Solar cooking is easy, but getting into the habit of using your Sun Oven can be hard at first. The biggest challenge for me was planning. You don’t have to plan a week’s worth of meals, but you will have to start thinking about what you’re going to make for dinner early in the day or even the night before. It’s so much easier when you have all the ingredients you’ll need on hand when you get up in the morning. Having said that, there’s still plenty of room for spontaneous, spur of the moment, solar cooking. Today, after getting my pre-planned main course going bright and early, I found some baby veggies on sale at the grocery store. I snatched them up, tossed them in with some olive oil, and added them to the Sun Oven to cook along with it. Now all we needed was a nice loaf of bread and we had a meal.
Making meatloaf muffins has many advantages. They cook faster, make portion control easier, freeze well, and are fun to eat. Use your favorite meatloaf recipe or use mine which can be found by clicking here. Serve them with mashed potatoes or make some solar tomato sauce for spaghetti and meatballs. Don’t worry if you don’t have a fancy cast iron pan like the one in the picture, any muffin pan, or even silicone cupcake molds, will work just fine; if not better. Whatever type of cookware you use, it will need to be covered with tin foil and a tea towel, or placed in an oven bag.
Asparagus solar baked in parchment paper comes out evenly cooked without being mushy or floppy. Ideally it should be baked at a low temperature, around 200ºF, for about 90 minutes. Keeping the Sun Oven at such a low temperature requires a bit of attention, it needs to be focused slightly away from the sun and adjusted every 30 minutes or so. If you get distracted the temperature could drop or increase too much. But with a little patience you’ll be rewarded with deliciously crisp spears infused with whatever seasoning you choose. For a quick lunch spread some asparagus on a sheet of parchment paper, drizzle them with olive oil, season with tarragon, toss in some sliced prosciutto and mushrooms. Using a stapler (or kitchen string if you prefer) make a pouch. Bake at 200ºF for 90 minutes. Serve over whole-wheat couscous. Experiment with different seasonings and don’t worry if the GSO gets too hot, it will cook a little faster but will still be delicious.
In many of my previous posts I’ve mentioned freezing any leftovers you might have from your solar cooked soups and stews. When ever possible I freeze mine in containers can go straight to the GSO, not plastic. Aluminum or silicone cookware works great, just keep in mind that solar reheating is not comparable to microwaving you food, it will take much longer. If you’re planning on a reheating something for your lunch, be sure to get it in the Sun Oven before experiencing hunger pains, otherwise you’ll have to scrape together something else for your midday meal and your Sun Oven lunch will turn into Solar cooked dinner – or afternoon snack. With a little bit of trial and error, you’ll be able to get the timing right and enjoy a effortless hot lunch any sunny day of the week.
Toaster ovens accessories are a great source for cookware that can be used in the GSO. There are all sorts of baking pans designed for the toaster oven that are ideal for solar cooking. As most recipe followers know, the most common sized baking dish is 13-x 9- x 2-inch and will not fit in the GSO’s cooking chamber. I’ve found that the best way around that, without modifying the recipe’s quantities, is to use two 9- x 6 1/2- x 2-inch toaster oven baking dishes that can be cross stacked when they are placed on the leveling tray.
Muffin pans create another problem. Two standard 6 cups pans will not fit side by side and the muffins will rise higher than the sides of the pan during baking. To get around this obstacle I use a rack that I cannibalized from a long gone, and not missed, toaster oven of my own. Stacking two muffin pans this way is a bit of a balancing act. Since most muffins need to be baked 30 minutes or less I recommend focusing the GSO before placing the pans in the cooking chamber so you won’t have to move it during the baking time.
Once food is placed in the Global Sun Oven most of your work is done. You don’t need to stir it or worry about it burning. All you have to do is reposition the GSO from time to time and keep an eye on the sky. This means you can use your cookware in ways you may have never thought of before. When making soups or stews I often turn the lid upside down. This way I can either cook directly on the lid or stack another shallow dish on top of it. If the top layer food cooks faster I just take in out when it’s done and turn the lid right side up for the remaining cooking time. It’s also a good way to heat up bread or anything else you might want to serve warm with your meal.
According to Wikipedia, Garibaldi biscuits first appeared during a period of wartime rationing in the mid 1800′s and were named after the Italian general who led the fight to unify Italy; Giuseppe Garibaldi. They were first manufactured in 1861 in Britain and are still available today. In the U.S. they were know as Golden Raisin Biscuits and were made with raisins as opposed to the currants of their British counterparts. The U.S. version is no longer available, but the British one can be found online and in specialty food stores. They were always one of my favorite cookies, not too sweet and with a slightly chewy texture, so I was very pleased to find a recipe for a similar cookie on the King Arthur Flour website not too long ago. I have since made two batches, the first time I followed the recipe to the t. The following has been tweaked just a bit.
Sun Oven Cranberry Orange Garibaldi’s
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
You really can use your Global Sun Oven to cook just about anything that will fit in it. By removing the leveling tray you’ll be able to fit a large stock pot, or even a turkey in a baking bag, in the Global Sun Oven. Just be sure to put a rack or trivet on the floor of the oven. Never place anything directly on the cooking chamber floor. The rack allows the air to flow around the pot and ensures even cooking. So if you want to feed a small crowd or like to make big batches of soup to freeze for later, get out your stock pot and start cooking.
In an earlier post I said that reflective cookware cannot be used in the Sun Oven. That is only partly true. While non reflective, light weight cookware is the workhorse of solar cooking, any pot or pan that will fit in the cooking chamber will work. All you need is a dark tea towel and a little creativity. In fact, figuring out new ways to fit your culinary creations into the Sun Oven is half the fun.
These meatloaf muffins are a perfect example of solar cooking puzzle solving. The white, lidless, Corningware roasting pan I used is a less than ideal candidate for solar cooking. I could have used muffin pans; mine have long lost their shine after years of use; but the cooking juices would have run over and made a mess and I’d still have to concoct some kind of lid. Sun Oven meatloaf browns better and stays moister if it’s covered. So here’s what I did:
First I placed silicone muffin cups in the Corningware pan.
Then I sealed it with aluminum foil.
Finally I covered it with a dark tea towel.
And despite the partially cloudy day my meatloaf muffins were ready in less than two hours.
These are the two pots I use the most. The top one is made of light weight, enameled metal. The bottom one is an enameled cast iron dutch oven. Both can be used in the Sun Oven. In fact any just about any type of cookware can be used in the Sun Oven, as long as it is non reflective and has a lid.
Lighter weight pots heat up faster, which means shorter cooking times. The rule of thumb is to add twenty minutes to the cooking time when using enamelware in the Sun Oven. If I could only have one pot to use in my Sun Oven® it would be the top one, it can be used to cook just about everything.
So why use cast iron at all? One reason – heat retention. Cast iron cookware not only takes longer to heat up, it takes longer to cool down. This comes in handy on those evenings when you want to have dinner after the sun has gone down. The cast iron pot, left in an unopened Sun Oven®, will keep your meal warm until you’re ready to dine.
So don’t let your expensive cookware gather dust now that you own a Sun Oven. Experiment with all kinds of pots and pans. Just keep in mind that the type of cookware generally will not affect the outcome of a recipe, only the cooking times will vary.