Kale Chips

My unofficial new year’s resolution was to try cooking a little more healthy this year… now this isn’t to say that my family eats poorly, far from it.  And with needing to find sneaky ways of getting more veggies into Little Miss S, without even trying that hard, the whole family is eating better.  I say it’s my “unofficial resolution” because I didn’t decide this on January 1st.  I’ve just been trying a lot of new healthy recipes, many of which are meatless.  Maybe, though, it’s my way of justifying to my husband why he has eaten a number of meatless meals since the beginning of the new year.  Or perhaps all of this is the influence of Pinterest.

Yes, Pinterest.  About a month ago I finally joined the rest of the world & signed myself up for Pinterest.  It’s not like I didn’t know it existed… I did.  I just thought it was a huge time hog & would consume too much time I didn’t have.  Nothing has changed, I still don’t have a ton of time to spare, in fact, it’s even less now that I’ve really discovered Pinterest. I admit it, I’m hooked.  I have found so many great recipes on there (including the one for Kale Chips), am researching how to build my garden this year, have come across a number of creative ways to entertain my kids, discovered how to make a “restaurant kit” (I will write more on this later!) for my girls & so many other things.  I’ve used Pinterest a lot.

So, back to Kale Chips. IMG_3573 I had a bunch of kale in my fridge, likely because it looked good at the grocery store & I thought I should make something with kale.  A friend of mine had also mentioned making kale chips for her children & that they loved them.  So, I thought, why not?  I searched kale chips on Pinterest & here we are.  I have to say, I loved these kale chips…  Crunchy, salty, good for you… what more could you ask for?

This recipe is incredibly easy & does not take long at all to make.  All you need is a bunch of kale, some oil & some salt.  It will seem like you’re making a lot (I had four cookie sheets worth!) but the kale cooks down a lot.  Perhaps the most time consuming part of the whole thing is washing the kale, tearing it into “chip sized” pieces & drying the kale.  It is important for the “crunchiness” of the chips that the kale be good & dry… so take the time & don’t skip the salad spinner step!IMG_3557

Once you have your kale washed & dry, transfer to a large bowl giving you lots of room for mixing.  IMG_3559

The recipe I used suggested tossing the kale with two tablespoons of olive oil.  My friend Vanessa, who was the one who put the idea of kale chips in my head, told me she uses avocado oil for her kale chips.  I’ve started using avocado oil for a lot of things (since it has a higher smoke point) & used it for my kale chips too.IMG_3564 I used two tablespoons but found it was almost too much so next time I will probably use less.  After pouring the oil over the kale, massage it in with your fingers, making sure all of your kale pieces are well coated.

Next, lay out your kale pieces on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Parchment paper is one of my favourite things.  I use it with almost everything I cook in the oven.  It just makes clean up so much easier & I like the way food turns out when I’ve used parchment.  If you don’t use parchment, you need to try it – it will change your life!  The recipe stressed making sure there is no overlap of the chips, so I tried my best… perhaps why I ended up with four cookie sheets!IMG_3566

Next sprinkle your chips with salt & pepper (if you desire).  Since I was hoping my girls would eat these chips, I skipped the pepper this time.  Once salted, place your chips in the oven at 275F & bake for 18-20 minutes or until your chips are crispy.  IMG_3570Remove from the oven, cool & enjoy!  If you don’t eat them all in one shot (it is tempting since they are so tasty), store in an airtight container to ensure your chips are still crispy the next day.

I tried giving these kale chips to my girls thinking they might like the saltiness of them & thinking, perhaps foolishly, that this would be a really sneaky way of getting Miss S to eat some more veggies.  I think they liked them, but they honestly didn’t eat many because they were more interested in crumbling the chips into tiny little pieces.  But we shall try them again since I thought they were wonderful.  I actually have a bunch of kale in the fridge & plan on making these again this week, that’s how much I loved them.  Hopefully you find them as delicious as I did!

For the full Crispy Kale Chips recipe I found on Pinterest, see Culinary Hill Crispy Kale Chips.

 

 

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Lunch – Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

If breakfast is the easiest meal of the day to prepare, lunch is the hardest.  I don’t really like lunch, to be honest.  Like I said before, coming up with three nutritious & delicious meals a day is damn hard work.  Two I can manage, but the third puts me over the edge.  When I was just making lunch for myself (or my husband & I) lunch seemed easier… it didn’t really matter what we ate, as long as it was something to fill the void.  I was not as concerned about the nutritional value of my lunch as I am for the girls (I know, I should be, but hey, I know I eat a variety of foods that are good for me).  Now though, trying to make sure they get some kind of protein & some fruits & veggies, that’s a challenge.

