Drying Citrus (without dehydrator) Firsties

Welcome to my final (for now) installment of food drying firsties where I'll share my successes (and flops) drying citrus!

Sorry for the long delay with this post. School, work, life gets so busy sometimes it takes catching a long bout of pneumonia for me to hold still long enough to finish this post!

Although it would be more energy efficient to use a dehydrator, I’m a newly married college student. I don't have one. But now a dehydrator is definitely on my list as, For the first time, I try my hand at drying lemons and oranges!

Although not as satisfyingly easy as baking apple chips, drying citrus is so rewarding when you get it right!

They’re beautiful, fragrant, and festive in any season!

Citrus was initially the first thing I tried drying, and I had at first attempted using a sunny windowsill during the day, and oven on warm with the door propped open a few inches in the evening. I would have thought this summer weather and climate (hot, dry, mountain altitude/slightly desert) to be perfect accommodations for drying citrus, but it dried the rind and pulp membranes so slowly that the flesh remained moist and just asking to mold.
First attempt. Pretty, but a bit too thick and juicy.

I moved on to my other drying projects (apples and sage) for a day or two and kept an eye out for some different approaches that seemed more promising. After discovering my delightful Mandoline slicer and having such improved success with my apples, I came back to my citrus with renewed hope. Ok, so the Mandoline will just chew on your orange, unfortunately.  I didn’t let that get me down, I knew I was on the right track! Maybe my confidence was boosted by the success with my apples and sage, or maybe I just picked firmer, more oblong oranges, but I used the same porcelain knife I’d used in the beginning and was able to cut thinner wedges that just looked right.

...If you're wondering what I mean by porcelain knife
What You Need:
-firm oranges more oblong in shape
-firm lemons
-paper or teatowels (for dabbing up extra juice from your slices)
-your favorite slicing knife
-cooling rack and cookie sheet
-wood spoon
optional cinnamon spice mixture of your choice

What I learned:
-Quite possibly most important: don’t dry all your oranges at once! Allow room for learning from your experiments, so you don’t automatically think it’s too hard “if at first you don’t succeed”.

Bake oranges and lemons separately as they behave slightly different in their temp/timing needs. thi also separates the flavors if you're going to put any spices on your oranges.
I originally combined my oranges and lemons but the smells are richer and better separated, and, as I said before, they cook a little differently.
Pick firm lemons and firm oranges more oval in shape than round. They don’t have to be so ripe as you might think, (I thought that would boost the flavor and scent throw but I’m now convinced that just made them less workable because of the extra sugar and juice and weaker structure)

Finally, the process that works!

-Preheat oven, or, if you’ve just finished baking apples, lower your oven temp to just about 200 degrees. (you’ll have to keep an eye to get a feel for the proper temp for your climate)

-Slice your oranges and lemons thin enough so that they are fairly transparent. Ive learned that there is a fine line between unstably thin and un-dryably thick! (I made up some words there, roll with it)

-place a few slices on a paper towel at a time, fold paper towel over the top, and press somewhat firmly to soak up extra juice.

(Optional for oranges)- rub your cinnamon or cinna-sugar-nutmeg mixture onto each slice (both sides, just one, I don’t think it really matters)

-Space them evenly on your trusty cooling rack/cookie sheet combo

-place them in oven, propping slightly ajar with wooden spoon

-set your timer for 15 minutes to begin with and inspect your progress. You’ll see that if the flesh is beginning to brown on one side of any slice that it is baking or drying too quickly in which case turn it down a bit.
These are fragile so you’ll need to babysit these every 15-20 minutes so they’re juuust right. For oranges, you’ll know when the edges are slightly shriveled and the flesh slightly darker and scaly to the touch, (no juicy, pulpy spots). if your lemons darken that's ok as long as the color is fairly uniform throughoutthe batch. Voila! you did it!


