Wednesday, June 10, 2015

HOMEMADE HERBAL TEA - Dehydrate Your Own Herbs

 
Although we enjoy the convenience of buying herbal teas at our local grocery stores, there is nothing more satisfying than growing one's own herbs for food and beverage.
 

My family's all time favorite tea blend is MINT and LEMON. This is something we reach for when needing a boost for our throat, and feeling under the weather. For sweetener, we mix in pure local honey.


In this batch, I had dehydrated a combination of regular mint and Peppermint, Stevia, and Lemon Balm.
 
You can see my post here about Dehydrating Stevia
 
 

Another favorite food to dehydrate for tea is LEMONS. I posted another blog on the importance of DEHYDRATED LEMONS.

When I first started thinking about how to stock up on lemons, I couldn't find a single blog on the web. Not even dehydrated lemons. I guess this was about 10 years ago when I tried to come up with an idea on how to preserve lemons for emergencies. After all, I couldn't imagine anything worse than facing an illness and not having my comfort foods and favorite tea. I ended up canning some lemons.



After I discovered the ease and convenience of dehydrated lemons, I was hooked!

I'm on the quest for growing my own tea leaves to add to my herbal blends, but for the time being, I use a variety of commercial black & green teas. I try to find organic as much as possible, but I do enjoy buying in bulk from nearby Indian stores.

This is my spill on "organic"...  I try to avoid pesticides as much as possible. This is why I prefer reaching for homemade EVERYTHING when my family is sick. The less MSG, and unnatural ingredients introduced into a diet, the better.

 

A few years back, I ordered a bunch of herb seeds for my medicine cabinet. I wasn't quite sure HOW I was going to use these herbs for medicine, but I just knew I needed to have these for just in case.
 
This was before I discovered my dehydrator. I needed a way to store these valuable herbs long term, and drying was the solution. Another option is tinctures, and of course, fresh herbs.
 
 
 
The sky is the limit on the blends we can come up with.
I like Amber's outlook...

"Let nature be your teacher!"
 

Saturday, June 6, 2015

DEHYDRATED STEVIA - Homemade Sweetener

 
I've finally gotten around to dehydrating Stevia and wanted to share some comparisons on using 100% pure Stevia Rebaudiana
 
 
On the left, fresh leaves rinsed and ready to dehydrate. On right in less than 24 hours, the leaves retained their shape and are completely died and brittle.
 
 I first tried grinding with a Mortar and Pestle. It worked well to create a fine powder, but it took a lot of energy for breaking down the fibers.

The winner for breaking the Stevia down into a nice powder was my tried and true Magic Bullet
 
In a mere few seconds, I had my Stevia ground to the consistency that I wanted.
 
 
A Quick Comparison
 
 
 
I first started using Stevia several years ago before it became mainstream. When it finally started  appearing locally on the shelves, I'd either have to hunt for it in the pharmacy section, or track it down with a clueless employee.
 
Back then, I was on the quest to find a more natural sweetener. I had many years ago sworn off NutraSweet, and other chemical sugar substitutes.
 
For awhile I was excited about Splenda and I used to buy it by the pound. I thought it was the best sugar substitute ever invented, after all, it was made from sugar, so it tastes like sugar --- until I was selected to be a part of their marketing research group and met the inventor . You can read about my experience here. Is Splenda really splendid?


And of course, now that Stevia is popular, other companies have jumped on the bandwagon and have marketed their own versions with additives. Labels. We're forever reading labels it seems.

So the only way to get the REAL DEAL was to make my own.

Comparing the powdered marketed versions, I didn't find any difference in sweetness. With the pure Stevia I had ground, it had a distinct earthy taste. I can handle that, because I am 100% sure that I am getting 100% pure Stevia, not to mention, it was organically grown with no pesticides.

Using a pinch to my iced tea, I handed a glass to my husband. Now mind you, he's diabetic and he doesn't drink sweet tea, nor did he ever get into the habit of using substitutes. I wanted him to be honest and tell me if he tasted the sweetness and if it was pleasant to the taste.

His exact words: I can taste some sweetness and that is some good tasting tea!



 
Those words made my tea even sweeter.
 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

DEHYDRATED JALAPENO'S - Make Your Own Spices!

