Homemade Kale Chips - A Healthy Treat

Wow, I've had a bit of a break! My summer has flown by. With trips to Charleston, New Orleans, New York and Ohio, I feel as if I haven't had more than two seconds to myself. Hardly enough time to catch up on laundry, never mind writing blog posts. But now that the school year is back in full swing, I have time again in the kitchen to cook, bake, drink, and get back to myself.

And the first recipe I wanted to try after a summer of over indulgence? Homemade kale chips.

I first had kale chips at a juice bar a few years back and while I liked them, I wasn't completely sold. I'm big into "everything in moderation" and potato chips are one of my favorite snacks in the world. Kale chips are no replacement. In particular, store bought kale chips have a weirdly stale flavor to them that just isn't super tasty to me.

I know kale is this super trendy green, but it's popular for very good reasons. In soups and stews, it holds up and doesn't go slimy like spinach. In smoothies it adds a round grassy flavor that isn't overpowering. And like brussels sprouts (another trendy, but delicious veggie) kale has a distinct flavor that is particularly tasty. And that's how I had my kale chip revelation. Kale chips aren't a substitute for potato chips. If I think of them like that, they are nothing but a disappointment. But when I think of them as just a snack presentation of kale itself, all of the sudden, I'm excited about them. So now, when I get home from work and need something salty to shove in my mouth while I cook dinner, kale chips or home popped popcorn are my go-tos.

They are dead simple to make. First, take a whole head of kale, rip it off the stems into large bite size pieces (it'll shrink quite a bit) and rinse and dry it thoroughly. This is a good time to pre-heat your oven to 300 F. Now I use any and all kale, although lacinato kale makes for a particularly light and airy chip. In the pictures today, I'm just using regular organic green kale. Now don't throw away those stems. Toss them in a ziplock bag in your freezer and add them to smoothies (my favorite smoothie is kale, mango, pineapple with a little orange juice, yum!) Anyway, take the thoroughly dried greens and toss them in a large ziplock bag. I bought 2-gallon bags at the restaurant supply store and it's perfect for this because trust me, you'll think you are using a TON of kale.

Next, add 2 teaspoons of olive oil (really, any oil you like) to the greens, push out the air, and start massaging the oil into the greens. You want the leaves barely covered. If it's too dry, add more oil a tsp at a time. Be careful though, the first time I tried making kale chips, I followed a recipe calling for 2 tablespoons of oil for a head of kale and the chips came out too greasy. Use less than you think and rub it in really well.

Kale is massaged and ready to bake.

Now, spread your kale in a single layer on 2 sheet pans and bake until they are dried through and crispy, between 20 and 30 minutes. They will brown at the edges, but don't take them too far. They get nice and shatteringly crisp. They'll shrink a ton by the time they are done and you will honestly wonder where all your kale went.

Before and after. See how the kale shrinks!
While they are still hot from the oven, season with salt and pepper, or whatever seasoning mix you like. My favorite right now is straight up garlic salt. Once they cool, munch away or store in an air-tight container. I tend to finish a batch myself in about 3 days (sometimes, shockingly sooner) but they stay nice and crispy that whole time.

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