Friday, July 28, 2017

Dehydrated Cinnamon Apple Fries

Cinnamon Apple Fries

Dehydrated Cinnamon Apple 'Fries'

    Every fall I appreciate how fortunate I am to live close enough to some local u-pick apple orchards here in Minnesota that offer a wonderful variety of apples at reasonable prices. We love to take a day trip with the grand kids to pick apples and enjoy the farm experience complete with hay rides, feeding farm animals and watching the apple washing and sorting operation for the commercial end of the orchards business. In addition to the many u-pick options I have been blessed with a wonderful friend who is more than happy to share her homegrown apple bounty with me and my family. 

Fresh picked apples

    One of the many things I like to make is Cinnamon Apple Fries a wonderfully healthy and crunchy snack made by dehydrating julienne apples tossed in cinnamon. They are quick and simple to make if you have the right tools mainly a mandolin with a julienne blade attachment and any basic food dehydrator

    Once the apples are cleaned it is a simple process to julienne the whole apple without peeling or coring directly into a bowl of lemon water or water treated with citric acid to prevent browning. If you prefer not to treat the apples it will not affect the end product taste or flavor. Your end result with an untreated apple is just a little additional browning which is purely aesthetic.

    When slicing the apples don't worry about the core or the seeds. The majority of the seeds fall out of the apples before they make it to the dehydrator trays and the rest fall out after the apples have been dried. The cores end up becoming dry and crispy so you will not even notice them when enjoying your healthy treat.

Using the julienne blade on your mandolin slice the washed, whole apple directly into a bowl of water treated with lemon juice or citric acid (fruit fresh).

Drain your apples in a large colander while you julienne slice your next bowl of apples.

Toss batches of apples with cinnamon or leave plain if you wish.

Place the apples on your dehydrator trays and dehydrate at 135 degrees until crispy. Times will vary based on your local temperatures and humidity levels.

Once completely dried to your preference, I like mine crispy, condition them overnight and then store for long term or immediate consumption. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Zucchini Gummy Candy

Zucchini Gummy Candy

    If you like me have at least one zucchini plant, you find that no matter how fast you pick and eat them you always end up with several so large that they are no longer good for fresh eating. You can only make so much zucchini bread and when the neighbors see you coming and hide behind locked's time to be whats a girl to do!
    I just finished my Zucchini Gummy Candy and I am very happy with the results...there are several methods if you wish to search a little further or adjust this recipe to meet your personal preferences, some use juice and others don't add the finishing sugars or use other combinations to finish them to prevent them from sticking together into a large lump when stored. Use what works for you and your families dietary needs. However, I will say that these turned out very flavorful and the texture was very similar to an actual gummy bear only not as sticky to your teeth when eaten.
    I wanted to make an assortment of flavors to please the very discriminating pallet of my grand kids... just kidding...they'll eat anything I dehydrate. After peeling and cubing my zucchini I divided it into three and used Grape, Fruit Punch and Orange Kool-aid. This flavored simple syrup can be used multiple times if stored in the fridge.

** I have had many people ask if this recipe can be made using natural fruit juice as a sweetener instead of the kool-aid. So I have included the equivalent ingredients for making the simple syrup used to 'candy' the zucchini.

** Sugar substitutes could also be used for those who want to keep them 'refined' sugar free or more diabetic friendly. I would use the recommended equivalent substitution using your preferred 'sugar substitute' for the sugar in the recipe.

** I have since tried this with over sized cucumbers with equal success following the same directions.

Zucchini Gummy Candy

1 envelope unsweetened kool-aid
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup water
4-6 cups zucchini
*Peeled, seeded and cubed into 1 x 1/2 inch cubes (approximate, sizes will vary some but try to keep as uniform as possible for even dehydrating)

Finishing sugar:
1/2 cup powdered, sweetened lemonade mix or sugar
2 tbsp citric acid or to taste (use if you wish to have a sour patch style gummy candy)

Substitution for using all natural fruit juice: 
1 can frozen juice concentrate (undiluted)
3/4 cup sugar
4-6 cups zucchini
*Peeled, seeded and cubed into 1 x 1/2 inch cubes (approximate, sizes will vary some but try to keep as uniform as possible for even dehydrating)
*Follow the remaining recipe as written. If possible it is important that you used the additional sugar as you are making a 'simple syrup' with the juice that will 'candy' the zucchini. To get the proper gummy candy after dehydrating it is important that they are completely infused all the way through with the simple syrup.

