Breakfast Brownies

I’m not sure who exactly decide to leave chocolate out of the food pyramid (yes, I know it’s a plate diagram now), but in my mind, chocolate is part of a well-balanced diet and life! I don’t drink coffee, so maybe it’s my caffine fix, but whatever the reason, I love chocolate.

Enter the breakfast brownie. I was first tempted by this idea by carrieonvegan.com, who posted an excellent pumpkin breakfast brownie. I made a few adjustments for our own tastes and tried it in the solar cooker. It’s pretty easy to make, as you basically let your food processor do all the work. Here’s the recipe:

Breakfast Brownies

1/2 cup oats

1 cup pumpkin puree

1/2 cup peanut butter

2 tsp cocoa powder

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp vanilla

1 Tbsp chia seeds

Dash cinnamon

1/2 cup grated zucchini

1 cup applesauce

2 Tbsp almond milk

Food process just the oats until they are powdery. Add in the other ingredients and process till well mixed. Then bake in a parchment-liked pan in your solar oven.

I tried it, and I really keep overestimating the afternoon sun. I put them in at 2 pm, and at 4 pm they still were mush. I finally finished them in my regular oven so that we could have dessert. They final brownies are soft, but should pull away from the pan edges. They are a good breakfast on the go or a nice base for soy ice cream.

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Rating: half success. I need to learn to make in the mornings instead of the afternoons.

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Strawberry Crisp

One of my favorite desserts growing up was a fruit crisp. They are all warm amd gooey… yum. We had a rhubarb patch behind our house, and I often remember cutting rhubarb into my mom’s mixing bowl and taking it inside so we could whip up a quick dessert with it.

The other thing I love about fruit crisps is that they hail from the land of ish.  You put some of this and some of that, and pretty much it turns out well no matter what amount or ingredients you try. Today I had strawberries in the frig, so strawberry crisp it is! You could use any fruit really though.

Strawberry Fruit Crisp

Cut up about a pound of fruit and place it in the bottom of your ungreased baking dish.

In a separate bowl, combine the following until crumbly:

1 cup oats

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 tsp flax or chia seeds

1-2 Tbsp butter or vegan butter

1 tsp cinnamon

Sprinkle the crumble over the fruit and bake in the solar oven uncovered for about 2 hours. Serves 4. (The rule, apparently, with solar cooking, is that you cover everything except for breads or cobblers and such.)

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This recipe works well for gluten-free folks and for vegans if you use vegan butter!

Rating: success! We had a delicious dessert. My only complaint is that I keep burning my hand when I try to take things out of the oven because the swinging tray moves. Maybe I should try cooking without the tray? Otherwise it is nice to have dessert ready without heating up my kithen!

Chicken Pot Roast

I think all this solar cooking is making me lazy. I keep looking for more and more ways to avoid actually turning on my oven. My husband needed dinner today, and since he’s doing GAPS, that means some form of chicken and vegetables. Last week I cooked one in broth, so this week I thought I’d try adding in the vegetables too! 

Chicken Pot Roast

Preheat your solar oven with your cast iron pot and lid inside.

Place a whole chicken inside the preheated pot and add water till it comes half-way up the chicken. Add salt and any spices you like. (We are partial to rosemary around here.) Cover and cook in the solar oven for about 3 hours.

Then, cut up whatever veggies you like. Carrots, onion, squash, and potatoes (for non-GAPS folks) taste nice. Add them to the pot so they sit in the liquid around the chicken. Replace the lid, and cook for one more hour.

Voilà! Dinner is served!

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Of course, it is a whole chicken in there, so be sure to pick around any bones, etc.

Rating: success! My husband says I can make this anytime! Now I just have to figure out what to feed the rest of us…

Crispy Almonds

As I mentioned before, my husband is on the GAPS diet. And the thing about GAPS cooking is that everything requires preparation. EVERYTHING. Even seemingly whole foods like raw nuts. Usually I need to soak the nuts overnight in salt water, drain in the morning, and then spend all day dehydrating them in the oven on low. But, I now have a solar oven!

