Friday, July 29, 2011

Food Storage Friendly Friday – Recipe Idea and Tip of the Week

One of the first posts I ever did when I started doing this blog was on how much I love my dehydrator(s). I use them all the time to preserve extras and to save fresh food for later use.

I have a great tip for you today that uses your dehydrator to save time in your food preparation. The tip is to dry cooked rice. It is great, especially if you use a rice cooker, to cook a big batch of rice then dry what you don’t use for other meals. When you are ready to use it all you have to do is add hot water and allow to sit for about 10 minutes to rehydrate it and it is ready to go. You can keep it stored in vacuum seal bags so that you can take it on camping trips, include it with a take-in meal to a friend, or just pull it out for a last minute meal. If you make your vacuum sealing bags a little larger than needed you can wash them out after use to be reused/sealed again (and again.) I know that when I cook a big batch of rice I am scrambling to find ways to use the extras, now you can dry them and use them later instead.

This is a great time of year when gardens start producing and you can make meals out of what you have grown. One thing that is really great is being able to preserve the “extra” and save it for later. I’ve always been an avid canner but now I love dehydrating vegetables just as much. The number one reason for this is the ease of storing in MUCH less space.

One of my favorite ways to dehydrate is shredding. I’ve talked before about the versatility of shredded vegetables. So far I have posted info on dried shredded, carrots and potatoes but today I want to discuss shredding and drying squash, specifically zucchini. In the past I’ve always shredded zucchini and measured it out in 2 cup bags for our favorite zucchini recipes. Sometimes it’s gotten neglected in the back of the freezer or I forget it’s there until I want to make zucchini bread then I have to hunt for it.

By shredding the zucchini I not only free up freezer space, I can store it in a very small area and have it ready to go in no time. Not only that, I have found so many different recipes calling for shredded zucchini that I love making. It is also a quick addition to minestrone soup, Alfredo sauce, tomato based sauces, muffins, quick bread or any other recipe that calls for zucchini. My favorite part of all is that it is so quick and easy to dry and preserve your zucchini for later use, takes hardly any time at all!

Today I am sharing the way I dry shredded zucchini as well as my favorite recipes to use it. If you have leftover zucchini, don’t give it all away, dehydrate it and see how many ways you can find to use it in the coming months.

Simply wash the zucchini, cut off the ends, and grate. I use a salad shooter to shred and it takes just minutes. No need to peel or remove seeds unless you are using larger zucchini, then you can cut out the center where the seeds are and peel it if the peel is too tough. Spread the zucchini shreds on your dehydrator trays and dry at a low temperature if you have a thermostat or regulator. The zucchini is dry when it is brittle. Dry pack in Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers or vacuum seal.

When you are ready to use the shreds in a recipe, just use 1/3 cup of shredded zucchini for each cup of zucchini called for in your recipe. You can add it directly to the batter or if you prefer, soak in it hot water and drain before adding to your bread or whatever. Such a convenient way to store ready-to-use zucchini. If you wish to increase your family’s nutrition add zucchini to pancakes (grind it into powder if you wish, use in spaghetti sauce or other tomato based sauces or add to any soup, stew or casserole and your family will never know the difference.

I am including my favorite zucchini brownie recipe. No one who has tasted this knows there is zucchini in it. A great disguise. Also including my favorite zucchini bread recipes as well as a favorite casserole dish too. No more frozen zucchini hiding in the back of your freezer!

Chocolaty Zucchini Brownies
½ c. oil
1 ½ c. sugar
2 t. vanilla
2 c. flour
1/3 c. cocoa (less or more if you wish)
1 ½ t. soda
½ t. salt
2 c. shredded zucchini (substitute 2/3 c. dried shredded zucchini soaked for 10 minutes in hot water and drained well)
½ c. chopped nuts (optional)
6 T. cocoa (or less)
¼ c. butter
2 c. powdered sugar
¼ c. milk
½ t. vanilla
Combine oil, sugar and vanilla. Mix dry ingredients together and stir. Add to sugar mixture. Stir in zucchini and nuts, if used. Combine well. Spread into a sprayed 9x13” pan. Bake at 350º for 25-30 minutes. For frosting: Stir and melt together cocoa and butter; cool slightly. Blend in 2 c. powdered sugar, milk and vanilla. Beat well. Frost brownies and top with shredded coconut or nuts if desired

