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Renegade Chef recipe: Sweet Autumn Crisps

1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup roasted hazelnuts, chopped*

1/2 cup roasted sunflower seeds

1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds

1/4 cup flax seeds*

1 tablespoon dried rosemary leaves

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cardamom

2 cups buttermilk

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup molasses

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat 3 small loaf pans (8x4) with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, mix together the first 7 ingredients and set aside.

In a large bowl, mix in the remaining 7 ingredients. Do not overmix the batter! Add the fruit and nut mixture and stir until just blended. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pans and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the loaves are golden brown.

Remove the loaves from the oven and let cool in the pan for several minutes before turning them out onto wire racks to cool completely. When completely cooled, wrap the loaves tightly in plastic-wrap and refrigerate or freeze.

The idea is to slice the loaves as thin as possible, like biscotti, so don't even try to slice them if they're warm, or even room-temperature. I like to freeze the loaves and then let them thaw a bit before slicing them super-thin with a sharp, serrated knife.

To finish the crisps, preheat oven to 300. Place the slices on lightly sprayed baking sheets and bake for 15 minutes. Turn the crisps and bake for about another 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool and store in an air-tight container. This recipe makes a lot, but you'll be glad it did!

* About roasted hazelnuts: Just use what the pickled squirrels use - filberts. I don't suggest you pilfer them from Ye Olde Pickle, or from the pickled squirrels. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place the filberts on a baking sheet and roast for about 20 minutes. The nuts are done when you can smell their delicious aroma wafting from the oven. I

f you smell a bitter, incinerated aroma, the nuts are overdone and it's time to grab the fire extinguisher. Anyway, when the nuts are done roasting, wrap them in a clean, dry kitchen towel and rub them vigorously together to remove most of the bitter skin.

* About flax seeds: They've been around since about 3000 BC. People like the ancient Egyptians cultivated flax to make linen, but they also used the seeds for culinary purposes. Today, flax seed is processed into healthier cooking oils and ground into flour. The seed can be incorporated into muffins and breads, or Autumn Crisps.

Most folks don't know how good flax seed is for them. They are loaded with Omega-3 content, anti-oxidents and phytonutrients. Not only is flax seed the most nutritious seed or nut out there, many health professionals claim it could be "the healthiest food in the world."

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