Healthy Doritoes (Spicy, Cheesy Kale Chips)

Unfortunately I have inherited some sort of crazy chip addiction that all of the women in my family suffer from. I absolutely LOVE chips, perhaps even more than I love peanut butter or chocolate (yes, it’s that serious). My favorites are kettle cooked salt and vinegar chips. NEVER leave me alone with a bag of those. Years ago, I would frequently wolf down an entire bag of Doritoes by myself. Now, of course, I hardly ever have chips, but when I do, it’s hard to control myself, and I avoid Doritoes completely (have you ever read the ingredients list?!).

So what’s a girl with an insane chip addiction to do? Luckily I also have a kale addiction, so enter the kale chip! Even kale naysayers won’t be able to eat just one!

You can buy these in the store, but they’re crazy expensive. $8 for a small bag? No thanks! There are also kale chip aficionados out there that swear you have to use a dehydrator to get good kale chips, but I don’t own a dehydrator. Luckily, they’re insanely delicious right out of an oven, which I own!

Feel free to play around with spices. They’re great with just plain salt, Old bay seasoning, garlic powder, cumin & cayenne, or with cinnamon & honey. This is just my go-to kale chip flavor.

Ingredients:
1 bunch of kale, stems removed, leaves torn into large pieces (they will shrink in the oven)
1 tablespoon oil
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
salt

Preheat your oven to 325.

I find it easiest to wash and dry the kale leaves with the stems still attached. Shake as much water off as you can and then lay the leaves in between paper towels or kitchen towels. **GET THEM AS DRY AS POSSIBLE. This is really important or your chips will be soggy!** If you have a salad spinner, spin them dry.

Once you’ve washed, dried, de-stemmed, and cut up your kale, place it on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper. Drizzle the oil over the leaves and sprinkle on the salt (as much as you like, but don’t go too crazy) and nutritional yeast. Use your clean hands to massage the oil into the leaves until they are all evenly coated. If you had a really big bunch of kale, add more oil if you feel it’s not enough to be evenly distributed. Now spread them out evenly so that you have a single layer (you may need to use 2 baking sheets).

Bake for about 12 minutes. You may want to check them at 10 or give them as long as 15, but don’t burn them or they’ll be bitter (obviously). They should still be green, but thin and crispy just like potato chips.

Now eat the entire batch and don’t feel and ounce of guilt!

PS You really need to eat these the same day. I tried packing some for a plane ride once and the next day they were soggy and gross!

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Vegan Queso Dip

(Ok you guys, this stuff is good. Like, REALLY GOOD!)

Every time I go to a Mexican restaurant, I find myself tempted by that luscious, warm, creamy white queso dip. I stand in line at Moe’s, practically drooling, as the person in front of me has ladle-full poured over their nachos. They employees make a huge deal of it too, lifting the ladle way up into the air so that I am tempted even further by a waterfall of cheesy goodness! I hold myself back, but I really just want to request that they pour it over EVERYTHING!

Luckily, thanks to Isa Moscowitz’s new cookbook Isa Does It, I can make my own healthy queso dip at home and it’s delicious! I love that I can actually pour it over my entire plate of veggie nachos without feeling guilty. Of course, you can use it on tacos or burritos, drizzle over chili, use as a condiment on black bean burgers, or as a sauce to pour over chickpea cutlets.

I have modified Isa’s recipe considerably, eliminating the oil, reducing the liquid, and increasing the cashews. Isa’s recipe was just a little too thin for me to call a “dip” and the oil wasn’t necessary. I also used slightly more lemon juice, as I always do in recipes that call for lemon, and I omitted the steps for sautéing the onion, garlic, and jalapeño. I have a Vitamix that heats everything up nicely, so I didn’t see a reason to dirty another dish. I also swapped the vegetable broth for cashew milk, just to keep more of the white color.

