Almost guacamole

One of the few beans that my husband can/will eat are white beans. So, in the interest of only having to cook as few times as possible, I have been looking for recipes that use white beans so that we can all share them together.

I had friends coming over, so I made a dip out of the white beans with avocado. It was a simple vegetable dip, and rather bland if I am honest. However, you could totally tell that we are from the southwest. Everyone called it guacamole. Now, besides the fact that it was indeed green, it bore no resemblance to the wonderful food that is guacamole. It had no spices. It had no chips. There was no lime in it. Alas, I think next time I will just make guacamole and be done with it!

However, here was the bean dip, thanks to Semi-Homemade Mom:

White bean and avocado dip

1 cup cooked white beans (solar cooked, of course!)

1 avocado

1/2 cup parsley

Juice of one lemon

1 clove garlic (minced)

salt

Solar cook the beans. Then drain them and blend everything in your food processor till smooth. Add more lemon and salt to taste.

Rating: Okay. I added way more lemon and salt then the recipe required. I just couldn’t seem to get the taste to my liking. The parsley was weird. It doesn’t taste and it doesn’t do much more then provide green chunks in the final dip. I think if I did it again, I would just add white beans to a regular guacamole dip recipe, or try to find some sort of white bean hummus recipe.

Thai Red Lentils

I was so excited to try this recipe that a friend recommended. It had all the makings of success for me: 3 ingredients, no real prep, and can be completely cooked in a slow cooker (or solar cooker, in my case).

I am sorry to have waited so long to share my experience here. I guess I needed some space before I was ready to write about it. You see, the recipe calls for lentils, water, and canned tomato sauce mixed with coconut milk and Thai curry paste. I love the smell of Thai red curry paste, and I went out in search of it. Yum. I could almost smell its fragrance in my mind. Then I got to my favorite store and it was discontinued. They didn’t carry it anymore, nor did the regular grocery stores in the area.

I scoured the shelves for sometime and I finally found a substitute that was supposed to be a thai red curry sauce that also contained coconut milk. Score!

So I took it home and mixed everything together and hoped for the best!

Red Curry Lentils

4 cups regular brown lentils

29 oz can tomato sauce

water – fill the empty tomato sauce can twice

1 jar Thai red curry sauce

1 diced onion

Mix all together and solar cook till lentils are done. Garnish with cilantro if you wish.

Rating: this recipe we were really split on. I hated it. My kids loved it. We had some quinoa that they refused to touch but would eat if I put these lentils on them. They ate lentils for days. Actually, you should only make this if you want to eat it for days because it makes ALOT of lentils!

 

 

Quinoa Salad

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I saw this great recipe for a one pot quinoa meal. I have been trying to eat more quinoa, and I hate dishes, so the one pot idea really appealed to me. Plus, it had my favorite food: avocado, tomato, and cucumber. Awesome! Below is the recipe I used. It’s borrowed from Pinterest. Thanks to skinnytaste.com!

Quinoa Salad

1 cup cooked quinoa (cooked in the solar cooker, of course!)

1 can chickpeas

1 tomato, diced

1 cucumber, cut into small pieces

1/8 red onion, diced

juice of 1.5 limes

2 T chopped cilantro

1 avocado, diced

Stir all the ingredients together and serve! I cooked the quinoa outside on a sunny afternoon at about 3:30. It actually worked! I have been having a terrible time getting the cooker to maintain high enough temperatures, but today everything was perfect! (It’s worth mentioning that I would probably have an easier time if I adjusted the cooker more frequently, but come on – it’s hot out there!)

Rating: Culinary wise – success! I loved it, and both kids refused to touch it. Apparently they don’t like quinoa. This is my second try at feeding it to them, and no dice yet. I’m going to make another effort later to see if I can sneak it in though!

It’s all Greek to me!

My immediate apologies to anyone who has had authentic Greek food.

A friend of mine was telling me about some eggplant she had bought for a good price and how she planned to make Moussaka with it. All I could think about was the line from “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” about “Moose Caca!”, but she made it sound delicious, so I went home and looked it up. It turns out that Moussaka is a ground meat dish with tomatoes that is topped in a white sauce. I’m not personally a fan of the meat thing, but my husband loves it, and it sounded like we could modify the recipe to be good for him.

So, below is our version. Again, my immediate apologies to anyone who has had authentic Greek food. This is GAPS friendly, and used some substitutes based on what was in our cupboards, so it probably tasted nothing like the real thing. However – it was good!

GAPS Moussaka

2-3 large eggplants – slice in 1/4 inch round slices and salt with kosher salt. Let drain in a colander for an hour.

On the stove:

2 T olive oil

1 diced onion

2 cloves garlic

2 lbs ground beef (you can use lamb too if you are trying to be more authentic)

1.5 C diced tomatoes

1/2 cup red wine

2 T chopped parsley

pinch cinnamon

pinch salt

pinch pepper

Combine the olive oil, onion, garlic, and meat in a skillet and brown the meat, then drain any fat from the meat. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for 20 minutes.

Butter – 3T

Once you have the eggplant drained and the meat sauce made, start layering the two in a pan. Eggplant, then meat sauce, repeat.  Top off with the butter.  Cover and solar cook all afternoon.IMG_20140718_173809470

Rating: I only smelled it, but my hubby insisted it was delicious. Again, my immediate apologies to anyone who has had authentic Greek food. This recipe makes enough to feed about 6 people, so I would only try it if you have some extra room in your refrigerator or are having a party!

