Simple Sides: Kale Chips & Carrot Ribbons
By Dennis Linden
Competing schedules in the day-to-day lives of a busy modern family make it difficult to share a home-cooked meal together, but not impossible. In fact, with a little planning, cooking together can become a fun family event and learning opportunity. This feature will focus on providing a child or a group of children, working together under the supervision of an adult, with one uncomplicated, healthy and delicious side dish recipe. The dishes will be centered on seasonal fresh produce items; the recipes will always contain tasks will allow even the youngest kitchen helper to contribute to the family meal. Parents should always read through each recipe carefully to judge the division of labor based on age and ability as well as to identify where adult attention might be especially needed.
Many of the recipes presented here will seem very basic -- this is by design. It is hoped that these simple preparations will provide the culinary foundation and confidence to inspire kids to try more challenging recipes as their experience in the kitchen develops. Melissa’s encourages parents to find the time to gather as a family unit at least once a week for a dinner that everyone pitches in to prepare. It’s a wonderful way to teach children some basic cooking skills and, more importantly, cooking with your children will build memories in all of your hearts forever.
Crispy, salty, lightly seasoned, packed with essential nutrients and so simple to prepare that even your youngest sous chef can have a hand in its making – in other words, the perfect healthy snack food! While these recipes are easy enough for any age child to put together, requiring no knife work, the oven part of both is a little tricky. So some particular adult focus is required once the kids have completed the fun part of each recipe’s directions.
The prep part of both these recipes is really hands-on child’s play, almost literally. Your helpers can easily pull apart the kale pieces, peel the carrots into long ribbons, whip up each seasoned oil mixture for working into each piece by hand [fun messy!] and finally arrange the future chips on the baking sheets. Heat will shrivel both veggies a bit, so make sure the kids tear the kale in large pieces and that the carrot strips are peeled thick and not paper thin.
The seasoning choices suggested in both of these recipes are really a matter of taste. You can also keep it simple with just a sprinkle of sea salt. Still, there are so many other flavorings that pair well with these two popular vegetables. A great way to explore those other options is to have the kids look up side dish recipes for kale or carrots, noting the seasonings used and try them on batches of chips. The assumption being that healthy chips will completely replace greasy chips forever, so there will be plenty of opportunities to try all sorts of combinations of seasonings!
Here’s the tricky part. Kale crisps up best at 375° in about 10 minutes; carrots have lots of sugar so cook them fast at 425° for about 12 minutes. BOTH can go from done to overdone in the bat of a chef’s eye, so watch closely, check often and err on the side of caution. It is impossible to avoid any tinge of brown on the edges in getting to crispy done—but it’s a fine balance that might take a batch or two to perfect.
The two recipes below can be prepared and enjoyed separately or, even better, toss them together as presented in this feature. In either case, this snack treat does share one characteristic with all those empty-calorie chip options on retail shelves, though; it’s just as crispy-salty addicting….yet deliciously healthy, so enjoy!
1 bunch Kale
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Lemon-Pepper
1 Teaspoon Onion Powder
Sea salt, to taste
What the kids can do:
Measure out seasoning and oil.
Wash kale and dry it in a salad spinner or between tea towels. The leaves must be dry to bake crispy.
Separate each leaf from the thick stem and tear into large chip-sized pieces.
Mix the oil and seasonings together in a small bowl.
Put the torn leaves in a large mixing bowl, slowly pour in the oil mix, gently kneading the mixture until every part of each leaf is covered.
Lay the kale leaves out in a single layer on baking sheets covered with parchment paper. Do not overlap. Sprinkle with salt.
What the supervising adult should do:
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Three or four full sized baking sheets will be necessary. Bake for 10-11 minutes or until crisp, but still green. Watch closely. Cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet before moving. If some kale chips are still a little flimsy or damp, remove the crisp chips and place the damp chips back in the oven for a few more minutes. Store in an air-tight container.
4 large Carrots
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Cumin
1 Teaspoon Smoked Paprika
Salt and pepper, to taste
What the kids can do:
Holding onto the small end of the carrot, use a potato peeler to peel off long, thick strips. Thicker strips crisp through better – if too thin the carrot will burn quickly.
Measure out and blend the olive oil, cumin, paprika into a large mixing bowl.
Add the carrot strips; knead in the seasoned oil by hand until all the carrots are completely coated.
Transfer strips to parchment-covered baking sheets in a single layer; the edges can be touching, as they'll shrink when they bake, but don't overlap them.
What the supervising adult should do:
Supervise the carrot peeling closely. The key to crispy carrots is making the strips thick enough to have the time to crisp up in the oven. Paper thin strips will shrivel and burn quickly. There will be plenty of scrap carrots leftover from the peeling; the makings of a great broth, so save.
Preheat oven to 425° and bake for 10-12 minutes or until chips are just starting to brown. Cool until chips are crisp, about 3 minutes. Carefully remove chips from baking sheet; eat right away or store in airtight container.