Sara’s Summer Garden Series: How to Dry Your Hot Peppers

Sara's Summer Garden Series CoverEveryone should know I love hot peppers, hot sauces, spicy food and spices (if you don’t know, just look at my fridge). The hotter the better – there’s nothing I won’t eat. I’ve been known to eat habaneros right off the plant, ghost chilies out of the pot and hot sauce by the spoon full. If the chemicals in spices really help to thin the blood (along with a variety of other health benefits) it’s a wonder why I ever had a blood clot because my blood is probably at least 77% hot sauce on any given day. My garden is basically a pepper garden and this year I have been growing habaneros, chilies, banana peppers, green and red bell peppers and Serrano’s to name a few. And, for as much as I love hot peppers, every year I grow more than enough and often don’t eat or cook with them fast enough before they go bad. This year I wanted to preserve them not only to save more from the yield (I have a ton of habaneros), but to enjoy the taste and benefits of peppers over the long winter months. My method for preserving them is drying them with a food dehydrator, something I had not done before and now I am sharing how to dry your hot peppers.

What will I need?

There are many different methods for drying peppers. To dry yours like I did mine, you will need peppers, a cutting board and knife, a food dehydrator (or an oven), glass jars and labels (or alternative storage system of your choice). So, here’s how to dry your hot peppers!

First, pick your peppers and rinse them in warm water to remove any dirt or insects or spider webs. Then, dry them thoroughly with a towel or cloth, being careful not to damage their skins. Sometimes I let them sit out on the counter to dry while I am deciding what to preserve and what to eat.

Peppers fresh from the garden

Discard any peppers that are soft, mushy, spoiled, have gray/white diseased looking spots or are questionable for eating.

Remove the stems from your peppers. If you’re drying in them in food dehydrator (or oven) slice the peppers in half length-wise (this will allow them to dry faster). Any peppers that are less than an inch in length can be left whole, although I tend to cut all of mine in half to allow for quicker and more complete drying. I leave the seeds in my peppers, but you do not have to. Some of them will fall out during the drying process.

habanero on cutting board

Place the peppers on the dehydrator shelves, leaving space between each half to allow for proper air flow.

serranos on tray clear pic

habaneros and serranos on tray

long chilies on top tray

Cover your peppers and turn the dehydrator on.

putting lid on dehydrator

My dehydrator does not have a temperature setting so all I have to do is plug it in and check to make sure it is heating up, which beings instantly. If your dehydrator has a temperature setting, place it between 135 and 145 degrees. Let the peppers lay in the dehydrator for 8 to 12 hours (mine is always towards the longer end), checking every so often to see if the smaller or thinner pieces have dried out.

top view of peppers on top two trays

When they are dried out, remove them from the dehydrator. Larger pepper pieces may take a few additional hours to dehydrate. If my peppers are taking longer to dry, I sometimes turn them during the process, being careful not to shake all of the seeds out (If some fall out, that is okay).

DRIED chilies

After they are completely dry (test by feeling them), separate them by pepper type and place them in airtight glass jars to prevent moisture from getting to them. I put mine in glass canning jars and label them.

jars of peppers with open lids

lids of peppers

So that is how to dry your hot peppers and here are the answers to some common questions you may have-

How can I be sure they are dry?

Properly dried peppers should be devoid of any should not feel “fleshy” or soft at all, but have a slight flexibility to them. They should not be brown, crumbling, or rock hard. The peppers should be dried evenly all over, slightly brittle (not crispy) and have a toughness to the skin.

What about using my oven?

Place the peppers on a pan or cookie sheet in a single layer and place it in the oven. Set the oven to its lowest temperature setting, which is usually labeled as warm, or just below 150 degrees Fahrenheit (120° to 140° is ideal). To allow moisture to escape, keep the oven door slightly open at least a couple of inches). Every hour, rotate and/or flip the peppers over for even drying. You do not want them to get soft, brown or stuck to the pan where they can cook so if this happens, turn down the temperature of the oven, open the door wider or flip them more. Drying in the oven can take several hours to a few days and can also heat up your kitchen considerably.

What can I do with dried peppers?
  • Keep them whole to use in sauces, chili and other dishes.
  • Crush them in a food processor, blender, or spice mill and create a seasoning.
  • Give them either whole or processed to family and friends as gifts to use in their own recipes
  • Save some of the seeds to replant for a bountiful crop the following year.
Can I rehydrate peppers to cook with them?

To rehydrate the peppers, take them out of their storage containers and place on a medium warm griddle or skillet. Roast for a 3-4 minutes, but do not burn them or they can’t be used. If your peppers are small, you will need to turn them frequently or roast them for less time. After they are roasted, place them in a bowl of hot water and cover for 30 minutes. Remove the peppers from the water and chop them up or blend into a paste as desired. Sample the soaking water to ensure it is not bitter (if it is, discard it) and you can use that water in your paste or in place of any water the recipe calls for to add an extra layer of peppery flavor.

Tell me about you. Did you know how to dry your hot peppers? What is your favorite way to preserve foods? What do you preserve? Do you love hot peppers too? Have you ever dried them or will you now?

