Dehydrating

This is the coldest winter I can remember. I thought I just felt it more because we’ve relocated farther north (from southern Pennsylvania to northern New Jersey), but the locals tell us that this is the coldest winter on record for these parts. So while the heat runs constantly and everything in the garage freezes solid, I have discovered that keeping the dehydrator running and the kitchen cupboard doors open, our under-the-sink water pipes won’t freeze shut again (as they did a couple of days ago). So, I am dehydrating everything within reach. That appliance is running almost constantly!                                                                       Dehydrating

Dehydrating is so easy to do. Much more convenient than canning, in my opinion, and if you do it at a low temperature (I usually dehydrate at 105 – 107 degrees) the fruits and vegetables retain all the living enzymes of raw food. This is important if you want to get maximum nutrition for your effort. My Excalibur Dehydrator has a fan in the back that constantly blows warm air over all the trays, so I don’t need to babysit it and shuffle the trays around to get even air distribution as you would with a round stacked dehydrator with the fan at the top or bottom. Many times I load the dehydrator at night and in the morning everything is done to perfection. (I would highly recommend an Excalibur to anyone considering such a purchase). At this low temperature, it takes awhile longer to properly dehydrate, but I like things to be thoroughly dehydrated.  When I make chips I want them to be thin and crispy, not tough and chewy like leather. The secret is to slice the fruit and vegetables very thin using a mandolin or a very sharp knife if you have the patience — 1/8 inch thick or less is perfect.

In the photo you can see some of the things I’ve done so far. You can experiment with the seasonings you like, but I will tell you what I used and you can improvise from there.  I only use thoroughly washed organic produce because when dehydrating any chemicals in or on the food will be concentrated. Flavor is also concentrated when foods are dehydrated.  Notice that I did not use any sugar at all.  The natural sweetness of the fruit and vegetables is all you need.

The APPLE CHIPS were easy. Just thinly slice each apple, cut slices in half, remove core parts and any seeds, and lay slices in a single layer on the mesh dehydrator tray. You will get a lot of apple chips from one apple! Some people brush the apple slices with lemon to keep them white, but I don’t think it makes that much difference. Sometimes I sprinkle slices with cinnamon before dehydrating. This time I didn’t.

BANANA CHIPS were peeled, sliced very thin and laid in a single layer on the mesh tray. These I did sprinkle with cinnamon and they tasted great!

RED BEET CHIPS were a first for me. Once again I sliced the beets very thin. I made a marinade of 1/4 cup water, 1/4 cup Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar, and 1/2 tsp. Himalayan Pink Sea Salt. In a large bowl I gently tossed the slices in the marinade until they were evenly coated and let them sit for about a half hour, tossing a couple of times just to make sure each slice was flavored. Each beet, single layer not touching, made a full tray of chips!

SWEET POTATO CHIPS…so yummy! I scrubbed, but did not peel, the sweet potatoes. I cut off about 1/2 inch from each end, thinly sliced them, and placed the slices in a large bowl with 2 Tbsp. Extra virgin olive oil and 1 tsp. Himalayan Pink Salt. I gently tossed the slices until each one was coated and placed them in a single layer on a mesh tray.

That’s it. When the dehydrator was full I turned it on at 105 degrees and went to bed. No timer, no turning or repositioning trays, no worries. In the morning everything was dried to a perfect crisp chip. No, the flavors did not transfer, and the house smelled wonderful. We have a supply of healthy chips for snacking, AND with the dehydrator fan blowing 105 degrees all night and the cabinet doors open, our kitchen pipes didn’t freeze!

 

February 20, 2015 at 11:52 pm Leave a comment

Vegan Shepherd’s Pie

  Shepherd's Pie

   This is an entrée I love serving to meat-loving friends.  It’s fun to watch them try to figure out where the beef is!  It tastes like it’s there, but in reality it’s not.  Invariably, they have to admit this is a great version of the fat-laden Shepherd’s Pie they’re used to.  All the flavor, minus the artery-clogging cholesterol…what’s not to love?

As always, cook once but eat twice.  This recipe is easy to throw together if you have leftover Vegetarian Taco “Meat” https://vegtutor.wordpress.com/2008/04/29/recipe-vegetarian-taco-meat and cooked brown rice in the freezer.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 c. Vegetarian Taco “Meat”

1 1/2 cooked brown rice

1 small onion, chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

2 tsp. olive oil

2 tsp. dried basil

2 tsp. dried parsley

1 Tbs. Dijon mustard

1 c. dry bread crumbs

Bottom Layer:  Place Taco “Meat” and brown rice in a large bowl. Saute vegetables in oil for 4 – 5 minutes, then add to bowl with Taco “Meat” and rice.  Add spices, Dijon mustard, and bread crumbs. Stir with a large spoon to mix ingredients. Season with sea salt and pepper if desired. Spread mixture in an oil-sprayed glass casserole dish.