Pineapple Zucchini Bread
3 eggs
1 c. oil
2 c. sugar
2 t. vanilla
2 c. grated zucchini
1 (8 oz.) can crushed pineapple drained well
3 c. flour
1 t. salt
1 ½ t. cinnamon
2 t. soda
½ t. baking powder
¾ c. nutmeg
1 c. nuts
1 c. raisins (optional)
Mix well and bake in 2 small loaf pans at 350º for 1 hour

Chocolate Zucchini Bread
3 eggs
1 c. oil
2 c. sugar
1 T. vanilla
2c. shredded zucchini, packed (substitute 2/3 c. dried shredded zucchini soaked in hot water for 10 minutes and drained well)
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
Mix together eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla. Add zucchini. Stir in flour, cocoa, salt, cinnamon, baking soda and baking powder. Mix well. Bake in 2 greased loaf pans at 350º for one hour or until done.
Then give a loaf to the kind soul who gave you the zucchini!

4 eggs, beaten
½ c vegetable oil
1 c. biscuit mix
1 can (4 oz.) chopped green chilies, undrained
1 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 c. (8 oz.) shredded cheese, divided
4 c. coarsely chopped summer squash or zucchini or a combination of both, diced fine (replace with 2/3 c. dried shredded zucchini or summer squash, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes.
Combine eggs, oil and biscuit mix. Stir in chilies, onion and garlic and half the cheese. Stir in squash. Pour into greased 13x9” pan. Bake at 350º for 40 minutes. Sprinkle with reserved cheese and bake 5 minutes more. Y: 8-10 servings.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Whole Wheat Wednesday and One-Ingredient Ice Cream

It has been an interesting week. I’ve had a chance to visit with a friend I have not really visited with for years. I have also done some reading; considering all the yard work, painting projects and other things I have had going on, that is amazing in and of itself.

One thing that I learned this weekend is that there seems to be a sense of awareness (I almost used the word panic) about preparedness. More than one person has stated they have had strong premonitions or promptings – I have heard both words used – about the coming winter and the financial “condition” this nation is in. More than one person told me, just this weekend alone, that they are gearing up for what they believe is going to be a long, cold and difficult winter. Interesting. Another said she feels there is a “time limit” for her to get prepared, with food on her shelves and enough fuel to get her through the winter. I also read that at a family reunion this past month, one father told his children and grandchildren that he was insisting that each of them have a 6 month (minimum) food storage on their shelves before October. That is quite a request.

This has made me think a lot about the coming winter. With such a tough growing season throughout the whole country, it is not surprising that there is more of an awareness now about food shortages and cold weather trauma. One lady mentioned a dream she had about an early hard freeze that left crops still in the fields. Scary! I don’t even like to think about that but with all the strange weather we’ve had this year it could happen. If something like this did happen, it would affect everyone, not just those who live in farming areas, but anyone who eats.

I’m struggling with using more food storage lately. Maybe it is the heat and my lack of desire to cook, but it’s been a tough summer for trying to incorporate more food storage. Nothing sounds good and it seems like a lot of extra work. One good way to use food storage without really trying though is in pancakes or waffles. Bonus: it doesn’t heat up your kitchen much.

One of the first ways I ever used whole wheat was in waffles and pancakes. I love the blender whole wheat pancakes and they are an old standby when I don’t have any whole wheat ground and am in a hurry. I love them. I also love mixes. Homemade mixes taste so much fresher than the mixes you buy and it’s great to be able to whip up a batch of waffles in a hurry.

This is a great recipe that uses several whole grains. The whole wheat flour to white flour ratio is 2 to 1 in this recipe. Adjust it as you wish but I love this ratio. Toasting the wheat germ and oat bran enhances the flavors or you can purchase them already toasted. You can buy these in bulk for just pennies without having to buy a large quantity if you wish.

