Crunchy, Savory Chickpea Snacks

IMG_2811This easy snack is a great replacement for chips or Doritos when you are craving something salty and savory but don’t want to reach for an unhealthy processed food. Kids at my daughter’s elementary school enjoyed these snacks and were actually the ones who came up with the suggestion that they taste like Doritos!

Chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans) are packed with fiber and when complemented with a grain provide a complete protein. This is why so many cultures around the world combine legumes and grains in their meals when meat is scarce (lentils and naan, beans and rice, peas and corn). It’s also why I allow my kids to snack on crunchy chickpeas and popcorn! (Chickpeas are a legume; popcorn is a grain)

Having recently hosted a Harvest of the Month demo at my daughter’s school, I happened to have several large cans of pre-cooked chickpeas on hand from Marias River Farm so I used canned chickpeas to make the crunchy bites pictured above. However, the healthiest and cheapest way to prepare these bites would be to purchase dried (uncooked) chickpeas in bulk and sprout them first. Sprouting releases more of the nutrients in the chickpeas for absorption by your digestive system. The instructions below assume you will take this approach. If you’re just using canned chickpeas, skip to Part II.

Instructions Part I – Sprouting and Cooking

To sprout your chickpeas, soak in filtered water for approximately 12 hours. Drain the water and transfer the chickpeas to a colander and cover with a cheesecloth or clean lightweight dishtowel. Rinse the chickpeas every 8-12 hours until you notice little tails beginning to emerge from the chickpeas (this will take 1-2 days). As soon as the tails begin to emerge, they are ready to cook, although if you wait a little longer and the tails begin to grow longer, that’s fine too.

Boil the chickpeas in enough water to submerge them with about an inch of water remaining above the top. After bringing to a brief boil, simmer for 20-40 minutes until the chickpeas are tender. Test the chickpeas periodically and keep an eye on the water level—you may need to add a bit more water as they simmer if they’re taking a while to soften.

Instructions Part II – Roasting or Dehydrating

Drain the excess water from your chickpeas (whether boiled or canned) and rinse with clean water. You have two options for preparing crunchy chickpeas: your oven or a dehydrator. For large quantities of chickpeas, a dehydrator works wonderfully. Simply spread the chickpeas out on the trays (make sure they aren’t completely jam packed) and set to 140 degrees for about 18 hours. Once they are crunchy, turn off the dehydrator, coat in olive oil and mix in the seasonings below.

If you are using your oven, spread the chickpeas out on trays on top of parchment paper or silicone baking sheets (I like silicone baking sheets because they are non-stick, dishwasher safe, and reusable so that I’m not constantly throwing out used parchment paper). Make sure the chickpeas aren’t too tightly packed or they will take quite a bit longer to cook. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-40 minutes, shaking the trays halfway through to facilitate even cooking. Once the chickpeas are crunchy, remove them from the oven and allow them to cool a bit before adding the olive oil and seasonings. This ensures that the heat of the chickpeas doesn’t damage the quality of your olive oil, which is best consumed unheated if you are using extra virgin like I do.

Seasonings (per 1 cup of dried chickpeas)

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

If you like some spice, feel free to throw in some chili powder or to vary the blend of seasonings to suit your taste buds. I’m thinking that a touch of fresh-squeezed lime juice would also be delicious!

How many chickpeas should you prepare? It depends on the quantity of final product you want. 1 cup of dried chickpeas will result in approximately 2 cups of cooked chickpeas—but then these will shrink back down again once they are roasted or dehydrated. In general, the quantity of dried chickpeas you sprout and cook will be the quantity of crunchy chickpeas you end up with. If you’re starting with canned chickpeas, then you will end up with approximately half of the volume of chickpeas in your final product.

As I mentioned above, I like to complement crispy chickpeas with stove-popped popcorn for a full-protein, high-fiber snack. Just as with the chickpeas, I use extra-virgin olive oil and a bit of sea salt to flavor my popcorn. Real butter also tastes wonderful, but it takes an extra minute or two to melt so I tend to go for the olive oil!

Guilt-free “Fudge”

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Mmm, doesn’t this look rich and delicious? It is! Even better, it only takes about five minutes to prepare and has hardly any sugar!