Until the next mile marker,

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Sara’s Summer Garden Series: How to Make Your Own Soil for Your Container Garden

Sara's Summer Garden Series Cover

You can set up a container garden easily, with as little or as much space as you want, and relatively inexpensively. You can also make your garden as elaborate or as simple as you want. A few of my favorite benefits of container gardening are it is totally customizable to your needs and you know exactly where your crops come from. Whether it be a simple salsa garden filled with tomatoes and peppers or an extensive array of fruits and vegetables, you control for the most part what (if any) chemicals, including pesticides and fertilizers, are absorbed by your plants. You can even make your own soil for your container garden.

I started thinking about the chemicals that went into our foods after reading It Starts With Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig and determined that not only do we not know what is in all of our foods, but we often can’t control what farmers put in or around our foods to manage pests and increase product yields. Last year, my garden suffered a major hit from the Tomato Worm and we didn’t get any tomatoes. I didn’t put any pesticides on our plants because I was already sick and didn’t want to harm my body any more than it already had been harmed. I also started thinking about how we plant our gardens and the chemicals that are often placed in top and potting soils.

Now I know a natural way to kill Tomato Hormworms is to mix peppermint oil with water in a spray bottle and spray the entire plant.

Now I know a natural way to kill Tomato Hornworms is to mix peppermint oil with water in a spray bottle and spray the entire plant.

I know we can’t possible eliminate every single chemical that makes it into our food, but my husband helped me devise a way to have a little bit more control about what we do put in our bodies and this year, we made our own potting soil. It was easy, really cheap and the plants have been growing well this year (as have the weeds, no doubt) so I assume it is providing nutrients. In terms of the weeds, I just need to find time to pull them out! If you have a container (or any) garden, you can make your own soil too in just a few easy steps – and I guarantee it won’t even change much from what you are already doing in your day to day life!

How to Make Your Own Soil for Your Container Garden

Note: This takes a little bit of time to prepare so the first year we gardened we bought the soil and then started making our own as we became older and wiser.
  • Get some lawn and leaf bags or save the empty potting soil bags from the year you planted using commercial soil.

Bag used for compost

  •  Each time you weed your garden, trim your yard or pick up after a storm collect the plant waste.

organic 'waste'

  •  Add it to the lawn, leaf or potting soil bags.

organic 'waste' in bag

  • As time goes by and you continue to weed, keep adding to the bag! I add the new material on top and fold the bags down so there is not much room for air. We store the decomposing bags right on our front porch. I have never noticed a smell or anything because we don’t put food scraps in there and the thick material of the bag is a good barrier. Turn the compost every now and then (my husband does it once or twice a month) and soon, you will notice soil!

New compost in bag

  • When you are ready to plant, dump the soil in your bag our on the ground or tarp (so as not to waste it).

New compost on tarp, not sorted

  • Sift through the soil, removing the larger plant materials. Return the large pieces to the bag to continue decomposing.

sifting through compost

  • Add your soil to any pots you are ready to plant!

filling post with compost.jpg

  • The amount of time this will take to create compost will vary depending on factors like temperature, moisture, and what/how much you put in your bag. During the summer (which is the most productive time for us) a three month decomposition is possible, but it could take several months, up to a year. We do not turn the bags in the winter because the process slows down during that time.

That’s it! Easy and a lot healthier for your plants and you. We have two bags of soil going and were able to plant about half of our garden with homemade soil this spring. Now we have four bags going so we will just keep composting soil until we don’t need to buy any more.

Until the next mile marker,

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Sara’s Summer Garden Series: Tips for Container Garden Success

Sara's Summer Garden Series Cover

I used to think because I live in a townhome I couldn’t have a garden. It was my husband who convinced me otherwise shortly after we moved in and we’ve been gardening ever since. I am fortunate enough to have a large patio, but you can plant a container garden no matter how much space you have. A container garden can be anything from a pot or two of your favorite summer vegetables like tomatoes or peppers to an herb garden hanging on a window pane to an array of flowers and plants to an elaborate set-up of pots and troughs. It just depends and versatility is one of my favorite things about container gardening. I have learned, over the years, there are a few things that can make or break a container garden. And, even though I still have much to learn, here are a few of my tips for container garden success.

  • First things first, choose a container for your plants. And, keep in mind anything can be a container! You can use pots (I look for pots and planters on sale), wheelbarrows, old watering cans, hanging baskets, troughs – anything that can hold a decent amount of soil can substitute for a container. This is where creativity comes in to truly make it your own. Someday, I would like to make an herb garden out of mason or glass jars. If you’re not sure where to start, visit your local dollar or grocery store and pick up a bunch of pots that you like.
  • Make sure your container has adequate drainage or the water will accumulate at the bottom of the container with nowhere to go and eventually the roots of your plants will rot. If you do not have (or cannot drill) holes in the bottom of the container, put some gravel in the bottom to help filter the water. This has worked wonders for us in the past.
  • Use a high-quality potting soil when planting your container garden. It is important to use a soilless mix because it is lightweight and allows the roots of the plants to grow freely. We make our own potting soil now. I have used regular potting soil, but it is heavy and retains a lot of water so I prefer what we make or a soilless type. You must use some kind of potting soil that is formulated for containers, not top soil like you would put in a flower bed. You can find all types of soil at your local gardening center or superstore.
  • As you begin purchasing your plants, make sure you pay attention to the information cards that come with them. While it is beneficial and even fun to plant multiple varieties of plants or vegetables in the same container, you want to be careful of the growing conditions like sunlight. Keep sun, partial sun and shade plants separate to maximize growth. One good thing with a container garden is that you can move the entire pot if the plants are receiving too little or not enough sun.
  • Be creative! If you are planting flowers, you can plant some bold flowers or spikes in the middle of a container and some hanging flowers around the edges for a dramatic look. If you are planting vegetables or herbs, you can do the same thing by making a salad or “regional” planter. For example, my Italian planter has a tomato plant in the middle, sweet banana peppers and romaine lettuces around the outside.
Italian Planter

