Kids will come runnin’ for these salty-snacky veggies
Rather than hide them, we can showcase vegetables by enhancing them with salt and spices, and cook them until they’re crispy.
Special to The Seattle Times
MOVE OVER potato chips. Vegetables like kale, squash and chickpeas are gaining ground as healthy, fun snacks for the whole family. Jazzed up with seasonings, these munchies are sure to become favorites.
A perennial parenting question is how to feed your kids more vegetables. One approach, championed by cookbook author Jessica Seinfeld, is to trick your children by sneaking vegetables into baked goods and other dishes. Spinach in brownies? Really?
In my view, deception doesn’t belong in the kitchen. I’d rather introduce my kids to plants that are yummy, satisfying and fun to eat. Veggies that look like real veggies.
Rather than hide them, we can showcase vegetables by enhancing them with salt and spices, and cook them until they’re crispy. A favorite in our household is kale chips. Arguably the perfect snack, they’re light and crunchy, salty and bite-sized. Store-bought kale chips are pricey, often $7 for a 2-ounce bag. So I started making my own by baking torn pieces with olive oil and salt. A bunch of curly kale is usually devoured in one sitting. (OK, maybe I’m a little heavy-handed with the salt . . .)
My vegetarian son, who’s 11, discovered fried chickpeas at Westward on Lake Union. Love at first bite. Now we order two bowls — one for him and one for the rest of us. At home, roasting chickpeas in the oven was certainly easy, but they turned out dry, cakey and hard to swallow. Frying them in olive oil for 15 to 20 minutes, then adding seasonings, resulted in the crispy, addicting snacks we were after.
Squash also makes fabulous chips. My mother introduced my kids to butternut squash chips. She slices unpeeled squash thinly, tosses it in salt, olive oil and coriander, and roasts it in a hot oven. My boys scarf them down.
Inspired by the stovetop chickpea success, my son grabbed a skillet and insisted on a blind taste-test between fried and roasted squash chips. Using a peeler and a knife, I sliced unpeeled butternut squash as thinly as possible, and he fried them in olive oil and salt. At lunch, our family did the test: Fried squash chips won unanimously, providing a more salty, satisfying crunch. They even beat Grandma’s.
Chickpeas and squash lend themselves to many different flavors. Try making them with cumin and chili powder, ground coriander, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, garlic salt or lime zest.
When I have more time, I like to make Yotam Ottolenghi’s sweet potato wedges with lemon grass crème fraîche, or roasted butternut squash with sweet spices, lime and green chili. In his cookbook, “Plenty,” the London chef uses coriander, chili, cumin, ginger and cardamom to flavor vegetables before roasting. He makes vegetables fun.
By experimenting with different flavors and textures, you can introduce your children to plants in all their glory. No trickery involved. So, are fried chickpeas better than potato chips?
My kids say yes. Except for Pringles.
This tasty and healthy snack stays crisp for several days in a sealed bag or container. Take them along to parks, playdates and other outings. They also make a great cocktail snack for adults. Spices may be varied.
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, well-drained and dried with paper towels
4 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon ground cumin
Salt to taste
1. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat.
2. Fry chickpeas in skillet 15-20 minutes, shaking often, until crisp. Turn down heat as needed to avoid burning.
3. When crisp, add salt and spices and cook 1 minute.
4. If necessary, drain chickpeas on paper towels.
5. Place in bowl and serve. Prepare to make another batch.
Catherine M. Allchin is a Seattle freelance writer. John Lok is a Seattle Times staff photographer.