Friday, July 31, 2009

Solar Baked Rigatoni

Remember that Bolognese sauce I made a few days ago? I bet you’ve been wondering what happened to it. Once again I turned to Marcella’s Classic Italian cookbook. I wanted to make lasagna but after reading her recipe I felt ashamed for even having considered using boxed noodles. Plus I don’t have a rectangular pan that can go from the freezer to the oven and making lasagna in a round one just didn’t seem right. Luckily boxed pasta is perfectly acceptable for baked rigatoni and it really doesn’t matter what shape pan you put it in.

I’m still in New Jersey so once again it will be up to Martin to take it out of the freezer and put in the sun oven. I’ll be checking in with him later today to see how it tasted.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

More Solar Baked Bread

Sorry, no picture today but Martin reassures me that the bread was delicious. I left early this morning for a weekend get away at Cathe's gym in New Jersey. I made the dough with my bread machine and when the sun came up Martin put it in the sun oven. It's the same recipe as last weeks loaf but I got new measuring spoons. Turns out that the dollar store teaspoon was actually two teaspoons! I guess there was a manufacturing error so they were dumped at the dollar store. I've left detailed instructions and three days worth of meals in the freezer. All Martin has to do is put them in the sun oven. I'm pretty sure he can handle it and he'll definitely eat better than the last time he was home alone. He had frozen pizza every night for a week and had to call me to ask if the oven needed to be turned on to bake or broil.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Solar Pumpkin Chili Mexicana

I got this recipe from Weight Watchers. It's a favorite in our house for many reasons. First, it's only two points per serving. I'm not sure what that translates to in calories but I'd say less than 200. Second, it makes a massive pot of chili. Even Martin can't finish it off in one sitting. There's more than enough for one meal. Third, unless you tell them, nobody would guess that it has pumpkin in it. And finally it can be served over pasta, a potato or with a slice of good bread so there is room for variety. I got it in the sun oven early today and it was ready by lunchtime. We had it for lunch and dinner with enough left over for one more meal. There's a recipe on that is almost identical to the Weight Watchers version. The only modification is cooking spray instead of vegetable oil. I also substitute chipotle peppers in adobo sauce for the chili powder. I think it's even better when it's made in a solar oven.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sun Oven Lentil Loaf, Mashed Potatoes and Zucchini

Not only was today's dinner made entirely in the solar oven (except the gravy) but I put it together without making a single trip to the grocery store. This is a major accomplishment for me. And to think, when I got up this morning I had no idea what I'd be solar cooking today. I was planning on beans but forgot to soak them overnight. I decided to make lentil loaf instead. I started the lentils before breakfast. When they were ready I put the potatoes in the oven to boil. Once the potatoes were done I made the zucchini. In the meantime I put the lentil loaf together.
This is only the second time I've ever made lentil loaf. I'd never even heard of it until a couple of months ago. I didn't really follow a recipe, I simply made one up after consulting a seemingly endless number of them online. I put the loaf in the solar oven around 4:00 p.m. for just over an hour. While it was cooking I made the mashed potatoes, reheated the zucchini and made the gravy. The gravy was from a package in case you were wondering.

It needs tweaking but here's how I made the lentil loaf

1/2 pound dry lentils, rinsed and cooked until tender
1 TBS olive oil
1/2 small onion finely chopped
1 leek finely chopped
1 carrot finely chopped
1 stalk celery finely chopped
1/2 cup crushed tomatoes
1 slice whole wheat bread crust removed
1/3 cup vegetable broth
1 TBS grated parmigiano reggiano
1 tsp dried basil
1 egg lightly beaten
Tomato sauce

Line loaf pan with parchment paper making sure it drapes over the edges. This will make it very easy to remove the loaf when it's done.

