Sunday, July 29

Solar Chief Unveiled at Solar Cookout at Midtown Market

First of all, let me apologize for no post last week, but I 've been a little busy. You see, August 1st is National Solar Cooking Day and we solar cookers are doing our part to bring the news to everyone within hearing. BUT, the market where I have a solar cooking booth is only open on Saturday, so we're going to celebrate Solar Cooking Day on August 4th from 10AM to 3PM. We're in countdown mode, now, and I hope you'll spread the news to all your friends on FB, Twitter, etc. And, if anyone has their own solar oven and would like to participate, feel free to bring it along and show the folks your favorite recipes. You'll have fun AND your dinner will be ready, too!

Following is an article from the July 16, 2012, issue of The Beltline Buzz announcing the big Solar Cookout we'll be having at the Midtown Market on the Commons at North Hills on August 4th, 2012! It's going to be a great day. There will be solar kits available for making personal solar ovens on site, to cook either a mini-pizza, small cake, or roast marshmallows! The kits include simple instructions for making even larger ovens from any size cardboard and, if well-cared for, these quick ovens can last for several weeks, so folks can try some of their own favorite recipes at home. In fact, I made some of these throw-away ovens just a few weeks ago to roast a large harvest of garden produce and keep my kitchen cool. They're perfect for solar parties, too!

The market is extending the hours for the solar cooking event until 3PM. The unveiling of my own Solar Chief, the solar oven I've invented for the mainstream cook, is scheduled to take place around 2PM. Spread the news!

"Lite Brite - Solar Cooking Day at Midtown Farmer's Market
Saturday, August 4th

Is it just us, or does An Inconvenient Truth make saving the planet look, well, inconvenient? Do you think power company mergers are going to benefit consumers with lower rates? Think again! But don't throw in the radioactive towel just yet. You can add a little easy green to your life by just how you cook.

Bake, boil, or steam the natural way, plus... create all your favorite slow-cook recipes just like using a conventional crock pot while you're busy or away at work! Anything you can cook in a conventional gas or electric oven can be cooked in a Solar Oven.

What are Solar Ovens? Solar Ovens are so versatile, so brilliantly designed, so easy to use, you'll wonder why you didn't purchase one years ago! Simply set it in direct sunlight, point it the proper direction, place your meal inside the oven chamber, and your Solar Oven will provide a superior tasting meal - for Free!

Come Learn: Midtown Farmer's Market in North Hills is having a Solar Cooking Day on Saturday, August 4th from 10:00am to 3:00pm. Gear up your ovens for a solar cooking extravaganza! Sharlene Thomas of Mainstream Solar Cooking/Creative Handz will offer solar cooking tips and tricks, recipes, and lots of tasty samples during and after the Market. Kids and families can build their own solar ovens and cook mini pizzas with one of Sharlene's super cool (actually super hot) solar oven kits. Shop around the commons while your pizza bakes. That's one heck of a fun and productive afternoon.

Food tastes better! Solar oven cooking will trap and retain all the natural flavors of food, plus all those wonderful juices which get baked out using conventional dry heat style ovens. The slow, even rise in temperature in a Solar Oven gives the complex carbohydrates time to break down into simple sugars allowing those incredible, subtle natural flavors to emerge! Sun baked foods stay moist; the natural internal juices do not bake out, resulting in a superior, moist taste with much less shrinkage.
Now that you've learned to use that brite lite in the sky as your new generator, you've made one green leap for mankind and one small step in setting yourself free from high energy bills! That's never inconvenient!"

So, mark your calendar and plan on having a great day at Midtown Market. There'll be some great music by Nick Driver, face-painting by Maria, and Bobby's Water Ices to keep you cool waiting for the food to cook! I'm looking forward to seeing all of you on Saturday and introducing you to my Solar Chief(tm) mainstream solar oven.

Sunday, July 15

Cabbage Rolls on Spaghetti Squash - Doggie Bag Bonanza

The garden is at peak harvest and the kitchen is in full swing for preserving all the goodness. Still have some solar oven kits to finish for the Solar Cookout at Midtown Market on August 4th, so I've decided to share with my newer followers an archived post from more than two years ago that shows you what can be done with that extra bit of steak or pork chop you brought home!

Pork Cabbage Rolls on Bed of Spaghetti Squash
Don't know about you, but I have alot of trouble sharing spaghetti squash -- I want it all to myself! But, that's the dark side of me and just doesn't read well on a resume so, of course, I do share it, as in today's recipe. Following my previous post, the spaghetti squash was put in the solar oven as soon as the Herb and Cheese frittata was removed. This would be the end of my solar cooking for the day, because the rest of the dinner would be done stovetop. Yes, I do cook using other appliances. Just hate to waste good free sun energy when it's available, that's all.

