a healthier salty snack

I’ve loved popcorn since I was a small child. Maybe it was the association with movies (the watching of which became my undergraduate major.) Or maybe it’s just the combination of crunchy, salty and fatty — a flavor combination we’re hardwired to favor.

But popcorn isn’t the best way to keep your blood sugar balanced, and corn is a very common food allergen. So what’s a gal craving salty-greasy to do?

When I get a serious hankering for my beloved popcorn but it’s just not in the cards, my healthy substitution is kale chips.

Go ahead and laugh at me for being a Portland hipster. I’ll wait.

No, kale isn’t the only food out there. But it really does excel in this application. And if you have a garden, it’s easy to stay well supplied.

Kale chips take a little longer than popcorn, but they’re still a delicious salty-greasy snacking treat — with the added benefits of phytonutrients and fewer allergenic compounds.

Making kale chips is plenty easy — even for those of us who aren’t cooks. All it takes is tearing the leaves off the stems, drizzling them with olive oil and salt (I add garlic granules and some hot pepper), mixing it up with your hands, and then sticking it in the oven for a while.

The one trick is to avoid adding too many leaves to your pan. They don’t crisp as well if they’re layered too deeply. You can always make a second batch.

How to make kale chips

Ingredients:

  • A bunch of kale. (See pro tip, below.)
  • Some salt
  • Some garlic powder
  • Hot pepper or paprika to taste
  • Enough olive oil to get some on all the leaves when you mix it with your hands.

Directions:

  • Tear kale leaves from their stems and place in a roasting pan.
  • Drizzle on olive or avocado oil.
  • Add seasonings.
  • Mix it all up with your hands. Every piece of leaf should be slippery (from the oil) and a little gritty (from the seasonings.)
  • Try to space the leaves somewhat evenly.
  • Put pan into the oven, set to 415 degrees.
  • Set time for 25 minutes.
  • Check occasionally, stirring the leaves so they dry/cook as evenly as possible.
  • Remove from oven, and enjoy.

These are best when still warm.

I rarely measure seasonings. You just need enough for the leaves to feel gritty while massaging in the olive oil. When in doubt, start slow. You can always add more when the kale chips are out of the oven.

The only mistake you can make is burning the leaves. To my mind, it’s better to have a few chewy bits in among the crispy ones than to lose the whole thing. Burning makes the pan harder to clean, too. (You could get fancy and use baking parchment, but the cleanup is usually pretty easy.)

Pro tip: Kale from the grocery store or farmer’s market usually comes in bunches, and you don’t have to use it all at once! Honestly, it took me forever to figure this out. I just kept shoving more and more into the roasting pan, or dirtying a second one. Save some for next time.

Do you have favorite ways to spice up kale chips? Let me know! I’ll share these — with credit! — in a future email and on my blog.

Salúd!

—Dr. Orna

P.S. Looking for a great source of easy veggie recipes? Check out Food As Medicine, written by two of my medical-school classmates. See more of my favorite food books here.

P.P.S. If you’re looking for individualized food recommendations, my clinic is 100 percent open — and 100 percent telemedicine. If you’re in Oregon, now’s a great time to schedule.

dr. orna recommends: spice apothecary by bevin clare

Food is medicine. You’ve heard me say that a lot.

This week I got a new book that takes the concept to the next level: Spice Apothecary by Bevin Clare.

Bevin is an herbalist, herbal educator and president of the American Herbalists Guild. She’s deeply committed to broadening the reach of herbal medicine and keeping it accessible to everyone.

What better way to do that than by leveraging what many folks already have in their kitchens? Better still, this helps people access medicine that makes food more delicious!



Spice Apothecary covers 19 commonly available kitchen medicines, including black pepper, cinnamon, lavender, mustard seed, thyme and turmeric. She includes health benefits, daily dosages and many recipes. (Parsley pistachio pesto!)

The book itself is physically beautiful, filled with gorgeous photographs and clear charts that simplify spicing up your life.

