Jan 27, 2010

My Dehydrator is Dead to Me

So after that rant about being economical, I have run into a bit of a problem, frugality-wise.

I want a new dehydrator.

So, background: Skywalker and I made some big goals when we came home from Christmas break this year. I have realized that my husband cannot live a healthy lifestyle on the kind of cooking I do, even the vegetarian, *mostly* healthy *not a whole lot of wheat, dairy, cheese and refined carbs* that I struggle so much to achieve and still have my kids eat their food instead of surreptitiously throwing it in the trash when my back is turned.

Well, he's still having trouble. We found out last year that his metabolism is very, very low for a man of his age and size. He had his resting metabolism measured as part of a nutrition study for the university we live by, and it clocked in at around 1750, but dipped at times down to 1350-1400.

Just for comparison, that lower number is about the average resting metabolism that we recorded for the very skinny, tiny, bulimic girls that came into the residential treatment center I used to work for. And the upper number is still about your average 21-year-old woman's metabolism.

For Skywalker's weight and height, age, and gender, his metabolism by all rights ought to be around the 2500 range.

What this means is he gains weight very, very easily. Before we were married, he ate mostly raw vegetables. And I do mean "mostly." He made a huge salad in the morning every day (with stuff in it like beets, beans, onions, cabbage, broccoli in addition to several kinds of greens) and that would be his grazing-food for the entire day until he came home from school/work, whereupon he'd finish off whatever salad was left with maybe a small serving of pasta or a stir fry or some such. So, very nutrient dense food, not a whole heckuva lot of calories.

He ate like this for years and maintained a trim figure and good numbers in the cholesterol and blood-pressure categories. He had good bone density, because the greens gave him calcium, because he was eating enough of them for the trace amounts to make a difference.

It may be because he ate like this for so long that his metabolism is now so low, I don't know.

At any rate, after watching his weight fluctuate but mostly increase over the last 5 years (he now weighs about 40 lbs more than when we married), after the tests that revealed his cholesterol was approaching the danger zone and the bone density in his hips is approaching osteopenia-diagnosable numbers, I've realized that's how Skywalker needs to eat in order to be healthy. And it's a huge blow to me, because I can NOT eat that way and be healthy. I need fats, I need Iron, I need protein, I need calories. I have a freaky metabolism, too (though it is now slowing as I approach thirty). In high school I was a tiny, whiry grasshopper of a girl who likely downed aroudn 3,000 calories a day and did not put on an ounce (to my own chagrin, there were a couple of areas where I wouldn't have minded an extra ounce or two) and I remain fairly slender, eating about I'd say 2,500 ish calories a day. My body NEEDS that, it needs fats. I'm not necessarily talking big macs and ice cream, I mean mostly healthy fats: avacadoes, yogurts, cottage cheeses, nuts, whole grain breads etc.

Add to that an even more difficult problem: Loli. She's really struggled with food in the past. She gains weight at a very painfully slow rate, to the point where her growth spurts leave her looking skeletal sometimes for a month or two while her body catches up. Last month she caught pneumonia and lost about 5 lbs and we'll just say loli CANNOT afford to lose even 1 lb.

Then there's MEaza and Winna, who did not eat a whole lotta raw veggies in EThiopia. They're doing pretty good, considering, but the days I have to take full plates and dump them in the compost are more often than I like to to think too hard about. Also I have a 3 year old and a 2 year old.

So my quest has been to find yummy recipes that are vegan (no dairy no eggs) to reduce the cholesterol problem, add in plant fats instead (but keep them, for the most part, out of what Skywalker gets) and try to up our raw food intake to meet my own needs for iron and protein while also meeting skywalker's need for dense, nutrient-packed food.

One thing I quickly realized: you need some tools if you really want to go raw. Namely, a good, large-capacity food processor with a good motor and nice sharp blades. A sprouting system of some kind. A good, high-power blender and a good dehydrator.