Saute the onions, leek, carrot and celery in the olive oil until soft. Add the crushed tomatoes and simmer for about 10 minutes. Soak the bread in the broth (I would have used red wine but somehow didn't have any left over) Mash the lentils in a large bowl and combine with all the other ingredients. Put the mixture in a loaf pan and place in oven. About ten minutes before it's done spread tomato sauce on top of loaf. Let loaf rest about 10 minutes before slicing.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Solar Cooking Stack

Today's dinner was pretty much a repeat of last Monday's. Split pea soup, frittata with herbs and tomato salad. I had a whole week to come up with a way of cooking the frittata in the solar oven. I was pretty confident that cooking it in a glass pie pan or a silicone cake pan would work. I also wanted to be able to cook both the soup and the frittata at the same time. Here's how I did it. For the soup I used a graniteware pot that was not too tall. A taller pan would not have left enough room for the frittata. For the frittata I opted for the silicone cake pan because it's easier to handle and doesn't slip. I put the soup pan lid on upside down and put the frittata on top of that. I covered the silicone pan with a glass lid that I removed towards the end of cooking to let the frittata brown. This is a much easier way to cook a frittata since there's no risk of burning it. Next time I may try turning it so it will brown on both sides but it may be a while before I make another one since frittata is not Martin's favorite thing.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Solar Oven Bolognese Sauce Part One

The best bolognese sauce I've ever made was about 25 years ago. I was visiting my mother in Germany and we were invited to a potluck. I decided to bring lasagna. Ever since then I have been trying, with various degrees of success, to recreate it. I don't know if it was the beef or the fact that after letting the sauce simmer all afternoon I forgot to turn it off before we went out for dinner. I knew my mother would worry about the house burning down so I didn't mention it and the sauce continued to simmer for a least another two hours. Everyone at the party raved about the lasagna. I was disappointed that I had wasted such an accomplishment on a bunch of people I didn't even know. And to top things off they all thought my mother had made it!
Today's solar cooked sauce is yet another attempt to recapture that flavor. Back then I did not use a recipe but now I pretty much follow my trusted Marcella Hazan. I use a leaner beef although I have no idea what the fat percentage was of the German beef. I remember only that my mother commented on how fatty it was. I was also much leaner, weighing in at barely 100lb.
To be honest this was not entirely made in the solar oven. I assembled it inside on the stove and moved it to the solar oven to finish cooking. I debated over whether to cover the pot or not. Normally a good bolognese sauce is left to simmer for at least three hours, uncovered, at a very low heat. I started out with the pot uncovered but it seemed to be drying out too quickly so I placed the lid on leaving it slightly ajar.
The sauce seems to have come out pretty well. I'm going to be using it to make some kind of baked pasta dish later in the week so I've only tasted a spoonful of it. It's hard to tell if it's as good as the German sauce because it needs to be combined with pasta for the real magic to happen.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Solar Oven Bread

I've always been a little suspicious of the measuring spoons I got at the dollar store. I don't do much baking, where a little too much of something can make a big difference, so I haven't had any problems with them until today. The recipe I used called for 1 1/2 tsp. yeast. The yeast packet said it contained 2 tsp. but when I measured it with my dollar store spoons it came out to less than 1 1/2 tsp. I was so concerned that the incorrect amount of yeast might cause a disaster that it did not even occur to me to worry about any of the other ingredients. This time I used a recipe that called for a mixture of white and whole grain flour. I prepared the dough in the bread machine on the dough setting and let it rise a second time in the bread pan. I put it in the sun oven around noon and when I got home in the late afternoon it looked and smelled perfect. As always with freshly baked bread it was hard to wait for it to cool down to taste it. When I did taste it, I knew the spoons have got to go. It's edible, it's already half gone, but it's a little on the salty side. Despite the fact that my first two loaves of solar baked bread have been less than perfect, it is in no way the fault of the cooking method; In fact I am willing to say that in addition to beans and braised meats, solar cooking is the best way to make bread at home.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Too Cloudy for Solar Cooking

I couldn't put anything in the solar oven today due to an overcast sky. The sun didn't come out until late afternoon. I had been looking forward to a day off but now that I had one I was a little disappointed. Tomorrow we will be dining out for both lunch and dinner so I plan on giving bread another try. We rarely have two cloudy days in a row here in Phoenix so I'm pretty confident it will be a good day for solar baking.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Solar Chicken Curry

