Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Dried Fruit Slices

The first things I decided to dehydrate in my new Excalibur were simple: Apples, oranges, and pears. I had them available, and they are so  easy to dehydrate, I though it would be a good place to start.

My Excalibur model has a handy guide right on the top of the dehydrator that explains which temperatures items should be dried at (fruits do well at 135 degrees Fahrenheit). I sliced the apples and pears on the thin side with just a chef's knife (no mandoline this time... I didn't feel like dirty-ing up another piece of equipment) and I cored the apples down the center to make "rings." For both the apples and pears, I dipped them in lemon juice before placing on the dehydrator trays to maintain color (prevent browning). The oranges I sliced a bit thicker, as I plan on using them both in cooking, infusing, and crafting.

Thankfully, my new dehydrator has a timer. That means I was able to "set it and forget it!" and turn it on, go to bed, and wake up in the morning to perfectly dried fruit slices. I left the dehydrator on for six hours, and that seemed to do the trick. Everything was dry, but not brittle. I stored each variety of fruit in mason jars that are in my pantry in the moment. For longer-term storage, I would put them in reusable, freezer-safe containers and store the in the freezer (for up to a year).

I'm looking forward to drying more produce, like beet and carrot chips to add to winter salads. Do you have any uses for your dehydrated produce? I'd love some ideas!

This post is sponsored by Excalibur. To check out their complete line of products, please visit their website. Thank you for understanding the purpose of these types of posts, dear readers!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Choosing a Dehydrator

5-Tray Excalibur w/Timer
(this is my model, the 5-tray with a Timer, in black)
My Christmas wishes were answered! I'm pleased to say I'm now proud owner of a sparkling new Excalibur dehydrator. And I've got to tell you... this thing is a champ. I can't wait to share with you the results of my efforts. Before embarking on my dehydrating projects, I asked a few friends who are experienced food-drying pros what they look for in choosing a dehydrator.

My pal Pirate Jeni (of, "I turned my old Papasan chair into a container garden" fame) said that she had a lower-end model once that had a heat source "that looks kind of like a hair dryer shoved into the stack of trays." It didn't dry her food evenly. The model she has now did not cost a lot of money, but having a top fan heat source made a ton of difference for her.

My From Scratch Club buddy and all-around superwoman, Heather, is also a fan of Excalibur (she uses the 9-tray model). She said she had a plastic dehydrator of a different brand that someone gave her, but found that upgrading to a more serious model was a great investment - the plastic model became brittle and broke apart after continued use. Heather really likes that her Excalibur allows her to adjust the shelves so she can dry things like kale (which doesn't lay flat when raw) and that she can lower the temperature and maintain a level of "rawness" in her dehydrated items.

I also asked the lovely folks at Excalibur what I should look for when choosing a dehydrator. The most important things to look for, according the Excalibur, are good air circulation paired with a self-adjusting thermostat to create a "dried from the inside-out" environment. If you plan on making jerky or dehydrating other forms of meat, be sure your dehydrator says it is approved to dry meat. Some models may not have high enough temperature levels to kill the bacteria in raw meat, so look out!

So if you are also thinking of buying a dehydrator, look for the following features:

- A top fan to create an even dehydrating environment

- Adjustable shelves so you can dehydrate bulky things

- Multiple temperature settings to create different levels of dryness (things can be "dried" but still "raw")

- "Approve to dehydrate meat" language in the model description

- Horizontal airflow to ensure that each item in your dehydrator has proper air circulation

Thankfully, my model has all these features! Stay tuned for more dehydrating posts! Do you have a dehydrator? What model do you have? Any suggestions for buying a dehydrator?

This post is sponsored by Excalibur. To check out their complete line of products, please visit their website.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A New Year

Pinned Image

"You don't know anyone at the party, so you don't want to go. You don't like cottage cheese, so you haven't eaten it in years. This is your choice, of course, but don't kid yourself; it's also the flinch.

"Your personality is not set in stone. You may think a morning coffee is the most enjoyable thing in the world, but it's really just a habit. Thirty days without it, and you would be fine. You think you have a soul mate. but in fact you could have had any number of spouses. You would have evolved differently, but been just as happy.

"You can change what you want about yourself at any time. You see yourself as someone who can't write or play an instrument, who gives in to temptation or makes bad decisions, but that's really not you. It's not ingrained. It's not your personality. Your personality is something else, something deeper that just preferences, and these details on the surface, you can change anytime you like.

"If it is useful to do so, you must abandon your identity and start again. Sometimes, it's the only way.

"Set fire to your old self. It's not needed here. It's too busy shopping, gossiping about others, and watching days go by and asking why you haven't gotten as far as you'd like. This old self will die and be forgotten by all but family, and replaced by someone who makes a difference.

"Your new self is not like that. Your new self is the Great Chicago Fire - overwhelming, overpowering, and destroying everything that isn't necessary."

-Julien Smith

Sending you all the best wishes for a joyous, healthy, peaceful, and prosperous 2013!