Friday, August 31

Chinese Soup from Snacks and Noodles

Looks just like an ordinary soup; right? Hunh-uh. This lovely repast is a result of putting together ingredients that, at first glance, appeared as disparate as ice cream and relish. Then, the old (and, I do mean, old!) wheels starting turning and, voila!, a wonderful meal from my August Foodie Penpal.

What's a Foodie Penpal?  I discovered the answer a few months ago. The Foodie Penpals was begun by Lindsay at the The Lean Green Bean blog. What started out with barely 30 participants has grown to over 1,300 from the US, Canada, and the UK! So, pop over and check them out. I'm number 23! 
So, here's what I ended up doing with my penpal box, this month, from The Squishy Monster. It was all Chinese Korean [edited per Squishy's note below] foods and treats and really stretched my creativity – but, I think I did it! Hope you'll pop over and give her some comment love, too.
This is the box I received:
Top row: Roasted Seaweed Snack and Roasted Barley Tea
Second row: Sweet Potato Snacks, Udon Noodles, Strawberry-filled Cookies
Bottom: Unknown???
Here's a close-up of the Unknown, in case there is someone who can read Chinese and tell me what it is. I tasted it and it seems fruity, like figs, and very smooth.
I did NOT use the solar oven for this meal. It was all done in under 30 minutes on the stovetop, and needed constant attention to do it right.
Chinese Soup from Snacks and Noodles
7.5 cups water
1/4 cup distilled vinegar
1 T chicken bouillion paste
2 tsps Hoisin sauce
1 tsp minced garlic
1/8 tsp green mustard powder
1 tsp ground ginger
1 large Roasted Barley Tea bag
3/4 bar of Unknown
12.5 ozs shredded cooked chicken
1 packet of Udon noodles, broken in thirds
4 eggs, just stirred well, not beaten to any froth
1 T crushed Sweet Potato Snack
1 leaf Roasted Seaweed Snack
In large kettle, bring water to a just under a boil and reduce heat to keep it simmering.  Add vinegar, bouillion paste, Hoisin sauce, garlic, green mustard powder, ginger, the Unknown, and Roasted Barley Tea bag. Let simmer for approximately ten minutes. Remove tea bag.  Add chicken and noodles and hard simmer for six or seven minutes. Check for doneness of noodles -- should be al dente.  Start stirring in a clockwise motion and, using a fork, let egg drip slowly into broth. As soon as you're finished adding the eggs, turn off heat. Eggs will be silkier strips, that way.
Cover bottom of bowl with crushed Sweet Potato Snack; slowly pour soup over top. Garnish with Seaweed Snack and serve with whole Sweet Potato Snacks. Have two Strawberry-Filled Cookies for dessert!  Thank you, Squishy!
This is just a brief explanation of what we do and I hope you'll pop over, take a look around, and decide you want in on the fun, too!

The Lean Green Bean

I'm paraphrasing here -- On the 5th of the month, you receive your penpal pairing via email. It's your responsibility to make contact and get the mailing address and any other information you might need to know like allergies or dietary restrictions. You have to the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail for your foodie penpal. On the last day of the month, you get to post about the goodies you received from your penpal! This penpal is NOT the same one you were given. The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what's in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!

And, if you want to see what I sent to my penpal, visit Jan at Cooking Up Randomness.

Monday, August 27

Boeuf Bourguignon Celebrating Julia’s 100th Birthday Solar Style

Midst all the earth-shattering news about the World, did you know that August 15th would have been Julia Child's 100th birthday? I remember watching her cooking show and poring over her cookbook, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking.", and hoping that someday I'd be that comfortable in a kitchen. Unlike today's cookbooks, with their step-by-step pictures and limited number of recipes, Julia's book is a cookbook chock-full of information, with step-by-step instructions that anyone with a fifth grade education can read and follow, and just enough graphics and photos to show you specific cooking steps. Following today's standards, Julia's book would have been spread over many volumes. Kind of takes your breath away, doesn't it? Of course, it's great for sales. Bottom line, some of my favorite cookbooks have little, if any, pictures, just a lot of great information and recipes.

