Thursday, May 17, 2012

Tortilla Chips

A reader (thanks again, Steve) asked what I use for tortilla chips.  To be perfectly honest, for a long time, I was just buying organic corn chips from Trader Joe's.  The downside is that these were always made with some type of vegetable oil, which I really strive to avoid as they are highly processed industrial food products and are not at all what I would consider a "real food" or a good fat.  It's definitely a topic for another post (someday), but to give you a brief, non-scientific explanation - these oils are highly processed and rancid due to the manufacturing required to get the oil in the first place (when's the last time you squeezed a kernel of corn and out came oil?), they create free radicals in the body (in other words, they cause cancer), they are heavy in omega-6 fatty acids (most of us need more omega 3s - not more 6s), and overall they behave in a very toxic manner once inside the body.  Most of us know now that sticking to butter (pardon the pun) is a much healthier choice than margarine (which is rumored to be very close to plastic on a molecular level!)...well, margarine is made of vegetable oils, if that tells you anything.  These oils are something your great (great, great) grandparents had never heard of - they are a modern, industrial "frankenfood" to say the least.  Avoiding them is nearly impossible unless you cook from scratch and eat real food where possible!

Now, I would love to make my own corn tortillas from scratch and deep fry them in lard or tallow or even refined coconut oil (all healthy, natural, stable fats)...but I am just not sophisticated enough to do that at this point.  So my compromise, which I feel is a huge improvement from buying chips made with vegetable oil is this: I make my own restaurant-style chips using store-bought, (ideally organic) plain corn tortillas.  Look closely at the ingredients - at Trader Joe's, I can find tortillas where the only ingredients are corn, water, and traces of lime.  Find the best you can with the shortest, most simple ingredient list possible.  I make them in the oven using olive oil, another healthy natural fat.  One word of caution with olive oil - there are those who say it should never be heated because it is a very fragile oil with a low smoke point.  I would agree, and I never cook over high heat on the stove with olive oil; however, I find that baking with olive oil on a limited basis is usually pretty safe and definitely healthier than consuming vegetable oil in any form.  But if you really don't want to use the olive oil, you can skip it all together and just bake them plain - they will still get plenty crispy.  So with all that background, below is my "recipe" for a good compromise tortilla chip.  We don't eat these often, but they are definitely a treat on occasion!

Health(ier) Tortilla Chips


1 package organic corn tortillas
Olive oil
Sea salt

Directions: You can make a bunch at once and store the leftovers for a couple of days, or you can make only what you are about to eat and freeze any leftover tortillas for next time.  Cut tortillas into triangles.  Drizzle/brush with olive oil, sprinkle generously with finely ground sea salt, and bake in the oven (or toaster oven) at about 350 degrees for about 5 - 10 minutes until desired crispiness is obtained.

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