Cheezy Spicy Kale Chips!

It's been a whirlwind of Kale Chip test kitchening for me the past few days. It feels like I've been making (and nibbling) kale chips of all sorts nonstop. With a little help from my husband who gobbles up a generous bowl of them in ten seconds flat.

Oven or Dehydrator. Nope, I don't have a food dehydrator, so these are technically not raw kale chips. I'm winging it with my oven on a low 200-250 degrees. But I'm loving the results! So if you crave crunchy, spicy (optional), cheezy snacks - make my Cheezy Spicy Kale Chips this weekend!..

Oh kale chips, you are so cute and fun. Each kale chip is different. They remind me of tropical fish, deep sea coral or strange sea monsters. Do you see it?..

Sauce coated kale about to go in the oven..

Kale Chips. They have become super trendy over the past few years. But when you look at the price of them in stores you may get sticker shock. $8 for a tub of kale chips that I will most likely inhale in one afternoon? Yup. Well, I will admit that a few brands of kale chips are ah-mazing. But I was so thrilled about how these lovely chippies turned out, I will probably just make my own from now on .. with a few impulse grocery store kale chip buys here and there.

Football Challenge for Fall.
I think we all know a few football fans. The ones with the bowls and bowls of chips. Side of beer. Challenge the lovable, chip-munching football fan in your life to answer my kale chip call. I'm calling my Cheezy Spicy Vegan Kale Chips the official "snack o' fall." Perfect timing as we head into the season where we all get cozy on our couches for TV shows, sports and snuggling.

And I am pretty confidant that even the burliest of burly football men would devour a bowl of these neon orange chips. Just place a shiny bowl of my kale chips, right in between the Cheetos and cool ranch tortilla chips if you must, and watch how they magically disappear! If I can get a few of the chip-crunchers to swap out potato chips for kale chips, my job here is done :)

Side Note: VegNews Cover News. It's official! It's been a super exciting week for me not just because of the kale chip success. Although, that is quite exciting. It's exciting because I found out that my photo is going to be on the cover of the Sep +Oct issue, aka the "food issue" of my fave magazine on the planet: VegNews. You can read all about why I'm so thrilled here. On news stands soon!

And now for the kale chips. A few things I learned when making these..

Kale Chip Lessons:

* Variety - use a variety of kale! Dinosaur kale, purple kale, traditional green kale - it's fun to change up your chips by using different textures and colors of kale.

* Heat - You can add heat to your chips via a jalapeno, cayenne powder, red pepper flakes other varieties of chilies or mix spices. And if the baked chips aren't spicy enough for you (some jalapenos and chilies can vary in spiciness) you can always toss the chips in dry spices after they bake - a few dashes of chili powder or cayenne will heat things up.

* Cheezy - Seriously, I don't think there is such a thing as "too much nutritional yeast" especially on kale chips. I will add it to the sauce - then sprinkle it over top throughout the cooking process and even right before serving sometimes. That cheezy flavor is what makes these chips special.

* Practice Makes Perfect - It may take you a few batches to get your chips up to par. The technique comes in figuring out how to get that light crispy texture and clumpy coated cheeziness, without overclumping. And using an oven requires even more patience since you have to balance between not letting your kale wilt and roast vs not over-baking to a black burnt crisp. If your first batch turns out less than perfect, try again!

This was the first batch I made yesterday. Turned out very well but I knew I could improve on the sauce a bit the second time around.

Then my second batch from today (recipe is below)..

* Thin Layer on Baking Sheet - Be sure to spread your chips evenly across a baking sheet. Kale that is too layered will get clumpy and not light and crispy. Although, I will admit, sometimes clumpy kale chips can be yummy too..

* Bake Low - If you have a food dehydrator, good for you, your chips will be light, RAW and just about perfect. If you are winging it with an oven like me, I found that keeping it on 200 degrees (max 275) will produce delicious caramelized, yet crispy, cheezy kale chips. They won't be exactly the same as dehydrator chips - but still totally addictive and yummy.

* Nutty Mix - For the base mixture I tried accenting with a variety of nuts and seeds in my test kitchen. Raw soaked cashews are most common. But I tried walnuts, sunflower seeds and more. All produced good flavor. However, I do admit the raw cashew-infused chips were my fave (that recipe is below).

* Other Veggies? - In an attempt to be creative, I tried making eggplant cheezy chips alongside my kale. The end result was actually incredibly delicious, but not really "chippy" since the crispness was very hard to achieve. Plus the eggplant took hours to roast on such a low temp. I imagine a skilled dehydrator user - or crafty oven user - could make carrot, eggplant, zucchini and more chips. But really, kale is just perfect for chippage-ing. All those wavy curly leaves that grab onto the thick cheezy coating. Perfection.

* Raw vs. Baked? - My kale chips are not raw. Sadly. To be confirmed 'raw' you would need a food dehydrator which would allow the temperature to below 115 degrees. Raw kale chips will also be brighter green and slightly lighter and more crisp than baked kale chips. However, both versions are delicious as can be.

Do you have any kale chip tips to share? Leave them in the comments!

Cheezy Spicy Kale Chips
vegan, makes about 4-5 cups baked chips
note: this sauce recipe is enough for 2 bunches of kale - but if you only want to make one bunch, you can halve recipe or store sauce in fridge to use later

2 bunches of organic kale, shredded, thick stems removed

1 large bell pepper (red, orange or yellow)
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 whole jalapeno with seeds, remove stem
1 serrano pepper, remove stem
3/4 cup nutritional yeast + extra for dusting
1/8 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp garlic granules
1 Tbsp agave syrup
1 1/2 Tbsp tamari (or soy sauce)
1 cup soaked raw cashews (water drained)
2 Tbsp sunflower seeds
a few dashes of pepper
1/2 tsp sea salt (I used pink salt) - always salt carefully and to taste
optional: 1/4 cup veg oil (any variety oil will work - olive, grape seed or macadamia nut)

To make:

1. Heat oven to 250 degrees. Lay a piece of foil on a baking sheet and lightly grease. Set aside.

2. Prep your kale by washing and drying very well. Remove thick stems and shred into pieces. The kale will shrink significantly in the oven so your kale pieces should be a few inches in width at least.

3. Add all the sauce ingredients to a Vitamix or high speed blender. Blend on high until smooth. Add more salt/seasoning/heat as needed.

4. There are a few ways to coat your kale. I like to place it in a bowl and pour the sauce over top. Then lightly toss and transfer to baking sheet. Don't coat the kale too heavily with sauce - the thinner the sauce, the lighter and crispier your chips will be. I think the perfect chips are super thin and light in some spots and heavily cheezy in others. Find the technique that works for you - this may take a few batches of chips! (They will all be yummy though).

My kale coating bowl. I do it in small batches. You can see how thick, creamy and vibrant redish-orange the sauce is...

5. Place kale baking sheet in oven. Turn heat down to 200. My max heat for chips is 250. Baking time for 250 is about an hour. While 200 take 1-2 hours. Maybe longer depending on how you coated your chips with sauce.

6. Remove from oven and allow to cool for at least 20 minutes before removing. Some chips may be perfect and some may need a few more minutes in the oven. I usually remove the "done" chips then return the still soggy ones to the oven. Or I'll simply eat them war and soggy because they just that tasty.

Happy Kale Chip Making!!

clumpy can be yummy..

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