I guess Thursday is chicken day. This is the third Thursday in a row that I've made chicken in the solar oven. Today I opted for a simple chicken curry. I don't really know much about Indian cooking, and I'm sure any purists out there would be appalled, but I just use Pataks curry paste. I like using chicken thighs because they're moister and make portion control easy. There is really not much to say about this dish. It's just skinless, bone-in chicken thighs, onion, water and Pataks curry paste. When the chicken is ready, add some peas and yogurt to the sauce, and serve over rice.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Solar Lunch

Since it's almost noon and I still don't know what to make for dinner I'll use the solar oven to make some lunch today. This way I can go about my business this afternoon without worrying about clouds or wind and still get some solar cooking done.
We're having eggs and spinach for lunch. Maybe we'll go out for dinner.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Solar Braised Short Ribs

My favorite things to come out of a sun oven are beans and braised meats. The relatively low heat is perfect for cuts of meat like short ribs. Even though I forgot to reposition the sun oven before I went out for the afternoon, I still came home to some perfectly cooked ribs. It reminded me of a meal we had at Cafe Roka in Bisbee, AZ but for a fraction of the price. I don't know what I'm going to put in the solar oven tomorrow. Maybe it will be cloudy.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Meatless Monday Solar Dinner

We like to go vegetarian at least once a week. Tonight is our third vegetarian dinner is a row. On the menu was red lentil soup prepared in the solar oven, frittata with greens and herbs, and a tomato salad. I made the soup in the morning and spent the rest of the day debating whether to attempt using the solar oven for the frittata. On the one hand I wanted to be adventurous but on the other I did not want to ruin dinner. I look forward to dinner all day. When yet another haboob rolled into the valley the choice was made for me. The frittata was made inside on the stove.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Solar Oven Spaghetti Squash

Today I made something simple. I'm not a big fan of spaghetti squash but it makes a nice low calorie side dish when tossed with some chopped tomatoes, crushed garlic, capers, vinegar and olive oil.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Solar Oven Pasta e Fagioli with Wine

Mayocoba beans are my new favorite. I had never heard of them, but they are a lot cheaper then the cannellini or cranberry beans I usually use. I decided to give them a try and was not disappointed. After soaking 1/2 lb. overnight I put them in the solar oven early this morning. By the time I got around to chopping the veggies for the soup's base the beans were cooked. If I had started the base at the same time as the beans the soup would have been ready by lunchtime but who wants to chop onions before breakfast? Once the base was done I combined everything in one pot, including the liquid the beans cooked in, and brought it to a slow boil to cook the pasta. All it needed was a touch of balsamic vinegar, a dusting of parmesan cheese, some chopped rosemary and a glass of wine.

The Beans Are in the Solar Oven

Yesterday evening's haboob brought another clear and sunny day. I got the beans for the Pasta e Fagioli I will be making today in the solar oven at 8:00 a.m. I am now enjoying coffee and a slice of the 100% whole wheat bread made yesterday.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Solar Baked 100% Whole Wheat Bread

Solar baked bread is something I've wanted to try ever since I got my sun oven. We're going to Joe's Farm Grill for dinner tonight so it seemed like the perfect day to do just that. I'm not much of a baker and in the past have only made bread using a bread machine. It's been a long time since I even did that and I have lost my favorite 100% whole wheat bread recipe. One thing I did remember from all the trial and errors of past loaves was that it comes out much better with the addition of a little vital wheat gluten. This meant another after dinner trip to the grocery store yesterday. When I saw that only vital wheat gluten they had was $7.99 I decided to take the easy way out and bought a package of Bob's Red Mill mix for less than half that. I followed the instructions on the package for conventional ovens but added 1/4 cup of flax seed. The bread was ready to go in the oven by 11:30 and took about 45 minutes to bake, same as a conventional oven. I used a silicone loaf pan but did not like it as much the cake pan I used a few days ago. It was not rigid enough and the loaf expanded more in width than in height during baking. I'll probably give bread another try in the future but will be on the look out for a better recipe. It did make the back yard smell great.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Solar Roasted Chicken and Root Vegetables

