Drying local, homegrown foods in a food dehydrator or in your oven can be simple and mostly hands-off, but to make it worth even your minor effort, it helps to have a handful of basic ideas for using these dried goods. Make a finished product, like seasoned veggie chips, fruit leather or candied fruits, or work the individual dried ingredients into other dishes. In general, dried fruits and vegetables can be soaked in water (either hot or cold) until they reach the desired consistency for your recipe.
Berries, apples and stone fruits can be easily dried in either a standard dehydrator or your oven. Here are some ways you can incorporate them into your everyday cooking.
Once you mix and bake the oats, nuts and wet ingredients in your favorite granola recipe, stir in a variety of dehydrated fruits, such as apricots, apples and berries. Or use these same fruits in a custom trail mix or no-bake energy bar mixture.
Rehydrate chopped fruits as you make overnight hot cereal in a slow cooker.
3. Cookies and Quick Breads
Add your home-dried chopped fruits to your favorite cookie, muffin, pancake or waffle recipe. You can also gift these products by layering the dried fruit with the recipe’s other dry ingredients in a Mason jar.
Once dried, kale, spinach, beet and collard greens are highly concentrated, nutritionally dense and versatile ingredients.
After the greens are fully dried, chop them in a food processor and store in an air-tight container to later add to soups, casseroles, the ricotta mixture in your favorite lasagna, an omelet or egg dish. Or mix with sea salt for a seasoning mix that is handy for pumping up the nutrition in homemade popcorn.
For a finer green powder, use a coffee grinder dedicated to herbs and vegetables to break down your extra leafy greens. Store in a repurposed spice container and keep on hand to pump up the nutrition in your favorite smoothie.
6. Batters and Dips
Rehydrate and mix dried greens into vegetables dips or falafel batter.
Dried Nut Meals
If you make your own nut milk as a dairy alternative, the meal left behind from the process can be easily dehydrated for later use.
Finely grind the nut meal, and use it as flour or meal for preparing a gluten-free quick bread, fruit crumble topping or your own veggie-burger mix.
Coarsely grind the nut meal, season and use as a grain-free breading for fish, chicken or bean patties.
Dried Vegetable Purées
If you make single vegetable juices, like carrot or beet juice, save the pulp, which has already lost most of its moisture, and use it for these types of recipes.
Fully dry the pulp, then grind it into smoothie powders
10. Flavored Doughs
Add powdered vegetables to baked goods or pizza dough for added flavor and nutrition.
11. Custom Powders
Create your own vegetable broth powder by custom grinding mixes of garlic, onions, celery, zucchini, carrots and other flavors.
Dried Chopped Vegetables and Mushrooms
Chopped dried mushrooms or julienned dried vegetables are incredibly versatile to use.
12. Soup Mixes
Make your own soup mix to store for winter, camping or gift-giving.
13. Flavor Enhancer
Rehydrate your dried vegetables and add to savory quick breads or pizzas or to jazz up a home-canned basic tomato pureée.
Herbs dry easily on a baking sheet in front of a sunny window and even more quickly in a standard dehydrator. They are extremely versatile for both sweet and savory dishes.
14. Seasoning Mixes
Combine dried herbs to make unique seasoning mixes for soups, casseroles and savory nut mixes. These mixes, when packaged in an attractive jar, also make excellent homegrown holiday gifts.
Add dried herbs to the dough when making grain-free crackers with flaxseed and Parmesan cheese.
16. Vinegars and More
Use dried herbs to make your own herbal vinegars for dressings, marinades and even cocktails.
Dried Finished Products
Even if you’ve dried a product to completion, try finding new ways to use it in a recipe.
17. Dip Add-ins
Dried puréed soups, such as lentil and bean, can easily be mixed into yogurt to make a protein-rich dip or sandwich spread.
18. Crispy Topping
Dried vegetable or tortilla chips can be crushed to use as a crispy topping for baked vegetables or a casserole and could even be worked into a meatloaf.
19. Beyond Snacks
Sweet snack mixes can be used to layer a yogurt and fruit parfait while savory snacks, like dried chickpeas, can top a spiralized vegetable and fresh herb salad for a protein punch.
20. Bacon Bit Substitute
Chopped dried beef or turkey jerky can be a substitute for bacon bits in a green salad, chicken salad or baked potato. Salmon jerky can be chopped and mixed into a vegetable dip.
21. Edible for Non-Edible Use
Dried edible flowers, while ideal for custom hot tea mixes, can also be crushed up and used to create your own bath salts or foot soak.
About the Author: Annie Wegner LeFort is a chef and food writer who lives in southeastern Wisconsin. Find more of her recipes at “The Mindful Palate.”