Italian Planter

  • Remember, your container garden depends on you more than a regular garden. Be sure to fertilize it regularly with a 20-20-20 fertilizer or compost. Roots in a container cannot search for water, so you will need to check your plants daily to see if they need watered. My garden gets watered every evening in the hot and sunny summer months. If it is especially hot, I may water them twice a day because my patio does not get much shade.

If you are wondering if it is too late to start your garden, you still have time! Pick up come pots or gather up some unused containers from the garage, soil and plants that are already established and then get started now using my tips for container garden success.

What about you? Do you have a container garden? What tips can you share that make your’s a success?

Until the next mile marker,

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Lazy Memorial Day: Gardens, Ducks, Strawberries and Beans!

This weekend was pretty low-key (hey, remember when this was an exciting running blog?). We did some gardening (are we a boring married couple, now?)

And I had a complete photo session with the baby ducks (as I have said before, my neighbors already think I am weird…)

Which turned into my avoiding these little guys’…


He (or she) is very protective.

They all got revenge for the photo shoot by eating my strawberries.

Speaking of strawberries (as in Strawberry Fields, that is), I happened to catch Across the Universe on TV and I loved it.


I have heard it called “the worst movie of all time,” but I disagree. It was pretty cool in my opinion and had some great artistic and musical elements to it! Across the Universe is a 2007 musical romantic drama film directed by Julie Taymor. The film’s plot is centered around songs by The Beatles. I highly recommend it.

I ran some errands and scored a major deal at Big Lots! Who knew!? All of Bob’s Red Mill products were on sale. 

Yesterday, I made the Quick Cooking Oats with a little bit of the Natural Granola and Ground Flaxseed with a touch of Almond Milk. It was so good.

In my attempt to get back to eating clean, I picked up the June edition of Clean Eating and came up with a clean creation of my own. It was delicious, as a matter of fact. My body was really craving the spinach most of all. It was super quick, super easy, super good.  

Sara’s Healthy Bean Blend 

  • 1 Can Organic Tri-Bean Mix (or any type of beans), drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups fresh spinach leaves, washed and stems removed (I personally do not like them)
  • 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil (or healthy oil of your choice)
  • Pinch of Kosher salt 
  • 1 teaspoon of toasted Sesame Seeds
  • 2 cups whole grain brown rice, cooked
  • Cook the beans and rice accordingly and set aside. 
  • Heat oil in a skillet and add spinach leaves. Saute until slightly wilted, but sill vibrant in color. I cooked them for 2-3 minutes. 
  • Add a pinch of salt and mix well with spinach leaves.
  • Remove spinach leaves from heat and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  • Serve with rice and beans. 

According to the rice and bean serving sizes, this dish has 309 calories. I saved the leftover rice and beans for the next day and just sauteed more fresh spinach when I was ready to eat it. I was surprisingly content and satisfied after eating this meal. It has quickly become one of my favorites.

How was your Memorial Day weekend? Do you have any favorite, fast and simple clean eating recipes to share? Tell me in the comments!

Until the next mile marker, 


When all else fails I will tell you about my weekend…

It was a beautiful day for gardening in Central Ohio. Bluebird skies and hot….

I discovered I really like Sheperd’s Purse. I’ve been munching on it all week. It is a member of the mustard family and has a peppery taste to it. It kind of dances on the taste buds. It is called Shepherd’s Purse because of it’s tiny, triangular, purse-like pods that hold the spice. Native Americans and old-world Europeans often used it as flavoring for food and it also has several medicinal properties including treatment of chronic bleeding disorders. It grows native and wild in a variety of places. Here is a close-up of the purses.  


It was also a weekend filled with puppy cuteness.
Who would ever want to get out of bed in the morning?
I had some beautiful days and even a little relaxation too…
I also ran the Race for the Cure with my mother-in-law who is a survivor. It was hot and surprisingly long for a 5K! I finished in 53:18 (run-walking) and I went back and walked the last 3/4 with my mother-in-law and team. She has been cancer-free for two and a half years now. 

And, I made this awesome recipe this weekend. It is not healthy, but it was sooooo good and the husband loved it too. It’s nice to splurge once in awhile – don’t forget that! 

I hope you all had a fantastic weekend too! Tell me about it in the comments. 

Until the next mile marker,