Dehydrating Pasta and Grains

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.

Pasta:

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.

Rehydration:

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.

Rice:

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.

Quinoa:

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!

~Sarah

Canning Boozy Huckleberries

Our land has been generous to us this summer – in giving red and evergreen huckleberries to forage. Gathering 6 cups worth is a lot of effort to say the least, so I wanted my project to be worthy of the time I invested. And there is nothing quite like infusing wild berries into a sugar syrup, heavily infused with brandy. They need to sit for a few weeks before enjoying, but are amazing over ice cream or in drinks. They are alcoholic though, so adults only!

Boozy Huckleberries

Ingredients:

  • 6 to 8 cups huckleberries*
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 7 Tbsp+ brandy

Directions:

Add 7 half-pint mason jars to a canning kettle, fill about half way full of water, bring to a boil.

Add the lids and rings to a small saucepan, fill with water and simmer.

Follow the directions in the notes on cleaning the berries.

Add the sugar and water to a large stainless steel pot, bring to a  boil.

Add in the berries, gently stirring in. Let return to a boil, turn to medium-low and let gently simmer for 5 minutes to heat the berries.

Take the hot mason jars out, drain and place on a clean kitchen towel. Sterilize a canning funnel, ladle and air bubble popper in the hot water.

Ladle out the berries, draining off the liquid and divide between the mason jars equally.

Pour a generous Tablespoon of brandy on top of the berries in each jar.

Add the hot syrup to the jars, and releases air bubbles running the bubble popper through each jar, leaving a ¼” headspace at the top, topping with more syrup as needed.

Take a damp new paper towel, and wipe the rims. Place on a canning lid, and a canning ring, securing finger tip tight. Place the jars into the rack, lower into the water in the canning kettle. Make sure the jars are fully covered by water. Return to a boil, process for 10 minutes at a full boil.

Remove from pot, let cool on counter on a dry kitchen towel. Once cool, check lids are flat and sealed. If not, store in refrigerator, use within 2 weeks.

Store in a cool, dry and dark area, use within a year for best results. Once opened, use up in 1 to 2 weeks time.

Makes about 7 half-pint jars (8-ounces).

Notes:

*You can use fresh or frozen berries. As they are so small, I collect and freeze them in advance. I sort through them to remove any duff and stems, then rinse the frozen berries in a colander. Fresh, do the same.

As for the amount, the more berries the better, but use what you have!

Spiced Honey Apple Butter

In the Pacific Northwest the end of summer and September brings apple season.

If you don’t have trees, ask around. You’d be amazed how many people don’t want their apples and will happily let you glean the trees for free.

I had just picked a bunch of apples, off an ancient tree, that tend to be very tart. Great for making apple butter! The cook down quickly and take on the spices added in.

Spiced Honey Apple Butter

Ingredients:

  • 8 pounds apples
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups raw honey
  • 4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • 8 pint mason jars with rings and lids

Directions:

Wash and dry the apples. Peel apples, quarter, and core.

Place the apples into a large stockpot, preferably stainless steel, with 4 cups water.

Bring to a boil and cook until apples are soft, mashing often to break them up.

Add sugar, honey and spices, stir until boiling, then lower heat to medium. Let cook, stirring often (tip: wear an insulated glove while stirring, the apple butter can and will spit at you). When the apple butter is looking thickened, and mounds up on a spoon nicely, it is ready to can.

Meanwhile, wash and rinse the jars; put them into a canning pot; cover the jars with water and bring to a boil; turn off the heat. Let stand in hot water until you are ready to fill.

Add the bands and lids into a medium saucepan, fill with water and bring to a simmer, let sit until you are ready to screw them on the jars. (Use new lids each time, bands can be reused.)

Grab a jar with a jar lifter, empty the water out of your jar, set on a clean kitchen towel and fill to ¼” of the top (a sterilized canning funnel works great) with hot apple butter. Use a canning bubble popper to run around the inside, add more butter if needed.

