Dehydrating Food Is An Art

Dehydrating food caught my interest. After viewing many dehydrating machines, I selected one that has nine trays, stainless steel shelving, digitized timing and heat selections. And of course this machine also had to meet my budget. There are many different price ranges and purchases of trays that can drive up the cost. Luckily I came upon one that provided everything in a bundle.

My first attempt at dehydrating fruits was interesting. Upon reading the manual,  I discovered that the dried food in the grocery store has preservatives and this gives it the color. And it tastes different too. At first, I did not have the proper cutting tools and sliced the strawberries very thin. After watching a video one woman suggested an egg slicer to cut the strawberries so I will be trying that out! Although, slicing the strawberries thin makes a great crackle topping to yogurt. The bananas that I purchased were old bananas at discount and very wet. Next time I will just purchase bananas that are ripe and believe that it will dehydrate better, less chewy. The organic pears were delicious and now that I have an apple, potato core hand machine, the slices will be consistent and should dehydrate better. A few days before dehydrating I picked some organic parsley from my garden box and sandwiched it in-between two paper towels for drying. I decided to place the parsley onto a tray and into the dehydration machine and it was amazing how it turned out. I just picked up a handful of organic parsley and it crumbled right in my hand to a very rich consistency. So far I am very excited about trying out other herbs, fruits and veggies and creating fruit rolls. As I explore this dehydrating process it makes sense to share my experiences storing food and dehydration tips on the blog. Hope you enjoy it. Pictured below is fruit crackle on top of yogurt and the fresh organic parsley from my garden box. Dehydrating Food is another form of art where you can be creative!

 

A Few Flowers and Landscapes

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A landscape business down the road planted elegant bright blue flowers and I could not resist capturing these beautiful floral clusters. It certainly brightened up my day along with natures neighboring forested swamp.

Overcast Day

Sunday was overcast with rain in the forecast. The docks and lake take on a different hue and projects a unique rustic mellow mood.  Soon the beach will be open to club members and families will gather for swimming meets, fishing and boating excursions. The trails have fresh fine white gravel prepared for hikers, dog walkers and bikers. Throughout the woods shimmering sunshine tries its best to brighten up small wild daisies, leaves and casts its warm glow against trees.

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The Day After

The Day After  by Elizabeth McLaughlin
easterfourYears ago  I remember when Easter was a day to look forward to renewal. Renewal of the soul and also of wardrobe. My mother sewed grey dress up coats for the three girls, all matching buttons and tailored round collars. It was a lot of fun to shop at Alexanders for a straw hat that was embellished with artificial Spring flowers and black velvet ribbon. The shoes had to be for the most part white patent leather or red leather Mary Jane’s with matching handbags. White gloves were worn and handkerchiefs, small stuffed bunny or doll would become the contents of the bag. Early morning we would wake up to colorful cellophane adorned Easter baskets and stuffed bunnies. Chocolate eggs, jelly beans, a sugar egg that you looked inside to view a pictorial inside, butter cream eggs, all nested in straw. Easter Sunday mass was elegant, white lilies adorned the altar. The kids mass was held downstairs and the adults went upstairs. After mass we usually went to the Botanical Gardens to enjoy the beautiful Spring flowers and venture through the wooded trails to the Bronx River where the Saw Mill rest spot was located.  We would try to tower over the gate to capture viewing all the waterfalls  which lined the river bed. During the summer months this spot became a haven for refreshing oneself from the city heat.
selfcaptureToday, the Cycle Trail was quiet. It was a day to reflect on such memories and  spiritual renewal.  It was not traveled this time on Sunday because most gathered around ham or lamb at the dining room table. The silence of the woods became more than gratifying, peaceful with the air-filled up with soft chirping of birds, water gushing down rock lined beds.  On Saturday  I picked up a free ham at that grocery store, those shopping points do add up. The clerk at checkout was nice enough to point this freebie out to me. On Monday I will figure out how to cook it in the crock pot. With an internet search that figuring was easy, all I need is a can of pineapple and maple syrup. The reviews sounded positive so worth a wing, this is nothing like what my mother experienced to create a ham dinner that will last me for a week!
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It Was Not From This World …

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Lino Block Print by Elizabeth McLaughlin, Title ‘UFO’

