{UPDATED} How to Dehydrate without a Dehydrator

Since its publication way back in August of 2011, my “How to Dehydrate without a Dehydrator” post has continually surpassed any others in terms of page views. Since then, however, an ironic set of developments has occurred: I’ve become significantly less enamored of raw foodism, finding the culture rather militant and unhealthy for me considering my fraught history with food (Gena has more thoughts on approaching raw foods pragmatically); yet I’ve also honed my oven dehydration skills. Though I by no means dehydrate frequently or with fancy 3-day raw meal preparations, I do enjoy a batch of homemade banana chips or broccoli nibblers every so often, and experience greater success than ever with these recipes thanks to a more detailed process of oven-dehydration.

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Oven-dehydrated broccoli nibblers.

Before specifically outlining my oven-dehydration process, I’d like to share with you some helpful tidbits of dehydrating knowledge, courtesy of Dirt Candy Executive Chef Amanda Cohen in her phenomenal restaurant cookbook qua graphic novel.

Photo via Dirt Candy.

Photo via Dirt Candy.

–Tip #1: A dehydrator set at 120°F (an average dehydrating temperature) takes four times longer to dehydrate than an oven. That means that with any recipe whose directions specify dehydrating times with an actual dehydrator, you’ll need to divide that time by four if you’re dehydrating with your oven.
–Tip #2: Your oven needs to be on its lowest setting – 150°F or below – in order for it to function like a dehydrator. If this setting is not below 150°F on your oven, you can do the following: preheat your oven to 200°F, turn it off, place the food in the oven for an hour, then take out the food and repeat the process until dehydration has completed.
–Tip #3: Raw vegetables take 1-3 hours to dehydrate in the oven (4-12 hours in the dehydrator) since they are made up of mostly water. Oily foods like sauteed vegetables and nuts, on the other hand, require 6-12 hours of oven dehydration (24-48 hours in the dehydrator). I find that raw crackers, breads, desserts, and other raw food recipes that start as “batters” require 4-6 hours in he oven (16-24 hours in the dehydrator).
–Tip #4: Check out the Excalibur website for more specific tips and ideas regarding how to dehydrate fruits, veggies, herbs, nuts, and grains. You can apply most all of their tips to oven dehydrating.

Dehydrated sweet crackers.

Dehydrated sweet crackers.

With those tips in mind, here is an outline of my preferred oven-dehydration process:

How to Dehydrate without a Dehydrator {Updated}

You will need:

The food you’d like to dehydrate (raw cracker/bread batter, sliced fruit, cut veggies, fruit puree to make fruit leather, etc.)
Nonstick silicon baking mat such as a Silpat or parchment paper
Aluminum foil
Oven set at its lowest temperature (a toaster oven with a baking setting also works)

Preheat your oven to its lowest setting. If this is above 150°F, see Tip #2 above.

Place a silicon baking mat or parchment paper on an oven-safe cooling rack. Place your to-be-dehydrated food on the mat/parchment. If you are dehydrating simple fruit or veggies, place them next to each other at even intervals. If you are dehydrating something that needs to be spread on the mat/parchment (such as raw cracker batter or fruit puree), spread it out as evenly as possible so that it doesn’t dehydrate more in some spots than in others.

 Take a large sheet of aluminum foil and crumple it into an elongated, snake-like shape. Place the cooling rack full of food into the oven, and prop the oven door open ever so slightly with the foil snake. For even more effective dehydration, place a fan in front of the small oven door opening to ensure air circulation.

Updated Makeshift Dehydrator

Keep the food in the oven until it reaches your desired texture, flipping as necessary (raw crackers and other spreaded items need to be flipped once halfway through). See Tip #3 above for estimates on how long specific foods take to dehydrate in the oven.

Ta-da! You’ve successfully dehydrated without a dehydrator. Now go out and celebrate with all that money you didn’t spend on buying an unnecessary piece of equipment (but that you’ll probably end up shelling out anyway thanks to your increased energy bill…).

Tutorial submitted to Virtual Vegan Linky Potluck.

In solidarity, Ali.

Check Out my Segment on the Latest “Our Hen House” Podcast Episode!

