The health benefits of flaxseeds are well known. A regular intake can help lower LDL cholesterol and may guard against certain cancers. What isn't as well known are the many different ways you can add these small, mighty seeds to your diet. Everything Flax is a collection of more than 100 recipes from the Saskatchewan Flax Development Commission. The book is a good starting point for anyone who wants to increase their flax consumption.
Flaxseeds have garnered a fair bit of attention in recent years for their nutritional and health benefits. Flaxseeds are an excellent source of soluble fibre, alpha linolenic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid), and phytochemicals called lignans, compounds that have anti-cancer potential. (To reap all the goodness of flax, it's important to add ground flaxseed to your diet instead of whole seeds. That's because whole flaxseeds may pass through your intestine undigested.)
Everything Flax provides a very brief overview of the nutrient content and culinary uses of flaxseeds. For a book dedicated to flaxseeds, it would have been nice to see more in-depth information about their health benefits and perhaps even a summary of how this quintessential Canadian crop makes it from field to table.
While the cookbook briefly highlights the health benefits of flaxseeds, some other aspects of healthy eating seem to go unnoticed. For instance, in some recipes salt is used quite liberally with some soups and salads having over 1200 milligrams of sodium per serving! That's almost a full day's worth of sodium for adults. (Adults aged 19 to 50 need 1500 milligrams of sodium per day, adults 51 to 70 require 1300 milligrams and older adults need only 1200 milligrams daily.)
With the exception of a few ingredients that don't rank very high in terms of nutrition and seem rather out of place, including Miracle Whip and instant hot chocolate mix, recipes use a wide range of healthy ingredients, such as nuts, seeds, whole grains, fresh berries and low-fat dairy.
Fortunately all of the recipes have a full nutrient analysis, which makes it easy for readers to pick and choose recipes that are appropriate for their diets.
Everything Flax hits the mark when it comes to offering a selection of simple recipes. If you don't know what to do with flaxseeds besides sprinkling them on cereal, or adding them to muffin batters, Everything Flax does a good job as showing you many other creative ways to add flax to foods.
Recipes run the gamut from baked goods and appetizers to snacks, mains, sides and desserts. As the title suggests, every recipe calls for flaxseeds or flaxseed oil. Some recipes that stand out include Sweet Potato Pancakes, Flax-Coated Goat Cheese and Apple Salad, Golden Flax Ravioli and Onion and Olive Focaccia.
The recipes in Everything Flax are straightforward and concise, making them appropriate for a range of cooking abilities. Their simplicity make them especially appealing to novice cooks, or anyone new to healthy cooking.
The taste test!
First up was Flaxseed Crackers, a simple, rustic recipe with only 7 ingredients, including both whole and ground flaxseeds.
These homemade crackers were a cinch to make. I swapped soy milk for the skim milk and used margarine instead of butter to lower the saturated fat content and make these crackers appropriate for my vegan guests. I also used a mix of whole wheat and all-purpose flour to bump up the fibre content.
I served the crackers with homemade hummus and they were a hit. In fact, next time I make them I will double the recipe. I'll also try experimenting with different spices and herbs, such as herbs de Provence or chili powder.
Next I tested Oven-Fried Chicken, a simple recipe for baked chicken with a ground flax coating.
The only problem I ran into with this recipe was that it called for "seasoned salt", something I was not familiar with. I ended up combining coarse sea salt with the other spices called for including paprika, chili powder and garlic powder. While the recipe calls for "chicken pieces", I opted for boneless, skinless chicken breast to keep the saturated fat down.
I was a little skeptical as to whether the chicken would end up with a crisp coating, but I was pleasantly surprised with the results! The chicken had a lovely crunchy coating and plenty of flavour.
I liked this recipe for the fact that it's a much healthier alternative to store-bought breaded chicken or chicken fingers, and it's a great option for kids. I will definitely make this again soon. I might even try the flax coating on firm white fish such as halibut or tilapia.
Finally I put Farmland Cookies to the test. I made a few substitutions to this recipe to make it a little healthier. I substituted non-hydrogenated margarine for butter and used half all-purpose flour and half whole-wheat flour.
What I liked most about this recipe is that it didn't skimp on the flaxseeds, in fact the recipe calls for more than 2 cups (500 ml) of flaxseeds! The abundance of flaxseeds makes these cookies a great source of omega 3 fatty acids and also gives them a delicious nutty flavour.
This recipe was easy enough to prepare. My only complaint is that it made an enormous amount of cookie dough - 9 dozen cookies worth! I ended up baking them all and sharing them with friends, who didn't mind at all! In fact, everyone who tasted them gave them two thumbs up.
Everything Flax is a simple and straightforward cookbook offering a range of recipes that use flaxseeds. This no-frills collection of recipes contains many that are sure to become favourites in your household. I recommend this book for anyone who wants to add more flaxseeds to their diet but isn't quite sure where to begin.
Reviewed by Michelle Gelok, RD