I know kale chips are really “fashionable” right now, but they are actually really tasty, nutritious and super easy to make. Kale is rather mild in flavor and goes with pretty much anything. You can cook it like chard or other winter greens. Kale is great in sautes, soups, sandwiches and mixed in with other salad greens; use the tender younger leaves in raw dishes. You can make savory or sweet chips. I’ve made chips with sea salt and garlic, Italian herbs, and spicy paprika; I have seen recipes for chocolate kale chips and sweet cinnamon kale chips.

Many recipes say to remove the stems, but the entire leaf is edible. If you like celery, you’ll like kale stems, too. After stemming the kale leaves, you can snack on the stems like any other vegetable sticks and even dip them in hummus or some other tasty dip or dressing.

I bought my kale at the Santa Rosa farmers market. There are so many different kinds to choose from at the various farmers’ booths. The Himalayan sea salt and organic dried French thyme I used was from the Savory Spice Shop. The garlic I got was from Costco; to save time, I bought a peeled bag of Christopher Ranch heirloom garlic. I minced it in my food processor and bottled it in jars; it’s ready to go whenever I need it. Don’t worry though; it gets eaten before it has a chance to go bad. I bought the nutritional yeast in the bulk section at Oliver’s Market.

There are several kale cultivars available, some edible and some non-edible ornamental. Of course for making chips, you want use the edible ones. Red Russian kale has green leaves with purple veins and stems, whereas Siberian kale has white veins and stems and blue-green leaves. Tuscan (lacinato or dinosaur) kale is very dark green, and the leaves are shaped like romaine lettuce but are bumpy looking. Red variety of curly kale (or Scots kale) is entirely bright purple, stems, veins and leaves, whereas the green variety is blue-green. Another variety of Scots kale that is bronze-rust color near the edges, like red leaf lettuce.Like mustard, kale is in the cabbage family; there’s even a flat-leaved kale that looks much like mustard greens but lacks the spicy flavor kick.

Cheesy Garlic Thyme Kale Chips
Adapted from versions 2 & 3 of Raw Food: Kale Chips 9 Ways
You need 4 or 5 dehydrator trays.

1/3 C Filtered Water
1/2 tsp Himalayan Sea Salt
3 – 5 T Minced Garlic
1 T Dried Thyme Leaves
1/3 C Nutritional Yeast
1 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
5 C Kale, stemmed, torn into bite-size pieces

To make the marinade, mix the water, salt, garlic, thyme and yeast in a large glass mixing bowl. Set this aside for 20 to 30 minutes to allow the flavors to mingle and the thyme to hydrate. Mix the marinade again, and stir in the oil. Add half of the kale on top of the marinade in the glass bowl, and massage the marinade into the leaves. Don’t be afraid to really squish the leaves with your hands as you massage them; they will wilt anyway, which makes more room for the rest of the batch. Add the remaining kale, and continue to massage the marinade in until it is fully saturated.

To make raw dehydrated chips, line the dehydrator trays with non-stick flexible sheets or pieces of parchment paper. Transfer the kale bits to the trays, and spread them out so that the leaves do not overlap as they dry. Dehydrate the kale at 115°F for 4 to 6 hours, depending your desired crispness. To decrease the drying time, you can set the temperature to 145°F for the first hour without cooking the leaves; they will still be raw and merely loosing moisture (or so I have read). Check on the chips after 4 hours. If they are not dry enough, check again after an hour or two. If the chips are too crisp, the flavorings will flake off, so you may want to retain some flexibility if your chips are bigger than an half dollar.

To cook kale chips in your oven, preheat it to 350°F. Line some baking sheets with parchment paper. Transfer the kale to the baking sheets, but make sure the chips do not overlap. You don’t want them to stick together as they dry. Bake the chips for 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the baking sheets once at about 12 to 15 minutes, half way through the cooking time. After 25 minutes, make sure you check the chips frequently for doneness so they do not burn or get to hard. Cool the chips for about five minutes, and then chow down!

Kale chips are a great substitute for carbohydrate-rich potato and corn chips. Plus, kale has a ton of vitamins, minerals and fiber. The chips are so tasty, it is easy to loose track of how many you have eaten. Make sure you portion some out for yourself, otherwise you may find that you have eaten half of the entire batch. That’s a lot of kale, although it is very very good.