Tuesday, October 23

Rosemary Chili – What?

Dehydrated COOKED Pinto Beans
This idea came to me after I made some Sicilian-styled spaghetti sauce suggested by my friend Joyce at Octoberfarm.com. It was absolutely delicious and, as usual, I had leftovers. What to do - what to do? The small problem was that I didn't have enough to actually make a meal for two people; but, I did have enough to act as a base for a different dish. Shades of Wendy's! (They make their chili from leftover burgers.) "Let's make a chili," I said to my dog, Angel, who amiably wagged her tail and make me feel terribly smart.

Now, if you took a peek at Joyce's recipe, you know she starts by steeping her Rosemary in a quart of warm water for a couple of hours. Boy, is that a great step. I hope you try it. The only difference between her recipe and mine for the spaghetti sauce was that I didn't have two pounds of ground beef on hand, so I ground up two pounds of top round steak.

To make my chili, I added one small can of tomato sauce to the one and a half cups of leftover spaghetti sauce, one small can of kernel corn, a tablespoon of tomato paste, and a cup and a half of dehydrated cooked pinto beans. [NOTE: it's worth repeating that I used dehydrated cooked pinto beans and not simply dehydrated beans. If I had just used the dehydrated beans, I would've had to soak them overnight and then cook them before adding to my chili. Because the pinto beans had already been cooked before being dehydrated, they rehydrated during the cooking.] But, because of adding the beans, I had to add an equal portion of liquid and used a cup and a half of leftover Rosemary water. The Rosemary Chili was born!

Everyone who tried it at Midtown market said they enjoyed it and, of course, added that they would have never thought of doing it, that way. Frankly, neither would I, had I not had the leftover Sicilian spaghetti sauce. Thank you, Joyce, for opening a whole new culinary door for me.

Monday, October 15

Faux Pumpkin Pie - Solar-Baked

Here we are, just a few months away from planning holiday meals with friends and family. I think we all have our own special recipe for a family favorite -- pumpkin pie. But, diid you know that if you find you have forgotten to pick up some canned pumpkin or a fresh pumpkin, you can still enjoy pumpkin pie with your meal? No, I don't mean send someone out to the store to buy one from the local bakery. I mean, if you have some carrots on hand, you can make a faux pumpkin pie that is almost indistinguishable from the real thing. And, the bonus is that it's even healthier for you!

It was pie baking day at the Midtown Market and I decided to make the faux recipe and test people's reactions to it. Well, friends, it was thumbs-up all the way! I even had one lady who told me, if I had a license to sell my pies, she would have bought three on the spot. This recipe came from one of my favorite web sites, Pick Your Own, and it was super easy. I decided to make two pies, stacking them, in the solar oven but having a crust in only one pie so that folks who were allergic to wheat would be able to have a taste. By the way, the Pick Your Own site is chock-full of great substitution recipes and a great one to have bookmarked for future reference. The recipe given on the site is meant for all countries and has all the conversions etc. needed. I was Booth #3 for the voting and won't know the outcome until next Saturday.

Faux Pumpkin Pie

Three cups cooked carrots; puréed down to two cups
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 half teaspoon ground cloves
1 half teaspoon ground ginger
1 half teaspoon Mace
1 half teaspoon vanilla extract
1 half teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
1 can evaporated milk, 12 ounce size

Preheat solar oven to 225F. 2 nine-inch pie plates and enough of your favorite pie crust pastry to make a bottom crust in each pan. I used four of those disposable foil pie pans and binder clips in the solar oven.

Combine all ingredients, pour over pie crust; cover, and bake in solar oven for approximately 45 minutes or until pie has firmed up a bit. While pies are baking, prepare a topping of one-half cup pecans with one-eighth cup butter and one-quarter cup brown sugar in a saucepan over low to medium heat and let the butter sizzle enough to caramelize the sugar.

I've stacked the pies and had the solar oven raised on its extended leg to get the earliest sun possible in its Fall trajectory. Because I was at the Market, I had the topping mixture in a plastic bag inside a pint-sized canning jar in the EZ-3 solar oven at the left and let the topping melt at the same time, so it would be ready and easy to pour when the pie firmed up. (You can almost see the butter stick.) Then, you just sprinkle the pecan topping over the firmed up pie; cover, and finish baking. Pie is done when a clean knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

I think this may be my last day to actually cook at the Market because we close at noon and the sun has moved so far from the Spring position that it's almost 9:30 a.m. before it hits my booth, leaving almost no time for cooking and sharing samples. I think it's time to re-introduce my visitors to the beauty of the Wonder Box Cooker and heat retention cooking, don't you?

I do hope you'll give this recipe a try and discover just how delicious it is before you serve it to your guests. Then, you can see if they can tell the difference. We'd love to know what happens! Keep your fingers crossed for me and I'll let you know what happened in the pie baking contest.