I still soaked the almonds overnight in water with a teaspoon of salt, but in the morning I drained them and placed them on a parchment-lined tray and popped them into the solar oven. 2 hours of sunshine later we had crunchy delicious nuts that even my husband could eat!

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Rating: crunchy success! This works well with any nuts, though if you do cachews, only soak them for a few hours, as they can get slimy.

 

Baked Falafel

It’s an inherent problem with my cooking – I don’t measure. It’s not entirely my fault. I was raised with recipes that featured such standard units of measure as the glob, the glunk, and the dollop. Recipe instructions included items such as “add milk till it looks wet”. And even now I drive my husband crazy with recipes where the important parts are unmeasured and unrecorded.

Today I tried to make a baked version of falafel. We love middle eastern food here, so it should have been great, except that I didn’t measure the water or spinach and they turned into just little baked balls. I was about to toss them out and make cereal for dinner when my son requested them with salsa. I figured it couldn’t hurt and tried one too. They make great salsa bites!

Baked Falafel (better as salsa bites)

1/2 white onion

2 tsp garlic powder

1.5 cup cooked chickpeas

2 tsp cumin

Salt to taste

1/2 cup cilantro

1/2 cup spinach leaves

2 Tbsp olive oil

Water if needed.

Put everything in the food processor and blend till crumbly. Add water if needed. Form balls and place on a parchment- lined baking tray. Solar cook 1-2 hours till browned.

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Rating: Recipe failure. I need to work with this till it tastes better. In the meantime, it’s not a bad appetizer with salsa!

Lentil Sloppy Joes

Lentil joes are a staple in our house. They are easy, nutritious, gluten-free, and my kids love them. They usually take about an hour to simmer to gooey perfection on the stove top though, so I thought i’d try these in the solar oven. The original recipe is from The China Study Cookbook (I think…). Below is my version:

Lentil Sloppy Joes

Serves 4-6

3.5 cups water

1 chopped onion

1 bell pepper, chopped

2 Tbsp chili powder

1.5 cups lentils

1 28 oz can diced or crushed tomatoes

2 Tbsp liqiod Amino’s

3 Tbsp mustard

2 Tbsp vinegar

Stir together all ingredients and cook covered in your solar oven for about 3 hours. Ours cooked for 4 hour and was yummy. Serve over rice.

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Rating: Success! Now we even have leftovers for lunch tomorrow!

Rice Cooker Farewell

It was a wedding gift. And to my great-aunt who gave us her own rice cooker out of the 70’s, I am very grateful for the 8 years of use we have gotten from it. However, I am delighted with the prospect of not having to use it anymore!

You see, while it cooks the rice just fine, it doesn’t kick down to warm when finished, so the rice keeps cooking till you finally smell it burning. It’s gross. Burned rice does not make a pleasant smell or dinner. However, I tried making rice in the solar oven yesterday, and it came out great!IMG_20140314_125456123

We are partial to brown rice, as it’s an easy and gluten-free whole grain. I made one cup of rice in my solar oven by following what were originally crock pot instructions. Add 2 cups of water to 1 cup of rice, put the lid on, and cook for about 2 hours. My rice turned out fluffly and nice. Maybe someday I’ll attempt pasta too?

Rating: success! Bye-bye rice cooker!

 

Here comes the chicken!

I apologize in advance for the relatively unexciting food this week. We just got our cooker and we are still taking it out for a spin to see what it will do. Which leads me to yesterday’s masterpiece (drum roll): a whole chicken.

I think I mentioned that my husband is on the GAPS diet, which allows no grains but loads of meat. Love, by the way, is having your vegan wife cook you chicken. Anyway, most of his meat is to be boiler or baked on low heat for several hours. I thought this would make trying to solar cook it perfect!

Simple Solar Oven Chicken

1 chicken

Rosemary, salt, a bay leaf

Water

I preheated the cast iron pot in the solar oven so that we wouldn’t have any food safety issues. Then I put in the chicken, sprinkled it generously with rosemary, added the salt and bay leaf, and filled it half full of water. I covered it with the lid and cooked it for 6 hours in the Sun Oven.

