Sunday, April 29

Midtown Market is Open!

The Midtown Market at North Hills is now officially open for the 2012 Season and it's going to be great! We have many returnee vendors, along with some new, that make it not only a source of fresh garden produce and herbs, but delicious breads, pastries, pasties, fresh fish, and crafts. Visitors can walk around, greeting friends, sampling goodies, while enjoying live music and participating in family events.

My booth on solar cooking will offer samples, once the sun rising clears the movie theater. We're only open from 8am to Noon, so the cooking time is limited, if there's to be any samples. This year, we'll be building toward National Solar Cooking Day. It's nationally celebrated on August 1st; but, Midtown is a Saturday market, so we'll be celebrating it on the Commons on Saturday, August 4th. Anyone in the area who has a solar oven is invited to participate and share their experiences and favorite recipes.  You may not be able to visit us, but, why not take a moment to hop over and like the Midtown Farmers Market Raleigh FB page.  We'd really love your support. Oh! You can also visit and like my Mainstream Solar Cooking FB page, too!

Did you notice the Wonder Box Cooker on the left, behind the e-Reader covers?  It's a lovely alternative for long-term cooking when there's no sun. The process is a little different from using the solar oven. The Wonder Box uses heat retention and insulation. Mine was made from 100% cotton with an insulating filler of the very small styrofoam beads. Once I found out that a fellow solar cooker, Txazlady at Adventures in Solar Cooking,  had been using one she got as a gift from her daughter, I just had to make one.

I've placed it in a 20-quart squared plastic tub so that it doesn't flop over. The top and bottom are loose-filled bags and are meant to conform to the actual pot placed inside. So, the tub (or, cardboard box, if you want) keeps it in position. Because it was such a cold, windy, day and I was at the Market, I tied the top over the base so that curious visitors wouldn't take the top off and let all the heat out.

 If you want to keep the inside clean, use a towel around the pot or a SolarWear(R) carrier for easy removal.  Once you've placed your vessel inside and added the cover, you DON'T open it for at least three or four hours.  Foods must be preheated or parcooked and liquids boiled for at least ten minutes before being placed inside the oven. Before I left the house at 6:30am, I prepared split pea soup with one cup of overnight-soaked dried split peas plus 3.5 cups of chicken stock placed in a one-quart canning jar, added some herbs and spices, and cooked it in the microwave for seven minutes to bring it all to a complete boil, then inverted the cover in the ring so that it wouldn't seal, placed it in the carrier and then the Wonder Cooker.  There would be no samples, today, just preparing my own lunch.

Half of the soup was already in my bowl before I remembered to take a picture. The jar was filled to the shoulders.  I have never used the Wonder Box Cooker outside of my kitchen and wondered how it would work on a 55F day with 10-15mph wind gusts.  This was a real test for it.  I didn't remove the top until I got home around 1:30pm and was delighted to discover that the food was at eating temperature (95F -- I like my soups hot!) after almost seven hours! That's a very good result, as most sites tell you that you need to reheat foods after four hours. I think that would definitely be true for more dense foods, like chicken and stews. You are using energy before placing foods in the box, but so do you use energy when parcooking foods for conventional or solar cooking. There are patterns galore on the web to make your own, and I will be offering both patterns and/or made-to-order at my booth.

As an aside, yes, you can just wrap your cooking pot in towels and stick them in a box; but, most mainstream women I know want something a little classier that will match the decor. There's always a much cheaper way of doing things but I think it's important to feed the soul with beauty, too, whenever possible.

There's just enough of my handcrafts so that the booth isn't entirely empty; but I'm especially proud of my new Sunny Daze Crocheted Dolls collection. It's my own design and I've done them so the clothes don't come off and the hair doesn't fly all over. Each has a pocket declaring their love of solar cooking, too! Reasonably priced, they make wonderful gifts for doll lovers of all ages. Here are just a few.

In keeping with seeing old friends and meeting new at the Market, I'd like to also extend a hearty hello and thank-you for all my new followers.  I really appreciate each and every one of you and hope you'll discover just how much fun and exciting it is to save energy while solar cooking.


  1. Whoo Hooo! Market Days are back! I wish you much good luck. Your crochet dolls are FAB!!! You have been a busy gal!!

    1. Yes, I really enjoy these Market days. The weather was glorious and it's very much like a mini-vacation of sitting outside and enjoying the music and visitors. A very different farmer's market; that's for sure. Have a great day, Robin. Will be by, soon.

  2. If we're ever in your direction, you can bet that we'll be there. I love the dolls. What a multi-talented woman.

  3. I can imagine how much You like the market season finally open again :-)

    That Wonder Box Cooker is just great! So much energy would be saved if more people used something like that!

    Have a great day!

    1. It's like a little vacation at the end of the week, with the cool breezes and music and revisiting the regulars! I have come to adore the Wonder Box as much as the solar oven. It keeps things hot for so long. Think I'll start offering instructions, free, and charge to make them. What do you think?

  4. Hi Sharlene, I'm sure you will have a great season at the Market this year. I love your wonder oven. I find that mine draws a lot of attention because people are fascinated with it. I have made mine into a double stacker. I have a bottom, then another smaller "bottom" that covers the first, and then finally the top. This is all stacked into a tall box. This gives me room for two pots in almost the exact same space as one.

    1. You KNOW I'll be having a double-stacker ere long! I don't know about yours (maybe it's fuller than the instructions 'cause I didn't have an ice cream bucket!) but, mine's been keeping foods HOT for over six hours. Folks are interested, too. Another great way to save energy.

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