Anyway, I decided to celebrate her birthday with boeuf bourguignon, solar style, before the month ran out. Not having her recipe at hand, I went to one of my favorite cooking blogs Ocean Breezes and Country Sneezes for some help, because I knew the writer had already celebrated Julia's birthday. But, I did cut the recipe in fourths and added one pepper; otherwise, it was Julia's recipe. Julia would warn you to face it unafraid because boeuf bourguignon is really nothing more than a very delicious French beef stew. I know, that's almost sacrilegious to say; but, there it is. All of her recipes seem so long compared to today's but they're not difficult. Not really. Just remember that Julia didn't have the appliances we have and you're not committing a sin by using shortcuts. It's the end result that we're after. If you would like to see Julie Powell, the author of Julie & Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously , being interviewed while making Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon, this is a nice video from Good Morning, America with another print of the recipe.

I used a skillet to saute the bacon and vegetables, but used a different casserole dish lined with foil for the actual cooking. 

 If you don't have the pearl or small onions, go ahead and use a medium-sized one and quarter it. You can save the exact duplication for your second batch when you want it to be an exact replica. This recipe is perfect for solar cooking, using slow and easy simmering to bring the whole dish to perfection. Use your oven at 450°F for the eight-minute par cooking step (this is to brown the flour and create a light crust on the beef), then, use your solar oven for the long-term finish cooking. Find something else to do and let it roast for at least 3 1/2 to 4 hours.
The end result for my solar-cooked boeuf bourguignon was delicious and I decided to serve it with egg noodles. And, it's just as good served by itself in a bowl with some crunchy French bread to sop up the juices. Good eating. And, this is for Julia -- Bon appétit!

Wednesday, August 22

Poached Chicken Logs - Solar Style

With the success of the Solar-Poached Beef and Pork Log that I prepared for the Solar Cookout, I decided to create a similar dish with some ground chicken I had on hand. This is really an ideal way of preparing meats that you can count on to be well-seasoned, moist, and easy on older teeth that have become pressure sensitive. We don't often think about it, but people who have been on long-term medication often have the side effect of sensitive and fragile teeth, making it difficult for them to enjoy many recipes we take for granted. You can't go wrong with a poached log.

Here's my recipe, but this is a time when you can feel free to use any of your own favorite spices. The cheesecloth I use has a much finer weave than the cheesecloth you buy at craft stores and/or the grocery. You can find some here.  I can open mine out into a single layer and not worry about food slipping out of the weaving. And, each length can be cut in half for double usage. You can also use large cabbage leaves and/or large chard leaves but then you end up with a different type of recipe. It's all delicious; just different.

Poached Chicken Logs

1 pound ground chicken
1 cup precooked rice
1/4 cup steel cut oats
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons Hoisin sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground Mace
1/2 teaspoon ground anise
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground Stevia
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 egg
1 10-ounce can chicken broth + water to cover
1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat solar oven to 225°F    3-quart covered casserole

Pre-cook rice and oats together, put 1 cup in large mixing bowl and let cool.

Sauté onions and celery in olive oil over medium-high heat until softened; add to rice and oats, stir together, and let cool.

Combine all dry ingredients together before adding to cooled rice-oats mixture; add ground chicken and egg and mix thoroughly.

Lay cheesecloth on cutting board, place one third mixture on cheesecloth near bias edge and begin rolling toward opposite edge; secure each end with kitchen string or, my favorite, rubber bands. (By just laying the cheesecloth over the roll and using the cloth at either side, you can easily roll it into a loose log.) You want it to be somewhat loose inside for expansion.

This is the bias edge of fine cheesecloth.

When all logs are placed in casserole, gently pour chicken broth over top and then add enough water to just barely cover the logs. (So that I don't slow down the cooking process, I use my microwave to bring the broth and water to just under boiling before adding it to the casserole dish.)

Cover and bake in the solar oven for approximately 1 1/2 to 2 hours. The logs have increased in size and are just above the liquid line, now. If you press your finger against one, it will feel firm with little give.

Remove logs to the cutting board and let rest for about 10 minutes before removing cheesecloth. Serve with your favorite sides. I had made a double recipe of the rice and oats combination, so used that as a starch side and used some frozen peas for color.  Sometimes, I will use the stock to make a cream gravy with tarragon, but decided against it, this time. Just a little juice over the log is fine.

If there are any leftovers, this is a great mixture to add to other dishes and/or slice one-half inch thick rounds and fry, to serve with your favorite side dishes. Poaching, itself a gentle process, is perfect for solar cooking. 


