Apple Chews (for dogs and their peoples)

Friday, November 30th, 2012

Back in the day, Ralphie loved his rawhide chews. He used to stash them under the bed, wedge them in between cushions, hide them behind furniture – put them under the rug, even. Naturally, we’d buy him bones meant for larger breed dogs for maximum comedic effect. (Oh, the pictures! I won’t post them here, since they’re tragically non-vegan, but.)

We’ve sworn off animal-based chews since going vegan

– probably a good thing; not only are they gross and apt to goo up the furniture, but considering how he enjoyed hoarding those things, treats left unattended would likely be a source of epic conflicts in this multi-dog household –

and haven’t found a suitable replacement yet. Vegan “pig’s ears” are the closest we’ve come – but as pricey as they are, even those go quickly, devoured in a matter of minutes. Homemade sweet potato chews made in the dehydrator are pretty nifty: less expensive than the pig’s ears, but they last almost as long. The apple chips I made back in September got me thinking: maybe I could make a similar chew using apples. Nothing beats free, amirite people?

While the original apple chip recipe can easily work for dogs (indeed, the dogs begged much of that batch!), this time around I went with a thicker cut than you’d use to make chips: about 1/4″, sometimes thicker. (My hands aren’t always that steady, yo.)

When dehydrating them, you have two options: suck out most – but not all – of the moisture, or dehydrate the apple slices completely. Option A gives you a slightly spongier chew, which might be better for some dogs. (These will also need to be refrigerated or frozen.) Option B results in more of a chip-like chew, similar to the people chips I made, only thicker. I worried that some of the smaller dogs might have trouble chewing them, but so far so good. This includes Kaylee, who has a history of dental problems and is missing half her teeth, as well as Mags, who recently broke two teeth down to the nubs and has dental surgery scheduled in the near future.

If you’re unsure, try a batch of each and see what works. You can always throw the extras in your morning oatmeal or use ’em in a batch of homemade granola!

I also cut out the spices – the dogs enjoy the apples as-is, so why bother? – but you can season them with cinnamon and lemon juice if you’d like. (Just stay away from nutmeg, as it can be harmful to dogs.)

 

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Apple Chews (for dogs and their peoples)

Ingredients

Fresh apples (as many as your food dehydrator can fit!)
Lemon juice (optional)
Cinnamon (optional)

Directions

1. Clean the apples thoroughly before starting. Inspect them for any signs of damage – bruises, worm holes, etc. – and cut away any bad sections. Remove the stems and seeds using an apple corer. (Warning: this is a squirty, messy job!)

2. Slice the apples width-wise, so that each slice is donut-shaped, with a hole in the middle. Cut the slices between 1/8″ and 1/4″ thick plus – a thicker slice will result in a heartier, chewier dried apple slice. If these are meant for human consumption, go with a thinner cut; for dogs, cut each slice 1/4″ thick plus.

3. If desired, season with lemon juice and cinnamon. Place the apple slices in a large bowl. Add the lemon juice and cinnamon – about a tablespoon and a teaspoon worth, respectively, per every eight apples – and mix well.

4. Place the apple slices on the dehydrator trays; they can be spaced closely together, but make sure there isn’t any overlap. Bake at 135F for ten to fourteen hours. About three to four hours in, flip the chews over so that they don’t stick to the trays. Around hour ten, check in on the chews and remove those that are done. Give each slice a gentle squeeze to check the water content.

– If you prefer a slightly softer chew, remove them once they’ve begun to shrink and most – but not all – of the moisture has been sapped out of them.

– If you prefer more of a chip-like chew, leave them in the dehydrator until they’re dry and brittle.

Continue to dehydrate in one or two hour increments until all the slices are done.

5. Store in an airtight container. Softer chews should be refrigerated and used within a week; extras can be stored in the freezer and defrosted as needed. Completely dehydrated chews will keep for a week or more on the shelf, but can still be refrigerated or frozen for maximum freshness.

 

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Vegan MoFo B-Sides: Dried (Not Fried!) Green Tomatoes

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

 

The song: “Cool Down Yonder” by Marion Williams

The foodstuff: Dried (Not Fried!) Green Tomatoes, three ways!

The connection: Fried Green Tomatoes, redux

 

Dried (Not Fried!) Green Tomatoes (0015)

 

Since the “Unfried” Green Tomatoes from VegRAWnica was the first dish to land on my to-do list, it’s rather fitting that it’s also the first new recipe I try post-Vegan MoFo. (Also, wholly unsurprising; I ♥ My Dehydrator!)

The batter Veronica uses is quite similar to the vegan parm I so love, but with cashews where the almonds should be. Using her method as a starting point, I came up with three different batter recipes: a more “traditional” cornmeal coating; a second that’s heavy in nutritional yeast; and one with vegan parmesan.

