Friday, June 21

3-2-1 Cake, Squash, and Tea at the Market!

Last Saturday was a great day for solar cooking at the Midtown Raleigh Farmers Market on the Commons at North Hills Mall. Started preparing tea water and summer squash (with some garlic from my neighboring vendor, Donald and Doris Kidd of Kidd Farm. They have fabulous elephant garlic, as well as other varieties, and it's a great place to stock up.  This will be mostly pictures.

Started my summer squash combo of Yellow Crookneck and Pattypan squash with chopped garlic stems, salt and pepper in the Global Sun Oven(R) and tea water in the EZ-3 at 8:15.  Once the squash pans were hot, I transferred them over to the SolarCub(R)

I knew another vendor, Better be Ellerbe,  would be bringing fresh peaches and bought a bag to create a peach layer under my 3-2-1 cakes.  So I used two peaches per 7-inch foil baking pan and doubled the cake recipe. Since you can stack your pans in a solar oven, I had three cakes going by 8:40 a.m. Phew! Time to take a break with a soothing cup of Camomile tea.

And was serving samples by 9:30!  The top layer was done, first, and I let the others stay in the oven until needed and completely baked.  I forgot my stacking dividers and made some out of heavy-duty tinfoil. Not the best for anything but light foods; but, they served the purpose.

There was still more than enough time before the Market closed at noon to bake another cake for my gentleman caller!  That gave the visitors something to watch, as well, and moved a lot of solar kits, too!  This week, I'll be heading down to Hickory, North Carolina for a solar workshop and need to make some lists so I don't forget anything!

So, we've done the 3-2-1 cake in a cup, stacked with lemon curd and, now, baked with a layer of fresh peaches.  Does that give you any ideas you'd like to share?  Please do.

Wednesday, June 19

Solar 3-2-1 Cake - a Great Personal Dessert!

After seeing this 3-2-1 cake recipe in so many blogs, I decided to give it a try -- first per directions and, then, using the solar oven to see how well it would work at my booth and for demos.  The basic recipe is one box of angel food cake mix with a box of any other favorite cake mix, thoroughly combined.  You are then able to make just a cup of cake, at a time, by combining 3 tablespoons of mix with 2 tablespoons of water and bake it for 1 minute in the microwave. Voila! Instant personal serving. It's the egg whites in the Angel Food cake mix that gives it the leavening. Well, I tried it and loved the results, didn't like the texture or taste. I wanted a fuller cake experience. Sooooooo, I added some of my powdered eggs to the mixture. Two tablespoons to be exact, to match the 3 eggs called for in the German chocolate cake mix I was using. Oh, yes. This was the solution.
Started with a zip-lock bag of Angel Food and German Chocolate Cake mixes with the powdered eggs.
Gave them a good shaking and blending.
Put the mixture into a canning jar and added instructions.
Did my first test run and prepared a cup.
End result was a cup high cake with great taste and texture.
Time for the solar cooking test.  Decided to use a shallow foil pan to see what would happen and how much I would need for samples.  BUT, first, I created this wonderful oven bag 'tent' from wire hangers to make sure the bag didn't collapse during baking. (I did NOT expect this to cook in one minute using a solar oven!)
And, here it is doing a wonderful job in the SolarCub(R) 

In just 35 minutes, I had a lovely sample height cake from just one serving recipe. At the Market, I would double it because there was this little idea forming about fresh peaches. . .
Meanwhile, I was just too lazy to make frosting and decided to use some lemon curd as a filling. A very good decision.
The beauty of this recipe is that I don't have to worry about carrying eggs, oil, etc., to give demonstrations. Just the mix and some water and it's good to go.  Hope you'll try it.