We've done OK. the first time I tried to make raw macaroons (perhaps the most delicious raw recipe I've ever had) in our tiny, weak food processor, I came the closest to swearing that I have come in a long while. So I scoured craigslist and DI and found a medium-sized cuisinart for 10 dollars (yes you read that right) and made due with that, processing my food in several batches. Then last week I got a large, off-brand model at DI for... yes, 10 dollars. I've been very happy with it. I ground up some soaked almonds, wheat, and oat groats just fine in it... no pause or problem with the motor, and I got to do it ALL AT ONCE (happy dance!!!)

Today, I took this dough and began pressing it into the old, stained, abused trays of the round dehydrator we currently use (I think Skyalker inherrited it from a relative) and promptly cracked first one tray, then the other.

This dehydrator really has me going. It's often the last step in a 2-day process to make a raw recipe. By the time I've hit dehydrator stage, I'm done. I"m not patient. I'm ready to throw the whole thing up in the air and go get papa murphy's.

Today, after the second tray cracked, I backed up, gave the poor, battered dehydrator what I assume was one of my famous evil glares, and said, out loud, "you're dead to me."

I'm done.

Seriously, I'm done.

I want an excalibur. But guess what? They cost in the neighborhood of two hundred bucks. At least. They ain't gonna be at DI. They ain't gonna be on craigslist. They might be at KSL but they'll cost at least a hundred fifty.

Is it worth it?

My current, hormonally-screamy nerves say yes.

my budget says no.

But this is a health issue! Right?

I'm starting to understand, just a little bit, what I call the "Elaine" phenomenon. Elaine is my mother in law. She's a wonderful woman with a tiny kitchen, tiny house,and an extremely frugal lifestyle aside from the crazy fancy expensive appliances she owns. She doesn't have a dishwasher but she DOES have a 300 dollar cuisinart food processor. They drive 10-year-old-cars but she's lobbying for a 2,000 dollar vaccuum cleaner. (Her reason involves dust allergies.)

The "Elaine" phenomenon always baffled me before, but I'm starting to understand, now. And I wonder if it's really a righteous thing or not... I can make due with this little round dehydrator, can't I? I can look around for new trays for it... most of them are the same size and doubtless THOSE could be found on both craigslist and at DI.

But I just don't wanna. Sanity is also a consideration, right? Right?


Anthony D said...

Haha, when you started mentioning Mom's appliances and vacuums I laughed out loud here at work! But before that part...dang! Figuring out what to make and making it is hard enough without many diverse requirements for different people in the family. I've always figured that eating healthy food was important and largely healthy for all, so everyone should be able to just eat the same thing. But ya, it's a lot more complicated for you! Sorry, I guess this isn't very consoling for you, or a solution at all...but at least I'm listening right? :)

About the only thing I can help with is try to find an awesome food dehydrator for you. I'll see what I can do.

Heather said...

If it were me I probably would just save up until I could buy the high-quality dehydrator. With the amount that it will save you in time and head-ache (battling the old one) - not to mention papa murphey's pizzas :) - I'd say that it would be well worth the investment. We have a Nesco which is not quite as expensive (~$50), and I love it. But I don't use it every day - I mostly use it during harvest season. I haven't had a tray break on me yet, but we've only had it about 4 years.

Good luck!

Janell said...
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Janell said...

A dehydrator is critical to your food preparation and care of your family. You need one that can meet those needs. You most definitely should strive to splurge on a such a necessary device. It's an investment that will pay off in stress relief for years.

Now, that puppy is expensive! Beautiful, but costly.

Is there any sort of cash relatively-quick sorts of things you can generate?

Why not put your experiences and talents to work for you? Write a few stories or essays about the experiences you've had with your healthy life style and your family. Add in several of your very best recipes with some notes on how to prepare them or what to eat them with. Create a paypal or etsy account to sell such things to people for cost of printing + cost of shipping + cost of shipping supplies + $5. Go to kinkos, print, ship. (Or, hey, sell a pdf copy and save yourself the printing and mailing hassle) If you only sell 10, that's still 25% towards the goal of a new dehydrator.

