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Lynne Ireland

We saw winter holiday tchotchkes on display before Labor Day, but now that Halloween is here, the heat is on. The next two months may be the pinnacle of dietary temptation, trying times for those of us who try to eat healthy and not too much.

These happy events are meant to make us feel good. But it’s easy for us to turn these occasions into “gorge-a-thons.” You know, where you think you have to have a bite of everything (or maybe several bites), because after all it looks so good, and you’ll never have this opportunity again, and ... The next thing you know you’ve eaten so much you really don’t feel so hot. And sad truth is, a lot of it looked a lot better than it tasted.

One of our friends has been succeeding at the difficult challenge of not only dropping some pounds but changing how she thinks about food and what it means to be satisfied.

So she’s training herself to steer clear of the calorie-dense chunks o’cheese that used to be her first stop at any party spread. And she’s trying to eat many more vegetables and stay away from the nutritionally negligible. Like the chips and dips and chocolate fountains and fondue pots that so often show up.

It’s not the flavor of all those crispy crunchy fried and fat-laden foods that’s hardest to resist. It’s the texture. For some of us, the lure lies in the satisfying chomp that somehow even the freshest fruit or the crunchiest carrots can’t deliver.

A number of diet plans try to help by offering suggestions of substitutes for the nutritional no-nos with tempting texture. Beyond the fresh veggies, dry-roasted nuts (in very small portions), whole wheat pita or tortilla strips that you’ve toasted to crispness and sprinkled with spices, or air-popped popcorn offer some crunch to munch without destroying all dietary resolve.

But one of our favorite “crunch creators” is based on the cheap and common canned chickpea. Also known as garbanzos, these legumes are protein-packed and full of fiber, and according to at least one study, they help control cholesterol. And although canned beans and crunch seem like mutually exclusive terms, you can turn this easily-accessible ingredient into a textured treat in no time.

We recently bought a couple of pricey bags of chickpea snacks in “Bombay” and “Falafel” flavor profiles. Pretty tasty, with lots of crunch. When a friend asked, “could you make these?” we were reminded of this WeightWatchers recipe that’s has been around for years. It stays current because it offers a quick solution to the healthy snack dilemma.

Turn on oven. Drain chickepeas. Throw onto baking sheets. Sprinkle with seasonings. Roast until crunchy. Cool. Eat as an alternative to cocktail nuts, in place of calorie-laden croutons on your salad, out of a plastic bag when everyone else is opening a bag of chips.

Vary the seasonings to get those flavors you crave. (Garam masala = “Bombay,” Za’atar = “Falafel.”) Even if you’re not trying to lose weight, these fiber-filled crunchies will improve health all around. And maybe even create a new kind of temptation!

Roasted Chickpeas

1 spray(s) olive oil cooking spray

2 cup(s) canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

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1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

OR

Any preferred seasoning such as chili powder, curry powder, garam masala, seasoning blend, cumin, lemon pepper, Cajun spice mix, Berbere, Za’atar, and/or Tabasco sauce to taste

Preheat oven to 350ºF (or 425 for more crunch in less time). Lightly coat a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.

Spread chickpeas on baking sheet and sprinkle with garlic powder and red pepper; toss to coat.

Roast on bottom rack of oven, shaking pan about every 15 minutes, until browned and slightly crunchy, about 45 to 50 minutes (or 25 to 30 minutes at higher temperature). (The chickpeas will still be somewhat soft at lower temperature, more crispy if cooked at higher heat. Cook until desired texture is reached.) Cool before serving. Yields about four 1/2 cup servings, equal to 3 Points Plus value.

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Lynne Ireland lives to eat and welcomes comments and questions from others who do (or don’t). Contact her at citydesk@journalstar.com.

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