When my oldest daughter turned one many years ago she was inundated with so many gifts they filled a small kiddie pool. She was the first grand kid on my side and her dad has a large family plus being the first child of our […]
Hello and welcome to the third installment of our A New Beginning in Budgeting Series! Our first installment was “A New Beginning in Budgeting Part 1: Using Quicken to Build a Buffer” and our second was “A New Beginning in Budgeting Part 2: Adjusting our […]
One of the easiest, cheapest and healthiest snacks I make my kids is dried banana chips. My son absolutely loves them! We buy a couple of bunches of bananas at Costco for $1.39, slice them up and put them into the dehydrator and at the end of the day we have enough snack food for a couple of months. They are great to store a sandwich bag of in your purse for those days when your kids are starving but you somehow have used up all of the snacks you have stashed in your car. This may happen to me on occasion. My kids are always hungry! I love keeping them in my purse instead of granola bars because dried bananas weigh a lot less and it helps keep my purse from getting too heavy.
Gather all of your ingredients. Just two ingredients here! Try not to look at the sad bunch of bananas on the right missing a few of it’s mates. We may have gotten a little impatient waiting for our bananas to ripen and eaten a few. Make sure your bananas are not overripe. The drying process intensifies the flavor and if you have any sort of blemishes when you are drying the bananas it can cause your dried fruit to go bad faster. I do not dry my bananas all the way to crispy since my son likes them a little chewy. I would not feel comfortable storing our chewy bananas long term so we eat them within three months. For long term storage they will need to be dried until crispy and kept away from moisture, heat and light during storage. If they go bad and you do end up throwing a few into the compost bin remember, the whole bunch of bananas cost $1.39 so you are not breaking the bank tossing questionable food out. Always err on the side of caution!
First things first, squeeze your lemon into a strainer that has been placed over your large bowl. This will catch any seeds or large chunks of pulp. I used a hand held juicer to get every last bit of lemon juice out of the lemons since they are a little on the older side.
Next add your cold water. I filled the bowl most of the way and left room for my bananas.
Lay out your trays and bowl in a way that optimizes speed. I like to have my bowl right next to the tray that I am working on so that I can quickly place my banana slices onto the tray. Not pictured here is my compost bag which I forgot to get out until after I had sliced my first banana.
I put a towel under my tray so that the extra liquid doesn’t spill everywhere. Lemon juice can stain towels so it is best to use an older one. I rinsed my towel in some water as soon as I was done to minimize any acid spots.
Slicing in progress! I put my banana peels directly into the compost bag for easy cleanup. My banana slices were a little thick this time but if that happens it is ok. They will just need to be dried for longer.
Place your bananas on the tray after swishing them around in your lemon bath. The banana slices should not be touching but they do not need a lot of room in between since they will shrink down quite a bit. Always rinse your hands thoroughly after placing your bananas so that you do not have lemon juice sitting on your hands. The lemon juice can be an irritant plus you do not want to spread it all over your knife and work space.
Once you have slices all of your bananas place them into the dehydrator. My almost two bunches of bananas made two and a half trays but I didn’t really place them optimally since I knew it wouldn’t fill the dehydrator. Make sure you leave empty slots between your trays if you don’t fill the dehydrator so that the air will circulate better.
Easy clean up! I make sure and scrub the counter really well after making anything with lemon juice so it won’t stain our awesome laminate counter top…
I usually check my dehydrator after a few hours and rotate the banana chips as needed. We got about a half of a gallon sized Ziploc bag out of our bananas. We eat them almost every day so they should last 2-3 months. I store them in the dark pantry away from moisture. Every time I open the bag I give it a little sniff and check to see if I smell anything funky. I also look over the bananas pretty frequently to make sure they are not changing color or growing anything obvious but you should be able to smell if they have gone bad pretty quickly. We haven’t had any problems with our bananas but I make sure not to make more than what we can eat in a few months.
If you are going to store your bananas for more than a few months you should dry them until they are crispy and store them in a vacuumed sealed container in a cool, dry place. It is important to get as much moisture out as possible and keep the oxygen out if you are planning on using them for long term storage.
Here are some websites with great tips for using your dehydrator for every day items and long term storage:
What healthy snacks are you making at home?
Dried Banana Chips
Make these super easy banana chips for a healthy snack!