I also love that this recipe uses buttermilk powder as well. My mom always used buttermilk powder in her pancakes and waffles when I was a child and I still love pancakes or waffles made with it. You can purchase it in large quantities or smaller containers in almost any grocery store. There are several different brands as well.

This recipe makes a large quantity of mix. If you have limited space in your fridge you can easily cut the recipe in half. These waffles are great served with fresh fruit and there are so many fruits available right now. Give this one a try; I think you’ll like it.

Whole-Wheat Waffle Mix Recipe
Y: 40 Servings
8 c. whole wheat flour
4 c. all-purpose flour
2 c. toasted wheat germ *to toast: toast on a baking sheet at 375°F for 5- 7 minutes until lightly brown
2 c. toasted oat bran *to toast: toast on a baking sheet at 375°F for 5- 7 minutes until lightly brown
2 c. buttermilk powder
6 T. baking powder
4 t. baking soda
2 t. salt

For Waffles:

2 c. waffle mix
2 eggs
1 c. water
2 T. canola oil
2 T. honey
In a large bowl, combine the first eight ingredients. You can buy toasted wheat germ and toasted oat bran or you can quickly toast your own. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 6 months. Yield: 17 c. mix (about 8 batches). Recipe can be halved.
To make waffles: Place 2 c. waffle mix in a bowl. Combine eggs, water, oil and honey; stir into waffle mix just until moistened. Bake in a preheated waffle iron according to manufacturer's directions until golden brown. Yield: 5 waffles (about 6”) per batch. *Note: Look for buttermilk blend powder next to the powdered milk in your grocery store.

I’m also including a fun ice cream recipe that has only 1 ingredient. Bananas. If you have not tried this, you must. I’ve had this recipe in my file for a long time but didn’t think I’d really ever make it. It was a great alternative to making banana bread and heating up the house. I was a skeptic when I heard of this and I’m not a banana lover in the first place, so I had to try it and see if it worked. It did and it was good. There are so many things you could add to this. Try it for yourself.

Banana Soft Serve “Ice Cream”
You can freeze this “ice cream” if you want but it’s best eaten immediately.
2 large very ripe bananas
¼ t. vanilla Optional
Peel bananas and slice into ½”discs. Arrange banana slices in a single layer on a parchment or wax paper covered baking sheet. Cover with wax paper or parchment. Freeze 9-10 hours until solidly frozen.
Puree banana slices in food processor until chunky, scraping down the bowl as needed. Continue to puree, scraping sides and bottom of processor until the mixture reaches a smooth, soft serve-like consistency. Add vanilla, if desired. Serve immediately. For a variation: blend in a few Tablespoons of Nutella, peanut butter or chocolate sauce if desired. I plan to slice a couple of strawberries into the mix next time.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Stocking Up - A Book Review

Several years ago we got to know an elderly couple who lived in our community that we had not met before. They had very little money and were very self sufficient. The wife was suffering from all kinds of ailments, had been through countless surgeries and had lots and lots of medical bills; they spent most of their discretionary money on medications for her. Of course, they got social security checks each month and had Medicare, but it was never enough.

We developed a close relationship with this couple and grew to love them very much. They were such down-to-earth folks and just good people. Many people in the community looked down on them because they were “poor”, kept to themselves because of her health problems, they didn’t belong to the local church which almost everyone else in the community belonged to, and he had what I once overheard described as, “a nasty tobacco chewing habit”. Those who didn’t get to know them missed out big-time.

This man grew a humongous garden every year even though he was past 80 years old and they had chickens and a cow. They didn’t need much from the grocery store. They lived in a little bitty trailer house and the man who was very ingenious, had built a make-shift air conditioner to keep them cool and make a cool area to store their fresh produce and eggs.

These two were such an inspiration to me because of their ingenuity but even more so because of their desire to share whatever they had. They have both passed away now but I’ll never forget the time spent with them, their generosity, and ingenuity and to this day I still have several things that she made for me.

