Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Putting the Dehydrator to Use

If you follow me on Facebook, you know that I got my first dehydrator the other day. It was an exciting event around here and my husband and I started rattling off recipes that we wanted to try in our new machine. My husband loves beef jerky (but what meat eating male doesn't?), so that was an obvious item on the list of things to try. I wanted to try out just some of the basic fruits and veggies so that I could send them off with the kids for school. I would love to send healthy snacks that are light weight and not as messy as say...applesauce. There are also all the goodies I've seen lately with the April in the Raw event hosted by Real Sustenance that require an hour or four in a dehydrator.

So my first day of playing with my new machine started out with a pint of strawberries that my husband 'just happened' to pick up on the way home. (I can't tell who is more excited, him or me.) Fruit is easy, just wash and cut up into desired size. I love that I have several different tray options in my machine, so I used the flexible trey for the strawberries. This was a bit of luck on my part. I don't know if I could have removed them otherwise as the flex trey made it easy to peal the berries off. These turned out really well, except for my poor planning that ended up with me having to get up at 5am to check on them.

I had also saved a sweet potato last week in hopes of turning it into sweet potato chips when the dehydrator arrived. I peeled, sliced, and blanched the slices for three minutes in my steamer before setting these on the treys. I don't know if blanching is allowed in the raw diet, but since I'm just playing with the option of raw food, I figured I'd follow directions first before attempting completely raw chips. These also turned out well, but next time I need to cut them thinner on the mandolin for a crunchier chip, as these were slightly chewy. Live and learn.

I also had to make tofu today, as Tuesday has ended up being the best day in my schedule to make it. This meant that I had okara (soybean mash) that I had to do something with. I usually toast it in the oven, but figured that since my other two experiments were done, I'd try okara in the dehydrator too. That turned out beautifully and it was much dryer than I get it in the oven and took about the same period of time. I also saved some soybeans from my tofu to make soy nuts. I cooked these all the way through before salting them and drying them for about 6 hours. They are still a little chewy, but the boys like them so it's all good.

I did throw a little applesauce on the fruit leather trey somewhere in between all the other trey fulls of foods. I don't know how long it took, but being a commercially made applesauce it was on the watery side and took longer than homemade applesauce would. It made perfect fruit leather and if I don't try anything else in the dehydrator, that alone makes this machine money well spent.

I like the fact that even with the machine running almost a full 24 hours, the house wasn't uncomfortably hot like it gets when I'm baking granola or okara all day. I was a little worried about a machine that was just a stack of treys and not a solid unit (much like the ones that look like miniature ovens with multiple treys), but this feature actually came in handy when the strawberries and fruit leather were finished quicker than their companion foods. I still have plenty of ideas to try, but as of right now I'm just experimenting with the recipes of others or playing with whole foods. I have at least one recipe in mind for beef jerky, but I'm sure my husband will have the final say on if it works or not before I post it to share. Until then, I plan on filling up my freezer with all sorts of dehydrated treats.


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