Ingredients:
1 cup soaked cashews, soaked overnight
1 tablespoon white miso
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup plant-based milk, unsweetened (I used homemade cashew milk)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
juice of 1 lemon (a little over 2 tablespoons)
2 jalapeños, seeded (if you want a little heat, leave some of the seeds in)
1 small yellow onion

If you don’t have a high-speed blender, make sure you chop everything finely and sauté the veggies first (onions and jalapeños around 5 minutes, then toss in the garlic for about 30 seconds). Then put everything in your blender or food processor and blend as smooth as possible.

If you have a Vitamix, you can throw everything in whole, even the onion (minus the peel, obviously), and blend for about 3-4 minutes until hot and steamy.

PS This would be awesome with a can of rotel dip added in! Dear Lord, where is the nearest bag of chips??!!!!

Carrot Spice Muffins

Like carrot cake, but much better for you. 🙂

This was adapted from Lindsay’s Nixon’s recipe in her cookbook The Happy Herbivore. I like the addition of raisins and pecans, which give some texture and make the muffins slightly more hearty. I also added a bit of ground ginger and slightly more cinnamon (because I love cinnamon!). These are great for breakfast or as a post-workout snack.

carrot muffin

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
a nicely rounded 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon allspice (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup raw sugar
1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large carrot, shredded (I used about 1 cup shredded carrot)
1/4 cup raisins
1/3 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 and spray a muffin tin with non-stick spray.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and spices into a large bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until just combined. Spoon the mixture into muffin tins about 3/4 full (I find this is easiest to do with an ice cream scoop that has been sprayed lightly with olive oil). You can use the paper liners if you want, but I find them unnecessary if I’m not serving them to guests.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

These are excellent split in half and spread with a little Earth Balance vegan butter while they are still warm from the oven!

Vegan Nacho Dip

Adapted from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s The Vegan Table. Pour it on everything. Or, mix it with a can or Rotel and then pour it on everything. 🙂

Makes 2 cups
Ingredients:
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon paprika
a rounded 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups water
3 Tablespoons non-dairy butter, like Earth Balance

Combine all the dry ingredients in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Lightly toast everything for about a minute while the stove eye heats up and then whisk in the water. You don’t have to whisk constantly, but keep stirring it around every 30 seconds or so while you do other stuff (paint your nails, prep things for dipping, pull the cat of the drapes, etc.)

Once it’s pretty close to starting to simmer, start whisking and keep it up until the mixture gets thick. Remove from heat and add the butter, stirring until it melts. Taste and adjust any seasonings as needed and serve with chips, over taco salad, on burritos, over a baked potato with steamed broccoli, or whatever your heart desires!

Low-Fat, Oil-Free, Healthy (and yummy) Granola!

When people hear “granola” they tend to think “fattening!” (Or maybe “hippies,” which is strange to me because I’ve never seen a fat hippy!) But granola can actually be good for you, providing a hearty breakfast or snack rich in iron, calcium, omega fatty acids, fiber, and antioxidants. What you need to watch is the oil and the sugar. This is where any good breakfast can go downhill quickly. I scoured the web for “healthy” granola recipes, only to find that most of them called for at least ¼ cup oil and up to 1 ½ cups of sugar! Can you say 10AM sugar crash?!

I wondered what it would be like to make granola with ZERO oil. Would it crisp up? Would it taste good? The answer, my friends, is YES! The oil is not necessary at all, nor is all that sugar. Dried fruit is sweet enough, and with just a touch of 100% fruit juice and a little pure maple syrup, your granola will be plenty delicious, believe me!

A Note On Substitutions:
The recipe below is exactly what I did to make mine, but you can change up the nuts and fruits based on what you have on hand. You can also use seeds like pumpkin, flax, or sunflower (no need to chop those). Feel free to switch up the juice as well, substituting orange or apple, for example. I didn’t have any fruit juice on hand, so I just blended up a few pineapple chunks in the blender and then pressed the juice out through a mesh strainer. Agave, honey, or coconut nectar can be substituted for the maple syrup.

This makes about 4 cups.

3 cups rolled oats (not instant or quick cooking!)
1/4 cup pure pineapple juice
1/2 cup almonds, roughly chopped
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
3/4 cup mix of raisins and dried cherries
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
scant 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 300.

