One summer many years ago on Asbury Street when Mike was a teenager, I opened my front door to a couple of college students who introduced themselves as my neighbors from across the street. Two English majors: Peter and his girlfriend Jennifer. In fact they and their roommates were the first to call the yellow house Yellow House, since they were living there when it was first painted yellow. Peter did most of the talking. He said that one of his professors, a former colleague of mine, had asked him if he knew that he lived across the street from a poet. “So I thought I’d better come over and meet you. My girlfriend and I are staying here for the summer, and we thought this would be a good time to meet our neighbors. And you in particular.”
I was immediately charmed by this young man’s sincere belief that it would be fun to get to know the neighbors. Most 21 year olds have very different things on their minds. I was a little embarrassed to be labeled as a poet living across the street, since I wasn’t able to do a whole lot of writing. But I was pleased, too. And thus, a friendship was born.
It turned out Peter’s girlfriend Jennifer was also a poet (a good one). Peter and their other roommate Alex also immediately both took to my son Mike. A friendship between them was cemented when they learned Mike had been video taping Simpson’s episodes for the past few years. Mike would loan them tapes, and Peter, who worked at a bakery downtown, would trade in extra baked goods. Many mornings Mike would check the mailbox to find pastries or cinnamon rolls in exchange for the tapes. When Winter came around, they’d sometimes come get Mike and take him sledding–at night.
Back in that Summer of g=Getting to Know the Neighborhood Poet, they were also learning to grow a garden. Peter also loved to cook, so we had lots to talk about. He is the first person who clued me in to how good fresh rosemary and potatoes are together. I gave them extra salad greens and they quizzed me on the best way to grow lettuce. I invited them to pick some of my raspberries. Before they moved away, Peter and Jennifer both came to have me read their astrological charts for them, and they insisted on paying. Peter also gave me a food dehydrator he had found at a garage sale as a kind of “going away present.” The woman he got it from had the same last name as he has, so he thought it was good luck, and that I could use it to save the bounty from my garden. I still have it, and I still use it. The young people who would follow in their gardening footsteps at Yellow House would also borrow it to dry their tomatoes and peppers.
It isn’t a fancy food dehydrator. It doesn’t even have a fan, which I actually like. It’s quiet, and slow, like I am a lot of the time. But over the years I’ve dried pears, tomatoes, apples, plums and mushrooms in abundance. One year I even made raisins from a friend’s concord grapes.
Until recently, though, I’d never thought about using it for anything other than stocking up on such basics. I’d never made anything fancy with it. One of the reasons I’ve never made a dessert with the dehydrator before is that the recipes are always high fat. This one from the Rawtarian is no exception. But the idea of making tiny zucchini breads that didn’t require baking in the oven was captivating to me, so I set about searching for how to make them without 2 cups of nuts and 1 cup of coconut.
I was lucky enough to find this wonderful tip about how raw oat groats can be soaked for making cookies in the food dehydrator, so I decided to try putting elements from both sources together, with a couple of my own twists, and this is what I came up with. It’s fun, rich, and filling while still being a low fat and relatively healthy way to use up your extra zukes without having to turn the oven on.
Slow Miracle Raw Low Fat Zucchini Bread Bars
1 1/2-2 cups of grated zucchini
1 cup raw oat groats, soaked 4 hours
1/3 cup raw buckwheat groats, soaked 4 hours
1 -1/1/3 cups pitted dates (depending on how sweet you want your bars to be, 1 is fine for me, you can probably get away with less)
1/4 cup almonds
4 tbs defatted shredded coconut (I used Let’s Do…Organic Reduced Fat Shredded Coconut (Unsweetened))
1/2 cup chopped up dried figs
1 3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cardamom
1 tsp of vanilla
dash of Grand Marnier (completely optional, but good)
1/2 tsp orange zest (also optional but very good)
1/2 cup psyllium husks or pysllium husk powder (not the seeds)
First of all soak the oat groats and the buckwheat groats for 4 hours. Drain and rinse. Then spoon them out on a clean dishcloth or layer of paper towels to dry. Grate the zucchini and put in a large mixing bowl. Pit your dates if you need to. Chop the figs. In the food processor, process the oat groats, buckwheat groats and almonds until they are paste-like. Then add the dates and the spices and vanilla and process until all is combined into a thick paste. It won’t be completely smooth and that’s okay. Add this to the zucchini, along with the coconut, chopped figs, psyllium husks and orange zest if using. Combine everything well and then shape into mini bars or loaves. Line one of your food dehydrator trays with baking parchment and place the mini loaves on it. This makes anywhere from 10-13. I got 13 every time and they fit on one tray.
Dehydrate at 150 for about an hour. If, like me, you don’t have temperature controls on your dehyrator, close the top vents (if you have them) for an hour, or put it on “high” if it has such a setting. After that, you can check for consistency. I usually open the vents and leave them in for a little while longer (maybe an hour). You will smell them and you will tell by how they hold together if you think they are done. “Desired consistency” is subjective, so after that hour, it’s basically up to you. If you leave them in overnight, they’ll probably dry up too much and crack though.
Notes: I’m no experit, but I assume that technically these are considered raw because of the low temperature of the dehydrator. But I think you could try making them in your oven by putting them in ant 150 for an hour. I’m not able to test that out here since my electric oven doesn’t show signs of heating up until the temperature is set at about 275 or 300. Sigh.
You can use any kind of nuts you like.
This recipe is rather forgiving about proportions. As long as they are in the ball park and you get a “dough” you can mold into bars that’s not too wet, all will be well. Here’s what they look like all shaped and ready to go on the baking parchment in the dehydrator:
This is the first in a series of 3 posts I hope to write about the adventurous food I made beyond dried fruit and veggies in my food dehydrator this Summer. Stay tuned. . .