It's that time of year when you may be considering buying a dehydrator or bringing yours out from the attic (!) ready for the colder months ahead.

With this in mind I thought it the perfect time to share with you how to actually get started and make some VERY good food, even if you're feeling a bit nervous and have never even seen or used one before!

So, the big question:

"I've got my dehydrator, now what do I do with it?!"

As with all new pieces of equipment, I encourage you to start small with something really basic - first simply to get on and get started and to do something and second to get your courage up so that you can go on to make even bigger and better things.

In the case of the dehydrator, here's a list of things to play with ordered from the easiest to the more complicated:

Slices of fresh fruits and vegetables: Start with some simple classics such as slices of apple, banana, cherries, strawberries, mango, tomatoes, courgette (zucchini), carrot, red bell pepper and so on.

Biscuits, snack bars and cookies: A great next step (and a rewarding one at that!) is to move on to the crunchy snacks and treats such as flapjacks and cookies, made from simple, easy to find ingredients (usually nuts, dried fruits, maybe some oats or sprouted grains) that you just need to grind together in a food processor. To get started simply pick an appealing recipe from a raw recipe book or goneraw.com.

Burgers and loaves: It's lovely to have something more 'meaty' to bite into sometimes, and a good juicy veggie or nut burger served with a fresh crisp salad and mouthwatering dressing can often be just what the taste buds ordered! Either that or serve the burger wrapped inside a large lettuce leaf or cabbage leaf like a bun, pile it high with assorted toppings and sauces and you can have something which looks and feels really naughty ; )

Flax crackers: Flax (or linseed as it is also known) is a great seed to get started with, extremely good for you (full of EFA's) and very cheap and easy to use. Last issue I featured the recipe for my most excellent Italian Flax Crackers which anyone with a food processor can make - it's simply a case of JUST DO IT. And when you do, you'll be very glad you did! And they last for months in an airtight container - provided they don't get eaten in the first week...

Pizza bases: These are just as easy to make as flax crackers, but need the toppings added after dehydrating, so therefore the recipe as a whole takes longer. The pizza base I make tastes so good that I always make extra and score it with a spatula before drying so that I have crackers as well. In fact it has been known for past students of mine to not even get to pizza making stage as they've eaten the base just as it is!

Breads: My first forays into bread making was a complete disaster. Mainly because I made it about 5 inches deep and tried to dehydrate it in an oven with the door open! With these two factors combined it took so long to dry (well, it actually never did dry) that it fermented and stunk my mother's kitchen out and I was banned. Need I say more?! The good news is that, believe it or not, you can make raw breads (which can be wheat-free or made from sprouted wheat which is practically allergy-free) and (this is the exciting bit!) you can create amazingly delicious raw sandwiches that look and taste far superior to any Tesco's Triple Pack you may care to mention! Those of you who have been to any raw events featuring myself and raw food chef Russell James likely have experienced Russell's completely delicious and mouthwateringly moreish herbed almond bread sandwiches with avocado, lambs lettuce, tomato, cucumber and cashew dijonnaise filling. Now we're talking, right?!

And beyond... There's many places to go from here, but this was, after all, just about getting started! Hopefully seeing the path ahead now mapped out for you you're now inspired to dust off your dehydrator (or in some cases, unpack it - you know who you are!) and just do it! When you compare a few apple rings to a herbed almond bread sandwich, well, what more impetus could you want to start working your way through the dehydrating ranks?

Author's Bio: 

With over 17 years of personal experience of eating a raw food diet, Karen Knowler has been teaching, writing and coaching professionally on raw foods for over a decade and publishes "Successfully Raw" - a free weekly eZine for raw food lovers everywhere. If you're ready to look good, feel great and create a raw life you love get your FREE tips, tools and recipes now at http://www.TheRawFoodCoach.com