Friday, January 27

Stuffed Poblano Peppers - Solar Baked

The poblano peppers were so pretty at the market, I couldn't resist getting a bagful. Well, every time I opened the vegetable bin in the refrigerator, they would scream at me to do something that didn't include being chopped up and hidden in some other recipe. But, what to do?!?! Well, there I was, watching some bar scene in a movie and I flash-backed to the '90s and Raleigh's now-closed Darryl's and their Dinosaur Eggs we used to get served in egg cartons -- "Eureka!" I exclaimed, to no one in particular, and slapped my forehead in joy. I had a mission and leftovers needing attention.

One should never be afraid of creating new meals from leftovers that have been well-sealed and just a day or two old. Throwing them out, to me, is no different from throwing money out the window. But, I do try to make my leftovers into totally new meals that belie their beginnings by adding in some new fresh ingredients, as well. 

Stuffed Poblano Peppers - Solar Baked
1-1/4 cups cooked chicken, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
2 center stalks celery, with leaves, finely chopped
1/4 cup purslane, finely chopped
1 tablespoon herb blend of rosemary, thyme, Italian parsley, oregano, mint, stevia
salt and black pepper to taste
4 ozs shredded Mexican four-cheese mix

1. To remove seeds, let pepper find its own natural base, slice along top center of pepper and across the top near stem to form a "T"; gently pry open and remove seeds and membranes. The peppers will be quite firm, so take your time. Then, WASH your hands, immediately, so you don't forget and touch your face or eyes with hot pepper juice -- at least, not when there's a recipe to finish.

2. Prepare and combine all other ingredients with 1 Tablespoon of shredded cheeses in a mixing bowl; divide mixture by number of peppers (I filled 10 peppers), stuff and place on lightly-greased or foil-lined baking pan.

3. Distribute remaining shredded cheeses over peppers and sprinkle top with paprika for color. Cover and bake in preheated solar oven for approximately 45 minutes.

4. Remove from solar oven, arrange on a platter, and serve.

These really are quite filling and two per person should satisfy most appetites. These also freeze, very well, and you might consider making batches to have ready for large get-togethers. Sliced into quarters, they are the perfect bite-sized appetizer. What's yours?

Sunday, January 22

Pork Neck Soup - Solar Baked

I'm not alone. I can't be. If that were true, why would there be so many choices at the market? Choices of what? Well, lower-cut (cheap) meats. Walk past the steaks, fat-removed chops, skinless chicken breasts, tenderloins, roasts, and, lo!, you find meaty necks, bones for marrow, organs, etc., just waiting for you to discover their delectable tastes, versatility, and savings. A $2.15 package of pork neck bones will give you enough meat to feed a family of 10 in a soup so thick it borders on being a stew -- but, believe me, no one leaves the table hungry. Do you use a slow cooker? Is there sun or partial sun, today? No difference. That's my 2012 approach to solar cooking for all of you. If you use a slow cooker to its fullest extent, you're a step (outside) away from solar cooking. The biggest difference (aside from the sun being FREE) is that you have even more recipe choices with a solar oven. Today's solar-baked Pork Neck Soup is no exception. This is best when treated as a two-day process to get the full benefit of slow cooking the meat and beans. It would be the same for conventional cooking, so you're not really doing anything not normally done for a really good stock.

Pork Neck Soup
1 lb. pork neck bones
2 cups mixed cooked beans, or see below for dried beans
2 medium carrots, chopped medium
2 stalks celery, chopped medium
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup purslane* (greens), chopped
1 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
1 tsp fresh oregano, finely chopped
2 tspsns fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
1/2 tspn fresh spearmint, finely chopped
1 tsp fresh stevia, finely chopped
1 Tbspn corn starch
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
*If using dried beans and not leftovers or canned beans: The night before, soak dried beans under triple the water to allow full expansion. The next morning, drain water, put beans in pot, cover with boiling water to an inch above beans; add 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, 1/2 chopped onion; cover, bake in preheated solar oven until tender. (They will continue to cook in soup.)
1. Over medium-high heat, brown pork pieces in heavy skillet; remove to stock pot. Add enough  boiling water to reach 1/2 inch above meat; add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Cover and cook in solar oven until meat is falling off bone, approximately 3-1/2 to 4 hours. (Can be done at same time as beans are baking.)
2. Prepare and chop vegetables and herbs; place in large mixing bowl and add corn starch, salt and pepper; mix thoroughly. 
3. When meat is done, remove from oven, drain liquid into large bowl; set aside. Let pork necks cool until you can separate the meat from the bones with your fingers (or, use a knife and fork -- my favorite method). Discard bones and cartilage.
4.  Return liquid to stock pot, add shredded pork and rest of ingredients. Bring to boil on top of stove. Place pot in solar oven and let cook for approximately 2 to 3 hours, until veggies are soft and soup has thickened.
Serve to well-behaved guests who are not elbowing others out of the way. Make sure there's plenty of bread for sopping and cleaning the plate, too!
*A word about purslane (portulaca oleracea).

