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Enjoy National Junk Food Day Guilt-Free

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We're big fans of making your own junk food, on the advice of food evangelist Michael Pollan, who advises making your own comfort and junk food so you can see exactly what goes into it. Shelved products are often filled with chemical preservatives and flavorings, many of them manufactured to pack an artificial flavor punch.

Food scientists are now investigating if these chemical additives may affect things like insulin sensitivity and weight gain. Commercially-processed junk food often uses whatever frying oil is cheapest at the time of production (which is why you see the words "May contain" on the labels of some processed food), which is often hydrogenated for better shelf stability. These "trans" fats have now been proven to cause abdominal weight gain in a Wake Forest study, even when patients were on a calorie-controlled diet. In other words, yes, there are some calories that are worse than others, and processed oils and fats are proven to cause more weight gain than unprocessed or unsaturated oils.

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On the other side of the health spectrum from saturated and trans fats are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Frying potatoes at home means you cut out your preservatives, and you have control over what oil you use to cook them. These have been proven to have numerous dietary benefits, and while frying chips in avocado oil won't make them a heart-healthy snack, it's a thousand times better than grabbing a bag of Lays from your nearby grocery. Instead, get yourself a bag of raw potatoes and some oil, and make use of your seasoning drawer to mix up something you can't even buy in a bag.

Potato chips recipe

Yukon Gold potatoes

8 cups frying oil stable enough for frying over 320 degrees

Seasonings (see below)

Set your mandolin on its thinnest setting (or you could slice it with a knife, but don't because that's a goddamn fools errand of consistency). Try to keep your pressure even to make sure they're sliced the same thickness all the way across.

Keep your slices in a bowl of heavily salted ice water so they don't turn brown.

Heat oil up to 320 degrees. Fry them in small batches until they're evenly golden. Remove them with a slotted spoon and spread them out on some paper towel-lined baking sheets and go crazy with your seasoning options.

Use this amazing chart of cooking oils to choose your frying liquid. The more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in the oil, the better for your heart and waistline. 

Seasoning flavors: 

Spicy Kimchi

1/4 cup kimchi furikake rice seasoning

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Furikake comes in a bunch of different flavors. You can powder it in a spice grinder to get it as fine as possible for an even coating. Toss with cayenne.

Garlic Bomb Chips

2-3 heads of garlic, roughly chopped

1 cup frying oil, divided

2 tablespoons of garlic powder

1 teaspoons salt, or to taste

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 tablespoons tomato powder (optional)

Saute your garlic in 3 tablespoons of oil for about 5 minutes, then add the remaining cup of oil and simmer just until bubbly. Turn on low and let garlic infuse into oil. Add garlic oil to frying oil, then toss finished chips in garlic powder, basil, oregano and salt. Tomato powder can be found at specialty grocery stores, and though it's optional, it turns this recipe into pizza chips.

Chicken & Waffle

1/2 tablespoon powdered chicken bullion

2 tablespoons brown sugar

5 drops maple flavoring

Mix with a fork and toss with chips.

Barbecue

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

2 teaspoons dried ancho chile powder

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons salt salt

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon black pepper

Sour Cream & Onion

3 tablespoons buttermilk powder

2 tablespoons onion powder

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon dried dill

Salt & Vinegar

1 1/2 cup pickle brine

1 1/2 cup white vinegar

Soak your potato slices in a 50/50 vinegar and pickle brine mixture. The longer the pieces soak, the more flavor they'll absorb.

Dill Pickle

2-3 cups pickle brine

1 tablespoon dried dill

Soak your potato slices in pickle brine, fry, then sprinkle with dried dill.

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DO's and DON'T's of DIY CHIPS

DO use a thermometer to monitor the heat of your oil. Accurate oil temperature is important to frying, and the more food you add to the oil, the more the temp will drop.

DON'T add excessively wet things to hot oil. Ideally, pat your potato slices dry before frying. Oil + water = spatter, which can mean burns and fires.

DO slice consistently. Uneven slices will burn on one end before fully cooking on the other. They'll taste burnt and floppy and you'll feel like a failure.

DON'T wait long before seasoning chips after they come out of the oil or it won't stick.

DO store them in an airtight container. If they get stale, spread them out on a baking sheet and put them in the oven on 400 for a couple minutes until they're crispy again.

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