21 February 2013

Using Dried Foods on a Regular Basis

Dried foods are quite popular among survivalists apparently.  I’ve never thought of myself as a survivalist, more a planner. I like dried foods because they require no refrigeration or cooking, and they’re compact and lightweight enough to carry along in a backpack. But is drying food worth the effort for those who do not spend a lot of time in the great outdoors?

Yes, it is. Dried foods are much more versatile than most people realize. Here are some of the best ways to enjoy your dried foods.

Eat them right out of the package

Many dried foods make wonderful snacks just the way they are. Simple though it is, sultanas are one of the most popular dried food snacks, and it’s loaded with protein (who hasn’t packed sultanas in their children’s lunches?). Dried nuts and seeds are also delicious and nutritious.

Make trail mix

Most of the trail mixes you buy at the grocery store are simply a mixture of dried fruits and nuts. Add some chocolate chips, pretzels, cereal pieces or small jubes to fruits and nuts you’ve dried at home to create your own unique recipe.

Add dried fruit pieces to cereal

On mornings when you’re in a rush, a bowl of whole grain cereal with dried fruit and skim milk is the perfect quick and nutritious breakfast. MOO muesli by adding dried fruits, nuts and coconut to rolled oats – eat it as is, or toast it for a few minutes in a moderate oven for toasted muesli.

Make fruit leathers

Again, who hasn’t packed a fruit leather (known as roll-ups in Australia) in a lunchbox?  When you’re stewing or drying fruit, set some aside nice, ripe pieces to cook up and puree. Add a tablespoon of lemon juice for each cup of fruit before blending. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray, spread the puree out evenly and dry in the oven at 80 degrees Celsius until it is easily peeled off of the pan (usually 4 to 10 hours). Cut into pieces and store in the refrigerator or a cool, dry place. This makes a great healthy snack for kids – the kilojoules are concentrated but so is the goodness and no added sugar!

Make soup

Dried vegetables cook up nicely in sauces, soups and stews. To make a quick soup use one part dried vegetables to four parts stock (or four parts water and four stock cubes if you don’t have your own stock) and season to taste. Simmer for 20 minutes for a hearty vegetable soup.

Rehydrate them

Dried food items can be used in the same ways as their fresh counterparts if they are rehydrated. Most fruits and vegetables can be soaked in 1 to 3 cups of water for 30 minutes to an hour. Vegetables should be rehydrated in boiling water, while fruits should be placed in water at room temperature. If using in a recipe, keep in mind that rehydrated foods cook more quickly than those that are fresh. I use dried vegetables (peas, corn, carrots, onion) like this when we are camping – they are light to pack and take up very little room, making them ideal for hiking, caravanning and camping.

Add them to your disaster supplies

Cyclones, flood, fire and even earthquakes can leave us without electricity for days with no refrigeration or means of cooking. Having some dried foods on hand is one thing you can do to be prepared.

As you can see, dried foods are quite versatile. They make a great addition to any pantry. If you dry your own homegrown fruits and vegetables the cost is just the electricity to run the dehydrator. Even buying  in bulk and drying will save you a lot of money.

I'll talk about methods of drying next Thursday.

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