I don't know whether it's the weather we're having, or what, but about a month ago, I discovered a very large patch of purslane growing on the southern side of my house in the fern bed. Knowing it to be very high in Omega 3 fatty acids (one could almost do without fish, on a regular diet of this, I suppose), and Vitamins A, C, and E, even high-end restaurants are beginning to offer it on their menus, for those in the know. Check out your local farmer's markets, too -- but, it's FREE in your own (or, neighbors') back yard.  I generally chop the whole plant above the part of the stem near the roots that seems to be too firm. These are very succulent stems and adapt to all recipes. CAUTION: Don't harvest any purslane where you have used pesticides. Try to locate it in areas you know are pesticide-free. There seems to be quite the large bed here and I'm looking forward to some great salads and a great French Purslane and Sorrel soup, this spring.

Got a great soup recipe? Share with us!

Tuesday, January 17

Solar Bologna Brie Pesto Rolls

Isn't this pretty? This Bologna Brie Pesto Roll (dare I call it, Beef Bologna Wellington?) raises the lowly bologna to a whole new level. What I love, more than anything else, is that it's a meal anyone can afford, yet, looks as though you've spent hours putting it together, and it's absolutely delicious.

I used packaged crescent rolls, and that little bit of sweetness offset the pesto and hot mustard, perfectly. Scoring the underside of the thick bologna made it very easy to roll, too.  
Ingredients:  In large bowl, mix together 1Tablespoon pesto, 1 tsp Dijon mustard, 1 egg, 1/2 cup shredded Mexican four cheeses mix. Butter is optional. One-half package Brie cheese, cut into six logs. Separate crescent rolls and remove tip of triangle to reverse to make a rectangle. Score one side of thick-sliced bologna.
Using cling wrap to roll out the crescent rolls, my first step was to cut off the end triangle and reverse it along one side, overlapping edges to create a solid seam.

Cover with another piece of cling wrap and roll the pieces together. Remove top piece of cling wrap to begin building the roll.

I spread a thin layer of butter over the dough and then placed one bologna slice, scored side down, at the edge of one long side. Spread a 1/6th portion of the pesto mixture over bologna. Add one brie log to right of center. and, using bottom cling wrap, begin to roll towards free end of dough. Then, because this is a very bulky roll, to make sure it sealed the way I wanted it to, I used the cling wrap to raise the free end of dough up over roll about 1/4 inch and hand-pressed it against the roll, then pinch-sealed the ends.

Place rolls, seam side down, on baking pan that has been lined with parchment paper.

Place in preheated solar oven and bake for approximately 1-1/2 to 2 hours, or until dough is browned and cheeses have melted.
Dinner was rounded out with parsleyed potatoes and some home-made sweet mixed pickels on a cabbage leaf. What a difference a little baking does to a slice of bologna. I hope you try this because you're going to love it.
NOTE:  So many comments have gone missing since switching to Disqus that I have reverted back to the old Blogger comment section. I may have lost the few that are registering but I think this will be much better -- especially, since they now allow replies to individual comments. Hate that I've missed you all.
NOTE 2: Oh, I'm adding a new feature, too! Why not link up and let my visitors discover your great recipes, too? It's very simple. Just click and link.

Thursday, January 12

Solar Rutabagas and Onions and My Sous Vide Steak

Sometimes, you just want something different for a side dish with your steak and what better root vegetable to use than the rutabaga? They're delicious mashed and make a great substitute for potatoes -- and, they're low in carbs. Best news, yet, they have a wonderful thick waxy coat that makes them last almost forever in your fridge, so take advantage of sales and stock up. The downside? They are probably the densest of the root crops and that means you have to plan your solar cooking times and do your best to take advantage of peak winter solar hours (10am thru 2pm). The upside? Well worth it. A fix-it-forget-it dish that will also cook up within two hours, if the rutabagas are sliced thinly.

