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.