Monday, February 27

Solar Salmon Rice Casserole

When it's rainy and cold, I love my thick soups. But, I also like casseroles and warm greens. There's something comforting about a meal that has been created from this-and-that and is delicious. Meat, potatoes, and vegetables are so taste predictable; but, you never really know what's going to happen when the ingredients all come together; do you!  My daughter, who has limited sun exposure and garden space, cleverly hid her greens in her front yard flower bed and now has year round goodies to share. She shared her gorgeous collards and mustard greens and, well,  I'm watching her spinach for just the right opportunity -- if you get my drift.
Some people love salmon steaks but don't want to touch canned salmon, and I really wish they wouldn't feel that way. There are so many different ways to use it, and the bony (now, that's a misleading word) parts are so soft that they mesh right into the meat, itself, and are very good for you.  I think adding the red wine to this casserole and making my own cream of celery soup really made it pop.

My pans were a little wider than loaf pans, so I piggy-backed them in the solar oven. Remember, there are no hot spots, so all the foods get cooked at the same time. The bottom pan of greens, with the cover reversed, was flat and placed on the bottom and the salmon casserole pan on top.  I used a SolarWear(R) sling for both to make it easier to remove and return to the solar oven.

Solar Salmon Rice Casserole
1 large can (or 2 small) Red salmon, drained
3/4 cup cheese, grated (your choice -- I used Monterrey Jack and Mild Cheddar)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (10oz) cream celery soup (or, make your own)
1/2 cup evaporated milk
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup red wine
1 cup uncooked Arborio rice
Buttered bread crumbs

Preheat solar oven to 225F. Lightly grease casserole dish.   Mix all ingredients in large bowl so that salmon is broken up and rice is thoroughly blended. Pour into casserole; cover, bake in solar oven for 70 minutes. Remove and spread buttered bread crumbs over top; return uncovered to solar oven and bake for another 40 minutes or until top is lightly browned.

The protein and carbs are already in the casserole, so all that's needed for a side is greens or another favorite vegetable that will add color to the plate.
 [NOTE: If you don't have cream of celery soup, make your own by blending in food processor: 5 stalks celery, strings removed, cut in chunks, plus any leaves, 2 cloves garlic, salt and pepper to taste, 1 sm can evaporated milk plus 1.5 cans water.]

Hot Collard and Mustard Greens
8-10 medium collard leaves, rolled and sliced
4 medium collard leaves, reserved for serving
6-9 large mustard leaves, rolled and sliced
1 large onion, chopped
3 large cloves garlic, chopped fine
2 chopped jalapeno peppers, without seeds
1 Tbspn olive oil/tallow
1/4 tsp stevia leaves, crushed
1 tspn ham soup base
2.5 cups water

Use a deep saucepan, over medium heat, to saute onions and garlic in olive oil until caramelized and warm brown; add peppers, soup base, and water.  Let return to just boiling.
Meanwhile, roll and slice the collard and mustard leaves; first, crosswise, then, lengthwise. If you try to use the large leaves uncut, they'll be too big for the pan. By rolling and then slicing, you can fit more into the pot, and they're perfect for eating without splashing juice all over yourself.

Add cut greens to hot liquid. Stir to thoroughly blend.

Return to just boiling; cover, bake in solar oven 1.5 to 2 hours.

Zap reserved collard leaves in microwave for 30 seconds. To serve, use one softened collard leaf per plate; center a drained portion of collard-mustard green mixture over each. Use a paper towel or napkin to remove excess liquid. If using a separate bowl, use the leaf to make it prettier.

Have leftovers? Make some fried salmon-rice patties and microwave an egg in a collard cup. Don't forget to pierce the yolk so it doesn't explode. There's a bit too much basil on the egg, but it tasted good.

How do you use canned salmon?

Wednesday, February 22

Pork Harissa - Solar Baked

If offset with just a touch of sweetness, hot peppers are much easier to enjoy. Remember the string of peppers I put up, last summer? Well, they turned bright red and then dried to perfection on their strings. It was time to do something with them. So, Googling for dried peppers brought up harissa sauce, a North African hot pepper sauce that will kill anything living in your stomach! Next step was to look for homemade recipes before spending time and money, and found lots. It was the spice combinations that helped me make a choice and then turned it into one of my own by adding other herbs and spices I thought might be fun.  It didn't take long to make and there's plenty left for another day. Check out my harissa recipe, below. I thought I had removed sirloin tips from the freezer; but, when the frost cleared, turned out it was a package of country style pork ribs! Lord knows where my mind was but I forged ahead. I cubed the meat into one-inch pieces, dried them, and then seared them over high heat on all sides before placing them on the bottom of my 3-quart roasting pan.  Solar oven was set up and preheating.

