Top 10 Reasons I Love My Dehydrator!
We met about three years ago, on my birthday. I’d checked out his profile, and knew he was interesting… but I never dreamed how well we’d hit it off! I’ll never have a dehydrator-free kitchen again, if I can help it — here’s why.
10. Dog treats. Little-known fact: if you slice seitan roast into strips, and dry them overnight in the dehy, they become crunchy dog treats much-sought-after by 4-legged snacking enthusiasts!
9. Potato chips. Boil organic potatoes, season to taste, and thin the mixture to a pourable consistency with water. Line dehydrator trays with parchment paper, pour potato mixture onto trays, and spread to about 1/8″ thickness. Dry overnight at about 145 degrees. Break into pieces, and voila! Perfect non-GMO non-fried potato chips!
8. Cashew yogurt. Temperature is crucial for making home-made yogurt. I love the cashew yogurt recipe from Artisan Vegan Cheese, but my first efforts failed. Then I used a kitchen thermometer and my dehydrator (with the ‘front door’ open) to ensure a constant 110 degree temperature — now my yogurt turns out perfect every time, I save bucks by making it from scratch, and by not buying pre-packaged yogurt I’m using less plastic… plus, it’s delicious. It’s a win-win-win-win!
7. Never waste fresh herbs again! I love fresh herbs, but used to have trouble getting through a whole bunch of cilantro or parsley before it passed its prime — now I dry half the bunch, and store the dried half in an airtight container in the fridge until I need it. Presto: no more wasted herbs!
6. Tofu jerky. Back-packin’ kayakin’ road-trippin’ nom! Drain and press 2 blocks of firm or extra-firm tofu, slice in 1/8″ to 1/4″ slices, and marinate overnight — find two good marinades for jerky here (double or triple recipe to cover tofu) or here (I like it with a bit less soy sauce and real maple syrup instead of brown sugar). Dehydrate at about 145 degrees for about 8 hours… Makes some seriously yummy fast food, when you don’t have time to stop (hiking/ driving/ working/ paddling/ whatever)!
5. Unchicken tofu filets. My favorite path to chickenless salad runs straight through the dehydrator! Drain and press 2 blocks of extra-firm tofu, slice crossways into eighths, and marinate in unchicken broth (or prepared vegan no-chicken bouillon) overnight. Dehydrate 6-7 hours at 150 degrees, flipping slices once if possible. Filets prepared this way develop a nice firm texture with minimal effort, perfect for use in salads, sandwiches, wraps, and casseroles.
4. Kale chips. HOLY GOODNESS, you guys: if you haven’t tried kale chips yet, you are simply cheating yourself! Yes, technically you can make them in the oven; but it’s soooo much easier in the dehydrator. In the oven — for me anyway — it can be tricky to achieve even cooking; I tend to end up with a few leaves perfectly crisp, a few still soft, and a few burned. Not so, with a dehydrator! Just wash a kale bunch thoroughly, and tear leaves into chip-sized pieces. Toss well with about a tablespoon each of cider vinegar and olive oil, plus dry seasonings to taste… I like salt, cayenne, garlic powder, and about 1/4 cup of nooch. Put kale leaves on dehydrator trays in single layers, for about 4 hours at 145 degrees, for crisp crunchy happiness with no tending a’tall!
3. Chickpea crunchies. Same deal as kale chips: in theory I can make them in the oven, but in reality my results were discouragingly inconsistent — they need careful oven-tending to avoid under- or over-toasting (and I don’t excel at careful tending!)… Instead, now I just marinate cooked chickpeas (I like one of the same marinades on chickpeas I use for tofu jerky), spread ’em over parchment paper on dehy trays, and dehydrate overnight on about 150 degrees. They make an easy, portable, nutritious, delicious snack — again, with almost no effort!
2. Fast food for camping, hotels, or busy days. Soups, stews, chilis, dals, and curries dehydrate well for ‘fast-food’ later. So if I make potato soup, say, we’ll eat half the batch and then dry half (in thin layers on parchment paper) and store it in single-serving Pyrex bowls. When we’re camping or road-tripping, all we need is boiling water to revive it. For more on camp-ready cooking with your dehy, be sure to check out Backpack Gourmet (not all-vegan but very veganizable, and extremely helpful for learning to use a dehydrator for camp cooking) and Lipsmackin’ Vegetarian Backpackin’ (I don’t use the ‘cook in ziplock bag’ strategies authors use, but embrace the many vegan or veganizable camp-cooking recipes). Good food cheap and fast, trail-and-hotel-friendly!
1. Farmer’s market power: activate! By using my dehydrator to preserve my farmer’s market harvest, I can shift more of my food dollars to local growers. I buy in-season produce in mondo quantities, dry it, and store it in the freezer, refrigerator, or pantry (depending on food type and space available). It saves me money, reduces packaging waste, and supports small-scale organic farmers in my community. Who could ask for more, from a kitchen appliance?!
As I’ve explored and experimented with my dehydrator over the years, I’ve come to understand and appreciate that old adage: truly, love is a many-splendored thing!
Image credit: modified Creative Commons photo by ljguitar.