Thanks to restaurants that insist on giving you way too much to eat on their entrees, I had a whole 8oz. pork chop in a doggie bag looking for a new recipe. A quick peek in the fridge offered some leftover broccoli and the vegetable bin had fresh cabbage, celery, green onion, and carrots. Eureka! Could dinner be far behind. . .
A Little of This and a Little of That Goes a Long Way
Separating the pork meat from the bone and fat, I chopped it all up just short of mincing and set it aside. Carefully removed eight outer leaves from the cabbage (see below) and got some rice started in a small saucepan. While rice was cooking and cabbage leaves were softened in the microwave, I finely chopped and sauteed the following vegetables in a heavy skillet over medium heat:
1 medium carrot
1 stalk celery & leaves
2 green onions
1/4 cup cabbage
1 tablespoon pine nuts (optional)
When pine nuts began to brown, the mix was removed from the heat and the following herb and spices were stirred in:
1/8 teaspoon ground fennel
1/8 teaspoon mace
1/2 teaspoon Chervil leaves
Big pinch of chipotle pepper

To soften large cabbage leaves: Most recipes suggest you blanch the cabbage head in boiling water to remove outer leaves as they become pliable. I have found it's just as easy to hold the head under the hot water faucet and gently remove the leaves. Then, they can be further softened in the microwave placing the cabbage leaves in a large glass bowl with 1 teaspoon of salted water and microwaved on high for 45 seconds. Set aside to cool and pat dry. If really thick, cut out the hard rib from each leaf.

Mix rice with sauteed vegetables and divide according to number of cabbage leaves you've prepared. Place a cabbage leaf in front of you, large end next to your body. Fill each center of leaf with 2 tablespoons of filling, roll up leaf, tucking in ends, and place seam side down in skillet. Add enough chicken stock with 1/2 cup white wine to bring liquid to just the top edge of cabbage rolls. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer till all liquid is absorbed.

Check spaghetti squash in solar oven. If sides are soft, remove and bring inside to remove seeds and webbing and separate strands of squash. Reheat leftover broccoli. Create a bed of spaghetti squash on each plate and place three cabbage rolls on top. Add broccoli (or, any side vegetable you prefer) and serve with bread of your choice. This is a Cranberry-Orange Amish Friendship Bread I made from the basic recipe.
Use Your Own Fillings to Make It Your Own
One of the best things about any kind of vegetable roll is that you can use up leftovers in the stuffing mix and, by just adding a few fresh ingredients, have a truly delicious meal that anyone would be proud to serve.

Sunday, July 8

Solar Roasted Seven Herb Chicken

Solar Roasted Seven Herb Chicken 
Was at the supermarket getting this and that when I passed the poultry section and saw that the roasting hens were on sale from $1.29 a pound to $.90 a pound! Could you walk by? I couldn't. It was fresh, not frozen, and I decided, right then and there, I 'd try out a recipe that had been floating around in my head for the past few weeks. Serendipitous! That's all I can say -- serendipitous!

It weighed just over six pounds and 1:00 pm was closing in, so I knew it would have to be in the solar oven by at least 1:30 pm. The summer squash from the morning's harvest would be a great side dish.  -- Another rainbow of yellows on the plate. I know. I know. But, please note the 1960s celery sprig garni. I am sooooo Retro! -- Problem? The chicken would take up all the room in the solar oven. Solution? Try out one of my temporary solar ovens that the folks will be making on August 4th at the solar cookout! The 20"x30" model would be just right.

The herb garden was at its peak and I couldn't resist creating a medley. Who knew that particular combination was going to create a party in my mouth when all was said, eaten, and done.  Who knew?

Clockwise, starting top right: tarragon, pineapple sage, oregano, German thyme, stevia, rosemary, and sweet basil. All leaves were removed from their stems and placed in the food processor, then pulsed a few times to bring the mix down to about halfway. Added one stick of butter, 1 tsp of salt and 1/8 tsp of black pepper. The mix was still a little thick, so I added 1 tsp of olive oil to make it spreadable.

I loosened the skin around the bird, plus over the drumsticks and wings. (Tricky, but it can be done.) The herb mixture was spread evenly under the skin and the small remaining amount in the bowl was melted in the microwave and poured over top.  Since the chicken was still pretty cool, I zapped it in the microwave on half power for about four minutes to get the inside heated up before placing it in my four-quart roasting pan, where it fit just right!

