I recently had to do a recipe demo for nutrition school that included a discussion of the benefits of each ingredient in the recipe. It had to be nutritious and delicious. The first thing that came to mind? Kale chips! These aren’t just any kale chips. They are a super-flavorful, nutrient-dense, light snack that is a good source of plant-based protein and healthy fat. They also happen to be vegan, gluten-free, and paleo-friendly. So if that’s your jam, you’re welcome!
If you’re a kale skeptic, hang with me. These have convinced plenty of people that kale can actually be tasty. My dog (a golden retriever) even ate an entire batch of these (yes, 2 heads of kale!). No joke. She’s never grabbed food off the counter, and routinely ignores all veggies (except carrots) that fall on the floor while I cook, but she managed to snag these from a plate in the middle of the counter and devour the whole thing.
So what’s in them and why should you care? Glad you asked! Read on for the scoop on each ingredient and for the recipe!
Kale is a member of the cruciferous or cabbage family. There are several varieties of kale, which differ in taste, texture, and appearance.
Kale is an excellent source of carotenes, vitamins C and B6, and manganese. It contains only 20 calories per cup, but is also a good source of dietary fiber, as well as vitamins B1, B2, and E, and the minerals copper, iron, and calcium. Kale’s calcium to phosphorus ratio of 3:1 is ideal for bone density and health.
Unlike other yeasts, nutritional yeast is an inactive yeast. It is grown on a food source such as sugarcane or beet molasses and then harvested, heated (this deactivates it), dried, and crumbled.
Nutritional yeast is a complete protein, providing all nine amino acids that the human body cannot produce. It is a good source of several B-complex vitamins, including thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), and folate (B9). It is also a good source of fiber, selenium and zinc. It is low in sodium, gluten-free, and has a nutty, cheesy flavor.
Coming from the center of the cheery sunflower plant, sunflower seeds are an abundant source of protein, magnesium, selenium, vitamins E, B1, B5, and B6, phosphorus, copper, iron, folic acid, and fiber.
Cashew nuts belong to the same family as the mango and pistachio, and are actually seeds that adhere to the bottom of the cashew apple, the fruit of the cashew tree.
Cashews are a very good source of monounsaturated fats, which support heart health. They are also a good source of minerals copper, magnesium, potassium, iron, and zinc. Cashews have a lower fat content and higher protein and carbohydrate content than most other nuts.
Bell peppers are a good source of vitamin C, beta-carotene, vitamin K, thiamine, folic acid, and vitamin B6. Red bell peppers have significantly higher levels of nutrients than green bell peppers, which are simply unripe red peppers.
Garlic is one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world. Historic Sanskrit records cite its therapeutic use, and Hippocrates and Aristotle note its treatment for ailments from diarrhea to hypertension. In modern days, the antimicrobial properties of garlic have been attributed to the compound allicin. It has been shown to be effective against common infections such as colds, flu, stomach virus, and Candida yeast.
Garlic is an excellent source of vitamin B6, as well as a good source of manganese, selenium, and vitamin C. It also contains the minerals phosphorus, calcium, potassium, iron, and copper. Chopping or crushing garlic stimulates the enzymatic process that converts the phytochemical alliin into allicin.
Cayenne pepper has a high concentration of the compound capsaicin, which is responsible for the “heat” of the flavor. Capsaicin is well-recognized in clinical research as an effective pain reliever, as a digestive and anti-ulcer aid, and for its cardiovascular benefits.
All peppers contain substances that have been shown to prevent clot formation and reduce the risk for heart attacks and strokes by reducing blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels and platelet aggregation, and increasing fibrinolytic activity—process which help to break down blood clots. Bell peppers are not as rich in these compounds than hot peppers, but are still beneficial as a source.
So there you have it. Convinced that you should try these guys? Cool.
One tip and then I swear I’ll get to the recipe: many of these ingredients can be found in the bulk bins at your grocery store. That’s where I get my nuts, seeds, and nutritional yeast. You can get only what you need if you don’t use them frequently (these items can go rancid over time) and tend to be much cheaper than buying full bags.
- 2 heads lacinato (dino) or curly kale (you want the more hearty kind for these)
- 3/4 cup raw cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours or overnight
- 2 tbsp raw or roasted (unsalted) sunflower seeds
- ½ red bell pepper
- 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1-2 garlic cloves
- ½ tsp turmeric
- ¼ tsp sea salt
- ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Wash and thoroughly dry kale (you can wash the kale in advance and leave to dry between clean, dry dishtowels or paper towels). Remove stems and tear into chip-sized pieces.
- Add drained cashews, sunflower seeds, nutritional yeast, red pepper, garlic, turmeric, salt, and cayenne pepper (all remaining ingredients) to a food processor or blender and blend into a completely smooth paste, scraping down sides as needed. It will be thick!
- In a large bowl, combine mixture with the kale pieces, mixing well with your (clean!) hands to evenly coat each piece.
- Spread kale pieces onto a baking sheet, making sure they are laid in an even layer so that the pieces aren’t overlapping. You will need to bake them in multiple batches or on multiple baking sheets.
- Bake for 45 minutes; remove from oven and toss/turn each piece so that they bake evenly (you’ll find that when you flip them they are damp underneath.
- Bake 15-30 minutes longer until crisp. Start checking after 15 minutes, and again every 5 minutes to be sure they don’t burn. Let cool slightly before enjoying!