tomatoes: dehydrating or drying for summer year ’round

There is nothing I like more than throwing a handful of sundried tomatoes into a dish to add a bit of tangy punch and a little bit of summer.  Tonight, I wandered out to the tomato and pepper bed, rounded the corner, and ta-dah!  The sundrying tomatoes are ripening!  Start your (dehydrating) engines and sterilize the Mason jars–it’s time to start drying.

A couple of years ago, I got fed up paying so much money for dehydrated tomatoes in the store when I knew I could do it myself.  I will admit, I do not actually “sun dry” mine.  I bought a relatively affordable and effective dehydrator and started making my own dried tomatoes.  I like to slice them thinly so they almost become crunchy.  No worries though–once I bake, saute, or cook them, they soak up moisture and taste just like they did in July.

produce.yellow roma tomatoes

Some quick tips for dehydrating/drying tomatoes:

  • Using a tomato grown for drying makes the process much easier.  I have been using Amish Paste and Principe Borghese from my favorite seed company, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (http://www.southernexposure.com).    They are both very flavorful and are great for other recipes that require a tomato with less juice and more “meat.”  They are also a great size for slicing and drying–small enough to stay together to make beautiful circles which look lovely baked in an omelet or stirred into pasta.
  • Tomatoes will shrink.  If you want a decent amount of dried tomatoes to get you through fall and winter, make sure you plan for several visits to the garden/market and even more trips to the dehydrator.
  • I prefer a dehydrator because you can control the temperature and air circulation so that the tomatoes dry evenly.  My dehydrator with four trays usually dries thinly sliced tomatoes overnight (8-12 hours); the thicker the tomato slice, the longer the dry time.
  • Seeding the tomatoes will help them dry more quickly.
  • Since I slice mine thinly, I don’t remove the skins.  Some people prefer to, but I find that they cook just fine and the texture and flavor are fine with me.
  • Do spray the dehydrator trays with a thin coat of oil or coking spray.  It will make removal much, much easier.  Believe me and my fingernails–dried tomatoes can be a bit like bamboo shoots if you end up scraping them off the trays.
  • Let the tomatoes cool all the way before packaging.

There are several methods for packing and storing dehydrated tomatoes.  The primary goal is to keep them dry until you are ready to rehydrate–the last thing you want to find is mold or some other creature taking over your delicious goodies.  Some suggested packaging:  zip-top bags, stuff and seal bags, containers with lids, and my personal favorite–Mason jars.  As a precaution, I sterilize my jars, either in a boiling water bath or in the dishwasher, then let them air dry.

homesteading.dryingtomatoes

Now that you’ve dried and stored your tomatoes, what to do with them?   Some of my favorites:

  • For breakfast, I make an omelet or egg souffle with spinach, sundried tomatoes, and feta cheese.
  • I throw a cup into marinara sauce and soup (homemade or store bought) to add texture and flavor.
  • I bake them in bread dough with basil and parmesan cheese for gift-giving.
  • I add some into a crock pot with chicken, garlic, onion, and herbs for a quick dinner on an autumn eve.
  • I add to dips for color and flavor.

So now that you know the ins and outs of drying tomatoes, give it a try–your wallet and your recipes will thank you!

recipe: growing grace farm’s banana chocolate chip pancakes (paleo, gluten free, dairy free)

One of my favorite routines is to cook breakfast for my daughter on the weekends.  You may have already see the post about her favorite crepes that I’ve been making since she was 2.  This morning, however, she asked for an old standby–banana chocolate chip pancakes.  Oh my, how my mouth began to water!  Needless to say, after I whipped up her breakfast, I experimented with a version that my body could tolerate.  The key to the success of this recipe is to follow the recipe.  I’ve learned with coconut flour that if you get the ratios wrong in a batter, you end up with a mess.  So even though it’s against my nature, I pulled out the measuring spoons and cups and made sure I wrote this one down.

And you know what–even after finishing a plate of her own pancakes, my daughter dared to taste a bite of mine.  When she noted that they taste like “real” pancakes, I knew I had a winner.  Enjoy!

