Friday, April 20, 2012

Food Dehydration

You don’t have to be a hiker, athlete, or a mother of a school child to justify seeking easy-to-carry alternatives to fresh fruits and vegetables. If this is your aim, dehydrated fruits and vegetables are a worthy endeavor .

Drying vegetables for later usage is one of the oldest and easiest methods of food preservation. Vegetables retain much of their original nutritional value during the drying process and store easily if you pick the right container and storage area. The lower weight and volume, intact nutritional and pH value, and fast preparation time are the advantages of dehydrated foods. Most meals prepared from dehydrated vegetables can be ready to eat in 30 minutes.

The benefits of dehydrated raw foods are well known. Many health food stores make use of freeze-dried fruit and veggie powders, reconstituting them in to smoothies. Dehydration techniques have come a long way in recent years. Old technologies left as much as 30% moisture in the dehydrated products and didn't store as well. With modern technology, moisture levels have been reduced to 2% or 3% increasing storage life by several years. Additionally, with less water retention, this means that today's dried produce are less pliable and break with a satisfyingly “snap” when bent.

It is important to use a dehydrator that dries food at a suitable temperature. A temperature of around 108° is suitable for the first 12-18 hours. Temperatures that are too low can cause the food to spoil; however, if the temperature is too high then the enzymes and nutrients are lost.

On Drying Vegetables:

Peel fruits and vegetables including bananas, eggplants, melons, winter squash, and other foods. Slicing allows the dry air to circulate and dry the surface area. The vegetables should be cut into small slices ranging from 1/8 inch to ½ inch. If the food is particularly high in water content, the slices should be slightly larger as once the water is removed the pieces will retain a useful size.
Blanch vegetables before drying to stop enzyme action and enhance destruction of microorganisms. Pre-treating vegetables by blanching them in water or a citric acid solution enhances the destruction of potentially harmful bacteria during drying, including E. Coli, Salmonella, and Listeria Monocytogenes.
Once dried, vegetables stored in tightly closed freezer containers, canning jars or moisture-proof plastic freezer bags will hold their nutritional value for six to 12 months if stored in a dark area that stays cool and dry.

For more ways of pre treating your dried fruit, search dipping, blanching, or Candying! These are all techniques on how to increase the taste and quality of your dried fruit.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Students from the University of Utah choose Quest!

On March 15, 2012, a group of dedicated students from the University of Utah attended Quest as part of their week long Canadian tour. Dr. Keri Schwab of the University's Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Department, together with her colleague Rose Zagal, a nursing and anthropology student organized a trip to Vancouver for their group of twelve, as part of their 2012 Alternative Spring Break trip.

The objective of their trip was to participate in a program in which University students chose to spend their spring break traveling to either a local or international city and perform community services  focused on specific environmental or social justice issues. The trip to Vancouver focused on the issues of health care and poverty.

In seeking opportunities, the students were really impressed by Quest's community based mandates. As Ms. Zagal plans on getting her Masters in Public Health, she believes strongly in preventive health care. Therefore, she carries a mindset that the World as a whole can utilize improvements to health and social betterment.  She saw Quest as a great example of this trend.

The day the students came, they spent the entire day in our not-for-profit grocery market and community kitchen. According to Distribution Manager Ken March, they were eager, efficient and incredibly fast at repackaging the required items.

Following is an account of the event, recorded by Keri Schwab, PhD, Assistant Professor/Lecturer, Dept. of Parks, Recreation, & Tourism at the University:

As part of the University of Utah Alternative Spring Break (ASB) program, ten students and one faculty leader spent a day volunteering at Quest Food Exchange. One of ASB’s themes was to understand the living situations of low-income Canadians and the distribution of health care. (In this instance, ‘the distribution of health care’ is equated with provision of nutritious food for individuals and families, as seen at Quest Outreach) Students divided their time between stocking shelves on the main floor and sorting and repackaging food in the warehouse. When students were asked about their experience here, they were awestruck at how something so simple as food is crucial for not only health but also just survival. “This was truly an indelible experience,” says Al Marchese, a sophomore majoring in Economics at the U. “In studying health economics, I learned about the vast disparities in both health and health care among varying socio-economic classes. Although those discrepancies are not as intense as they are in the States, they are still persistent in Canada’s system. That’s why promoting preventive techniques such as adequate nutrition is vital. Although not all diseases can be contained, many health problems can be eradicated with the availability of appropriate sustenance. It’s much cheaper to provide food to people as opposed to acute health care. The priorities of Quest are those of prevention, and with the ever-increasing costs of health care, this strategy is innovative.”

We thank this group immensely, not just for the work you did, but for choosing Quest as your organization, and Vancouver BC as your destination. We look forward to seeing you again!