    Bring the first three (or two if using juice concentrate) ingredients to a low simmer and then add your zucchini and continue to simmer on low for about 25 minutes. You do not want the zucchini to start to break down so be sure to check it often, it should turn tender but not mushy. Turn off heat and set aside to cool. I let mine sit long enough to absorb enough of the flavored simple syrup to look translucent. I have kept the cooked zucchini in the fridge over night when I have had my dehydrator in use and it has helped to intensify the flavor. Drain and reserve the simple syrup if you plan to make more, the excess simple syrup will last in the fridge several days. Place on your mesh dehydrator trays and dehydrate at 125 degrees. Dehydrate until leathery and still slightly tacky but not wet. Times will vary based on how large or small you make your cubes and your local weather temperature and humidity levels. Mine went for approximately 18 hours.
    When done remove from your trays and allow to cool. Add them in small batches to a Ziploc bag with your finishing sugar and toss till well coated. Sift out excess sugar using a colander or a mesh strainer.
    I vacuum pack in pint canning jars and have stored them for up to 9 months. They could have lasted longer but we ate them up to fast to know for sure....

Monday, November 21, 2016

Lowe's: New Washer & Dryer for $235

Look at this lovely pair of machines we just bought for $235! Yep, you read that right!
New Washer & Dryer

Let me explain how...

First, the best time to buy large appliances is September and October (okay, I know it's November). The new models are coming out and stores need to get rid of last years models, so this pair that was originally $1872.55 with the stacking kit was marked down to $1214.80, saving us $657.75.

Lowe's is also running a deal where if you buy 2 or more appliances, you can get a rebate of up to $400. We bought 3 appliances (my parents also bought a dishwasher on the same receipt), so we got a $100 rebate. But since my parents also contributed to the purchase, we split it up so that we got 2/3 of it and they got 1/3 of it since we bought 2 appliances and they bought 1, saving us $66.67.

My mom had also gotten a coupon on the bottom of one of her receipts before for 11% off your total transaction. Unfortunately, that couldn't be combined with the military discount of 10% off, but since it was a little more, we were still happy with it, since it saved us $133.63.

We also have a Discover Card that gives us Cashback bonuses on all our purchases. We had saved up over $450 in rewards, and since they are partnered with Lowe's we could get a $100 gift card for $90, so with that $450 in rewards, we got $500 in gift cards. So, that saved us $500. (If you register for Discover with my link, you get a bonus $50 in Cashback and so do I!)

I also have been using the Shopkick app for a couple years, and had saved up enough points to get $70 in gift cards to Lowe's. Plus, I had $9.62 left from when I had gotten a gift card to buy Adam a Christmas present a year or two ago. So, Shopkick saved us $79.62. (I'd love it if you used my referral link, if you choose to sign up for Shopkick. Or enter hornet9061 when you download it on your phone. Right now they're not offering sign up bonuses though.)

Since we're remodeling and want a stacked set instead of a side by side, we're replacing a set that works perfectly well. Instead of paying for haul away when they deliver the new ones, we're going to list the old ones on Craig's List. We've sold a dryer before on Craig's List for $75, and these ones are in better shape, so we plan on listing them for $100 each, which means we're saving $200 on replacing working appliances.

So, after all is said and done, we saved $1637.67 total on a brand new washer & dryer for our laundry room and mud room remodel, meaning we paid $234.88. When Adam and I figured it all out before we made our purchase, he said, "Can we afford to not buy them right now?"

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Easy Basic Granola

Granola is an easy treat to make that can be customized so many ways to suit your own personal likes and preferences. Early granola consisted of crumbled whole grain products that were then baked until crisp. Nowadays traditional granola is made with oats, nuts and fruit as a base, however do not let that limit what you use as there are many tasty combinations that lend themselves to a healthy nutritious breakfast food or snack.

