Monday, November 30, 2009

Solar Cooked Beans and Wheat Berries

It was another day of intermittent clouds so to be on the safe side I decided to solar cook beans and wheat berries to make soup. After soaking them overnight I put them in two separate pots and let them solar cook all day. Surprisingly neither of them were over-cooked.

At dinnertime I pureed half of the beans in their cooking liquid and combined them and the wheat berries with a base of diced onions, carrots, celery, garlic, and strained tomatoes that I'd prepared last night. The outcome was a very satisfying winter's night meal.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Whole Wheat Bread Half Solar Baked

Today's weather was pretty much the exact opposite of yesterday. There wasn't a cloud in sight when I got up. It seemed like the perfect day for solar baking. The sun was still out in force and the Sun Oven was at 350ºF  when I put the loaves in at 11:15 a.m. I don't know where they came from, but half an hour later there were clouds everywhere. The Sun Oven temperature was plummeting. I felt I had no other choice then to move the bread to the indoor oven where I baked it for an additional 30 minutes.

Shortly after the bread was out of the electric oven, and half eaten, the sun came back out for the rest of the afternoon. I'm not sure what would have happened had I not moved it indoors. It would have been in the Sun Oven with no sun for almost an hour. I suppose if I had really wanted to put solar cooking to the test I would have left it out there. I guess I wasn't in the mood for risk taking today.

Tomorrow's forecast is similar to today's and I will be out all day. I'll be putting a bean and wheat berry soup in the Sun Oven before I leave. We'll see what happens with intermittent sunshine.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Solar Baked Cobbler

When I saw the overcast sky this morning I thought I'd have a day off. I was planning on baking some bread and had even got up a little early to give the dough enough time to rise but it was so cloudy that I didn't even start it.

Amazingly by 11:30, pretty much the time the bread would have been ready to go in the Sun Oven, there were only a few scattered clouds. Now what was I going to do? Luckily I had a cobbler mix and a can of peaches.

The timing couldn't have been better. As soon as the cobbler was ready the sun disappeared again. We even got some rain. The cobbler was pretty good, a little on the sweet side, not sure if it was the fault of the mix or the canned peaches, next time I'll use fresh fruit.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Turkey and Rice Solar Bake

This year I really want to use all the left over turkey. I made the usual sandwiches on Sunday - I was out of town until late last night so we had our Thanksgiving early - and put the rest of the meat in the freezer. I was planning on making a turkey pot pie but every recipe I found used tons of butter or cream or both. It was starting to get late for solar cooking and I was tired of searching the internet for recipes so I decided to improvise.

To get things started I put a pot of brown rice in the Sun Oven. While that was solar cooking I rummaged around in the freezer and the pantry where I found a bag of mixed frozen vegetables and a jar of turkey gravy. I sauteed an onion and two stalks of celery in some butter for about ten minutes, added the frozen vegetables, about two cups of diced turkey meat, a little water, and let it simmer until the vegetables were soft. When the rice was ready I mixed it with the turkey and vegetable, and the jar of gravy, put it in a glass baking dish, covered it with parchment paper and put it back in the Sun Oven.

To be honest my expectations were not very high. Something edible was all I really hoped for. To my surprise it turned out pretty good. It even had a nice crunchy layer on top. We both had seconds.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Solar Brunch

With enough food in the fridge to feed a small army I was tempted to not do any solar cooking today. Not only do I have the leftovers of a fifteen pound turkey, my cousin also brought me a huge piece of porchetta from a recent dinner party at her house.

  The sun was shining so I had to make something.

We slept in late, late enough to allow the sun to rise enough to be able to solar cook eggs for breakfast. I cracked two eggs over some leftover greens, some salt and pepper, twenty minutes in the Sun Oven, and breakfast was served. Pretty simple stuff. I had the rest of the day free and got a chance to attend an open house at the Adobe Mountain Wildlife Center.

I'm leaving early tomorrow morning, hopefully Martin has enough food to make it until I get back. Next solar cooking update will be after Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Thanksgiving Turkey from the Sun Oven. A Little Early

It took every minute of available sunlight, but we pulled it off. At exactly 3:00 p.m. the probe thermometer reached 180ºF. Our guest don't arrive until seven so we carved it - more like let the meat fall off the bone - and will reheat it when they get here.

Sun Oven turkey is definitely the way to go. It leaves your indoor oven available for all the side dishes and makes a moist, succulent, roast out of what is too often a dry and disappointing Thanksgiving main attraction.

The Turkey Is in the Sun Oven

Put the turkey, unstuffed, in the Sun Oven at 9:15 a.m. The sky is clear with no sign of clouds. Keeping my fingers crossed. Updates to follow.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Blueberry Pie!

