The woman who inspired me to write about food, gluten free girl, posted a challenge on facebook the other day, to write about something that has made cooking easier. So far most post bloggers have written about a moment or event that made them realize that mistakes in a kitchen are okay and only lead to more knowledge, that cooking for others is reason enough or that going from a mixed household to a strictly gluten free household has made a big change ... and the list goes on. Most of these things I have experienced myself, but when I saw the challenge the first and only thing that came to my my mind was my dehydrator.
I am a huge outdoor fanatic. Every sunny weekend, no matter what time of year it is, I try to go on at least one outdoor adventure. My favorite adventure is hiking (among many others) because I get to experience nature at her finest, get a good workout and take some pretty pictures. As a result I love camping and going on multiple day expeditions.
In the past when I wanted to go on a multiple day hiking or camping trip the food planning was a cinch. For camping I just the standard fare of hot dogs, burgers and marshmallows and for the multiple day hiking trips I would go to Mountain Equipment Coop and buy ready to eat dehydrated dinners where you just add water and instantly you've got beef stroganoff or lasagna.
Unfortunately the first time I wanted to go on a major hike, to Cape Scott, after my diagnosis of Celiac it wasn't quite so simple. Every package of dehydrated hiking food had wheat in it. Every single one! What was I supposed to do? It was bad enough that I couldn't bring some crusty buns to go with my pepperoni and cheese for lunches and couldn't eat instant oatmeal for breakfast but now my usual dinner grab was off the menu too! I was pretty sure I was going to starve, until I decided to invest in a dehydrator and make my own food.
Once when I was in Rangers (an older level of Girl Guides) our group had dehydrated some camp meals for an expedition up North to the Chilkoot Trail. I remember we made some dish with couscous (now off limits) but the idea was, that I had some basic knowledge on how they worked and figured it couldn't be too difficult. I was right! Not every meal that I've made with my dehydrator has worked, but most have and I'm starting to learn the little tricks here and there.
For instance beef is way easier to re-hydrate then chicken. When you go to add water to your dehydrated meal for some reason beef dishes always turn out excellent and chicken dishes tend to be just that tiny bit chewy. To help with the chicken, I now process it into smaller pieces (but not too small) to help it re-hydrate quicker. Also fruit re-hydrates amazingly well. I made apple crumble once by baking the fruit and topping separately. Once they were both baked I dehydrated the fruit base and put the baked topping in a Ziploc baggy. I did this only a few days before the camping trip as I wasn't sure how long the baked topping would last. Once we were ready to make our dessert I just added water to the dehydrated fruit in a pot over the fire and it refreshed itself as if I was about to pull it fresh out of the oven. I then sprinkled the topping on and it was amazing.
The other thing I learned, is that you don't have to go out of your way to make dehydrated meals. If you are making a meal, just make it large enough for seconds and throw the seconds in the dehydrator. Meals don't have to be boring either ... I've made chili, spaghetti sauce, butter chicken, Thai-peanut chicken and Mexican rice. You can also make snacks like fruit leathers, dried banana's and jerky. My dehydrator has made my outdoor adventures so much more enjoyable knowing that my food is both safe and quick and easy to make. Just add boiling water and wait.
As I'm still experimenting with what I can and cannot dehydrate well (green peppers are weird in my dehydrator), I decided to try dehydrating a yummy soup that I made this past week. It looks like it will rehydrate nicely, but there's only one way to find out! The original version that we had for dinner was quite tasty though, so I thought I would share it hear with you.
Creamy Potato Leek and Salmon Soup
1/2 cup Butter
2 large Leeks, rinsed, halved and sliced
1.5 lbs small Yukon Gold Potatoes, quartered
1 14 oz can of Diced Tomatoes
2 Portabello Mushrooms
1/2 pkg of fresh Poultry Herbs, finely chopped
1 quart (934 ml) Pacific Naturals GF Low Sodium Vegetable Broth
1 cup Whipping Cream (optional)
1/2 cup White Wine
salt and pepper to taste
4 small frozen Salmon Fillets, thawed and diced
In a large pot, melt butter. Once melted throw in leeks and saute for about 5 minutes on med heat. Next add tomatoes, mushrooms, herbs and vegetable broth and white wine. Stir and simmer for another 5 minutes. Then add potatoes and salmon and let simmer until the potatoes are soft and the salmon is cooked (about 30 minutes). If you would like whipping cream add it now, salt and pepper to taste. Once the soup is basically finished, pour half of the contents into a blender or food processor and then process/blend until smooth. Add this back into the soup to make a creamier consistency, yet still have a few good chunks in there. Serve hot.