Or something along that lines. Just brainstorming. You know you, your talents, and your capabilities better than me

michele said...

It's worth it for your health. It will be an investment!

michele said...

And you never know... one time I found a Champion Juicer (normally more than $200 new) for $35 at a garage sale.

Daniel said...


Amyjo said...

I know Cabelas sells them. I did see this posting on Seattle Craigslist.
Good luck, I know exactly how frustrating it can be when you have dietary needs that need to be met.

Anonymous said...
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Steve said...

I think you husband's solution may be exercise and supplements via vitamins and/or low/no calorie protein shakes. You hit the nail on the head, we all need fats and other "bad" stuff to make the good stuff work correctly. There are good and bad fats and he is keeping them both out of his system, which is one reason his metabolism is so low. I highly recommend he work one-on-one with a licensed dietician and with a moderate exercise program, he should be able to maintain, if not lose weight. It IS possible to change one's metabolism over time and the proper program could. Otherwise, he is setting himself up for a very unhappy in the terms of health life.

NoSurfGirl said...

Thanks for the thoughts, Steve.

I do know exercize is a BIG piece of what needs to happen with our family, particularly skywalker. He does have a desk job, so that provides little mobility and exercize. When it's not icy on the ground, he rides his bike to and from work and that does seem to make a difference.

I like what you said about fats. In that sense then, I'm doing what's right by my husband (and my kids), I just need to grit my teeth and wait things out a bit.

The difficult thing with Skywalker I think, is that he's a huge health nut. He loooves health and nutrition and always has; it's one of his hobbies I guess you could say. And so for him, I think being a big walking advertisement of "I'm really not in that great a shape right now" is hard on him emotionally. I mean, he's pretty easygoing so he's not depressed or anything, but I know he's much happier when he's at a lower body mass, and when he's fitter.

Steve said...

There is a difference between being a health nut and being paranoid about health! A health nut wouldn't limit their diet the way he has. I mean, I could suggest other things for him and his special diet like soy/almond milk, tofu, etc., but I think a professional that can work with him and do blood work to see what he is lacking in would work wonders. He'd at least need to start on multivitamins to make up for the lack of nutrients he is getting only from salads. Also, all those years of his special diet MAY have messed up his thyroid, thus causing his weight gain, which would need to be corrected with a diet or even medication. It might be that simple, but I obviously can't diagnose him that way via blog comments. :)

NoSurfGirl said...

Lol, Steve.

I think you and skywalker have a different definition of "salad." As I said... he would put things in it like beans, corn, several different kinds of greens, also nutrient heavy veggies like broccoli and cabbage and onions.

And as I said... he had some pasta or something with grains when he got home, usually.

And NOW it's different. I think I agree that waht he was eating before was too limited. But my entire point in posting this was that the way I cook now is far, far too much for him... I've had to do a compromise (vegan, raw food, but not just salads) that is hard for me.

Rhett said...

I have a suggestion for getting your Excalibur. If you have a strong following on your blog you may be able to get a demo from them to do a review on. Just contact Excalibur and say you want to do a review and then let them know how many people are following your blog. You will be working for it by advertising their product. They may send it to you for free. I believe the site livingprovident.com did a review of one if you need to look at a review.
Good luck

NoSurfGirl said...

I never commented on Janell's or Rhett's ideas...

Janell, I feel very complimented that you would think someone would appreciate articles and reviews by me. It's something to think about...

Rhett: I've thought, from time to time, about doing that sort of thing on my blog the way others have. But I think in the end I'm trying to keep this somewhat non-commercial. But at the same time, that's sort of less commercial.

Good news: a local raw food store had them on sale for a pretty reasonable price. We used some of our food storage budget to buy it, justifying it by the fact that we want to dehydrate a lot of veggies for our food storage this year.

I'll be getting it in the mail soon... I'll post pictures.

Maybe I'll post about our garden and dehydrating, too.

You guys are awesome.

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