Archive for July, 2016
We have mentioned this in prior posts, but since a member of our solar cooking group recently brought it to our attention, it’s a good topic to revisit.
THE WEATHER. Certainly you’ve heard the one about the weatherman having the best job in the world since he never has to worry about getting the forecast right. Well, those of us who have done all the prep work to get our solar meal ready often find ourselves at odds with him, right? Sure, a “partly cloudy” day can mean 20% cloud cover, or 60%, so your cooking time for a box cooker can vary a great deal under those “predictions”. Sometimes storm clouds appear much faster than anyone anticipates.
So, what’s the solar chef to do? Well, do your best. Make it a habit to watch your local nightly weather report. Want something even better? If you have a smart phone, try downloading a free app. Yes, like most things, some are better than others. PCMag.com recently did a great review of weather apps, and is a worthwhile read. No phone ? If you have access to a computer and the Internet, of course you can check out the apps and numerous sites in that way. We use a few and can recommend them: “weather underground”,” the weather channel”, and “weatherbug”. Each site has its various attributes, advantages and disadvantages. Some, and we’re not just including the 3 sites mentioned, are large and more technical sites. This affects download times and your device, and ultimately, your time.
In any case, whatever site you decide to use, we suggest getting one with a clear local radar picture. Why, you ask? Well, depending on how much time you have to contribute to your solar cooking, on a particular day, having some idea of how close a rain, snow or windstorm might be to your cooking site, is a good thing to know. Essentially, a weather radar picture will affect your planning /cooking schedule.
If you are hiking and camping, or are the survivalist type, you may already be prepared for oncoming bad weather. A good emergency kit or backpack should always contain a decent weather radio. This tool, will help keep you out of danger, and may allow for your uninterrupted solar cooking on the trail. Of course, the weather radio will still be a handy item wherever you do your solar cooking; the beach, backyard, or patio.
Some folks sometimes forget that, although the elements of rain, snow, wind & hail can affect your cooking, the seasons do not usually matter. Only a sunny day is needed for solar cooking. Check out this video from January.
Just remember to include the weather in your thoughts, before you set up your solar oven for the day. Weather it’s just passing clouds, a few raindrops or a tornado, it can affect your solar cooking fun 😉
Oh the variety and solar oven designs out there these days! You can get a parabolic that will have your ham & cheese sandwich done in seconds, or burnt to ashes if you don’t watch it. The wonderful evacuated tube models can sometimes cause food to suffer similarly, if you don’t mind them. For some panel cookers, especially depending on your latitude, you may be waiting awhile for thorough cooking. Don’t get me wrong, all these models serve their purpose very well!
With a double box solar oven, it is very difficult, to impossible, to burn any food. The other advantage of a big solar oven, like a box style cooker, is the generally large cooking chamber. If properly focused, and with plentiful sunshine, the box cooker usually only requires a few hours to prepare a typical meal. Depending upon the model, you can usually get a couple pots of food cooking simultaneously. This allows for bigger portions and servings for family and guests. This is an advantage not always used, especially if you may be hiking on a trail alone, on the beach with friends, or simply your back patio.
The other great advantage of a solar box oven, is that often the pots or baking pans can be stacked in the cooking chamber. For example, you may have a 3 quart pot of stew in there, but can also set a 9 inch baking pan, or cookie sheet into the chamber. It’s great! You can have your main course as well as dessert!
With some big solar ovens, like the Solavore Sport, three items, sometimes four, can be cooking: two, 3-quart pots plus the aforementioned cookie tray, baking pan, bread pan, etc. It’s easier than you may think to accomplish this.
Here’s how it can look in the Solavore Sport Oven:
In this oven, it’s easy to stack up the trays, plates, pots and pans. While remaining a light-weight and very portable solar oven, this model has a large chamber to cook loads of food simultaneously. Here’s how it all turned out:
So, if you have a large, double box solar oven, give stacking a fair try. Sometimes it takes more than one chance to be successful. But the rewards of cooking several meals at the same time are really enjoyable.
