Monday, October 20, 2014

DEHYDRATED LEMONS - Why I preserve lemons

 

 


One of the first things I became interested in dehydrating when I rediscovered my dehydrator (you can read about my book review here ---> The Ultimate Dehydrator Cookbook)
was to preserve lemons!

Lemons are one of the main foods I think about when my family is sick. Not only is it high in vitamin C, but it gives us a much needed immune system boost. Here's a link to the ----> Health Benefits of Lemons and why it's important in our diet.

Why I preserve lemons  

~
Face it. lemons are not always going to be available. For those of us who don't grow lemons trees, we're dependent on stores.

But what happens when there are no trucks delivering lemons, or there was a bad year for the farmers?

I had those thoughts a few years ago, and wasn't quite sure how to store lemons long term, so I thought about canning. I went on the web and couldn't find a single article on how to can lemons.

Since I had experience canning peaches and pears, I went ahead and canned the lemons the same way. After canning a batch, I put them away on a shelf.

Upon reading the Ultimate Dehydrator Cookbook, I learned that the canning process had destroyed quite a bit of the vitamins that I was trying to preserve. Unlike canning, or freezing, dehydration was the best option for maintaining the vitamins.


Here's a jar of canned lemons next to my dehydrated lemons. More than likely I'll be turning the canned lemons into household cleaner!


There is nothing more refreshing than lemon water. Ever get a glass of water or unsweetened iced tea at a restaurant and it doesn't taste good? I always ask for lemons! Now we can pack our own dehydrated lemons.

What I think about is the importance of rejuvenating the water we have in food storage.

IMAGINE being faced with a crisis and having to drink water that was filtered through your rain barrels --- or trying to purify water with a drop of bleach --- or using a purification pill...

Personally, I would want to add lemons. Not just for adding taste, but to help with the sanitation process. There have been many studies that adding lemon/lime juice to food and water have helped prevent Cholera.

Nothing soothes a sore throat more than a cup of hot tea with lemon and honey.

But guess what my number one reason is for storing lemons?

The fact that I CAN. And so can you!

I'm all about learning ways to store foods that my family enjoys and depends on.

When facing a crisis, or illness, sometimes the best medicine is having the things you enjoy the most available.

Nothing better than comfort food and self sufficiency!  

~

Lemons are easy to dry, and as an added benefit, your house smells fresh and wonderful during the process.



For this batch, I had purchased a bag of organic lemons and before slicing, I washed them in a solution of vinegar and water -- since I'm keeping the peelings for both food and other projects.

Not all dehydrators are the same, so I won't go over temperatures here.


I've discovered some great uses for these peelings and will be blogging on them later.

I dried the lemons overnight, and the following morning, I turned them over to dry some more.

Mine took over 24 hours to dry - this depends on the thickness of the slices, but I also wanted to ensure they were good and dried for storage.

The dry peelings.
All packed in the mason jars. The goal is to eliminate as much oxygen as possible and to store in a dark, cool dry place. This should last me for several months, but for long term, I will be storing away using a Food Saver.


What are some of your ideas on preserving lemons? Have you actually tried any in any recipes? I would love to hear your ideas! You can comment here, or come join our Facebook family at ASliceOfTexas.

Friday, October 17, 2014

MAKE YOUR OWN DEHYDRATED ZUCCHINI PASTA - Using JUST Zucchini!


One of the meals that my family enjoys is SPAGHETTI. Unfortunately, when there are family members who either have diabetes, or they're gluten intolerant, this can pose a problem.

Zucchini has come to the rescue!

Not only is Zucchini  healthier to eat than white flour, but there are ways to prepare it that will resemble the texture and appearance of noodles. As for taste, I find that it is much better than flour, because there is FLAVOR, and in the back of your mind, you know it's healthier :)

What I use to create the noodles is a SureSlice spiral slicer that I had purchased online at Amazon. I've also seen these at Walmart. Currently, you can purchase this on Amazon for less than $8 with free shipping if you have a Prime account.

With a twisting motion, you can get noodles well over 3-4 feet long!

