I finally carved out a small window of hours yesterday to store and preserve some vegetables. For what? A little bit of snacking, a little bit of cooking, and a little bit of testing. I'm so very new to the RAWr foods eating, but it is all so interesting to me. I feel if I can incorporate raw snacks and deserts in my daily eating, my diet will be much more balanced. Right now it isn't.
Unlike most people, I absolutely love vegetables and prefer them over most fruits. As for fruits, I tend to prefer them dried or incorporated into something like smoothies or made into sorbet or pies. Fresh fruit? I love melons, peaches, pineapples, mangoes, pears, and green grapes. I think I prefer my fruits to be minimally sweet or sour, which reminds me that I also love kiwi.
So, my plan is to make vegetable snacks to deal with my salty chip cravings and fruit rolls to incorporate fruits regularly. Last week I may or may not have eaten two cartons of plain Pringles in 2.5 days. I refused to keep track of such embarrassing facts.
What did I make? Nothing yet...they are still drying almost 12 hours later!
But...in the making process is sweet potato chips, green bean chips, kale chips, and sun dried tomatoes.
I read a trend...chips. Yeap, I love salty, crunchy things.
I notice that I always write up posts after what I'm making/cooking is done, but I thought it would be cool to write up a "before done" post. And of course, the fact that nothing is done 12 hours later helps.
Sweet Potato Chips
First, my hope is to create a chip that is very reminiscent of great, crispy, crunchy (but not hard) potato chips. My pet peeve, as a chip lover, is chips that are crunchy but unnecessarily hard. I love the crisp of Pringles, hence my gorging last week.
So these are somewhat raw because before putting them in the dehydrator I blanched them. My reasons are two-fold. One, to soften them and hopefully produce a more crisp final chip. Two, to get a brighter color. When you blanch veggies I found, the colors get really vibrant. I might also add that there is another reason--I'm a bit of a germaphob and blanching will kill anything lurking.
As for seasoning, since I was more concerned with experimenting for texture I didn't do much seasoning. Just oil and salt.
1. Wash and scrub the vegetables with vegetable wash. Pat dry. Cut out any "eyes" or "iffy" spots.
2. Very carefully cut thin slices on the mandolin, while praying that I don't slice off a finger.
3. Place the slices (In about 2-3 batches) in salted, rapidly boiling water. Let boil for about 2-3 minutes till color is vibrant and slices are somewhat limp.
4. Shock them. Transfer directly from boiling water to ice water with juice of half a lemon added to preserve color. Cool.
5. Take out of ice lemon water bath, drain and dry on paper towels.
6. Using about 2 tbl. of oil and salt to taste, oil and salt chips before placing on dehydrator sheet.
Nutritional Yeast Green Beans
For these, my hopes were to create a crisp, crunchy and light snackable green bean chip. I have seen "roasted" vegetable chips at my local Sprouts, which looks like deep fried and salted vegetable chips. Somewhat healthy, but I could do without all the frying. Not to mention the high temperature of frying would kill a lot, if not all, of the nutrients.
Not sure how palatable the end product would be, so I decided to add some flavor. I went with a basic nutritional yeast and soy seasoning. Not fully raw, but very healthy.
I also blanched these in the same manner as the sweets for the same reasons. The color of the beans after a minute in the water was beautiful! I instantly wished I could mix up some paints in the vibrant green.
1. Wash green beans. Dry. Cut off tips and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces.
2. Place the cut beans in salted, rapidly boiling water. Let boil for about 2-3 mintues till color is vibrant. Be careful to not over cook.
3. Shock them. Transfer directly from boiling water to ice water with juice of half a lemon added to preserve color. Cool.
4. While cooling and/or draining prepare nutritional yeast and soy flavoring.
5. Take out of ice water, drain, and dry on paper towels. Transfer to bowl with flavorig and massage the "sauce" evenly into cut beans.
6. Arrange on dehydrator sheet.
Nutritional Yeast and Soy 'Sauce'
2 tbl of canola oil
3 tbl of low-sodium soy sauce or Braggs Aminos
3/4 c. of nutritional yeast flakes
1. Mix the wet ingredients in a bowl, massage into green beans.
2. Add in the nutritional yeast flakes to form a pasty sauce.
* This recipe is an adaption of Mimi Kirk's sauce in her book Live Raw.
