One of my many kitchen-related Christmas gifts (gasp! just realized I didn’t actually post about those either, oops), was a food dehydrator. Now it’s something I’ve wanted to experiment with before, but I never could justify the price for something I would probably only use occasionally and had very specific functions.
But to have one bought for me? Oh yeah, I’m gonna use it like crazy, hehe. And this bad boy came with both a fruit leather tray and jerky settings (also amazing, by the way).
I’m not a huge fruit leather fan, but making my own fruit roll-ups was a huge life saver when I started doing bento boxes and trying to cut out certain kinds of sugars and preservatives for us for a while. The kids loved it because it was like the candy they enjoyed otherwise….and I loved it because I knew I was using fresh or frozen fruit, which while yes, still has sugar, is also natural sugar with nothing extra funky being added. Win-win.
Another of my goodies for Christmas was a juicer attachment for my Kitchen Aid mixer, which was a perfect pair for making fruit leather. All I had to do was prep whatever fruits I was using (or better yet, grab a couple bags of frozen mixed berries and an apple, etc), put it through the juicer (didn’t even thaw the frozen ones), and voila.
See all that kinda chunky stuff on top? The “juice” it produced is all the liquid on the bottom, and the top portion is what I scooped out of the juice that was deemed “skins, pulp, seeds, hard frozen bits, whatever.” I could’ve tossed those out and used just the juice, but it mashed them so small that I opted to mix it all together and not lose any of the goodies for this combo.
Judging by the colors here, I believe this is a combination of two frozen bags of berries and fruits. The one bag would’ve had blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries, while the other would’ve had peaches, mangos, and possibly a bit of pineapple. The only possible stuff I might’ve wanted kept out would’ve been seeds from the berries, but you couldn’t tell in the dehydrated version anyway, so I’m glad I didn’t.
All mixed together, it was an awesome purple-y color.
Okay, bad example. Ew.
How about this one?
See all those little bits of blueberry skins and such? I thought they might pose a problem, but not at all.
As it started drying, the edges shrunk in and it looked moist across the top. I was a little concerned maybe it wouldn’t dry entirely or would end up with holes even if I let it dry too long, but nada!
When it was all done, it wasn’t quite as rich in color and as pretty, but it really did end up tasting just like fruit roll-ups and was gone in no time. I didn’t even bother slicing it and rolling it with plastic wrap like the commercial product because nobody cared….and just wanted more.
I did cut some small chunks and pseudo-roll them for the bento boxes, but they didn’t seem to stick to themselves much anyway.
I’ve made it a few times since with several different variations. I found recipes that called for sugar or corn syrup, but I found that with any combos that were on the bitter side, adding an apple was enough sweetness for a batch.
This is what frozen mangos, strawberries, and peaches look like. It’s obviously too chunky to spread, so I thawed it out until it was easier to mix into a paste-like mixture.
It dried much darker like in the upper right hand corner of this picture:
If you want to make your own, but you don’t have a dehydrator, it’s easy to just use your own. Try out this post from Simply Recipes for some help on doing it that way. She has some great tips on how to use fresh fruit, using lemon juice and various spices, and even a tidbit on straining the juice from grapes for grape juice and then pureeing the rest for fruit leather. Yum.
I adore the orange and yellow clearance stickers, but I especially love them when they’re plastered across gorgeous pieces of meat. In this case, it was a large package of steelhead fillets for only $9.26. Seeing that it was originally a $40 selection makes it even sweeter.
I didn’t know exactly what kind of fish steelhead was, but because I thought it was salmon when I first saw the color, we figured it was something similar.
It wasn’t until we were almost to the checkout that I noticed the sticker actually called it catfish. Um, there’s no way, lol. Weird. Fortunately, Wikipedia confirmed that steelhead is just another name for rainbow trout.
For meal #1, we had large steaks covered in Panko and baked until delicious. We could’ve had smaller steaks atop salads to stretch it farther, but for that kind of price, no need in skimping.
It actually produced two pans’ worth like that, so there was enough for us to have seconds and to have some for lunch the day.
The end pieces that weren’t thick enough for thick steaks, I cut into nuggets, dipped in egg, and battered with Panko.
The Panko crumbs hadn’t stuck quite as well to the steaks as I had hoped, so dipping in egg made sure it wasn’t going to budge. I also mixed in a bit of regular bread crumbs for more even coverage (read: even crispier goodness).
Mmmm, golden brown and crispy. Note, in the last picture you can see there’s two pans of these, too. Between all the, um, “taste testing” and snacking, it’s surprising there was any left, but I still had plenty to stick a whole pile into each of three bento boxes, too.
So what about the cat? If you scroll back up, you can see that there were some large fatty pieces on the fish.
I took those areas, plus a few other scraps, and cut them into itty bitty pieces.
It’s certainly not the most appetizing-looking….
But after an overnight visit with the dehydrator, I had dozens of little homemade cat treats.
Not bad for 9 bucks and some change, eh?