Dehydrated Goodies: Powdered Veggie Stock and Date-Nut Chewies

Merry Christmas!

December can be such a busy month! I’ve been juggling two jobs while squeezing in time for getting into the holiday spirit and getting my Christmas shopping done. This year I bought my gifts with a theme in mind: hand-made and local. I bought lots of gifts at Market Collective, which is a fun event in Calgary that hosts local artists selling their creations. I also decided to make a couple things in my dehydrator, and I’d like to share them with you today.

I got these recipes from a book called Dry It – You’ll Like it! by Gen Macmaniman. I received it for Christmas one year, and it is a great guide for drying fruits, veggies, and herbs, and includes instructions for building your own dehydrator.

Dehydrating is fun, and a great way to save produce that is in season, or that may go bad before you have a chance to use it fresh. At Thanksgiving I dehydrated all the extra fresh herbs I had: sage, parsley, and thyme. I also made cran-apple fruit leather, and go absolutely cuckoo for dehydrated apples and bananas. In my opinion, having a dehydrator is perfect for anybody who likes experimenting in the kitchen, and who is looking to incorporate more raw foods in their diet. Check out this recipe for rosemary seed crackers from a previous post.

Please note that if you are considering buying a dehydrator, look at product reviews before purchasing, as the first one I had lasted only a month past the warranty date, and it looks like I’m not the only one that happened to. It’s also great to buy a dehydrator that you can control the temperature.

So, back to my little Christmas project. I made soup stock and date-nut chewies to include in my gifts to my family. Here is what I did:

Veggie Soup Stock
Yields around 20 tablespoons of powder, or 20 cups of stock (when added to 1 cup of boiling water per 1 tablespoons of stock)

Ingredients
2 medium tomatoes, sliced
4 celery stalks, cut into sticks (I also dehydrated the leaves)
2 cups mushrooms, sliced
2 large carrots, sliced into rounds
1/2 cup spinach

Note: You may use a wide variety of vegetables. The book suggests cabbage, carrots, celery, garlic, green beans, horseradish, mushrooms, mustard greens, onions, peppers, spinach, tomato, or watercress. I chose what I thought would go together nicely.

Directions
I placed all the vegetables in one layer on dehydrator sheets. I have four sheets, and all these veggies took two rounds of dehydrating to complete. They were dehydrated at 135*F for about 6 hours. Time may vary depending on how thick the vegetables are, how crowded the trays are, and how juicy the vegetables were to begin with. I removed the vegetables that felt completely dry, and continued to dehydrate the ones that were still damp. You can add more vegetables once there is room on the trays. To check the vegetables, remove the heat source and let the veggies cool down first. If it feels dry, it probably is.

Next, I placed all the dehydrated vegetables in a high-speed blender and blended until the vegetables were a powder. This took a couple minutes of blending. Be sure to let the blender rest before opening it, as the powder is very fine and smokes into the air.

I divided the stock into two plastic baggies of 10 tbsp each, and added the keep-dry packets that come with sushi and other dry foods. I didn’t want the stock powder to be exposed to any moisture.

I wrote the following instructions on each baggie: “Mix 1-2 tbsp of stock with 1 cup of boiling water and let rest for about a minute. Add ground flaxseed to thicken, if desired. Use in soups, stews, and gravy.”

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Voila! Home-made powdered vegetable stock! Because it’s dry, it’ll last for a long time. Store it away from sunlight and moisture.

Date-Nut Chewies
Ingredients
3/4 cup oil (I used canola oil)
1/2 cup maple syrup
3 Macintosh apples (or another kind of apple), cut into pieces, skin on
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
2 cups pitted dates
1 cup raw almonds (recipe called for walnuts)

In my high-speed blender I mixed the oil, maple syrup, apples, and vanilla extract until smooth. Then, I added the rest of the ingredients and blended until smooth. The original recipe indicates that you should use ground oats and sunflower seeds, but I did not do this because of how powerful my blender is. Plus, I thought some chunks would be OK.

Next, I spread the mixture out on two dehydrator sheets, making them pretty thick (about 1/2 inch). I dehydrated them for around 6 hours, then cut them into small squares, separated them from each other, and continued to dry them for another 8 hours.

These chewies are a great snack that resembles an energy ball. I was expecting it to be more candy-like or cookie-like, but it definitely tastes like a healthy snack. The first one I tried, in all honesty, I wasn’t sure if I should give them as gifts, but after having a few more, the taste grew on me. This recipe made a lot, so I’m glad they turned out!

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Chocolate Date Bars (Larabars)

Credit here goes to my good friend Katie, who showed me this recipe. She found it while browsing Pinterest, and the link for the original recipe is here. Katie kept raving about these Larabars, so I just had to try making them.