Monday, June 10

Solar Roasted Fresh Garden Veggies and Greens

This year's garden is flourishing and the pattypan squash is demanding attention. Harvest time means it's also time to get started on my annual powdered vegetable mix. By the end of the growing season, I have several jars full of vitamins and nutritious flavor to enhance and thicken my gravies, sauces, and meat mixtures. I do a partial roasting of the veggies before dehydrating, powdering, and then adding each batch to the jar until it is full, when I thoroughly combine everything. By partially roasting the vegetables, they rehydrate quickly but are not overcooked in the final dish. It's an ideal way to both add vegetables and thicken your  sauces and mixes, without using flour.
It was a good time to test both my Copenhagen-type solar oven and a SolarCub(R) without its insulated carrier. Used two five-quart Pyrex bowls that I bought at the thrift shop for only $5.99 each (you can still see the price on the bottom, there!) in the larger oven (15" sides) and a quart-sized canning jar in an oven bag in the SolarCub(R) (12" sides). The 'greens' in the Copenhagen were edible pea pods and a mixture of lettuce, spinach, and chard, in the SolarCub(R).

Two bowls create oven chamber in Copenhagen-type oven
I am the first one to say that testing greens in a solar oven is a lot like frying eggs on a sidewalk -- it's going to happen. Greens break down in heat, rapidly, so there was no question in my mind that things would get done -- even though I started after two in the afternoon. The Pyrex bowls were heavy enough that I didn't need anything to hold the top one in place. I used an oven bag and a rice bag for the "floor" of the SolarCub.

Oven bag with rice bag 'floor'
By three-thirty p.m., the roasting was done. You can see how much the greens reduced in volume in the canning jar. They were stuffed tight to the top at the start.


It's a little harder to see the difference with the pea pods, because I forgot to take a 'before' picture, but both are now ready for the dehydrator.

Oh, I refurbished my garden this year and some of the radishes are really big! My Dad loved radishes and this one would have pleased him, I'm sure.

As summer advances, I'll have several of these ovens set up for the prep work for my veggie mix. I can be roasting from early morn until late afternoon, keeping my kitchen cool, and my energy bill low. It doesn't get any better.

Sunday, June 2

Solar Roasted Goat-Lamb Loaf

I need to vent! This has been a very busy spring and Blogger is giving me fits! Is anyone else running into the problem of bringing up your page (or, any page, for that matter) and then immediately being whisked to another full page of advertising?  I don't even click on anything, and I'm taken away. Don't like it. Don't like it, at all.  Phew! Glad that's out. Today's meal is a result of trying some ground goat meat from Walk Ahead Farms, another vendor at the Midtown Farmers Market on the Commons at North Hills Mall.

My previous experience with goat meat has been that it is very lean and so I decided to add some ground lamb to juice it up, rather than butter. Even though I made a loaf, it's really much closer to compact gyro meat and lends itself to a variety of serving choices. For the Market, I served it with small strips of solar-toasted bread and a little spread made from yogurt, dill, onion and cucumber. Even folks who had never tried goat, before, loved it. 

Small foil baking pan, covered for cooking
Walk Ahead Farms raises Boer goats for their meat and it's much more succulent than the goat meat I've had through the years. The lamb added some fat to it and the texture was very close to that of the gyro sandwich meat.  I used smaller loaf tins that were lined with doubled paper toweling to collect the grease during cooking. Because of the short time for cooking and sharing at the Market, I've been using multiple smaller pans to be ready for serving sooner and still keep the rest hot until needed. Once loaf is cooked, remove the paper toweling before presentation and serving.

I've removed the paper toweling and cut it up in the tray for the
Market visitors
The herbs were garden-fresh. You may have to adjust the portions to suit your taste, if using dried herbs. I generally take a very small portion of my final mixture and zap it in the microwave to see if I need to adjust anything before baking a whole loaf.

Roasted Goat-Lamb Loaf

1 pound ground goat meat
1 pound ground lamb meat
2 eggs
1/2 cup chopped onions
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 T rosemary
1 T garlic chive
1/2 T dill
1/2 T oregano
1/4 T thyme
1 tsp basil
1 tsp stevia
1 T tomato powder
1 tsp tomato paste
1 tsp grated lemon rind

Preheat solar oven to 225F.  Line baking pans with parchment paper or paper toweling.