It is with an enormous sense of excitement and humility that I point you toward Episode 222 of the Our Hen House podcast, which features my review of seasonal spring vegetables! That’s right, folks—tune into the latest episode of the OHH podcast and you’ll hear yours truly describing the wonders of artichokes, rhubarb, fava beans, and ramps, as well as the most flavorful methods of preparing them. Lucky for me, I actually had the pleasure of speaking with the Hens in their actual coop, with the absolutely fabulous Rose the dog curled up on my lap. Featured alongside me in the episode is David Neale, the Animal Welfare Director for Animals Asia. I would be honored if you took a moment of your day to give the episode a listen.

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If you enjoyed hearing some Farmers Market Vegan goodness on the OHH podcast, then I do hope you’ll keep an eye on future podcast episodes, for you may very well hear me on some upcoming ones, as well…;)

Until next time, Ali.

Green Smoothie-Granola Breakfast Bowl

Confession: I harbor a deep-seated adoration of green smoothies. Granted, I may or may not have inadvertently revealed this infatuation in my recent guest post on Green Thickies, or in my detailed instruction guide on How to Make the Perfect Green Smoothie, or in the 37 various green smoothies highlighted on my What I Ate Wednesday Smoothie Compilation. Regardless of how ostentatiously I promote my love affair with green smoothies, or of how many consecutive mornings I’ve reveled in green smoothie goodness for breakfast (please don’t force me to count), the fact remains that nothing provides me more morningtime contentment than diving spoon-first into a brightly hued, creamy, refreshing green smoothie.

One of my favorite smoothies: my creamy Blueberry-Basil Smoothie. Perfect for turning into a Green Smoothie-Granola Bowl!

One of my favorite smoothies: my creamy Blueberry-Basil Smoothie. Perfect for turning into a Green Smoothie-Granola Bowl!

Providing the ideal vehicle for incorporating more wildly nutrient-dense leafy greens into one’s diet, green smoothies can also fulfill one’s daily fruit quota, as well as offer ample amounts of protein depending upon if one chooses to add vegan protein powder, various nut butters, chia and/or hemp seeds, etc. However, while one can easily cram tons of nutrients and energy into one blended concoction, I find that doing so masks the pure and simple flavors of the fruit integral to smoothies—an especial tragedy if the aforementioned fruit consists of summer’s bounty of peaches, berries, plums, and the like. In order to provide for easy identification and full enjoyment of each fruit incorporated in my daily smoothies, I only add six uncomplicated ingredients into the blender each morning: a banana, 1/2 cup each of two different “feature” fruits, a scoop of protein powder (completely optional), a generous two handfuls of chopped kale, and 1 cup of the best soymilk known to humankind. This basic smoothie template ensures a delightfully thick, creamy smoothie bursting with the pronounced flavor of both feature fruits.

I topped this mauve-hued smoothie of banana, blackberry, and cantaloupe with a delicious maple-spice granola and almond butter.

I topped this mauve-hued smoothie of banana, blackberry, cantaloupe, and kale with a delicious maple-spice granola and almond butter.

While scrumptious and nourishing on its own, this unpretentious smoothie tends not to adequately satiate my hunger or provide enough calories to support my quite active lifestyle. To add nutrient and caloric density, as well as a satisfyingly toothsome contrast to the smoothie’s creaminess, I always top my smoothies with a heaping half-cupful of homemade granola and a spoonful of nut butter. These simple (yet oh so tasty) additions transform a healthy morning snack into a nutrient-packed A.M. meal, a humble green smoothie into the ultimate breakfast: the Green Smoothie-Granola Breakfast Bowl.

As I previously alluded, the proper Green Smoothie-Granola Breakfast Bowl requires three components:
1.) The green smoothie.
2.) The granola.
3.) The nut butter.

These three components allow for infinite variations depending upon taste preferences, caloric needs, and seasonal fruit availability. Lately, I’ve blended cantaloupe, blackberries, peaches, and plums into my smoothies; I’ve made numerous adaptations of this fabulous recipe for my granola (using maple syrup instead of honey, of course); and I’ve rotated between peanut and almond butter for my morning nut butter spoonful. I’ve also hugely enjoyed adding handfuls of herbs into my smoothies—fresh thyme, basil, and cilantro all nicely brighten any smoothie. Obviously, your Green Smoothie-Granola Breakfast Bowl will most likely vary immensely from mine—this only showcases the customizable beauty of such a breakfast!

smoothie bowl 2

If you’ve ever experimented with green smoothies for breakfast but found that they didn’t sufficiently quell your hunger, I’d highly recommend offering green smoothies a second chance in the form of a Green Smoothie-Granola Breakfast Bowl. Your tastebuds and tummy will thank you.