Like many, I have tried, tasted, and fallen in love with the taste of kale chips. They aren't particularly 'sexy' looking, as foodporn goes, but I challenge you to find something better tasting with as much good for you nutrients. Well, yeah...I'm sure there are some, but that is not the point. The point is that to judge these tasty, addicting chips on their looks and not their taste and nutritional merits is not a good practice. You just may miss out on your next "best thing I ever tasted" snack.
Now here is where I got a bit "saucy." Pun intended. I actually went through the trouble of making my own, vegan, fruit preserves bar-b-que sauce. This sauce is so wonderfully good, it should be bottled and sold. Really. We can not get enough of it. It is my "black gold sauce." Effective immediately.
I wanted to also do a "Nacho Cheese" sauce, but that will have to be in the next go round.
These take very little prep work.
1. Thoroughly wash a bunch of Kale ( I used just shy of a bunch, which fit in my dehydrator, I gave a leaf to my bird Charlie) in a vegetable wash. May be easier to break off the long stem and place in a bowl of cold, 'soapy' water. Swish around, get it really clean, then rinse well.
2. Dry well on paper towels.
3. Place in a bowl and gently massage in sauce. When rubbing in sauce use as much as you'd like. If you like a lot of sauce, be generous. Not so much of a sauce lover? be less generous. Either way, make sure you evenly coat many and all of the leaves. No one likes the chips with no flavor, and I'm sure we all savour those salty bits at the bottom of the bag or, ahem, Pringle canister. ;-p
4. Transfer to the dehydrator sheet. Make sure none are on top of each other, but try not to worry too much about the edges touching or overlapping a bit. These wil wilt down like nobody's business, so you will end up with way more white space than you start with. So keep that in mind. Think steaming cabbage. Yeap, serious wilting in action.
'Sun' Dried Tomatoes
For the tomatoes I wanted two end products. Dried tomato powder and sundried tomatoes for sauces and other cooking purposes. At this point, I honestly don't know what I will end up using them for. The thing is that 'sun dried' tomatoes are suppose to be packed in oil, canned, and all other types of things that I'm not particularly keen on or mentally prepared to do. Germaphob issues. I'd hate to contaminate and sicken my family.
These are perhaps the easiest to prepare, if your doing what I did--ignore the skin and seeds. To be honest, when you take off the skin and take out the seeds you are left with so little of anything else, I thought it wasn't worth it. I also want all of the tomato. I'm sure there are good nutrients to be had in all parts.
1. Wash and dry tomatoes.
2. Cut out core and any blemishes. (I'm a bit picky here and don't use any bruised fruits, but I will use fruits with dark 'scars,' which I cut out.) Chop into pieces. This is where it takes a bit of chef discretion. If the tomatoes are small, i.e. cherry tomatoes and other salad varieties, just cutting in half will do and you could probably place them in whole--although they may take a lot longer to dehydrate. If they are larger, beefsteak varietes, cut into decent-sized slices. The point here, at least for me, is to have pieces that will not shrivel up too small, but will not be so big that they will take forever + three days to dry. When mine are dry, and/or I have more fake sun tomato drying under my belt, I will give more size guidelines.
3. Place cut slices on tray with cut up, i.e. skin on the bottom. This way the yummy tomato innards will not drip down on other trays or escape.
1. Use the best quality of produce you can afford. I used vegetables (some of the tomatoes) straight from my garden that are grown organically. I use absolutely no pesticides, mircle-gro, or anything else that is not natural. What I bought (green beans, sweet potatoes, and kale) I purchased organically from Sprouts. The reseasoning is because when you dehydrate and preserve foods you are essentially cocentrating what ever is within the fruit/vegetable and preserving it into your foods. Why not keep it on the up and up?
2. Work clean. Yes, I am a germaphob, I admit it and don't plan on changing it, but this has nothing to do with me. It has everything to do with your family and food safety. Again, when you dehydrate, you can lock in unnecessary 'nasties' that in the least my spoil all your hard work and mold what you cook, but in the worst may make you or your family sick. This process is no different than canning. Sanitize, wash hands often (take off hand jewelry, which hides germies), keep your work stations clean, etc.
I utilize food prep gloves when handeling my veggies and working in the sauces. I'm not kidding when I say I'm a germaphob.
3. Blanch to retain vibrant color and dunk in lemon ice water to preserve it. I also think this is another great option of getting rid of anything yucky you don't want to fester in your final product.
4. Don't be afraid to season. Think of sauces you love and use them. Dry seasonings with oil or other sauces that won't perish after being out for hours would work great. Italian seasonings, nutritional yeast sauces, bar-b-que sauces, etc. Experiment.