She was always telling me how they did things or how things were done when they lived in Kansas. One day she showed me an old book that she had that she claimed helped her to know how to do all these things that are now lost arts. She said this book helped her know how to prepare and preserve the things they grew and produced. I ordered my own copy of this book and it has been a great help in my preparation.

“Stocking Up: The Third Edition of The Classic Preserving Guide” by Carol Hupping and the Staff of the Rodale Food Center.

This book is about 630 pages and is a great guide to help you do almost anything. It contains comprehensive information on preserving Vegetable and fruit, including growing, harvesting, freezing, canning, drying and storing. There is a section on pickles and relishes, containing instructions for pickling almost anything you can imagine.

There is a section of James, jellies and fruit butters and also making, and preserving juices and ciders. There are lots of recipes as well as illustrations.

The section on Dairy Foods tells about freezing milk and cream, preserving eggs in several different methods and making homemade butter, cheeses and yogurts as well as ice creams.

One of the most interesting sections to me was the Meat, poultry and fish section. So many different instructions for everything from growing your own live food storage to butchering, preparing wild game and making pressed meats. You can learn how to preserve all your meat using different canning and drying methods. Lots of information on different kinds of fish is also included.

There is also a section on nuts, seeds, grains and sprouts with many recipes and suggestions for using your grains in cooking, grinding and sprouting. I love the fact that I can’t think of a question I have ever had about any kind of preserving that I didn’t find an answer to in this book.

If you are new to canning, or preserving, or just want a good reference book to help you in any of your self sufficiency needs, this is a great book to check out. If you’d like to check it out, here is a link on where you can take a peek inside this book. At around $15 it’s a great deal.

Note: I don't know if Borders Bookstore carries this, but as they are having their going out of business sale now, you may want to check there for a good deal!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Whole Wheat Wednesday - Dinner Rolls

In our quest to use more whole wheat in our cooking and baking, I can’t think of a better way to start than with dinner rolls. Who doesn’t love hot rolls with butter and jam or honey? Think fresh strawberry jam here. They are great with a meal, leftover as a snack or for a quick sandwich. And who doesn’t love a quick and easy recipe? I sure do. This recipe is easy and can be adapted to as much whole wheat flour as you want. Start with half whole wheat flour/half white flour and give them a try. I also like to use honey in place of the sugar (about 1/3 c. honey), but they are good either way.

These rolls work up quickly, rise fast and have a great texture. This recipe is made for use in a Kitchen Aid and makes 1 baking sheet of rolls. It can easily be doubled to make 2 pans and give you enough for sandwiches the next day. If you wish, you can double the recipe, use half the dough for rolls and make cinnamon or orange rolls with the rest. This dough also makes great sandwich pocket bread not to mention great scones.

Rapid Rise Wheat Rolls
5 ¼ c. flour (part white and part whole wheat flour)
3 T. SAF INSTANT yeast
¼ c. sugar
1 ½ t. salt
1 ¾ c. warm water
½ c. oil
2 eggs
Combine thoroughly, 2 c. flour, dry yeast, sugar and salt. Mix warm water, oil and slightly beaten eggs. Add egg mixture to dry ingredients. Beat thoroughly and let the dough “sponge” for about 5-10 minutes. Then add about 3 ¼ cups remaining flour. Dough should be slightly sticky. Knead on floured board about 5 times. Melt ¼ c. butter and spread on 15x10” baking sheet. Pinch off dough balls for the rolls; dip dough top-side-down in melted butter; turn over and place on the baking sheet leaving ½” space between rolls and sides of the baking sheet. This will fill one pan with rolls. Put pan of rolls in pre-heated 170º oven for 10 minutes. Remove rolls from oven. Preheat oven to 425º. The rolls should have risen enough to fill all the spaces and be above the rim of the baking sheet by about 1-2”. Bake the rolls for 10 minutes or until golden brown on top.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Yummy Ice Cream without an Ice Cream Maker

I'm not talking about food storage today. Except for the kind that you eat and it is stored on your waistline. Today is our 36th wedding anniversary and we had big plans. Well maybe just little plans for the anniversary and the whole weekend in fact. Then my husband had to work. Bummer I know but he ended up working 3 of his 4 days off. So, I'm making ice cream and cleaning house.