Submitted to Healthy Vegan Friday and Wellness Weekend.

Until next time, Ali.

Natural Skincare: Homemade Exfoliating Cleanser

Last October during Vegan Mofo, I introduced you all, dear readers, to the wonders of a homemade facial toner and acne scar remover that consists merely of apple cider vinegar and white tea. Since entering college almost one year ago, I’ve actively strove to reduce the amount of hygiene and skincare products I purchase for a variety of reasons: 1.) To ease the financial strain commonly experienced by college students. 2.) To avoid slathering harmful chemicals all over my face and extremities. 3.) To minimize the risk of accidentally purchasing products that contain animal-tested ingredients. 4.) To feel damn cool and DIY for developing an almost completely homemade skin and hair care regimen.

My homemade facial toner & its ridiculously simple ingredients.

Shampoo, conditioner, exfoliating cleanser, and facial toner comprise the cosmetic products that I’ve homemade for almost 12 months now. You can read more about the details of the “No-Poo” hair care method, which employs only baking soda and apple cider vinegar in fostering healthy, lustrous hair, at the Nature Moms blog, and can find the “recipe” for homemade facial toner on one of my previous posts. While I now save about $27 on a semi-monthly basis by ceasing to purchase these products, I’m also reducing my carbon footprint by avoiding the chemicals and packaging involved in the production of cosmetics. Not one to embark upon any endeavor halfheartedly, I’m still seeking to further contribute to the health of both my personal finances and the planet by incorporating more homemade hygiene solutions into my daily routine. For example, once I run out of my current stick of deodorant and tube of toothpaste, I fully intend to start homemaking these items as well, following these two sets of instructions. After eschewing these two store-bought hygiene products, I’ll regain another $10 every month or so, and will only need purchase facial cleanser, a couple items of makeup, and hair sculpting paste to fulfill my hair and skincare requirements (if you know of natural methods to replace any of these particular products, please do let me know!).

DIY toothpaste from Wild Roots.

DIY deodorant from In Sonnet’s Kitchen.

Today, I’d like to share with you perhaps the simplest and most economic exfoliating cleanser I’ve ever encountered. Costing less than $0.05 per use and consisting of only one sole ingredient, this exfoliating cleanser effectively dissolves under-skin sebum, clears away debris, and alkalizes the skin. The magic ingredient? Baking soda.

baking soda baking soda 2

The Method:

1.) Splash your face with warm water to preliminarily cleanse the skin.
2.) In the palm of your hand, dissolve 1 tbsp baking soda in a couple drops of water (feel free to add a drop or two of your favorite essential oil for fragrance).
3.) Rub the baking soda paste all over your face in small, circular motions for about 2-3 minutes before rinsing the mixture off completely with warm water.
4.) Gently dry your face and follow the exfoliating cleanser immediately with facial toner to close your pores and prevent gunk (a technical esthetic term) from entering them.

Method submitted to Waste Not Want Not Wednesdays, Allergy-Free Wednesdays, Healthy Vegan Fridays, and Wellness Weekend.

Comment-Provoking Questions: Do you make any of your own cosmetics or skin, hair, and hygiene products? If so, of what ingredients do they consist?

Until next time, Ali.

Guest Post on Not Your Ordinary Recipes: Banana Soft Serve Ice Cream & Variations

Today, dear readers, I’d like to direct you toward the blog Not Your Ordinary Recipes, where I have a guest post published that features banana soft-serve ice cream. If you’ve never experienced the life-changing method of crafting delectably creamy frozen treats solely from the humble fruit, I’d urge you to head over to Becky’s blog and learn how to do so. Indeed, reveling in the joys of soft-serve-esque, dairy-free ice cream requires no more than a couple frozen bananas, a food processor, and about four minutes of your time.

My post also offers suggestions for transforming the basic banana soft-serve recipe into decadent ice cream creations using additional ingredients such as fresh fruit, peanut butter, cocoa powder, herbs, and spices. Who knew that homemaking mouthwatering ice cream flavors like Butter Pecan, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Lavender Lemon, and Roasted Strawberry Cardamom required only a handful of ordinary ingredients and absolutely no ice cream-maker?

