Thursday, October 18, 2012

How to Put Together a Dehydrated Casserole

Many Components

Recently, I experimented with a delicious casserole. I take recipes and play with them until I have the proportions just right for two people. Sometimes I need to adjust the seasonings to suit my family’s taste.  My goal is to serve meals with no leftovers.  The reason for this is that there may be situations in which I do not have refrigeration for storing leftovers. 

Linda’s Note:  You do not necessarily need to stick to dehydrated recipes in dehydrating cookbooks.  Simply take a recipe you like and figure out how to dehydrate each component. Dehydrate your ingredients and prepare it several times, measuring the ingredients.  You may find that there are too many potatoes or not enough onions.  Experiment and make notes until you are happy with the results. Then make Recipe Cards for one serving for your family and print them out. 

This casserole called for cooked pasta, sautéed onions and tomatoes, and a few other steps.  I realized I couldn’t just dump everything into one bag. 

If you’re new at putting together dehydrated meals,
here is some general information on how to organize this.
 

Bag your Least Ingredient First 

When I am dehydrating foods, I only buy what I can find on sale.  I never go out and buy the ingredients for a specific meal.  Consequently, I rarely have an equal amount of ingredients for a whole meal. 

Before I figured this out, I once set up ten bags with the first three ingredients in it. Then I discovered that I only had enough of the fourth ingredient for five bags.  What a mess!  I had five bags of mixed ingredients that I couldn’t finish and seal because there weren’t enough ingredients to go around.   

The first thing to do is figure out what ingredient you have in the least amount. In this case, the recipe called for two cups of dehydrated cooked pasta.  I only had enough for four bags, so that’s what I bagged first. 
 
Separate Bags for Each Component 

With some recipes like soup mixes and crock-pot meals, you can simply dump all the ingredients into one bag. 

For this casserole, the rehydrating time for the onions, tomatoes, bell peppers, and pasta were different.  I needed to sauté the onions then add the tomatoes to simmer for fifteen minutes.  In the mean time, since the bell peppers were to be on the bottom level of the casserole, they needed to be sautéed separately. Not only that, but I needed to use cornstarch to thicken the tomato/onion mixture before adding it to the pasta. 

  • When you have an assortment of components that need to be prepared separately, place them in separate bags. 
  • These don’t all have to be vacuum seal bags. I used snack bags for the smallest quantities and sandwich bags for the larger quantities.
  • Place them in the larger vacuum bag, but leave them open, with the opening towards the top of the bag.  This way, the air will also be sucked out of them with the vacuuming process.

Linda’s note:  I completely sealed the little snack baggie with the cornstarch to prevent it from mixing with the other ingredients.  You can do the same with chicken bullion if you are using it in a recipe.

Everything Packaged 

Linda’s note: I always include a Recipe Card with each package. I set up a template on my computer so all I have to do is fill in the information. I do this to help me remember what is in the recipe and how to cook it. Plus, if I decide to share a meal with someone who is not familiar with using dehydrated foods, they will know what to do with it. 

This Recipe Card has the following information on it:
  • Name of Recipe
  • Date Stored / Use By Date – some foods have a shorter shelf life than others. Fruit will keep for five years, whereas veggies will keep for at least ten years. I set the Use By Date for the ingredient that has the shortest shelf life.
  •  Ingredients – this is a list of the quantities for each dehydrated component of the recipe.
  • Add Fresh Ingredients – some recipes call for oils, butter, or other ingredients that cannot be dehydrated. I list these separately. That way, I know what else I need to have on hand to finish preparing this meal.
  • Rehydrating Instructions – I list the amount of water and time needed to rehydrate different ingredients.
  • Directions – I list the steps of preparation in order.
  • Baking / Cooking Time and Temp – if the oven needs to be preheated, this information is recorded here.

 

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