Dehydration: In the raw food world, the dehydrator is your oven. It is a very versatile piece of equipment that allows you to make “baked” items without destroying the vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and other nutrients that occur naturally in our food.
The dehydrator works by circulating warm air around food. By keeping the temperature below 116 degrees, we keep the nutrients in the food intact. The dehydrator opens the door to gourmet raw food, allowing endless menu possibilities. Veggie chips, eggplant bacon, burgers, breads, and crackers are just some of the treats you will discover.
The most important thing to remember with dehydration is that the food temperature needs to stay under 116 degrees. You will notice that many times (not every), I start dehydration at a higher temperature and then reduce the temperature after an hour. Many people question if this is still considered raw. Rest assured, it is. The food temperature is what we are concerned with here, and in that first hour, the food being dehydrated is only kicking off moisture. The food temperature never goes over 115 degrees. Just remember to turn the temperature down after the initial time period. Setting a kitchen timer is the easiest way to do this.
There are quite a few benefits from dehydrating this way. First, it cuts the dehydration time down quite a bit, using less energy, which is better for our planet. Second, it helps prevent bacteria growth and fermentation that can occur when you dehydrate at lower temperatures for longer periods of time.
It is a good idea to rotate your shelves when you are dehydrating. You can rotate them from front to back and from top to bottom. The back and the top of the dehydrators are the warmest places.
I also calibrate my dehydrators. An oven thermometer works well for this. Place it on the top shelf and let it run long enough to get an accurate temperature.
Times are estimates. Different dehydrators will dry at different speeds. Air humidity can even affect drying times. The best way to deal with this is to keep an eye on your food as it dehydrates.
There are certain foods that you are going to want to dehydrate completely dry, such as crackers and flat breads. Others should be somewhat chewy. The recipes give you suggested times and textures.
Ingredients: Always make sure you are using the freshest ingredients when making your raw recipes. Fruit should be ripe, but not overly ripe. Vegetables should be fresh and used as close to purchasing as possible. We don`t have the option of cooking to cover up not-so-great ingredients. So, do yourself a big favor and use the best possible ingredients that you can get.
Frozen Vegetables and Fruits: I often get asked about frozen vegetables and fruits. If you can`t get fresh, frozen can work in a pinch. I opt for organic. Vegetables and fruits that are flash frozen on the spot, directly after picking, often have more nutrients than fresh produce that has been picked too early and shipped thousands of miles.
Storing Raw Food: I often get asked how long recipes keep. Honestly, just use common sense. If it is something that has been dehydrated completely dry (like flatbreads), it will last much longer than something that still has moisture in it. Everything else? It is raw, fresh food. Treat it as such.
Storage Containers: With all the information on plastics leaching chemicals into our foods, I prefer to use glass containers to store food. They work great in the refrigerator and freezer. They do have plastic tops, but if your food isn`t touching, you should be OK.
Soaking Nuts: You will notice that many of the recipes call for nuts and seeds to be soaked overnight. There are two reasons for this. First, nuts and seeds contain enzyme inhibitors that make them harder to digest. When soaked overnight, these enzyme inhibitors are deactivated, allowing for easier digestion. Second, many of the recipes call for nuts to be soaked for textural reasons. Cashews will blend more smoothly when presoaked.
Sprouting Grains and Seeds: Sprouted grains and seeds are super-nutrition-packed powerhouse jewels. When you sprout grains, their life force is activated. You are literally taking a dry grain and turning it into a living, growing plant. When the growth cycle is activated, all kinds of wonderful things happen. Vitamin C and Vitamin B increase. Carotene increases while phytic acid (a substance we don`t want) gets neutralized. Sprouting concentrates the nutrients and also makes the grains easier to digest. And even the enzymes that we love so much are increased during sprouting.
Sprouting is easy: Put a cup or two (whatever the recipe calls for) of the grain into a jar, fill the jar with water, and let it soak overnight. In the morning, pour off the water and rinse two to three times a day until you see a little tail starting to grow. At this point, you can dehydrate the grains and grind them into sprouted flour or use them as is.
Sprouted seeds can be added to salads, wraps, and many other dishes for taste, nutrients, and a little added crunch.
Substitutions: There isn`t a day that goes by that I don`t get a request for substitutions. People seem to have issues with nuts, flax, avocado, young Thai coconut, and grains. Substitution requests are frustrating because it isn`t as simple as one would think.
When I create a recipe, great care is taken when combining ingredients. I am looking for a balance between the flavors, textures, and of course, visual appeal. How the ingredients interact with each other is also very important. Changing one ingredient can affect how the recipe comes together.
Balance is very important because without it, your food won`t be appealing. That said, feel free to experiment. Taste as you go and be aware of the role the ingredient that you are replacing plays. If it is the backbone of the recipe, be cautious. But when substituting things that are very similar (for example, raisins for craisins), go for it and have fun!
Buying Seasonally: It is always a good idea to try to make recipes with ingredients that are in season. You will save money and also get the freshest produce available. You can also freeze many fruits and veggies. Just know that the texture may change. Example: I freeze a lot of zucchini, but only in pureed form.
Maple Syrup: It is not raw, but is frequently used in raw food recipes.