Monday, August 19, 2013

Dehydrating Peppers

I use a lot of peppers in my cooking, especially in winter when I make lots of soups, stews and chilis. During the winter, however, peppers are ridiculously expensive and the quality is terrible. Instead of just settling for crappy, expensive peppers, I dehydrate wonderful and cheap peppers during summer to use all winter long. Dehydrated sweet peppers make a wonderful snack, especially for road trips or hiking. Peppers can also be added to eggs, casseroles or pasta dishes.

Last night at a farm stand, I found beautiful Hungarian Wax peppers for $1/3 and jalapenos for $1/5. Sometimes I find peppers on the clearance rack at the grocery store 4 bell peppers for $1 or a 5 lb bag of hot peppers for $2. If you get a bumper crop of peppers in your garden, dehydrating is a perfect way to stretch your harvest with minimal expense or space.

First, clean the peppers well, and dry. Trim off the stem and any bad spots and cut out the seeds and membrane. I cut small peppers into rings and larger peppers into thin strips. You could cut them into chunks or thick strips, but you won't be able to fit as many on a tray and it will take much longer to dehydrate.

Lay them out evenly over your dehydrator trays and dehydrate for 6-18 hours, depending on types of pepper, size of pieces, humidity, etc. When they are fully dry, they will crack easily when squeezed and clatter when you stir them.

reuse food jars left over from pasta sauce, pickles or relish to store my dehydrated food. I have stored dried peppers for several months without noticing any loss in quality. If you wanted to save food for a longer term, add oxygen packs, vacuum seal or oven can the peppers. 

You can snack on them (drink plenty of water if you regularly snack on dehydrated food). You can rehydrate them by pouring boiling water over them for about 20 minutes. If you are making soups or chili or a slow cooker meal, just add them to the dish dehydrated, and simply add a bit more water than the recipe calls for.

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Saturday, August 3, 2013

Frugal Tips I Learned from My Grandma

My wonderful Grandma passed away this past week. She was a passionate and fun woman and I adored her. She taught me a great many things about frugal living, many of which are a part of my daily life. Here are some of my favorite tips.

Shop at thrift stores. Grandma used to drive me all over hitting the coolest thrift stores. I still visit tiny hole-in-the-wall thrifts that she took me to 20 years ago.

Forage for free food. She used to take me out to pick wild berries or cherries from trees on her friend's property (with their permission, of course) that would otherwise have gone to waste.

Visit farms for the best produce. My grandma would take me to pick your own farms and orchards. We would pick 5-gallon bucket after 5-gallon bucket for much less than purchasing at the grocery store. This would be the best way to have enough produce to...

Preserve food when you have a surplus. The basement of her home was lined with lots of canned fruits and veggies. She always got the food for free or at a bargain and could stockpile summer's bounty for winter, when produce would be more expensive.

DIY can be a fun and cheap way to decorate your home. My grandma's house was filled with crafts she made with friends. She was re-purposing items that would otherwise have been thrown away long before it became cool.

Remember that time is a better gift than money. When I would spend the night at her house, Grandma used to stay up til 3:30 or so watching movies and giggling with me. While she also gave me many gifts over the years, those late nights eating sherbet and spending time together were the best gifts.

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