Sunday, February 23, 2014

Kale Chips

Every so often, I get a text from a friend asking for a refresher on how to make kale chips.  I can't tell you how much these messages make me smile, particularly when they come from a previously skeptical convert.  

The first time I heard about kale chips was from a cousin, who was living with her husband in a trailer on a small organic farm.  With her long blond dreadlocks, she looked very much like a wood nymph, the sort of mystical creature that would turn kale into chips and delude herself into thinking that they actually tasted good.  When I finally made my first batch, I was as surprised as anyone that kale chips are not only delicious, but addicting.  They're not potato chips, but they do satisfy that salty-crunchy craving - AND, you don't feel awful after eating a whole bowl.  Before you know it, you just ate three servings of kale...and liked it.

So I spread the word.  I got my coworkers in on the action, made large batches for my friends and family, and even posted a recipe on my old blog.  The reaction was the same from almost everyone who tried them: kale chips are really good, and  you don't have to be a hippy or health nut to enjoy them!  If you don't believe me, take our First Lady's promo on Thursday's "The Tonight Show: "Kale chips are not 'ewwwww!"

Kale Chips
Serves 2-4
or one, who will totally enjoy them at the time but might regret the decision a few hours later…not that I'm speaking from experience or anything

1 bunch kale - you can use any kind, though curly kale is my favorite for chips
1/2  tbs olive oil
salt, to taste
optional seasonings: sesame seeds, smoked paprika, lemon pepper, chili flakes, seasoning salt or sandwich sprinkle - use your imagination!  See below for some additional suggestions.

Heat oven to 275 degrees.  In the meantime, wash kale and remove leaves from stem.  Tear leaves into bite-sized pieces.

Dry leaves thoroughly, and then mix with olive oil and any seasonings - except for salt.  I've found that sprinkling salt on after the chips are done allows you to use less salt with more taste.    

Arrange leaves on a baking sheet, and bake for approximately 18-25 minutes, checking at regular intervals.  The range is wide, because this recipe is really sensitive to oven temperatures - I've made these in many different ovens, and the time can vary quite a bit.  If you add more oil and raise the heat slightly, these will cook faster.  You'll know that the chips are done because they're crispy and dehydrated.  It's a short leap from chip to burnt offering, so pay attention!   

Chips are ready to eat right away, though you can also store them in an airtight container or Ziploc bag for several days. 

Here are a few other variations if you're feeling adventurous!

Southwest "Nacho" Kale Chips: smoked paprika, garlic salt, cumin, and nutritional yeast

Sesame Kale Chips: sesame oil plus soy sauce or liquid aminos

Spicy Kale Chips: add some hot sauce to the oil of your choice

Super Healthy Hippy Kale Chips: coconut oil plus chia seeds

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Portland Snowpocalypse 2014: Life is Cancelled Until Further Notice

This is actually 78th street, which has been turned into a sled run for the weekend.  I tried using a roasting pan as a makeshift saucer.  (I failed.)  

We don't get a lot of snow in Portland, so when it hits, life is cancelled until further notice...

...unless you're a graduate student.  Back to studying. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014


with thanks to mother nature 
for sending me some birthday snow!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

26: My Year of Hot Sauce

I could say a lot about being 26. 

26 is when I realized both how very fragile and how incredibly resilient we can be.

26 is when I understood what it meant to be betrayed, and what it means to have to forgive. 

26 is when I started trusting my intuition. 

26 is when I practiced listening more, judging less, and asking better questions.

26 is when I learned how to mix cocktails and apply liquid eyeliner. 

And 26 is when I discovered my love for hot sauce.

I actually spent my 26th birthday here in Portland, most of it alone in a hotel room that smelled like yesterday's grilled-cheese sandwich.  I ended up having to rearrange travel plans to meet my advisor before starting school in April, in lieu of spending the day at home with the people I loved.  Instead, I opened a new bank account, signed a lease, and panicked about this major life decision that had suddenly become much more real.  Over the next month, I donated a good chunk of the crap I had accumulated in the previous few years (it feels like it shouldn't count if it's from a thrift store, but it adds up), said goodbye to hopes and dreams for my previous life, packed up the remains, and hobbled into my new life in a state where it turns out that hard alcohol isn't sold at regular grocery stores.

I was still bleary-eyed that morning at the Tin Shed Cafe, watching the black lab and potbelly pig share a dish from the restaurant's dog menu (welcome to Portland).  When the waiter brought out our orders, he asked if we'd like to try some Secret Aardvark Hot Sauce.  I'd never been a hot sauce person, or so I thought, but the name was enough to intrigue me.  I carefully shook a few drops onto my eggs, took a bite, and had a profound realization.

I liked hot sauce.  I really liked hot sauce.

Somewhere along the line, I'd gotten the idea that I couldn't handle spicy foods.  I think this was a gastronomical side effect of my reputation as a "rule-follower," the straight-A people pleaser who was afraid of standing out.  It fit with my "delicate constitution," my thin, pale, broken body.  Quite frankly, the girl in the mirror doesn't look like someone who should travel the world, lift heavy boxes, or even try to open jars of peanut butter without supervision.  And these conceptions were reinforced by particular individuals in my life whose proclamations about my abilities - or inabilities - became ingrained as truth over time.  In many ways, I saw myself as weak and inadequate.

As I doused my plate with hot sauce, I felt my inner badass come into the limelight.  She has been there all along, largely unrecognized, but quietly working.  She is the part of me that isn't afraid of taking risks, making mistakes, or sharing her ideas.  She is the warrior who has persevered through illness, the adventurous spirit who has traveled to faraway places, and the outgoing side of this introvert that works to bring others along for the ride.  She is the voice who tells me to dream bigger and better, and the hand giving me a shove forward when the meek perfectionist drags her heels.   I'm happy to say that she and I have become much better acquainted over the last twelve months.

In the upheaval of unexpected change, I found freedom from some of the guilt, expectations, and lies that weighed me down.  It's scary to lose your anchors, but I think my ship is on a better course - even if the waters have been a little rough, the journey is worth getting drenched every once in a while.  27, I'm ready for you: bring on the hot sauce. 

picture from Denali National Park this summer
with thanks to William Shakespeare!