If you want to start solar cooking it's a good idea to study your yard so you know where the sunniest spots are. I generally set my solar oven just outside the kitchen door where there is plenty of sun in the morning and well into the afternoon. However today I got off to a late start. It was almost noon by the time I got anything started. We had some rain and a lot of wind last night so the skies were clear. I wasn't concerned about clouds but I did have to leave while everything was cooking. If I left the solar oven in its regular spot it would be in the shade before I got home. Just before going out I moved it to the back of the yard where it stays sunny all day. All in all it was an uneventful solar cooking day. I made chicken thighs with rosemary and garlic and roast rutabagas and parsnips in the solar oven. To complete the meal I made a turnip risotto and steamed some kale.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Normally I would never have even tried to use my sun oven with so many clouds but I decided to go for it. Here are a few things I learned:
As long as there's enough sun to cast a shadow you can use a solar oven.
It's o.k. if the temperature is lower than the recipe says, it will just take longer to bake.
Silicone cookware is perfect for solar cooking and it's easy to clean.
If the recipe calls for butter at room temperature and you forgot to take it out of the fridge and you live in Arizona, just put it out on the patio for ten minutes. It will soften.
You should calculate the calories per serving before following a recipe from any magazine, or never.
If a recipe in Bon Appétit calls for 'special equipment' you probably don't have it. The one I followed called for a 9 inch cake pan with two inch sides. Turns out my cake pan had 1.5 inch sides. The cake came out with a bit of a muffin top, or bottom since it is an upside down cake.

Solar Cooking with a Plan

I had my day perfectly planned out. It's boy's night out so I'd be dining alone tonight. I have plenty of leftovers so no need to make anything for dinner. That makes it the perfect day for baking a cake. Made a quick trip to the grocery store after dinner yesterday for a few missing ingredients. All night I was excited about baking for so many reasons. It would be not only my first solar baked cake but I it would also be the first time I used silicone cookware. I chose a recipe from the latest issue of Bon Appetit. I was ready. I couldn't wait till morning.
So of course I woke up to an overcast sky. I really thought I wouldn't be able to solar cook anything today. So much for being prepared. Now what was I going to do? I couldn't put off baking the cake until tomorrow because of my plan. I'm making chicken tomorrow.
By the time I'd finished my morning coffee the sun was making a feeble attempt to pierce through the clouds. Martin insisted that I should go ahead and bake the cake but he doesn't know that you can't just move it once it's in the solar oven.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Solar Oven Meatloaf

I managed to get to the grocery store yesterday to stock up on a few things. As much as I'm enjoying cooking with the sun everyday, it's messing with my routine. My normal m.o. is to spend most of the day deciding what to make for dinner. When it's time to start cooking, I discover that some crucial ingredient is missing and I have to abandon my well thought out plan. Once I get over my disappointment, I scrape together something with what I have on hand. Now that I've decided to start this year long solar cooking project everything has been turned upside down. Due to the nature of my schedule and the ever present possibility of afternoon cloud cover I've been doing most of the solar cooking in the morning. The bulk of our evening meal is generally ready by midday. It only needs to be reheated at dinner time. This means I have to be prepared. That is something I'm not very good at. I've tried planning out a week of meals, making a list and sticking to it like all the books tell you to, but with little success. Well, at least for today I was prepared. First thing I boiled some potatoes. While they were cooking I prepared the meatloaf. My first solar oven meatloaf. It didn't take any longer than making it in a conventional oven and it didn't heat up the house on this 112º day.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Solar Cooking Day 13

You would think that when I decided to start this blog I would have got organized. Once again I had no idea what I would put in the solar oven today. My first thought was bread. I haven't baked bread since I joined Weight Watchers five years ago. I'm not even sure if my bread machine still works. Then I realized I didn't have any yeast so that was out of the question. After a bit of foraging in the pantry and fridge I decided on lentils and cabbage. In two separate pots. When they were ready I even had enough time and sunshine to make some brown rice. I used another recipe from Marcella Hazan for the cabbage. To complete the meal I grilled a couple of sausages. Not the most exciting meal I've ever enjoyed but it wasn't bad. With a few minor tweaks the cabbage recipe is a keeper.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Solar Pasta Sauce

