That Time I Was Uptrend: My Obsession With Kale

In between leaving work and starting graduate school I lived in Port Huron with my parents for a summer. In exchange for reinhabiting my bedroom, I offered to cook up a storm: an authentic Indian feast, homemade baba ghanoush, all sorts of Iron Chef-ed surprises. Among the dishes I tried was a beautiful minestrone recipe, complete with parmesan rind and bunches of kale. I remember lingering over the deep green curls in a rarely-visited corner of the Kroger produce section; with its chlorophyll coloring, sturdy stalks, and abundant foliage, it was the liveliest food I had ever seen.

I didn’t know what to do with it at the time, so I followed the instructions closely and chopped it into the soup. While my grandfather found this all a bit strange, I fell in love with it. I started putting it in everything: soups, stews, salads. I wrote a short cookbook of original kale recipes and published it online (you can find it here). I even started avoiding traditional salad bars that used kale as a garnish; I had become such a devotee that I could not stand to see all that kale wasted.

I am rarely stylish, but on this singular dimension, I am going to brag: It was 2007 and I was up-trend on kale.

In the early days, one of my favorite uses of kale was oven-baked kale chips. My approach was pure; I added only olive oil, salt, and a dash of red pepper flakes before sticking them in the oven to crisp up. Unfortunately, however, cooking kale chips in the oven was always a gamble. I lived in fear of my kale staying in a minute too long and becoming mildly blackened and far less appealing.

Now I am exploring new horizons of kale. Following the inspiration of many store-bought kale chips (which taste delicious but cost fistfuls of money), I came up with my own recipe for dehydrated kale chips. I’ve come a long way since the early days of experimentation in my parents’ oven; the below recipe requires strange equipment like a dehydrator. Further, seven years later, the California influences are apparent; I make use of strange yet delicious ingredients like nutritional yeast and almond milk. If you can get over the rampant hippie-ness of the recipe, however, it’s one of the best ways I’ve ever had kale: cheesy and crunchy but still full of green goodness.

With love (and health),

Cheesy, Way-Too-Easy Kale Chips
Vegan, raw, gluten-free

Ingredients (someday I’ll actually measure the quantities):
A couple of bunches of dino kale (also known as Tuscan or lacinato kale)
Almond milk
Apple cider vinegar
Lemon juice
Hummus (optional)
Almond meal
Nutritional yeast
Smoked paprika
Garlic salt

Prep the kale:  Wash and dry your dino kale (two bunches?). Rip into chip-like pieces (approximately two inches by two inches).

Prep wet ingredients:  Combine wet ingredients together in a large, shallow container. I typically include some combination of a lot of almond milk and water (maybe one cup each?) with a bit of lemon juice and apple cider vinegar to flavor (maybe two tablespoons each?). This time I also raided the fridge and found some leftover hummus which I mixed in as well. You’re looking for liquid to coat all your kale – and a bit extra that will soak into the leaves.

Add spices:  Add the spices to the wet ingredients. Start with garlic salt and pepper to taste (maybe ¼ to ½ teaspoon?). And then hold onto your seats for the real secret: smoked paprika. Put in a lot of smoked paprika (two or three tablespoons?).

Prep dry ingredients:  Create a mix of dry ingredients. I throw together almond meal and nutritional yeast in the ratio of about 2:1 (maybe a cup of meal and ½ cup yeast?). Again, you’ll want enough to lightly coat all your kale.

Coat the kale:  Soak the kale in the wet ingredients, massaging the kale lightly as if you were creating a kale salad. Then sprinkle with the dry ingredients. [You can take other approaches as well; it doesn’t really matter as long as the kale is covered with whatever deliciousness you want on it. I’ve also just mixed the kale, wet, and dry ingredients all together in a big bowl; it works fine, though the almond meal can distribute unevenly, especially if the surface your kale is particularly bumpy.]

Dehydrate:  Lay the kale out on your dehydrator racks (I use an Excalibur and love it).
IMG_2247Dehydrate at approximate 110 degrees. You can certainly use a higher temperature, but keeping it under 120 degrees will qualify it as ‘raw’ food and keep the enzymes in your food alive (at least, that’s what the hippies say). Check periodically and rotate the trays. It should take approximately twelve hours for the chips to be crisp and delicious.

Your much-loved kale recipes?  Share in the comments below. 

Go, go, go

San Francisco, CA

I spent the last two weeks following a frenetic travel schedule that took me to Europe, to Africa, and back to Europe before landing me home in San Francisco. Getting off the plane, I then ran the gauntlet of both a lot of voluntary fun (from Maker Faire to my first Bay to Breakers) as well as an intense schedule of professional commitments (three full days of working sessions and hosting a team dinner at my house).

As I ran about, attending to everything, the to-dos piled up higher-and-higher. I could only clear so many of them on the flights that took me here-and-there and in the wee hours of the morning. So at the end of all this, I had a feeling of relief: “So many commitments, but finally, I can get some work done!” I sat down to my computer with the relish of someone ready to rip through her inbox. But, instead of reaching my productive stride on Day Eighteen, my body gave in. I came down with a familiar, intense migraine that happens when I’ve simply pushed too hard and too long. And it’s lingered an unpleasant two days, sticking around to make sure it’s impact is fully felt.

It was probably some combination of the bodily resilience of youth and my own ignorance of my body’s signals that let me push so hard in my teens and twenties. I never stopped. I rarely slowed. I needed to be told to go home when sick. Four to six hours of sleep a night seemed to be easily enough. And bodily feelings of any type (tired, hungry, grumpy, whatever) seemed irrelevant to the task at hand.

But now it’s different. My body has learned the tricks (like migraines) to simply shut me down when I refuse to listen to the signals. My body has resorted to extreme measures to bring me back into balance. And I have no option but to respond: “All right. I hear you.”

I listen more now. I try to pre-empt the extreme measures, to co-operate with my body more, and to watch for the signs. I hydrate, I sleep, and, loath to my twenty-something self, sometimes I even pass on the glass of wine. I try to give up controlling my physical body with my rational mind and ignoring the feelings because “I’m stronger than that.”

It seems silly, obvious and a bit embarassing to write it all down (after all, what thirty-something hasn’t mastered basic homeostatis?), but it’s tough to reverse twenty-plus years of being rewarded for productivity at the expense of self.

How does your body shut you down?