Category Archives: Kitchen Articles

DIY Food Dehydrating

You can save money and space by learning DIY food dehydrating techniques.Not only will this knowledge save you money, but you will have the assurance of knowing exactly what your dehydrated meals contain.

Water in fruits and vegetables, and meat causes rapid ripening and eventual decay due to the enzymes and bacteria. When you remove the water through dehydration or circulating dry, hot air through the food item it shrinks it down in size and decay causing moisture is eliminated.

Food Dehydrating Benefits

Once canned food is open it will spoil fairly fast. Dehydrated food containers can be opened and reopened without causing the food within to spoil because there is no moisture present.
Garden-grown food can also be dehydrated. It’s a great way to provide nutritious food for your family during a survival scenario.
Rather than purchasing small amounts of perishable food when it’s on sale, you can take advantage of sales by purchasing large amounts and dehydrating it before it spoils.
You can save space in your pantry by dehydrating bulky fruits and vegetables like peppers and apples. One quart jar will hold 25 dried apples.
DIY food dehydrating techniques have very little effect on the vitamin and mineral content in foods when performed at home. Dehydrating foods is healthier than freezing or canning because most vitamins are retained in the dehydration process.
All dehydrated fruits and vegetables keep their carbohydrate and fiber content.
Dehydrated foods are lightweight and space saving; great for survival backpacks.

Pre-Treating Foods

You don’t need to pre-treat foods before DIY food dehydrating, although doing things like marinating, dipping, and blanching will enhance flavor and color in some foods. You can inhibit mold or yeast growth by causing a chemical reaction that is a result of pre-treating foods.

Using a commercial product like Fruit Fresh is one way to pre-treat, but you can also just dip the items in a mixture of lemon juice and water.

The dehydration process can change the color of some foods which makes them look a bit less appetizing. Pre-treatment is usually used when DIY food dehydrating outdoors using the sun and wind.

Food Dehydrators

One way to dehydrate foods is by using a chamber that forces air through food which dries and preserves it. You don’t have to buy a dehydrator; homemade techniques work quite well.

An electric dehydrator should have a temperature control, trays with lots of ventilation, and a fan to circulate the air. Some units have an on and off switch while others need to be unplugged. Prices run from about $50 for an American Harvest brand to several hundred dollars for the best of the best, the Excalibur.

With a little luck you might pick up one at a garage sale for $10.

Solar Food Dehydration

A DIY food dehydration system uses the sun’s heat and consists of a wooden box fitted with a glass top that traps heat inside. This type of unit can have a heat-absorbing plate inside that produces an air convection current that goes through a vent at the bottom of the box. Your food is dried out as the hot air takes the moisture out of the box.

Drying food outdoors in the sun has a number of benefits:

Depending on the outside humidity, it may dehydrate faster than when using an electric dehydrating unit
Easy to set up, use and clean – can be portable
Keeps food dry when it rains
Air-tight construction prevents insects from getting in
Does not contribute to energy costs
Dehydrating can start in the spring as soon as early season crops such as strawberries, peas and other berries are ripe

DIY Food Dehydrating in the Oven

Using your oven is a good way of DIY food dehydrating and works well with foods like banana chips and jerky.

Oven drying takes longer than the sun or an electric dehydrator and cannot be used if your oven cannot heat at temps below 140° Fahrenheit. If your oven won’t go below 140° it may cook the food instead of dehydrating it.

When you’re drying food, put trays on oven racks that are two-inches apart to allow proper air circulation.

DIY Food Dehydrating in Your Car

Other than solar food dehydration, the above methods need access to power. During an apocalyptic event you may not have access to power. In the summer you can turn any vehicle, which may not be drivable due to lack of gas, into a huge dehydrator. Window screens make great trays and you can load them up with thin slices of things like meat, vegetables, and fruit. Put them in your car or truck and crack the windows to allow the air to circulate.

Depending on where you are living and the amount of humidity in the air, most things will be completely dehydrated by the end of the day. Things that are not dry can be left in overnight as long as you roll up the windows to prevent moisture.

C.L. Hendricks has been a Jill-of-all-trades and become an expert in some, including active participation in the preparedness movement. It is with personal knowledge and experience that she writes for such websites as Apocalypse Survival and Real Survival Skills.

Preserving Food From Your Garden

Preserving food from your garden is a bonus after all the work that goes into a garden. Learning to preserve foods means being able to enjoy the tomatoes, peppers, beans, and other fruits and vegetables from the garden long into the winter months.

When we think of preserving food from the garden, canning is usually the first thing that comes to mind. Visions of standing over the stove, boiling the jars to encourage them to seal. Many people even have memories of days being spent preparing the food before it could be canned.

Those are the same people with memories of how good those foods tasted when it was time to open them up and use them. My favorite memories were the jams and jellies. There is nothing like fresh, homemade foods no matter what your favorite is.