Finely chop herbs and onion and combine with rest of ingredients; mix thoroughly. If you don't have tomato powder, use 2 T tomato paste. Divide into loaf pans and bake in solar oven until cooked through, approximately 50 minutes.

Because of the density of the cooked loaf, it was very easy to slice and fry for a tasty breakfast treat.

I hope you'll give goat meat a try, if you  haven't yet had a chance to taste this delicious protein. And, as always, we'd love to hear what you think of it, too.

Friday, May 10

Solar Chicken Greens and Spicy Cheese

Did you ever see a recipe with ingredients that just grabbed you and you had to make it, right then and there? My niece shared one on Facebook that was low carb and looked absolutely delicious from Tonya Stairs's healthy recipes, so you might want to check out Tonya's page when you're through here for the original Pepper-Jack Cheese and Spinach Stuffed Chicken recipe. Well, I had everything on hand – sort of, and ended up with a dish that was just as mouth-watering (using my imagination, here, based on Tonya's ingredients) with an end result that delivered more surprises. You can slice in any direction for equal portions, freeze it for another meal, or, cut it small enough for dainty hors d'oeuvres! Love multi-tasking foods; don't you.

I decided to use parchment paper to line my pan to make it easier for cutting and serving. Oops! That sounds as though I knew what the end result would be, and, I didn't. My main hope was that any extra grease would be absorbed by the paper.

By resting the, uh, ah, lasagna (?) (Are noodles required to call a dish lasagna?) for about ten minutes, cutting was very easy with little damage to the top layer. This was a totally unexpected drop-your-jaw delicious entrée. A definite repeat recipe and one, I think, I will do for next week's Midtown visitors!

Preheat your solar oven to 225°F and, for an all-round heat, use a rice bag on the bottom.

Solar Chicken Greens and Spicy Cheese Lasagna
Chicken Layer:
1 lb ground chicken
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 eggs
2 Tablespoons fresh breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper to taste
1-1/2 Tablespoons fresh herb mixture: dill, stevia, oregano, garlic chives, basil, parsley. (When I pick my herbs from the garden, I generally pick just one end of a leafy section or what looks like it would become about 1/2 tablespoon when chopped. Rosemary is just a small sprig.)
1/4 cup white wine
Mix together and then spread over bottom of pan. Mixture should be thick but easy to spread without being 'saucy.'
1 lb of combined fresh spinach, lettuce, and chard, end stems removed and greens softened in 1/4 cup of water over medium heat. Drain and cool before spreading over chicken layer.
Cheese Layer:
4 oz sour cream
8 oz cream cheese
4 oz mozzarella cheese (I didn't have Monterrey Pepper Jack Cheese)
1 egg
1 Tablespoon finely chopped hot peppers of your choice. (I used JRods Backyard Grill Chipotle Brown Sugar BBQ Sauce – a Midtown vendor who makes it fresh)
1 Tablespoon of above chopped herb mixture

Blend together until there are no cheesy lumps in mixture, then spread over greens layer. Cover or use two pans; one for the food and an inverted one for the cover.

After approximately 40 minutes, check for doneness with a toothpick, continue baking, uncovered, until lightly browned and an inserted knife comes out clean. You can also check with a little jiggle of the pan to see if the center is almost firm. There are eggs in the cheese mixture, so they will continue to cook while resting. You want the layers done without being too firm.

Serve in rectangles, diamonds, circles – let your imagination soar, because it's a dish that begs you to play with it. I could see cutting out little shapes for the children, as well, to get those greens into them. Who knew that substituting almost everything could have such a happy result? Give it a try and let us see some of your presentations.