I love the stained glass affect these get when placed in glass dishes to catch the light.
I’ll edit later to share how I use them in other projects but for now, I’d say to store them in freezer Ziploc bags (after they’ve cooled and you’ve admired them properly of course).
Zip them locs almost all the way, leaving space to suck out the air, and pop them in the freezer till you’re ready to use them!
Speaking of using them for other projects, of course I’m thinking of using them in sachets but the how of that is an overwhelming wealth of possibilities! I’m thinking dipping them in wax with some citrus/vanilla/spice fragrance combo and, if I don’t use them all in sachets, I might string them up with cloves in the center for some accent garland, or simply display them as potpourri in a little dish on the counter. I’m excited!
This concludes my adventures with drying decorative, scent-sational foods! … for now.
If you haven’t already, read my related posts where I attempt for the first time and share my success at drying apples and sage!


My New Craft Room

Once upon a time I had a craft room/office.

It was kind of awful but it was mine and I loved it.
When my two little princesses decided they were out to kill each other I gave it up and moved into the closet.

It was all very Harry Potter.
Perhaps my sacrifice was an inspiration to the princesses? They decided that having separate spaces was no fun and that they loved each other enough to sleep in the same bed. No exceptions. Ugh.
So no one was using this room except to make a mess out of.

I hate messes. I hated my closet. I needed some space!
And thus my craft room was born!


The only thing I bought for this was under $30 in paint, which I used about 1/2 of, around $100 in flooring, and $24 in curtains. All of it came from Lowes, bought with gift cards I got for Christmas and my birthday. I use this room every day so we can just file it under BEST PRESENT EVER!!!


My FREE Craft Armoire is still my favorite! It came in from the living room. Let me tell you, the roll outs works SO much better on this new flooring than it did on the carpet.


It packs a punch holding all of my paper.


My washi tape is on a tension rod.


All of the boxes are labeled.


And I added Command Hooks for extra storage.


I was Pinspired to file my small stash of fabric.


And even my $13 sewing machine has a little space.


Looking back into the hall I have the fish tank. It came from the dining area.  While a little Chinese restaurant dining experience is cool,  I really love having it in here to calm me down.


Just inside the door is the girls area. I repainted the chairs we got for free, brought the repurposed chalk table (it used to be our dining table!) up from their new bedroom, and hung the letter art I made. The $20 file cabinet from the closet office serves as a magnet board for them and an organizer for me.


The table in the back is one Joel and his Dad made when he was younger. The chair is from the dining room but that will be replaced soon.


This little nook between the craft armoire and the desk holds additional fabric, my Cricut, and various craft supplies for the girls.


This rug I got from Lowes for $20 with the gift cards too. It’s been in the girls room downstairs.

I have envied it from the moment I brought it home. I love the clean lines and geometric pattern. Now it’s mine! Muhahah!


I think that about covers it.
Well, there’s actually a whole other small armoire behind the file cabinet, to the right of the desk. It holds craft supplies and toys.
I will definitely give you a post about out new flooring when I’m done getting it put in throughout the living room. It’s UNDER $1/sf!
The paint color is Quill by Olympic, the same that I used in the bathroom.


Easy Fall Banner

Normally I’m the last one to admit summer’s over but after seeing an inspiration photo this morning (I forgot to save the link, oops!) I couldn’t help but get into the fall crafting spirit!
There are a lot of steps but it’s easy, I swear!
First I made a template and cut out pages from an old book. Pendants are super easy to free hand but if you need a template click here.
Then, I ran all the pages through my crimper to give them a little extra somethin’ somethin’. If you don’t have a crimper you could crumple the pages t get all that delicious texture.
Here they are looking all crimped and ready for pumpkins!
My pendants are about 4 inches wide so I cut 3 different 12x12 scrapbooking papers into 4x4 squares to ensure I couldn’t goof up.
Because I had already cut my papers to the maximum size I for my pumpkins I could free hand cut my pumpkins without worrying if they would be too small or too big. Don’t be too hard on your pumpkin cutting skills. They are an organic shape, just go with the flow.
I pulled out my distressing in and just rubbed the entire pad over the edges. This helped define them a little so they wouldn’t blend in with the book paper.
I didn’t actually find any orange paper I wanted so I added a little orange with a floral stamp and some orange ink.
Almost there I promise! I gathered up some random buttons and turned my glue gun on low/cool.
Normally I’m an all High setting kind of gal. Ain’t nobody got time to wait for the glue to melt!  BUT for this project the Cool setting is better because it will give you a little more depth. I’ve learned by trial and error that glue sticks or pop dots flatten your crimping right back out and hot glue solves all that.
Glue a button on each pumpkin then, glue the pumpkin on your pendant. Attach it to you string by folding it over and gluing the sting inside the fold.
Hang it up and you’re done!
How about you all? Are you ready for Fall?