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It Was Not From This World . . .
by Elizabeth McLaughlin
Times were tough, there was even the talk of war, extreme hardships. Weather also became an enemy to the small town of Waverly. Winters became harsh and summer winds whipped up heat that created forest fires across the nation. People were on edge, no employment in sight for millions. It was the era of errors among disputing corrupted politicians. But the people of Waverly grew stronger each day with the community forming
support groups that planned for multiple scenarios of crisis. They wisely managed their precious resources.
Aggie knew how to be prepared, she read everything about how to plan for disasters and became the go to queen on the topic. Neighbors constantly called her seeking advice and a need for even the basics of living. The family pitched in, Sandy, Tom and husband, Phillip. All helped with boxing groceries to be dropped off at the local food bank. That morning, mid March she would never forget the cloud that formed over her beloved town. It was early morning when she clicked on the weather station, Sandy and Tom munched on honey coated coconut granola cereal at the marble kitchen counter with eyes opened wide to the flat television screen. An alert siren screeched broadcasting emergency news, tornado like winds, flooding, snow, and even possible deadly thunderstorms. This combination will be expected in our location within an hour! Aggie picked up her cell phone and dialed for Phillip. His assistant answered her call and explained that due to emergency weather related circumstances that he was in a shut down security meeting at NASA headquarters. “Sandy, Tom get your bug out bags and let’s go, NOW!” she ordered. With no questions asked the two robotically grabbed their gear and headed toward the black SUV. Aggie called for their pit bull-dog Prince and off they went to the town shelter. The sky was swirling a massive deepening stomach churning darkness as she drove, taking side roads instead of the highway into town. “Buckle up tight kids because it is going to be a rough ride, this is no drill” she screamed! Trying to keep her composure, Aggie turned on the radio to be updated about any impending doom. One hand nervously maneuvered the steering wheel while the other grabbed the stick shift, putting it into high gear. Instantly the wind picked up and trees were thrashing back and forth, bending and breaking limbs.

The conditions intensified as towering strong trees began to uproot and parts of a field tractor became missile projectiles that could saw a barn into two. Heavy snow started to fall as if it could be the blizzard of the Century. Lightening pivoted in every imaginable direction accompanied with thunderous booms. Aggie knew that the town shelter would not be possible to reach, and remembered that The McAllister Farm was a mile down a gravel paved drive. There the McAllister family have a decent underground storm shelter that Phillip recently contracted and completed its construction. Wham! A tree collapsed in front of Aggies SUV and the car hit it like a bullet and ricocheted over the farm fence. The SUV miraculously landed on all four ultra high performance tires. But all that could be heard was the howling, thundering wind. Aggie felt a nudging and licking upon her cut up face from Prince. She was able to turn and view that Sandy and Tom were still strapped into their seats. However, both were in shock but fully functional. Prince whimpered and displayed his sprained paw. Thump, thump, thump, the SUV bounced up and down as if it would take flight.

The McAllister family and ranch hands reached the heavy thick steel door leading to the shelter and proceeded to file into a massive elevator to descend into the comforts of their underground residence. The shelter was partially housed inside a concrete silo that
embellished every modern amenity. A fully serviced gourmet kitchen, sauna, steam showers in two full-sized bathrooms, a living room adorned with thick brown leather pull out sofas, equipped with every electronic entertainment gadget, six bedrooms and a mess hall that included living quarters for their staff. Exterior cameras gave them all a complete spectrum of the ranch. A console that came right out of NASA technology was at their fingertips thanks to Phillips engineering skills. Little did they know that their neighbor Aggie was in such danger and heading to the ranch for shelter until Andy McAllister junior
spotted on the surveillance screen their neighbors SUV in the field. “Well I’ll be darned, what the heck”, Andy blurted out as he scratched his head in bewilderment. They all gathered around the screen while Andy zoomed the camera in for a closer view. With the latest technological software, Andy was able to remove layered storm elements and focus on the automobile to see the family trapped. Swoosh, the twenty-foot silo door smoothly rose and a bright yellow snow caravan emerged to make its twenty-minute trek.

