When I had kids I was determined that they would begin life with a healthy diet. Even if they didn’t keep it up through their teenage and college years, I know most people eventually find their way back to doing things as they were raised to do them, especially if it’s grounded in health and tradition.
So that was and still is my plan. I’m not one of those super strict moms who never lets their kids eat cake at a birthday party. I take a different approach. I encourage them to have a bite or two and then make sure anything I make at home from scratch is 10 times better tasting. I’ll admit that it’s not the easiest strategy, but my boys are all teenagers now and so far it’s worked pretty well.
When I come across a technique or recipe that’s actually easier and 100 times tastier made at home (as opposed to running to the store to buy the commercially produced version that’s full of sugar), I do a little happy dance because I know I’ll get a fast win.
One of my favorite easy whole food fast wins is making homemade fruit leathers. They’re simple, easy, and one of the most versatile recipes on the planet. You can even go as far as making up your own recipes. This is also a great food to make with younger children because there is no stove or oven needed.
You can even go as far as adding some vegetables or chocolate. To add vegetables, stick to the ones you might put in a smoothie or have in a sweet dish. For example, carrots or pumpkin (cooked) are a great choice. Then if you decide to add some chocolate or chocolate powder make sure it’s good quality.
For a basic fruit leather recipe you’ll need pureed fruit and a dehydrator. Optional ingredients include sweetener. You can use any range of sweeteners - honey, evaporated cane juice or even stevia works great. You can add nuts, but be sure to soak them first, so they’ll be easier to digest. Then you can also try adding other dried fruit (like dates), or even try adding a little yogurt. Did I mention you can add chocolate? Because you can add chocolate……:)
You can use a Excalibur type dehydrator or a Nesco type dehydrator, both work well. One note about the Nesco is that you should use parchment paper and not place your fruit mixture directly onto the fruit roll trays. They tend to stick. Don’t use cooking spray or oil on the trays. Oil is very hard to wash off, especially off plastic so you’ll have oil on your tray for the next thing you dehydrate, and oil and dehydrated foods do not mix (especially if you’re dehydrating for long term storage). So use some parchment paper on top of your fruit roll sheets. If you have an Excalibur type dehydrator you’ll want to use a liner to place your puree on.
Your fruit leather you should be dehydrated at 135°F (118°F if you want to keep the enzymes alive in your food--what’s known as keeping your food a living food). Fruit leathers are a fun recipe to make in the dehydrator but they are not for long term storage. To place food into food storage you’ll want 90 to 95% of the moisture removed from the food. A fruit leather would crumble with that moisture content, and not have its classic leathery texture.
Start checking your fruit leather at 8 hours; it could take up to 12 hours for them to dry to a leathery consistency, depending on thickness, humidity and water content of the fruit. They will keep at room temperature for a day or two, if you plan to store them longer than that you’ll need to refrigerate them because they still have moisture in them and no preservatives.
You can add things like nut butter, cream, or yogurt but keep in mind that the fat content and milk proteins will make storing your fruit leathers in the fridge essential from the time they are done.
Here are 3 Fool-Proof Recipes to get you started making your own fruit leathers. You can substitute different fruits and add-ins until you find a combination that you love.
Strawberry Peach Fruit Leather
- 2 peaches
- 1 lb of strawberries without stems
- Sweetener to taste
In a blender combine fruit and sweetener. Blend until pureed. Simply pour the puree onto dehydrator sheets and set the temperature to 135°F (118°F for a living food) for 8-12 hours. After fruit leather is dry to the touch but still leathery, remove from dehydrator and roll the entire sheet. Using a sharp knife cut into 1 to 2 inch rounds.
“Green” Apple fruit leather
- 6 apples peeled, cored, and diced.
- ½ cup of water
- ½ tsp cinnamon (optional)
- 1 cup baby spinach
Place apples, water, and cinnamon in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Then simmer on low heat for about 30-40 minutes or until the apples start to soften. Let the mixture cool for a few minutes and then transfer it to a food processor or blender add spinach and puree. Pour the mixture onto your lined dehydrator trays and set your dehydrator to 135°F for about 12-16 hours. After the fruit leather is dry to the touch but still leathery, remove from dehydrator and roll the entire sheet. Using a sharp knife cut into 1 to 2 inch rounds.
Chocolate Berry Fruit Leather
- 1 cup strawberries
- 1 cup blueberries
- 1 cup blackberries
- ½ cup of chocolate chips
Combine berries in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Then stir in chocolate chips until well combined. Then pour the mixture onto your lined dehydrator trays and set your dehydrator to 135°F for 12-16 hours. After the fruit leather is dry to the touch but still leathery, remove from dehydrator and roll the entire sheet. Using a sharp knife cut into 1 to 2 inch rounds.