Thursday, January 27, 2011

High & Dry

I think most people in the world have heard about the floods in Queensland (some great/awful photos here) - and a few of you have asked me what it's like in Townsville.  Although Brisbane's floods are what put our state on the international map this year, a fair chunk of our huge state has been affected: an area about the size of Texas, or a bit bigger.  Luckily for me, though, the flooding didn't start until about 500kms south of Townsville.

In fact, it's been one of the dryest wet seasons I've seen - I am unsure of how the actual amount of rain compares to most years, but what I mean is that we haven't had much steady rain.  This year has actually been pretty pleasant, with a shower or storm in the day that goes away fairly quickly, and often some more overnight rain.  Otherwise, we've had really blue, sunny days since shortly after Christmas.  Sure, it's humid, but we've missed the usual (in my 5 years here) pattern of solid, unrelenting rain that lasts for a week or two, interspersed with a few sunny, hot days every now and again.  The results of the normal rainy season are loads of mould, ridiculous humidity, bike paths that stay flooded for weeks, and an inability to do any laundry unless you own a clothes dryer.  So I've really appreciated this wet season, at least so far.  After that xmas-NYE week, the bike path hasn't been flooded at all, and the river has dropped heaps compared to then as well (remember my photos here?).

This was all meant to be a very brief intro-segue into my post about our food dehydrator, but it's turned out to be far more substantial than I intended.  And I can't remember how I was going to smoothly transition (something about being dry and drying food....), so here's an abrupt change of topic.

We got a food dehydrator a few months ago.  It's an Excalibur, and it has five trays, and it's a bit big for the kitchen so it lives on top of the washing machine.

Since we've gotten it, we've tried out a few things - mangoes (so good, and much better than storebought), pawpaw (aka papaya - not so nice), mushrooms, capsicum, carrots, kiwi, apples, and rockmelon (canteloupe).  And also lightly salted pumpkin seeds, which are totally yum.  And granola, which is approximately 13 times better than oven-granola.

But today I'm going to talk bananas.  I tried making banana chips almost straightaway, by putting thinly slice bananas into the dehydrator.  They were gross.  They were pretty ripe, and the dehydrating resulted in a sickly-sweet flavour and a chewy texture - not what I was expecting.

Fast forward to a few weekends ago, when a friend from uni gifted me with some bananas from her garden.  Being home alone, I decided to experiment a bit further.  I was being generous - if I found a good way to dehydrate bananas, I could help my friend with all of her excess crops.  Pretty nice of me, no?  So I googled banana chips, and discovered that the delicious, crunchy treats are deep fried.  I didn't want to give up, though, so I tried tossing my banana slices in oil and golden syrup before dehydrating, hoping it would crisp them up.

Well, no luck.  They were more pleasant than the first batch, but still not that good.

So banana chips are a no-go.  But all is not lost - I discovered the joys of fruit leather.  I tried three varieties: Banana with lime

Banana with mixed (frozen) berries

And banana with peanut butter and a dash of cinnamon.

The idea behind fruit leather is pretty simple.  Just blend up fruit, spread it onto the trays, and dehydrate.  All three came out pretty well, though the berry version stuck.  I don't know whether I spread it too thinly, overdried it, or the berry chunks weren't blended well enough, but I had to fight to get little strips off the sheet.  The others, though, peeled off smoothly and stayed in one big, beautiful sheet.  I rolled up, and cut into pieces, and have been snacking on banana fruit leather since then.

I still can't for the life of me remember the awesome idea I had to link these two ideas together - it came to me while I was riding home, but it's left me since then.  So, um, I like my dehydrator, and I also like how dry this wet season has been.  And I can now generously offer to take bananas from anyone who has too many!  I'll even give ya back some fruit leather...


Dee said...

Scott has cut two big hands of bananas for you. they will ripen in a few days, and there are yummy things to do with green bananas. They are absolutely huge, the biggest bananas we have ever grown. It may not seem wetter than usual, but it is!
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vko said...

oh fun!!!!! I would love a dehydrator- but it was already a huge push to bring the vitamix in to the apt...sigh, urban apt living...I haven't had fruit leather since I was a kid-yum fruit rollups! Are you planning on kale chips- that's really why I want a dehydrator...sounds like you have lots of banana inspired recipe to come :)

Carissa said...

YUM! I want a dehydrator so bad!

Nadine said...

Yum those look delicious!! When I was hiking a while ago I met some people who had dehydrated all their hiking food (it was a four day hike) - like rice and beans and stuff, and so they just had to add water and cook - can you do similiar stuff in your dehydrator or does it require a special version? I'm kind of keen to get one since I had that processed nasty hiking food but its too hard to take heaps of fresh stuff on big hikes.

cristy said...

Our lives on the washing machine too. They're massive aren't they?

Fruit leather is a great idea. I must try some. Our favorite food is raw crisp bread made with ground flax seeds (& other seeds). It's so yum. I ought to post the recipe.

Susan said...

Banana and peanut butter fruit leather? That sounds amazing!

Hannah said...

Okay, I really need to take my $40 Aldi dehydrator out of its box and see if it works... because banana and peanut butter fruit leather? Yes yes yes yes yes.

And a bit more yes.

Oh, and the granola? WOOT!

Theresa said...

vko - I would love to make kale chips, but I've only ever seen kale in Townsville ONCE! Maybe I'll try with silverbeet or something...

Nadine - you can definitely dehydrate whole meals in our machine. We haven't tried it yet, but Andy's brother recommends risotto, and the dehydrator book suggests drying pasta sauce and then powdering it.

consciouskitchennz said...

Oh Theresa, I absolutely ADORE dried bananas- not banana chips, but the sticky gooey ones. Here in our organic shop you can buy them for a fortune! They are done sliced in half lengthways and I have done them at home many a time with great success- I implore you to give them another go sliced that way and eat them again with a different expectation. Think of them more like a fruit leather than a chip (which they definitely won't be!). We take them hiking and they are sure a delicious treat! Speaking of hiking, I also do my food for our overnighters in the dehydrator. Kicharee is my fave, since it is an equal balance between rice and lentils and lots of veges. I cut all the veges small and dry it in portions and break it up, bag it up and store it for spontaneous tramping trips. Basically anything I think would be a good meal on the trail I will dehydrate the leftovers if there is enough. Well I used to anyway- these days there is more freezing for lunches in the office than nights on the trail- but all that is about to change!! I'll keep you posted!

Emma said...

Haha that thing wouldn't even fit through our flat's door! It's on my list of kitchen gadgets to eventually buy though. Kale chips would be the first thing I'd make when it comes to the markets.