I was rather nervous about this recipe for two reasons. First, my husband needed this food so messing it up would be bad, and second, it was overcast. It’s almost never overcast here, so I wasn’t expecting that. It definitely affected the temperature of the cooker. It only got up to 250°F once and spenyblots more time around 150°F. Thankfully, when we checked the chicken at the end, it had an internal temperature of 190°F and was moist and cooked!

Rating: I didn’t actually eat it, but my husband said it was good, and I’m excited to not have to cook meat indoors all summer. So I think that makes this a success all around!

Baked-ish apples

Wednesday is left over day at our house, and I didn’t want to just try reheating in the Sun Oven, so yesterday was my first dessert attempt. We had somewhere to be and would miss having dinner all together anyway, so I thought a nice hot baked apple each would be a good treat to come home and enjoy.

Plus, baked apples are one of the few foods we can all eat. You see, my husband is on the GAPS diet, I am vegan, and we have one kid who is gluten-free, so there’s no easy meals that fit all of us. Thus the need to be a bit creative.  Below is my twist on baked apples so that we could all enjoy them:

Baked Apples

4 apples cored

1 cup raisins

2 Tbsps coconut oil

Core and scoop out the insides of the apples and arrange them upright in an oven-safe dish. Fill the middle with raisins and top each with a half tablespoon of coconut oil. Then add just enough water to cover the bottom of the dish and put the lid on.IMG_20140312_170524262

I put the dessert out in the solar oven at 4 pm and retrieved it at 6 pm. I grossly underestimated the need for direct sunlight. It was so late that the cooker stayed at only about 100 degrees, so in the end we had warm apples instead of baked apples. They were still good, but they weren’t what I was trying to make.

Rating: leaning toward a success. Next time in some actual sunlight, I think it would make a tasty dessert.

Refried bean, minus the fried part.

It’s a week of kiddo-favorite vegan meals over here, and since we are gluten-free also, it shouldn’t be too surprising that we are already having some form of beans.  Today I tried making my version of a quesadilla recipe that I believe I originally got from one of Rip Esselstyn’s cookbooks (he’s Dr. Esselstyn’s son, and like is father promotes plant-based eating to help you keep healthy).  The recipe requires tortillas, which I cooked indoors, as well as a mix to go in the middle, which I wasn’t brave enough to try outside just yet.  Instead, I just made the refried bean part in the solar oven.  It turns out, it’s just as easy as it is indoors!

To make refried beans outdoors:

Start with cooked pinto beans, add extra water, and cook them in a thick, dark pot the way you would in a slow cooker.  I put about 1 cup of pinto beans, 1 tsp cumin, and some salt in my cast iron cookware, and then added about a 1/2 cup of water and put the lid on it and put it in the Sun Oven.  I left it out in the solar oven for about 4 hours, and then brought it in.  All I had to do then was to mash it up with a potato masher and voila! – you have refried beans that you didn’t have to fry at all.  I would have posted a picture, but refried beans just do not look appealing from any camera angle.

I had a little extra time, so I did try using my glass cookware to cook the sweet potato outside as well.  I punched holes in it (just in case!) and put it in a glass pan with a lid at lunchtime (after the beans were done) and left it there for 2 hours.  It softened up nicely and saved me having to microwave all the nutrients out of it!  I suspect I could have tried stacking the two pots in the oven if there had been room, but I’m not sure they would both fit.

The rest of the recipe, if you are curious, is as follows:

Put 1 cup salsa, 1 cup spinach, and 1 cooked sweet potato in the food processor and blend until smooth.  Heat in saucepan with 1 cup refried beans and 1 cup black beans until warm.  Spoon the mixture between two gluten-free corn tortillas and heat in a skillet.  The mixture also makes good chip dip, if you are not feeling like cooking indoors at all.  Next time, I’ll try making the quesadilla mixture outside 🙂

Rating: Success! I think it may be time to get more adventurous 🙂