Spent grain barley a by product of  brewing beer,
dehydrated for alternate uses. 
 When making my basic granola recipe, I use a combination of oats and spent grain barley, which is a by product of the home beer brewing process. The brewing process simply stated involves boiling the barley and water to make a barley 'tea' that is then fermented into beer. The leftover barley still retains much of its flavor and nutritional values. I dehydrate the spent grain and store for future uses. Since I have access to a fairly regular supply of spent grain barley, I have made use of it in several recipes including my granola.

The process of making granola involves gathering your grains and nuts and toasting them; making a sauce that will act as a binding agent and then dehydrate the mixture at 135 degrees overnight approximately 12 hours or until the grains once again are dry and crispy. Add in your desired dried fruit, completely cool and then package and seal to keep out additional moisture.

Oats and barley toasted stove top.
You can toast your oats either in the oven or stove top. Toasting the grains take away the raw taste and helps to bring out the natural sugars. I toast mine in a skillet stove top in 2 cup increments being careful to stir often to prevent the oats, grains and nuts from burning.

The following recipe is for a small batch which I recommend for the first time granola maker. With a small batch the first time you will get a feel for what you may or may not like with out being out a lot of ingredients. Later this recipe can be easily doubled or tripled to suit your need or capacity to dehydrate.

Granola sauce heated to when it just begins to boil.
I then make my sauce and bring it just to the point of boiling, and then pour it over my nut and grain mixture stirring until the sauce has been well incorporated. This is then placed on on the paraflexx sheets in your dehydrator set at 135 degrees for up to 12 hours. (Times will vary).

Dehydrate the granola at 135 degrees for up to 12 hours or until dry and crispy.

Once your granola is dry and crunchy, add in your dried fruit if desired. Adding the dried fruit after dehydrating the granola keeps it from overdrying and becoming overly brittle. However if you prefer your granola with a more brittle or crispy fruit feel free to add it at the same time with the other dry ingredients.

Mix in the dried fruit of your choice.

Once the granola has cooled store in containers, vacuum seal for longer term storage to retain freshness. Because of the oil used in the sauce, I would recommend using within 6 months to prevent rancidity.

Packaged in jars and vacuum sealed for longer term storage and some for immediate enjoyment.

Easy Basic Granola

8 cups oats (I prefer the old fashioned not the quick, you can use a combination of grains and oats to total 8 cups, I use half oats and half spent barley grain, organic puffed rice or sesame sticks are another great alternative, I have also used in a pinch rice krispies and other cold cereals)
1 cup wheat germ
1 cup oat bran (sometimes I have a hard time finding oat bran so I improvise by grinding 1 cup of oats to make my own)
1 cup flax seed
4 cups nuts (use a combination of your favorite, use more or less to suit your taste: sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, walnuts, pecans or hazelnuts)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup honey (this can be a combination of honey, maple syrup, molasses, corn syrup or fruit syrup)
1 cup coconut oil (alternate oils can be use as well like vegetable, grapeseed, canola)

**The following spices and flavorings can be adjusted more or less to suit your personal tastes.
1 tbsp vanilla
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ginger

OPTIONAL- To the sauce or wet mixture add your choice if desired an additional 1 cup of any of the following: peanut butter, applesauce, mashed banana, pumpkin puree, Nutella or any other 'flavor' enhancer of your preference.

**2 cups dehydrated fruit of choice - add last after dehydrating is complete

**Mini chocolate chips, m&m's, yogurt raisins or carob raisins can be added as well after the granola has completely cooled for a more trail mix like granola.

Lightly toast the oats, alternative grains and nuts stove top stirring often to be sure not to burn. Combine the oats, nuts, wheat germ, oat bran, flax seed in a large bowl and set aside. In the same sauce pan where you toasted the grains, add the remaining ingredients except the dried fruit and bring to a boil, then pour this over the dry ingredients mixing well until the dry ingredients have been completely moistened. Spread this wet mixture on your dehydrator trays lined with the paraflexx sheets, dehydrate at 135 degrees overnight or up to 12 hours testing for crispiness. Dehydrating times can vary. Once the granola has reached the level of crispiness desired, remove from the dehydrator and add 2 cups of dehydrated fruit. Once the granola is completely cooled, package and store as desired.

