V For Veg: Kale chips: Betcha can't eat just one

Kale chips are tasty, nutritious and easy to make in a few simple steps.

TECHNICALLY, kale is not a "superfood." This cabbage-like leaf, rich in cancer-busting antioxidants and crunchy goodness, is in a class by itself, of "Super-Duper-food." And now a super-duper-fun way to enjoy it is catching on: kale chips.

I noticed the kale-chip trend (Ooh, a food trend! Must credit "V for Veg!") when Appetite for Profit author Michele Simon tweeted about making them and got a crush of replies from people, including me, who either had also just done so or wanted to.

By the time I'd made my first batch, it seemed everybody was on the kale-chip bandwagon. Even trend arbiter Martha Stewart spotlights "kale crisps" in the "Halloween" Special Issue of Martha Stewart Living.

Some stores sell premade chips for jaw-dropping prices, but you can easily make them fresh at home. It's simple: Wash a bunch of kale; dry and tear the leaves intol pieces. Put kale and some olive oil (I used a tablespoon of oil per head of kale) into a bowl and mix until the pieces are lightly coated. Season as you like (see below), then lay the pieces on a lightly greased baking tray.

The last step is heating them, and here's where methods diverge: True connoisseurs use dehydration (low heat over a long period of time), while those of us who either are impatient or don't own a dehydrator go for baking. Here, the most common formula is: 425 degrees for 5-7 minutes.

Add a little salt when they come out of the oven, but not before, as it will leach moisture and make the chips more chewy than crispy. Garlic powder and dried onion added zing to mine, but try out different spicing options before baking: paprika, basil, curry or chipotle powder, sesame or cumin seeds - you name it.

Dr. Michael Greger is one of the connoisseurs. Though I called him for vitamin info (his site NutritionFacts.org features a new, entertaining video every day on the latest science in nutrition), he volunteered, "I bought a dehydrator for one purpose only, and that's to make kale chips."

He also confirmed the trend. "I did a Google image search on 'kale chips' a year ago and found almost nothing. Try it now and . . . wow!" (About 174,000 results, says Google.)

But my question was, are these tasty, crunchy, addictive snacks really that much healthier than, say, potato chips? The short answer? Oh, my lord, yes.

Take eight ounces of each: Kale chips have three times as much calcium as potato chips, four times the vitamin C, 200 times (!) the vitamin K and have 400 percent (vs. 0 percent) of your daily value of vitamin A, along with other nutritive benefits. Potato chips have 20 times the calories and 100 times the fat of kale chips. So, yeah, kale makes an honest-to-goodness healthy snack chip.

I did my first couple of batches using regular curly kale, but as Martha Stewart used dinosaur (Lacinato) kale, I tried that and found it much easier to render into flat strips. Either way, the baked kale has a somewhat sweet flavor that we don't usually associate with this bitter green.

One last incentive: Greger is so cuckoo for kale chips, he'll send a free DVD of his hilariously educational nutrition-fact presentations to anyone who sends him homemade kale chips. Want some nourishment news? Get cookin'!

V for Victory: Congrats to the first-place winners of the Full Plate Vegetarian Quickfire cooking competition earlier this month in Northern Liberties: Kimball Street (Amateur Division) and North Bowl (Pro).



Vance Lehmkuhl is a cartoonist,

writer, musician and 10-year vegan.

"V for Veg" chronicles the growing

trend of plant-based eating in and

around Philadelphia. Send your veg

tips to VforVeg@phillynews.com

and follow @V4Veg on Twitter.