 
ONE of my favorite foods to dehydrate is JALAPENO'S! If you're on my facebook page, you've probably heard me rave and rave about how good Jalapeno's are in my food.
 
Believe it or not, I used to not like Jalapeno's and only grew them for my husband.

 
This is the first batch I had prepared for the dehydrator. I figured the filled mason jar would last my husband for close to a year. Boy was I wrong. I've since discovered THAT I TOO love the flavor of dried Jalapeno's and we quickly (in less than a month) went through the entire jar! I went into a panic!
 

 
Unlike the first batch, I've since discovered a shortcut. Slice them long ways!
 
 
 
Using my Nesco Dehydrator that I had purchased from Amazon, I set it outside to dry the peppers for the first 8 hours. Afterwards, I brought the Nesco back indoors and continued drying for another 24 hours. Since you really can't "over dry" your food, I always try to stick to the safe side and dry extra.
 
Also, I had learned that drying certain foods, like the (Green Onions Blog) indoors caused us a bit of discomfort and made our eyes water.
 
This dried batch of about 35 jumbo sized Jalapeno's filled a mason a jar.  What a space saver! Not to mention, if I were to grind these slices into powder, I would be able to put hundreds of hot peppers in a quart sized mason jar.
 

 
 I got my inspiration to dry my seasonings from my mother who had successfully turned her hot peppers into JALAPENO SALT - Blog

 
Using a Magic Bullet, I experimented with the Jalapenos, sometimes using dehydrated green onions, garlic, salt, pepper...  By the way, those Magic Bullets are simply AMAZING when it comes to grinding dehydrated food! This bullet comes with a small cup and blade, specifically for turning things into a fine powder and with just a few quick pushes, I have instant fresh spices for my meals!
 
 
Spicing up chicken breasts

 
Seasoning Salmon and potato wedges. So quick and easy to prepare a meal. Just season and pop in oven!

 
I love to add the Jalapeno's and green onions to scrambled eggs


 
Chicken wings have become one of our favorite meals to prepare. The sky is the limit on the spices you can dehydrate and add to meat and potato dishes.

 
I'm still experimenting with other foods to dry and use for spices. If you have any ideas or have tried other peppers and herbs, would love to hear from you!
 
 
 

Monday, March 16, 2015

HOW TO MAKE BACON WRAPPED POPPERS - Easy Bacon Wrap Tutorial

 These Bacon Wrapped Bites are so easy to make and really pack a punch in flavor!

So far we've wrapped and grilled --- tuna chunks, chicken, salmon, steak ---- and I'm already dreaming up ground beef meatballs... and even rolled sausages. The sky is the limit on what to make, not to mention, it is so easy.

Some have asked if we need to precook the bacon to ensure it cooks. My answer is, NO NEED for PRECOOKING anything. Also, the only supplies you need to wrap is bacon (I prefer the thick slab) toothpicks, and the meat/veggie of choice to wrap.



Here, we are wrapping wild salmon that I'll be cutting into strips, and adding a slice of Serrano hot peppers.


Just lie the bacon flat and start rolling the ingredients from the end just like a burrito or eggroll.

If you prefer, you can also add a slice of cheese here or whatever else strikes your fancy.


When rolling, try to make it as snug as possible without stretching the bacon too much, and twist the bacon to wrap over the exposed sides too, creating a complete bacon ball. Slide tooth pick all the way through to secure it.

If you haven't noticed, I didn't season the meat. We've learned that the bacon adds plenty of salted flavor.


Place Poppers over hot grill and cover with vent closed to get things smoking.



Finish cooking with lid off --- Turn over poppers to brown both sides. Since we're cooking fish here, the meat cooked plenty fast, so we mainly continued grilling to crisp the bacon.


These meat poppers may look small, but just a few can fill a person up.



Pull the toothpicks out and serve with your favorite side dishes.

 
I still marvel at how the bacon bonds to the meat perfectly.
 
Pictured here are boneless chicken breasts wrapped and BAKED. Flip over after an hour in oven to crisp the other side. These are incredibly delicious and easy to make!

Did I mention these make great leftover snacks when cold? Or for breakfast? :)