By Lisa Messinger
Author of: The Tofu Book: The New American Cuisine
When you walk down a supermarket flour aisle are you like a kid in a candy store? Years ago, the choices were generally all-purpose white and wheat. Thanks to artisanal bakers, our purposes have expanded, though, and Oregon-based Bob's Red Mill, founded in 1978, alone distributes about 50 varieties of flours to supermarkets and online, including almond, hazelnut, coconut, oat, barley, brown rice, quinoa, and garbanzo bean.
You've never tasted a gingersnap made with garbanzo bean flour? The minute I heard of them a few years ago from a New York City bakery that drew lines and shipped out orders, I knew I wanted in. Flour ingredients share their strengths with the foods they are in, such as protein content from garbanzo beans or cholesterol-fighting ability from oats. Give up flavor? To the contrary, the package of 12 large ginger chew cookies I had shipped from Sans Bakery were the best I had ever tasted.
Buying the occasional bag of specialty flour in the supermarket (they tend to come in smaller sizes with higher price tags per ounce than traditional big-brand all-purpose white and wheat ones) and craving a hit of overnighted unique cookies, led me to further experimentation at home. Making your own small-batch, even one-use, flour samples from items already in your pantry can broaden your horizons and put you in better touch with choosing products you may want to try in the future.
All you need is a food processor or strong blender, which I use. Following are a few easy ideas. Unless noted, ingredients are to taste.
Fun fare like this also proves food preparation can be easy, nutritious, inexpensive, fun - and fast. The creative combinations are delicious proof that everyone has time for preparing homemade specialties and, more importantly, the healthy family togetherness that goes along with it!
Another benefit: You effortlessly become a better cook, since these are virtually-can't-go-wrong combinations. They can't help but draw "wows" from family members and guests.
QUICK TIP OF THE WEEK:
- PB&J OUT OF THE OVEN
We eat homemade oatmeal all the time and also always have raw almonds on hand. My favorite home blend flour has become a half and half mixture of the two. I substituted it for the flour in a basic peanut butter cookie recipe and also included dried cranberries, which gave a flavor note reminiscent of peanut butter and jelly.
- OPEN SESAME
A large jar of sesame seeds (ounce for ounce, named one of the healthiest foods in the world) was calling to me from the pantry as I remembered warm sesame puffs served to me before every meal for decades at my favorite recently defunct Mongolian barbecue restaurant. Within a half hour, I calmed my craving. I started with my basic half-and-half oat and almond flour and based on sesame puff recipes I read, mixed in a beaten egg and teaspoon of baking powder and then gently stirred in sesame seeds (I wanted them throughout, rather than just sprinkled on top). As I placed them by teaspoonful on a lightly greased baking sheet, I pressed a bit of dried fruit-seed trail mix I had into each one and baked at 350 F until slightly browned and a fork came out clean.
- BET ON BARLEY
If you have barley cereal, like Grape-Nuts (which also includes wheat), finely grind it in your food processor or strong blender. Use it as a substitute in your favorite graham cracker crust recipe. When cooled, create a brunch parfait pie by filling the crust with a layer of cooked oatmeal, dusted with brown sugar, a layer of mixed fresh berries, a drizzle of chopped walnuts and a dollop of whipped cream.
If you or a loved one, like many with diabetes, are restricting yourself, Biggest Loser
TV series chef Devin Alexander
says instead You Can Have It
in her book of the same title. It's filled with healthful takes on "decadent
" comfort foods calibrated to work within a diabetes-friendly diet. A strategy like this means nothing is out of the question, even dishes like waffle fries, cheesy lasagna rollups and bacon ranch flatbread pizza.
Lisa Messinger at Creators Syndicate is a first-place winner in food and nutrition writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the National Council Against Health Fraud and author of seven food books, including the best-selling The Tofu Book: The New American Cuisine with 150 Recipes (Avery/Penguin Putnam) and Turn Your Supermarket into a Health Food Store: The Brand-Name Guide to Shopping for a Better Diet (Pharos/Scripps Howard). She writes two nationally syndicated food and nutrition columns for Creators Syndicate and had been a longtime newspaper food and health section managing editor, as well as managing editor of Gayot/Gault Millau dining review company. Lisa traveled the globe writing about top chefs for Pulitzer Prize-winning Copley News Service and has written about health and nutrition for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Reader's Digest, Woman's World and Prevention Magazine Health Books. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.