Thursday, May 2

Solar Workshops go Mobile

There had to be a better way to carry around everything I needed for both the Midtown Farmers Market and the Solar Workshops around the State. I'd been looking at cargo trailers and wanted something sturdy but light enough that I could  handle in my advanced years and settled on this lovely grey Diamond Cargo 4'x6' trailer. I would have to do my own internal fixtures, so it was to the drawing board with thoughts of multi-purpose trailer living before ending up with several designs to make everything accessible with the least amount of trouble to my knees!
It started with a blank exterior slate.
And, an interior with a whole lot of empty waiting for the 'pimping.'  My main focus was to stop things from sliding around and keeping a path to the back.
With the interior height at just below 48 inches and not wanting to spend the next few years with a bent neck or on my knees, I bought a little wheeled tool holder for scooting around. Not entirely visible, you can see the tools on the hood ready for use. Let me say that it worked perfectly for moving back and forth, with plenty of head room and a nice seated height. Good choice.
Turns out, the walls are a composite that is seriously hard (good construction) and even with using an electric drill for pre-drilling holes, they were very resistant to the eyebolts. I'm nothing, if not persistent, and, many minutes later, four vertical reinforcing ribs were installed, placing screws at 4" intervals, top and bottom, with eyebolts in between. This would hold the SolarChief(R) in place with heavy-duty bungee cords. Then, I decided I didn't need to work THAT hard and simply placed eyebolts around the rest of the trailer to bungee things as needed. Those over-the-door half-hampers on the left work great for holding my craft items and are only eleven inches deep. A super bonus was that the hooks fit over the inside trailer wall. Yay!
I have plenty of room for all my ovens and accessories, held tightly in place, with center room for moving back and forth without having to move items.
The craft holders were moved to the back, the SolarChief(R) is in place, and there's room for all the ovens and materials for the workshops. Watch out North Carolina; here I come!

Saturday, April 27

Solar Shrimp Wontons and Fresh Spring Spinach

See those sloppy wontons?  I made them. Oh, yeah. Thought I had the smaller wrappers on hand, but turns out they were the big ones. Now, there's nothing wrong with excess wonton dough, unless, of course, you're an aficionado and demand a ravioli-type fit. I just made the filling bigger and added cooking time. I mean, they're used for egg rolls; right?  For company, I would have made the trek to the store for the right size; for just us, availability and hunger won out.  The spinach is fresh from my garden; but, the tomato is from the neighborhood produce market. Sold as garden-fresh, brought up from Florida, means truck tomato, to me, and they simply do not taste garden fresh. We still have a few months to go before the garden produces the ones I've planted.
But, there was fresh lettuce in my garden to line the steamer, so I was committed.
Used a fat tablespoon for the filling, slopped the edges with water, and gently brought everything together. I like to use tinfoil beneath the wrapper, when I don't have cheesecloth, because it prevents sticking during the construction phase.

I used a baking rack set on a sheet of tinfoil in my baking pan and covered it with some fresh lettuce as a base for the wontons, adding a cup of water in the bottom for steaming.

I then created a foil cover, sealing top and bottom, and put it in my 275F preheated GSO for forty-five minutes.  The end result was luscious, ugly, wontons and very wilted lettuce.

The shrimp filling was interesting but I think I prefer a different protein. Will have to do it, again, to make sure. I'm not overly fond of seafood and pasta, either, so that may well color my feelings.

Shrimp Filling

20-30 shelled and deveined raw shrimp
1/4 cup shredded carrot
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger
1 small clove finely chopped garlic
1 Tablespoon finely chopped sweet onion
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon Chinese spice
1 teaspoon finely chopped basil
8 - 10 Wonton wrappers

I used my food processor for final mincing of the shrimp and other ingredients but shred and chopped the veggies, first. Pulse until everything is blended and looks finely minced.

Place a large tablespoon of mixture on center of wonton wrapper and bring up watered sides to seal. Place on lettuce-leaf bed. Bake for approximately 40 minutes at 275F.

Serve with soy sauce or create your own favorite dipping sauce.