Larabars are a brand of fruit and nut bars that use natural ingredients and come in a variety of flavours. I have tried several of them, but not the peanutbutter chocolate chip ones because I am allergic to peanuts. With some modifications, I made a peanut-free version of these Larabars, inspired by Katie and the blog I mentioned above.

Ingredients
1 lb medjool dates (I get mine at Costco. I also only had 15, but the recipe called for 30)
1/2 cup raw or roasted almonds (no salt, preferably)
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp feaux peanut butter (I used Wow Butter. Another nut butter would work well too)
1 tsp coconut oil
1/3 cup vegan chocolate chips (ie. dark, no milk powder)

I put the almonds in a food processor and processed lightly, until the almonds crushed into small pieces. I took them out and put all the other ingredients except the chocolate chips into the food processor and food processed the mixture. (My tiny one-litre food processor couldn’t handle the dough, so when I make them again I will process the dough in smaller batches.) Lastly, I processed the mixture again with the chocolate chips added.

I formed the dough into a ball, placed it between two sheets of wax paper (parchment paper works too), and flattened the dough into a 1/2 inch-tall rectangle, using my finger tips (a rolling pin would work too). I refrigerated the dough for about an hour and then cut the dough into bars, around 3 inches by 1 1/2 inches. I wrapped the bars in small pieces of waxed paper and kept them in the fridge until I wanted to eat them.

20150325_171841These made an excellent snack for an extra boost of energy. I need all the energy I can get these days to get through my last three weeks of school!

Raw Zucchini Lasagna

A special shout out goes to my Auntie Anne, who sent me a cookbook in the mail called Eat Raw, Eat Well by Douglas McNish. It was a lovely surprise to get this cookbook, as I did not know she was sending it, and I had never heard of the book. The recipes look absolutely delicious, and I finally made one. It’s called Layered Zucchini Lasagna in the book, and I made it with some slight variations. The biggest changes I made were in quantities (I halved most of the sauces), and I added or changed ingredients here and there. Here is what I did.

Ingredients for Cashew Ricotta Cheese
2 cups raw cashews, soaked for 30 minutes
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1/2 yellow or red pepper (I used yellow)
1/2 cup water
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 tsp dill weed
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp salt

Ingredients for Marinara Sauce
2 tomatoes, quartered and seeded (push out the excess liquid and seeds)
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup fresh basil
1/2 tsp cayenne powder
1 tbsp chia seeds

Ingredients for Pesto
1/8 cup lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
pepper
1/2 cup fresh basil
1 cup spinach
1/4 cup raw walnuts
1/8 cup flax oil (or olive oil)

Ingredients for Parmesan Cheese
Handful of raw almonds
3 tbsp nutritional yeast

Ingredients for Assembling the Lasagna
2 medium-sized zucchini
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

This whole dish requires a good food processor or a Vitamix. A tip I have is to add ingredients one by one so that the blending is easy. I always started with garlic and liquid, and ended with the most solid ingredient. This all depends on how good one’s mixer is.

First, I made the cashew cheese by blending all the ingredients (reserving half of the cashews) in a food processor until smooth,. I added the rest of the cashews last and blended again. I did this to have some of the cashews remain chunky. I reserved the cheese in a container and put it in the fridge.

Next, I made the marinara sauce by blending all of the ingredients, except the chia seeds, in the food processor. I stirred in the chia seeds last. I reserved the sauce in a container and put it in the fridge.

Then I made the pesto. I blended all the ingredients, except the flax oil, all at once in the food processor. I added the flax oil little by little and blended until smooth.I put the pesto in a container and reserved it in the fridge.

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The parmesan cheese is even easier. I pulsed the almonds and nutritional yeast in a food processor until the almonds became a chunky meal. It is important not to over-blend, as the almonds can start to turn into a butter.

To assemble the lasagna, I used a mandolin (thanks to Tom for that birthday gift) to cut the zucchinis length-wise, very thin. I made about 9 sliced. I lay out a piece of parchment paper and drizzled olive oil on top, then put the sliced zucchini on top and drizzled some more olive oil. I wanted the zucchini to be lightly coated, not soaked. I put salt and pepper on top and let them sit for ten minutes.

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Next, I placed three pieces of sliced zucchini on a large dish, side by side. I layered the ricotta cheese, pesto, and marinara sauce, in that order. The cheese took a bit of time to spread without moving the zucchini. I then layered three more pieces of zucchini on top, repeated the layer of sauces, then topped the lasagna with a final layer of zucchini. I added an extra layer of marinara sauce on top, and sprinkled a generous coating of the parmesan cheese on top. I let the lasagna sit for about an hour before eating, which lets the noodles soften and allows the flavours incorporate.

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Voila! I was pleasantly surprised with this recipe. It was delicious and full of flavour. I noticed that water starts to come out of it after an hour, and even more so when eaten as leftovers. It’s probably better made fresh, but we’ll see tomorrow!

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