He is an awesome man and I love him so much. He has always been such a hard worker and a great example. I'm so glad that I married him. Best decision I ever made!

So, since it's my anniversary and I can do what I want because I'm home alone, I want to share a recipe that has nothing to do with food storage. I’ve been having so much fun this summer making different kinds of ice creams and I’d like to share a quick and easy recipe that doesn’t require an ice cream maker. I used to make these easy ice cream recipes years ago but I was pretty boring in my recipes; usually just chocolate or vanilla. There are so many fun add-ins these days and you can get wild and crazy with what you put in your ice cream if you want. You can tweak the basic recipe to add whatever you want or have on hand. The only thing I would say is that it really needs to freeze overnight. Mine doesn’t get as hard as other ice creams I make but when I told my husband that, he said he thought it was a lot like soft ice cream that you get when you buy cones in different places. Anyway, he said it’s one of his favorites. So here goes:

Quick and Easy Ice Cream
2 c. heavy cream
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 T. butter (makes it very creamy)
½ c. Nutella
1 c. mini (½“) peanut butter cups or chop larger cups
Roasted sliced or slivered almonds (didn’t add these but will next time)
Whip cream till stiff. Whisk together sweetened condensed milk, melted butter and Nutella. Fold in desired add-ins and fold in whipped cream gradually. Put in a sealed container and freeze 8 hours or overnight. The basic recipe is just the cream, sweetened condensed milk and butter. From there you can add anything you like.

Suggested variations: start with sweetened condensed milk and add in your favorite fruits, syrups, topping or whatever you like. Stir in your choice of chopped fruit, nuts, chip, chopped candy bars, brownies or whatever you like. A fun idea is to let the ice cream freeze for a few hours, then stir in a little of the magic shell topping in kind of a marbled way and you’ll have crunchy chocolate mixed in with your ice cream.

This recipe called for Nutella and peanut butter chips but I used the teeny tiny peanut butter cups instead and they are so good.

Cinnamon Vanilla: To the sweetened condensed milk add 3 T. melted butter, ½ t. cinnamon and ½ t. vanilla extract for a cinnamon vanilla ice cream. Note: I have to admit I was skeptical about the melted butter but you never know it’s there and it makes the ice cream so rich and smooth.

Cherry-chocolate: Stir some cherry pie filling into your milk, 2 T. melted butter, add ¼ t. almond extract (optional) and chocolate chips a delicious cherry chocolate ice cream.

S’mores: Add crushed graham cracker crumbs, chocolate syrup, mini marshmallows (or marshmallow cream stirred in only slightly so you have a marbled effect). Try some chocolate magic shell after a few hours of freezing.

Cookies and cream: Stir in 3 T. butter, crushed Oreos and ½ t. – 1 t. vanilla extract to your sweetened condensed milk.

If you have made this or do make it, I’d love to hear of any variations you try. Can’t wait to make this again!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Food Storage Friendly Friday - Meal Idea and Tip of the Week

I am curious as to how many people take vitamins. It used to be that a One-A-Day vitamin was on everyone’s breakfast plate; I think that was back when we ate healthier, foods contained less preservatives and more nutrition. So now that we live such a rushed and hurried life with the availability of fast foods and less time for healthy cooking I wonder if we are really getting the nutrition we need.

One of the things we are advised to do is to store vitamins. Not just any vitamins, but ones that actually dissolve and are absorbed into your system and help to make you healthier. You will pay a little more for really good vitamins but your health may benefit from it, especially if you live a stressful busy life, and who doesn’t.

My tip today is to store vitamins for your family BUT ONLY if you are taking them daily and rotating them. If you stick vitamins in your storage and forget about them, you are wasting your money. They need to be rotated regularly. Old vitamins aren’t much better than no vitamins.

One option that we have found in our diets is a healthy “green drink”. It is absolutely filled with nutrition and every vitamin and mineral you can imagine. It isn’t the best tasting but the health benefits are abundant. I can’t recommend this enough if you want to get more nutrition without eating a lot of extra food. The biggest plus is that because it is in powder form, it goes immediately into your system. It is called Green Vibrance and if you are interested in this nutrition supplement, here is a link so you can check it out and see all the fabulous things that are in it.