*If you prefer the above recipe can be made in the oven as well. Skip toasting the grains and nuts and follow the recipe as directed placing the mixture in the oven set at 300 degrees stirring every 15 minutes until dry and toasty. Add fruit after removing from the oven and cool and package as directed.

**I have also made this recipe in the oven overnight with the oven temperature set at 140 degrees using the 'keep warm' feature with great success.

***The granola is great as a topper for fruit and yogurt, eaten with milk as a cold cereal or even cooked with milk for an oatmeal like hot cereal or by the handful as a quick ready to eat sweet snack.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Creamy Chicken Wild Rice Soup

    With fall fast approaching there is nothing better than a hot bowl of soup to warm you from the inside out. One of our family favorites is the following recipe for creamy chicken wild rice soup. Add  a loaf of warm crusty bread for a hearty 'stick to your ribs' meal that tastes like you have spent all day in the kitchen cooking. We like to make a double batch, so we do all the work once, but can throw a couple meals in the freezer for later.
Double Batch (7+ meals for us!)

My mom had to have a bowl right away! :)

Creamy Chicken Wild Rice Soup

2 c. chicken breast ( approximately 2 large)
4-6 chopped/diced carrots
1 medium chopped onion
4-6 stalks celery (can use the leafy tops as well)
1/2 c. butter
1 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 tbsp. parsley
3c. cooked wild rice
1 c. water
8 c. chicken broth
1 pint of heavy cream
1/2 c. toasted slivered almonds (optional)

COOK: Saute the chicken in your stock pot using 2 tbsp. of the butter, when juices run clear remove from the stock pot and set aside. In the same pot saute the vegetables with the remaining butter (carrots, onions and celery), when tender add the flour and seasonings (salt, pepper and parsley) to the vegetable mixture and incorporate until well mixed. This will create a rue that will thicken the soup. Add the water and the chicken broth and whisk well until the rue is completely blended into the added liquids. Simmer until the broth is starting to thicken. Add the chicken (diced/cubed into bite size pieces) and the rice and bring to a gentle boil reduce heat and add the heavy cream and almonds (optional) and simmer until hot. 

Serve with a crusty bread or even in a toasted mini bread bowl.

*I use Zatarain's Wild Rice blend (or any other brand will do) that totals 3 cups cooked rice. I add it uncooked along with the water needed to cook it at the same time that you add the water and chicken broth, adjust your cooking time to allow for the rice to get tender before adding the chicken and heavy cream. These rice blends come with a season packet that makes the soup taste wonderful. When using the seasoning packet I omit the salt called for in the recipe.

** Use garden produce to help make this meal cheaper!

***I like to use my food processor to quick chop the carrots and onions and slice the celery.

****Use a rotisserie chicken if they are on sale or if you previously froze cooked chicken for future dinners. 

*****I have also made this where I cook up a bunch of chicken breasts in the crock pot a day or so ahead of time, when I get them on sale. Then I shred them with a fork and toss into the soup at the end. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Eggplant Bacon - dehydrated

     Having a good sized vegetable and fruit garden has allowed me to save on grocery costs. However sometimes when a particular crop is coming in...I can end up with more than what we can consume freshly. The solution is to either can, freeze or dehydrate the excess bounty.
     That is where I found myself recently with a large amount of Japanese eggplant, normally I dehydrate them in slices to be used in cooking at a later time however... I wanted to try something different.

Dehydrated eggplant slices - plain

    I had come across this blog Real Food Tulsa that had an interesting post on Eggplant Bacon. Intrigued, I decided it was worth a try especially since I had all the required ingredients on hand.

Dehydrated eggplant bacon

    When dehydrating any food item it is important that the size or thickness of what you dehydrate is consistent. To maintain a uniform thickness in the sliced eggplant I originally opted to use my mandoline slicer. But I was having some trouble getting it to slice nicely, the eggplant was not feeding through the mandoline slicer easily. I needed to improvise... so...I cut each eggplant in half lengthwise set each half between a pair of chopsticks then using the chopsticks as a guide for my knife I was able to get perfectly proportioned and uniform slices. My slices ended up approximately 1/4 inch in thickness. This results in a finished product that is similar to thick cut bacon.

