I've printed my donation page, charged up the iPod, checked the weather, and now all that I have left to do before tomorrow's Walk for Hunger is pack a couple snacks. There will be plenty of food available along tomorrow's route, both at tents set up for the event and in shops we'll pass along the way, but I'm trying to be smarter about what I eat, so bringing something from home is the way to go.
Last summer, in the middle of a discussion about fences (we were on a walk at the time) Z, my partner, asked if I'd like a dehydrator. I gave him a confused smile and said I had no idea what I would do with one. "OK. They sell dried pears at my work, and it seemed like something you'd like to make" he replied. I was intrigued, but still resistant to adding another gadget to our kitchen. Not long afterward I read Didi Emmons' book Wild Flavors, saw what she does with a dehydrator and knew I wanted one.
I've done a lot of experimenting with my dehydrator, but my current favorite things to make are dried pears (yes, Z knows me well) and fruit leather. To me, biting into a piece of fruit is a gamble. Will it be mealy, rubbery, squoosh like a worm or or make my eyes water? It's hard to know until it's actually on my tongue, exactly where I don't want something on its way to rotten to be. So, I tend to buy fruit, think about eating it, then feed it to my compost bin. I don't feel good about it, but it's what I do. The dehydrator solves this because it lets me take fruit that is over ripe (which I won't eat) and turn it into something sweet, healthy and consistently firm. My idea of the perfect fruit.
- Wash the pears. I usually do 6-8 at a time to fill my dehydrator. The number will vary depending on your dehydrator's size.
- Chop into slices roughly 1/4" thick. Some people peel them first since the skin will turn slightly brown, but then you lose fiber and probably some vitamins as well, so I leave the peel on.
- (Optional) Toss slices in a bowl with lemon or lime juice. This keeps the pears from turning brown, but I often skip it since it adds a slight citrus flavor to the finished product.
- Place in the dehydrator with room around each slice for the air to move.
- "Cook" until dry to the touch with just a little bit of give. I like to put them in before going to bed. They're usually just right when I get up in the morning.
- If you leave them in too long, don't worry. Just call them fruit chips and enjoy the crunch.
There appears to be no end to the possible variations of fruit leather. And unlike my childhood memories of failed sun-dried fruit leather, using the dehydrator the process is nearly fail proof.
- In a medium size pot pour 1/4 cup water or juice. Heat on medium.
- Add fruit (see below)
- Stir occasionally. Cook roughly 15 minutes or until fruit is soft.
- Puree the fruit. This is easier with an immersion blender, but a regular blender will do the trick.
- Spray Pam (or similar product) on fruit leather tray - these came with my dehydrator
- Pour the puree onto the trays. Spread to make an even layer roughly 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick
- "Cook" until dry to the touch. I find it takes about 6 hours.
- Rip or cut into pieces and store in an air tight container. On the rare occasion it isn't gobbled up in a day, I've had it stay good for several weeks.
- Mixed frozen berries
- Grapes (1 bunch) and apples (3)
- Pears (6) with a dash of cinnamon and cardamom
- I'm experimenting with fruit/vegetable mixes. I'll let you know if I find one I like
For my final snack tomorrow, I'm bringing something I've never tried before. Amanda Blake-Soule, author of several books and the SouleMama blog is making this the year of popcorn. Each month she posts a different topping recipe. Creating a new popcorn topping is actually on my To Do list for life (I'm serious), so I've read Amanda's posts with a big smile on my face. I finally found the nutritional yeast necessary for her Cheesy Herb Popcorn recipe, so I'll cook that up tomorrow morning, just before the walk. I have a feeling the results will be messy, so the great outdoors seems like the perfect place to give it a try.
Here are links to other walk friendly foods I've posted in the past: