What They Are & How to Use Them in Cooking
Okay, I admit it. I am a person who has resorted to “sneaking” nutrition into my family’s diet (although I prefer the term “cleverness”). When it is cold and flu season and everyone is starting to sniffle, I make a big pot of Spaghetti, packed with basil and garlic to ward off the extreme symptoms before they start.
Similarly, I flavor, thicken, and boost the nutritional value of my meals with vegetable and fruit powders. I have found many wonderful uses for my powders and am happy with the results…a healthier way of eating. The powders also add fiber to the diet without the bulkiness of other foods you may eat for this purpose. And the flavor? In a word, INTENSE!
What are Fruit & Vegetable Powders?
Powders are made by dehydrating fruits and vegetables bought seasonally or grown in your own garden. The process is quite simple really. Wash your produce well and slice into a uniform size for drying or puree in a food processor or blender.
Lay your produce out on drying trays and dehydrate at the temperature (usually 125°F/50°C) your dehydrator manufacturer recommends. When your produce is thoroughly dried, you can break it up and feed it through a high-powdered blender, coffee/spice grinder, NutriBullet, or other appliance that will powder your produce for you. I usually throw my powder back on my trays for an hour just to make sure I did not accumulate any moisture in grinding. This helps to prevent clumping/caking of the powders. For more information on making powders, see our article How to Make Fruit & Vegetable Powders.
Then I load up my jars or vacuum seal bags with my finished product. I find vacuum-sealing helps to preserve the shelf-life and moisture absorbers (silica gel or desiccants) keep them dry. To facilitate a dry environment further prevent caking, I also add 1/2 tablespoon of arrowroot powder per 4 ounce bottle. To learn more on how to store powders, see Storing Fruit & Vegetable Powders.
Why Use Powders?
There is a large body of scientific research (and it keeps growing daily) indicating that fruits and vegetables can prevent many diseases, especially chronic degenerative diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, cognitive decline, vision deterioration, arthritis and advanced aging. Cooking a pot of marinara sauce or mixing up a smoothie can go a long way to helping you enjoy good health, so I use food to keep my family in top form.
With fruit and vegetable powder’s nutritional power, you can more easily get your recommended three to five servings of fruits and vegetables. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), three quarters of adults in this country eat fruits and vegetables less than three times per day. Without the nutritional power of fruits and vegetables, you’re not getting the nutrients you need to feel energized throughout the day. The powder retains all the fiber from the actual fruit or vegetable. It fills you up and helps you feel fuller longer throughout the day without the need to start reaching for sugar or carbs.
The U.S. Armed Forces, NASA, and food manufacturers around the world have used powdered foods. Right now, even the United Nations is working with a company that has developed food powders to feed third-world nations (see article here). Dehydrated fruit and vegetable powders offer you all nutrients, color, taste and aroma of the original produce. And they easily re-hydrate instantly when introduced to liquid. Powders are nutrient dense and retain the natural color, taste, and aroma of fruit or vegetable concentrates and purees. Most powders will rehydrate fairly quickly when boiling water is added.
I have also found that I can use up the pieces of the vegetables that I may not normally process—that is, that I would throw away. Things like banana peels, lemon peels, orange peels, peach peels, tomato peels, carrot peels, mushroom stems, etc, are now being utilized in my powders. Zero waste, which suits my frugal (cheapskate) nature just fine. They are easy to store and take up much less room in the cupboards.
How Do You Use them in Cooking?
In my research to learn more, I have discovered many other uses for these powders than I could dream of myself. Here is a list of uses I have come up with, as well as some that showed up in my research. Beyond the nutritional boost from powders, here are a few other reasons I love them.
- Use powders as a thickener to soups, stews, and casseroles or as a stock thickener/ flavor enhancer.
- Add depths of flavor in unsuspecting ways (carrot powder is great in meatloaf, for instance, and a little is great in your oatmeal cookies).
- Vegetable powder seriously boosts long-term food storage because it is far less bulky and adds intense flavor.
- Both vegetable and fruit powders are wonderful for thickening and boosting the nutrition of your smoothies.
- I can buy the great fruit/vegetable seasonal sales without panic that I have more than I can use up in a fresh or frozen state.
- Using the concentrated flavors of your powders as a cocktail rimmer adds great flavor to toddies. Mix with other ingredients including salt, pepper and/ or sugar to create your own special blends!
- Use it to darken sauces. A bit of beet powder in tomato sauce as an example or mushroom powder in a beef gravy mixture adds a great depth of color.
- Add to homemade yeast or quick bread recipes or coat the outside with it. I usually start with 1 tablespoon and taste the batter. Add your rehydrated dehydrated veggies, bake, cut off a slice and enjoy the tastes.
- Dry rubs and seasoning mixes are perfect candidates for powders. Try an Italian seasoning blend with tomato powder or a barbecue glaze/rub with peach peel powder.
- To tenderize cuts of meat, use powders from fruits like kiwi, pineapple, and papaya.
- Add to teas and to make juices (like tomato juice, lemonade, orangeade, etc.).
- As natural sweeteners, fruits like dates or coconuts are perfect for those looking for a more natural substitute to processed sugars.
- Flavor ice cream or other sweets with fruit powders.
- Use your powders as an addition to salad dressings (much like people add commercial onion or garlic powder).
- Add to stir frys and ground meats to add flavor and to thicken and bind.
- Grind into vegetable flour. Reduce the amount of grains in your diet by grinding your dehydrated veggies down to flours. Use in breads, savory baked foods, and pasta making. Grind your beans into a flour for instant refried beans.
- Using your dehydrated veggie powders, add water to make wonderful sauces.
- You can use your vegetable powders to mix them together for soups. Create your own instant soup mix from vegetable powders.
- I was able to find many uses for tomato powder. Tomato powder can be reconstituted to different textures for various purposes.
- Those little jars of Baby Food can be made from your own dehydrated vegetable and fruit powder. You know exactly what is in it, it takes up much less room in your kitchen cabinet, you can bring it anywhere with you, and you control the portion size by making as much or as little as you want. If your ‘baby’ is an invalid or an elderly person, you can give them an adult sized portion.
- Use vegetable and fruit powders as natural food coloring.
Understanding How to Use Powders
The fruit and vegetable powders you will be creating are from whole foods.This means that all the properties of the food are also part of the powder created from the food itself — including the fiber. Understanding this property is important because, unlike a chemically flavored powders (like Kool-Aid® or Jello® gelatin), these powders are not fully dissolved in liquids. These powders make great purees, additions to other foods for flavoring, and as “flours”. But to make clear juice-type foods is not the best use for whole food powders cause they will not completely dissolve.
To make clear liquid foods, an infusion must first be made — a drink or extract prepared by soaking the powder of a plant or herb in liquid — such as you would tea a cup of tea. The basic method to make an infusion is easy.
- Scoop powder of choice into a strainer.
- Place strainer in your cup.
- Pour hot water over strainer and cover to keep the heat in.
- Steep for 15 minutes to 1 hour and strain.
Have I convinced you yet that these powders
should be part of your pantry staples?
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