- 2 or more bunches of bananas
- The juice of 1 lemon
- Step 1 Juice your lemon into a strainer held over a large bowl. You can use cheesecloth as well.
- Step 2 Add enough cold water to the bowl to fill it most of the way but leave enough room for your sliced bananas.
- Step 3 Slice 3 or 4 bananas into the bowl and stir. It doesn’t matter how thick you slice them but the thicker they are the longer they will take to dry. It is more important that they are uniform in shape.
- Step 4 Stir your sliced bananas a bit then lay them out on your dehydrator trays. I place a towel under the trays to absorb any extra juice.
- Step 5 Repeat slicing and placing your bananas until you have either filled your trays or used all of your bananas.
- Step 6 Place bananas into the dehydrator at 135 degrees for about 8-12 hours.
- Step 7 Rotate and check the dryness of your bananas every few hours.
- Step 8 Place into a Ziploc bag and enjoy!
Banana bread was one of those things I always meant to make but never got around to. We would put bananas in the freezer and inevitably forget about them. I have tossed so many bananas into the yard waste I can’t even remember. Part of our plan to be more frugal is to waste less food. Food waste is a huge problem, especially in America with up to 40% of all food produced wasted according to the National Resources Defense Council. Many people buy more than they need and a lot of it gets tossed out. We have always gone through the pantry a couple of times a year and donated what we are not eating but that is harder to do with the lettuce you fully intended to eat but has now formed a mushy mess in the bottom of the vegetable drawer. I have been really working hard at lowering our produce waste lately and only buying enough fruits and vegetables for us to actually eat.
Our efforts have been working and we no longer have several bananas in the freezer or mushy lettuce in the fridge but we do run out of fresh fruit and vegetables sometimes but you know what? It is completely fine. I keep frozen fruit and vegetables in the freezer and when we run out I make sure to go to the store the next possible day. We have gotten much better about buying only what we need and now that our berries and squash are beginning to ripen I don’t really have to worry about running out. We just head out to the garden and see what we can find. Right now we have blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and huckleberries ripe and my kids have been out there daily munching away.
Finding a good banana bread recipe was a difficult task. We don’t like it very sweet and it needed to be easy enough for me to put together with the kids running around. I found this one at Mr.Breakfast.com several months ago that I absolutely love. We have since gone gluten and diary-free and I have been able to adapt it easily with pre-made gluten-free flour and coconut oil. I also cut the sugar in half because we are trying to reduce our sugar intake in our house.
I found some gluten-free flour at Costco that I thought I would try it with this banana bread and so far I have been really pleased with it. I can’t taste any garbanzo beans and unsuspecting family members haven’t been able to tell the difference so I may branch out to something else. I have been hearing about this butter flavored coconut oil for months in my mom’s group and I used it with the banana bread. I am not sure if it is worth the extra cost yet. The container is not very big and using 8 tablespoons for the banana bread recipe made a huge dent in it so I might just reserve it for recipes where it really matters. Ha ha don’t look at the salt I used. We have been out of Kosher salt the last couple of weeks and my husband and I kept forgetting to buy it. He is a huge salt lover though so we have many different kinds stashed away in the cupboard and the sea salt made the cut as our temporary substitute. Do you guys ever do that? A box of Kosher salt lasts us many months and we never remember to buy it when we are out. Somehow since we rarely need salt it slips our minds every time we are at the store. I should probably start buying two so we have an extra for our emergency kit.
First things first measure out your coconut oil and your sugar.
Cream them in a bowl. I am fond of the hand mixer for smaller jobs but you could use a stand mixer as well.
Beat 2 eggs into a bowl.
Mash up your bananas. I did them one by one in the egg bowl to save on dishes.
Add your flour slowly. I split it into 2 1/2 cups and 1/4 cup and slowly mixed them in.
Yum! If you like nuts or chocolate chips in your banana bread you can add them here. My son is too young for nuts so I leave them out. We also don’t eat a lot of sugar so I leave out the chocolate chips.
Pour your mixture into a greased loaf pan and tamp it down. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
There you have it! Yummy banana bread fresh out of the oven. The hardest part is waiting for it to cool!
Gluten-free Dairy-free Banana Bread
Quick and easy banana bread easily made gluten and dairy-free.