Improvised slicer guide for proportioned slices

    I followed the posted recipe with just a few minor adjustments to suit my tastes and using what ingredients I had on hand. Since I had more than the suggested 2 eggplants, I doubled the marinade. After slicing all the eggplant I let it marinate for one hour. I then placed the marinated eggplant slices on my Excalibur Dehydrator trays and set the dehydrator temperature at 125 degrees.

'Bacon' Marinade
2 medium eggplant cut into bacon like slices
4 Tbsp soy sauce
4 Tbsp maple syrup
4 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp liquid smoke
1/4 cup bottled lime juice
2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp paprika
fresh ground black pepper approx 1/2 tsp
2 Tbsp olive oil (Optional)

    While the eggplant was dehydrating I decided to reduce the remaining liquid marinade to a syrup like consistency. I simmered the marinade over a low flame until it was fairly thick and nicely concentrated. I then used this to brush over the slices before they were completely dry. I did this approximately 4 hours into the drying process, I brushed each eggplant slice with the concentrated marinade glaze on both sides and returned each tray to my Excalibur to finish dehydrating until crispy. Since I had started this project late afternoon, I let my dehydrator run over night and by morning the eggplant bacon was nicely dry and crispy. Drying times will vary depending on how thick you slice the eggplant and the wattage of your dehydrator.

    After cooling I stored the eggplant bacon in quart sized mason jars and vacuum sealed them for storage...

Vacuum sealed jars for long term storage

    But not before I had some with my lunch...turkey swiss on white with garden lettuce, tomato and eggplant bacon...delish!!

Turkey swiss on white with garden lettuce, tomatoes and eggplant bacon...delish!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Sweet Corn Cob Jelly

    I was recently gifted some lovely early bi-color sweet corn from some very good friends. Since it was more than we could eat at once I decided to prep it for the freezer following the directions on our site Cooking the Deals. As I was getting ready to take the clean cut corn cobs to the compost bin, I recalled seeing a recipe for Sweet Corn Cob Jelly on this site: Canning Homemade! I decided to give it a try, I followed the direction exactly as written and I have to admit that it was probably the easiest jelly recipe I have ever made. The jelly set perfectly and has a very light, sweet almost lemony floral flavor.
    Corn Cob Jelly

12 large corncobs
4 cups sugar
4 cups water
1 package powdered pectin

yellow food color ( optional)
    Prepare 7 half pint jars, lids and rings. Sterilize the jars and keep them in hot water until ready to use. Cut corn kernels from cobs and save for canning or freezing. It is not necessary to cut right to the core. 

    In a large stainless steel pot add corncobs and water. Heat to a full boil for 10 minutes. Remove the corncobs and using cheesecloth strain the liquid. You will need to measure 3 cups. (Add water if necessary or add additional water to corncobs and boil again to get the full 3 cups.) Put the strained liquid back into the pot and add stir in the pectin. Bring to a full boil. Add in the sugar and bring back to a rolling boil. Turn off the heat. If necessary skim off any foam with a metal spoon. If you want add a few drops of the yellow food coloring at this point. 

    On a dishtowel place your hot jars and fill leaving 1/4" head space. Using a clean damp cloth wipe the jar rims removing any liquid jelly that would interfere with a good seal. Place lids on the jars and seal with the rings to 'finger tight'. 

    Process the jars in a water bath canner following proper water bath canning procedures and process for 10 minutes starting to time after the water has come to a boil. Turn off the heat and allow the jars to sit a few minutes before removing, set the jars on a dishtowel in a place where they can sit overnight without being disturbed.   

  Sometime within the next hour you will hear the pinging or popping noise as the jars cool and seal. If you have any jars that have not sealed reprocess them the following day or put in the fridge for immediate consumption.   Be sure to properly label and store the jars.  

This recipe is an excellent way to get even more from your produce. So this lovely gift of a dozen ears of corn netted a total of one dinner,

seven containers for the freezer for future dinners and one pint and 3 half pints of sweet corn cob jelly. This will definitely be one for must make file!