Wipe the rim with a new damp paper towel, removing any spilled butter, especially on the rim.

Place a lid on top and tighten a band around each jar. Repeat till all jars are full.

Place the jars into the canning pot using a jar lifter, using the canning rack to lower in. Make sure all jars are upright and that jars are fully submerged, with at least 2″ of water above. If not, add some of the hot water out of the pot that held the lids. Cover the pot and bring to boil.

Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath. Turn off the heat, take out carefully using a jar lifter. Have a clean kitchen towel on the counter, place each jar on it and let cool for at least 6 hours, overnight is better. Listen for the “popping sound” and keep track of how many times you hear it. Check after cooling that the lid is firm when pressed on, if it pops up and down, it isn’t sealed. If that happens, refrigerate that jar and use within a couple of weeks.

Once cooled, mark the lids, and store the jars in a pantry out of direct sunlight for up to 12 months. Once opened, store in the refrigerator and use up within 3 to 4 weeks.

PS: If you haven’t see it yet, the all new Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle for 2018 is out now! So many ebooks and fun things to delve into, from recipes to gardening and homesteading – and a whole lot more:

Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle 2018

Grass Roots Meat Box Review and Making Beef Jerky

Grass Roots Meat Box is a monthly subscription box of grass-fed beef, pasture raised poultry and more. You pick what you like and need, and it comes shipped to you monthly. When we eat meat (and we don’t eat a lot of it) I am picky with what we buy. However, it can be hard to find quality sources, even in large grocery stores. I find locally, that while I can find grass-fed ground beef, grass-fed steaks are hard to source. I had a chance to try out their subscription box, getting to choose the meats we prefer, and also had a chance to see how their service works. We had a fun time making many meals, and especially a huge batch of hand-crafted soy-free beef jerky, which you can find the recipe below.

Grass Roots Farmer's Cooperative

What is Grass Roots?

A farmer-owned, sustainable livestock cooperative. We sell the best pasture-raised meats on the planet, shipped from our farms straight to your door.

How is a co-op different from a typical business?

It means the farmers have an ownership stake in the business, and that we pay fair, living-wage prices to our farmers.

What kind of meat does Grass Roots produce?

We grow the most natural, healthiest grass-fed beef, pasture-raised chicken, forested pork, and pasture-raised turkey.

What’s different about how you raise your animals? Our animals are 100% pasture-raised, so they live outdoors with fresh air and thick grass their entire lives. This means they are never crammed in indoor cages like most farmed animals, and instead live natural healthy lives.

What’s better about “pasture-raised?” Our animals get a varied diet and lots of exercise, making their meat much more flavorful. Our chickens scratch and hunt insects, our pigs root for grubs and acorns in Ozark forest (thus we call it “forested pork”), our cows munch on a variety of fresh grasses and never eat grain. We rotate our animals daily to enhance the land, restoring valuable nutrients to the soil.

Our meat is healthier because our animals are never given hormones, unnecessary antibiotics, or other additives. Our standards are considered “better than organic,” because organic certification can still allow unsanitary factory-farmed conditions. Did you know that “free range” chickens usually live their entire lives indoors, with a tiny “access door” to the outdoors that they never use? Not on our farms! You can read more here: About sustainable farming

Where are your farms located?

Our farms are based in rural Arkansas, each farm and location is listed here.

Why is buying from small farmers important?

Small farmers do things the right way. We have superior quality control on our meats, unlike big agribusinesses that regularly send sick animals to slaughter, have contamination problems, etc. You get a healthier product buying from the small farmer, and know exactly where your food is coming from. Plus, purchasing direct from Grass Roots farmers creates living-wage jobs in one of the lowest-income rural areas in the nation. Small scale, sustainable farming is an important way to support rural economies and support diversity in our agricultural system.

How can customers know where their meat is coming from?

We track 100% of our products using blockchain technology, at every stage of production. This creates a bulletproof record as the product travels through our value chain.

How does the blockchain tracking work?

