Dehydration 101

I got this request for a post last night, and since I didn’t have anything else to share this morning -I spent my Tuesday night with a glass of red and my Kindle since Liv was sleeping and the Pilot was flying- I figured it would be perfect for today.

Dehydrator101

The title could possibly suggest that this post is about water intake, but rather, it’s about the cooking (or uncooking) method of dehydration: when you purposefully suck the moisture out of foods, preserving their nutrients in the process.

By dehydrating, fruits and veggies can be transformed into fruit leathers or chips; raw, soaked nuts and natural sugars become raw cookies or tart shells; savory herbs and seeds turn into thin, crispy pizza crusts and flatbreads. There’s a wide variety of dishes that Β can be made in the dehydrator, including some of my favorite snacks:

-eggplant bacon

-macaroons!

Roon dough 3

-fruit leather

-veggie or fruit chips (we especially love dried cinnamon apple, kale chips and zucchini chips; I’ve also made sweet potato and banana chips as a special treat for the dogs)

-raw pizza

-flatbread

-jerky (which I’m too chicken to experiment with)

-tarts

-cookies

-dried tomatoes

-The list goes on and on….

Usually when a fruit or veggie is on its last limb, I add a couple of spices to it and throw it in the dehydrator. It’s a great way to use produce and preserve it, since many dehydrated foods can last up to a month (nuts/seed combos) or at least a week in the fridge.

So why the heck would you want to remove the moisture and hydrating properties of water from your food? As I mentioned, it’s a great preservation strategy, and removing the water also creates an entirely new texture. It also makes it possible to eat much more (which = more nutrients) than you would ordinarily be able to consume. For example, there’s no way I would just put a bowl of raw kale in front of myself and go to town. If it’s a kale chip, I can kill a whole batch, no problem πŸ˜‰ At the same time, it’s an easy way to go overboard on calories, so just like anything, eat what you enjoy and be mindful of portion sizes.

The Pilot got me an Excalibur 9-Tray, almost 4 years ago for my birthday. I’ve used it numerous times since then, and even though it’s fairly loud (now, I like to consider it a white noise machine), it works extremely well. The 9-tray option is great because some foods (like the macaroons) are taller, so you need to remove every other tray to fit them into the dehydrator.

Zucchini chips  1 of 1 7

Some things I’ve learned:

-Make what you want to eat tomorrow. Often, foods take overnight to dehydrate which can be a pain, but at the same time, a lovely surprise. It’s nice to wake up the next day and have something delicious waiting for you! This is why Livi and I have been known to eat entire batches of zucchini chips before breakfast πŸ˜‰

-Play with temperature and get to know how your dehydrator works. For me, the magic temp is 115. It’s still low enough to preserve the nutrients –raw foodists suggest keeping the temperature below 118- but I’ve also cranked it up to 135 to get some sweet potatoes dehydrated that were taking forever.

-Use the Teflex sheets. Usually dehydrators will come with nonstick drying sheets. These work extremely well for wet mixtures (like onion bread or flatbread) or something you want to spread out along the entire tray (like a wrapper or tortilla). You can spread it on top of the Teflex, dehydrate for about 6 hours, then flip the entire thing over and peel the Teflex away. The other side can then dehydrate with minimal mess.

When you wash the Teflex, don’t entirely submerge them in water- it’s the fastest way to ruin them. Instead, place them on the countertop and use a soapy rag or sponge to scrub, rinse and dry with a towel. Repeat for the other side. You want to sanitize them without drenching them.

Zucchini chips

-Try different texture techniques. If you add a lot of flax to a wet mixture, it will often lead to a chewier texture. If you’re using mostly water-dense veggies (corn, zucchini, onion, eggplant), they will become crispy on their own. Bananas can be added to mixtures for more chew (like fruit leathers), and soaked, pureed nuts and seeds will always crunch up nicely in the dehydrator (for chips and flatbreads).

-You can’t mess up. If something doesn’t turn out exactly the way you’d pictured, use it for something else! I’ve made chips before that ended up being wraps for sandwiches, and veggie chips that shriveled up to nothing (like zucchini rounds! I use a long veggie peeler now). Don’t be afraid to play around and experiment!

Here are some great recipes using the dehydrator:

(If you don’t have a dehydrator, no worries — Β you can use a cookie sheet in the oven. Just set it on the lowest temp and keep the oven door slightly ajar. It may take a few hours, so just do it during a time that you’ll be home)

Onion bread

Kale chips

Cool ranch kale chips

Raw chocolate tart (the BEST)

Sour cream and onion kale chips

BBQ zucchini chips

Red velvet macaroons

Raw red pepper wraps

Eggplant bacon

Do you have a dehydrator? If so, what’s your favorite recipe? Even if you don’t have one, what’s your favorite dehydrated snack?

