Challenge of the kale chips

Confession: As a teenager, I did not know people ate kale. Kale repulsed me a bit. I worked at a steakhouse (ironic, eh?) and we used kale only to decorate the dessert case each day. I vaguely remember one of the older customers telling me that it was good to eat, and I probably looked at him like he had three heads. It was a thick leaved, large variety, maybe only sold for decoration purposes. Once in a while we found a big old slug in it, which further decreased my opinion of it.

So, twenty or so years later, I was intrigued about all the “buzz” about kale and how nutritious it is. Then I started reading about kale chips. I figured this was something I could find a way to eat! Here is my best method after several trials (and my usual tribulations)…

  • Preheat oven to 275 degrees. A fairly low temperature for the delicate leaves.
  • Start with 2-3 “stalks” of kale for one large cooking sheet. I use my jelly roll pan, ungreased. Rinse the kale well, tear into your desired chip-sized pieces, making sure to tear it off the center stalk. Discard the stalk.
  • Dry the kale fully. Feel free to use salad spinner, but then you may need quite a bit longer for it to finish air drying. Trust me, this takes a while (seemed like 1-2 hours). From now forward my plan is to wash early in day and cook in the afternoon!
  • In a bowl large enough for the kale (don’t add yet), mix 1-2 Tbsp olive oil–probably closer to the 1 Tbsp for this amount of kale, 1/4-1/2 tsp kosher salt, about 1/8 tsp black pepper, and maybe a dash of garlic powder, or paprika, or seasoned salt. I’ve seen many combinations in the recipes I have read.
  • This is the key–Now place the dry kale leaves in the bowl and mix the oil mixture and the kale with your hands until the leaves are well coated. I found that drizzling the oil over the kale leaves was very uneven and led to overly crispy chips, nearly burned in some places, when I made my first attempt a few months ago.
  • Place the kale leaves on the cookie sheet, without touching each other. Place in the middle rack of oven.
  • Turn the leaves over during cooking after 10 minutes. Cooking time is approximately 20 minutes.

This is the happily coated kale prior to being placed on the cooking sheet.

This was the kale just before cooking. Although it does shrink, I definitely had too much on the pan, which made the chips slightly less crispy.

Most importantly, it tasted quite good and I got a lot of healthful greens in as a late afternoon snack. My husband was eating them so quickly that I had to ask him to stop for a quick picture. So success was obvious there. Younger son was somewhat willing to try them. His comments were less than edifying…”Bad…Well, not that bad.” Hmmm, am I suddenly on American Idol’s premiere of a food episode?

I’ll admit, this is not the most artistic or enticing arrangement of chips. I had to rush an unappreciative child to soccer after all!

Please share if you have any tips for kale chips…any thoughts on how to store them?

P.S. I watched the episode of Dr. Oz from last Thursday. Chia seeds were not featured (see last week’s post). I think I must have seen a bowl of flax seeds in the promo ad. I don’t even know how to begin to summarize the episode (on fat burning). If you are interested, you could check out his website.

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Teeny Tiny Health Food

Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia…………Remember the Chia pets advertised on TV? With the little song that was somehow both annoying and addictive? Have you heard about chia seeds as a super easy health food? You really can eat them…and I have not sprouted bright green grass anywhere to this date!

Here’s the low down. They contain soluble fiber, protein, calcium, antioxidants and the very important omega fatty acids. They’re a little easier to manage than flax. You don’t have to refrigerate or grind them. I purchased them in the bulk section at Whole Foods. The amount in the picture below plus about 4 Tablespoons was priced at 3.69. I think it was about 1/2 a pound. After about a month of using them almost every day, I am comfortable with using 1 tsp. a day. From my reading, too much (varies by person I am sure) can have unpleasant intestinal effects.

One place I read about them was Dr. Oz’s website. I like Dr. Oz…have only seen him a few times but he seems like he has good insights being a heart surgeon. He definitely promotes eating healthy and not consuming only the “typical” American diet. It looks like he may even talk about chia seeds this Thursday on his show (April 26). I caught part of the show Monday and they are advertising Thurday’s episode about fat burning…they showed an image that seemed to be different bowls of seeds…so I am guessing chia will be featured…Never fear, I have set the DVR and can report back on what is said…

In addition to the digestive, nutritional, and energy claims, people claim chia seeds can help you lose weight, by expanding in liquid, and thus making you feel full. They absorb up to 12 times their weight in liquid and form a “gel”. I am naturally skeptical when people seem to claim a food or supplement can do mulitple amazing things. But there seems to be something about this chia thing…

I like to sprinkle a teaspoon of Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia on my oatmeal or cold cereal in the morning. I make sure that I drink an extra 8 ounces or so of water at breakfast to give the chia enough liquid to use to “gel out”. After about a month of throwing these on my cereal, I have not noticed major changes, except maybe some improved “regularity”, if you know what I mean 🙂 Other ways to eat them are to put them in your liquid (maybe a glass or juice) and wait 10-15 minutes and drink the “gel”. I made a jar of the gel to add to foods but something about the look and texture in that form was not for me. I prefer dry. Here they are sprinkled dry on my oatmeal. Hard to see with the gigantic blackberries!