  Top Layer:  If you’re smart, you have leftover mashed potatoes on hand to make this recipe as simple as can be. If you don’t have any leftover mashed potatoes, here is a recipe:

Mashed Potatoes

4 large potatoes, peeled and cubed

1 qt. water

1/3 c. unsweetened rice, soy, or almond milk

1 – 2 Tbs. organic butter or substitute

salt and pepper to taste

   Bring water to a boil and add potatoes.  Reduce heat and cook 15 – 20 minutes, until potatoes are fork tender.  Drain and place in a mixing bowl. Add seasonings and use an electric mixer or hand masher to mash potatoes.  Add milk a little at a time as you mash until potatoes are thick and creamy with no lumps. Adjust seasonings to taste.

   Spread thick layer of mashed potatoes on top of the bottom layer of Shepherd’s Pie. Top with vegan parmesan cheese or Gomasio if desired.

   Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for 30 -45 minutes

   Cut into thick slices and serve with vegan gravy.

December 5, 2013 at 5:58 pm Leave a comment

Chen Vegetarian House, 709 Penn Ave. West Reading, PA 19611- Phone: 610-374-2288 or www.chenvegehouse.com

Chen Vegetarian House is an all vegetarian Asian restaurant with a full menu of vegetarian dishes to choose from…just what the health-minded people of Berks County have been waiting for!  Tonight was our first visit there and I was impressed.  We will be going back!  Although this is a small establishment, probably more geared to take-out than dining-in, our experience was entirely enjoyable.

We entered the newly remodeled restaurant (next to Haute Chocolat) and were promptly seated at one of the two tables by the window.  Several other tables were available near the take-out counter.  Our server answered all our questions and explained the menu (Yes, EVERYTHING on the menu is vegetarian — even the chicken, the beef, the pork, and the seafood).  They do not use MSG in any of their food.  We talked and drank green tea until our dinners arrived.  The spring rolls were piping hot and very fresh (not frozen and reheated).  My Pad Thai was delicious, seasoned perfectly with not too much “chicken” and lots of crunchy bean sprouts.  My husband ordered General Tso’s “Chicken” (his favorite) and we were both impressed by the quantity and presentation.  Our meals were delicious and the service was efficient and courteous.

Chen Vegetarian House also features something other Asian restaurants don’t offer — fresh vegetable and fruit juices (3.99) and fruit smoothies (4.29).  Hallelujah!

The menu states that lunches including white or brown rice, hot & sour soup or spring roll, and entrée are only $5.99.  To save time you can pre-order online and pick up at the counter. Business hours are Mon. – Thurs.: 11 am – 10 pm, Fri. and Sat.: 11 am – 10:30 pm, and Sun.: 12 pm – 9:30 pm.  Visa, Mastercard, and Discover are accepted.  Now until 1/31/2014 is their Grand Opening and you get 10% off a minimum $20 order!

If you want a healthy and delicious meal for not a lot of money, then I would highly recommend Chen Vegetarian House.

November 1, 2013 at 7:59 pm Leave a comment

Tomato Chips

This is the easiest way I have found to preserve your abundant tomato harvest.  Only two ingredients besides the tomatoes, and so simple!

The first thing you will do is thinly slice the tomatoes — not more than 1/4 inch thick.  Spread the slices in a single layer on the dehydrator mesh tray making sure the slices are not touching each other.  There is no need to line the tray with a teflex sheet or parchment paper.20130917_211051 tomato chips ready for dehydrator, 2

Lightly sprinkle each slice with a little Herbamare (or any sea salt and herb seasoning you desire). Then top with some nutritional yeast. Dehydrate for 6 – 8 hours or overnight.  Store in a tightly covered glass jar in the pantry, and they’ll stay crisp all winter. 20130921_134958 tomato chips jarred, 2

Bet you can’t eat just one!

September 30, 2013 at 3:47 pm 3 comments

Vegan Wendy’s Frosty

There are several versions of a Vegan Wendy’s Frosty out there.  I’ve tried a few, and played around with the recipe until I came up with one that suited me.  Of course it isn’t full of fat like the original, but it is cold, sweet and creamy.  If you like chocolate, but not the fat and calories that go with it, then I think this version will satisfy very nicely. Hope you like it!