Head over to Not Your Ordinary Recipes to begin the journey toward opening your own banana soft-serve ice cream truck!

Until next time, Ali.

Farmers Market Vegan’s 2nd Cooking Show Episode

This February, I along with the rest of the Multimedia team at Vassar’s campus newspaper the Miscellany News launched a vegan cooking show hosted by your’s truly. The first episode featured a tutorial on how to make vegan sushi, and the second, just released today, showcases a novel recipe for vegan deviled eggs, inspired by the lovely ladies at Lagusta’s Luscious vegan & fair trade chocolate company in New Paltz, NY. Check out the video and snag the recipe here.

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Until next time, Ali.

How to Make the Perfect Green Smoothie

After nearly 475 days of blending up a mix of fruit, leafy greens, and plant-based milks for breakfast—some experiments producing tastebud-orgasmic morning meals, others grimace-inducing swamps-in-a-bowl—I have honed, refined, and (dare I say) perfected the practice of green smoothie-ing. Thus, I feel a strong urge, nay, a calling from the vegan deities above to improve upon the green smoothie how-to I offered nearly 15 months ago at the very onset of my blogging ventures.

Blueberry Basil Smoothie

Allow me to define my notion of the perfect green smoothie with a few adjectives: thick, creamy, subtly sweet, fruity, refreshing, substantial, and smile-inducing. Rather than serving as a liquid meal, I wholeheartedly believe that green smoothies should provide a pudding- or milkshake-esque bed on which crunchy granola clusters can happily rest.

Fluffy Mousse Smoothie with Apple and Avocado

In my experience, two methods of green-smoothie-crafting fulfill my seven aforementioned criteria of perfection:

  1. Banana + Frozen Fruit: produces a frosty, milkshake-textured smoothie that melts like ice cream into the granola’s crevices.
  2. Avocado + Fresh Fruit: produces a decadent-feeling, pudding/mousse-like smoothie in which you could almost stand up a spoon.

A minimal amount of milk serves as the secret to the thickest, creamiest, most satisfying smoothie in both of these applications. While this quality may require more effort to facilitate blending (multiple times to stop the blender and push the ingredients down…unless of course you own a Vitamix!), the impeccable results merit the slightly more laborious task than that of blending a smoothie with a more generous amount of liquid.

Sketch-Free Vegan Eating’s Green-Chocolate Pudding

The Perfect Green Smoothie

Banana + Frozen Fruit Method:

  • 1 large frozen banana, sliced
  • 1 cup mixed frozen fruit
  • 1-2 cups leafy greens, chopped (kale is my favorite, but collards and salad greens also work well)
  • 1/2 cup plant-based milk (almond, hemp, soy, oat, etc.)

Avocado + Fresh Fruit Method:

  • 1/2 ripe avocado
  • 1 medium-large piece of rather juicy fresh fruit (apple, peach, pear, persimmon, plum, etc.)
  • 1-2 cups leafy greens, chopped
  • 1/3 cup plant-based milk

Optional Add-Ins to Both Methods:

  • 1-2 tbsp chia, hemp, or flax seeds
  • 1 tbsp nut butter
  • 1 scoop vegan protein/green superfoods powder
  • 1 tbsp carob or cacao powder
  • 1 tsp other superfood powder (spirulina, wheatgrass, maca, lucuma, mesquite, etc.)
  • 1 tsp sweet spice (cinnamon, cardamom)
  • Small knob of fresh ginger, peeled
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • Small handful of fresh herbs (basil, cilantro, parsley)

Layer the ingredients in the blender in the order I’ve listed above. You should add any optional add-ins between the fresh/frozen fruit and the greens. Blend until smooth and creamy, pausing to push down the mixture as necessary.

Tutorial submitted to Sunday School, Wellness Weekend, Fight Back Friday, Foodtastic Friday, Fat Tuesday, Waste Not Want Not Wednesday, and Allergy-Free Wednesdays, Healthy Vegan Fridays, Gluten Free Fridays, and Raw Foods Thursdays.

Mango-Blueberry “I Live in the Springtime” Smoothie

With this template recipe, you too can become a master, an aficionado, a veritable connoisseur of green smoothies. If you seek inspiration until then, check out my Blueberry Basil Smoothie, my Peach, Raspberry, and Ginger Green Smoothie, or the many green smoothies on my WIAW Smoothie Pinterest board.

Until next time, Ali.