Monday, August 31, 2009
Not only was I not in the mood to cook anything today I also couldn't think of any appetizing vegetarian dishes for Meatless Monday. The only foods that sounded desirable were the few things that are not suitable for solar cooking. Like pasta or grilled and fried foods. This dish is loosely based on a recipe from epicurious.com but I think I made enough changes to call it my own.
Baked Eggs and Zucchini
4 slices whole wheat bread
1 tsp butter
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 small onion sliced thin
2 small zucchini sliced thin
2 tbs milk
1/4 cup shredded white cheddar cheese
Heat oil and onions in small frying pan and cook until tender.
Spray 9x9 glass baking dish with cooking spray. Spread butter on bread slices and place them in baking dish. Top bread sliced with cooked onion. Cover with sliced zucchini. Wisk eggs, milk, salt and pepper together until frothy. Stir in cheese and pour mixture over bread and zucchini. Cover baking dish first tightly with tin foil then parchment paper. Place in Sun Oven and bake 45 minutes. Remove tin foil and parchment paper and continue baking until set, approx. 20 minutes more. Serves 4
This was surprisingly good but I would add some herbs and maybe different vegetables next time. The possible variations are almost limitless. It was ready in time for lunch and is definitely something I would make again.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Friday, August 28, 2009
We're having friends over for dinner tomorrow and I wanted to get a head start with the food preparation. Hopefully, you will not be too disappointed to learn that this cobbler is made from a mix. I just followed the instructions on the package and for the fruit I used canned blackberries. I haven't tasted it yet but it smells delicious. The cooking time was pretty much the same as in a conventional oven - about 45 minutes.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
When people see a Sun Oven for the first time, especially in Arizona, the first thing they ask is, "Why doesn't everyone use one of these?" They usually come to the assumption that it's a question of price and don't give the matter a second thought. I must admit, I too was guilty of this. But if you think about it, many home cooks are perfectly willing to pay top dollar for a good chef's knife, a food processor, a stand mixer or a slow cooker. All of which, with the exception of the chef's knife, are less useful than a Sun Oven. Just like with any craft, home cooks know that high quality tools make the art of cooking much easier and more rewarding. The Sun Oven is designed to last much longer, again with the exception of the knife, than any of the above mentioned appliances. It's more versatile than a pressure cooker or a crock-pot. And while food processors and stand mixers are incredibly useful, they rarely come out of the cupboard in most home kitchens.
Monday, August 24, 2009
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Last night's chicken and rice was so good I wanted more. I had plenty of leftover chicken but no rice, so the question was, how to repeat the delicious rice without cooking another chicken on top of it? I figured a good part of the tastiness of last night's rice was from the chicken fat. It blended in giving the rice a silky, creamy consistency, and the touch of lemon hadn't hurt either. For tonight's rice I decided to try using butter. It's what all the restaurant chef's use to keep us coming back, so why not?
Friday, August 21, 2009
With Paul of Sun Ovens Int. in town doing demonstrations I'm learning a lot of new solar cooking tricks. My favorite is one that will allow us to return to having a warm dinner from the sun oven after sundown. Sun Ovens Int. is strongly committed to promoting solar cooking in nations where the primary fuel sources are wood and coal. Due to the amount of smoke inhalation during cooking, respiratory diseases are all too common among the women and children in these areas, and deforestation for fire wood is an underlying cause of many violent conflicts. Solar cooking could play a vital role in improving the lives of millions of people throughout the world. So what has this got to do with eating later in the day? Well, the people at Sun Ovens Int. realized that to reap the benefits of solar cooking the ovens must actually be used. In most of the world people consume their evening meal much later than we do in the U.S. It does no good to have a perfectly prepared solar cooked meal ready at 5p.m. if it is cold by dinnertime. The people at Sun Ovens Int. knew there was nothing they could do to change the dinning habits of entire countries, they had to find a way to keep the food warm until people were ready to consume it. Enter the Global Sun Oven. Unlike any other solar cooker on the market, the airtight chamber of the Sun Oven will keep food at a safe and desirable temperature for hours after sundown, as long as the glass door is not opened. This was the best news I'd had all week. Since I started my blog we had been having dinner earlier and earlier, to the point that I would get hungry again before bedtime. Now, I am happy to report, we will go back to dining around 7p.m with a hot meal straight out of the Sun Oven and hopefully those late evening snacks will be a thing of the past.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Yesterday was a perfect solar cooking day, clear blue skies and plenty of sunshine, I think. I really didn't get a chance to pay any attention to the weather and a clear sunny sky is the norm in Arizona. We spent the day at the vet. When we got up we found one of our cats almost unconscious in a pool of vomit. I didn't think she was going to survive the trip to the vet. From the get go the prognosis was dim. Her body temperature was extremely low and she was unresponsive. They managed to stabilize her somewhat but by evening she lost her battle. A seemingly perfectly healthy cat was gone. I am still in shock.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Monday, August 17, 2009
Sunday, August 16, 2009
I was tempted to just throw a potato in the sun oven and call it a day. I was still pretty tired from yesterday’s yard sale and we were out late last night. We had dinner with my cousin, Liz, and her friends. She lives less than ten miles away and yet we hadn’t seen each other in over ten years. Thanks to Facebook, her sister on the east coast told her about our yard sale so she came over to visit and shop.