I love pie, but I only make it two or three times a year, Thanksgiving, Christmas and - my favorite - Pi Day (Mar. 14th or 3.14). With so few chances to practice I've given up on making my own crust. Especially now that you can get good quality ready made, frozen pie shells. For the filling I used four cups of frozen blueberries, 1/4 cup flour, 3/4 cup sugar, 2 tbs fresh lemon juice, 1 tsp grated lemon peel and 1tsp vanilla extract. It took about three hours to bake it in the Sun Oven. It's pretty good. I might just have to have another piece.

Tomorrow I'll be solar cooking my Thanksgiving turkey. We're celebrating early because I have to go out of town unexpectedly and Martin will be fending for himself.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Meat and Veggie Loaf

Today went well. I remembered to take the ground meat out of the freezer last night, I had all the ingredients on hand, and there was not a cloud in the sky. The meatloaf was in the Sun Oven by 10:00 a.m. I took it out around 1:00 p.m. I'm pretty sure it was done earlier; I got distracted. That's one of the good things about solar cooking, your food won't dry out so cooking times are not so important.

I used my basic meatloaf recipe and added some shredded carrots and zucchini to make it a little lighter. My favorite part is the aluminum foil loaf lifter. A trick I found somewhere online. Take a piece of tin foil, fold it in half, and put it on the bottom of the roasting pan with the ends hanging over the sides. When the meatloaf is ready just lift it out of the pan. Whoever thought this up is a culinary genius.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Slow Cooked Solar Split Pea Soup

No new recipes today. Just a nice pot of split pea soup. My dentist had to replace a failed implant yesterday and for the meantime I have a gaping hole on the upper left side of my mouth. I figured the less chewing I did  the better. This soup is so easy to make that once I got it in the Sun Oven I completely forgot about it for hours. Just the kind of thing you want when you're not feeling too good.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Crispy BBQ Chicken Drumsticks

Almost everyone agrees that the Sun Oven makes a mean chicken. One of my favorite solar cooked meals is chicken with rice, but sometimes I miss the crispy skin of grilled chicken. I have been trying to come up with a way to keep the meat out of its own cooking juices with the hope of obtaining a nice crunch.

I decided an uncovered pan and a dry spice rub would be the best way to go. I choose drumsticks because they would cook faster, averting any risk of the skin burning before the meat was ready.  After rubbing the drumsticks with the spice mix I placed them in a dark roasting pan with a broiler insert. I put them in the Sun Oven just before 10:00 a.m. and left for my dentist appointment.

I'd like to be able to tell you the I got the desired result, crispy skin and moist meat, but the dentist put me on a liquid diet for twenty four hours and when I got home I was in too much pain to even think about ignoring his instructions. The skin felt crispy to touch, and a few hours and a couple of pain pills later I tried one. It was cold by then and the skin had lost any crispiness it might have had, but the meat was moist and delicious.

I'll file this recipe away for super bowl Sunday.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Lentil Bolognese

A pretty uneventful solar cooking day. I made a lentil bolognese sauce for Meatless Monday. It's a very easy to make, satisfying topping for whole wheat pasta and comes out great in the Sun Oven.

Lentil Bolognese

1/2 lb dry lentils

1 Tbs olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 26 oz carton Pomi strained tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
fresh or frozen basil
freshly grated parmesan cheese (optional)

Rinse and pick over lentils. Place in a dark pot, cover with water, and cook in Sun Oven until tender.  Add wine and cook until it evaporates. Add Pomi (or other brand strained tomatoes), salt, and transfer to Sun Oven.

When lentils are tender drain and combine with tomato mixture. Continue cooking for another ten to twenty minutes. Remove from Sun Oven and add basil. Serve over pasta with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

It a separate pot heat olive oil and sautee diced vegetables until tender, about 10 minutes.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

BBQ Pork Riblets

 With not a cloud in the sky this morning my solar cooking blog was back in business. I found some pork riblets marked down at my local Fresh and Easy and since I still had a craving for ribs after throwing some out on Friday I snatched them up. I'd never heard of riblets before, but figured with a bit of spice rub and a few drops of liquid smoke I'd get a couple of pulled pork sandwiches out of them. And that I did. Not bad for $1.89 plus the cost of the buns.

