kale chips

Kale Chips

This started when I’d bought a 10 lb bag of organic carrots from Costco. At about $5, the price certainly wasn’t a problem. No, the problem became that I had to figure out what to do with so many carrots. This shouldn’t have been too much of an issue since they’re one of those all-around vegetables, tasty in so many things and cooked every which way: roasted, steamed, soupified, muffin-ed, caked, and more.

BUT I recently completed the Les Mills 21-Day Challenge, a diet that restricts your consumption of grains, dairy, fruits, and processed foods in favor of animal protein and leafy greens and non-starchy vegetables. I’ve since been trying to follow a diet similar to what was prescribed during this challenge. One sticking point is that if you eat carrots, they should be RAW.

I do like raw carrots, but there must be something more creative to do with raw carrots than simply eat them 5 lbs of them as raw sticks. Or raw cubes. Or raw disks. Searching the ‘raw’ category to find raw carrot recipes I found lots recommending using a dehydrator for all sorts of goodies, one of them being carrot chips.

Now why would I be telling you a story about carrots when this post is titled “kale chips”? Because I didn’t end up getting a dehydratorthey’re expensive yo! I couldn’t make the investment just yet on the basis of a 10 lb bag of carrots from Costco.

Anyway, let’s make a long story slightly less long. Among the recipes for dehydrated carrot that popped up on my searches, were recipes galore for KALE CHIPS, including how to make them in the oven. This, I did try.

There is a lot of variation as well as lots of unnecessarily intimidating pieces of advice. Some recipes recommend high temps of 350 degrees and a quick 10 minutes in, with which you must be vigilant, lest they burn in their 11th minute. Others recommend your oven’s lowest possible setting: 175 degrees, “or as low as your oven goes” (makes me think of the limbo… “how low can you go?”) for about an hour, with instruction to turn the oven on and off every 15 minutes. There were those advising you to make sure none of the kale leaves touchif they could fit on two racks instead of one, you surely wouldn’t regret it. At the very least you should toss the leaves halfway through the oven roasting process.

I disagreed with all of it. Surely, I thought, none of that can be absolutely mandatory. More importantly, this would be too much kale babysitting for a lazy Sunday.

I kept searching and found a recommendation posted in a thread on Chowhound that referenced Jacques Pepin’s kale chip instruction: 250 degrees for 25 minutes. Perhaps this wasn’t the whole recipe, but this was all I needed to read in order to decide the course I’d take for my kale chips.

And this is what I did.

The Kale Chip, Uncomplicated

Ingredients:

  • Kale
  • Oil
  • Salt, or other flavoring agent (optional)
  1. Rinse/clean the kale. I used dinosaur kale, also known as Tuscan kale or lacinato kale.
  2. Dry the kale. This can be somewhat laborious because kale have lots of little crinkles and hiding spots for water droplets and humidity. Paper towels, however, are pretty good at soaking up the soggy.
  3. Cut the leafy green part from the tough stems, then into manageable pieces. Kitchen scissors make these cuts clean, but you can use your hands too.
  4. Massage oil onto both sides of the kale pieces. Enjoy the added bonus of moisturized fingertips. (I used coconut oil for this, but you could use olive or another oil)
  5. Optional: Sprinkle with salt/other flavoring agent (I used Hepp’s black truffle salt in one batch and parmesan cheese in another)
  6. Pop these chips-to-be in a 250 degree oven for 20 minutes*

*I recommend you use the 250 degrees and 20 minutes as a starting point. Find out what works for your oven and your tastebuds.

Ok, so the reality is that I popped these chips-to-be into TWO ovens. I did this to try and be more efficient, but it ended up being a great experiment with oven variance.

Oven 1: The oven that comes with my stove, preheated to 250 degrees. I used one aluminum cookie sheet on the top rack and a glass casserole dish on the lower rack. After 25 minutes the chips on top rack/aluminum cookie sheet ended up much crispier than the ones in the glass casserole dish. Not quite sure if this was a result of the glass side walls of the casserole dish or the fact that it was on the second rack.

