Taking the time to cook and dehydrate pasta and grains when you have down time (winter is a great time to do this), lets you fill your pantry with nearly instant go-to foods that only need to rehydrate to eat. Not having to cook pasta when the power is out conserves water AND fuel. These carbs are also perfect for adding to mason jar meals for long-term food storage. Pick a cold day and boil up a few pounds, and get it dehydrating.
Don’t have a dehydrator? You can use your oven. Set it at the lowest setting (often around 200°), put the food on parchment paper lined rimmed baking sheets. Prop the oven door open a tiny bit with a wooden spoon. If your oven has a fan, use it help speed up the drying. Food will dry faster in an oven, so keep that in mind, and don’t do delicate items, such as herbs or flowers, in it.
A dehydrator itself isn’t a huge investment compared to a few years ago. You can get affordable ones now, that are well-built and functional.
A go-to for many backpackers is the Nesco FD-75A, which you can pick up on Amazon for under $60 often. Look for a fan and an adjustable heat setting, and easy to clean racks. Avoid clear as sunlight can degrade food while it is drying.
For best results, cook 1 to 2 pounds pasta at a time. Use a large pot of water, salt if desired, but do not add any oil. Stir pasta often while cooking. Cut off about 1-2 minutes of the cook time on the pasta packaging. Drain, rinse and shake off.
Place on dehydrator trays and dry at 135° for 8 to 12 hours, or until dry. Check on the pasta after 2 to 3 hours, and break up any clumps as needed. You may need to shift the trays for even drying.
Equal amounts water to pasta. Boil your water or liquid, add in the pasta. Take off the heat, cover tightly and let sit for 10 minutes.
May be added to soups or broth dry and let simmer in the pot until tender (it will soak up the broth, so keep that in mind.
Commercial instant rice is easy to use, cheap and can be found almost everywhere. So what does it lack though?
Simply a deep taste, and as well the texture that good quality rice has. Sadly with commercial instant rice you do have a major trade-off. In burritos, or used in soups it isn’t so noticeable. But if your rice is the focal point it can come up very lacking.
Drying your own rice can open up a vast array of choice from Jasmine, sticky rice, brown, black, red and even wild rice. If you can buy the rice at the store, you can dry it up! Considering you can find only instant white and a not-so-great brown rice in the majority of grocery stores, this allows you to have many more gourmet meals – and it only takes an hour or so total of your time to do it.
In most cases you will want to double whatever is the “serving size” on the rice package. That is often 1/4 cup dry rice. Figure 1/2 cup per serving of uncooked rice for trail appetites.
Cook your rice how you prefer making sure you don’t add in oil or fat. For white rice I often bring 3 cups water to a boil and add in 1 1/2 cups rinsed rice, bring it back to a boil, stir well and put the lid on. Turn it down to low and let it simmer gently for 20 minutes. When done fluff the rice up well.
Spread the cooked rice on prepared dehydrator trays – if you have fine mesh screen use them, if not line your trays with parchment paper. 1 1/2 cups uncooked rice takes up about 2 trays when cooked. Dry at 135-145*°
If you are drying using your kitchen oven spread the rice on cookie trays and set the oven to it’s lowest setting. Put the trays in the oven and prop the door open a tiny bit with a wooden spoon.
Either way, check on your rice every hour and stir it breaking up any clumps. As the rice gets dry it will become very easy to get single grains.
The time depends on the humidity and if your dehydrator has a fan to help move off the moisture. Expect to take 4-12 hours (this isn’t an exact science!)
Once the rice is brittle dry (no flexibility) turn off the dehydrator and let the rice cool to room temperature. Store in tightly sealed mason jars.
Rehydration is the same as instant rice, a 1:1 ratio. Boil water (or broth) and add in rice. Take off heat, cover tightly and let sit for 10 minutes.
A seed that is native to South America, has become vastly popular in the past 10 years. Some of its highlights? It is a complete protein, high in fiber and calories. It is gluten-free and cooks up relatively fast.
While it is a very fast cooking grain (10-20 minutes) it usually requires rinsing and draining it well before you cook it, as the seeds have a bitter natural coating that must be rinsed away. (And be sure to rinse WELL. It can cause allergic reactions and upset stomachs in some.)
If you haven’t seen it, look near the rice section in grocery stores. It can be used in place of rice or couscous in many dishes.
A standard serving is 1/4 cup dry uncooked. I would recommend 1/2 cup uncooked. This provides roughly 240 calories, 6 g fat, 10 g protein and 6 g fiber.
To make the quinoa:
Take a fine mesh colander and pour 1 cup uncooked quinoa in it. Rinse it well with cold water and drain. Add it to 2 cups water or broth in a medium saucepan. Bring it to a boil, stir, put on the lid and lower the heat to Low. Let simmer gently for 10-20 minutes. It may need up to 20 to absorb all the water.
Once done fluff up and spread on a lined dehydrator tray. Quinoa is very small and will fall through most mesh liners. I would recommend that you line your tray(s) with parchment paper. Dry at 135° till dry. As with rice be sure to check every hour and break up any clumps with clean fingers or gloves on.
Serving sizes, weights and volume:
½ cup raw = 3 ounces
Cooked = 1½ cups
Dehydrated = ¾ cup and 3½ ounces
You might think “well, now it is more volume and weighs a tiny bit more, how am I saving anything?”. The beauty of it is you don’t need to cook it (saving fuel and time) and all you need to do is add a 1:1 ratio of boiling water and let it sit for 10 minutes. No cleanup or burnt on messes. Ready to go when you are!