This weeks forecast looks very promising. I should be able to cook something in my Sun Oven every day without any worries.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Another day of uncertain weather. I tried to outsmart the clouds with some muffins. I thought they'd be done before the major cloud cover rolled in. Once again I was wrong. The sun was gone before I'd even gotten them in the muffin pans. Sunday's forecast is bright and sunny. I'll take today off and do some real solar cooking tomorrow.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Raw Ribs

Once again I had to leave home early. Too early to know if the clouds would clear or not. I should have gone with my gut feeling that they would not, but I didn't. There were a few spots of sun in the west, but to the east dark grey clouds covered the entire sky. Against my better judgement I put some ribs in the Sun Oven and left to attend an all day seminar.

 The ribs never really stood a chance. As I sat in the conference hall, unable to rescue them from the elements, I watched the sun come out, only to vanish after a few minutes, over and over, until it finally retreated for good. If you added it all up I'd estimate we got a total of one hour of good sunlight. It was not enough. There would be no solar cooked meal to greet me at the end of the long day. The only thing I could do to salvage our dinner was make reservations.

 When I got home the Sun Oven was cold and the ribs were pink inside. Definitely not safe to eat. This is the first food I've had to throw away due to undercooking since I started my blog. Luckily I wasn't having company tonight.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Clouds From Dusk Till Dawn

No solar cooking today, just clouds, clouds, and more clouds.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Turkey Surprise

At 7:00 a.m. it's hard to tell what the day has in store for you cloud wise. This morning it was overcast in the west, but the eastern horizon looked promising with some bits of sunlight seeping through. I had to leave for my shift at the Arizona Humane Society before it was possible to determine which would prevail, but I had to pick a side. If I put the turkey thighs out and the clouds conquered, I'd come home to salmonella soup, if, on the other hand, the sun broke through, and I hadn't put anything out, it would be  too late to get any solar cooking done today. I put my money on the partly cloudy eastern sky and set the Sun Oven out.
  No fancy recipe today, just another dry run leading up to Thanksgiving. I put two turkey thighs with some garlic and thyme in an oven bag, put it in an uncovered roasting pan, went off to do my volunteer work, and hoped for the best. I was working in the windowless clinic again so it was hard to monitor the weather. At nine a.m. I stepped outside. The sky was so grey that if it weren't for the fact that it's November and I was wearing a short sleeved t-shirt, I wouldn't have known I was in Arizona. I didn't leave the building again until noon. It was still mostly cloudy, but there was enough sunlight to cast a good shadow. My turkey might have made it after all.
  When I got home the Sun Oven was at 200ºF; hot enough for safe cooking. There was too much condensation on the glass door to tell if the Turkey was ready, but I didn't want to open it and lose any precious heat. I was willing to bet that at such a low temperature it needed to cook longer. The sun was still making an effort to get the better of the clouds, so I left it alone.
The sun fought hard. For the next few hours it seemed to be winning, but right around 3:00 p.m. - when I probably would have brought the turkey in anyway - the clouds staged a major come-back. It was time to call it a day. Luckily, the few hours of sunlight had been enough to fully solar cook the two thighs; they were very tasty and would be perfect for Thansgiving.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Zucchini Chips Win Again

With plenty of leftover brisket in the fridge for dinner I took advantage of the available Sun Oven to do some more experimenting with veggie chips. Today I made a combination of beets, parsnips, and zucchini and once again the zucchini chips are the best. Next time I'm going to use zucchini only.
Veggie chips are very easy to make. Just slice the vegetables thin and spread them out on baking trays coated with cooking spray. Another light spray on the vegetables and place them in the Sun Oven with the door propped open on the latches to allow the steam to escape.  To make the most of the room in the oven chamber I stacked four pizza pans, using metal canning rings to keep them separated. This time we managed to not devour them immediately and I'm looking forward to enjoying them with our lunch tomorrow after volunteering at the Arizona Humane Society.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Broccoli Brown Rice Bake and Super Easy Sweet Potato Chili

I couldn't believe my eyes when I read Meatless Monday's weekly email this morning and I actually had the ingredients for one of the featured recipes. That has never happened before. O.K., I substituted asparagus for the broccoli, but I had everything else which is pretty amazing since one of the ingredients was neufchantel cheese. I bought some a couple of days ago when I had a craving for cream cheese. I can't remember the last time I had cream cheese in the house and I'd never purchased neufchantel before. Both the rice bake and the chili were done in time for lunch and it was enough for dinner too. The rice recipe can be found here: Broccoli Brown Rice Bake.