It was then covered and placed in the 250F solar oven at exactly 1:30 p.m.  Phew!

Next up was garden-fresh summer squash, which filled my three-quart roaster with 1/4" squash coins.  A light sprinkling of salt and pepper, covered, and then placed in a sealed oven bag before being placed on the mini-trivet near the center back of the temporary solar oven.

At 4:45pm, just as the sun was disappearing over the roof of my house, the chicken  and squash were done!  Here, I've cut the chicken open along the breast so that you can see that it is cooked through.

All I can say is that this was melt-in-your-mouth delicious with flavors popping. The stevia was just enough to offset the oftentimes sharpness of rosemary and it was the most delightful surprise, ever. Will definitely use this combination, again. Truth is, we were still talking about the flavors, the next day, and couldn't wait to make a sandwich.  Oh, yes. OH, YES! Good choice. Good. Choice.

Tuesday, July 3

Egg Overflow = Powdered Eggs for Storage

welsummer marans cross Pictures, Images and Photos
Photo Bucket picture; not my neighbor's hens.
One chicken = 1 egg, a day; four chickens = four eggs, a day; six chickens = 6 eggs... well, you get the point. When you decide you want to raise chickens and enjoy organic eggs and poultry, you need to be ready for everything that comes with that package.

My neighbor has chickens and sells the extra eggs. It's wonderful having fresh organic eggs nearby whenever the hens are laying.  I normally just order two dozen but the family went on vacation and she asked if I could use more eggs (at a reduced egg price) while they were gone so her hubby, who stayed behind to take care of things, wouldn't have to worry about finding buyers. "No problem," I said, because I needed to stock up on the eggs whilst the chickens were laying. (Oh, yes, there is a season to all things, and chickens don't like to lay in cooler weather.) So, that's how I ended up with almost eight dozen eggs.  Definitely time to save money and make some powdered eggs for winter cooking. 

As you know from previous posts, when doing my pysanki eggs, I'll freeze the egg contents, as well as bake and freeze some muffin-tin eggs for fast breakfasts.  Powdering eggs is just another way of storing eggs for whatever your cooking needs are in a way that is fast, efficient, and offers a long shelf life. Bakers love the consistency of powdered eggs for their recipes, the military has been using them for, like, forever, and the benefits of powdered eggs make this a worthwhile project.

If you've never dehydrated your own eggs, you'll discover this is probably the easiest job on earth. You just need eggs, a dehydrator, an airtight container for storage, and a blender.

Start with breaking your eggs, six at a time, directly into your food processor/blender. Save the shells for either the compost heap or return them crushed to the supplier to feed to the chickens and return that calcium to the source! In case you didn't know, chickens love egg shells and it's good for them.

There are just six eggs in the processor, which is the perfect amount for one dehydrator tray. I prefer to dehydrate raw eggs rather than cooked. I figure they will cook a bit with the heat and, again, when used in recipes, and the final eating texture is much better, in my opinion.

Pulse until eggs are perfectly blended, but not frothy.

Carefully pour onto fruit/leather sheets placed on the dehydrator trays. I don't add any kind of oil to the tray. Eggs have enough natural oil in them that it isn't necessary. Dehydrate at 145F for 16 hours.

Eggs are done when they appear cracked and the color has deepened. These eggs were from free-range chickens and are darker orange than store-bought eggs. They lighten up when reconstituted and cooked.

By barely touching with the back of a wooden spoon, the fully-dehydrated eggs will simply crumble into pieces. Empty the trays into a large bowl and break them down to smaller pieces.  I'm a strong believer in using a blender for powdering the eggs. Food processors have a tendency to break the eggs down into a cornmeal type texture; the blender creates a fine powder. 

When you reconstitute the powdered egg (4 teaspoons powdered egg plus 2 tablespoons water equal one medium egg), it should just simply disappear into the liquid with nothing dry showing/floating. Stir and let sit for about 15 minutes.  In any baking recipe, just mix the powder with your other dry ingredients; but, don't forget to add the liquid needed to rehydrate the egg to the other liquid ingredients.

I reconstituted an egg to show you how they should look. This one was cooked in the microwave. You can see how difficult it is to tell the difference between a fresh cooked egg and a dehydrated one.  Short of fried or poached, you can use these powdered eggs for all your recipes. The best thing is you won't have to worry about the size of the egg altering the recipe. The portion is always the same, which is why so many bakers enjoy using powdered eggs.

For very little work, I now have 80 eggs ready and waiting on my shelf. My labels aren't fancy, but I know what's in the jars, along with the basic reconstituting instructions, and that's all I need.

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