Okay, so in the past, I would heat this in a skillet  (stir fry - not boil) and serve it like I would regular spaghetti noodles. The family enjoyed it! It looked like spaghetti, it tasted better than noodles, but in all honesty, there was a bit of a texture problem. I hate to say the word, "slimy" because it brings up a negative impression. It was a good kind of slimy. My daughter and I tend to enjoy our pasta a little on the firm side, and the Zucchini was more like overcooked pasta?

After discovering my dehydrator, I thought about the Zucchini pasta substitute. Was it possible I could dry these and store away like regular spaghetti noodles? I added the batch to the tray and whatever pieces that were leftover (from spiraling) I chopped into small pieces and added it to the tray.

I filled up the trays and the next morning it was completely dry and intact.

It had the texture and appearance of a bird's nest.

My family wasn't ready for a spaghetti dinner when I dried this, so I tucked it away in a freezer bag to keep the shape intact.

I'm ready to prepare this for spaghetti, but as I look at the results (this is 4 regular Zucchini's)
I realize that for 3 people, I could have probably used another Zucchini or two to create more pasta. But I will have to make do, and the next time I store away the "pasta" I will make sure to dry an abundance of Zucchini in advance and portion it to about 2 Zucchini's per person.

I gave it about 15 minutes to soak, and then I drained the excess water.

Adding a little oil to an iron skillet, I stir fried till it was heated up. Pictured is one serving size.

This is the result of a cooked plate of Zucchini pasta. Remember, this is DEHYDRATED ZUCCHINI PASTA - which means we can prepare this in advance and have stored away for years to come. Even better, healthier to eat, and no harmful preservatives.

For this batch, I created a quick and easy homemade spaghetti sauce by using a pound of grass fed ground beef,  and I added a handful of dehydrated bell peppers, some garlic, salt, pepper, and cayenne powder. For tomato sauce, I added a canned variety that I have discovered from the grocery store that has NO ADDITIVES. you can find a picture of it here from another blog post of mine ------> It's called CENTO  Oh, and of course, play around with the sauce! I usually chop up fresh Basil and other herbs when available.


Pour over your bed of noodles and serve with a healthy salad. Pictured, I prepared a salad of Kale, Spinach, Green Onions, Feta Cheese, organic ranch dressing, and sunflower seeds. I sprinkled Parmesan over the spaghetti.

On a side note: When I dehydrate more "noodles" I plan to go ahead and store in a large mason jar. After stir frying this batch, it really didn't matter that the noodles maintained their length. I asked the family to give their honest opinion, and they agreed that the pasta tasted MUCH better than fresh -- not to mention, the texture was exactly like we loved!

So DEHDYRATED IT IS from here on out! :)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

DEHYDRATED GREEN BEANS - Dehydrating and cooking with frozen foods

 
 
We eat a ton of green beans at my house. I grow it, buy it, and freeze it.
 
When it comes to canning my own food, I mainly focus on meat. The reason being... I would MUCH rather put my energy, time, and money into something that would be considered most valuable in our diet.
 
Meat would be a commodity during a crisis, because without refrigeration, unless a person had stored it canned or dried, there wouldn't be any available. For those of us who live in town, raising livestock, or hunting would be unrealistic.
 
And of course, if you're vegetarian, your focus would be on protein substitutes.

 When I learned about dehydrating, I knew that my problems were solved. Without wasting all of my canning jars on green beans, I now had a way to preserve it without taking up any precious time and space. In the photo above, the amount of green beans in that ONE QUART sized jar, would have normally taken up the space of at least 5 or more jars. Not to mention, a jar of dehydrated beans is practically weightless.
 

 I buy my green beans frozen at Sams Wholesale. The bag shown is 5 pounds, no preservative or additives. Just plain green beans.

With my 5 tray dehydrator, I managed to spread out about 4 pounds of the frozen beans. I left it on all night and checked on it the next day. No work involved. Simple. Since we technically can't "over dry" the beans, I left it in the machine till practically noon. I wanted to make sure the beans were thoroughly dried.

 Speaking of noon, I needed to make a QUICK lunch. From the stash, I added a handful of green beans to a bowl.