One of my Christmas presents was a Gordon Ramsay Square Grill pan and I just had to try it out. (My link takes you to a QVC ad but there are many other places to find one. This link included a picture of the press, as well.), so I decided to add some steaks to the meal and use my sous vide adaptation for the pre-cooking.  I'd been using a regular skillet for final searing and wanted the grill marks without having to fire up the grill to complete a process. The press is cast iron and promised to do a fine job with the markings.

Rutabagas and Onions

2 medium rutabagas, quartered and thinly sliced
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Juice of one orange
Hot water to cover
1 tablespoon butter

While solar oven is preheating, prepare rutabagas and onions. In large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients, except water, and mix until all vegetables are coated. Pour into baking dish and cover with hot water.

Cover with baking dish cover or use tin foil to seal. Place in solar oven and bake for 2.5 hours or until rutabagas are fork tender.  Remove excess water, add butter, mash, and serve.

Solar Sous Vide Adaptation for Steaks

I had steaks in the freezer that had been defrosting overnight in the refrigerator. They were ready for my solar sous vide baking adaptation and all I did was add the "X" to the outside of the bag at the thickest part of the meat for the meat thermometers. Since the thermometers leave a tiny hole when removed, I added the clear-tape tab for sealing the bag before plunging it into ice-cold water to stop the cooking process. It's far easier and more efficient to do this before baking because those steaks come out hot and you want fast-action when they're done.

I added them to the solar oven when I checked on the rutabagas. They reached 145F (medium-rare) in 25 minutes. Dinner was at least seven hours away but the steaks would be ready for searing. After plunging into the ice-cold water, they were returned to the refrigerator until dinnertime. When ready for searing, each steak was removed from the bag, dried with a paper towel and coated with a salt-and-pepper mix, then placed onto the preheated Gordon Ramsay Grilling Pan for 2.5 minutes on each side. I am happy to say that the pan was a success. Did I mention that the press was HEAVY?

Dinner was rounded out with sweet peas and acclaimed a success. The steak, when sliced, was a perfect texture from side to side and top to bottom, just like your favorite restaurants! Doesn't that looks plump and juicy? Yum.

Saturday, January 7

Solar Chicken Noodle Soup - Crazy Cooking Challenge

January's Crazy Cooking Challenge is Chicken Noodle Soup. What I found was an absolutely delicious, scrumptidiliumptuous, chicken noodle soup made by Joyce at Octoberfarm Never mind the length of the process. The end result is so worth it. T Ath is, you may never fix your chicken noodle soup any other way, ever again. Fortunately, we had consecutive sunny days, this week, and I was able to do it all with the solar oven. Wasn't that fortuitous? But I am going to send you her way for the ingredients and beautiful step-by-step instructions. Don't forget to visit the other recipes in the Challenge, too, and build up your repertoire. Would love your vote.


Tuesday, January 3

Solar Roasted Orange Chicken Quarters

Chicken fixed in the solar oven is extra scrumptuous, in my opinion. So, whenever I have a chance to try out some new idea, I jump at it. This vegetable-herb mixture is gently absorbed into the chicken and good enough for company -- if you're in the mood for sharing! Easy to prepare and cooked by the sun, I'm sure this is what Little Tommy Tucker wanted when the singing stopped. 

Solar Roasted Orange Chicken Quarters

4 chicken leg quarters
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
3 green onions, finely chopped up to six inches above bulb
1 celery stalk with leaves, finely chopped
1 hot pepper, finely chopped
4 Tablespoons butter
1 tsp Chinese spices
Juice of 1 orange
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp stevia

While solar oven is preheating, finely chop all vegetables. Wash chicken quarters and arrange in baking dish, skin side down. In medium bowl, combine butter with spices, orange juice, salt and stevia. When thoroughly blended, add chopped vegetables.  Divide mixture in quarters and spread evenly over each leg quarter.

Cover and bake in solar oven for 70 minutes. Remove cover and turn leg quarters over; baste with sauce, leave uncovered, and continue to bake for another 35-40 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 170F. 

I've served this with yellow rice and green beans with some sauce drizzled over the chicken and beans; but, I hope you'll try it and share your side dishes with us.

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