For  a while, lunch wasn’t too bad.  They liked tofu (it’s hit & miss with Miss S these days) or I could make them spinach & eggs in muffin cups (Miss S won’t eat that anymore either).  These were two of our lunch staples, combined with some fruit & yogurt, but as you can imagine, the picky tastes of Miss S has ruined that.  I am actually finding that the girls have differing tastes at lunch, which is frustrating, because I don’t really want to be making two separate lunches.  I want us all to be able to eat the same things.  Miss S likes quesadillas (Little K not so much), they like perogies, peanut butter sandwiches (peanut butter is only a recent addition to their diets) & grilled cheese sandwiches.  But we can’t eat those things every day!  In addition to whatever main thing we are eating, I always try to give the girls some fruit & depending on how well they are eating, I round out the meal with some Greek yogurt… I find Greek yogurt is a good way of helping to fill them up but also get some protein into them.  I feed the yogurt to them at lunch though… feeding themselves yogurt is more of a mess than I can handle midday! (We strategically eat yogurt by ourselves… only on nights when we are having a bath… Miss S just makes too much of a mess!)IMG_2153

I will admit that Deceptively Delicious has given me a few new ideas for lunch & that the addition of peanut butter has also helped.  When I am really stuck, this is what we have.  It’s quick & easy & I always have everything to make a PB sandwich.  A few weeks ago I did try a recipe out of Deceptively Delicious for Tortilla “Cigars”, which is basically cream cheese, cheese & some pureed veg, creamed together & wrapped up in tortilla shells.  They sounded good to me & I thought the round shapes would be fun to eat for the girls, but they weren’t a huge hit.  They ate them one day but not the next…

There is, however, a recipe for grilled cheese with a twist… a twist of squash.  Now before you go & turn your nose up & ask me why I am messing with good old traditional grilled cheese, hear me out.  The squash melts into the cheese (it is important to use cheddar for camouflage purposes) & it really does not taste any different than a regular grilled cheese.  Yes, I have eaten it.

Adding squash to grilled cheese really is the perfect deception because it’s the same colour as the cheese, if you use cheddar.  The recipe in Deceptively Delicious suggests that you could also use sweet potato puree.  While I have not used sweet potato in a sandwich I did use it once when making quesadillas for my girls & they loved it.

The key here is using shredded cheese as the recipe suggests & it has to be “real cheese” as I refer to it, meaning it can’t be a cheese slice.

When I was little, my Poppa used to make my brothers & I  “melted cheese” as a snack before breakfast (only at your grandparents house do you get snacks before breakfast!).  We used to think this was the best thing ever, when really it was a processed cheese slice melted on a piece of bread.  I’m not even sure if I would eat this now but it sure tasted good then.

Okay, now that I have gone down memory lane, back to the sandwiches.  In her cookbook, Jessica Seinfeld, recommends making up a bunch of purees & then freezing them so you always have purees at your disposal.  I don’t know about you but I don’t really have time for this (though it sounds like a great plan).  I have two toddlers!  It’s hard enough to accomplish what I do with two kids hanging off my legs most of the time.  If I have decided to make a recipe I will just make the puree up then (my food processor is one of my new best friends – along with my dishwasher & dust buster!).  I will usually make extra though, so that I can at least have one portion in the freezer for next time.  I have found that the zippered snack bags (which are about half the size of sandwich bags) are the perfect size for holding half a cup of puree – the standard measure for most of the recipes in Deceptively Delicious.

I must admit that I only followed this recipe exactly the first time I made these sandwiches, since then, I wing it.  It’s grilled cheese after all, really not that difficult, even if you are adding a little squash.  The Deceptively Delicious recipe calls for half a cup of shredded cheese & half a cup of puree.  This makes two very thick sandwiches – far too much filling for a toddler sandwich in my opinion.  So, now I only use a couple tablespoons of squash puree & maybe slightly more than a quarter cup of cheese (sorry, that’s as precise as I get).  The recipe also calls for margarine & salt to be added to the cheese/squash mixture.  I added salt once but have never added the marg (as my Nannie used to say!).  Jessica Seinfeld seems to love non-stick cooking spray & uses it in her grilled cheese recipe (in most of her recipes actually) instead of buttering the bread. Personally, I don’t see why you need to mess with a good thing & just used butter on the bread as I usually would.

So, in a nutshell, puree your squash (or thaw it as I did this time), shred your cheese (or buy shredded cheese – something I have been doing more & more just to save time), mix together, butter your bread & build your sandwich.  IMG_3309Cook as you would a regular grilled cheese, browning both sides until the cheese is gooey & melted through.   When all the cheese is melted you would never know there is squash in there merely from appearances!  Remove from the pan, cut on the diagonal (my preference!), add ketchup (also my preference – although I don’t yet let my girls have ketchup – Miss S would just eat the ketchup) & enjoy. IMG_3311 If you’re being really fancy, I like dill pickles on the side too.  On a side note, this squash/cheese mixture works really well in quesadillas for lunch as well.  My girls love this mixture in both sandwich form & quesadilla form, with picky Miss S even eating all of the cheese filling before she eats all the bread or tortilla shell.

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches (from Deceptively Delicious)

1/2 cup shredded reduced fat Cheddar Cheese

1/2 cup sweet potato or butternut squash puree

1 tbsp. trans-fat-free soft tub margarine spread

1/4 tsp salt

4 slices whole-wheat bread

Nonstick cooking spray

1 tsp olive oil

In a medium bowl, mix the cheese, vegetable puree, margarine & salt.  Spread two slices of the bread with the cheese mixture & top with the other two slices.

Coat a large non-stick skillet with cooking spray & set it over medium heat.  When the skillet is hot, add the oil.  Put the sandwiches in the pan & spray the tops with cooking spray.  Cook 4 to 5 minutes per side, until the bread is crisp & the filling is melted.

Makes 2 sandwiches