Oven 2: My smaller, countertop convection toaster oven preheated it to 225 degrees. I used the small aluminum toaster tray that came with it. These kale chips became crispy much more quickly! They start being ready-to-eat chips at around the 15 minute mark but aren’t burnt if they’re in there for 25 minutes either. No one will judge you if you can’t wait and want to start eating them early. Nor will anyone judge you if you forget and leave them in an extra 10 minutes either. I certainly won’t because I was on both ends of the spectrum (yes, in a single cooking episode).

Again, take the liberty to experiment with your oven temperature, timing, and flavoring for your kale chip creations. Perhaps you like your kale chips at the point where they just start to become crunchy. Or maybe you prefer that they crisp up until they nearly dissolve at the touch. I didn’t flip them over halfway through the cooking process and they still turned out great! I also have a tendency to burn myself when I need to reach into the oven, so I try to avoid it when possible. I still managed to burn myself when removing one batch of kale chips from the toaster oven, as small and shallow as that appliance is. Sigh.

Have lots of kale ready (it shrinks tremendously). And be warned: they’re addictive.

 

bake your bacon

bacon baking
Bacon. It is telling you to get your bake on.

I’ve been saying the word for years, yet haven’t paid any attention. Bake your bacon and avoid standing over the burner getting splatters of grease all over your clothes, walls, and stove.

You’ll need:

  • BACON (what else would you need?)
  1. Line a baking sheet with foil (for ease of cleanup). Place the baking sheet in an oven and preheat to 400 degrees.
  2. Add bacon strips to the sheet and bake for 15 minutes.
  3. If you like it extra-crispy, leave it in a few more minutes.
  4. Remove and place bacon on paper towels to soak up extra grease, leaving your bacon crispier.
  5. Eat!

If you’re open to cooking with bacon grease, you can save what’s left in the oven for a later date. Otherwise, you can toss it in the trash (AFTER it cools, so you don’t end up with a holy trash bag and a mess to clean).

 

not potato salad (and a haiku)

not potato saladThis is basically a potato salad sans the usual star player. Lately, my family has been dining alfresco and potato salad is a summertime staple for these sorts of settings. Only, it hasn’t been making an appearance because Jon and I have been trying to keep to a low-carb diet (which I’ll admit I’ve broken horribly this past week). Since potato salad is one of my dad’s favorite picnic dishes, and we had a Hollywood Bowl concert/picnic to come, I was determined to find a way to make one we could all enjoy together.

The answer came in a cruciferous crop: cauliflower! One of the most amazingly versatile vegetables that can be used to make mash, “rice,” pizza crust and more can yet again, fill in for a what seems to be an essential ingredient in a traditional recipe. Obviously this is no traditional potato salad, but subbing cauliflower for potatoes makes this one much healthier. Cauliflower has 1/3 (or fewer!) the calories, is low on carbs, and is a great source of vitamin C (antioxidants!), B vitamins (helping you convert food into energy!), and vitamin K (anti-inflammatory!). Research from the Linus Pauling Institute has shown that the glucosinolates in cruciferous vegetables can help eliminate carcinogens and prevent DNA damage that causes cancer – how’s that for a detox?

I thought I was going to write an ode to cauliflower, but found a haiku more appropriate. For one, it’s much shorter. But don’t confuse shorter with simpler–it just means you can get to the recipe more quickly 😉

Potato? Not now

Cauliflower plays hero

In salad sans spud

Not Potato Salad

  • 1 large head of cauliflower
  • 3 or 4 hardboiled eggs, diced
  • 3 strips of bacon, extra crispy please
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon mustard
  • salt + pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ to 1 cup of green onion, chopped (depending on how much you like onion. I love onion)
  1.  Chop/dice your cauliflower into bite-sized pieces (however chunky or fine you like your potato salad). Don’t worry about them looking perfect. Cauliflower can get crumbly and this is TOTALLY OK.
  2. You will blanch the cauliflower until it’s the consistency of boiled potatoes. Have an ice bath ready. Add the cauliflower to a pot of boiling water and bring it back to a boil. Keep it there for 2-3 min, until the cauliflower is just tender. Check to see if you can stick a fork through a piece easily. If so, drain the cauliflower and get it in the ice bath to stop the cooking!
  3. While the cauliflower is cooking (or while it’s sitting in the ice bath, up to you), add the mayo, mustard, salt, pepper, and paprika to a large bowl and mix together.
  4. Add the diced egg and well-drained cauliflower to the large bowl and mix well.
  5. Add the chopped onion and crumble the bacon on top. If you want to be fancy, you can save some onion and bacon bits for garnish when you serve it. Mix well again.
  6. Stick in in the fridge for a few hours to let the flavors chill and get to know each other.
  7. Share your not potato salad (and maybe the above haiku) with friends and family.