Of the three, I think the noochy mix is my favorite, followed by the vegan parmesan, with cornmeal coming in a distant third. Batter #2 has the strongest taste, which I appreciate because dehrdrated green tomatoes? Not a huge fan of the flavor. Fried and baked green tomatoes, I can either take ’em or leave ’em. Probably I won’t go out of my way to make them unless I’ve been cursed with some green tomatoes which refuse to ripen – but if you put a plate of fried green tomatoes in front of me, I might eat a slice or two. With dried green tomatoes, the taste is super-concentrated into a small space of real estate. The nooch covers it up, but just a bit.

Then again, if you dig the taste of green tomatoes, this is totally a good thing. Turns out my husband loves ’em. Six tomatoes, eaten in under three days. That’s gotta be a Shane record!

 

Dried (Not Fried!) Green Tomatoes (0041)

 

“Traditional” Dried Green Tomatoes

Ingredients

1 large green tomato (or two medium-sized ones), cut into slices between 1/8″ and 1/4″ thick (a mandolin is helpful, but not necessary)
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil

1/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
a dash of onion powder
a dash of salt

Directions

1. Cut the tomatoes into slices between 1/8″ and 1/4″ in thickness. A mandolin may prove helpful, but a steady hand will work just as well. As you go, toss the tomatoes in a large bowl. When done, add 1 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil; mix well.

2. In a small, shallow bowl, combine the cornmeal, garlic and onion powder, and salt. Mix well and add any extra seasonings to taste.

3. One by one, dredge the tomato slices through the batter, evenly coating each side. Shake off the excess and lay the slices on a dehydrator tray, making sure that there isn’t any overlap.

4. When done, bake at 135F for ten to twelve hours. (The thicker the tomato slices, the long they’ll need to bake.) A few hours into the process, flip each slices so that it doesn’t stick to the tray. Store in an airtight container.

(More below the fold…)

Cinnamon Sugar Apple Chips (Dehydrated OR Baked!)

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

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25 apples worth of dried apple chips.
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Apple chips! I’m not usually big on fruit chips (veggie chips? another story!), but given the ridiculous amount of apples we ended up with this year, I decided to give ’em a try. And guess what? They were a huge hit! Even the dogs liked ’em. (I say this like they’re particularly fussy about what they put in their mouths or something. Sadly, this is not the case!)

Pro tip: if you plan on sharing with your canine friends, avoid using nutmeg, as it can be harmful to dogs.

They’re also an efficient use of apples: in the dehydrator, 25 apples shrunk down to about 4 quarts of chips. They took up 9 trays of real estate in my Nesco Gardenmaster, so plan accordingly.

I have an even dozen trays, so I probably could have sprung for another batch – but all that slicing? So tedious! At least peeling is optional.

If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can also make these in the oven – though you may want to cut the recipe in half or even a quarter, lest you end up baking apple chips from sunup to sundown with no end in sight. I guess it depends on how big of an oven you have; mine is a dinky little wall-mounted thing dating back to the ’70s. It doesn’t even have the space to fit my largest cookie sheets! Kitchen Crashers, where are you when I need you?

 

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Cinnamon Sugar Apple Chips (Dehydrated OR Baked!)

Ingredients

8 medium apples
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons sugar

Directions

1. Wash, peel (if desired), and core the apples. Slice them as thinly as possible, working either vertically or horizontally. Vertical slices will give you a mix of large, solid chips (e.g., either side of the apple) and wedges (the middles), while cutting the apple horizontally will produce a more homogenous batch of donut-shaped slices. You can use a mandolin if you’d like – but if you have a steady hand, it’s not really necessary. (I’ve found that my cheapo mandolin is more trouble than it’s worth!)

2. Toss the slices in a large bowl. Add the lemon juice and stir well. Mix in the cinnamon and sugar, rubbing the seasonings into the individual slices by hand if necessary. Try to distribute the cinnamon and sugar as evenly as possible.

3. If using a dehydrator: Place the apple slices on the dehydrator trays; they can be spaced closely together, but make sure there isn’t any overlap. Bake at 135F for ten to twelve hours. About three to four hours in, flip the chips over so that they don’t stick to the trays. Around hour ten, check in on the chips and remove those that are done. If a chips is still a bit squishy and flexible, leave it to dehydrate for another two hours.

4. If baking in the oven: Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Place the apple slices on the paper; they can be spaced closely together, but make sure there isn’t any overlap. Bake at 200F for two hours. Halfway through, flip the chips so that they bake evenly. Remove when crispy.

5. These are best when enjoyed immediately, but you can store any leftovers in an airtight container. The drier they are, the longer they’ll keep.

 

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It’s raining apples!
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Dehydrated Zucchini Chips (A 5 for 1 dealio!)

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

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Subtitle: The Great Zucchini Chip Experiment!
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While Shane was away at TAM, I spent the week tearing up the kitchen: Triple batches of granola! Marinara sauce made from garden fresh tomatoes and frozen for later! Homemade ranch dressing, with homemade sour cream! (The silken tofu? Store-bought. Not a level 5 vegan, I.) Banana ice cream as far as the eye can see! And zucchini chips, too! Stacks and stacks of dehydrated zucchini chips, in a futile attempt to deplete my zucchini stockpile. (Within two days of using up nearly all the zukes, my produce drawer was full again. Cue: existential crisis.)