Pork Harissa
1 lb pork ribs, country-style
2 Tbsps olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsps light brown sugar
2 Tbsps soy sauce
1 Tbsps thyme leaves
2 tspsns harissa sauce (store-bought or my recipe below)

1. After meat is removed from pan, add olive oil and saute onion until just softened; add garlic and cook until just beginning to turn brown. Add light brown sugar, soy sauce, thyme leaves, and harissa sauce.
2. Blend all ingredients and cook for an additional one or two minutes; pour over cubed pork, cover, and place in solar oven for approximately 70 minutes. Remove meat from pan. Pour pan drippings into medium saucepan or large measuring cup for use in microwave.
3. Make a flour roux in separate cup of 2 Tablespoon flour and 2 Tablespoons hot water; add to pan drippings. Stir in saucepan until mixture thickens, or, add to drippings for microwave and zap for one minute intervals, stirring in between, until mixture thickens.
5. Serve pork cubes over pasta, rice (my choice), or potatoes; drizzle sauce over pork cubes.

Enjoy. This is good.

Most recipes suggested using the harissa sauce for a marinade but I decided to use it for cooking. Although you can use the drippings as a gravy, I think you'd find it tastier if thickened with flour to make a gravy. Otherwise, the drippings are just a little too oily for my tastes.

Sharlene's Homemade Harissa Sauce
12 - 15 dried chili peppers
5 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbspns olive oil
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp caraway seeds
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground mace
1/2 tsp ground juniper berries
1/2 tsp chipotle pepper (optional)

1. Soak dried peppers for about 30 minutes, then remove seeds (leave some if you want it hotter), chop coarsely; place in food processor with garlic, salt, and olive oil. Thoroughly chop.
2. Add rest of ingredients and blend to a smooth paste.
3. Place in jar; use as needed. Will keep in refrigerator for at least a month.

Friday, February 17

Solar Tuna Mushroom Casserole Variation #90

What with spring cleaning and spring garden duties, it's always nice to be able to rely on a casserole for dinner. Though not very fond of tuna casseroles, per se, I have long since figured out how to enjoy the protein of tuna without that canned fishy taste in the actual dish. The proof was in my sister's not believing I had used tuna and found this one delicious. Tasty, economical, FREE energy, a win-win way to feed a family of four; don't you think?

Solar Tuna Mushroom Casserole
1 5oz can of white albacore tuna, canned in water
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 can shitake mushrooms, chopped and dried with paper towel
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon dehydrated tomato flakes or 1 medium tomato, chopped
1 pound elbow macaroni, uncooked
6 cups chicken broth, plus water for 1 inch liquid to cover ingredients
1 Tablespoon yellow mustard
1/2 teaspoon stevia/sugar
1 teaspoon basil
1-1/2 teaspoons parsley
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
Preheat solar oven to 225F. In heavy sauce pan over medium-high heat, saute onions, garlic, mushrooms, until onions start to become translucent. Add chicken broth and all other ingredients, except macaroni; bring to boil. Add macaroni and enough hot water to cover all with at least 1 inch of liquid; stir to blend while returning to boil. Transfer to casserole dish that has been pre-heated with hot water, cover, place in solar oven for approximately 60-70 minutes, or until all liquid is absorbed and macaroni is al dente. [NOTE: I don't care for cheese on a tuna casserole; but, if you like it, add it at this point and return to solar oven for an additional 10 minutes.]  Let me know what you think and I hope you'll share  one of your favorite tuna casserole recipes, too.

Sunday, February 12

Solar Banana Cranberry Bread

When you've got a bunch of bananas turning very black, there's only one thing to do -- throw them out or put them in a recipe! While most fruits are impossible to eat at this stage, bananas just get sweeter and sweeter before turning into yucky.  No recipe, today -- my garden awaits -- just a suggestion to add cranberries to your favorite banana-bread recipe. Solar bake at 275F for approximately 55-60 minutes, serve warm, and enjoy the tang of flavor with every bite!

Tuesday, February 7

Crazy Cooking Challenge - Chocolate Cake

Solar Upside Down Pear Chocolate Cake
It's time, again, for the Crazy Cooking Challenge and February's challenge is chocolate cake! Now, who wouldn't want to participate in a chocolate cake challenge and discover some great recipes from other bloggers? There were so many to choose from, yet, I kept returning to Stephanie's blog, A Whisk and a Spoon, because of her adaptation of a recipe she found in Rustic Fruit Desserts by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson. I love anything rustic that brings a sense of history into a new generation of cooks. So, here's my solar-baked adaptation.