 

don’t throw away brown bananas (make gluten-free banana bread!)

banana bread

What do you do with brown bananas?

I went to my parents house today and there was a bundle of overripe bananas on the counter, awaiting certain disposal. The brown freckles on them were starting to meld into one splotch and they were soft to the touch. I wanted to rescue these misjudged fruits from a needless fate.

Aside from freezing these “bad”-nanas for smoothies, banana ice cream, or a simple dessert with peanut butter, overripe bananas can easily be baked into banana bread.

For a stretch of about 6 months or so, I’d make several loaves of banana bread each month. It became a morning habit – throw ingredients into a whizzing food processor and in less than 10 minutes you can slide the batter-filled bread pan in the toaster oven to evolve into something more.

This is a recipe I discovered from the lovely Juli Bauer from PaleOMG.com. I’ve adapted it here for extra-ripe bananas and a toaster convection oven. Best part is, you really only need to clean one appliance and one baking pan once you’re done!

Brown Banana Bread:

  • 1½ cups roasted unsalted cashews
  • 3 brown (or spotty) bananas
  • 2 eggs
  • 1¼ cup almond meal/flour  (+ maybe a bit more)
  • 1 tablespoon raw honey (or more depending on your level of sweet tooth)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  1. Using a food processor, grind cashews to a powder. Keep processing until it starts to clump together again.
  2. Peel bananas and add to the mix. You can do this while it runs, or you can stop to add them in and start the processor again. Let this become a soupy paste.
  3. Add eggs and process until thoroughly incorporated. At this point, stop your food processor and check your batter. It should be liquid-y but not runny.*
  4. Grease a bread pan with some coconut oil and pour your banana batter in. Place in 375 degree oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. If you use a toaster oven like I do, cover your bread pan with a layer of foil to keep the top from burning. (and way to go for saving energy!)
  5. Let bread cool for about 10 minutes while you inhale it the scent of banana-bready goodness.
  6. Enjoy! I don’t need to tell you this tastes great with peanut butter, do I?

*This part is dependent on how ripe your bananas are. The riper they are, the more liquidy/sweet your batter will be. The less ripe, the more starches the banana keeps and you won’t need to add more flour. If the batter easily drips off a spoon, spatula, or your finger, add more almond meal, 1/8 cup at a time until it drips slowly off your spoon/spatula/finger.

a peanut for my thoughts really would make me ecstatic

Origins of this blog name: My grandfather used to shell me peanuts as a snack when I was young. We’d get the roasted peanuts from Chinatown, the kind that come in their shell and would sometimes have up to seven peanuts inside (if you were extremely lucky!). I could eat a whole bag by myself if left unattended. I’ve loved peanuts ever since.Farmer's Brand Dried Peanuts

I’ve since learned peanuts are not nuts, but in fact, legumes. I’ve also since learned legumes are on the “do not eat” list of health craze diets like paleo or whole30. This is a depressing way to start a blog isn’t it? I don’t know if I can go on about why legumes (peanuts!) have been vilified as detrimental to one’s health.

Instead I’ll go into some of the many ways I like to enjoy them:

#1: peanut butter

This may be a passion we have in common. In fact I certainly hope it is because I’d love to discuss all the wonderful things you can do with peanut butter!

#2: simply roasted

I’ll only say that I MUCH prefer the peanuts they sell roasted at Asian grocery stores over anything you’ll find at a baseball stadium.

#3: in Chinese tamales

This is a slightly complicated recipe that will have to come another day. But when you unwrap the bamboo leaves and look inside you will (ideally) see peanuts peppered through the tamale. And you’ll look forward to biting into a starchy, slightly crunchy peanut to balance out the sweet and gooey glutenous rice or preserved egg yolk and salted pork.