Dehydrator Adventures!

Hoo boy, I just read through all my blog posts (it wasn’t hard, as I hadn’t written many), and it’s embarrassing how long it’s been since I’ve done a blog post. I have some excuses, but none of them are very good.  Suffice it to say, only a couple of days after I wrote about running as the greenest form of exercise, I was in a car accident that totaled my car, gave me whiplash, possibly an untreated minor concussion, and required that I buy a gas guzzler as a replacement because (in another unrelated incident) I would have to probably save money for a deposit and a whole month’s rent because my roommate decided to have a mental breakdown and attempted to evict me.  And, to top it all off, my chiropractor banned me from running for several months.

In other words, I wasn’t feeling very green or crunchy, and it was fine by me if the whole world burned.

I have since repented from such thoughts and am slowly working back to health (physical and mental), greenery, and crunchiness. (And my roommate’s the one who was kicked out as a troublemaker, I got a new roommate who loves thrift stores more than me, and I’m finally confident with myself once again and ready to attempt green and crunchy adventures!)

A couple of days after my car accident, I finally found something I have long coveted: a cheap dehydrator! (See my lovely pic below)

dehydrator

(Note the dishwasher in the photograph.  No, I do not magically have a dishwasher.  This photo was taken at my parents’ house, where I rehabilitated after my car accident)

I know, I know, the cheaper dehydrators cannot dry as much fruit and eat more energy per fruit piece than a more expensive one, but I live in an apartment with limited storage space and have a limited budget.  Plus, this was before my old roommate was evicted and my new roommate was found, and I wanted something that would get on my old roommate’s nerves as little as possible.  Nevertheless, I was super excited and wanted to try out my new dehydrator.  So, rather than getting out my mom’s dehydrator, I picked a bunch of strawberries in the garden and, along with making freezer jam (which I’ll talk about in another post), I dried strawberry slices in my own dehydrator, all while moving around enough to give myself a massive headache (remember that car accident?).

The strawberries were a hit! (as was the jam)  My three married brothers all visited me at my parents’ following the car accident, and they all left with dry strawberries in their stomachs.  Before I knew it, all the strawberries were gone!  I was a little peeved, but ah well–I would have other opportunities to dry fruit.

This wasn’t my first venture into drying fruit post-moving out of my parents’ basement.  Before I found the dehydrator on sale, I’d purchased a used toaster oven for the express purpose of drying a bunch of mangoes I’d bought cheap.  There’s a volunteer organization called Bountiful Baskets that strives to provide health-minded veggie-and-fruit-holics with cheaper produce than they may find in the stores.  While their baskets are sometimes less than desirable (with potatoes and onions being the main contributor in the winter and bananas that sometimes don’t ripen), they have add-ons that are to die for–twenty mangoes for ten dollars! I don’t know about your geographic location, but where I’m from, twenty large mangoes at fifty cents apiece are a steal of a deal!

When I got the mangoes, it became clear very quickly that I would have to do something or they would all go bad soon.  My roommate at the time had a strict diet of chicken, eggs, almonds, and broccoli, with the occasional tomato or banana thrown in, and she scoffed at the mangoes when I brought them home (that was one reason we never got along). She wasn’t going to eat them.  So I froze some and dried others with that toaster oven.

It was a semi-success.  The process took hours longer than I thought from researching using toaster ovens as dehydrator substitutes, and many of the mangoes burned.  The rest didn’t dry out as well as I thought, and I had to throw them out a few months later.  When I first saw those mango slices, though, I beamed with pride!  They were so pretty in the glass jar I put them in!

mangoes

My dried mangoes.  Alas, they weren’t as dry as I thought!

After my old roommate moved out and soon after my new roommate moved in, I bought a bunch of produce at Costco and learned another valuable lesson–while the deals are great, if the food rots, it’s not worth it.  Plus, there’s a lot of plastic waste that occurs via Costco’s produce containers.  Anyway, I got out my dehydrator and dehydrated a bunch of slightly-overripe apples, kiwis, peaches, and tomatoes.  Success! Now, several months later, they are still dry, tasty, and nutritious.  And, best of all, not one judgmental glance came from my new roommate.

I recently decided to give Bountiful Baskets a try once again.  One of their holiday add-ons available was 25 pounds of persimmons for $20. Where I’m from, one persimmon is $2.  I love persimmons, so I decided to splurge and buy a box.

Do you know how many persimmons are in 25 pounds? I don’t know, but it’s a lot.  When I got the box, only a few of the persimmons were ripe.  But, of course, two days later almost all of them were getting soft.  I froze some, made bread from more, made cookies from even more, and ate about three persimmons a day.  It still wasn’t enough, but by that time I’d eaten/processed too many persimmons to make canning them or making jam from the rest worth it.  So I got out my trusty dehydrator and chopped all but ten of the slightly overripe, juicy, and tasty persimmons.

persimmons

Success! The dried persimmons taste like candy.

What’s next on my dehydrating schemes? Well, my new roommate has a goal very much like mine–eat more fruit and veggies. We decided to get another Bountiful Basket, and this week 25 pounds of pineapples are available as an add-on for an extra $14.  We decided to splurge and get the pineapples as well as a basket.  We’ll eat some fresh, freeze some, and dehydrate the rest.  Who knows, maybe I’ll even make some dried pineapple candy.

If you want to know more about Bountiful Baskets and are curious if Bountiful Baskets are available in your area, go to bountifulbaskets.org. The way it works is you select your state, county, and closest location, and purchase as many baskets and add-ons that you want. Purchasing is open Mondays and Tuesdays, the times vary depending on your state, and then you pick them up Thursdays, Fridays, or Saturdays, depending on your location. Be sure to double-check the location and pick-up time! The produce is only available for pickup during a fifteen-minute window, and after that your produce/add-ons are either donated to one of the volunteers or a homeless shelter. The baskets are fifteen dollars apiece, plus a small processing fee, with the option to upgrade to an all-organic basket for an extra $10. The normal baskets are good priced (always a better deal than what I can get at Smith’s, though sometimes I bemoan the quantity of potatoes I receive), though I can’t give info on the organic baskets’ size.

Don’t get the holiday breads though. They’re dry and icky (at least they were last year). The organic multi-grain bread? The most delicious bread I’ve tasted in a long time.

I am not a founder of Bountiful Baskets, one of their suppliers, or was paid for this promotion.  I just like cheap but healthy produce.  (I also like locally-grown produce, but winter has started where I live, so I get what I can)

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