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!

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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.

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 🙂

I just had to try this new…wait, I’ve done that before.

I was so excited to cook the pasta and avocado sauce recipe that I had pinned awhile back.  It’s super-yummy, and ridiculously easy.  And, the only heat required is that to cook the pasta.  This is good, since I have been adverse to hot foods for about 4 weeks now.  Seriously.  It’s so hot outside, and even though I can solar cook anything, I don’t really want to eat hot foods.

Anyway, I cooked the pasta and started the sauce in the blender.  About 20 minutes later my family had a lovely meal that my kids devoured.  I was so excited to blog about it and share, but it turns out I had already posted it!  Oops!

So anyway, if you get a moment, check out the avocado pasta – it rocks!

Zucchini Chips

I have been reading more vegan cookbooks, and there were a few new dishes that I wanted to try out.  At least two of them were snacks.  Snacks are a little hard once you quit eating processed foods, and to be honest, our house eats an insane amount of raisins.  (Seriously – we can’t keep them in the house no matter how many I buy.)  So, in the interest of eating something new, we decided to try out the solar cooker with some zucchini chips.  According to the book (Thrive) they are a tasty snack made entirely from cut zucchini.  Perfect!  (They are on sale, at least….)

Zucchini Chips

2 cut zucchini

salt

thyme

basil

oregano

I laid the zucchini strips on a parchment paper lined tray and sprinkled them with the seasonings.  The recipe called for cooking them for 30 minutes, but I had mine out there for an hour.  My oven was sitting at about 300 degrees.

And… they were mushy.  I suspect this is supposed to be a high temperature recipe, and it just didn’t translate well at lower temperatures.  They zucchini were edible, but not particularly tasty.  I’m a bit bummed, to be honest.

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Rating:  Not recommended.  Snack on baby carrots instead 🙂

Bad blogger

I have been a bad blogger these past few weeks.  I apologize.  I have my kids home and my husband around, and I just want to spend my time with them most days.

However, I am still solar cooking!  Most things are oldies but goodies, but I should share how they are working out.

Chili – yet -just as good this time as it was the first day I solar cooked.  I can’t recommend this recipe enough!

Cupcakes – I made the Bob’s Redmill Vanilla Cake ones this time, and they turned out better then the chocolate ones.  I make them as cupcakes so that they will fit into the oven.  I have to put a black towel over the muffin tin so that they will cook, and I’m having trouble with the towel getting into the batter.  I may need to try toothpicks to alleviate this problem.

Rice – I bombed this.  I have been cooking later in the afternoon as the sun is staying up longer and I have been able to cook after 3:00.  However, the cooker just didn’t boil the water, so I had to regroup for this.  Next time I’ll cook it earlier!

 

And then we went on vacation again (a bit a fiasco for another time) and once again the solar oven wouldn’t fit in the car.

The cooker itself is holding up well, though it is getting a bit dirty inside.  I may need to try cleaning it again.  Hopefully I will remember not to use vinegar, as the last time I ended up with vinegar tasting food!  Yuck!

Cupcakes

I couldn’t just leave those lovely packages of cupcake mix alone. I know they were supposed to be for the canceled birthday party, but they looked so yummy! I had to try them!

I had the Bob’s Red Mill chocolate cake mix, and I made it according to the directions for cupcakes. I preheated my solar cooker (which only got up to 300°F) and tried to bake them.

I must have something wrong. It took over an hour to bake one small tray of cupcakes. I did manage to finish two trays, but that is only 12 cupcakes and it took me about 4 hours. Perhaps I am angling it incorrectly?

My husband made squash afterwards and got it up to 350°F in the late afternoon sun, so it is probably just me…

Rating: mushy cupcakes. I will have to try again later.

Foiled Again

I have been trying to post even when things aren’t going as solar-splendidly as I might like.  Today is a good example.

I had purchased two bags of baking mixes to make cupcakes for my son’s birthday party tomorrow.  It was going to be a candy theme (his choice) and we were going to have a table of toppings that you could put on your cupcake to decorate it.  Today was going to be cupcake baking day in preparation for tomorrow’s sugar-fest.

However, we have come down with a stomach bug, and just had to cancel the party.  I’m not really feeling up to baking, and I suspect I shouldn’t bake while sick anyway.  So, alas, these two bags are the reminder of the solar cooking that I didn’t do today…

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