Growing Grace Farm’s Banana Chocolate Chip Pancakes (paleo, gluten free, dairy free)

2 very ripe bananas mashed

2 eggs

1/2 tsp vanilla

1/4 c. coconut flour

2 tbsp ground flax seed

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp baking soda

dash of sea salt

mini chocolate chips

Warm pan on medium heat.  In bowl, whisk together banana, eggs, and vanilla.  In a bowl, stir dry ingredients and mini chips with a fork.    Slowly pour dry ingredients into wet mixture while whisking.  Batter should look on the thin side rather than thick side, and that’s what you want.

Spoon batter into the pan.  I use a large soup spoon size of batter.  The batter needs to spread a bit so leave some space around each pancake.    When the batter begins to look “dry” around the edges, then it’s time to flip.  I found myself turning down the heat on the pan after flipping so they had time to cook all the way through without burning the outside.

Even though the banana and mini chips lightly sweeten the pancakes, I must confess that a bit of melted butter and warmed grade B maple syrup made this breakfast treat just heavenly.  So much so, that next time I don’t think I’ll have to make 2 sets of pancakes. After finishing a plate of her own pancakes, my daughter dared to taste a bite of mine.  When she noted that they taste like “real” pancakes, I knew I had a winner.  Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

recipe: my daughter’s favorite crepes

Since my daughter was a baby girl, crepes have been our traditional “special breakfast” on the weekends.  Sadly, they are no longer as healthy now as they were when she was younger–I kindly “thank” a mother who had the same tradition but made hers with white flour, milk and sugar. My daughter came home wondering why ours were brown, had seeds in them and didn’t taste as good. (Is there anything wrong with flax and wheat crepes?  I’m just sayin’.)crepes

Even when I became gluten/grain free, I continued to make these special treats for her.  Her taste has become more sophisticated–she now prefers Nutella and strawberry to butter-sugar–and one thing is for sure, it’s going to be a sad day when she goes to college and has to settle for pancakes.

This week, my sweet girl will celebrate her 15th birthday.  Since it falls on a school day this year (and neither of us are morning people), I surprised her this morning with a plate full of chocolatey berry goodness.

And so, here it is–the recipe for my daughter’s favorite crepes.

Growing Grace Farm’s My Daughter’s Favorite Crepes (makes 5)

1 organic egg

large handful of white flour (between 1/4-1/2 cup)

organic half ‘n half  (milk is fine too)

capful of vanilla

generous pinch of sugar

small pinch of sea salt

Preparation:

Heat your pan on medium high heat.

Crack the egg in a bowl or measuring cup (I make mine in my 4-cup measuring cup so I can pour directly into pan).

Add the flour and whisk together until the flour is completely integrated.  THIS IS THE KEY!  If you wait and add flour after milk, it may still leave lumps.

Add vanilla, sugar, salt.

Begin slowly pouring milk in until it forms a thin batter.  If you have never made crepes, you will learn after the first few attempts what is too thick or too thin.  I have also found that it depends on the pan and the kind of liquid you use (cream vs milk).  You’ll learn to eyeball it.  I always keep liquid and flour on hand just in case.

Important notes to consider when prepping to cook:

  • The pan needs to be hot–the batter will cook all the way through quickly so you don’t need to worry about burning if you are keeping an eye on it.
  • And that’s the second tip–this is not a breakfast that does well if you are multitasking.  Keep your eyes on them as they cook quickly.
  • I use a nonstick pan and do not use any butter/spray/oil, and they peel right up.
  • Smaller pans are easier to flip than larger pans.

Once your pan is hot (I usually start on med-hi then lower a bit if needed as I go), pick it up and start pouring the batter in it.  As you do, twist your wrist so the batter starts covering the whole pan–I usually turn my pan either counter clockwise or clockwise so the batter spreads evenly.

Set the pan down on the burner and let it cook until all the batter on top looks dry and/or small bubbles form and/or the edges start to brown.  At that point, it’s time to flip.  I usually peel up with my finger tips or use a thin knife or spatula to wiggle loose then flip.  It won’t take as much time to brown the other side as it does the first side.

I usually put the crepes in my toaster over on “warm” until the whole stack is completed.  Once done, I fix ’em up and serve ’em out.

Some of her favorite toppings past and present:

  • melted butter spread on crepe then lightly sprinkled with white sugar
  • Any kind of jam or marmalade
  • banana, walnuts and maple syrup
  • banana and peanut butter
  • and of course, Nutella and fresh strawberries

Enjoy!