Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Homemade Banana Chips


In my last post, Tips for Making Half Your Plate Fruits and Veggies, I wrote about different ways to keep fruits and veggies easily accessible in your kitchen. When they're ready-to-use and easy-to-grab, it's easier to make them fill half your plate!

Aside from fresh fruits and vegetables, frozen, dried and canned fruits are excellent convenience options. And they're just as healthy--sometimes possibly healthier--than fresh. What? Yes; frozen, dried and canned fruits may actually contain more nutrients than fresh produce because they're picked at their peak and then processed (and by processed, I just mean dried, frozen or canned). This doesn't necessarily mean that fresh isn't as good for you, it just means that we have lots of options when it comes to eating our veggies (and fruits)!

Of course you can purchase frozen, dried and canned produce at your local grocery. Just make sure you look for varieties that don't have sugar or salt added. Better yet, without preservatives. If you like to prepare your food at home to ensure there's nothing at all added, processing produce to increase its shelf-life is surprisingly easy! I'm getting pretty darn good at freezing and drying it myself, but haven't tackled canning yet. Hopefully a summer project :)

Knowing how to perform these simple tasks can also save you some bucks if your fresh produce is beginning to spoil. This past weekend, I made dried banana chips because our bananas were quickly passing their peak! Buying and processing summer produce in bulk will also allow you to enjoy the deliciously fresh summer flavors when certain fruits and veggies aren't seasonal. Like the amazing peaches I have from local Eckert's Farm that I froze last summer. Delish. {Click here to learn how to freeze fruit that may turn brown, like peaches.}

This simple tutorial will get you started in the skill of drying fruit. I like this site for more tips and instructions for drying different types of fruits in a dehydrator or your oven.

Banana Chips
Serves 8.

Ingredients
  • 4 medium bananas (about 8-10" long)
Tools
Instructions
  1. Peel bananas and place on a cutting board.
  2. Slice about 3/8-inch thick (about 30 slices per banana). Make even slices so they dry evenly.
  3. To keep bananas from turning brown, dip them in lemon juice or ascorbic acid solution (you can buy this in the canning section of your grocery or hardware store). P.S. I did not treat my bananas--you can see how they are slightly brown. 
  4. Place in a single layer on grates of the dehydrator. Slices should not touch each other to allow for adequate airflow.
  5. Turn temperature setting to 135 degrees.
  6. Run dehydrator for about 4 to 6 hours, checking about every 30 minutes to an hour towards the end of cooking time to check for doneness (check your dehydrators manual for specifics). To check for doneness: pull out a single banana chip and allow to cool for 5 minutes. The fruit should feel dry throughout out and will be crunchy when you bite into it.
  7. When done, turn dehydrator off and allow chips to cool for one hour.
  8. Transfer to a loosely-packed jar to condition the fruit (I use a canning jar or old condiment jar). Gently shake daily to evenly distribute moisture. If condensation appears on the jar, further drying time is needed. After 7-10 days, you may transfer to airtight storage bags if you prefer.




Additional Notes
  • You can also try cinnamon banana chips! Just sprinkle cinnamon across banana slices before drying.
  • If you don't have a dehydrator, you can also dehydrate produce in the oven. A very low temperature is needed. Dehydrate bananas at 135 degrees (200 degrees if that's as low as your oven will go) for about 4-6 hours, until they are crisp.
  • Dehydrating also works very well with strawberries. Slice them 1/4-inch thick. 
  • Any dried fruit makes an excellent, healthy on-the-go snack. 
  • Keep dried fruits in airtight containers for about one year.
  • Other homemade dried fruits will not be crunchy. They are done when they feel dry. Evaluate further by cutting through the center, then check for moisture beads at the edges which, if present, indicate more drying time is needed.

Nutrition Facts (per 15 chips)
Calories 60 | Total Fat 0g | Saturated Fat 0g | Cholesterol 0mg | Sodium 0mg | Total Carb 15g | Dietary Fiber 2g | Sugars 8g | Protein 1g.