- 8 Tablespoons Coconut oil (or butter)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 beaten eggs
- 3 bananas
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 and 1/4 cups All Purpose Gluten-Free Flour mix
- Optional 1/3 cups Walnuts
- Step 1 Grease a standard loaf pan and set oven temperature to 350 degrees.
- Step 2 Cream the coconut oil and sugar together in a large bowl.
- Step 3 Beat two eggs together and add them as well as two mashed bananas to the bowl.
- Step 4 Mix in salt and baking soda. Add flour, mixing slowly.
- Step 5 Bake for 40-50 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean in the center of the loaf.
We have been trying to eat both healthier and cheaper in our house and besides beans one of the ways I have been trying to do that is to add more squash into our diet. I love squash. I am really excited about our zucchini and spaghetti squash plants. The rest of my family is more than a little apprehensive. The little kids are hit and miss when it comes to squash and my oldest daughter is strongly positioned in the squash is disgusting camp. My husband is not a huge fan but he will eat it…sometimes. Costco has organic butternut squash for a reasonable price that has been cured so it will store well in our pantry. I highly recommend buying and storing a couple of butternut and spaghetti squash in your pantry as part of an emergency kit/last minute dinner idea. As long as they have no blemishes they should be good for months in a cool dry place. We usually have at least one type on hand and when we are stuck in a vegetable rut or having a lean grocery week I pull out the squash. Usually one squash is good for a few meals since they are pretty large but it depends on how excited the family is about eating it that particular week.
This week I had a craving for my vegetarian butternut squash burritos. They are super easy to make and can be adapted to make rice bowls so they are gluten free. Sometimes I add a garlic sauce or some of my husband’s white barbecue sauce but if you are trying to eat healthier they should be eaten without the sauce. We always have rice and tortillas on hand so this recipe doesn’t require and extra trip to the grocery store for us if we have avocados on hand.
First thing to do is slice your squash in half and scoop out the seeds. I usually put the rice in the rice cooker at this point as well. You can make as much as you need but I usually make 3 cups of rice since we eat it with other things as leftovers.
Next your squash needs to be peeled. They can get slippery so be careful how you hold it while you peel.
While I was assembling everything the kids played with Play-doh. Luckily they didn’t make too much of a mess!
After peeling dice the squash and put it in a steamer. We have an old Revere Ware one that we inherited from my mother-in-law that is the true workhorse of our kitchen. You can find similar ones here.
Tonight I also made some roasted sweet potatoes in case the kids wouldn’t eat their squash. Good thing I did because the kids were apparently craving them and ate most of the three large potatoes I baked on their own.
After the squash and rice were cooked I set up our assembly station. I sliced avocados to order and it was an excellent meal. My son actually ate some avocados and my daughter ate a ton of squash so overall it was a success! We had oranges for dessert which is another way to keep the meal healthy. The kids had a post-dinner snack of most of the sweet potatoes which was hilarious because our son used them to get the dachshund to chase him around the house. He found it hilarious and she got a few pieces so it worked out for her as well.
Our avocados were not as ripe as they promised to be but they still tasted delicious with the squash and rice. I am hoping next year to grow our own butternut squash but for now, the ones I find at Costco are by far the most delicious. They have a smooth texture and a not too sweet taste that I love. For some reason this combination of rice, avocados and butternut squash is really appealing to me. The three ingredients really balance each other out and it makes a quick and easy meal that the whole family enjoys!
How are you incorporating squash into your meals?
Easy Vegetarian Squash Burritos
- 1/2 Butternut Squash
- 3 Cups Cooked Rice
- Large Flour Tortillas
- 2 Ripe Avocados
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Step 1 Cut your butternut squash in half and remove the seeds. The extra half can be stored in the fridge covered in plastic wrap for a few days or you can do the next step and put it in the freezer for later use.
- Step 2 Using a vegetable peeler carefully peel the skin off of the squash.
- Step 3 Once peeled dice the squash into bite size pieces and put in a steamer pot.
- Step 4 Cook for 20 min or until tender.
- Step 5 Slice your avocados just prior to serving.
- Step 6 Assemble your burritos! Start with a tortilla and add rice, avocados, squash, salt and pepper to taste. If you have some creamy sauce around you can add that as well but it will not be as healthy. You can also skip the tortilla and make a rice bowl if you want to cut out the wheat to make it gluten free.