Sweet potato fries & kale chips

These are slim times for Texas agriculture. Whereas the historic drought underway in the Lone Star state is merely inconvenient for most of us, farmers have been unable to produce yields without rain. I’m writing about the issue for work, but it’s interesting how it plays out in little ways even in my personal life.

Last week, B and I picked up a vegetable share from a local co-op that was loaded with kale, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and avocados. While the co-op strives to provide food that is local and seasonal, nearly the entire box was made up of goods from California. There’s just very little to buy locally.

This is the first time we’ve tried a share instead of buying our own fruits and veggies. We were excited by the idea of having to make something out of whatever was given us — a culinary challenge of sorts. While the box didn’t have anything too exotic, I was a little puzzled at first about what I could do with the sweet potatoes. There were two medium sized ones, not nearly enough to make a full meal. I decided to use it and the kale to make finger food, snacks that are super healthy and tasty.

Sweet potato fries are traditionally deep fried, but it’s easy to make them healthier. Just peel the sweet potato, cut up into long rectangles, toss in a bowl with 1 tbsp. olive oil, 1/2 tsp. each of sugar and salt as well as freshly ground pepper. Brown sugar works well in this recipe, but regular will do just fine.

Lay the sweet potato sticks out on a pan, giving them space to crisp up. Bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes, flip and bake for 10-15 minutes more. Start pulling out the smaller fries as they crisp up to avoid burning them while you wait for the bigger pieces. Season with salt and serve hot.

Kale chips are another great snack. Just take the stems off 1 bunch of kale and cut it up into 1-inch pieces. Toss in a bowl with 1 tbsp. olive oil and 1/2 tsp salt. Get your fingers in there and toss well to make sure all the kale has a coating of oil.

Lay the kale out on two baking sheets, giving the greens plenty of space. Bake them at 300 degrees for 20 minutes. Season with salt and parmesan cheese and serve.

You can see that the technique is quite simple. Baking vegetables can transform them from soggy and soft textures into crispy snacks that are great substitutes for oily potato chips and fries. And these definitely don’t sacrifice on flavor. Both are crowd-friendly snacks that taste good and are good for you. If you need further convincing, consider these facts from WebMD:

One cup of kale contains 36 calories, 5 grams of fiber, and 15% of the daily requirement of calcium and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), 40% of magnesium, 180% of vitamin A, 200% of vitamin C, and 1,020% of vitamin K. It is also a good source of minerals copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus.

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