Monday, April 22

Acorn Squash in EZ-3 Solar Oven


 One of the easiest ways of solar cooking squashes, root crops, and corn, is by simply placing them whole in the solar oven and letting nature take its course. Within a few hours, you have a delicious vegetable, prepared in its own jacket, still full of all the nutrients, to serve in your favorite way. I made a much larger EZ-3 oven for the Midtown Market booth, and decided to check out the timing with the added insulation. Got slammed with a stomach virus and have only just felt well enough to catch up on my blogging. The picture is blah, and for that I apologize, but it's the end result that counts.
Because I was using was is basically and cardboard and tinfoil solar oven, I knew that the cooking times would be at least two-and-a-half times conventional timing, but still faster than a slow cooker. In addition to the insulation used, I had a rice bag preheating for a bottom base, and used craft plastic (available in sewing departments) for the glazing and covered the entire EZ-3 oven. You can also use a large oven bag opened to a single layer, or use two to reduce condensation.
As I've often mentioned, I have no problems 'helping' my solar cooking by preparing foods so that they will cook evenly and faster, the same as one would do for a crock pot meal. Knowing that it would definitely take longer to cook the acorn squash, I peeled and sliced it, first, positioned it in a metal baking pan and added 1/2 cup seasoned juice. Covered it with foil and placed it in an oven bag.
Within two hours, squash is ready and simply mashed in the delicious gravy. Unfortunately, I forgot what the mixture was, exactly, but know there was chicken stock, 3 star anise, salt and pepper, a pinch of cinnamon, and -- then, my mind goes blank. So sorry. But, it was cooked through and very easily mashed with a fork, after removing the star anise and seeds.
It was delicious and proved that the EZ-3 does a great job.

Sunday, April 7

SolarCub Solar Oven in Jacket Carrier

SolarCub(R) in Insulated Jacket Carrier
We solar cookers keep trying to find just the right portable oven to bring this exciting money-saving method of cooking meals to the general public. I focus on the mainstream and try to make it as appealing, as possible. In that regard, I offer different levels of start-up ovens, beginning with my mini-oven kit that will bake single-serving dishes, up to my SolarCub(R).  In my workshops, depending on their length, participants are shown how to make a variety of ovens from cardboard and foil; such as, the Copenhagen, E-Z3, and my own adaptation of the Cook-It.  For those people who simply want to buy an oven without having to build it, themselves, the SolarCub(R) is a ready-made kit, ready to assemble in a snap! The insulated jacket combining protection against the wind, retention of heat, and a carry handle for easy transport, is sold separately.
As I mentioned, assembly is a snap.

There is no bottom because I use rice/bean bags as a base and vessel holder.  The empty bag is included in the kit, with instructions on how to fill and close it for use. In addition, there is a piece of unhemmed 100% cotton knit black material to use as a heat-drawing cover.
To prevent movement, spills, and offer some insulation, I suggest that my customers use either a large blanket or box as a nest. But, you know me, if I can sew something, I'll do it, and the SolarCub(R) Carrier Jacket was born.  It snaps to the SolarCub(R) and remains stable in winds between 5-20 mph, while helping to retain heat. Alligator clips for attaching the jacket to the oven, rather than snaps, can also be used.

I think you can see the rice bag on the bottom, stabilizing the canning jar in SolarWear(R) and set in a double-folded oven bag,

Because the jacket is soft, it is easily raised to a true vertical position in the winter months. I've used a 2"x4" piece of wood here; but, you can use whatever you want.

When the meal is done, remove the cooking pot and begin cooking something else (if it's early enough in the day), or simply snap the handles together and bring it all inside! I love the food pattern on the Jacket Carrier; don't you?
My booth at the Farmers Market on the Commons at North Hills, Raleigh, opens on May 4th. Hope to see you there. For those wanting a SolarCub(R) Jacket Carrier that does not snap to the SolarCub(R), you can place an order anytime and it will be available for pick-up two weeks from date of purchase or shipment. If you want a Jacket Carrier that snaps to your solar oven, both items will be available two weeks from date of purchase.  Now, to make a matching hat and apron! Not!
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