Dehydrating

This is the coldest winter I can remember. I thought I just felt it more because we’ve relocated farther north (from southern Pennsylvania to northern New Jersey), but the locals tell us that this is the coldest winter on record for these parts. So while the heat runs constantly and everything in the garage freezes solid, I have discovered that keeping the dehydrator running and the kitchen cupboard doors open, our under-the-sink water pipes won’t freeze shut again (as they did a couple of days ago). So, I am dehydrating everything within reach. That appliance is running almost constantly!                                                                       Dehydrating

Dehydrating is so easy to do. Much more convenient than canning, in my opinion, and if you do it at a low temperature (I usually dehydrate at 105 – 107 degrees) the fruits and vegetables retain all the living enzymes of raw food. This is important if you want to get maximum nutrition for your effort. My Excalibur Dehydrator has a fan in the back that constantly blows warm air over all the trays, so I don’t need to babysit it and shuffle the trays around to get even air distribution as you would with a round stacked dehydrator with the fan at the top or bottom. Many times I load the dehydrator at night and in the morning everything is done to perfection. (I would highly recommend an Excalibur to anyone considering such a purchase). At this low temperature, it takes awhile longer to properly dehydrate, but I like things to be thoroughly dehydrated.  When I make chips I want them to be thin and crispy, not tough and chewy like leather. The secret is to slice the fruit and vegetables very thin using a mandolin or a very sharp knife if you have the patience — 1/8 inch thick or less is perfect.

In the photo you can see some of the things I’ve done so far. You can experiment with the seasonings you like, but I will tell you what I used and you can improvise from there.  I only use thoroughly washed organic produce because when dehydrating any chemicals in or on the food will be concentrated. Flavor is also concentrated when foods are dehydrated.  Notice that I did not use any sugar at all.  The natural sweetness of the fruit and vegetables is all you need.

The APPLE CHIPS were easy. Just thinly slice each apple, cut slices in half, remove core parts and any seeds, and lay slices in a single layer on the mesh dehydrator tray. You will get a lot of apple chips from one apple! Some people brush the apple slices with lemon to keep them white, but I don’t think it makes that much difference. Sometimes I sprinkle slices with cinnamon before dehydrating. This time I didn’t.

BANANA CHIPS were peeled, sliced very thin and laid in a single layer on the mesh tray. These I did sprinkle with cinnamon and they tasted great!

RED BEET CHIPS were a first for me. Once again I sliced the beets very thin. I made a marinade of 1/4 cup water, 1/4 cup Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar, and 1/2 tsp. Himalayan Pink Sea Salt. In a large bowl I gently tossed the slices in the marinade until they were evenly coated and let them sit for about a half hour, tossing a couple of times just to make sure each slice was flavored. Each beet, single layer not touching, made a full tray of chips!

SWEET POTATO CHIPS…so yummy! I scrubbed, but did not peel, the sweet potatoes. I cut off about 1/2 inch from each end, thinly sliced them, and placed the slices in a large bowl with 2 Tbsp. Extra virgin olive oil and 1 tsp. Himalayan Pink Salt. I gently tossed the slices until each one was coated and placed them in a single layer on a mesh tray.

That’s it. When the dehydrator was full I turned it on at 105 degrees and went to bed. No timer, no turning or repositioning trays, no worries. In the morning everything was dried to a perfect crisp chip. No, the flavors did not transfer, and the house smelled wonderful. We have a supply of healthy chips for snacking, AND with the dehydrator fan blowing 105 degrees all night and the cabinet doors open, our kitchen pipes didn’t freeze!

 

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Raw Carrot Apple Cookies

This is another great way to use carrot pulp leftover from juicing.  If you don’t have a dehydrator you can bake them in a  low temperature oven.  I did this for years before I had a dehydrator, but you must keep an eye on them.  If they do actually bake, they will still be yummy, full of fiber and nutrition,  just not raw.  Still a healthy cookie you can feel good about snacking on or giving to the kids.

Raw Carrot Apple Cookies

carrot/apple pulp (leftover from juicing)

soaked ground buckwheat groats OR soaked rolled oats

ground flaxseed

sprinkle of stevia powder (very potent, a little goes a long way!) or a little honey

dash sea salt

ground almond meal

raw sesame seeds

raw sunflower seeds

chopped almonds

chopped dried fruit, your choice ( I used papaya and cherries)

about ¼ c. water with 1 ½ Tbsp, lemon juice

Soak grains in water (not too much) about 20 mins.. Add remaining ingredients; use your own judgment to make a moist dough.  Mix thoroughly using a wooden spoon. Shape and press dough into cookie shapes on teflex or parchment paper sheets.  Dehydrate until they resemble a moist cookie (4 – 6 hours) – not too long or they will be very tough.  If necessary flip and dehydrate on the other side until done.

You can vary this recipe by substituting whatever ingredients you have on hand for the nuts and seeds (poppy seeds, pecans, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, pumpkin seed, coconut, etc.) and chopped dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, blueberries, currants, dates, etc.). Be creative – these cookies never come out the same twice!

Zucchini “Applesauce”*

The inspiration for this recipe came from http://www.allrecipes.com where you can find several variations of zucchini “applesauce.” I wasn’t quite satisfied with the one I tried, so I added some spices and a few real apples for texture.  (I just didn’t think the texture was authentic without the apples).  I also think you could use stevia as a sweetener if you wanted to avoid the sugar.  (1/2 tsp. stevia equals 1 cup sugar, so add gradually and adjust according to your taste).  This recipe is a surprising way to use up those last few zucchini now that apple season is upon us.

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Ingredients:

2 large zucchini, peeled and chopped.  (If the seeds are large and starting to get hard discard them and use only the fleshy parts)

3 lg. peeled apples (I used Granny Smith), cut into chunks

1/3  c. apple cider vinegar

1 – 2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 c. sugar

3 Tbsp. brown sugar

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1/4 tsp. cloves

1/4 tsp. allspice

Method:

Put all ingredients into a large pot. There is no need to add water because there is a lot of water in the zucchini already.  Heat to boiling, and then reduce heat to simmer.  Cover and cook for 30 – 60 minutes, stirring occasionally.  (Cooking time depends on the zucchini.)

When the mixture has cooled then you want to blend it until mushy like applesauce.  I used a Foley Mill to do this (the old fashioned way).  You could also puree the cooled mixture in a blender or food processor.

*One of our favorite ways to eat any kind of applesauce is to pair it with a peanut butter sandwich for a very kid-friendly lunch 🙂

Cinnamon Apple Chips

This is a sweet healthy snack everyone will enjoy, and they’re much cheaper than those you can buy in the store. Yum!

Ingredients:

2 cups unsweetened apple juice or apple cider

1 cinnamon stick

2 Red Delicious apples

Method:

In a large pot or skillet combine the apple juice or cider and cinnamon stick; bring to a low boil. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Meanwhile core apples, slice off 1/2 inch from top and bottom (and eat!). Gently saw apples crosswise into very thin (1/8 inch) slices (a mandolin works great for this).

Drop slices into boiling juice; cook 4 – 5 minutes until slices are translucent and lightly golden.

With slotted spatula or spoon, remove apple slices from juice and pat dry. Arrange slices on cooling racks (I used the racks from my toaster oven for this). Place racks on middle shelf in preheated oven; bake 30 – 40 minutes until apple slices are lightly browned and almost dry to the touch. Let chips cool on racks completely before storing in an airtight container.

Makes about 40 chips.