By the end of the year I should be an expert on predicting the cloud cover. For the past few days it has been just cloudy enough in the morning to make me think I may get a day off from solar cooking. Then by 10:00 a.m. it's sunny enough to put the oven out but the valley is surrounded by clouds on the horizon. These clouds usually roll in sometime in the afternoon so I decided to make something that would cook quickly and could easily be brought in if necessary. Tomato sauce fit the bill. I propped the oven door open to let the steam escape so the sauce wouldn't be watery. It was ready in about an hour. It was good but making pasta sauce is probably not the best use for a solar cooker. It could have been made on the stovetop in about the time it takes to boil the pasta. I'm thinking of trying a sauce that needs to simmer for a few hours, like a bolognese, sometime. Just need to wait until after monsoon season is over so I don't have to worry about afternoon cloudiness.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Sun Oven Soup

Soup from an oven? I made a nice big pot of split pea soup. It sounds kind of strange to make soup in an oven, but a solar oven is different; you can use it to bake, braise or boil. I had a lot of things to do today and it looked like it might get cloudy in the afternoon. I put the soup in the oven mid-morning and spent the day out and about. We had cloud cover for about an hour during the afternoon but for the most part the skies were sunny. Came home to a perfectly cooked soup.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Solar Cooking with Clouds

Due to the uncertain weather conditions I chose to make something that would cook quickly. I had some zucchini that would probably spoil soon so I tossed them with some olive oil and garlic. No need to make a full meal today because I still have the chicken from yesterday. Not leftovers, the whole chicken. Just as I was about to start making a risotto to go with it, the police knocked on our door. The were evacuating the neighborhood because the guy across the street had explosives in his garage. The good news is I hadn't started the risotto yet, you can't abandon that once you start, bomb or no bomb. I guess the other good news is that the neighborhood didn't blow up. In any case we wound up eating out last night.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Sun Oven Chicken with Two Lemons

This recipe is from my favorite Italian cookbook, "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking" by Marcella Hazan. It's so easy. All you do is take two lemons, poke them all over with a sharp knife and stuff them in the chicken. I put the chicken in the solar oven around noon and when I got home at 4:00 it was ready. I'll use the juices to make a risotto to serve with it. This is how solar cooking should be, easy, stress free and no hot oven making my A.C. go into overdrive.

Marcella’s Chicken with Two Lemons
I adapted this recipe from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking
A 3 to 4 pound chicken
2 small lemons
Trim excess fat from chicken and wash inside and out under cold water. Pat Chicken dry with paper towels. Sprinkle salt a pepper all over chicken and into its cavity.
Wash and dry lemons. Soften the lemons by rolling them on the counter as you press down with the palm of your hand. Pierce lemons all over with a sturdy toothpick or trussing needle.
Put both lemons in the chicken’s cavity. Place chicken, breast side up, in a lightweight metal roasting pan. Cover and place in pre-heated solar oven.
Allow 25 to 30 minutes cooking time per pound.
Carve or cut into pieces to serve spooning cooking juices over each serving.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Sun Oven Pizza

Today's lunch. Sun Oven Pizza. It was o.k. but next time I will let the crust bake a little before adding any of the toppings. I'm starting to get a little worried that the unintended consequences of this solar cooking blog will be weight gain. It's been what? One week? In the fridge I have leftover shepherd's pie and a bowl of hummus. Today's pizza has already put me over my calorie allowance for the day. Maybe I should let the neighbors in on my little project so I can use them as guinea pigs. Here's an idea. I could put the sun oven in the driveway next time. Surely people would stop to ask about it. Not that there are that many people walking around when it's 110º.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Solar Oven Fava Bean Hummus

When I got up this morning I had no idea what I would put in the sun oven today. I foraged around in the pantry and found a bag of dried fava beans. Perfect! No need to soak overnight, just rinse and put in a pot with some water. I used the cooked beans to make hummus. I actually prefer it to chickpea hummus. It's not exactly dinner but I only said I would cook something in my solar oven every sunny day for a year, not a complete meal. Anyway the hummus is delicious.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Solar Oven Shepherds Pie

