My aunt used to keep a bowl full of dehydrated fruit on her dinner table all throughout the holiday season. I can’t tell you how disproportionately excited it would make me to know we were going to see her, and I won’t humiliate myself by recounting the number of dried apricots, pears, and apples I would cram into my mouth, nor how clueless all those unsuspecting grown-ups clearly were, even when I couldn’t open my mouth for twenty minutes because I was trying to down a bolus of food hovering precariously close to my epiglottis.
Ha! Grown-ups are always such suckers.
You can make these chewy and easy for little mouths to chew, or you can leave them in a little longer to make actual pear chips in your dehydrator (which, I’m sure, you’ve purchased by now if you didn’t already own, because you have seen how the health food store gouges customers with their dehydrated roducts aisle, and you are now convinced of what a freaking amazing product this is!). Mmmm … pear chips …. with a touch of cream cheese and a sprinkle of cinnamon … mmmm …
Just like the apple chips, don’t worry about brushing with lemon. The oxidation is minimal, and it’s an extra step to avoid. I like my dried pears plain, but you can always sprinkle cinnamon or even cinnamon sugar on them before dehydrating, if you like.
- 4 firm Bartlett (or other crispy) pears
- If your pear is nice and crunchy, use a spiralizer to slice it into nice uniform slices (slices will be smaller in a Food Processor, but if using, make sure to put on the 4mm slicing attachment so your pears don't dry out so quickly and they have the chance to be chewy). Or, slice by hand, and just aim for 1/8 to 1/4 inch thickness.
- Arrange on gel liners in dehydrator trays (or parchment paper works in a pinch if you bought extra trays, but no extra liners). Dehydrate at 135 degrees, and start checking at 5 hours for chewier pears (if slicing by Food Processor, start closer to 4 hours).
- Store in airtight container.
- The-Best-Freeze-Ahead-Soup-Known-To-Man. No, seriously.
*This soup is perfection as is, but absolutely withstands omissions and substitutions. Whether it’s a vegan thing, a dairy- or gluten-allergy thing, or a “kid hates anything remotely green” thing, I promise you this soup will see your modifications and raise you an OM
- BONUS How-To: Chicken Stock/Vegetable Stock to use in your soup, that will just make you feel sorry for all those suckers eating out of a can – EXTRA BONUS: we’ll do this stove-top, but Ill tell you how to do it with your Instant Pot as well, which is just a whole other level of awesomeness.
- Mini Mac-and-Cheese Muffin Bites.
- Pumpkin Spice Waffles
- Ridiculously-Easy-And-Totally-Worth-It (yes, it’s a theme) Bagel Chips (three ways, people!)
- Chewy Dried Pears
Here’s the list of equipment you’ll need, and a list of equipment that makes life easier.
- Large Stockpot. No need to try to stir slowly to not slosh out of a 10 quart stockpot. Go for this 16 quart stockpot. It’s about $25, and will make your soups and broths far easier.
- Measuring Funnel Pitcher – 3.5 cup
- Muffin tins, for your individual servings of mac and cheese. You will be baking eight tins so you’ll want at least two, but ideally four
- Silicone Muffin Cups for soup – standard size or jumbo
- Paper muffin liners (don’t get the foil wrappers for these! Foil muffin liners + Microwave = bad words in comments on my blog)
- Waffle Maker
- Big Tupperware Bowl
- Gallon Freezer Ziplocks
Strongly suggested, but not absolutely needed:
- Stand-up mixer (it was mentioned in a comment thread earlier this week that some of these lunch batches really won’t fit in a standard 5QT mixing bowl – if you don’t have one already, but are thinking of taking the plunge, consider purchasing a 7QT mixer like mine; I can throw an entire birthday party in there, and everything fits.)
- Food Processor – can’t emphasize this one enough (see? I wasn’t lying in Round 1 when I said we’d be using it!)
- Nesco Food Dehydrator, and remember, the Nesco has extra trays if you need ’em!
- Dutch Oven – 7qt
- Parchment paper
- Jelly Roll Pans – get two
A WORD ON FREEZER SPACE
I admit, I have a lot of freezer space. I live with four adult-sized appetites, and one healthy child-sized one, and I tend to freeze and pack 20 weeks’ worth of food for all the kids at a time. Plus, once upon a time, I used to do this regularly for dinners as well as lunches.
So, I have a freezer upstairs for regularly-used items, then a downstairs freezer for frozen lunches, and a separate chest freezer for when I’m feeling particularly go-getter-y (or for when I make Thanksgiving meals ahead of time because I have the stupid schedule). I call the chest freezer my Sexy Beast, and I make my hubby apologize to it if he doesn’t treat it with an appropriate level of tenderness.
The FDA does specifically say that a closed, full freezer will maintain its temperature for 48 hrs without power (a half-full one will maintain it for 24 hrs), so food does not need to be thawed or refrigerate or transferred anywhere, as long as you kee the doors closed. So even if your power goes out Saturday, your lovingly-prepared lunches should be safe till Monday when the repair guy comes! Just sayin’ …
Now, you certainly don’t have to have this. We’re going to work on how to maximize your packing strategies in order to best use your space, and we’re going to use flash freezing and labeling techniques that make my heart skip more than Ryan Gosling (who, for the record, has NOTHING on vacuum sealing). But you should plan on being able to fit two jelly roll pans or large cookie sheets into your freezer at once at any given time during your prepping. If you can’t do that, it may be worth it for you to take a look at getting yourself a separate freezer – not necessarily your own Sexy Beast, but maybe something a bit smaller and inconspicuous, that can still guard your hard work (and only cost you an extra $0.75 or so per lunch if you hold 4 months’ worth of meals for one person in it, right?).
STILL NEED HELP PACKING LUNCHES?
Check out my feedback on how to pack the lunches, with reviews and discussion on cold foods, hot foods, beverages and lunchboxes! But if you don’t think you can take another second of wading through my never-ending drivel, and just want to cut to the chase to know what my absolute preferences are, here’s the short list:
- For hot foods, Funtainer Food Jar or Stanley Food Jar (sorry, you do need to make this decision yourself based on the details).
- For the rest of your lunch, and cold entrees, EasyLunchboxes system: containers, lunchbox, and mini dippers. Close second: PlanetBox.
- Funtainer water bottles (Doc McStuffin, Wonder Woman).
Sometimes, I come across good deals and want to share them, but I don’t want to send you unwanted emails. If you’d like me to email you when I find something really good (like the Instant Pot that went on sale last week for $69.99) you can sign up for those emails here. These would probably be once or twice a month.
I’M ON INSTAGRAM & TWITTER:
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