Preserving food does not have to mean canning. Freezing is an alternate method of preserving that still means getting the most out of the garden. Green peppers can be diced and frozen right out of the garden. Some vegetables need to be blanched before freezing like tomatoes. Broccoli, beans, and even corn can be successfully frozen to be used later, during the Winter months.

Dicing vegetables prior to freezing helps cut down on the freezer space required. Your frozen vegetables can be pulled out and used just like the store purchased frozen vegetables. Add them to soups, stews or any other dish that you would normally use them with. This is a great way to cut down on your grocery bill all year round.

Preparing the food before freezing or canning is another option. A large batch of spaghetti sauce can be divided into freezer bags or canning jars with equal success. Peppers can be stuffed and frozen, just like the ones that can be purchased at the store.

Many favorite meals can be prepared and cooked fresh, then divided into portions and frozen for later use… homemade frozen dinners. This is an excellent way to save money. Pull these out on those days that you do not have time or do not feel like cooking, eating out does not have to be the only option.

Nearly every type of fruit and vegetable can be frozen or canned successfully. Even bananas freeze well! Skin them first, place them on a cookie sheet and freeze them whole before bagging, or mash them and measure into freezer bags in amounts for your favorite recipe, then pop them right into the freezer. Corn can be frozen on or off the cob.

Just like with canning, the texture of your fruits and vegetables is not always the same as fresh once they have been frozen. But, they are just as tasty as the day they were frozen. If you make jams or jellies, berries of all types can be washed and frozen whole until you are ready to use them. Allow them to dry completely after washing and they will break apart rather easily to measure out when needed.

Dehydrating is yet another method for preserving the foods from the garden. Hot peppers retain their flavor and their heat, even when dehydrated. Many types of fruit can be dehydrated, these snack foods can be bought in many stores.

Canning requires jars, and lids with wax rings, and plenty of shelf space for storage. Freezing requires freezer bags and extra space in the freezer. Dehydrating requires some type of container as well, whether you store in bags or jars.

Although time seems to be the one ingredient that most of us have very little of these days, preserving food no longer needs to take days to accomplish. It can even be turned into a family activity. Canning food is an art. It is a tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation.

Today, canning is not the only option for preserving food from your garden. The ability to freeze foods or to dehydrate them means that you can start new traditions. Pass along not only your love of gardening, but the ability to preserve those foods in many forms.

Anna Brown is an independent writer that enjoys writing on a variety of topics that provide useful information to the reader. To read more about gardening or to see the variety of information that is available, visit her blog at http://www.hiddentreasuresdirect.com

How to Make and Freeze Apple Pie Filling and Applesauce

During the fall months when apples are in season here on the east coast, I like to go to our local orchard and purchase Gala’s by the bushel. Once I get them home, I like to make and freeze applesauce and apple pie filling.

It is really a simple process and can save you a lot of money. I take one weekend afternoon and have it done within a few hours. When purchasing your apples, buy them in bulk and check them over for bad spots. Stay away from any apples that have been sitting out in the heat for a long period of time. You will want to cut out any bad spots that you come across.

The following 2 recipes were given to me by my grandmother back in the 1980’s and to this day, they are the 2 recipes that I use.

Apple Pie Filling Recipe

4-6 apples

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Wash apples and then pat dry. Peel, core and slice into wedges. In a medium-sized bowl, combine wedges, granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon lemon juice. Gently stir apples until coated with sugar and lemon juice. Pack into freezer safe bags or plastic containers leaving a 1/2″ of head space.

Note: You can use an anti-darkening agent such as Fruit Fresh instead of lemon juice.

Applesauce Recipe

4-6 apples

water

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Wash apples and then peel, core and slice into small chunks. Place chunks into a saucepan with just enough water to prevent scorching. Stir in granulated sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon. Turn burner to low heat and slowly simmer mixture until the apples cook down and become soft. Drain any left-over water. Run mixture in a blender or food processor until it’s the consistency of applesauce. Let cool and then spoon into freezer-safe containers leaving a 1/2″ of head space. If desired, you can sprinkle additional cinnamon on top before sealing.

Shelly Hill has been working from home in Direct Sales since 1989 and is a Manager with Tupperware. Shelly enjoys cooking, baking and canning food for her family. You can visit Shelly online at http://www.workathomebusinessoptions.com or her Shakin ‘N Bakin recipe blog at http://wahmshelly.blogspot.com for additional free recipes.

How to Make Old-Fashioned Strawberry Dumplings

When the strawberries are in season here on the East Coast, I enjoy going to the farmer’s market and picking them up by the basketful. One of the desserts I enjoy making for my family is this old-fashioned strawberry dumplings recipe, that was given to me back in the early 1980’s by my great aunt.

If you are not familiar with this type of recipe, it reminds me of a baked cobbler and a shortcake mixed together. Before you get started with the recipe, you will want to wash and hull your fresh strawberries.

