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

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.

Dehydrated Marshmallows

A fun treat for children is dehydrating mini marshmallows. It’s a lot cheaper than buying the tiny Kraft ones (if you can even find those), in the grocery store.

Spread a bag of mini marshmallows on a couple of dehydrator trays, separating as much as you can. Some brands are stickier than others. Dry at 135°, checking after two hours. Break up clumps as needed, and rotate the trays so they are evenly dried. You want the marshmallows to be dry on the outside, and preferably dry inside. The drier they are, the longer the storage time.

Add to hot cocoa in camp, or for kids? Let them add it to their tail mix!

~Sarah

Dehydrating Zucchini Chips

Dehydrating is one of our favorite methods for preserving produce. It’s quick, easy, and takes up little pantry space when done. Zucchini is a vegetable people run out of ideas on what to use it for, however dehydrating is a great way to have some for the long winter!

You will need a mandolin, or good knife skills. If you have a food processor that can take wider vegetables in the chute, that is an option. Harvest your squash, wash and dry. Trim the ends, then thinly slice.

Place on dehydrator trays, and dry at 135° till fully dry. This can take a few hours to up to 12 hours, depending on your kitchen’s temperature and humidity.

We have been dehydrating on a L’Equip Dehydrator for nearly 10 years now. While not as well-known as other brands, it is affordable and works well. It also fits into storage easily, due to being rectangle.

A few large zucchini (4 trays worth) pack into a glass mason jar. Keep tightly sealed, and they will be fresh for up to a year. No worries about losing in a freezer, due to power outages, or frost burn.

Soak in cold water, and let hydrate, and you can use them all winter. If used in soup, add in dry, and let hydrate that way.

Dehydrating And Preserving Herbs And Flowers

Dehydrating and preserving herbs and flowers is a satisfying part of gardening and homesteading. If you are at all interested in herbalism, it is a much wiser choice to grow and preserve your own supply, rather than buy them – and not know how the items were grown. This is of utmost importance if you are using the dried items to make teas and tonics and will be ingesting them.

While there is the cost of a dehydrator upfront, if one wants one, the end cost of harvesting in season and preserving for long-term storage is quick and cost saving.

While there are many dehydrators on the market, most run about the same in quality. We use a L’EQUIP 528 Dehydrator, and have for about 10 years now. I like the look of the unit, and how it fits on the counter. It is also relatively quiet. The key to buying one is having a fan and an adjustable temperature setting. Nesco makes affordable dehydrators, and are work horses. Yes, there are fancier ones, but being able to start and not spend $300 has its benefits.

You don’t need a dehydrator for smaller herbs, such as chamomile and lavender, these can dried in paper sacks, in a dry and breezy area. However, if you live in a humid area, I highly recommend using a dehydrator, if it takes too long to dry you can get mold. On our sister site, TrailCooking, we talk about how you can use your oven to dehydrate. For herbs and flowers, I don’t recommend this. It is just too hot for them (where as for pasta, rice and meat, it works great!).

For best results, pick in the cool of the morning, before the air heats up. This keeps the volatile oils in where they belong. As well, some herbs can cause skin irritations if picked when hot (such as sage, you don’t want to get a lot of the oils on your skin). Some plants you will cut off sections, such as lavender, rosemary, thyme. Once dry, you can strip them off and store. For plants such as peppermints, lemon balm, sage, basil and so on, pick sections, then pop each leaf off before drying. They will be more delicate, and will crush if you strip after drying. For flowers, pick as close to the flower top as you can. Stems are tossed.

I dry at below 110°. How long it takes depends on the plant material, how thick it is, and the humidity in your drying area. In most cases it takes a few hours to a day.

Once fully dry, let cool and promptly pack into glass jars, and sealed.

Then enjoy as needed!