An adaptogenic take on 'cheesy' kale chips with wild harvested Sun Potion Chaga.
A few months ago while battling a summer cold, I was inspired to cook up some magic to help rebuild my immunity and get me into recovery mode. I decided to make myself a batch of slow brewed Chaga in my mini crockpot, which I let sit all day on low, making the perfect warming brew. Chaga is best enjoyed in this low and slow method, allowing its nutritious properties to become digestible and bioavailable. This got me thinking...what is another method that I can cook Chaga low and slow in addition to brewing a tea?
Chaga Kale Chips! Kale chips are one of my all-time favorite snacks. Years ago before I had a dehydrator, when kale chips first arrived on the scene and they were wildly expensive, I made the chips sans Chaga in the oven and they were less crunchy but equally delicious!
Making kale chips at home is cost effective and I don't feel as bad eating the whole batch in under 24 hours (they're that good). Though this recipe works best from my experience in a dehydrator, I've also made these a number of times in the oven, but its been more than a few years.... Because of this, I recommended checking on your chips frequently if baking in an oven, and please send us a message if you find an optimum baking time for these beauties!
More on Chaga...
Chaga is a non-toxic fungal conk that commonly forms on birch trees in northern regions with cold climates. "It’s not a mushroom (fruiting body) but a dense sterile mass of decayed bits of birch tissue with mycelia incorporated" (realmushrooms.com). Chaga is non-toxic to humans but parasitic to birch trees. It can be harvested in 3-5 years as it slowly takes over its host allowing the trees to live for decades but eventually killing them. Removing the Chaga from the tree does not kill the tree or the fruiting body inside of the tree, and its great abundance in birch forests makes it a sustainable 'mushroom' to harvest for the time being.
Chaga's outer bark contains melanin, a complex polymer that is naturally produced within the human body. "Considered a potent source of melanin, Chaga may help protect the skin and hair from sun damage. Melanins have a role in DNA repair, mitochondria health, cell metabolism, and protection from light and radiation. In particular, melanins from mushrooms exhibit a high anti-inflammatory effect based on their antioxidant and gene-protecting properties. Melanins can decrease oxidation of fatty acids and damage of membranes creating lots of potential for skin health."*
Chaga also contains high levels of antioxidants, though this can vary depending on where it was harvested from and the conditions that it grew under. Generally, Chaga has one of the highest ORAC values, Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity, which is a way to quantify antioxidant values of foods.
In its unprocessed state, Chaga is indigestible by humans, which is why we need to make a low and slow brew of Chaga in order to make its benefits readily available to us! However, I am not certain if the Chaga in my cheesy kale chip recipe yields the same nutritional benefits as a Chaga brew. If you have a fresh batch of Chaga brewed, use that in this recipe in place of the 3 tbsp. filtered water.
For a Chaga Brew, use roughly 1 tbsp. Chaga per 2-3 cups water and let brew on low for at least 3 hours, up to 8. Strain and enjoy hot, and refrigerate the remaining.
This particular batch came out extremely delicious, my partner and I nearly finished them off in one day! We made sure to share the love by giving half of the batch to our neighbor.
Chaga Kale Chips
1 bunch organic kale
1 organic lemon, juiced
3-4 tbsp. nutritional yeast (adjust to your liking!)
½ tbsp. Himalayan salt
2 cups cashews, soaked in spring/filtered water overnight
1 organic red bell pepper*
3 tsp. Sun Potion Chaga
1-3 tbsp. filtered water OR slow-brewed Chaga
*you can substitute 2-3 jalapeños in place of the red bell pepper if you want to make the kale chips spicy. I recommend seeding the peppers and rinsing them in cold water prior to blending for a less potent heat.
Soak cashews in filtered water for 12 hours, with an option to change the water once or twice. Rinse. Wash all produce.
Remove the kale leaves from the stems and break the leaves into bite-sized pieces. Place in a clean bowl and add half of your lemon juice and massage into the kale by hand.
Slice and remove the seeds and ribs from your pepper(s), and add to the blender with your cashews, the remaining lemon juice, salt and filtered water/Chaga Brew. Blend well.
Once blended, add nutritional yeast and Chaga. Add more water/Chaga brew as needed. Blend until mixed.
Pour the mixture onto the kale chips and coat the chips thoroughly. Use your hands to get the mixture onto every part of the kale leaves.
Place your pieces of kale onto the dehydrator racks or on your cooking sheet lined with parchment paper, and leave a little room between each piece so they don't stick together.
Dehydrate for 1 hour around 130° F. After 1 hour, bring the temperature down to around 110° F and dehydrate for 11 hours.
Alternatively, bake at 325° F for 25-40 minutes, checking frequently to get desired crispness without overcooking.
Store in air-tight containers.
Best if enjoyed within 48 hours.
A special thanks to Andrea Taylor whose 'cheesy' kale chip recipe I found online (among others) and has become part of my own kale chip recipe! You can see her original recipe by clicking here.
As for my version listed above, make it your own by switching the Chaga for your other favorite adaptogens and tonic herbs. Try adding garlic salt or a variety of other dried/fresh herbs. Add dried ranch seasoning for a blast of flavor! Have fun, be well, and IN-JOY!
*Shashkina, M. Y., Shashkin, P. N., & Sergeev, A. V. (2006). Chemical and medicobiological properties of chaga. Pharmaceutical Chemistry Journal, 40(10), 560-568.
*V. P. Kurchenko, T. A. Kukulyanskaya, and D. A. Novikov, Advances in Medicinal Mycology (Proc. 2nd All-Russia Congr. On Med. Mycol.) [in Russian], Moscow (2004), Vol. 3, Ch. 5, pp. 156 – 158.