I’m still trying new recipes using food storage. This one is a “bean” recipe. I thought it was interesting. This recipe uses canned or cooked white beans. It makes for a moist bread and you can’t taste the beans at all. If you are looking for a way to incorporate more beans or fiber in your diet this may be it. The older I get the more interested I am in incorporating more nutrition into my diet without having to actually eat more food. This is a good way to start.

White Bean Banana Nut Bread

1 ¾ c. sifted all-purpose flour
2 t. baking powder
¼ t. baking soda
½ t. salt
1/3 c. shortening
2/3 c. granulated sugar
2 eggs, well-beaten
1 c. mashed, ripe bananas, peeled
1 t. vanilla extract
1 c. canned or cooked white beans, pureed (great northern)
½ c. chopped pecans or walnuts
Preheat oven to 350º. Puree beans and mash bananas. Sift together dry ingredients; cream shortening and sugar together. Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition add vanilla and mix well. Add flour mixture alternating with bananas and beans, beating well after each addition. Stir in nuts. Pour into a greased mini loaf pans. Bake about 20-25 minutes (depending on the size of your pans) or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean and the bread is golden brown. Let cool in pans for 5 minutes then remove to a baking rack to cool completely. If using a single loaf pan bake for about 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Y: 4 small mini loafs or one large loaf
Note: To puree the beans add them to a blender with a tablespoon or two of water. Blend until smooth. Store unused beans in a zip lock freezer bag and store in the freezer.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Whole Wheat Wednesday

Wednesday is our day to focus on using whole wheat. If you have any favorite uses or recipes for using whole wheat, please email them to me at I have already gotten some fun recipes and ideas.

One of the first things to know when you begin using more whole wheat in your recipes and meal planning is that you don’t have to start with 100% whole wheat in your recipes. If you have a favorite recipe that you love to make and are a bit afraid of how whole wheat will change it, start with substituting just ¼ of the amount of flour called for with whole wheat flour. This will make such a small difference that people who aren’t looking may not even notice. The best place to start using more whole wheat flour is in cookies or cakes. It really doesn’t show up much.

We talked about making your own whole wheat pasta but another fun way to use whole wheat is in homemade tortillas. Fresh homemade tortillas are such a treat and so different than tortillas you buy that you will love the taste and adding some whole wheat flour will be a great way to learn to love cooking with whole wheat. Try adding whole wheat flour to the recipe below. Start with 1 c. whole wheat flour and 3 cups white flour if you are hesitant then add more whole wheat until you find your favorite ratio.

Flour Tortillas
4 cups white or whole wheat flour or half each
1 ½ t. salt
1 ½ t. powder (optional)
1/3 c. shortening
1 to 1 ¼ c. water
Combine flour, salt and baking powder. Baking powder makes tortillas lighter, even if you roll them a little thick. Cut in the shortening with a pastry cutter or 2 knives. When flour is crumbly, add water. Stir the dough with your fork until dough forms a ball. Add extra water (start with just a bit) if the dough is too dry. When the dough forms a ball, knead it about 20 times. Let dough rest in the bowl for about 10 minutes. Form it into 10 or 12 equal size balls. On a well floured surface, roll each ball into a thin disc to a 6-7” circle; no need to be perfectly round, but the thinner the better. Loosen the tortilla from the rolling surface. Flop it onto a dry, hot skillet. Cook about 30 seconds, until the bottom side is dry, with a few brown spots. Flip it and cook the other side the same way. Transfer the cooked tortilla to a plate, and repeat until all tortillas are cooked. Use them the same way you would store-bought tortillas: burritos, soft tacos, etc. Use immediately or reheat a few seconds in the microwave to soften tortillas for easier rolling.*Notes: The first few times you make these, you will need 30 to 40 minutes for the whole procedure. With practice the time will be cut in half soon. Homemade tortillas are not as flexible as store-bought tortillas. To make them more flexible, place them in a plastic bag while still warm, and let them cool right there in the bag. The steam will make them more pliable, and easier to roll up into fancy burrito shapes. Use them this way immediately. This recipe makes about a dozen tortillas

