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A tasty snack to save you money

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We are all looking at price tags go up on everything, including food. We are paying more for just about everything these days, and it often shows when the cashier hits the “total” button at the end of a grocery store run. Some products get smaller while charging the same price, but we aren’t fooled.

This is not an economics column, so I won’t lay out some laundry list of inflation remedies for the world markets. But I can give you a couple of tips when it comes to the prices you pay to put food on your table.

First tip is doing more meal planning before the start of the week. Expensive decisions are made about food for convenience and when you are most desperate. And if you don’t plan right, you will often end up throwing away produce and other ingredients that have expired, leading to unnecessary food waste.

Second tip is making larger batches of food and freezing them for later. Buying in bulk can lead to lower prices in the long run if you figure out ways to use all of the ingredients. You can also save yourself a lot of headaches for busy weeknights if you have a stash of freezer meals ready to go.

Third tip is to make more food from scratch, which includes everything from regular meals all the way down to snacks. Ready-to-eat snack foods can notoriously have a big price tag because we eat them when we are desperate, when we are starving, and when we don’t have time.

One such snack food that has grown in popularity over the last 10 years is crispy chickpeas. They come in pouches and are sold in nearly every grocery store with different flavor options as a protein-packed alternative to things like potato chips.

If you look at the price for what you pay for those pouches, the mark up is huge! You can make them yourself at home for a quarter of the cost, know exactly what is going in your food, and customize the flavors and seasonings for your taste buds. And I am always a fan of using a Montana ingredient that grows in abundance in Big Sky Country.

I have two flavorful options for you listed below — a lemon and fresh thyme combo and a chili and lime combo that has a discretionary kick of heat. Once you get down the cooking method, you can adjust the flavors using your own taster — customizing these snacks in ways that check all of the right boxes for you.

Crispy chickpea recipe

Ingredients:

1 cup dried chickpeas

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp kosher salt

½ tsp granulated garlic

¼ tsp fresh cracked pepper

For Lemon & Herb: 1 lemon, 1 tsp paprika, and 3 sprigs of fresh thyme

For Chili & Lime: 1 lime, 1 tsp chili powder, 1 tsp cumin, and optional ½ tsp cayenne

Directions:

Take one cup of dried chickpeas and soak them overnight in three cups of water. In the morning, drain off the water and put the hydrated chickpeas in a medium saucepan with about 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil and then adjust down to a simmer. Let them cook for 20 minutes. Remove from heat, but allow to cool in the liquid.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees on convection. Drain the chickpeas once cooled and spread onto paper towels to remove all the outside water.

For the lemon and thyme chickpea recipe, place the chickpeas in a large bowl and add 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp kosher salt, 1 tsp paprika, 1/2 tsp granulated garlic, and 1/4 tsp cracked black pepper.

For the chili and lime chickpea recipe, place the chickpeas in a large bowl and add 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp kosher salt, 1/2 tsp granulated garlic, and 1/4 tsp cracked black pepper, 1 tsp chili powder, ½ tsp cumin and ½ tsp cayenne if you want to bump up the heat.

Stir well to get each chickpea coated with oil and the spices. Line a baking tray with parchment and spread out the chickpeas on the tray in one layer.

Bake for 20 minutes. Bring the tray out of the oven and shake the chickpeas around to shift their surface area. You can also choose to sprinkle on some more salt at this point. Place them back in the oven for another 15 minutes. Take them out and shift them around again.

For the lemon and thyme recipe, zest a whole lemon and pluck the thyme leaves and spread them both over the top of the chickpeas. For the chili and lime recipe, zest a whole lime over the top of the chickpeas. Turn off the oven and place the chickpeas back in as the residual heat continues to cook them for about an hour. Save any extras in an airtight container for up to a week.

Jon Bennion is a native Montanan, born and raised in Billings. Outside of his day job as an attorney, you can find Jon experimenting in the kitchen and developing recipes that often feature a Montana ingredient or story. Jon posts on Instagram as Intermediate Chef (@intermediatechef) and lives in Clancy, MT.

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Shishitos are finger-length, thin-skinned, wrinkled, and usually mild, but every now and then you’ll get a hot one, which keeps things exciting.

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