 Adding water, I waited about 15 minutes. This really depends on how firm, or soft you want your beans. In this case, I wanted to create a fast and simple meal using my dehydrated beans.


The beans returned almost to their original state within 15 minutes.
 Here's a comparison of the rehydrated beans, and a dehydrated bean at the bottom.


Since I needed a quick meal, I opted for stir fry. I use leftover meat and whatever vegetables I have on hand. In this case, I sliced some beef sausage, chopped an onion, seasoned with salt, pepper, cayenne, and a handful of dehydrated bell peppers. I'm mainly using the bell peppers for seasoning and want some of it to retain its firmness.

During an emergency situation I could easily prepare this meal with what I have stored in my cabinets. No fresh ingredients are needed. Just add canned beef or chicken, some dehydrated vegetables, a little oil, and fry over a hot iron skillet.

A person could eat like a king during a SHTF scenario. All it takes is planning ahead and storing the food properly.

 This dish is also good for those on diet restrictions, as you can add whichever ingredients you want for each family member.


Even better, you can stretch this meal over a bed of rice.
 
Do you have a recipe that you fix completely with dehydrated foods? I would love to hear your ideas! You are welcome to comment here, or  come join our family on Facebook!



Wednesday, October 15, 2014

DEHYDRATED GREEN ONIONS


Last night, I went to bed with tears in my eyes. Literally!

I couldn't help myself. I just HAD to load up the dehydrator before retiring for the night. While I sleep, I want my Nesco Dehydrator to be working!

I am an avid fan of GREEN ONIONS. I love it in my scrambled eggs, in my homemade dressings, on top of casseroles, as seasonings. I even LOVE green onion potato chips (oh trust me, I'll be making THAT too!)


I normally grow this in abundance in my backyard, but this batch, I picked up from the store. I am going to trim and wash 4 large bags.


Some of the onions being washed. I also added these WET to the dehydrator.


I saved the roots so that I can regrow these. I added this to a bowl of water.

At the top where I trimmed, new onions will emerge. Once they reach a certain length (about an inch or so) I transplant in a pot of soil. Voila! New green onion plants. I plan to keep this batch on the front porch and they should do well in the cold weather, as long as it's not freezing.

I packed the trays pretty heavy. Since the onions are hollow, I wasn't worried about them being too thick for the dehydrator. But I did slice the stems really thin, as I knew they would take much longer.

From what I've read, they say to dehydrate the onions for 7-10 hours. I normally don't pay too much attention to the time. I normally dry much longer than suggested. Since I usually dry things when I'm headed for bed, I know they're going to at least be drying for 7-8 hours before I check on them. Since we can't really "over dry" the food (our goal is to eliminate all the water - with less than 5% remaining) I just inspect in the morning, and if I want them more dry, I turn the machine back on. Or, if needed (like bananas) I'll turn the food over and dry again.

With this batch, I ended up drying for close to 12 hours. Mainly because I forgot (the machine is actually quiet) and because I know that the "drier" the better.

ALSO, depending on what you're dehydrating, some foods WILL cause tears in your eyes. Almost immediately the onions drying traveled through closed doors and to the back of the house. It was bearable, but it really reinforced my decision to NOT try this with hot peppers indoors. 



Dried and ready to pack!


The sliced stems fell to the bottom. So perfect now for garnishes! I really love how the drying has packed in the flavor too.

I found these quart sized green jars at Walmart. I had stopped by the canning section on a whim and was surprised to find these. The darker jars are excellent for storing dehydrated food, as it's best to store these in a cool dark place.

Since I'm not storing this for ultra long term, I've only added an oxygen absorber. I figured I would keep this batch for a few months at the most. When I do store some dehydrated green onions long term, I'll be using a Food Saver and some Mylar bags (more on that later.)


I've recently done a book review for the book - The Ultimate Dehydrator Cookbook - this can be found on The Survival Mom's website. In the book, I learned that when it comes to canning, freezing, or dehydrating, HANDS DOWN, dehydrated foods maintain their nutrients!

If you are new to dehydrating, or are thinking about giving this a try... I can't stress enough how important this is to preserving your food. It takes up less space, and less time!