Monday, January 30, 2012

Sucking The Water From Food!

That's Kale!
That's my subtle way of saying I just got into the art of dehydrating food!

I was inspired to do so recently after reading a very, very short chapter on the subject in a book called, "Raw Foods For Busy People" by Jordan Maerin.  

Now, I am not a raw foodist, so why was I reading this book?  Well, for one I received it as a gift from a friend and all things happen for a reason...  Second, I'm open to all things healthy and as I suspected, this book taught me a thing or two, as well as inspired me - inspired me to include more raw foods in my diet and inspired me to get into drying foods!

So, I hit the internet, asked friends who I thought might be into this practice and collected data until I was comfortable in my decision to buy a dehydrator.

Selecting a dehydrator

I did not go with the Cadillac of dehydrators, which seems to be the Excalibur; even the name sounds grand!

Instead, I was realistic in my newbie efforts and went with the second best kid on the block, a Nesco.  To be exact, the Nesco/American Harvest FD-80 Square-Shaped Dehydrator!

After many hours of research, I figured out some key characteristics that would yield the best experience for me:

  • Square shape: to maximize drying area and aid in storage
  • Top down heating: top mounted fan eliminates liquids dripping into the heating chamber and making clean-up a pain in the ass
  • High wattage: 700 watts of drying power, cuts down drying time
  • Adjustable Thermostat: enables drying of different foods at the right temperature (95-160ยบ F); taking the guess work out
  • Downward Air Flow: hot air forced downward and horizontally across each tray (not through trays), eliminating the need to rotate trays and prevent flavor mixing when drying different things
  • Expandable trays: ability to add additional drying trays should I become obsessed!
The Nesco FD-80, nailed all these characteristics as well as had hundreds and hundreds of positive consumer reviews!

Two things that I and everybody else wished this unit had is a timer and a on/off switch, but it doesn't seem like any unit out on the market has these features.  So, I "MacGyvered" my way around this with an outlet timer and surge protector with an on/off switch.

One more thing, contrary to the box label, this machine is not made in the U.S.A. - parts may be, but the main heating element is made in China. (sigh)

What to make with it?

As I type, my machine is busy making Kale Chips, Banana Chips, dried Kiwi and Clementines!

I plan to make fruit leather, crackers, cookies and experiment with a wide range of produce. And of course, I keep researching for more ways to use it!  My immediate goal is just to get some healthy, all-natural snack foods going, as my recent conversion to a whole foods, plant-based diet has left a void in this area.

I'll let you know how things go!

Eat Well!
The Hoff

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