Shortly before my husband and I were married, my then-fiance entered what I like to call his "kitchen appliance-gathering phase." In spare moments between law school papers, he would comb the Internet for the greatest in kitchen accessories. He repeatedly mentioned something called a "food dehydrator," which, in my pre-nutrition days, seemed superfluous in a home kitchen.
Who wants to make space food, anyway?
Fast forward to his birthday. He tore the wrapping paper from my gift to reveal: a food dehydrator! At that moment, he said, he knew I was the one for him. To break in his new dehydrator, he didn't make beef jerky or fruit leather or any of the foods he had talked about for months. Instead, he made coconut almond macaroons for his future wife. And that's how I knew he was the one for me.
Since then, we've dried chili peppers, figs, tomatoes, meats and more in our dehydrator. We enjoy homegrown fresh produce in the summer and dried or frozen in the winter. While our need is less, we follow those who for centuries used dehydration as a way to preserve an abundance of food against lean times.
What about nutrition? The fiber, mineral and calorie content of dried food remains the same, although calorie density will increase with the removal of water. Moderate loss of B-vitamins may occur during drying. A few simple techniques can help maintain nutritional value: blanching vegetables before drying preserves vitamin A; while decreasing temperature over the course of drying will help maintain vitamin C content in produce.
Macaroons are still my favorite food to make in our dehydrator. And so, I share this marriage of almond and coconut with you. If you don't have a dehydrator, you can use a conventional oven on its lowest setting. Prop open the oven door to allow moisture to escape and use a fan to circulate air if available.
Almond Coconut Macaroons
Recipe by Jessie Erwin, RD, LDN
Makes 50 macaroons
2 cups finely shredded (not long flakes) coconut
1 1/2 cups raw almond, ground in a food processor to a cornmeal texture, or almond flour
1/4 to 1/2 cup maple syrup (choose sweetness level)
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
- Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl until combined.
- To shape macaroons, use a 1-inch diameter ice cream scoop, melon baller or clean hands to scoop about a tablespoon of the coconut mixture.
- Place on dehydrator, leaving at least two inches of space between macaroons.
- Stagger dehydrator trays to allow air circulation.
- Dehydrate at 145°F for 2 hours. Then, decrease temperature to 115°F and continue dehydrating for another 4 to 8 hours, depending on preferred dryness.
- Oven option: Bake at 195°F for 45 minutes.
- Store in a cool, dry place.