Put everything except the fruit and coconut in a bowl and mix well. Pour onto two baking sheets, lined with parchment paper, and spread out into an even layer. Bake for 30 minutes, taking the pans out and stirring the mixture every 10 minutes. When you have 5 minutes left on the timer, add in the coconut so it will get lightly toasted.

Remove from the oven, add in your fruit, sprinkle a light layer of cinnamon over the top, and toss everything together. Let it cool and then store in air-tight containers.

I love this as a cereal, hot or cold, with any plant-based milk. It’s also good on top of coconut milk yogurt or just eaten by the palm-full after a workout. I think it would be super cute packaged in glass Mason jars with ribbon for a gift. You could even include a jar of homemade almond milk to go with it. 🙂

granola

Vegan Popcorn Balls

I’ve never made popcorn balls, but since it’s Halloween, I decided to give it a try.
popcorn balls

My mother always tells stories of how people would make homemade popcorn balls and give them out at Halloween when she was a kid, but now everyone’s too afraid to take anything that isn’t wrapped and factory sealed.

I try to make healthy versions of recipes for sweets, but some things are just going to be those once-in-a-while treats that aren’t that great for you. It helps if you use organic corn syrup and organic popcorn seed. Unless it’s organic, corn is genetically modified and sprayed with more chemicals than I care to think about. I’d like to think that raw sugar and vegan butter make this a little better as well. All in all, they’re popcorn balls. They’re sugary, salty, and delicious. I’ve seen recipes that use agave nectar, but I haven’t tried those yet. I read it doesn’t yield the same flavor. Just don’t eat the whole recipe and you’ll be fine. 🙂

To pop the corn kernels, I like to air pop them in the microwave. This is really easy. Just take a brown paper bag (like the ones kids used to take their lunches to school in, back in the day when it was safe to eat popcorn balls from your neighbor), add 1/4 cup popcorn kernels, and roll the top of the bag up twice (small folds). Place in the microwave for 2 minutes. You don’t need oil or anything! Just the paper bag and popcorn!

I do this twice and that gives me enough popcorn for this recipe. Make sure to toss out any un-popped kernels so that no one has to take a trip to the dentist!

Makes about 1 dozen baseball-sized popcorn balls

Ingredients:
9 cups popcorn (popped)
1/3 cup organic light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 cup raw sugar
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon (or so) cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup Earth Balance Buttery Spread
1/2 cup add-ins like dark chocolate chips, peanuts, or dried fruit (optional)

Spray a big bowl with cooking spray and place your popped corn in the bowl.

In a saucepan, heat the corn syrup, water, vinegar, sugar, and salt over medium heat. Stir until the sugar is melted and then turn the heat up to medium-high. You want the mixture to boil, but you don’t want to burn it. My stove dial goes from 1-10 and I leave it on 8.

Simmer the mixture on medium-high heat for about 5-6 minutes. You want it to reach the hard ball candy stage. You can test this by letting a small drop fall off your spatula into a bowl of water. If the drop forms a ball, it’s ready.

Add in the cinnamon. I didn’t measure; I just lightly shook a layer of cinnamon over the surface of the sugar mixture. Now stir in the butter and vanilla until smooth and then immediately pour over the popcorn. This is where you’ll want to add in any extras like fruit or nuts. Start folding the popcorn over in the bowl, mixing well until everything is coated. As the sugar cools, this will become a little difficult, but just keep at it. After about 3 minutes, the mixture will still be warm, but not too hot to handle.

Rub a little butter on your hands and take handfuls of popcorn and press them into balls with your hands. I found that I had to re-butter my hands every 2 balls or so. Place on lightly oiled foil or wax paper to cool for about 15 minutes. Store in an airtight container or wrap individually in plastic wrap or cute gift bags.

NOTE: When you’ve reached the bottom of the popcorn bowl, the sugar will basically be cooled into a nice hard cement! Just put the bowl in the sink and fill with hot water. The sugar will re-melt so that you can rinse and wash the bowl clean.