a "been-there" mom of six offers encouragement
to wives, young mothers, and those not so young,
and simple common-sense approaches to
the "ings" of life:
child-rearing (hints and helps), homemaking (all areas),
cooking (simple, cheap, and do-it-yourself)
making (toys and gifts), preparing (for the unexpected),
maintaining (sanity and peace in this increasingly crazy world) and more---
all aspects of making the most of making do on little---
and having fun in the process.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Easy, Yummy, Crunchy Zucchini Chips: Dehydrated

I am having great fun with yummy results using my dehydrator. 

Dried fruits and veggies make healthy and great snacks, are terrific light-weight food sources for hiking and camping and a wonderful means of storage for emergencies. 

My latest efforts have been flavored zucchini and yellow squash chips.

I've read about flavoring apple pieces with kool-aid flavors before dehydrating but that didn't have much appeal to me  ---- although they do look pretty in the jar. Actually they probably aren't much different than the dried fruit-flavored apple pieces you can buy in #10 cans if you want to pay the price.

We do love the apple results when sprinkling them very lightly with cinnamon-sugar before drying. A great snack!

However, as I mentioned a couple of paragraphs ago, now I am going to tell you about my experiments with dehydrating zucchini.  First off, the first time I tried  it, I tried sprinkling it lightly with Lawry's seasoned salt and/or a few other things like lemon pepper.  I was too heavy handed and once dehydrated the seasonings were too strong so my advice is, if you go that route, sprinkle very, very lightly.

When we dried them without any seasonings we, at first, thought they were kinda blah but quickly became addicted to them. The same, both about over seasoning and no seasoning, for cucumbers.

Top shelf: red (and green) bell peppers,  cinnamon- sugared apple slices,
cinnamon-sugared zucchini slices, two jars of plain cucumber slices and
jar of refrigerated microwaved bread and butter pickles
Bottom shelf:  orange juice soaked yellow squash, pineapple tidbits, jar of spiced apple and
berry fruit leathers, plain apple slices, and maraschino cherries

Searching the web for zucchini recipes recently I came across http://realfoodlittlerock.blogspot.com/2012/05/fruit-snacks-fromzucchini.html --- a site on simmering chunks of zucchini in pineapple juice (and/or grape juice) for 30 minutes before dehydrating.  It sounded intriguing.

I tried it on a smaller scale, using the juice from one can of pineapple tidbits.  The results were okay but the method gave me other ideas. I filled the first tray with the pineapple tidbits and the second tray with the pineapple-juice-simmered and drained zucchini sections.

 I then decided I preferred thin rounds over the small chunks  so I got out my handy mandolin and went from there with the rest of my zucchini and yellow crook neck squash.

Tray 3 - orange-juice-simmered squash rounds --- some sprinkled lightly with dried orange zest.

Tray 4 -  combined-pineapple-and-orange-juice simmered squash rounds.

Trays 5-8,  squash rounds (both the green and the yellow) --- very lightly sprinkled with the cinnamon-sugar mixture before drying.

All were surprisingly good but our favorite is the cinnamon-sugar ones and our least favorite the original ones.  I think 30 minutes was a little too long to simmer.

I soaked the remaining squash slices in the leftover combined juices overnight in the frig and dried them the next day.  We liked them better than the simmered ones!

We also soaked raw zucchini slices in the left-over marinade from a jar of our microwaved bread and butter pickles and then dehydrated them with great results.


Basically it all boils down to that thinking cap mentality I keep mentioning and urging. Read about others' great ideas and take it from there.

'til we eat again,
          Simply, Gail

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Easy, Crunchy and Fat-free Potato Chips in the Microwave

But first a word from a product I won't be sponsoring only ---- copying! 

I have a few Pampered Chef items that were given to me by a daughter-in-law --- which I like a lot and use a lot. Until last month I had never been to one of their parties.  It was interesting and kinda fun but the cheapskate in me didn't like the prices, or the shipping/handling charge added to deliver it to the home of the hostess.

I'm sorry but that is just how I am or more than likely, how all cheapskates are.

I rarely buy potato chips because I love them and I cannot eat just one! I really liked the PC microwave potato chip maker that was demonstrated at the party but I was really turned off by the price and the fact that it is basically a one-purpose wonder.

I think my brain is conditioned to automatically start thinking up ways to recreate what ever makes my eyes light up. Or the dollar $igns!

 I wanted to buy something to support the party but after less than  two and one-half minutes of rationalizing $26 for two round holey surfaces of microwaveable plastic my brain kicked into gear.

Thus, the photos below I located on the internet (because Dave isn't home to take my pictures for me).

As soon as I got home I raided my microwave-able plastic-pieces storage box looking for holey things. I first  uncovered the old steamer thingey I've had for years (and has been buried and laying dormant for about the same length of time.)   It's the photo with the salmon, lemon slice and sprig of something. Rosemary maybe?

And it did quite a good job making potato chips.

The next day I found it necessary  to drop by the thrift store and found this extremely labor-intensive, and probably, up until now, one-purpose, microwave bacon cooker for $1.25 .  Bingo! (See the photo with the bacon carefully stretched and skewered between the uprights?) That's the Bacon Wave "as seen on TV" for $ 9.88. But,  if you call in the next 10 minutes. . .

Old steamer  thingey
The "Bacon Wave" as seen on TV. . .

Okay, here's what you do.

1. Scrub a potato or two really well but don't bother peeling. 
2. Use the thinnest slicer on the mandolin* to slice the potato. 
3. Place one slice in each of the upright slots. (It seems to work a little better if you either use just the two outer rows of slots or skip every other one. It won't take too long to experiment.
4. Microwave on  high for two or three  4-minute intervals, depending on your microwave.  They will crisp up as they cool down. (Cool off is probably more correct but I liked how crisp up--cool down sounded)

I didn't salt or season them because I knew we were going to dip them heavily into sour cream onion dip! But you could if you wanted. You could also very lightly spray them or rub them with oil but I didn't notice much difference so why the extra calories?

*Mandolin (sometimes spelled mandoline) --- a very handy item that slices and dices thinly and evenly (and will quickly remove part of your finger if you 1) do not use the guard and/or 2) are not careful). You can buy one at a PC party for a lot of money. I just found a used PC one on e-bay for $48.99 and it didn't have the box! You can buy other brands for more than that!

I did find an older PC one recently at my thrift store for $2.50 (also without the box) and I don't think it works any better than the one I bought for brand new at Bed, Bath and Beyond for $10.00, including the box! Actually, $10 is misleading, I used BB&B's 20 percent off coupon!

This is the one I use all the time and it hasn't  failed me yet.

Even if it does finally get dull, compared to the others out there, it would be a small price to pay for a new one. (Especially if you have a coupon!)

PS.  Just so you know I'm not totally cheap or clueless about these party things I did buy a stirrer/mixer/whipper thing that I couldn't figure how to whip up myself ----  it does do three things (stir/whip/mix)
I split the shipping charge with two neighbors!