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Even Your Mother Will Approve Of Vegetable Chips

We know we need to eat more vegetables. The challenge is to do it with flavor and variety. So we've become creative.

Put all your vegetables in a blender, pulverize and serve. There's a booth at my local farmers market dispensing cups of green slop to devotees of that religion. I've tried it. I haven't converted.

I've tried a range of veggie chips from paper-thin, crisp kale and spinach chips to more muscular taro and beet chips. They're all winners — tasty, colorful and fun to make.

Another approach is to chop up whatever you find in your vegetable drawer and put it on lettuce. This is more viable but looks and tastes an awful lot like salad, something that's been around for a while.

Or, take a mandoline to your vegetables, toss with olive oil and a dash of salt and serve them hot alongside a sandwich as chips. This vegetables-as-chips innovation has gone viral and can be found in grocery stores, restaurants and food trucks across the country. I've leapt onto this bandwagon with both feet. (If you don't have a mandoline, use a sharp knife.)

If you're like most Americans, you love chips, particularly potato chips. We eat more than 1.5 billion pounds of potato chips per year (about 6 pounds per person), making them our nation's favorite snack. Despite their gloriously crunchy appeal, potato chips aren't that good for you.

Veggie chips, in contrast, are practically a health food in comparison, especially where they're tossed with heart-healthy olive oil and baked, not fried. I've tried a range of veggie chips from paper-thin, crisp kale and spinach chips to more muscular taro and beet chips. They're all winners — tasty, colorful and fun to make. The best part is that you need no technology more sophisticated than a sharp knife.

You can buy veggie chips at just about any major supermarket, but if you make them yourself, you decide what goes in and what stays out. Want to keep the peel on the beets and sweet potatoes for extra fiber? Your choice. Want to keep the sodium in check? Use less salt, or try a low-sodium version. Want to reduce the fat content? Use monounsaturated fats such as olive oil and apply to vegetable slices with a pastry brush. Want something zesty or spicy? Toss the vegetables in chili-lime salt or chipotle powder. Sweet? Try cinnamon or allspice.

So the next time you get an attack of the munchies, make a big batch of seasoned baked veggie chips. Then give your mom a call, and tell her you're taking her advice and eating more vegetables.

Chips Tips

  • Make sure vegetables are completely dry. The more moisture, the less crispy the chip will be.
  • A mandoline (a cooking tool that slices vegetables) will create uniform paper-thin slices that are perfect for crisping. If you don't have a mandoline, a very sharp knife will work just fine.
  • Coat vegetable slices in oil to produce the crispest chip. I prefer the flavor and health benefits of olive oil, but other oils such as canola and peanut work well, too. You can use flavored oils such as walnut or sesame, but remember that they'll impart a stronger flavor onto the chips, which may or may not be a good thing. To use the least amount of oil, use a pastry brush to apply the oil to the vegetable slices. Otherwise, just toss them in oil in a large bowl.
  • Add spices before baking the chips.
  • Oven temperatures ranging from 325 to 400 degrees are best for baking vegetable chips. Much lower, and the chips don't crisp as well; much higher, and they burn around the edges.
  • Place the vegetables in single layers on baking sheets, or they won't crisp evenly. If you'd like, you can turn vegetables once midway through the baking process, though it's not essential.
  • Serve hot. Baked veggie chips are at their best hot from the oven. If you want to store your chips, allow them to cool completely before transferring to a metal container. Plastic will soften them too much. If they're still too soft when you remove them from the container, crisp them up in a warm oven for a few minutes before eating.

  • Seasoning Suggestions

    While I encourage you to play around with spice combinations, below are a few flavor pairings and dipping sauce suggestions to inspire you:

  • Sweet potato chips: Smoked paprika, chipotle powder and lime zest, Cajun spices, hot curry, allspice. Dipping sauces: habanero, tomatillo salsa, low-fat ranch, edamame guacamole.
  • Beet chips: dried French spices, dried chives, smoke salt, olive oil, sea salt and black pepper. Dipping sauces: hummus, harissa, guacamole.
  • Plantain chips: chili-lime, Cajun spices, adobo seasoning, smoked or sweet paprika, dried oregano or parsley. Dipping sauces: mango salsa, tomatillo salsa, black bean dip, guacamole.
  • Carrot and parsnip chips: hot curry, garam masala, mesquite powder, cumin, smoked paprika. Dipping sauces: hummus, low-fat ranch, white bean dip.
  • Kale chips: olive oil, sea salt, black pepper; olive oil, sea salt, crushed red pepper, grated Parmesan cheese; lemon-pepper, hot curry. Dipping sauces: Romesco, guacamole, low-fat ranch.
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    Susan Russo