I’m calling this an inspiring addition to any herbalist or foodie’s bookcase. But keep it in or near the kitchen — you’ll want to use it.

Buy the book from the author here.
Buy the book online from Bookshop here.

Salúd!
 
—Dr. Orna 

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

eat your flowers! here are my 5 favorites

My med-school bestie is starting her first(ish) garden this year. She’s mostly growing veggies in pots, mostly on the porch of her Seattle apartment. She’s found gardening to be a positive thing in her current pandemic reality, soothing and exciting and rewarding.

We’ve been talking about plants a lot, and as you might expect, I am overwhelming her with ideas.

During our call last night, we talked about flower power: specifically, which are edible and delicious and easy to grow. I promised her a short list, which I’m sharing now with you.

1. Roses:

My front-yard roses always look ragged because I take a nibble whenever I walk past. Some varieties are tastier than others, but the best can taste much like they smell. Rose petals give a great mood boost, with a fair bit of astringency to tighten and tone tissues. Just make sure you eat only unsprayed roses; those you’ve grown yourself are best. Preserve your harvest with rose petal honey, one of my favorite rites of spring. (Catch the video here.) 

2. Daylilies :

These are super hardy perennial plants with prolific, if short-lived blooms. They don’t have a ton of flavor in my experience, but they’re great for a solid, floral texture. You can eat these raw, but they hold up to cooking. Pick flowers or buds and add to soups for a spot of color and joy. If you plant them, they will spread — so you can share bulbs with your neighbors and lift up your neighborhood. (Pictured above.)

3. Calendula:

It’s hard to imagine any herbalist would leave Calendula off a top-plants list. This sunny plant is incredibly easy to grow, self seeds prolifically (but is easy to remove if, for some reason, you want to), shines in the garden for much of the year and offers great medicine for acute and chronic conditions. Its mild flavor makes for easy garnish on salads, or a sunny wintertime tea. Medicinally it’s used to heal wounds externally and internally, and helps keep the lymphatic system moving as it’s supposed to. (That’s important for immunity!) 

4. Lavender:

If you’ve been watching my (mostly) daily plant walks on Facebook and Instagram live, you know that lavender is my plant of the year for 2020. Look for an in-depth post about why coming soon. The short version: Lavender leaves and flowers are mood elevating, calm inducing, digestion enhancing and overall microbe busting. A perfect plant for these times. 

5. Nasturtiums:

Unlike many edible flowers with unremarkable flavors, Nasturtiums carry considerable kick. All part of the plant are significantly peppery. Add flowers to spice up salads or garnish other dishes. Toss in some leaves where you’d otherwise add mustard greens — a close cousin. Pickle the green seeds (shaped like little brains) for a homemade alternative to capers. The flowers and leaves are high in Vitamin C and offer antimicrobial benefits as well.

 Honorable mention: Violets were my 2019 plant of the year, and they deserve a spot on these kinds of lists. The only reason I’m leaving them off the list is that they’re mostly done flowering for the year. Note that there are many kinds of Viola going by different names: pansies and Johnny Jump Ups are different species of the same plant.
 
If you’re able to get outside this weekend (or better still, get into a garden), I hope you’ll look at the flowers around you with slightly different eyes. Remember, it’s not cool to take other folks’ plants without permission. But if you’ve got a pot or a plot with some flowers in it, consider whether they’d make an edible addition to your weekend meal plans.
 
This is just a quick list, and is by no means an exhaustive one. Did I miss your favorites? Shoot me an email and let me know.
 
Salúd!
 
—Dr. Orna
 
P.S. I’m still doing my online plant walks most weekdays. I generally go out on Facebook at 3pm PDT and jump over to Instagram at 3:30pm. This changes sometimes based on my patient schedule, and I note the times on both platforms each morning. The walks are recorded if you can’t make it live, but it’s more fun if you join!
 
P.P.S. If you’d like to talk about how plants and I can help you with your personal health questions, just drop me a line. If you’re in Oregon, click here to book your appointment.