Missy introduced you to Thrive foods a few weeks ago during their “biggest sale of the year,” and I know some of you were able to take advantage of that sale. But I’m betting that a few of you (or maybe even most of you) are now staring at the cans that were shipped to you…wondering:
“What in the world do I do with freeze dried food?“
Or maybe you haven’t even got up the courage to take the cans out of the boxes yet and you are just staring at the boxes thinking:
“I’m just gonna put this at the bottom of some closet somewhere and full it out when / if I have to because we have nothing else to eat.”
You are not alone! The first time I opened a box full of freeze dried food, I had no clue what to do with it. I clearly remember opening that box. The first thing I saw was a can of raspberries….dry ones. And they weren’t anything like dried fruit I’d tried before. They were completely brittle and I could easily crush them to powder in my hands. I was baffled. I eventually got up some courage and decided to experiment. But a nice handy “quick tips” list would have saved me a lot of time, money and effort.
Well, I’ve got just that for you today: a list of five quick tips for using your freeze dried foods! It is actually quite simple! And when you know how to use freeze dried foods, you will find they taste great, save you time in the kitchen (because you avoid all that really fun peeling and washing and chopping and browning and shredding), and actually save you money as well (since you will no longer be throwing away moldy bell peppers and spongy celery you forgot to use). Oh, and I should mention that they are just as healthy (and in some cases more so) than the fresh produce / meat you’d buy at the grocery store.
So, there is some motivation for you! Thrive freeze dried foods are healthy, great tasting, time & money saving food! Now, let’s learn how to use them! Five Tips For Cooking With Freeze Dried Foods:
Tip #1: Freeze Dried Foods Make a Great Dry Snack!
At least a few times a week, someone asks me if it is okay to eat their freeze dried food dry. The answer is YES! You can eat any of your freeze dried foods dry. Unlike many dehydrated foods, freeze dried foods are not tough to chew. They are completely dry and almost fragile. They will crumble in your hands. This gives them a very unique and fun texture that most kids (and adults) love!
The fruits, and many of the veggies are actually delicious dry. In our home, we’ve completely replaced fruit snacks at our house with (just as healthy as fresh from the garden) freeze dried fruits and veggies. They taste so good! The first time my kids tasted the corn, they asked if it was candy! Some of my (and my kids) favorite snacks are the peaches, red bell peppers, corn, fuji apples, strawberries, zucchini, grapes, and pineapple. Since they are so sweet, many ask if freeze dried fruits have added sugar. The answer is no, none at all!
But if you really have a sweet tooth, you should try the freeze dried yogurt. It is extremely sweet and makes a great dessert (and yes, the cultures are active the moment the yogurt gets wet). My favorite are the pomegranate yogurt bites and my kids like the vanilla yogurt bites best.
Freeze dried cheese tastes like cheez-it crackers dry and even the freeze dried meats are safe to eat since they are pre-cooked. The only one I actually like to eat dry though is the sausage, so try the rest at your own risk!
A quick word of warning: If you do choose to eat a lot of freeze dried food dry, make sure you drink extra water. Typically, when you eat fresh food, especially produce, it has water in it which helps aid in digestion. When you eat freeze dried dry, there is absolutely no water. If you eat a lot of it without extra water, you will have some digestive problems. (-:
Tip #2. Know When To Hydrate and When Not To.
Most of the time, it is best to hydrate your food before you cook them so you can use a recipe just like you would with fresh foods.
But there are a few situations where you do not need to hydrate the food first and this can save some time. Soups are a great example. For most of the ingredients in a soup, I just put them all in a pot, add the appropriate amount of water and simmer. Another example would be a smoothie or a blended sauce.
Anytime you do not need to cook and add ingredients separately in a recipe, just add them all at the same time with the water.
When cooking this way, just add approximately 3-4 tablespoons of extra liquid for each cup of freeze dried foods you are adding. So, if a soup called for 8 cups of broth and I was using 1/2 cup freeze dried celery, 1 cup freeze dried chicken and 1/2 cup freeze dried peas, I’d probably add and extra 8 1/3 or 8 1/2 cups broth instead.
Another time you should not rehydrate first is when sauteing and I’ll talk more about that next!
Tip #3: Sauteing Still Works!
Many recipes call for sauteing onions or peppers or even meat before adding other ingredients. You can (and should for the best flavor) still do this with your freeze dried foods! Simply add a bit of oil to the pan and then add the product in dry. Do not rehydrate it first. You will cut your sauteing time down by a lot (I rarely saute for more than 30 seconds) and you will need to quickly add the necessary water / liquid to avoid burning the delicate food.
Tip #4. Hydrate with less water than you think
The first time I tried to hydrate those raspberries, I put them in a bowl of water, let them sit and then drained them. They were sopping and soggy. They worked great like that for soups and sauces, but they didn’t work well for much else.
A better method, when hydrating your food, is to put the amount of food you need in a clear bowl or glass and then add just enough water that either (1) the food starts to float or (2) the water starts pooling on the bottom of the bowl. Then, stir gently every few minutes until each piece of food is well hydrated. You can see that the peas in the bottom of this glass are just barely starting to float. Once that happens STOP! Do not add any more water!
You can see Chef Todd using the “pooling at the bottom of the bowl” method with freeze dried cheese in this video here.
Less is more when it comes to water and freeze dried foods. If you add too much water and then have to drain it, you will drain off all the nutrients and end up with soggy food.
Tip #5. Know How To Convert Fresh to Freeze Dried
You likely don’t have any recipes that call for 100% freeze dried or shelf stable ingredients. In order to use your family’s recipes, you will need to know how to substitute freeze dried ingredients for the fresh ingredients called for in your recipes. Other conversions and tips can also be helpful as you use / rotate through your shelf stable items.
In fact, I like to have lots of different conversion charts at my finger tips. But having quite a few different charts gets annoying. So, I decided to convert them all into a two page (back to back) printable conversion chart!
You can use this chart for all sorts of reasons! The spice, dairy, sweeteners, and alcohol substations are helpful if you run out of something or don’t want to use alcohol in a particular recipe. The freeze dried food conversions are great for helping you USE the foods in your home store more regularly instead of always running to the store. And the basic measurements conversion chart will quickly help you half or double your favorite recipes.
Just click on the image below (or right here) to download the chart. Then print it back to back and laminate it if you’d like! I hope you enjoy it!
If you have any specific questions about cooking with freeze dried foods, feel free to leave a comment here and I will do my best to help you out! You can also find more information on the Thrive Life recipe website, in their “Thrive Guide,” and on this quick tips sheet.