Food dehydrating has been a common method of preservation since ancient times. By removing moisture from food, bacterial growth is inhibited, enzymes are preserved, and weight is reduced. Commercial food dehydrators can be used to dry fruit, vegetables, herbs, grains, meat, and even flowers for crafts.
I recently received a Nesco dehydrator as a gift, and have been experimenting with it ever since. I started off conservatively with drying apples, grapes (to make raisins) and kale chips. Eventually, I progressed to Orange Julius fruit leathers, granola, vegetarian chili, and coconut macaroons. From what I have gathered, you really can’t mess it up.
The most fun I have had with the dehydrator was in preparation for a back country ski trip. We took 15 servings of vegetarian chili and shrunk them down to fit in one single gallon-sized freezer bag that weighed just over three pounds. To rehydrate the chili, all we did was transfer it to a large pot, cover it with water, bring it to a boil, then simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 20 to 30 minutes. Most impressively, it tasted just like it was fresh! We certainly did not miss carrying up all that extra water weight.
More recently, I made this Cinnamon-Maple Quinoa Granola in my dehydrator, and I am afraid I may never be able to go back to store-bought granola. The best part about making your own granola at home is that you can choose the type and amount of grains, nuts, seeds, sweeteners, spices and oils you use. From my experience, the end result has been nothing but crunchy, satisfying…and almost impossible to resist.
Cinnamon-Maple Quinoa Granola
Recipe by Lauren Larson, MS, BS
1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed and drained well
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
¾ cup raisins, dried cranberries, dried cherries or currants
½ cup walnuts, pecans, almonds or cashews, chopped
1/3 cup ground flax seeds
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup maple syrup
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- In a large bowl, combine rinsed quinoa, sliced almonds, shredded coconut, chopped nuts, flax seeds, cinnamon and salt.
- In a small bowl, combine maple syrup, melted coconut oil and vanilla extract.
- Pour the maple syrup mixture over the quinoa mixture and stir to combine.
- Spread granola in thin, even layers on lined* dehydrator trays.
- Dehydrate at 115°F for about 12 hours until crisp. Allow to cool, transfer to storage containers, and refrigerate until ready to be blown away.
*If you don’t have tray liners for your dehydrator you can cut pieces of parchment paper to match the size and shape of your tray. Just be sure to cut a hole where your dehydrator passes air through, if applicable.
This recipe is extremely versatile and customizable to your tastes, preferences, sensitivities or allergies. You can vary the grain used by substituting millet or raw buckwheat groats. You can make it nut-free by substituting pumpkin seeds for the sliced almonds, and sunflower seeds for the chopped nuts. You can vary the flavor by substituting cinnamon with other spices like cardamom, ginger, nutmeg, or some combination as found in chai or pumpkin pie spice; adjusting the amount of each to taste. You can vary the type of oil by using walnut, canola or any other neutral flavored oil you have on hand. You really can’t go wrong with this recipe — make it your own!