I actually discovered this recipe out of laziness. My girls wanted me to make homemade peanut butter cups, which requires an extra step of preparing the peanut butter base first, refrigerating it, then adding the chocolate covering. For this faux fudge recipe, I simply mixed all of the ingredients together at once, refrigerated, and enjoyed!

Ingredients:

  • Natural peanut butter (any nut butter would do)
  • Virgin coconut oil
  • Dark chocolate

I don’t include quantities because I never actually measure any of these ingredients out–I simply approximate 3 parts peanut butter to 2 parts coconut oil to 1 part dark chocolate. Simply melt all ingredients on low heat in a saucepan, stir until well blended, then pour into a glass container and refrigerate. Depending on how much you make, it will take between 2-4 hours to firm up. You can speed up the process by freezing instead of refrigerating, but then you’ll have to break off chunks with a knife rather than cut smoothly like fudge. The “fudge” will need to stay refrigerated to stay firm since the main ingredients become soft at room temperature.

Feel free to embellish by adding chopped nuts or another favorite fudge ingredient. I hope you enjoy this simple, healthy alternative to a favorite treat!

Oatmeal Cake

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My daughters have been loving this version of oatmeal for breakfast. It would also make for a great snack or homemade granola-bar substitute. I concocted it for the first time a few weeks ago because I was getting bored of the usual oatmeal, and I think the girls were, too. It’s quick and easy to mix up and takes about 25 minutes to bake. Once it’s baked, you’ll have ready-made breakfast bars all week!

Oatmeal Cake

  • 2 cups dry oats, soaked overnight
  • 1 cup baked squash (canned pumpkin would probably work, too)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup or honey
  • 1/4 cup milk or milk substitute (I use hemp milk)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract (vanilla extra works as well)
  • 3/4 cup coconut flakes
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup raisins or chocolate chips (optional)

Mix all ingredients together, pour into greased 9 x 13 pan, and bake at 350-375 for 25-20 minutes. Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before serving; if you serve immediately, it won’t keep it’s form–but it’s still yummy!

I like to use baked squash (usually butternut or kabocha) instead of canned because it tastes better to me (canned squash can be more bitter) and because I’m sure it’s more nutritious. I usually bake a squash at some point during the week when I’m around the house doing other things. Simply slice it longways, scoop out the seeds, and place face-down in a baking pan with about a half inch of water and bake at 400-425 for 45-60 minutes (the larger the squash, the longer the baking time). You’ll know it’s done when a fork slides easily through the rind and flesh. After you pull it out of the oven, drain any remaining water and turn the squash face up to allow the steam to evaporate off so it doesn’t end up too watery. If you’re busy like me, you can simply place the halves face down on a plate in the fridge (once they’ve cooled off) until you’re ready to use them; they’ll keep for up to a week.

I soak my oats overnight in water and a teaspoon of cider vinegar to reduce the phytic acid content of the oats as well as to make a moister cake; lemon juice is probably an even better choice than cider vinegar for an acidic medium (it tastes better), I just rarely have it on hand. For at least 30 minutes before mixing up the ingredients, you’ll want to drain the water from the oats in a colander, otherwise the cake will be mushy. If you let the oats strain for longer, that’s fine, too. I’ve forgotten about them on the counter for the better part of a day before getting around to making the cake for the following morning’s breakfast (the cake is excellent right out of the oven, I just don’t usually feel like baking first thing in the morning so I often make it the night before). If you forget to soak the oats overnight (for morning baking) or to set them out in the morning (for late afternoon or evening baking), soaking them for just an hour or two will still help. You can also skip the soaking and just use dry oats, but you’ll probably want to double the milk quantity.

This is a very forgiving recipe. Using a little more or less of any of the above ingredients will not make or break the cake–in fact, I never use measuring implements when I bake, so the given measurements are always approximate. You just want to make sure the consistency of the mixture you put in the pan for baking isn’t too runny (you don’t want it to be as runny as pancake batter, for example) or too sticky (you do want it to be wetter than cookie dough). Even if you do end up with batter that’s runnier or drier than ideal, it will still taste delicious!