, I can’t wait!!!

  8. “living well doesn’t mean living like a saint” – love that, so true! I usually make cookies with leftover nut milk pulp. These look like a great pair to a spicy or really flavourful dip, thanks for sharing!

  9. Progress not perfection! What a beautiful motto. And I love your thoughts on learning to cook. YES. I hear so many people saying that they are scared to cook and I am always shocked. Why??? If you mess up, just try again! You can only get better, and it is definitely a lifelong process.

    Pizza cheese? Hello!!!!

  10. They sure are PRETTY!!!
    That’s one of my favorite quotes, too… I came across it about 6 weeks ago. I’ve been saying it to myself every few days since. 🙂

    XOXO,
    Kristen

    PS Miss you and NY! Tell the Blossom crew we said HI!!!!!

  11. I could barely fry an egg when I got married! But I’ve come a long way from making Rice-a-Roni and Hamburger Helper. I shudder to think of the gross stuff I considered food.

  12. I am constantly trying to let go of my type-A “perfectionist” personality! Thanks for the reminder in this post. 🙂

    I am drooling over that pizza cheese! I can’t wait for the next time I have some fresh basil in my house! YUM.

  13. Gena great job on your crackers and love the post that not every single event in the kitchen is worthy of a Food Network photo shoot 🙂 We ALL have those things that are fine but not perfect. I took a recipe I have for Vegan GF Blueberry Streusel Muffins that I made a couple weeks ago and thought I would get “clever” and increase the amt of blueberries the other day…and I nearly ruined the whole thing b/c it added too much water to the batter. Or just various experiments with dressings or whatever it is…I actually have a half written post for this weekend about this very thing…what do do with near-misses and do you “save” things in the kitchen if they dont turn out as planned? Not to mention in raw uncooking/unbaking, there’s very little that I find I can’t save with some minor changes an

    However…my goodness, I would hardly call what you did anything close to a miss. They look wonderful! Great work and have an awesome weekend!

  14. as someone who always strives for ‘perfection’ this was really great to read today! i’m at a point in life where i’m working on taking a different direction career-wise, but it is horrible to think about not being about to do it perfectly. i think the mantra of progress over perfection is so wonderfully applied to that!

    thanks gena 🙂

    • Thanks Heather!

      As the nutritionist + book editor double life probably suggests, my own professional track has expanded a lot in the last few years, and this has meant letting go of some of my own one-track and type-A ways of thinking 🙂

  15. I am pretty pumped about this recipe. The cracker thickness/texture looks awesome. I’m all out of nut milk and have a few pounds of nuts in my pantry…so, I think I know what needs to be done!