This Solar Baked Shepherds Pie was not entirely made in the solar oven. I used the solar oven to boil the potatoes in the morning. I'm not sure how long it took for them to cook because I was out for a few hours but they were done when I got home. Overcooking is almost impossible with the sun oven. Around 3:30 p.m. I sauteed some vegetables that I mixed with the leftover meat from the lamb shanks I made on Friday. I put it in the sun oven for about an hour and a half. I was concerned that it would not brown but it came out with a nice golden crust around the edges.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Solar Oven Soup

We had a great time at the 4th of July party last night. Good thing I had left overs and could throw dinner together without much effort. I made Pasta e Fagioli (bean and pasta soup) with the broth and beans from Friday's Lamb Cassoulet. I made a base of chopped onions, carrots and celery and cooked that in the solar oven with some olive oil. After about 20 minutes I added a can of diced tomatoes. Then I went shopping. When I got home a few hours later I added the broth and beans, brought it back to a slow boil and added the pasta. I've made this soup many times before but this is the first time in the solar oven. It came out great.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Sunny Side Up

Since the cobbler was ready by lunchtime I took advantage of the perfect solar cooking weather to toss in some huevos rancheros for lunch. We're bringing the cobbler to dinner at a friends house tonight so that's everything from the solar oven today. Still haven't decided on what to make tomorrow.

The skies were clear this morning and perfect for solar cooking. I made this stone fruit cobbler using one of my favorite recipes from The baking time is slightly longer since the solar oven does not get up to 400 degrees. Every time I've made this recipe it has been a hit.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Here's Dinner

Even though the clouds rolled in again around 4p.m., as is usual this time of year, we still had enough sunshine for a successful solar cooked meal. I put the beans and lamb in at 10a.m. and they were ready around 3p.m. This gave me enough time to toss in some rutabagas and parsnips too. The only thing not cooked in the sun oven is the kale. Tomorrow I plan on making a peach cobbler to bring to the 4th of July party we are invited to.

Today We're Solar Cooking

Today's menu: Lamb Shanks with Cannelini Beans. This is one of my favorite solar oven recipes. I get three meals from it. Tonight we will have lamb shank and beans, my take on Lamb Cassoulet. One shank is enough for the two of us. I use the reserved broth to make the best Pasta e Fagioli ever and the meat from the second shank goes into a Shepherds Pie.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

They're Back!

I ignored my own advice went out to run a few errands. Sure enough the clouds came back while I was out. When I got home the solar oven temperature was down to 250 and the chicken was pretty close to done. For this particular dish I like it to be cooked to the point that it falls off the bone. I then shred it and put it back in the cooking liquid with the chickpeas so I will finish cooking it on the stove for about ten more minutes.

Bring Out the Solar Oven!

It's iffy but the skies have cleared. Judging by the current clouds it looks like there will be a few hour of sunshine this afternoon. Looks like we'll be having solar cooked chicken with chickpeas for dinner tonight. I wouldn't recommend solar cooking on a day like today unless you are around keep an eye on it. If the clouds roll back in I will have to transfer every thing to the slow cooker.
Solar Cooked Chicken - Ingredients: Onions, turmeric, chicken thighs, lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper and chickpeas.

The Sun Oven Needs Sun!

It's another overcast day which means no solar cooking today either. Nothing will be going in the sun oven today but here are some of the things I plan to make as soon as the clouds clear. Chicken with Chickpeas, Lamb Shanks with Cannelini Beans, Pasta e Fagioli and Peach Cobbler.
I love my Sun Oven and have been cooking with it for almost a year now. Phoenix is really the ideal place for solar cooking. Having a sun oven means you don't heat up the house and make your air conditioner work harder. I like cooking with the sun oven much more than a grill because once the food is placed in the oven I can stay inside where it's cool. I can even leave and come back hours later to a fully cooked meal. Solar cooking is fun and easy. Everyone should cook with the sun!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Day One - Cloudy

Well, my ambitious plan of documenting a year of solar cooking hit its first snag on day one. I woke up this morning to an overcast sky. There won't be anything cooking in the solar oven today. The rest of the week isn't looking so good either. Phoenix really does have over 300 days of sunshine per year. July, however, is known as monsoon season and with its clouds, winds, dust and rain storms it may not have been the best time to start.