Potato Lentil Stew

I think I have come to the overwhelming realization that I don’t like vegan casseroles. It’s nothing personal. I tried hard to like them. In fact, this meal was supposed to be a casserole. However, I found myself staring at an empty pot and frantically searching pinterest for anything else to put in it.

I believe that the problem lies in the lack of cheese. Without some sort of gooey middle, a casserole is really just your starch piled on beans.

Having said that, I am more than open to being schooled, and if someone has a great vegan casserole that doesn’t require fake stuff (like soy cheese), I am all ears!

Anyway, I stumbled upon several lentil and potato stews, and here is my interpretation:

Potato lentil stew

2 chopped potatoes

2 chopped carrots

1 chopped onion

1 large can diced tomatoes

1 cup green lentils

1.5 cups water

Basil, oregano, and thyme

Salt and pepper

Stir all together. Season to taste. Solar cook covered for 3 hours or until lentils are soft.

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Rating: acceptable. Nothing to write home about, but the seasonings are good. I think I should have cooked mine a bit longer as the carrots were still slightly firm.

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Lentil Salad

At the risk of being untruthful, I must immediately confess that I did not cook this in the solar oven. I should have though, and it’s super yummy, so I think it belongs here anyway.

Yesterday I made chili, which I already posted here awhile ago. My husband used the crock pot (for the last time, as it died immediately) to make an amazing lentil salad. The recipe is from the Esselstyn’s book How to Prevent Heart Disease. It could and should have been done in the solar oven, so here is the recipe:

Lentil Salad

2 cups green lentils

4 cups water

1 chopped onion

1 chopped red pepper

Combine the above ingredients and solar cook till the lentils are soft.

Then add in:

2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup cilantro

2 Tbsp mustard

3 Tbsp lime juice

2 Tbsp dill

Stir and enjoy. It’s good hot or cold!

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Rating: definitely one of the better recipes here. The kids devoured it, and it’s both vegan and GAPS friendly, not to mention gluten-free!

 

Pasta Bake

I’ve been mentally muddling over how to make better solar pasta for awhile. Soaking noodles in solar heated water isn’t giving me the consistency that I want, but I am still afraid to put gluten-free noodles in water for any real period of time due to their general predisposition to turn to mush.

Today I experimented with a slow cooker version of pasta. It was one of the few recipes for cooking pasta that I could find that didn’t involve precooking the noodles so I thought I’d give it a try.

Solar Pasta Bake

Copious amounts of pasta sauce

1/2 cup red lentils

8 oz penne pasta (gluten-free)

Start by putting a layer of pasta sauce on the bottom of your dish. Then put a layer of noodles sprinkled with lentils. Repeat. End with a layer of pasta sauce on top. Make sure all noodles are completely covered, otherwise they won’t soften or cook.

My layers:

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I cooked mine covered in the solar cooker for about 3 hours in the morning. I wasn’t careful enough with the top layer of sauce, so I had some uncooked noodles that needed disposed of. Otherwise, it turned out fine.

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Rating: a good first step. The kids ate it and there were plenty of leftovers for lunches. It’s a little bland. It would be better with some veggies mixed in next time! I wonder if this system would work for Mac and cheese?

Easter Bunny Carrot Cake Muffins :)

We were invited out unexpectedly yesterday evening, and our host mentioned that they had made a bunny cake for Easter, but that it was not gluten- free. Never fear, I thought! So I whipped up a small batch of carrot cake cupcakes to complement their bunny cake. I used the Betty Crocker recipe as a guide and then made vegan and gluten-free substitutions:

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

1/2 cup sugar (leave this out if restricted)

1 cup applesauce

3 Tbsp flax + 9 Tbsp water

2 cups rice flour

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp baking soda

Pinch salt

3 cups shredded carrots

Mix all together and bake in solar oven for about 45 minutes in lined muffin pan. I had to put a towel over mine, and some of the tops stuck to it, so I made a glaze from powdered sugar and a bit of almond milk to cover it up. They turned out fun and yummy! Next time I’ll try to curb the sugar more.

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Rating: good and festive, even if not entirely pretty.

 

Lentil Soup

As you may recall, we started this solar cooking adventure by purchasing a solar oven from craigslist. It is a lovely Sun Oven, and had barely been used. The man we bought it from said that it had been a wedding gift (weird) and that he had only used it once to make lentil soup.

Well, it has certainly made a lot since then, but in honor of it’s maiden voyage (and since we are eating leftovers) we thought we would try a pot of lentil soup. I say ‘we’ because my husband was the chef today. He put about 3 cups of broth in the pot with one cup of lentils, one cup water, and whatever cut vegetables he found in our freezer. 3 morning hours of solar cooking later, we had soup!

