Most of the time, we live in a chip-free home. No potato chips. No tortilla chips. Not even any vegetable chips.
It's not that we don't enjoy them. Just the opposite, really. And that's why we don't buy them. If we have chips in the house, we will eat them. I'm also not thrilled with the ingredients used in many chips, mostly highly refined stuff paired with gobs of fat and salt. It becomes easier to simply not have them around.
Which doesn't mean we never eat chips. It just means that when we want them, we make them from scratch.
Don't roll your eyes just yet. Do-it-yourself chips are simple to make. They also put you in control of the ingredients used, happen to be insanely delicious and can be seasoned however you like. And depending on the method used, they can be on the table in about 10 minutes. That's fast enough that I sometimes make them as an afterschool snack for my son.
There are of course many ways to make chips, from the currently hip baked kale chips to slowly roasted beet chips to old school fried potato chips. But over the years I have found three varieties that lend themselves particularly well to healthy eating and simple, speedy snacking — fried corn tortilla chips, baked whole-wheat tortilla chips and baked whole-wheat pita chips.
Let's start with the fried. Yes, they still are deep-fried, so there is some fat involved. But we do it at a very high temperature. The higher the temperature, the faster the chips fry. The faster the chips fry, the less oil they absorb. Plus, you get to control how much salt is added. And you will find that warm, freshly fried tortilla chips are so delicious, you don't need much salt. You can also use the same frying method with flour tortillas.
Baked whole-wheat tortilla chips are even easier. A little cooking spray, some seasonings and about 10 minutes in a 400 F oven and you have some amazing chips. Just be sure to read labels when selecting your tortillas. You want a quality brand with no trans fats and that uses 100 percent whole-grain flour.
Finally, for a more substantial chip, you can make baked pita chips. The technique is the same as baked flour tortilla chips, but because of the thickness of the pita they take a bit longer in the oven. You also can experiment with the various mixed grain and low-carb pita pockets available.
Pair any of these with guacamole or salsa and you have a healthy after school snack packed with whole grains. And be sure to make extra; they pack well for school lunches, too. Just be sure to let them cool completely before bagging them up (otherwise they will steam in the bag or container and get soft).
Each of the following recipes includes a suggested seasoning, but these are interchangeable, so season as you see fit.
FRIED CORN TORTILLA CHIPS (WITH CINNAMON SUGAR)
Start to finish: 10 minutes
Canola or vegetable oil, for frying
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon sugar
Four 6-inch fresh corn tortillas
Into a large saucepan, pour about 1/2 inch of oil. Set the pan over medium-high and heat until it reaches 400 F on a deep-fry thermometer. If you don't have a thermometer, heat the oil until it shimmers and bubbles slightly when the tip of a wooden spoon is gently lowered into it.
In a small dish, mix together the cinnamon, sugar and salt, then set aside. Line a plate with paper towels and have nearby.
Cut each tortilla into 6 wedges. Two or 3 at a time, use a slotted spoon to lower the wedges into the oil. Cook for about 15 seconds per side, then use the slotted spoon to transfer to the paper towel-lined plate. Immediately sprinkle with a bit of the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Repeat with remaining tortilla wedges, then serve immediately.
Nutrition information per serving: 180 calories; 70 calories from fat (39 percent of total calories); 8 g fat (0.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 26 g carbohydrate; 3 g fiber; 2 g sugar; 3 g protein; 85 mg sodium.
SALT AND PEPPER BAKED WHOLE-WHEAT TORTILLA CHIPS
Start to finish: 15 minutes
Olive oil cooking spray
Two 8-inch whole-wheat tortillas
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
Heat the oven to 400 F. Lightly coat a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.
Cut each tortilla into 8 wedges, then arrange them on the prepared baking sheet. Spritz the tops of the tortilla wedges with cooking spray, then season them lightly with salt and pepper. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until crisp and lightly browned. Remove from the oven, let cool for a moment, then taste and season with additional salt and pepper, if needed.
Nutrition information per serving: 140 calories; 25 calories from fat (18 percent of total calories); 3 g fat (0 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 22 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 1 g sugar; 4 g protein; 410 mg sodium.
BAKED WHOLE-WHEAT PITA CHIPS
Start to finish: 25 minutes
Two large whole-wheat pita pockets
Heat the oven to 400 F.
Split each pita pocket into 2 rounds. Cut each round into 8 wedges, then place all of the wedges in a large bowl. Drizzle the wedges with olive oil, tossing as you drizzle to ensure all are evenly coated. Sprinkle the wedges with salt, garlic powder and smoked paprika, tossing to coat evenly.
Arrange the wedges in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until crisp and lightly browned. Serve immediately.
Nutrition information per serving: 230 calories; 70 calories from fat (30 percent of total calories); 8 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 36 g carbohydrate; 5 g fiber; 1 g sugar; 6 g protein; 580 mg sodium.
J.M. Hirsch is the food editor for The Associated Press. He blogs at http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com and tweets at http://twitter.com/JM_Hirsch . Email him at email@example.com