Sunday, October 7

Liquid Sunshine Makes Gods Laugh at Midtown Market 9/29

You would think, after all these years, that I would understand the Laws of the Universe – that is to say, the gods are only waiting to hear your plans, to give themselves a good laugh. This has been a great year at the Midtown Market at North Hills, with plenty of sunshine for solar cooking. But, on September 29, it was going to be a special day for mainstream solar cooking, with local television taping. So, it only made cosmic sense that Mother Nature would pick that day to flex her muscles and favor us with nonstop liquid sunshine (more commonly known as 'heavy showers')

The reporter and I had already agreed in advance that we'd be filming like the cooking shows, with a finished dish ready for the viewers, following the taping of the preparation steps. The sun shone bright on Friday and I solar cooked my recipes the day before so everything was at the ready. Well, Saturday, the rains put a stop to our plans and the taping was called off. On the bright side, there was plenty of food to share with family and friends -- a treat that doesn't often happen on market day.

They had my version of mini-Pigs in a Blanket, Roasted Onions with Lobster Stuffing, and Eggplant Wrapped Noodles. Now, wouldn't that have made a wonderful presentation for the TV viewers! In any event, I've decided to share the recipes with you and hope you like them.

Pigs in a Blanket – these were the easiest to make. I used some left over bread dough that I rolled into logs and then cut into 48 one-inch pieces. One pound of cocktail franks, each cut into thirds, was put in a large Ziploc bag and shaken in a combination of 2 tablespoons tomato powder, 1/4 teaspoon chipotle pepper, 1/2 teaspoon powdered onion, 1/4 teaspoon powdered yellow mustard, and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, until the franks were evenly coated.

Each piece was then inserted into a dough ball, deep enough to prevent it from popping out while baking. (It doesn't hurt to pinch the dough across the top so that the frank is just visible because it will emerge as the dough bakes.) For softer hors d'oeuvres, place each dough-wrapped frank an inch apart on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. The ones in the picture were pushed further down into the dough because they had popped pretty high by the time the whole muffin tin was filled.  I prefer using muffin tins for solar baking and crunchier crusts. Place in a 225°F solar oven and bake for approximately 40 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.

Roasted Onions with Lobster Stuffing – peel and core six medium-sized sweet onions, leaving approximately 1/4 inch for the onion shell and slice just enough off the root end so that it will remain upright in the baking pan.

In a medium bowl, combine 8 ounces chopped lobster, two medium shredded zucchinis, 1 cup finely chopped leeks (white bulb only), 4 ounces feta cheese, 4 ounces ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup Panko crumbs, salt and pepper to taste.

Fill center of each onion with mixture, wrap bottom of onion with a piece of tin foil or use a foil muffin cup to hold juices and place in baking pan. Cover and bake in preheated solar oven at 225°F for approximately 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

Eggplant Wrapped Noodles – this is a multi-process recipe but, oh, so worth the effort because it makes such a beautiful entrée. You can use any long flat wide noodle that you want, but I like using those frilly lasagna noodle edges. You'll need to precook the noodles just to the al dente stage and then trim off the edges, saving the wider noodles for other dishes. Slice two medium eggplants in quarter inch slices from stem to blossom end. (The skin of the eggplant can sometimes be very bitter and you may prefer removing it entirely.)

Fry each slice on both sides for approximately for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes in 2 tablespoons olive oil and place on paper towels to drain.

Spray your baking pan with oil and cover the bottom with your favorite tomato sauce. While each rollup should have five strips of noodles, lasagna noodles can be quite thick and four is more than enough. Divide your noodles so that you have enough for each eggplant slice. Arrange noodles crosswise at blossom end of an eggplant slice and roll towards stem end; place seam side down in baking dish. Place as many rollups as you can in the baking dish without causing any of them to pop above the others.

Add a tablespoon of sauce over eggplant part of each rollup, cover pan and bake in preheated solar oven at 225°F for approximately 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

A very wet day, indeed. My shoes were soaked and cuffs rolled. See?

But, 'tis an ill wind that blows no good, at all, and we ended up with some delicious recipes; don't you think.


Monday, October 1

Curried Meatballs and Summer Veggies over Rice

One of the first meals I've baked in my SolarChief(R) mainstream solar oven. It's very hard to take pictures of both the oven and the baking because it's big and there's so much reflection -- and, I'm not a photographer! I changed the handle location so that there would be no difference between the standing and wall units. Fantastic result! Reflectors are easily removed but stay firmly locked in place on windy days.

Curried Meatballs and Summer Veggies over Rice

Half bag of ready-made meatballs, defrosted
2.5 cups hot water
1/4 cup tomato powder
3 large cucumbers, pared, seeded and diced
3 medium pattypan squash, cored and diced
2 banana peppers, seeded and diced
2 poblano peppers, seeded and diced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 T worcestershire sauce
1 tsp sweet basil
1/2 tsp mint
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp stevia

Preheat solar oven 225F   Covered baking dish

Brown meatballs (if desired) over med-high heat in heavy skillet. Remove and place in baking dish. Return skillet to heat and saute onions and peppers until onions begin to sweat; add cucumbers and squash and heat through.  Pour over meatballs.

Use microwave-proof measuring cup for water; add herbs, worcestershire sauce, and spices; stir and microwave on HIGH for 3 minutes. Pour over ingredients in casserole. Cover and bake in solar oven for 1.5 to 2 hours. Serve with your favorite noodles or rice.

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