Liz invited us round to her house for the evening telling me that her friend who had recently moved here from NYC would be making porchetta. We graciously accepted her invitation but I secretly thought she was making the whole porchetta thing up. This happens to be one of the foods I miss most from Italy and I know you can’t get it anywhere in Arizona.
You can imagine my surprise when her friend showed up and pulled the most beautiful piece of meat I’ve ever laid eyes on out of a bag. I had to know who her source was.
Well, like I said, she just moved here from NYC and she brought the roast with her! Her husband imports Italian foods. Apparently, according to my cousin, I am now one of the lucky few that can get their hands on one of these cuts of meat. When I do I will definitely cook it in the solar oven.
So, back to today’s solar cooking. With a nice chunk of leftover porchetta in the fridge our dinner’s main dish is pretty much covered. I thought it deserved something better than a boring baked potato to go with it.
Making risotto in the solar oven is an idea I’ve been toying around with for quite some time. I decided today was the day to go for it.
When it comes to risotto I’m a bit of a purist. I’ve always made it the traditional way, on the stove, stirring for the entire 20 minutes it takes to cook. I have recipes for pressure cooker risotto, acquaintances claim that it can be made in the microwave, and many insist that using brown rice is perfectly acceptable, but I would have none of it. It took solar cooking to finally find the courage to break from tradition.
The following recipe is a bit of a hybrid, it starts out on the stove and is moved to the solar oven to complete the cooking.
Solar Oven Risotto with Butternut Squash Sweet Potato and Sage
1 medium sweet potato peeled and cut into 2 inch pieces
1 small butternut squash, halved, seeds removed, cut into 2 inch pieces.
2 tbs butter
½ cup chopped onion
3 fresh sage leaves
1 cup Arborio rice
½ cup dry white wine
2 cups chicken broth
½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Put sweet potato and squash into a dark roasting pan with a little water. Cover and place in pre-heated solar oven until soft. About 30 minutes at 350º
Remove squash and sweet potatoes from pan. Peel squash. Put both vegetables in a bowl and mash. Set aside.
Heat broth in a small sauce pan
Melt butter in a dark pot. Add chopped onion and sage and cook until onion is soft. Add rice, stir to coat with butter. Add wine. When wine has evaporated add half the broth, stir and transfer pot to solar oven. Keep broth warm while rice cooks. After ten minutes add the rest of the broth and squash mixture to the rice stirring to incorporate. After ten minutes test rice for doneness. When rice is ‘al dente’ remove from solar oven. Stir in grated cheese. Adjust for salt and serve.
So I proved to myself that it is possible to make a decent risotto in a solar oven. But there is one major drawback. Risotto should be eaten immediately. This means either a very early dinner or having it for lunch. Since I don’t really like to eat early and generally have a light lunch I will most likely go back to the old fashioned way of making risotto and leave the solar cooking to dishes that are enhanced by it.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Today I introduced solar cooking to my neighbors. I baked some cookies to give away at our yard sale. Putting a solar oven in the driveway will attract almost as much attention as a dog or a baby. It's a great icebreaker. I've been living on this street for over 10 years and I spoke to some of my neighbors for the first time today.
Friday, August 14, 2009
I would really like to see solar cooking become as common as using a slow cooker but I realize that the cost of a solar oven can be off-putting. Like I said in my previous post, I started with a low cost solar cooker, then upgraded to a Global Sun Oven after a year. By then I knew solar cooking was not just an experiment but something I'd be doing on a regular basis. I decided to go back to experimenting with an inexpensive option to encourage people to give solar cooking a try.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
I have no idea why I decided to make this today apart from the fact that I thought it would be fun. Since I had to make two batches of dough, one white and one whole wheat, it wasn't ready to go into the sun oven when I had to leave for my 1:00 dentist appointment. By the time it was ready for the solar oven, at 2:50, the dreaded afternoon wispy cloud of the west had appeared. This cloud seems to show up every afternoon this time of year. It looks a little like a genie coming out of his bottle and blocks the sun just enough to make you think twice about attempting solar cooking. I really didn't want to turn on the indoor oven so I went ahead and put the partybrot in the sun oven anyway.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Monday, August 10, 2009
I've been preparing my own meals for over 30 years and while I'm no super chef you'd think I'd trust my instincts by now. I have never cooked, or eaten, wheat berries before so I used a recipe from Cooking Light. There was one thing in the recipe that bothered me, it called for canned diced tomatoes that were to be added to the soup at the very end and cooked for only 5 minutes. I should have followed my gut and cooked the tomatoes with the other vegetables while the beans and wheat berries were in the solar oven. Just as I feared the tomatoes did not have enough time to mellow and the soup was a little acidic. Next time I'll do it my way.
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Saturday, August 8, 2009
Friday, August 7, 2009
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Monday, August 3, 2009
Sunday, August 2, 2009
set the solar oven outside to preheat, took the rigatoni out of the freezer and put it in the sun oven. Solar cooking is easy! The solar oven had got up to 350 degrees, it loses 50 degrees right away when you open the door to put the food in, but it doesn't take long to heat right back up again.