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Sunday, February 6, 2011

I have broccoli in my hair!

My dear friend Angie Kurtz emailed me last week about my goat cheese post, and told me that she'd recently discovered kale chips...and could I "please experiment with more veggie snacks?"

Besides Keith, the kids, and my parents, Angie is one of the few people who knows what a question like this can do to me. Can I?! I can think of nothing more fun! Woo hoo! Veggie snacks, here I come.
Taylor and I volunteered at the church food bank yesterday, and as we were driving there, I told her my plan. "Taylor, guess what!" "What?" "I'm going to dehydrate everything in the house today! Doesn't that sound awesome?!" "Oooh, fun!" (Eye roll, followed by giggle.)

I've roasted spinach before for spinach "chips." They are incredible! I tried kale once, too, but I burned it. So I figured this would be a great opportunity to try again. So on my lab table (kitchen counter) yesterday was kale, spinach, bell peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, rutabagas, beets, onions, apples....and half of the London broil that I took out for dinner (yay, jerky!). I thought I'd try roasting again, and I also pulled out my trusty food dehydrator. These dehydrators aren't expensive, and they're great fun. Beef jerky is one of our favorites (Keith's recipe is amazing). I had such a blast yesterday that I may just leave it out and see what else I can dry out. (Am I the only one who thinks this is fun? I sure hope not.)

Well, Angie, I have good news! With a little bit of trial and error (burning), I have a couple new veggie snacks for you to try! And I don't know if you've priced these things at the store, but the cost of kale chips and these other "all natural" vegetable chips is ridiculous. Check out this giant bag of fresh kale (pictured with my mixer for size reference) I got for $3. I roasted some, dehydrated some, and burned some and I still have half a bag left in the fridge! You'll make up the cost of the dehydrator in a couple days by making your own snacks. Plus, it goes along with the adage "Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish, and you have fed him for a lifetime." This is so easy, so make your own!
Here's what I found to work best:

Kale and Spinach - mist with truffle oil or olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, roast in oven at 200 degrees for 15 minutes. Dehydrator works well, too, but the flavor isn't as pronounced.

Tomatoes - slice and place in single layer on dehydrator for 3-4 hours. Yummy! This works even for those winter grocery store tomatoes -- I can't wait to try this in the summer. Amazing, concentrated flavor, much like sun dried.

Bell peppers - mist with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and place in single layer in dehydrator for 4-5 hours. These will be great on salads!

Onions - whoa Nelly! Dehydrated for 3-4 hours, these are so strong and concentrated, they'll clear your sinuses. Right into the garbage! I'll try some other methods and get back to you.

Rutabagas - 4-5 hours in the dehydrator worked well. Blanch for 3 minutes first. The thicker the slices, the more leathery they'll be (versus crispy). I did some with a vegetable peeler and liked the curly end result.

Beets - first of all, put on an apron! My kitchen looked like a crime scene, but the result was worth it. I sliced these with a veggie peeler to get them as thin as possible. They came out nicely in both the oven and the dehydrator, but I preferred them blanched for 3 minutes then roasted at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Watch them closely so they don't burn! These taste a lot like potato chips, a little sweet, a little salty. So good....and pretty!

Broccoli - Blanch for 3 minutes, mist with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and dehydrate for about 4 hours (will depend on the size of your florets). SO YUMMY. I was shocked at how good and crunchy these were. Right up there with the tomatoes and beets as my favorites.

Apples - Medium slices in the dehydrator for 4-5 hours yields delicious, concentrated, apple-pie-like flavor with a chewy texture.

Jerky - choose a lean cut of beef (anything with loin or round in the name is usually lean - London broil is a top round cut). Slice thinly and marinate in the seasonings of your choice (watch the salt!), then place in dehydrator for 6-8 hours or overnight. Delicious and full of lean protein!

Phew! My hands are stained with beet juice, there are veggie shavings all over the floor, and I have broccoli in my hair. All in all, a great day! But I'd be remiss not to share my words of caution about this little experiment. What I did yesterday was simply take the water out of most of this food, therefore concentrating not only the flavor, but also the calories. This isn't really that big of a deal for leafy greens like kale (that entire 1-pound bag in the photo above only has 200 calories, so roast away!). However, see what happened to the rutabagas? Even though they have about 1/3 the calories and carbs of a potato, you probably don't want to eat all you can eat. Same goes for apples. Think about it this way -- which will satisfy you more, 20 grapes or 20 raisins? My answer will always be the higher volume of food with the lowest caloric impact, but yours might be the more intense flavors in smaller portions. Your choice, just be warned!

Pull out your dehydrators or set your ovens on low and let me know what you come up with! And Angie, I really miss you! Come visit me and we'll dehydrate a bunch of stuff. Yippee!

The Svelte Gourmet: A Month of Main Courses cookbook is available at www.thesveltegourmet.com/products.html. Enjoy!


d$ said...

what temperatures do you recommend for dehydrating these veggies and fruits. I just got a Nesco American Harvest and I am trying to get used to dehydrating times/temps...these all sound really good and fairly easy!

The Svelte Gourmet said...

I have a Nesco, too, and I just used the setting that said vegetables on the dial. I think it was one of the middle ones. For the beef jerky, I used the highest setting. Good luck!