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All Hail Kale!

By Liz Krieger

I’ll be honest: I can be a mindless eater. I’m that person who curls up on the sofa to watch reality TV with the entire bag of pretzels in my lap. I chain-eat chips, unknowingly polish off a bowl of grapes and somehow plow my way through a tub of dried fruit and nuts— all before a single sitcom episode has finished. And I’m not alone: My husband has this tendency, and we both end up a bit grumpy with ourselves.

And while I know that I should attack this habit, this week I set about making a snack that won’t be quite as problematic even if I do zoom through the whole thing. The choice: kale chips. I opted for this for several reasons: At least four people have raved about them to me within the last few months; they required only two ingredients, (kale and lemon juice—plus olive oil and salt, of course); and it’s one of the most healthy vegetables you can find. Kale is loaded with super-nutritious, disease-busting phytochemicals such as beta-carotene and Vitamin C, as well as minerals not always found in veggies— such as iron, manganese, calcium and potassium. It’s also super-high in fiber; one cup provides 10 percent of your RDA. (You should aim for about 25 per day.)

And, oh, the recipe could not be easier. I cross-referenced a few and they were all pretty much the same. I washed the kale. I tore it into chip-sized pieces. I tossed it with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and salt—I used a pinch of coarse sea salt and a couple of shakes of garlic salt, just for kicks—and some fresh lemon juice. Then I placed the leaves on a baking pan lined with parchment paper and popped them in the oven. After the requisite 10 to 15 minutes in the 350°F oven, they were done.

So yeah, it was easy. I didn’t have to measure anything, which I love. And it took me just a few minutes—during which I could talk on the phone and do about three other things. I seriously love multitasking.

But then things got messy. The chips came out of the oven and, boy, were they crispy. So crispy that they were as shatter-prone as a cheap light bulb; as flimsy and crumbly as phyllo dough. I know this because just when I was trying to hit the speakerphone button on my telephone while transferring the chips from the baking sheet to a large Tupperware, somehow I missed the plastic container and about half of them hit the floor. Putting aside what was scattered on the counter, the floor looked I’d dumped a bag of green moss on it. Teeny, tiny shards of salty kale were everywhere, and the dog immediately came over to investigate—and spread it around, of course. (I think I’ve already mentioned in a previous post that one of the things that really bugs me about cooking is the mess factor. The mess factor here was high—really high.)

I ended the call.

Then I hauled out the cordless vacuum that never works all that well, and got to work. But of course, the vacuum malfunctioned and instead of sucking up the debris it began SPEWING debris. Hair, Cheerios, lint, dirt and, yes, kale began going everywhere. Sweat dripped down my face—the oven was still on and the air conditioner was off, since before all this it was relatively comfortable without it—and I knelt down and starting fiddling with the vacuum.

Cut to ten minutes later when I’ve taken it apart, unearthed the manual from the giant box in which we keep manuals, patched up the problem and cleaned up the minor kale catastrophe. Generally I like the feeling of satisfaction that accompanies completing some strange technical task, but this time I was just sticky and salty and hot.

And while I’ve had a string of successes in the kitchen lately, this was a bomb, taste- wise. I like the taste of kale, generally, and I had no delusions that these veggie “chips” would be any sort of substitute for the pleasures of a real potato or corn chip…but these were over-salted, impossible to hold without them crumbling and just generally not good.

So I guess I learned a few things here:

1. Our box o’ manuals is a mess.
2. I need a new vacuum.
3. Multitasking will probably come back to haunt you.
4. Go easy on the salt.
5. No crying over spilled chips.

 

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