Solar Upside Down Pear Chocolate Cake

You'll find the recipe at Stephanie's blog (see how I get you to visit her! ) and I just have a few things to add. I did use a spring-form pan but, to prevent leakage of the caramel sauce, I lined the bottom with foil and then sprayed with an oil and flour mix.

As you can see, it's just enough foil to contain the sauce, pears, and cake batter. I did the sauce in my microwave and took it out just before it began to turn golden brown because I knew it would continue to cook during baking. I toyed with adding rum to the caramel mix, but decided to stay as close to the recipe, as possible, and will definitely do it another day. The big difference is that I only bought two pears instead of three, as the recipe calls for, and so had to slice them thinner to copy the pattern.

This batter is scrumptuous and rich. I didn't have any dark baking chocolate and used semi-sweet dark chocolate pieces, instead. It's important to time everything so that the VERY HOT caramel sauce doesn't heat your pan so much that it melts the oil and flour coating. I prearranged my pear slices on a paper plate, first, and then placed them in the sauce.

I baked my cake in a preheated solar oven at 275F for approximately 70 minutes. I did the toothpick test and the crust was crispy and inside texture moist and delicious without clinging to the knife; but, I think it would have been fine after just 60 minutes. As you can see, my thinner pear slices became translucent during the cooking, the caramel sauce got darker, and the rich, dark, chocolate almost overwhelmed the pears. Next time, I'll use three pears and make the slices at least 1/4 inch thick. But, it's still very pretty; don't you think?


Here's the other entries. I hope you'll visit and leave some comment love -- I'll take some love, too! Have fun.

Wednesday, February 1

Potato, Ham, Spinach-Purslane Solar Strata

What I love the most about frittatas and stratas is that, even though they are filled with other meats and vegetables, they make wonderful main dinner courses, yet, are still light enough for brunches. And, of course, the ingredients are whatever you want them to be, which means they can be as fresh as today or part of a week's menu planning. So delicious.

I'm giving two methods of preparing the potatoes so that all the vegetables will finish at the same time. Using a microwave to bring up the internal temperature and start the cooking process for dense vegetables will do this -- and, the skins almost fall off.
Potato, Ham, Spinach-Purslane Solar Strata
4 medium potatoes, barely precooked*, very thinly sliced
1 large onion, thinly sliced
6 slices cooked ham, cross-sliced in strips
1 cup fresh spinach, chopped
1 cup fresh purslane, chopped
1 cup cabbage, thinly sliced
1 large apple, cored and thinly sliced
1-5oz can evaporated milk + 1 can of water
5 eggs
1 teaspoon each: fresh oregano, parsley,
1/2 teaspon each: fresh thyme, rosemary, mint, stevia
1/2 teaspoon mild curry powder
1/4 teaspoon cream or tartar
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup shredded cheese(s), your choice, added in last 20 minutes of baking
1/2 tablespoon butter, room temperature

1. *Potatoes,  Method 1: Cook whole potatoes on half power in microwave for 4-1/2 minutes;  place in cold water for 10 seconds, slide/peel off jackets and slice thinly. Method 2: Pare potatoes, place in covered dish, cook in microwave for 4-1/2 minutes; let cool and slice thinly.
2.  Pre-slice and chop all other vegetables and place in the order you will be layering in your lightly-greased 6-quart casserole. My order was: greens on bottom (first layer only), ham, potatoes, onions, apple, cabbage, spinach, purslane, ham, for three layers.

3. *Saute the spinach, purslane, and cabbage, for a minute or two to prevent the natural water in these vegetables from making your strata too wet. Drain before adding to casserole.
4. In a separate mixing bowl, combine eggs, milk, water, herbs and spices, plus 1 tablespoon of shredded cheese. Carefully pour over layered ingredients. Cover and bake in solar oven for at least 70 minutes.

5. Remove cover, distribute cheese and butter evenly over top and return to oven, uncovered, to bake until cheese has melted and turned a delicate brown.

Serve with fresh fruit or on a trio of fresh spinach leaves for an elegant brunch.

*Leafy vegetables contain natural water that they release during cooking. When making egg dishes, this liquid can overwhelm and prevent the eggs from rising, so it is suggested that you first lightly saute, then cool and drain them before adding to your strata. As I'm not a professional chef, when I'm just cooking for myself and sister, it doesn't really matter to me and I'm happy to simply remove the excess liquid with a turkey baster  to use it for soups.  But, for guests, I would saute, cool and drain all leafy vegetables for a better presentation. As you can see, I did not do that for this recipe and ended up with almost two cups of delicious broth for my laziness!

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