We like to serve ours with vanilla ice cream, vanilla yogurt or whipped cream on top, along with additional sliced strawberries for garnishing.

Strawberry Dumplings Recipe

Ingredients:

1/3 cup granulated sugar

2/3 cup tap water

3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 1/4 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon table salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 tablespoons butter, softened

1/2 cup cold milk

1 pint or 2 cups fresh strawberries

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

nonstick cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large saucepan, combine the 1/3 cup granulated sugar with the water. Bring the mixture to a full boil and then reduce the heat to low. Simmer the sugar mixture uncovered for 5 minutes. Stir in the vanilla extract with a non-metal spoon and turn off the heat.

In a large bowl, sift together the all-purpose flour, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, baking powder, ground cinnamon and salt. Cut in the butter and mix with the flour mixture until its nice and crumbly in consistency. Slowly stir in the cold milk until all ingredients are well combined.

Lightly spray a 2 quart casserole dish with nonstick vegetable cooking spray. Place washed strawberries into the bottom of the casserole dish. Using a tablespoon, drop the dough on top of the berries until it is all used up. Pour the hot sugar mixture from your saucepan on top of the berry and dough mixture in the casserole dish.

Bake in a 350 degree oven, uncovered for 30-40 minutes or until done.

Shelly Hill has been working from home in Direct Sales since 1989 and is a Manager with Tupperware. Shelly enjoys cooking and baking for her friends and family and trying out vintage recipes. You can visit Shelly online at http://www.workathomebusinessoptions.com or her recipe blog at http://wahmshelly.blogspot.com for additional free recipes.

Chocolate Equivalents Or Chocolate Recipe Substitutions

It is always a good time to make something with chocolate. When the mood seizes you, discovering you haven’t got a crucial ingredient can ruin the mood. Knowing its equivalent or substitution can save the day. Today, Mom helps cooks and chocoholics with tips on chocolate and includes the world’s easiest dipped strawberry recipe.

Chocolate is made from the bean of the tropical cacao tree. In its purest baking form chocolate comes powdered, is usually sold in tins and is called cocoa. There are two types of cocoa in this world; regular cocoa and Dutch cocoa. Dutch cocoa, or alkalized cocoa has reduced the natural acidity of the cocoa bean resulting in a darker, mellower, more chocolaty cocoa powder. For the most part, these can be used interchangeably, especially for flavoring foods like frosting. However, if you are baking, be aware the reduced alkalinity of Dutch cocoa may affect how cakes rise. Cocoa powder is not to be confused with those packaged hot cocoa drink mixes, which don’t work well in recipes.

Sugar and fat are usually added to cocoa powder for sweetening and consistency and cake! In our kitchens, fat can be in the form of cocoa butter, margarine, butter, vegetable shortening or vegetable oil. Sugars, either powdered or granulated add sweetness and also add to consistency. Powdered sugar will be smoother. Once we understand the basics of chocolate it makes substituting ingredients much easier. Here are some more definitions and equivalents.

Cocoa: Powdered, chocolate in its most basic form (beyond the bean).

Baking Chocolate: Generally sold in bars and measured in squares of 1 ounce each. Normally has some fat but no sugar content.

Semi-Sweet Chocolate: Sold in chips or bars. Normally has some fat plus a small amount of sugar.

1 square (1oz) of baking chocolate = 3 tablespoons cocoa + 1 tablespoon butter or margarine

1 cup (one 6 oz package) of semisweet chocolate = 6 tablespoons cocoa + 7 tablespoons granulated sugar + 1/4 cup shortening

1 cup (one 6 oz package) of semisweet chocolate = 6 oz or (6 squares) of semi-sweet chocolate

Classic Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

This will also work with cherries or any other fruit with a skin. Use about 18 large fresh strawberries, room temperature and patted dry plus 1 pound semi sweet (or any type) chocolate pieces, coarsely chopped.

1. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate and shortening, stirring occasionally until smooth. Or heat the chocolate at 50% power in 30 second intervals in the microwave, carefully checking temperature until it is smooth.

2. Using the berry stem or a toothpick, dip the strawberries into the chocolate.

3. Cool the berries on wax paper, or put the toothpicks into styrofoam (or a potato).

More Chocolate Tips: Make sure the strawberries are completely dry. Even a drop of water in the melted chocolate can cause it to “seize” and make the chocolate grainy. This recipe will produce tempered chocolate, or chocolate that dries to a hard shine. If the chocolate becomes too thick to work with, add drops of vegetable oil, small amounts of vegetable shortening or cocoa butter (butter and margarine contain water) stirring until it becomes the right consistency. Happy cooking!

Laura Zinkan is a freelance writer and artist living in Los Angeles, California. She puts the Mom in MomsRetro with kitchen tips and humor on her website for busy cooks http://www.MomsRetro.com She also cultivates a gardening website at http://www.theGardenPages.com with plant profiles, growing tips and lore about succulents and California native plants. Copyright © 2009 by Laura Zinkan.