Drying Apples Firsties (Baked Apple Chips)

It still counts as a First if I perfect my methods over the course of a few days, right? 

So, again I was reading about dehydrating without an actual dehydrator, and read that it can be done with regular fans, oven on warm, sunny window sill… none of this worked for me. 

I tried these options with both apples and citrus. My grapefruit, oranges and lemons turned out mushy with juicy insides that were sure to mold if I were to use them in a sachet or stored for any extended amount of time, so I had to throw them out. The apples took forever too and were just gross. 

Back to the books, and browsing! I ran into a friend who happened to bake apple chips the same day as me (crazy? Crazy.) and had better success than me, so I took some of her tips for my next attempt.

I had been cutting apples with a knife. For dehydrating, slices of anything need to be quite thin, so I cut as thin as I could but a few flesh wounds later (and I have a pretty good track record with knives), they were still a little too thick. My friend said she made her chips like this (with a few twists from other things I tried):

You will need:
-A Mandoline slicer
(If you're like me, you may have one and not know it until your friend shows you a picture!)

-2-4 green or more crispy, tart apples (this provides a few batches, but not a ton, which is great for beginners who are also slight perfectionists like me!)
-cookie sheet
-cooling rack
-oven (and timer)
Optional, Yet Recommended:
-apple juice
-lemon juice (this helps keep apples from browning)
-2-4 tspcinnamon (good for eating or just potpourri)
-a tiny pinch of nutmeg (I didn’t have it, but if I did, I’d use it!)
-containers (for sliced apples)
-apple corer (or tiny lid of about the same circumference)

I didn’t core the apples before I cut them because that would make them collapse easier under the force of fine slicing.

Preheat your oven. While at college, I’ve learned that altitude makes a big difference with your stove and oven. I don’t remember ever burning anything growing up, then I moved 5 hours northeast of home and burned almost everything I attempted to cook! I’m thinking that is why the air drying or oven-on-warm method worked for other bloggers and not me. So, according to my altitude, (elevation, 4,865 ft) THIS is how to succeed:
Preheat to 250-275 degrees Farenheit.

Now, after removing the stickers and washing thoroughly, of course, slice them apples, every last one.
Next, we take care of the cores, but prepare a container to soak your apples as you core them. You have two options for how to do this:
Option 1:
Fill a container with a few cups of water and a few tsp lemon juice (Lemon juice helps keep apples from browning- I’m not sure how big a difference it makes since the oven turns your apples golden anyway)
Option 2:
Fill container with a few cups of apple juice. This is mainly for apple chips that you intend to eat, as the juice is sugary and could possibly cause them not to last as long if you plan to preserve them.
I tried each to see what I liked better and haven’t found much difference so far except that soaking in apple juice causes the juice to taste like fruit leather, very sweet and yummy, though not as natural in taste.
soak for 10-25 minutes
Back to coring our apples!
I don't have a corer but I had a tiny lemon oil lid about the right size. you don't need to core every slice, just the tougher parts that already begin to look brown as you approach them after slicing. I love the look of the slices that don't require coring, they look like little flowers! Here are some slices that were cored and one that didn't require it:
They're pretty both ways :)
To be clear, you should toss your slices in to soak as you core them, then soak while you prepare cookie sheet and rack and 
If you're going to add cinnamon or a mixture of that, nutmeg, and sugar, now is the time to prepare this in a bowl, and rub it on each apple slice as you place evenly on a cookie sheet. 
Ready to pop these babies in the oven!
Stick the handle of a wooden spoon between the oven and it's door for some air circulation. 
set the timer for 18-20 minutes and flip slices over, replace in oven with wooden spoon prop, and bake for another 18-20 minutes and repeat as you see slices golden and curl around edges until brown and woodlike, but not burnt! Here are some more pictures!