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Rating: good. The man was right – it will indeed make lentil soup ­čÖé

Creative Casserole

You caught me. I was rereading an old issue of the Tightwad Gazette. It’s actually a pretty good read for all frugal ideas. Anyway, there is a “universal casserole” recipe in there. It’s basically one meat, one starch, one veggie, and some form of sauce equals a casserole.

Well, I don’t do meat, but I thought I might be able to make some sort of lentil solar casserole using the same equation. Mine was:

1 cup lentils

2 cups water

2 thinly sliced potatoes

1/2 chopped onion

1 head chopped broccoli

1/2 cup almond milk mixed with nutritional yeast for a ‘cheese’ sauce

I put everything in a covered baking dish and set it in the solar oven for a few hours in the morning. It turned very brown and the broccoli did not smell great. I figured I ruined dinner and put it the refrigerator until later just in case.

Several hours later I microwaved it and served it. It was actually not bad!

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Rating: edible. I think without the broccoli, and maybe with some more seasoning it could have been better. I may try this again another day to see!

Sweet Corn from my Sweetheart

My darling husband ran to the store for me the other day and came home with an unexpected half-dozen ears of sweet corn. I guess it had been in sale for a dollar and he knew how much the little guys and I liked it. Such a sweetheart!

Now comes the question of how to cook it. I can’t fit the usual oversized stockpot into the solar cooker, and I certainly didn’t want to microwave it if I could help it at all. I decided to try stacking them in water in our cast iron pot with the lid on and letting them steam for an hour.

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Rating: utterly delicious. I can’t believe I used to put butter on such sweet tasting corn. We ate all six ears for lunch and my son is begging for more! I’m glad cooking corn in the solar cooker is so easy!

Banana Bread Trial #3

This is a continuation of my quest to make a tasty loaf of banana bread without gluten, or sugar. And yes, I want it to be vegan.

Twice now I’ve made lovely looking loaves that have been beyond bland. Was the third time a charm? Keep reading to see!

I still had some left over sourdough starter in my refrigerator, and I couldn’t bear to throw it out. So today I started with 3 bananas and about 1/2 cup of sourdough starter. I added in 1/2 cup applesauce, a flax egg, some baking soda, and 2 1/2 cups rice flour. Then I mixed in enough coconut milk to get the right consistency.

Just then I remembered my son’s advice from before. He thinks everything is better with chocolate chips. I rather agree, but all I had today were raisins, so I put about a 1/2 cup of those in as well. ┬áI solar cooked the bread in parchment lined pans for a little over an hour.

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And there you have it – bland, tasteless raisin banana bread!

Rating: less miserable than before. I think I need to quit using the started and maybe try a pumpkin banana bread with more spices for more taste. And, of course, keep the raisins! Anyone else have some good advice for fixing this?

Curried Rice and Lentils with Mango

Sundays are always a cooking day here. I usually have time to watch the solar cooker often enough so that I can make more than one thing. It’s fun to try my hand at a few dishes in a day.

After making jam yesterday morning, I thought I’d try a modified China Study Cookbook recipe that my family had enjoyed before. It’s fast and only takes one dish and the kids eat it. I added in lentils though, because I like a little more protein with out dinner.

Curried Rice and Lentils with Mango

1 cup uncooked rice

1 cup uncooked lentils (I used green)

1 chopped onion

1 chopped bell pepper

4 cups water

2 tsp cumin

2 tsp curry powder

Combine all the above ingredients and cook in the solar cooker, covered, till the rice and lentils are soft.

Bring inside and stir in:

1/3 cup raisins

1 chopped mango

Garnish with cilantro

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Mine came out well, but I didn’t time the solar cooking perfectly. I started too late in the afternoon and had to finish it off in the microwave. I keep forgetting how important cooking early is!

Rating: hearty. It would be a good winter meal and it leaves us with ample leftovers for lunch. If you like it sweeter, leave out the lentils and substitute orange juice for 1/2 cup of the water.

 

Apple Jam

I have been reading about chia seeds lately. Apparently, they are not only super nutritious, but also very useful in baking. I had been putting them on bananas with peanut butter, or tossing some into my baked goods, but it appears you can use them to make jam without pectin!

I have never successfully made jam, so I borrowed a recipe from Oh She Glows. Here it is with Solar modification:

Solar Apple Jam

3 apples, cored, peeled, and chopped

3/4 cup apple juice

4 Tbsp chia seeds

1 tsp cinnamon

Dump all ingredients into your baking dish and stir. Bake covered for a few hours till apples are tender, then remove from solar oven and mash slightly with a potato masher. Store in the refrigerator.

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Rating: surprisingly easy and good. I thought it would be more like an apple sauce, but the chia seeds form a gel that gives it a jam texture, and the apple juice makes it very sweet. This was easy and yummy!