4. Invest in a mandolin when you can. I bought mines on Amazon for about $20, and besides the near fainting encounter when I sliced my hand and bled all over for a few hours, they are great and make the final product much more consistent and might I add, professional. I know I will never be able to great thin slices of raw sweet potatoes any other way.
*Goes without saying, don't be a silly-head like me, be careful when handling a mandolin--they are sharp.
5. Set aside some time. This is not an exercise you want to feel rushed or hurried doing. Set aside a few hours, put on some good music (I chose Me'Shell N'degecello Weather) and enjoy making great healthy food for yourself and those you love.
6. Make enough to use all your dehydrating trays. Seriously, why go through the trouble and wait the hours, and hours, and hours to dry open dead space. My dehydrator requires all four trays to be used no matter what, so might as well put them all to use.
7. Be informed about temperatures. If you want to go solely raw there are guidelines.
-Do not blanch as I did for some of mine. This is not considered "raw," but according to my research if you stick to 2, no more than 3, minutes you retain a great portion and/or most of the nutrients. This is a small pay-off for me, may not be for every one else.
-Do not dehydrate above above 116º - 118º as that is considered the cut off for 'cooking' the foods. Some say not to go above 105º but I think that is a little too cautious and may actually make the food unsafe by letting it stay in the dehydrator for too long of a time with warm, moist conditions. Think bacteria.
-You can start off with 145º for an hour or so, than lower the temperature. The idea is that in the beginning there is so much water to be shed that the temperature actually lowers. This practice actually helps the food dry faster and prohibits the slow, warm, moist environment that can be dangerous. Studies have shown that the food never reaches that high temp. as long as it does not stay there for long, so no worries. Start high, end low.
8. Keep you eyes and nose watchful. This is not an exact science in that someone can say, this fruit will take exactly this long to dry. Nope, too many variables. Room humidity, water content of the items being dried, model of dehydrator, size items cut up into. Think algebra and how many different kinds of combinations that is. So, just keep your nose open (make sure nothing is burning), and keep a couple of eyes on things. You may have to test more often and regularly as you start reaching an end time. You may also have to take a piece out to test for doneness. In fact, you should absolutely take out a piece for doneness before finishing things off. Better safe than sorry.
9. Be mindful that for long term, dry, mason jar storage everything needs to be bone dry and clean. If you are storing in a mason jar, make sure to sanitize with bleach and to dry very thoroughly. You guessed right if you thought I would be donning my food prep gloves to reach in and dry my jars with clean paper towels.
10. Know what dry is. Dryness differs for fruits, vegetables, and fruit leathers. It all depends on the water content of the product and also the sugar content. Vegetables have a much lower water content when dried (3-8 percent) than fruits (10-15). And, fruit leathers will be much different--think fruit roll-ups. Make sure you know what your looking for so that you do not stop your process too soon, nor burn your food by going too long.
I'm hoping to make some fruit leather this week, along with making some bar-b-que sauce leather that I can hopefully grind up into my own seasoning powder. I'm also hoping to make some crackers and other grain-based snacks. I am not too sure as we have a wonderful birthday to celebrate this weekend--my twin niece and nephew will be turning one!
If I can't make time for dehydrating, then I will be trying my hand at some other raw food, vegan, or vegetarian foods. I have been asked to make waffles for freezing for breakfast (which will include egg whites), I have been craving homemade donuts (not sure if I'm going to go vegan or include eggs--but they will be fried--I'm living dangerously this week), I have been asked to make more Quebars, I have been asked to make more trail mix, I am really anxious to try and make hummus (regular, black bean, and carrot), I have been asked to make vegan donut muffins, and finally...I really want to try my hands at nut milk making.
And might I add that I have a good bunch of zukes that need to be preserved. I have already made another four loaves of zucchinni bread, and need to make two batches of zucchinni brownies. We are running out of freezer room, so those brownies may get turned into muffins.
Isn't healthy food and cooking exciting?! Okay...back to reading and homework I go. I am reading an average of 500-600 pages a week and that doesn't include my work for my algebra class. If ever I thought I liked math--I was wrong! Give me 18th Century British Poetry any day...Shakespeare? Oh please, yes! But all this integar and graphing and inequalities...ugh. I can't believe I took AP Physics and AP Calculus in High School. Who was that girl?
*And just because I am really excited...E and I have 137 days till graduation!