Aggie bundled up Sandy and Tom with woolen blankets. Prince nestled in-between the two for added warmth. The front windshield was partially missing and the cold wind was blowing almost uncontrollably inside the vehicle. Then there appeared a yellow hazy dot moving towards them and with a partial sigh of relief Aggie knew that help was on its way. Back at the underground shelter Mrs. McAllister was preparing a hardy beef stew dinner. Everyone was settled in after unpacking, taking showers, chatting about the storm and expressing their dramatic experiences. Aggie had a fresh bandage wrapped around her head and the children appeared to have lost all signs of trauma after playing computer games. Prince was asleep on a pillow. The New York cheese cake, brightly colored cupcakes for desert and frothy mocha drinks ended the night. After-all, it was a life threatening long day. They all decided to call it a good night. Aggie lay in bed under two white down comforters staring up at the luxurious cedar paneled ceiling trying to sleep. For hours she tossed and turned until the bare silence in her bedroom broke. It was a stifling, deafening, sharp metallic rippling sound that echoed throughout the shelter. She jumped up from her comfort zone and ran directly to the living room where everyone met at the console to view the screen display. The storm had stopped and a bright blue sky appeared framed inside a huge funnel of puffy white clouds. Out in the storm laden field over by the black SUV sat a very strange object, and it was not from this world. … (to be continued)

Alley Cat

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Alley Cat by Elizabeth McLaughlin
He usually hung out perched on top of a worn white washed wooden fence in the backyard facing a kitchen window, crying every morning. Until one day that old man Flanigan picked up his hard worn leather shoe and threw it at Alley. The cat was owned by Marcy, a young woman who rented a room in the downstairs basement apartment. It was a foreign environment for Alley because he was used to being a barn yard cat and living on a prestigious horse farm. One day the feed truck pulled up to the stately designed colonial to drop off the paperwork for final delivery and the driver left his side door wide open. Alley jumped in and the metal door slammed shut and life was never the same. The truck zoomed away down the long topiary tree-lined driveway, onto the main highway, and headed back to the processing facility. Feeling very much alone, Alley started to cry which prompted the delivery man to toss the poor cat out the door and onto a cold damp city street. Nothing looked familiar to Alley cat, even the noises were frightening so he ran very fast to the nearest shelter found under a pile of lumber in an alley-way.
Marcy loved to paint and this is what attracted her to SoHo in the city of New York. The room was expensive but affordable, close to museums, trendy cafe, chic boutiques, transit and the bartending job at Mercer Kitchen on Prince Street. It was a go to restaurant by affluent hipsters for drinks and eats, they tipped heavily and helped support her main objective, creating art. catphotoSunday was usually a light day for Marcy because she worked the brunch shift. This made it possible to meet up with a friend she met from work at MOMA. Chad was also a struggling artist, but a musician at night, he generally performed in the neighborhood circuit. A highly talented and an extremely likeable personality attracted Marcy to Chad. After a short yellow cab ride to Mid Town, Chad could be seen standing at the modern stylized entry. Quickly they approached the museum collection of cubism, Henri Matisse, and Claude Monet’s Water Lilies that enhanced the blank white museum walls. The day passed like a flash and this was a good sign that it was a mutually exceptional time. Thunder could be heard in the distance as the brief bouts of lightning flickered and danced against the tall skyscrapers architectural facade. Marcy decided to save the cab fare and take the long walk back to SoHo. The street lights reflected off of rain slicked streets and the intervals of awnings from construction projects helped to keep her dry. She approached a funky violet tiled concrete entry and a painted red wrought iron gate which led to the stair-well of her basement residence. All of a sudden a faint unsettling cry could be heard coming from the dim alley-way.
Alley was a tough cat, could take on the fiercest raccoons and muskrats that invaded the barn. However, he was now in a new surroundings and for many weeks trembled with fear. His aging nerves prevented him from movement, afraid to venture from the pile of lumber because of intense police sirens, discharging buses and booming music.  Weak from lack of food, Alley remained helpless and lost. Marcy ventured over to the cries, stooped to the ground, and pried apart a wooden board to find Alley near death. She quickly took off her rain coat and gently pushed Alley onto it and slid him out from the rubble of wood. After many weeks of care Marcy decided to give Alley his famous name. They became close and even Chad upon his first visit commented on her cool find. Chad gifted Marcy with an antique bell to adorn the old cats neck. Alley inspired Marcy to paint his portrait, depicting a grumpy old cat. As time went by the painting faded, tattered and torn, lives grew, flourished and ended but his picture remains.