For those of us who just love rolling out our solar cooker on a sunny day, it’s a feeling tough to beat. If you have more than one solar oven, whether it’s a parabolic, box cooker, electric hybrid, or the newest evacuated tube model, you are set to have a fun day.
If you’ve done things right, you already had most of your supplies and ingredients handy; the mixing bowls, spices, and all the vegetables, meats, etc. Next, comes putting it all together and placing it into the appropriate solar oven/cooker. Yes…it’s now time to let it ROCK!
Thinking of getting your own solar cooker? Don’t want to make the leap before further research? Try getting a book with simple plans to build your own here. Try it…you’ll like it, especially when it’s a hot and humid day and cooking outside with your solar cooker allows you to keep your house cooler. And, you’ll be doing your part for developing a “greener” lifestyle.
It is a great sunny day, so let’s cook up a batch of food to last a few days. In the All American Solar Oven, we’ve prepared another South of the Border favorite, Mexican Rice. Since the Sun Oven’s chamber is large enough, and it reaches 300 degree temperatures in a short time, rice of any kind is always a good option.
Mexican Rice recipe: Adapted from “Adventures in Solar Cooking”, by Jackass Jill (Spanish Rice)
Mix all in a bowl: 1/2 cup water, 1 Tbsp chili flakes, 1 bell pepper diced, 1/2 onion diced, 1 cup of long grain white rice, 2 small celery stalks diced, 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp salt (optional), 1 large Tbsp chili powder, 1 small can of diced tomatoes with green chiles , 1 can tomato sauce (16 oz) 1 tsp oregano, 1 Tbsp minced garlic, 1 lb of extra lean ground beef. Once thoroughly mixed, put into the 3-quart dutch oven and place into solar oven.
In good sunshine, this will be ready in 4 hours. The day we prepared it, we had some passing clouds and it took about 5 1/2 hours. To make this really tasty, we sprinkled some “fiesta cheese” on top of the rice about 1/2 hour before removing it from the oven. However, you can use the cheese of your choice, or just eliminate it altogether. We do recommend getting the best extra lean ground beef for the dish to make it less greasy.
This meal came out great for us. We were able to share some with friends and family and are already being asked to make another batch. If you are skeptical of solar cooking, or don’t want to spend money for a commercially available solar cooker, without more information, try picking up a book about it. There are several inexpensive and good ones available here.
Using your Solavore Sport on a bright sunny day, can yield some festive results. Today’s menu included Mexican Stuffed Peppers and Brownies Plus. In the nice Summer sunshine, the Solavore easily attained a 275 F temperature and was able to bake our two selections in just under 4 hours.
The Brownies Plus, were compliments of a Betty Crocker mix, with the addition of just 2 tablespoons of raisins, a dash of crushed red pepper and a handful of chopped walnuts. They baked in 1.5 hours. Our guests loved them!
The stuffed pepper recipe is adapted from a wonderful solar cookbook,Solar Cooking for Home & Camp, by Linda Yaffe (“Tex-Mex Stuffed Peppers”), and is simple to create. Here it is:
Recipe for Mexican Stuffed Peppers: Mix: 1 clove garlic chopped, or 1 tbsp minced garlic, 1 small onion coarsely or finely chopped (your preference), 2 cans (14oz) refried beans (about 30oz), 1 teaspoon paprika, 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper, 1/2 tsp salt (recipe, but we don’t normally cook with salt), 1 tbsp Italian seasoning, 4 ounces of Monterrey Jack cheese, finely diced.(mix altogether in bowl), core 4 large bell peppers sliced in half lengthwise. Stuff peppers with the mixture, place into oiled 3 qt pot and then pour a can (12 oz) of enchilada sauce over it all and cover with lid (Old El Paso does a good job). In decent sunshine, your peppers will be ready in about 4 hours. This is a filling meal and should satisfy your vegetarian friends.
Hope you enjoy these solar-made dishes as much as we did with our guests.