You can scan our packages with your smart phone and see the journey from farm to hauler to butcher to packaging to shipping to plate. We’re the only meat company in the world that is doing this for 100% of our products.

How does ordering work?

It’s easy! Visit here and build your custom box by adding items to your cart.

 

How does my meat arrive?

Your meat arrives frozen inside an insulated tote, in a cardboard box lined with corn-based, biodegradable foam. We pack with lots of dry ice in the box to keep every frozen during the journey.

Enjoy our favorite recipe for hand-crafted beef jerky. Our recipe is soy-free so our youngest can enjoy this high protein treat.

handcrafted beef jerky

Beef Jerky

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds flank steak
  • 2/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 2/3 cup coconut aminos or soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp raw honey
  • 2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp liquid smoke

Directions:

Thaw frozen flank steak until partially thawed (in refrigerator).

Remove steak from refrigerator, trim any visible fat, and thinly slice the meat with the grain, into long strips.

Add meat strips and remaining ingredients into a one gallon zip top bag. Seal tightly, pushing out any air. Shake gently to combine. Place bag in refrigerator for 6 hours to marinate.

Drain the marinade and toss, lay the meat strips out on dehydrator trays with plenty of space around each piece.

Dry at the hottest setting (ours tops out at 158°), rotating trays as needed for even drying every hour, until the jerky is done (which depending on meat thickness and humidity, can take anywhere from 4 to 12 hours. We usually run our dehydrator overnight).

Let cool, then store in a tightly sealed mason jar for up to 3 months.

Enjoy as a savory protein snack!

Note:

Read liquid smoke’s ingredient list. The ugly old school brand has a very simple list, the fancier brands often contain ingredients like wheat. If you have fish allergies, there is a vegan Worcestershire sauce that is free of anchovies.

FTC Disclaimer: We received product for potential review. All thoughts are ours.

Pantry Staples: Instant Pot Dehydrated Vegetable Soup

Instant Pot dehydrated vegetable soup combines the simplicity of Instant Pot cooking with one of the best methods of pantry stocking.

One of the easiest methods of preserving your garden’s harvest is to dehydrate the produce. I often have our dehydrator running for days in summer, processing produce from our gardens or from good deals in season I pick up.

Come the middle of winter, as canned goods dwindle down, you might look into your pantry and see jars of dried food staring you down, asking you to use it up. Because it’s pretty easy to preserve, you don’t quite know what to do with it.

One caveat of dehydrated food is the longer it sits, the longer it can take to rehydrate. If you don’t get it rehydrated enough, it can cause your tummy to not like you, as it’s harder for it to digest. This easy soup recipe fills the belly, and more so, the quick cooking process makes it last-minute friendly. And the pressure cooking process allows the vegetables to rehydrate perfectly.

Add in garbanzo beans at the end, or cooked chicken, for a heartier soup, if you like.

Side note: This recipe fits into a quart mason jar, tamping down between each dried vegetable. Make a few up for last-minute meals to tuck into your pantry.

Instant Pot Dehydrated Vegetable Soup

Ingredients:

Directions:

Add 16 cups water, broth powder, and dried vegetables to Instant Pot (we use an 8 quart model).

Close and lock the lid of the Instant Pot, position the steam release handle to Sealing. Press the “Manual” or “Pressure Cooker” function and adjust the time to 7 minutes.

Once done, let count down 10 minutes, then do a manual release. Check for valve being down, open carefully.

Stir well, taste for seasoning.

Time taken:

It takes about 30 minutes for the pressure cooker to come up to pressure, then 7 minutes to cook, and 10 minutes to cool, and another 3 minutes or so to vent. So, while not truly instant, it takes around 50 minutes to cook, and you don’t need to be involved for 99% of the time. The other benefit between pressure cooking and slow cooking is the vegetables stay firm in texture and don’t get as mushy. You also don’t lose broth to evaporation over the 6 to 8 hours.

Slow Cooker Method:

Add everything to a large slow cooker, cook on “Low” for 6 to 8 hours.