Happy uncooking! πŸ™‚

xoxo

Gina

Here’s a post with some more of my favorite kitchen gadgets <3

 

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Comments

  1. I love my excalibur! best dehydrator out there.
    I enjoy making fruit leather! i’ve made kale chips before. I want to try making jerky sometime but living in a small condo without a lot of windows to air the place out, I haven’t done so yet, maybe once we move into a house!
    I definitely need to explore more recipes

  2. Kristen says:

    You really should give jerky a try. We make venison jerky in our dehydrator and it is so good! Even if you don’t want to eat, I bet your hubby would like it!

    My pups thank you for giving me the idea to make them some dehydrated treats πŸ™‚

  3. I wish I had one! They seem like such a fun thing to play around with. It makes me laugh how open Liv is to trying new foods! I hope I have a daughter like her one day. What a gem πŸ™‚

  4. Maria @ Maria Makes Muffins says:

    Am so excited that you made this post! My husband bought me an Excalibur 9 tray dehydrator for our anniversary, it’s sitting in its box ready to be opened and used to uncook! I can’t wait to try some of your recipes!

  5. Though I don’t have my own dehydrator (I wish!), my favorite dehydrated snacks are definitely kale chips and dried fruit! One day I’ll get my own dehydrator, but for now I just have to gawk at everyone else’s homemade dehydrated treats! Wah.

  6. I’m so excited about this post!!! I got a dehydrator a couple months ago and after the first 2 days I haven’t used it. Now I need to get some apples and try the dried cinnamon apples!!
    Can’t wait to see what other recipes you get!!

  7. I love my Excalibur. I’ve used it to make kale chips (your recipe) and jerky (only once so far, but it was awesome). I’ve dried fruit, also, but one of my favorite things to make is almond flour. I make my own almond milk and then dehydrate the paste that is left after draining the milk. Super simple! I am anxious to try your zucchini chip recipe, and the chocolate tart, and maybe the red velvet macaroons. They all sound so good!

  8. what about the low tech circular try dehydrators that don’t have programmable temps? can they work for anything other than herbs???

  9. You recommended the Excalibur 9 tray for us and we LOVE It! We make kale, zucchini, beet and sweet potato chips all the time. Our favorite have probably apple and banana chips, though!

    http://lifewiththeladniers.blogspot.com/2013/03/we-like-to-eat-eat-eat.html

    We can’t wait to try macaroons and fruit leather!!!

  10. Elizabeth M. says:

    I want a dehydrator so bad!! I used to make jerky with my dad all the time, it was delish!!

  11. I love to make pizza crust, raw veggie burgers, granola, crackers, macaroons (of course); I even made raw chocolate chips once. I agree that the Excalibur is the way to go. As for the noise issue, I run it on my deck, since our cabin is so small.

  12. uhhh, i think you had me at “cookies in the dehydrator.”

  13. Thanks for this post Gina! My sister just got a dehydrator, so I’m definitely planning on borrowing it to try out some recipes soon. I can’t wait to make kale chips and dried fruit!

  14. yawn.

  15. I do not have a dehydrator but want one simply to make those delicious macaroons!! Oh and kale chips, love those! Have you tried apple chips? They are amazing too – I do them in the oven.

  16. Your kale chip recipe is my go-to dehydrator recipe. They always turn out so delicious!

  17. i have a dehydrator and it’s collecting dust because i have not used it once. i may just have to take it off the shelf in the garage and try some of the recipes linked πŸ™‚

  18. This is such a great resource, thanks for putting this all together in one place! I’ve experimented with my cheap dehydrator here and there over the years,but I keep wondering if it’s time to invest in a better product. Thanks for all the great info!

  19. I don’t have one…yet! I’d love to make dried pineapple!!

  20. Shaina Anderson says:

    I want a dehydrator so badly!! We live in an apartment right now, though, so I have no room. I was (half) joking the other day that I would put it on the dining room table while in use and give up valuable closet space in our room to store it. I *really* want one haha.

    I love the spicy zucchini chips you gave us the recipe for! I made them in the oven and they were so yum!

  21. Can’t wait to see what you have planned for summer shape up!

  22. I am just catching up on your blog and just want o say thank you for this post! I insisted on saving up for the 9 tray Excalibur and only used it a few times. Playing with the temps is something I really need to do. I haven’t really loved anything I made yet. Except some macaroons. I made kale crackers and they were good, also chips but they both tasted the same as when I used to do them in my oven. I think I was expecting it to be different–more like Brad’s raw chips and crackers. I was disappointed. It’s just not the texture I was expecting and the stuff shrinks down SO much. I will keep playing though!

    Too funny you’re scared to try jerkey. I was actually going to make that next. The beef guys at whole foods can cut down some local, grass-fed sirloin the way I need it so all I have to do it season and dehydrate. My only fear is I spend all this $$ on the meat and it gets ruined. The owner of my fav raw cafe said with the food in general you just have to keep checking it and checking it until it’s done. I did that with zucchini chips and ended up eating them all before they were even “done” straight from the trays. Oops.

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