Whole Wheat Tortilla Fruit Nachos
Here is a fun way to use tortillas in the summer with the abundance of fresh berries or any fresh fruit. Simply cut cooked tortillas into wedges. Dip each wedge into water and place in a single layer on a wire rack that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray and placed on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar. Turn tortilla triangles over and sprinkle other side generously. Place coated tortilla triangles in a 400º oven and bake 5 minutes, then turn triangles over. Cook another 5 to 8 minutes, until lightly browned and crispy, watching closely the last few minutes so as not to burn. Remove from oven and cool.

Top the sweet tortilla chips with your choice of berries, top with your favorite raspberry, boysenberry, lemon or strawberry sauce (any ice cream topping will work great), melted white chocolate or milk chocolate or sprinkle with any of your favorite toppings, such as a light dusting of powdered sugar, sliced almonds, more cinnamon and sugar or fresh coconut or canned whipped cream. You can use anything you like in any combination for fun appetizers at a barbecue or family get together. Even just plain berries, slightly sweetened to taste, will be great all by themselves.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Fruit for food storage – Fruit Leather

Making your own fruit leather or fruit roll-ups is easy to do. There are no rules and anything will work. There are just a couple of things to remember.

First of all, the flavor intensifies when it is dried. So, if you want to add a little sweetener to your fruits you can but know that it will taste sweeter dried than it does when you put it on the trays. Remember the sweeter the fruit is the longer it will take to dry.

Second, you can do anything you want to with your fruit leathers. Add cinnamon or other spices or flavorings if you want. Vanilla and almond or other extracts can also be added. Experiment until you find your own preferences and then write down what you do so you have your own recipes for future use.

Third, when preparing the puree’s to dry, you can add juice or water to make the fruit easier to blend or puree’ but remember the more water you add the less strong the flavor will be and the longer it will take to dry. Taste the fruit after you puree to see if you need to sweeten or flavor at all.

Fourth, before spreading leather on your drying trays, spray them with cooking spray and then wipe off any extra so that the leather can be easily removed from the sheet without tearing. I like to turn the fruit leather over once during the drying process (just my personal opinion) but this makes it easier.

Here are some fun options for drying:

Apples: Process in a food processor or blender, adding liquid if necessary until you reach a smooth consistency. Add spices or flavorings as desired. Spread ¼” thick on lightly oiled drying trays and dry 8 -12 hours or until leather will peel easily off the sheet. Drying time depends on the thickness of the sheet of fruit and the sugar content of the puree.

Applesauce: the applesauce that is flavored works great. You can make applesauce for drying using 1 lb. apples, cored and chopped, 1 c. water or apple cider or juice and cinnamon to taste. Simmer until apples are tender and then puree.

Berries: Puree berries using a little water, orange juice concentrate or other fruit juice. You can also add applesauce to your berries to puree. If desired simmer fruit a bit in the liquid to soften before pureeing and placing on drying trays. Any combination of berries is great. Taste before drying and add sweetener if needed or fruit flavored syrups, extracts or cinnamon, if desired.

I have never made banana leather but you certainly can if you love bananas. Just puree with some fruit juice, apple or pineapple – this helps prevent darkening and spread on drying trays. Know that this leather will be very sticky and thicker than others and will take longer to dry, but kids love it.

Rhubarb: (My personal Favorite) 4 c. chopped (1” pieces) fresh rhubarb, 4 c. boiling water, ½ c. brown sugar and 1 t. ground cinnamon. In heatproof bowl combine rhubarb and the 4 c. boiling water. Let stand for 10 minutes. This softens the rhubarb and removes some of the acidity. In blender puree the softened rhubarb in batches. Add sugar and cinnamon. Taste and adjust flavorings as needed. Puree until smooth. Pour on trays and dry until sheet can be turned over. Dry to desired consistency – chewy to slightly crispy. If desired, add a can of cherry pie filling to blender and puree with rhubarb for a sweet and wonderful flavor.

