Food for Thought: Make your own snacks for the stadium

By Nancy Schuster, Frontier District Extension Agent

I love autumn weather! Leaves turning red and yellow gold, days warm and nights cooler, pumpkins everywhere, and football games. Whether tailgating or snacking during the game, there are healthy snacks you can make.

foodforthoughtPumpkin leather is a great snack. Fruit leathers are fruit roll ups. They are tasty, chewy, dried fruit. Fruit leathers are made by pouring pureed fruit onto plastic wrap placed on top of the food dehydrator’s tray and then drying.

Use ripe or slightly overripe fruit. Wash under cold running water, peel and remove seeds and stem. Cut fruit into chunks and puree until smooth. Use 2 cups of fruit for each 13-inch x 15-inch fruit leather.

Fruit leathers can also be made with canned or frozen fruit. Drain fruit, save liquid. Use 1 pint of fruit for each 13-inch x 15-inch leather. Puree fruit until smooth. If thick, add liquid. Applesauce can be dried alone or used with any fresh fruit puree as an extender.

Add 2 teaspoons of lemon juice or 1/8 teaspoon ascorbic acid for each 2 cups of light colored fruit (fresh, canned, frozen) to prevent darkening. To sweeten use honey or corn syrup; sugar can form crystals that form with long storage.

Silicone, wax paper, or plastic wrap can be used to cover a drying tray. Pour the fruit puree about 1/8-inch thick so it will dry. Approximate time in an electric dehydrator is 6 to 8 hours, in an oven up to 18 hours; in States with low humidity sun drying is possible and that takes 1 to 2 days in the sun. Sun drying is not safe in Kansas because of our high humidity; the product most likely will mold before drying.

Drying in an oven was difficult for me because I could never get my oven temperature to drop to 140 degrees F. My electric oven was on as low as possible, the door was open with an electric fan blowing into the oven cavity, and I still could not get the temperature low enough and reach 140 degrees F.

Pumpkin Leather

  • 2 cups canned or fresh pumpkin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/8 teaspoon of both nutmeg and powdered cloves

Blend ingredients well. Spread on tray or cookie sheet lined with plastic wrap. Dry at 140 degrees F.

Dried jerky is another snack food that works well for healthy snacking. When you make jerky, remember that homemade jerky in a dehydrator only reaches 130 to 140 degrees F; not hot enough to destroy Salmonella and E coli o157:H7. The USDA Meat and Poultry hotline recommends heating meat to 160 degrees F and poultry to 165 degrees F to destroy bacteria.

There are two heating methods for heating jerky to a safe temperature; heating the meat strips in marinade before drying or heating dried jerky in an oven after drying. Heating marinated meat before drying may reduce drying time, but color and texture will differ from traditional jerky.

Slice meat no thicker than ¼-inch, slice with the grain for chewy jerky and across the grain of the meat for a more tender, and brittle jerky. Trim fat off so the jerky does not become rancid during long storage.

Jerky Marinade

  • 1-½ to 2 pounds of lean meat (beef, pork or venison)
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon each of black pepper and garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon hickory smoke-flavored salt

Combine all ingredients. Place strips of meat in shallow pan and cover with marinade. Cover and refrigerate 1 to 2 hours or overnight.

If you choose to heat the meat before drying, bring marinade and strips of meat to a boil and boil for 5 minutes. Drain and dry. Strips thicker than ¼-inch need longer time. Check the temperature of the meat strips with a metal stem thermometer to see if meat has reached 160 degrees F.

Dry meat in dehydrator until a test piece cracks but does not break. Then place strips on baking sheet, close but not touching, heat 10 minutes in an oven preheated to 275 degrees F. Thicker strips may take longer to reach 160 degrees F.

Store dried jerky in glass jars or heavy food storage bags. Homemade jerky is best used within one to two months. Refrigerate or freeze homemade jerky for longer storage.


schustersmNancy Schuster is a Frontier Extension District family and consumer science agent whose responsibilities include providing information about food safety, nutrition, food science and food preparation. She is based in the Garnett office of the Frontier Extension District and can be reached at 785-448-6826 or email [email protected].

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