Enjoy and let me know what you think if you decide try them or already consume them.

(Disclaimer: I am not a nutrition professional; all things presented here are just my opinion!)

Thoughts from vacation

Despite not relating to veggies or anything else I aim to write about, number 1 has to be: when one gets a cold just before flying home, get some decongestants no matter how tired you are or how inconvenient it might be. Because hearing is important!!

My favorite thing I ate during the trip: A slice of “Elton John” pizza at Bill’s Pizza in Prescott Arizona. In part, this was the best because the slice was an awesome combination of veggies including artichoke hearts, cooked spinach, fresh tomato, etc. Even more so because we (I) had just driven through an April snow, through a fairly nerve-wracking 7,000 ft plus mountain pass. We were heading back to Phoenix to end the trip and did not know what that route entailed. Finding a warm, crowded, pizza joint before noon on a Saturday was a gift for the soul. Apparently this non-pretentious restaurant was voted one of Arizona’s best restaurants by Arizona Highways magazine for 2012. A lucky find!

I did not do much cooking at our home for the week, in Sedona. I did find a very easy way to make asparagus in our condo, which provided basic pans, but limited extras (i.e. only salt and pepper). I may use this idea again when I find myself cooking in a time crunch. My goal was to not buy anything extra (e.g., spices, cooking accessories), because the suitcase was already bursting. I cut the bunch of asparagus into 1″ pieces and placed it in a casserole dish with about 1/8″ of water and salt. Cooked in the microwave 5 minutes on high. I have to say it was delicious considering the circumstances!

Over the week, I ate quite a few veggie burgers, black bean burgers, and veggie sandwiches, at restaurants. I had hoped to experience more creatively prepared vegetarian dishes being closer to California and the west coast, but I found that Arizona seems to like its meat. That’s ok! Now I know. This menu selection could also be attributed to choosing family/kid friendly places for the most part.

Now, it’s time for more decongestants for my ear. The doctor thinks I may be able to clear it on my own without an antibiotic. No permanent damage she says. Have a great week!

This past week needed 12 days…but I only got 7

It’s been a busy week around here. Spring has come ultra-early, and I am battling the weeds already! I did not accomplish much blog reading, cookbook reading, or experimenting this week.

 I did take some classes at the YMCA over the weekend about basic exercise principles (11.5 hours worth!!!) I learned some good basic facts. One is that cool water is better absorbed by our bodies than room temperature water, as related to exercise. Makes sense of course that you want to cool down and colder water tastes really good. But I never knew cooler water was absorbed better. Yes, that would have come in handy! So I am making sure my water bottle has some ice cubes when I exercise. I learned about why a variety of forms of exercise are valuable…some for cardiovascular benefits, some for bone density, and in general our bodies adapt when we repeat the same things over and over. We benefit from changes in intensity and the combination of muscle groups we focus on. I also met some fun Zumba instructors. They assured me you don’t have to be coordinated to enjoy Zumba and get a workout. Although I have my doubts, I really do want to check out new forms of exercise, so I’m going to give it a shot. I am curious if anyone has any Zumba experiences?
Over the past few months I have experimented with roasting vegetables in the oven. I based my methods on what I read in the cookbook “Veganomicon”, which is a vegan cookbook with lots of good information, even if being vegan is not your goal. I ordered their book via Amazon and have enjoyed hours reading the sections on cooking grains, beans, and vegetables, terminology, stocking the pantry, etc. The authors say just about any veggie can be roasted with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and garlic if desired.
I followed Veganomicon’s directions for the Brussel sprouts I made a couple of weeks ago. I just cut off the stems and sliced them in half lengthwise. I lightly brushed my cooking sheet with olive oil (I love my silicone brush!), laid them face down/flat side on the sheet, and brushed over them lightly with olive oil (you can drizzle if you prefer). My cooking sheet is a jelly roll type pan with sides…helpful with roasting your veggies. Sprinkle with salt and pepper or whatever you enjoy…I would think a salt-free mix could work also or maybe fresh or dry herbs. I baked for about 15 minutes at 400. They will brown a bit and that’s to be expected. The next day they were tasty also, eaten cold with a vinaigrette salad dressing.
The same basic method has worked well with bite sized bites of cauliflower also. That time I added fresh chopped rosemary by stirring the cauliflower in oil, salt, pepper, and rosemary before placing on the pan. They also took 15-20 minutes.  Great stuff. I think the key is experimenting with how much oil you like. You need some for vegetables to maintain moisture, but too much oil detracts from the vegetables. I love this method because it is easy, tasty, and you don’t lose nutrients in water as you would with steaming and other methods.
We’ll be heading out of town for a little while. I hope to get some inspiration and ideas from another part of the country, northern Arizona. Plus we all need a vacation around here! I apologize for the formatting of this into one overwhelming paragraph. I keep adding space but it does not seem to be corrected. Hopefully I will figure it out along with adding pictures soon.