This recipe makes enough for two large servings — one for you and one for a friend.20130812_122328

Ingredients:

3 frozen bananas, broken into pieces

2 Tbsp. carob powder or cacao powder

12 -15 ice cubes (depends on the size)

3/4 cup almond milk

12 – 20 drops vanilla stevia

Method:

Place all ingredients in a high speed blender (one that can crush ice).  Turn on high and blend until smooth and creamy, stirring occasionally if necessary.  Add a little more almond milk, if necessary.  Adjust the amount of vanilla stevia to suit your taste. Yum!

August 12, 2013 at 7:46 pm Leave a comment

Veggie Lasagna

A word to the wise: If you’re trying to change your family’s eating habits to a healthier vegetarian diet, please don’t serve them a green smoothie or a blended salad to start out.  Unfamiliar and unrecognizable food like that will only shock them into resistance. Give your family something they are used to, something they can identify and already enjoy eating — but make it healthier, lower in fat and calories, with no animal ingredients.  This is a delicious recipe even a carnivore can enjoy.  It may become one of your family’s favorites!

Ingredients:

1 chopped onion

1 clove minced garlic

1 lb. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained

8 oz, sliced mushrooms, rinse well and drain

12 – 15 lasagna noodles

1 container (12.3 oz) Mori-Nu silken tofu, drained and mashed with a fork

¼ c. vegan parmesan topping, plus another 1/2 c. reserved for top

1 Tbs. parsley flakes

1 tsp. oregano

1 ½ tsp sea salt

12 oz. shredded vegan mozzarella (Soya Kaas or Daiya are good brands)

1 ½ qt. any good meatless spaghetti sauce (reserve 1 c.)

Method:

— Cook noodles according to package directions.

–Saute onions, garlic and mushrooms in 1 Tbs. olive oil. Add thawed, drained spinach and toss together.

–In a large bowl combine: tofu, ¼ cup veggie parmesan and spices. Add sautéed vegetables and mix together with a fork.

–In an ungreased oblong casserole layer:

A thin layer of sauce

¼ noodles

¼ sauce

¼ tofu mixture

¼ vegan mozzarella

Repeat this process three times.

–Spread reserved 1 cup sauce over top layer of noodles.  Sprinkle with ½ cup vegan parmesan topping. (At this point lasagna can be covered and refrigerated for several hours.)

–Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 45 minutes (allow additional 10 – 15 minutes if lasagna has been refrigerated.)

For easier cutting, let stand for 15 minutes after removing from oven.

May 15, 2013 at 10:18 pm 2 comments

Raw Pizza Crackers

We made these raw crackers in this week’s Cooking for Health Class, and they are delicious! Serve them with a dip, hummus, or eat them plain.  You will enjoy the pizza flavor which can be enhanced by adding garlic or red pepper flakes if you like your pizza spicy.  The recipe makes two full trays of crackers.  The photo shows how many crackers you will get from one recipe (of course that depends on how big you make them, too).  Easy to make ahead so take some to the next party  — enough for yourself and to share!                                                                                                   20130403_180507 Pizza Crackers

Ingredients:

2 cups ground flaxseed

2/3 cup whole flaxseed

2 large skinned plum tomatoes

2 Tbs. Italian Seasoning

1 tsp. pink Himalayan salt

2 Tbs. nutritional yeast

1 1/3 cups whole raw sunflower seeds

1/2 cup sesame seeds

2 cups water (add up to 1/2 cup more, a little at a time, if needed)

Optional additions:  garlic powder, red pepper flakes, onion powder, chopped fresh basil

Nothing needs to be soaked.  Simply mix all ingredients in a large bowl and stir well.

Spread 1/2 batter on each of two dehydrator trays covered with teflex sheets or parchment paper.  Use the back of a spoon to spread batter evenly about 1/4 inch, thick keeping batter as square as possible.  (If you have a round dehydrator you could drop batter by spoon and spread into individual rounds).

Dehydrate at 115 degrees for about 2 hours. They should be starting to harden.  At this point, take a sharp knife and score the crackers (don’t cut all the way through) into squares or triangles as big as you want them to be. (If you score the crackers now they will be easier to break apart when finished).

Pizza Crackers on Tray

Lower temperature and dehydrate at 105 degrees for 6 – 8 hours, until crackers are firm enough to move (go to work, go to school, go to bed).  Remove teflex sheet (some of the crackers may separate along scored lines…that’s okay), and continue to dehydrate at 105 degrees on mesh dehydrator tray until crackers are completely dry and crisp.

Separate crackers along scored lines.

These can be stored in an air-tight jar in your pantry for weeks…but they won’t last that long!

April 4, 2013 at 10:49 am 1 comment

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