THIS weekend is special–we have Saturday totally blocked off as we look forward to celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary at a big city close by. For years I talked about wanting to go on a cruise, renewing our vows, have a week in a bed and breakfast, etc. Is it terrible to say that I am just thankful we are hanging out together, enjoying one another, and getting to sleep in our own bed that night?
I figure that if we have the chance, on our 20th we will make it a larger event, since the kids will be older, and I wont be concerned about our two two-year olds taking out someone else’s house overnight while we blissfully sleep in some fancy hotel. The Handy Hubby told me he remembers his parents staying in a hotel down the road from where they lived on their 15th anniversary, and his parents ended up going and picking them up so that they could come and enjoy the pool and room service right along with them. I laughed outright at that.
So looking forward to this weekend, and excited about what is ahead this week and next here on the blog.
We have been talking about using dried foods, learning how to dry them, and use them in recipes for your pantry. I hope you readÂ my post earlier this week about the benefits of using and storing dried foods, and how around here at The Welcoming House, my pantry has a great mix of both canned and dried foods, and I often use them interchangeably in my cooking.
One caution for you—it is very easy, if you have dried fruit as a snack sitting around—to not realize just how much of something you have eaten if you are not careful about writing portion sizes on the lids, sharing with family members that __ amount of slices equals one fruit, or just having it widely available for anyone to grab and go. When you dry foods, most things really shrink, and so it is easy (and yes, it has happened in our family) if you happen to have a “mindless snacker” who loves to grab something and go sit in front of the TV or computer, that you can have dried an entire 5 lb bag of apples……….and they can devour it in one sitting.
SO—be sure to share with your family that dried foods, while an awesome snack, come with an amount limit, or stomach-aches are sure to follow in their future as the snack swells in their tummy and makes them rather uncomfortable. Just ask the Handy Hubby how uncomfortable 5 lbs of apples in slices sitting in your stomach are. 🙂
I tend to measure for myself, which also gives me a good guesstimate when I am making a dish. I know half an apple tends to be five slices when I am making them into dried apple slices, so a full apple’s worth is ten slices. It takes five apples or so to make a pie, so that tells me how much I am going to be pulling out of a jar to make a single dried apple pie. Make sense?
It also helps to have those measurements when you are rehydrating veggies for a meal, or throwing them into a main dish to know how much of that veggie makes a single serving for a person. I will be giving you this kind of chart at the end of our series so that you can copy and print it for your binders/cookbooks/fridges. It helps to know that when you are making something, you most often measure amount for amount when rehydrating–so if you have one cup of corn that you want to rehydrate for a meal, then you will need one cup of water or broth to each cup of dried corn.
Okay. Whew! So we waded through that, now let me give you some simple pointers on how to dry fruit and veggies.
Both fruit and veggies can be dried at around the same temps, and I do mine around 135*. If you are a “raw foodie” I am sure you dry your foods at a lower temp to preserve more of the fundamental goodness of them, and frankly, if that is what works for you, good for you! But see, I am a busy mom with three kids, who homeschools, teaches piano, keeps house, cooks and cleans, and as you can see by what you are reading, keeps a rather busy blog life as well.
When you are slicing up your fruits or veggies, you want to try for the most uniform slices that you can get. IF you are like me, and have some that are chunkier on one side than the other since you are using a knife instead of a mandolin (I almost cut my finger off with one of those one time), just make sure those chunkier slices go to the edge of the tray instead of the middle, where they will get better air circulation and be able to dry faster. If you are doing something like cherry tomatoes, grapes, apricots, etc, then make sure that they are cut in half, skin side down on the trays, and understand these take a while to dry. If you dont place them skin side down, good luck on getting them off the trays again in the future.
Try not to use any kind of oil to spray your trays with, even if you have something that might stick, because oil goes rancid very quickly, and you might not like how your hard work goes bad right along with it, long before you are able to use the things you put up.
I have used parchment paper with great success with some things I did not want to have to peel off. Try that before you try oil. Also, the plastic liners from the cereal bags, can be cut to fit your trays and go right over the top of your grid liners if you have something runny that you want to dry, such as a fruit or veggie leather. Just another short tip.
Make sure your fruits and veggies are uniformly cut, and spaced nicely so the air can get between them and dry them. Some fruits and vegetables require more patience than others, the rule of thumb is: the thicker it is, the quicker it is NOT……so have patience.
Another little secret about drying things—-for some crazy reason, frozen fruits and veggies dry faster, and cleaner. I do not, for the life of me, pretend to understand the scientific improbability or reasoning behind that, it is just the observation of a person who has been doing it for years, and found it is true.
SO—what does that mean to you??? It means next time there is a sale on frozen veggies, most notably things like peas and carrots, stir fry, corn, peas, etc…….snag up a bunch of bags and get that dehydrator ready, because before you can blink an eye more than once or twice you will have pretty glass jars full of dried vegetables that are shelf stable, and take up 1/2 of the space they would if they were sitting in a freezer waiting to be used and collecting freezer burn. I just want to say as well, that I use the freezer to flash freeze any fresh berries like blueberries, mulberries, etc, that would otherwise need to be “checked” (where you dump in boiling water to break the skin so they dry right). I have done this now for three years, and had wonderful success with the berries drying down in a totally normal way, rather than losing some because they were not “checked enough” and so they puff up and turn to empty shells full of a funny powder. (true and gross to eat).
So, if you have carefully sliced, and dried, an assortment of veggies and fruits, and they are sitting there on your shelves waiting to be used, the main thing you need to ask yourself in your new crazy and alternative reality is:
I mean , face it, some of those babies are great to snack on, but who wants to eat dried peas and carrots for a snack? Not me, that is for sure.
And that is where you choose what you want to do with it. Do you want to use it straight as a side dish? Is it going to be cooked in something? or is it something, like spinach, that you can sneak into a meal for another veggie dose that the kids will never discover, and you will feel like sneaking behind the fridge so you can give in to your evil laugh???
Because each method of rehydrating is a little different. Lets talk about easy to less easy in prep ideas.
EASY: If you are going to use your dried veggies in a soup, then by all means, throw them in there just the way they are. You will wonder, after the first taste, how it is that the soup tastes so strong and flavorful, and different than you have ever had before. Surprise! Welcome to using dried foods where the taste is intensified, and as they absorb liquid, they make things thicker and more yummy than you ever thought possible. However, with all that in mind, remember that using dried things will need more liquid, so plan accordingly. Otherwise you might end up with a veggie stew instead of a veggie soup.
Also Easy: for every cup of dried food, add it to one cup of hot water, and let it sit. The heat helps it to absorb the water more readily, although, if you are good at planning ahead, you can just put the food into cool water the night before and have everything ready to go to assemble a meal. I am NOT like that, in fact, would probably forget my head if it wasnt attached, so hot water works for me.
Another Easy Idea with Fruits (such as orange slices): put them in a pitcher of water overnight, and have a refreshing drink in the morning. I do this ALL THE TIME with different citrus fruits.