Archive for May 19th, 2010

Dried fruit mix is so nutritious and delicious I can’t begin to praise it enough.  This particular bag is banana chips, strawberries and pineapple. To it I will add dried coconut and raisins yet.  While I packaged these in bulk freezer size bags that I pushed as much air from as possible.  I also have vacuum sealed them into individual size serving packages for quick grabbing snacks for the kids.

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Our dog decided to have puppies at my feet this morning while I was working on the blog and with making up some broccoli salad for lunch.  The picture shows the final count, poor chocolate is odd man out.

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Banana Chips, we all have eaten them and they cost a pretty penny to purchase in small bags at grocery stores.  With banana’s being such a rich source of so many essential vitamins and potassium they are a wonderful snacking alternative.  I purchase banana’s when on sale and slice them before placing in dehydrator.  I imagine you could add lemon juice to keep a more “fresh” look without the browning, myself I find it distorts the taste of the banana so I do not use it.  Besides the browning doesn’t bother me in place of knowing it’s fresh, healthy, natural and delicious.

To make banana chips simply peel and chop the banana into slices. Place slices in the food dehydrator at full vent for 1 day.  When finished they should have a brittle texture.  Be sure to grease your trays slightly with cooking spray or they will stick something fierce.

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I love pineapple, love might be to simple of a term for my obsession with the fruit.  I also love dried fruits, especially tropical mixes.  To satisfy this I dry my own pineapple.  Unfortunately I have not yet learned the skill of growing my own, and while the tops grow wonderful in the yard gardens and in pots in the house for greenery, I’ve not yet had one produce.  I imagine it is then a good thing that the farmers market down here this time of year swims in pineapple.  I was lucky enough to obtain several for fresh eating and putting up.  I did not can this batch, though I find canned fresh pineapple to be amazing and easy to do.  This time I dehydrated it into chunks to add to a trail mix.  The process is simple as well.

To dehydrate pineapple, cut the outside husk of the pineapple off leaving the flesh inside.  Slice the pineapple into round sections and cut the flesh away from the core. I do not attempt for fancy as I am going to just cut and dehydrate it anyways.  Place the pieces on a food dehydrator tray or several and dehydrate 1 1/2 days to 2 days at full vent.  If using oven method again heat oven to lowest setting, vent door with a wooden spoon or other object to keep it open and let dry until it reaches a leathery stage.  At this point just package in air tight container, Ziploc bag or vacuum seal.  Delicious!

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There are times when I just have to many strawberries to can them all into jam, freeze, make into strawberry pie filling, or just use fresh on table.  I know, how can one have to many strawberries you say, believe me it can happen.  Luckily, my children love dried strawberries.  Not only in a form of trail mix snack mix but also put in their hot and cold cereals.  I have also re-hydrated them and used them in cookies, muffins and cupcakes.  Dried strawberries are truly very versatile and well worth making to stock in your dried food section of pantry.

To dry strawberries.  Wash the berries well before de-stemming and slicing.  Place the slices on a food processor tray sprayed lightly with Pam to stop sticking, or on a wax paper lined cookie sheet if you are using the oven for dehydrating.  Dehydrate in food dehydrator for one day at full vent, if using oven set to lowest setting and stir occasionally to prevent sticking and searing. The end result should be with no visible moisture content.  I look for and like mine at a stage of a light brittle.

When dried, store in a air tight container, vacuum seal or Ziploc bag with all air pressed out. They might not be as brilliant red as that you see in cereals or on store shelves, but you know they are the real thing, the flavor is amazing and best, they aren’t loaded with chemicals and preservatives.

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I make two types of strawberry jam, Freezer and Shelf.  This particular one is shelf which means it’s able to be stored without freezing safely.  I find this process is simple and results in a very tasty jam to be used on toast or in pastries.  What you will need is:

6 cups mashed strawberries

6 cups sugar

1/2 of a lemon juiced

1/2 cup or 1 box powdered pectin

Measure 6 cups of sugar, minus 1/4 cup into a bowl, set aside both the 1/4 cup and the rest of the bowl.  Juice the lemon and set aside.  Next measure the pectin into a small bowl and stir in the 1/4 cup of sugar to mix well.

Clean and de-stem berries before mashing.  Don’t puree you want to leave some lumps.  Place the mashed berries in a pot and add pectin and sugar mix along with the lemon juice, stir well.  Turn stove on to medium high and gently keep stirring to keep berries from boiling over and burning.  Once mixture begins to boil add the rest of the sugar and stir well.  You will want to keep stirring until it returns to a rolling boil once more and the boil stays without being able to be stirred down.  Once it reaches this state, boil for 1 minute then remove from heat.

Using a large spoon, spoon foam from the top of the strawberry jam before you ladle into jars and seal.  Hot Water Bath process your 1/2 pints or pints for 5 minutes before allowing to cool and seal.  Any jars that do not seal proper should be stored in fridge or placed in freezer.

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What does one do when a neighbor brings them twelve containers of green beans past their “table prime”?  Why what any good Country Woman would do.  Smile, say thanks and start thinking of ways in which you can preserve them for later use.  In this case, I opted based on their state for the dehydration method.  This is really a simple method and the resulting product can be used later in soups and stews for substance and flavor.  You will come to find I do a lot of dehydration of foods along with canning and freezing.  This allows for making good snack foods and quick fixes for soups and stews. These particular green beans were organic from his garden and held no pesticides or chemicals the commercial bulk ones you find in grocery stores do.

To dehydrate green beans, simply wash them good and snap them into approximately 1 inch sections.  Place them in a steamer basket in a pot with water on bottom on your stove and steam until snap tender.  This means when you bite into them, they still hold a snap and arn’t soggy.  Remove and spread on cookie sheets to dry.  Spoon dried beans onto your dehydrator racks and dehydrate for 1 to 1/2 days with full vent.  You can also place them in your oven on lowest setting to dry, be sure to stir them on occasion to avoid burning.  Test for done state when they feel  brittle and are past the ‘leather’ state.

The end results sure are not pretty to look at, but they are certain to be tasty in meals this winter.

Once dried, place in either an air tight glass jar, vacuum seal or put in Ziploc baggies with air pressed out to avoid moisture contamination of your product.

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