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!

Tuesday, April 2

A Forbidden! Solar Black Rice Sirloin Tip Meal

I am now on a par with the Chinese Emperors. Oh, yes; shocking but true! Me. Who knew? It all began with my quarterly refurbishing of grains and rices from Whole Foods. Blithely filling the bags with bulk this-and-that, I saw what I first thought were black beans, only to discover they were tiny grains of rice – by name, Forbidden Rice! Now, this may not be news to all of you, but it was quite the surprise to me, I can assure you. See, in the photo, how tiny they are, after being cooked? They are but a hair larger than their dehydrated size. But, the taste -- Oi-vey! such a delightful, nutty, flavor with just the right amount of al dente texture. It will definitely be a part of my final meal, if I do get a word. I can see why only the Emperors were allowed this fantastic grain.
It's obvious that I'm going to have to work on more appealing photos, but time will take care of that and, meanwhile, you'll be coming up with your own. I used both a metal loaf pan and a round baking pan for the solar dinner, and used aluminum foil for the cover. Rinsed and then pre-soaked the rice for about 20 minutes to begin rehydration and then poured it into the loaf pan, adding water brought to the boil in the microwave. The veggies and sirloin tips were sauté, placed in their own baking pan, and mixed with the sauce.

The solar oven had reached 250°F and I stacked the baking pan over the loaf pan. Days are getting longer and the meal was started at 12:45 p.m. In just under 1.5 hours, this very dark but delicious dinner was ready and we were very happy to tuck in.

Forbidden Black Rice

1 cup Forbidden Black rice
1-7/8 cups water, brought to boil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sesame oil

Rinse and pre-soak rice for approximately 20 minutes. Pour into casserole, add water, cover with foil and place in solar oven for approximately 1.5 hours. Let rest for 10 minutes, fluff with fork and combine  with oil, salt and pepper to taste.

Sirloin Tip Mix

1/2 pound sirloin tips, cubed
1 T tallow/oil
1 green bell pepper, sliced vertically then cut in half
1 medium sweet onion, sliced vertically
1 T fresh ginger, cut into pieces, then removed before serving
1 T soy sauce
1 T Chinese orange sauce
1 T grapeseed oil
1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
1 tsp Chinese spice mix

Preheat solar oven to at least 225F. Use separate covered casseroles.  Dry sirloin tips with paper towel and brown in tallow/oil; remove to casserole pan. Saute peppers, onion, and ginger, until soft; add to sirloin tips. Combine rest of ingredients with sirloin tip mixture. Cover with foil, bake in solar oven for approximately 1.5 hours. Stir, then serve.

I kept the rice and stew separate and added a touch of the sauce to the rice so you could see the sesame seed size against the cooked black rice grains. Normally, I would place the stew over the rice but it just didn't look right -- not that this does. I need a red ribbon, or something. But, don't be fooled, there's a powerful amount of taste in every bite.  I hope you'll give Forbidden Rice a try. It's expensive, but don't you deserve it? You bet your sweet bippy you do. Don't forget to share your recipe!

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