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Guilty pleasures

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It’s only day 3 of Vegan MoFo 2012 and I’m already cheating on my theme — commitment is clearly a challenge for me.

I haven’t had much time to cook this week, which is a problem when your theme revolves around cookbooks, so I’m going to talk today about something else: guilty pleasures.

Namely, my biggest guilty pleasure of all: potato chips.

For a while, it was Mighty-O donuts. Then my sweet craving mechanism turned off, and this preference flip-flopped: I still crave greasiness, but it’s fat of the salty, savory kind.

The ritual is to eat a single-serving bag of chips slowly, savoring each crisp round, until there’s nothing but crumbs and air inside. My hands covered in oil, I walk to the bathroom to wash the odor of the deep fryer off my skin and stare at myself in the mirror, pleading to my body to forgive me for what I’ve done. I promise to never do it again, but the next morning the craving hits again and I crack.

I’ve been averaging a bag of potato chips from the little convenience store in my building every other day for the past few months. The nice old lady who runs the place giggles a little when I come in (her English is rather spotty) and hands me a nickel in change before I’ve even removed a dollar from my wallet.

Sometimes I send a coworker to pick up chips for me to avoid her judgment, as cute as her judgment is.

One of these days, I’ll quit the habit and move on to another obsession. For now, chips it is.

What’s your biggest vegan guilty pleasure?


Kale chips two ways

Okay, vegans: raise your hand if you are crazy about kale! (oooh — me, me!)

Raise your hand if you love kale chips! (I do! I do!)

Raise your hand if you’ve made kale chips! (…silence…)

Perhaps I exaggerate, but kale chips are akin to hummus: incredibly simple and inexpensive to make (and overpriced in the stores), but when the snack craving hits, we hit the food co-op for something pre-made.

(Cue some offended someone to leave a comment along the lines of, I make my own hummus all the freakin’ time, you lazy non-hummus-making jerk. I know, I know: I generalize.)

I had never made kale chips until last weekend (and once I did that, I made many more), though I’d heard about how easy they are. You don’t even need a dehydrator — turning up the oven to 350 degrees will dry the kale leaves to a delicate crisp in 12-14 minutes.

And kale chips are so versatile: top them with whatever you like. Craving nachos? Nutritional yeast, chili, salt, and some lemon or lime zest. Feeling like potato chips? Just add salt. Wanting a little something extra? Smoked salt. Not feeling the sodium? Eat them plain or with other spices of your choosing.

Regardless of what you put on them, kale chips will fulfill that 3 p.m. yen for unhealthy snack foods.

Nacho kale chips

(adapted from the New York Times)

Instructions:

  1. Wash 1 bunch kale and break into bite-sized pieces, discarding stems. Dry in a salad spinner — you do not want the leaves to be wet or they will not crisp in the oven.
  2. Place kale in a large bowl, adding about a TBS or two of oil. Massage oil into leaves. You may need to do this in two batches.
  3. Place kale on a non-stick cookie sheet or jellyroll pan (for some reason, the non-stick surface really helps it crisp up), sprinkle with salt, and bake at 350 degrees for 12-14 minutes, moving the kale around on the pan a few times while baking. You may also need to do this in two batches.
  4. After you’ve removed the kale from the oven, sprinkle with the zest of one lemon, nutritional yeast, chili powder, and whatever other spices appeal to you (cumin, chipotle, etc.)

Smoky kale chips

Instructions:

  1. Wash 1 bunch kale and break into bite-sized pieces, discarding stems. Dry in a salad spinner — you do not want the leaves to be wet or they will not crisp in the oven.
  2. Place kale in a large bowl, adding about a TBS or two of oil. Massage oil into leaves. You may need to do this in two batches.
  3. Place kale on a non-stick cookie sheet or jellyroll pan and bake at 350 degrees for 12-14 minutes, moving the kale around on the pan a few times while baking. You may also need to do this in two batches.
  4. After you’ve removed the kale from the oven, sprinkle with smoked sea salt — there’s a vendor at the Columbia City and U District farmers markets that sells a really nice, inexpensive apple smoked salt, but you can also get smoked salt at Sugarpill or other places around town.

Other delicious-sounding kale chip recipes:

Herbal Popcorn

What’s your go-to snack? Mine is definitely herbal popcorn.

Back in college, the campus coffee shop would serve the herbal popcorn from Little Lad’s bakery — nutritional yeast and spices bound to fluffy kernels with a healthy blanket of soybean oil — in cruelly small little plastic bowls.

Seriously, this stuff is too addictive to be dolled out in 1-cup portions — you eat it by the fistful.

I make a healthier version with the ingredients above.

Here’s how it goes: pop a bag of oil-free popcorn, pour into a large tupperware with a lid, spray with cooking spray (make sure you mix it up to get it evenly coated), sprinkle with salt, nutritional yeast, dried dill, onion powder, garlic powder, and maybe some paprika or hot pepper, and shake to coat.

Or, pop 3 tablespoons of popcorn kernels in the greatest popcorn popper ever (I got mine at Value Village for $2; you can get one online), spray with cooking spray (again make sure you mix it up to get it evenly coated) or instead pop the kernels in a TBS of oil, pour into a large tupperware with a lid, sprinkle with salt, nutritional yeast, dried dill, onion powder, garlic powder, and maybe some paprika or hot pepper, and shake to coat.

It’s that simple.

Daphne Oz has a recipe if you’re one of those people who abso-posi-lutely need direction, though the flavors are different from my Little Lad’s rip-off (no onion powder — which is a must — and the addition of parsley and oregano).

Great for movie time or shoving in your face any time.

Don’t go in there!!!

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