Wednesday, August 15

Solar Cookout Sunny Day Success

Apparently, I forgot to click on the Publish button, again! (Good thing, my head is connected!)

The Solar Cookout at the Midtown Market was a success! We had been having a week of rain and there was another week of rainy afternoons forecast. BUT, I turned it over to God and for the Saturday Cookout? – a beautiful, bright, sunny day from morning till night -- followed by another five days of rain.
The day started out at my little booth displaying a variety of solar cookers. At left, is an EZ-3 oven, as designed by Sharon Cousins and, even though not facing the sun, the jar inside was hot to the touch after only an hour, or so.  Next to that is a sample of my Solar Oven Kit that visitors could make, showing the difference between using heavy-duty foil for a smooth reflector finish or regular foil that has a tendency to crinkle more and is a touch duller than the heavier foil. At the end of the table is the Global(R) Sun Oven with some Solar Poached Beef and Pork Rolls. On the ground are two Copenhagen ovens, designed by Sharon Clausson, one with 17" sides baking a winter squash and one with 22" sides with a two-quart pot of beans.

Solar Poached Beef & Pork Roll
1 lb  lean ground beef
1 lb ground pork
1 medium onion
1/4 cup tomato sauce
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp mild curry powder
1/8 tsp ground anise
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. parsley
20 oz. beef stock (1 can plus water to equal 20 oz)

1. Blend all together in plastic bag.
2. Divide mixture in half in bag. Press center of bag together with fingertip to divide portions and cut through both sides of bag.
3. Lay cheesecloth on surface, divided portion again in half and squeeze out onto cheesecloth; add rest of portion alongside first portion.
4. Roll up cheesecloth to form a firm tube. Tie each other with string/rubber band.
5. Pour beef stock into pan. Add beef/pork tubes and adjust to fit pan. Do not overlap. Cover.
6. Bake in solar oven approximately 2.5 hours.

Served with my Boston Baked Beans from Book 2

The winter squash was not shared with the folks. Too much going on for me to start carving, seeding, and cutting. It was mostly for an example of how to cook some vegetables whole for true ease of cooking.

Boston Baked Beans (from Book 2)

1 lb. pre-soaked navy beans
2 medium chopped onions
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses (or, honey*)
1/4 cup tomato sauce
1/4 lb. cubed salt pork (or, bacon pieces)
1 T salt
1-1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp ground horseradish
1/4 tsp black pepper
Hot water to cover 1" above beans in pot

Soak beans overnight, drain, place in pot. Combine rest of ingredients and stir into beans. Cover with hot water and bake in solar oven 6-1/2 hours.

*I didn't have molasses on hand and substituted honey -- and, the folks were crazy about my beans! So, give it a try and see how you like it. For the Cookout, this was a two-day process so that I was able to serve the beans at the same time as the meat rolls. The beans were pre-soaked early on Friday morning and baked in the solar oven for three hours. They spent the night in my Wonder Box Cooker and then put in the Copenhagen oven by 8:30 a.m. They were ready to serve by 1:30 p.m.

The little Poster Board Solar Kits I made were a hit and flew out of my booth. Not everyone stayed to make an oven and cook a mini-pizza (on fish-shaped bread, no less!) or a Snickerdoodle® cupkie but most came back to let me know that they had great fun making different meals, at home. Why didn't I think of them, sooner?

Book 2 of A Month of SUNdays – Solar Cooking at Home made its debut, as well, and is now available for purchase. Click on the book in the right-hand column to purchase. Book 1 is also available in .pdf format for download, now.

And, after a brief presentation of the various solar ovens used during the day, I was proud to present my own Solar Chief™ solar oven for mainstream cooks. It's designed to be used as a table top, floor, or, window unit, and will be officially available for sale in time for Holiday giving! All questions will be answered after I have received my Patent Pending number; but, you do get to have a general peek. There are still a few cosmetic things I want to do; but, for the most part, all is well.

So much went on that, by the end of the day, I was pooped. Yup, this old bag of bones just can't take that much excitement and standing on her feet, like she used to, and thoughts of bedtime began to loom around four p.m. I will be eternally grateful for all the help supplied by family and friends. Journey two has begun.

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