Easy Sweet Potato and Kidney Bean Chili

2 tsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 can mexican stewed tomatoes
1 can sweet potato
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 tsp chipotle in adobo sauce
salt to taste

cilantro, chopped
sour cream

Heat oil in a large dark sauce pan, add onion and cook for about five minutes until onions are soft. Add next four ingredients, tomatoes through chipotle. Cover and place in Sun Oven for approx. one hour. Garnish with cilantro and sour cream.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Solar Braised Beef Brisket

The planets must have been favorably aligned today. Early this morning I choose a recipe, made a list, went to the store, amazingly found everything I needed, and by the time I got home the few clouds that were in the sky had disappeared. The Sun Oven quickly reached 325ºF and I had the brisket ready to go by 10:30 a.m. It was fork tender by 3:00 p.m. Brisket is best when slow cooked for a long time making it an ideal candidate for the solar cooking. The recipe I used can be found at

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Eggs with Prosciutto Sunny Side Up

The forecast today was once again partly sunny and even with three days of clouds behind me I would have had to make a trip to the grocery store to get something for dinner. I didn't want to rush off to the store first thing in the morning only to come home to a cloudy sky. Today our solar cooked meal would be lunch. Eggs and prosciutto, cooked in the Sun Oven for about twenty minutes. A little overcooked if you ask me.
Tomorrow's forecast is mostly sunny. Hopefully that means I won't have to worry about clouds.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Yet Another Cloudy Day

No solar cooking today either. It was cloudy all day. Hopefully tomorrow will be sunny and I'll be able to use my Sun Oven. One more day of clouds and I might do something stupid. Like cleaning.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Clouds Cause Chicken and Potatoes to Move Inside

The forecast did say it would be partly sunny today. I thought that meant scattered clouds with intermittent sunlight all day. Instead we started out with clear skies and the clouds gradually built up until they had taken over. By 1 p.m., after a morning of on and off cloud cover, it was time to give in and move my chicken thighs with thyme and garlic, and the baked potatoes into the indoor oven. They had been in the Sun Oven since 10:30 a.m. and were close to done. Everything was ready after about ten minutes at 375ºF. Tomorrow I'll be going to Flagstaff on business and the forecast is the same. I could make it back in time for dinner, but I don't want to risk it. I'll have a relaxing meal on the road and resume solar cooking on Friday.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

An Unmonitored Sun Oven

No new recipe today. Just a big pot of Pumpkin Chili Mexicana, but it is the first day since starting my blog that I left the Sun Oven unattended for so long. We left the house at 9:30 a.m. and did not get back until well after sundown. I had done most of the prep work last night, so this morning all I had to do was brown the meat before putting the pot in the Sun Oven focused towards the midday sun. When we got home it was too dark to see the temperature, but when I took the pot out it was still a little warm. Five minutes on the stove, a loaf of bread that we picked up on the way home, and dinner was ready. We have another long day coming up on Thursday so I'll be putting remote solar cooking to the test again.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Solar French Bread

I confess, I didn't feel like cooking today. That made it a good day for baking bread because the bread machine does most of the work. I always underestimate the time it takes for the dough to rise so I didn't get it into the Sun Oven until just before noon. My plan was to make baguette, but long skinny loaves wouldn't fit in the cooking chamber. I'm not quite sure what you'd call the shape I went with, but I can tell you that they baked in a 325ºf Sun Oven for about one hour and were eaten in about five minutes.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sun Veggie Chips

Anyone who watches their calorie intake knows that a crunchy, salty, satisfying, low calorie snack is pretty much non-existent. Unless you're one of those people that can stop after a single serving, and if you are I hate you, chips and such are pretty much a thing of the past. I know there's always air-popped popcorn, but that gets boring after a while. With that in mind I had high hopes for this vegetable chip recipe I found on the Weight Watchers website.

It's pretty simple. Slice the vegetables, spray some rimmed baking sheets with cooking oil, spread the vegetables out on them, season, and bake at 200ºF for a couple of hours. I used sweet potatoes, rutabagas, and zucchini. To get everything to fit in the Sun Oven I stacked the trays in a criss cross fashion. I knew it wouldn't be a problem to get the oven up to 200ºF.  I was more concerned that it would get too hot. I was also concerned about the condensation; I wanted crisp, not soggy, chips. To keep the temperature low and let the condensation out, I propped the glass door open on the latches. Even with the door propped open the Sun Oven temperature maintained a steady 250ºF. The top trays cooked faster than the bottom ones so I switched them around a few times, consolidating the vegetables onto fewer trays as they shrank, and removing the ones that were ready.

I was surprised by the results. I only used one small zucchini, thinking it would be the least tasty, but I was wrong. The sweet potato was good but slightly chewy, even though it was sliced very thin with a mandolin slicer. The rutabaga also chewy, tasted a little weird, and was hard to slice thin enough. The zucchini was awesome. Crisp and nicely browned. It could have almost passed for potato chips. Next time I'll use zucchini only. The only problem is the limited space in the oven chamber. I might have to invest in a Villager Sun Oven to keep up with demand.