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!

Old Favorites

It’s no secret that in our house BBQ lentils are the dish of choice. We eat them as tacos with pineapple, we take them to parties, and we serve them to guests when they come over. We have yet to have a meat eater who doesn’t enjoy some of their vegan yumminess.

Tonight we tried a twist on our regular BBQ lentils. We still solar cooked the lentils and then heated them with BBQ sauce, but we served them over spinach and topped them with pineapple! It made for a nice summer salad and was very filling!

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Rating: good! We may try this again for a quick meal!

Squishy Squash

We hit triple digits yesterday. I suspect my days of blogging about how I can’t cook in the overcast conditions are over. That does not mean, however, that my solar cooking is going perfectly. Take, for example, my poor spaghetti squash. I meant to post this yesterday, but I wanted a chance to redeem myself first.

My husband loves spaghetti squash, so I put half of one into the Sun Oven in the morning yesterday to cook. And cook it did. By the time I got to it, it could reasonably have been labeled “well done”. The problem was that I put it out in the morning and forgot about it until dinner time. Because I did not even reorient the cooker to follow the sun, the squash had been sitting at bacteria-growing temperatures for several hours. I felt badly throwing it out.

So today I decided to try again to cook the other half of the spaghetti squash. I put it in a dish with a little water in the bottom and put a lid on it. I pointed the solar cooker at the sun, and about an hour later I went back out to check on it.

Boiling. It was boiling. The bubbles kept rising up from under the squash, which was actually sort of neat to watch. I brought it inside, and sure enough it was cooked through. My husband was happy to finally get his squash, and I learned that food is about to start cooking a whole lot faster!

Broccoli and White Bean Penne

Yum… garlic. We love Italian-inspired dishes that are rich in sauces, pasta, and garlic! I feel like having a glass of red wine just thinking about it. Here’s a versatile dish that the kids love and adults will eat.

I originally found a similar recipe online (I can’t remember where) and changed it a bit to be able to solar cook it. The noodles I boiled on the stove indoors, but the beans and sauce I cooked in the solar oven.

Broccoli and White Bean Penne

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 onion, diced

1 or 2 cups cooked white beans

16 oz cooked penne

Large jar red pasta sauce

1 or 2 crowns broccoli, chopped

Cook the garlic, onion, and beans in the solar cooker till soft ( about an hour). Then stir in the pasta sauce and return to the sun oven till heated through. Indoors, cook the penne. Add the broccoli to the cooking pasta for the last few minutes till it is tender. Drain pasta and broccoli. Stir in the sauce with the beans. Enjoy!

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Rating: easy and good. Very kid-friendly and reheats well. I always use gluten-free pasta, so it is a gluten-free meal.

I have to say, spaghetti dishes like this are some of my favorite dinners. You can hide anything in them (pureed spinach, lentils, broccoli, etc.) and kids love them! I think this will be our lunch for the next day or two.

Crayons

I made pasta for dinner last night, which I will post another time, but the real fun yesterday was solar cooking crayons. Yep, crayons. NO, they are not edible. (I have had 3 adults ask that…)

I found myself in need of a quick art project yesterday, so we took all the broken crayons and bits of crayons out of my kids’ art box and removed all the paper that was still on them. We then broke them into pieces and put them into a silicon ice cube tray that was shaped like stars.

I put the tray  in the solar oven around noon, and in 15 minutes they were completely melted. So much so, in fact, that I had to remove the whole tray from the oven, as the silicon was too flexible to remove with liquid in it.

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The crayons dried in a few hours and they made beautiful colored stars!

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A few words of caution:

I think I ruined my ice cube tray, as the colors seem baked in. Do this in something you don’t mind ruining.

The crayons are somewhat brittle. Color gently.

Do not eat them.

Rating: fun use of solar power!

 

Strawberry Dump Cake that almost wasn’t and probably shouldn’t have been

I had a craving for dessert the other night and I found a recipe for a dump cake in the Engine 2 cookbook. It sounded easy and yummy, which are pretty much my current food criteria, so I started to make it, without the sweetner. I got it all the way prepared only to realize that it was well after sunset and thus I had no way to cook it.

Drat. So I put it in the refrigerator and the next morning decided it was too questionable to cook. So I cut up bananas to make another one. The bananas were pink though, which scared me. Are they supposed to get pink spots in the center? Again, I ended up abandoning the batter.

So finally at nap time I made the cake with strawberries and actually got it to the solar cooker. It looked just fine and was finished by snack time. Then the unthinkable happened. My kids wouldn’t eat it. Who doesn’t like cake? It wasn’t sweet, and I guess it was too bland even for them.

Here’s the recipe, in case you want to fix it:

strawberry dump cake

2 cups cut fruit

2/3 cup soy milk

2/3 cup rice flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp vanilla

Mix everything but the fruit together and put it in a baking dish. Add fruit on top and solar bake uncovered for about an hour.

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Rating: blah. Needs sugar or honey or something!

Scones

I almost put the title in quotation marks. The solar baking I did yesterday involved a grain – free recipe with a few extra substitutions. It begs the question: at what point is a recipe something completely different then the meal you started out making?

The “scones” are part of my hubby’s GAPS diet, but the question holds for my vegan foods as well. At what point are they bean patties instead of burgers? I’m not sure, but I think I may need to reconsider what I call foods. Case in point, whenever I finally make edible banana bread without gluten, eggs, butter, or sugar, I will probably be forced to rename it.

At any rate, I tried baking two trays of scones yesterday. They took about an hour in the sun oven, and I noticed that the top tray browned nicely while the bottom tray did not. I suspect I should start rotating the trays half way through like you are supposed to do in a conventional oven. They turned out very crumbly, but my long suffering husband loved them. I’m not sure they are actually good, but they seem to make an okay snack.

GAPS SCONES

This recipe began from healthy home happy.com

2 1/2 cups almond flour

Pinch salt

2 eggs

4 T honey

1/3 cup applesauce

2 large strawberries, choppee

Mix together all but the strawberries, then fold the berries in. Shape them into triangular wedges and bake on greased cookie sheets for about an hour.

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Rating: not scones, but edible for what it is. I’m not sure I would recommend it if you are not on GAPS.

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 🙂

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!

Sourdough Banana Bread

So this is the story of some bread that wasn’t meant to be. You see (settle in for a long story), a long time ago (3 days), I put some water and rice flour and yeast on the counter to ferment. I was hoping to get a good sourdough starter that I could use to make gluten-free sourdough bread.

It worked! It oozed and bubbled and grew. One night my husband and I could even smell the pleasant aroma across the house!

Then the moment of truth came. I tries adding some of the starter to rice flour to make bread dough. It crumbled. I added more xanthum gum, but it was hard. I added more water, but it wouldn’t even make a ball using my dough hook.

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So I put the crumble dough into the refrigerator until I could figure out what to do with it.

The next morning I decide to try to turn it into banana bread, since banana bread can sometimes be a bit sour anyway! So, I added 2 bananas, 1 cup apple sauce, some coconut milk, and as much of the bread crumble as I thought looked right until it was bread dough consistency (my friend said it looked like yogurt). I poured it into two parchment lined pans and baked in the solar oven for an hour and a half. (I sprinkled pecan crumbles on top of one just because I had some.)

They cooked and rose! I was so excited! My friends were here and we all tried some. It tasted like bland and slightly like beer. It wasn’t sweet, and while it smelled okay, it didn’t have a satisfying your dough taste either.

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Rating: bummer. Lots of effort and still no edible banana bread. I will keep trying! Anyone have a good gluten-free recipe?