Filters weren't my friends while trying to capture the proper, beautiful color of these apples, but here is the finished product! Ready to munch or save in an airtight container or ziplock bag in the freezer until you're ready to put out for potpourri!

Next we'll discover how to win with citrus!
Aubree Out!


First Time Drying Sage

(Aubree here!)

We’re not completely moved in and situated yet, but, after weeks of traveling, camping, visiting family and unloading everything in our new (very toasty) apartment, I couldn’t wait to get started on a project other than moving, moving, moving.

This project, I could rationalize taking a break for because it still has something to do with making our impression on the place. Our apartment building is over 100 years old (with old paint, wood, no a/c), and all our belongings including much of our clothing were in storage for almost a year. So during this hot, dry summer, everything smelled very musty! Although we kept all windows, cupboards and drawers open, and washed our clothes (twice), everything still smelled like a thrift store.

I wanted my remedy for this to be creative, FRESH, natural, and cute!

Sooo eventually I’ll be trying my hand at natural citrus sachets using lemons, oranges, grapefruit, and sage. 
Although the sachets are the ultimate goal, we have to prepare and dry each ingredient, which becomes it's own fun series of projects that have multiple uses open to your creativity if not for a sachet.

First stop in this series: Dried Sage

(If you're considering the sachet): Although fall is fast approaching, it is still HOT and sage has a wonderfully fresh and cooling smell to preserve summer air and offset the tendency citrus has to be “autumny”. I’m so excited to combine sage with lemon! I wish I had mint and lavender, but it’s too late in the season, at least in this small town.

As this is one of my firsts, and I’m impatiently excited, I did some very quick reading on the subject and have read that dehydrators work best for drying herbs, citrus and fruit AND saves energy, but I’m on quite a modest budget and am trying to making do with what I have! 
They say one of the best environments for drying herbs is a barn during the summer because of the hot, dry air circulation, but not everyone has a barn. (Relax, it can still be done!) And hey, I’m on the top floor of my building with no a/c and good windows, so that’s like a barn, right? (insert funny about being born in a barn here)

What we need to dry sage (bare minimum)

-Twist ties, string, or rubber bands
-Fresh sage (At this point in the year, the closest I got to fresh sage was from the grocery store.)
-pant hanger (any hanger with a straight rod will do, keep in mind if it is metal or too slick a surface, your sage bunches will slide together and not aerate properly)
-paper bag (I hear it’s preferable, I didn’t have one. Maybe it would speed up the process?)
-window or oven handle (the hanger needs to hold onto a surface that will provide good air circulation)

Sneak Peek:

I multi-tasked and also tried to bake/dry some apples and citrus at the beginning, which required the oven to be propped open a few inches- perfect environment to hang my sage over for a jump-start to the drying process. The rest of the time, however, I’ve just hung my sage over an open window.
Getting ahead of myself!
Now that we have our supplies, let us begin!

Separate your sage into multiple, small bunches. Separate each stem with scissors, keeping stems as long as possible. Inspect each sprig(?) and clip off any tiny bud leaves that may be attached.
Secure the stems of your bunches (I prefer with a wired twist-tie as it has a more controllable grip, especially if you’re working with one hand while holding the delicate bunch with the other)-oh, this is important, if using twist tie, secure your stems with the END of a twist tie. You only need to wrap it around once.

Use the other end of twist-tie to attach your bunches to the hanger,
Spacing your bunches evenly apart, it is ready to hang up to dry!

The four bunches on the left have been up a few days, while I just put the ones on the right up today. They are to hang for a couple weeks until papery (I read). I’ll update what they look like when they’re done, but this is a fair start for you to get started yourself!
One last picture of the entire cute scene :) Oh hey, that's Shua my cactus chilling on the sill.
See ya next time for my dried citrus and apples!