I’ve never really had a sweet tooth but I do have a weakness for crisps and can happily, mindlessly chomp my way through big bags before I even know it. I don’t tend to buy them but do stalk the tables at kids parties, stealing the hula-hoops and quavers.
There are countless problems with commercial crisps – they’re deep fried in hot oil, they’re heavy in salt and additives (including MSG which makes you want to eat more) and they’re ‘empty’ calories in that they basically have no nutrients in them. Even many of the handmade ones are still cooked in sunflower oil and some of the new ‘popped’ crisps don’t even contain proper potatoes.
Many people think that veg chips are more nutritious than potato crisps, but this is not always true. Processed veg chips are high in calories and sodium, and they contain almost as much fat as regular crisps. They also lose a lot of nutrients in the processing but it’s the abundance of unhealthy oils that really bothers me. According to reports, half of UK kids ‘drink’ almost five litres of cooking oil every year as result of their pack-a-day habit. This oil is so heavily processed and loaded with stabilisers to allow it to withstand long periods of super-high temperatures that it is far from the pretty, natural picture of a sunflower on the label.
Homemade vegetable crisps are a great substitute and are pretty much opposite to regular crisps in terms of nutrition. They do come with a health warning though – to get them really crunchy you need to slice the veg with a mandolin. My first attempt involved a trip to A&E after slicing off part of my thumb so I advise not to rush the slicing part. The total prep time is under five minutes so it’s worth taking care.
My thumb is healing well and I now regularly have a batch in the oven. It’s a great way to use up any veg left in the bottom of the fridge and also to get kids to eat things they wouldn’t normally, like beetroot. My 3 year old stands in front of the oven begging to have some each time I make them.
As with kale chips and fruit leathers, I like to keep the oven low (around 100 degrees Celsius) to retain all the nutrients and protect the oil. It’s also far easier as you can just forget about them for a while whereas if baking at higher temperatures you really need to stand guard as it takes seconds for them to burn and spoil.
If you find they’re not crisp enough, simply put back in the oven for 10 minutes. The above times are rough estimates as it really does depend on your oven and how thick the slices are.
This recipe just used what I had to hand that day, other good options are carrots, parsnips, courgettes and apples. I think my kids love the apple ones best which I sprinkle with cinnamon – those crisps don’t even get the chance to cool properly, they’re devoured instantly. If making apple chips add a little lemon juice to the bowl and rub that over the slices to stop them oxidising and going brown.
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