Worst cooking experiences of the week

I have tried to post this several times, but I keep having disasters of solar cooking experiments.  Alas, I think this will have to be a “worst of” list instead of a tale of lovely recipes…

Worst cooking events of this week:

4.  We tried to make lentil joes. My husband used the “fire roasted” tomatoes instead of the regular ones and then tried to solar cook it. The lentils did eventually cook, but it took longer than expected and the resulting dinner was spicy!

3.  Tortilla soup – we tried to solar cook this with regular diced tomatoes since the fire roasted ones got used the day before. It was overcast on and off all afternoon though, so we ended up cooking it on the stove. Plus, we were unable to make the crispy strips that go on it, so it was bland from beginning to end.

2. Chicken – We tried to boil a chicken outside in the solar cooker and make broth. However, it is apparently monsoon season. It is really difficult to solar cook in a monsoon. Again, the chicken ended up indoors on the stove.

1. Pumpkin bread – I had made this recipe before in the slow cooker and I wanted to try it outside in the solar oven. I did, and it was awful!  After an hour it was still so under-cooked that it was inedible. 

Weekly rating: disaster.  Better luck next time.  Perhaps I should stick with baking cookies?

strawberry mango crisp

I have been trying all week to make solar peanut butter blossoms, but I keep missing ingredients. First it was the kisses, then it was the flax for the eggs, and then it was overcast and rainy. By this point we had just eaten all the kisses!

So, I rummaged in my freezer and found strawberries and mangos. Nothing says summer like crisp!

Strawberry Mango Crisp

1 cup strawberries

1 cup mango pieces

1 1/2 cup oats

1/2 cup brown sugar

3 T vegan butter

Put the fruit in the bottom of the bowl. Then mix the dry ingredients and cut in the butter. Sprinkle over the fruit. Solar cook covered until warm and bubbly.

It took me over an hour to cook this. I think I am doing something wrong because my oven isn’t getting much above 300°F and it is super hot and sunny here. I may try cleaning it to see if this helps.

Rating: yummy!

Quinoa Surprise

So I had a sweet potato stashed in my cabinet that I was determined to use up before it started to turn brown and smell bad…not that stuff like that happens in my house (often)…  Anyway, I also figured I should get around to using the quinoa that I shelled out for about a month ago and still haven’t cooked.  So, after a brief pinterest search, I basically made up my own recipe.

Quinoa Surprise

1 cup quinoa

2 cups water

1 cup raisins

1/2 cup walnut pieces

1 sweet potato

cinnamon

cumin

salt

pepper

Solar cook the quinoa and water in a glass dish for about 1 hour or until the water is absorbed.  Microwave the sweet potato until mushy.  Mix all ingredients together and season to taste.

I didn’t start early enough with my solar cooking.  I thought I could cook after 4:30, but apparently I was wrong.  After a half hour of solar cooking, my quinoa was still just sitting there.  So I finished it off in the microwave.  

The result was edible, but not much more.  My older son refused to eat it.  I may have to put syrup on it tomorrow to see if that helps.

Rating: A good idea gone bad.  I think some changes could help, but as is, I would not make this again.

Rainy Days

I was excited to cook more cookies yesterday – I was thinking that peanut butter blossoms would make a nice snack, when the haboob hit. For those of you who don’t love in the desert, a haboob is a huge wall of dust and dirt. You can’t see or drive in it, and it forces airline delays. Then, after the haboob came the rain and lightning. Not exactly solar cooking weather either.

It was cloudy all day, but it did clear up just in time to enjoy dinner. I almost tries a last ditch cooking effort, but I decided that it was too late. Hopefully there will be better cooking tomorrow!

 

Peanut Butter Cookies

So, in honor of my cookie binge, I tried to make bar cookies out of peanut butter cookies in the solar oven yesterday. Peanut butter cookies are so fatty and easy, and for awhile they used to be my go-to cookie for when people stopped over. Everyone ate them, and I could have a batch ready in under a half hour.

I got out my recipe book and started cooking, and all I could think about was turning the recipe into peanut butter blossoms. However, I didn’t have any hershey kisses at home, so I had to just make plain bar cookies.

GF/Vegan Peanut Butter Cookies
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup vegan butter
1 flax egg (1 Tbsp flax plus 3 Tbsp water)
1 1/4 cups rice flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder

Mix the ingredients well and then spread into a parchment-lined baking pan. Bake in a preheated solar oven until done. Mine took about 45 minutes.

Overall, they turned out okay, but they were quite crumbly. I wonder if it’s the vegan butter? I would still make these again, but I would try putting the chocolate kisses in at the end to spice them up.

The downside to all this cookie baking is that we are all eating cookies at my house more often then we probably should. We have already finished off the peanut butter cookies as well as the oatmeal ones from yesterday. Maybe I should try healthy granola bars next or something?

Rating: okay. Crumbly, but my kids loved them 🙂

Oatmeal Cookies!

I have been trying to find something to break my solar cooking ennui. It’s not that I don’t like to cook, it’s just that cooking involves going outside where it is very hot, and then as a reward for my troubles I get hot food. But who wants hot food in this heat?!
I was trying to think of a palatable dinner to cook outside when I realized that there is something that I always like, no matter what the heat is – cookies!
This morning I tried a gluten-free, vegan version of oatmeal raisin bars.

Oatmeal raisin bars
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup apple sauce
1/2 cup coconut oil
2Tbsp flax meal + 6 Tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup flour
3 cups oats
1 cup raisins

Mix well and bake in parhment-lined pans. I baked mine at about 300° F for about 40 minutes. I used a shiny pan on the bottom and two dull bread pans on top. The shiny pan cooked most evenly, but you can’t use it alone in the cooker because it reflects light. Using pans allowed me to cook it all in one trip, which was great!

Rating: easy and yummy. I will definitely make more bar cookies another time!

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