Though these Baked Zucchini Sticks retain the title of Best Zucchini Recipe EVER, the zucchini chips are a close second. Not only do they use up a ton of zukes – seven zucchinis yielded about 18 cups of chips, which at the current rate of consumption will be gone within the week – but they’re freaking delicious, too. Especially the salt & vinegar ones, if that’s your thing. (I’m not just a member of the fan club, I’m the president!)

After poking around the interwebz, I came up with five flavors. So far I’ve only tried the first three (Salt & Vinegar, Salted Celery – aka Celery Salt, and Salt & Pepper), but the other two are on my to-do list. The Lemon Pepper should be interesting, and I’m sure Shane will get a kick out of the Spicy Cumin & Cayenne Pepper version. For an even simpler chip, stick to just the olive oil and/or salt – or omit the oil entirely for a lighter snack.

Don’t have a dehydrator? Try baking these in the oven. Sure, it’ll be hotter and you’ll have to process them in smaller batches, but baked zucchini chips are the bomb. I’m not sure how the vinegar will affect the baking process, but the other recipes should work just fine.

I have a Nesco Gardenmaster (reviewed here), which is big and bulky but also not super-expensive when purchased new. Sometimes you can score ’em at Goodwill for a fraction of the price. If you grow your own fruits, veggies, and/or herbs, they can be incredibly useful. Use it to make your own fruit leather when autumn rolls around and you can score apples on the cheap. It costs a fraction of the price of the store-bought stuff, and you can create any flavor you can dream up.

My sister actually puts my homemade fruit leather on her Christmas wishlist now, for serious! Plus it’s good for distracting dogs whilst you stab at them with needles. (Ralphie needs a shot of antigens every few weeks. I’m not a sadist, sheesh!) The more you know!

And now for the zucchini chips. The instructions are basically the same for each recipe, but I repeated them five times in case you’d like to copy, paste, and print one or two recipes in particular. (You’re welcome!) All the instructional type photos are in the first recipe.

Pro tip: While the general consensus seems to be that you should stick with younger, seedless zukes, I prefer the mega-ginormous overgrown ones. Not only do they produce a more substantial chip (when dried, zuke slices with a diameter of 1-2″ shrink down to practically nothing!), but the seeds aren’t really a problem – they dehydrate easy peasy.

Pro tip #2: Of course, this works best with veggies fresh from the garden – but in a pinch, dehydration is an excellent way of preserving older zucchinis that have started to shrivel a bit. Not that we ever let it get to that point, nudge nudge wink wink.

Ready, set, dehydrate!

(More below the fold…)

Preserving Produce Like a Frugal Vegan Mofo: A Review of the Nesco Gardenmaster FD-1020 Food Dehydrator

Monday, November 15th, 2010

The first summer after moving into our new home, the husband and I found ourselves buried under a deluge of fresh produce. Some of it, such as the watermelons, cantaloupes, green and yellow zucchini, jalapenos, green and yellow peppers, and tomatoes (oh, the tomatoes!: Roma, Beefsteak, cherry and grape) came as no surprise, since they were planned, planted and grown in our very own garden. Most of the fruit, on the other hand, was wholly unexpected; when we purchased the house the previous spring, we had no idea that many of the trees in our front yard were of the fruit-bearing variety. The apricots, pears and apples (120 grocery bags full, for reals!), then, came as a shock. A happy shock, but a shock nonetheless.

With the threat of an overabundance of fruit and veggies looming, I hurriedly began researching methods of preserving the extras for winter. Canning struck me as intriguing, if a bit risky for a newbie like myself. Freezing, while quick and easy, brings with it the obvious space and energy limitations. Eventually, I decided that dehydrating the excess food was my best option: safe, uncomplicated and requiring the minimal upfront investment.

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My (then-) newly-purchased Nesco American Harvest Gardenmaster FD-1020 Digital Pro Food Dehydrator, still in the box.
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Enter: the Nesco American Harvest Gardenmaster FD-1020 Digital Pro Food Dehydrator. After quite a bit of online window-shopping, I finally opted for this make and model. A mid-range dehydrator, the Gardenmaster FD-1020 is one of the pricier models offered by Nesco, and yet it’s still less expensive than those made by Excalibur (which, if the Amazon listings are any indication, is the Lexus of food dehydrators). Currently, the Gardenmaster FD-1020 retails for $154.99 on Amazon, but is on sale for $116.95.

All things considered – e.g., price, customer reviews, expandability, accessories – the Gardenmaster FD-1020 struck me as the wisest choice: suitable for my needs, without going over the top. Plus, it only cost me $30 after I applied my existing gift certificate balance. Score!

This is my third autumnal season with the Gardenmaster; in this time, I’ve used it to dry a variety of fruits and veggies, including tomatoes:

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(More below the fold…)