Apricot, peach or pear leather: These are family favorites. I like to peel the fruits but peeling is optional. Puree diced fruit with a little water or pineapple juice (the pineapple juice helps prevent discoloration). When a smooth consistency is reached, taste for flavor, and pour on trays and dry.

Melon leather: Some people love melon leather, others don’t. If you have an overripe melon that you don’t want to eat, give this a try. Just remove seeds and puree. Remember because of the water content of the melon, it takes longer to dry.

Canned or frozen fruit leather: Canned fruit makes wonderful leather. Canned fruit has already been sweetened so it is ready to go. Drain the juice from the fruit, puree and spread on trays. It is so easy to do. If you have frozen fruit in your freezer that you need to use, consider making it into fruit leather; just blend or process in food processor and puree till smooth. Sweetening as needed; just remember it will taste sweeter dry than it tastes in puree form.

Fruit Leather from Juice: You can also make fruit leather from juice. Frozen juice concentrates can be spread on drying trays and dried. If you have a juicer in your kitchen, juice different fruits and vegetables and make them into leather. Any combination will work. Try carrot juice with apples, grapes (a great way to use grapes that are too soft to eat) or cucumbers. (The carrot juice is so sweet when dried). Add some spinach or any berries you wish. This is a great way to use fruit that is a little too ripe and vegetables that your kids would not ordinarily eat. The great thing about this is that when you dry the juiced fruits and veggies, the flavors intensify and become wonderful as a healthy snack.

Have fun making leather. Experiment with different combinations of juice and fruit. Mix with fruit pie fillings for different flavors and consistencies. Dry Jell-O powder also adds flavor and color in place of sugar and is fun to experiment with. Have a favorite fruit leather combo that you make? Tell us about it.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Food Storage Friendly Friday - Good Water

I am always trying to find beverages that are adaptable to food storage. I’m not very good at drinking water and I think if water was all I had it would be hard for me. Okay, I know I should and I could drink more water than what I do but it is a hard thing for me.

I recently found a beverage that could be easily adapted to combine both the benefits of water and also provide a break from the “ho hum nothing to drink but water” syndrome. This is such a great summertime beverage regardless of why you drink it. It is simple and refreshing and I love this drink.

I’ve seen several versions of this drink on the internet lately. Some call it citrus water, some call it good water, it’s been called lemon water and some even call it water citrus punch. I think the name “good water” fits because it is and I really like it. In fact, I crave it. The heat this past week has caused me to drink a LOT of it.

The first batch I made was way too sweet and I made an orange flavor instead of the traditional lemon. I tried it with oranges, lemons and limes. I’ve used lemon or orange extract and lemon and orange oil. It’s good anyway you make it. I started drinking water with lemon essential oil in it at the suggestion of a health care professional a few years ago to strengthen my kidneys (it cleans the kidneys and is good for them).

I have decided that as much as I like this drink I will keep the ingredients on hand so I can have it any time. It calls for sliced lemons, limes or oranges and while they greatly enhance the flavor it can be made without the fresh fruit, but wouldn’t taste quite as fresh and good.

The citric acid can be purchased from a pharmacy, health food store or online. It was drastically cheaper at the health food store than anywhere else I looked. This was always a staple in punch when I was younger. Many foods contain citric acid. It is used to reduce spoilage in sprouting. It is used in canning, drying or freezing foods. It is also used to making some cheeses.

I will share the basic recipe as well as some variations for you to try. I hope you like it as much as I do. I usually make just half of a batch and keep a pitcher of it in the fridge.

Good Water
5 quarts water
2 c. sugar (Less if you like)
1 T. lemon extract (can substitute orange extract or lemon or orange oil – to use oil in place of extract, use about ¼ the amount of oil as you would extracts. Adjust to suit your taste. (I used about 25-30 drops of lemon oil for a half batch when I made it with oils)
1 T. citric acid
3 sliced lemons
Ice (if serving at a party, reunion or reception)
Store together, add sliced fruit and chill or add to a punchbowl with ice and sliced lemons, oranges or limes or any combo you wish.