Kids in the Kitchen: Dehydrating Foods with the Kids

Posted by the Mom (aka Kelly Biedny)

recipes to cook with kids-beef jerky‘Mom, can we get more beef jerky?’ , ‘Mom, I want fruit roll-ups, can we get some?’

I hear one or both of these questions nearly every time the kids an I hit the grocery store. I don’t mind buying these items, but, they are something we can make…and, since we can, why not? Plus, when we make our own jerky and roll-ups, we know exactly what’s in them.

Alex is a self proclaimed ‘meatatarian’ and loves beef jerky, so, that is what we usually make when we’re in a dehydrating mood. Fruits, vegetables & herbs, are all great foods to dehydrate for later use, too, though. No matter what food item you choose to remove the moisture from, they’re all easy and fun to do with the kiddies.

Meat
When dehydrating meats, there is usually a marinade of sorts involved. The kids can get involved mixing the marinade and–depending on their age and skill with a knife–slicing the meat up into jerky size pieces.

When the meat has completed its time soaking, get the kids to help you lay the pieces in the dehydrator, or on the baking sheet. After the dehydration is complete, make sure to have the minis help so they can see the change in the meat, and taste it, of course! ;D

If you’re looking for some recipes or tips for making your own jerky, here are a few we’ve referred to:
www.backpackingchef.com
www.cooks.com

Fruit
We haven’t dried an fruit recently, mostly because we’ve been focused on fulfilling Alex’s meat requirements ;D Fruit can be dehydrated in two ways, as pieces of the whole fruit, or as fruit leather. In both cases, children can help with the preparation, cutting up the fruits and/or preparing the puree, and arranging the prepared fruits onto the dehydrator trays or baking sheets.

Check out these websites for more information on drying fruit:
www.eHow.com
www.grouprecipes.com
www.simplyrecipes.com

Vegetables
Like with fruits, the kids can get involved in the preparation of the veggies for their visit to the dehydrator. I’ve only ever done onions and peppers before, but we’re going to try some other vegetables soon, ,to include in as an ingredient in future ‘Gift in a Jar’ recipes.

This website has some great tips or dehydrating veggies:
www.backpackingchef.com
farmgal.tripod.com

Herbs
We’ve never actually tried drying herbs ourselves. We grow them each summer, and try to keep the plants alive indoors over the Minnesota winter (with little success), but we tend to just use the fresh herbs in a fresh state. I have a cupboard full of dried herbs, but I think next summer, when we have a ton basil, we might attempt drying it ourselves. In the meantime, here’s an article we’ll be using as our reference:
How to Dry Herbs

So, the next time one of your kiddies asks for fruit roll-ups, you might want to suggest you buy some ingredients to make your own instead! It’s a fun way to get the kids in the kitchen.

Happy family cooking everyone!

Alex, Soph and Kelly

P.S. If you want to see just how easy dehydrating can be, you can watch Alex, Soph and their friend Carter in our Beef Jerky episode of Two Kids Cooking TV.

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