Beef Stew with Pasta

Dutch Oven

Sometimes when the weather is a bit iffy I like to use my Dutch oven for solar cooking. If clouds do roll in, it’s easy to transfer to the stove. Browning the meat stovetop not only improves the flavor of the meat, it also preheats the pot which in turn reduces the over all cooking time.

Corsican Beef Stew

(adapted for the Sun Oven from Mediterranean Food of the Sun)


1 ounce dried mushrooms (preferably porcini)

6 cloves garlic, divided

2 pounds stewing beef, cut into chunks

4 ounces salt pork or thick bacon, cut into strips*

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 onion, thinly sliced

1 1/4 cups dry white wine

2 tablespoons tomato paste

pinch of ground cinnamon

1 bay leaf

1 sprig of fresh rosemary

for serving:

8 ounces (dry) macaroni or other similar shaped pasta

2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese


Set Sun Oven out to preheat.

In a small bowl, soak the dried mushrooms in warm water; set aside.

Cut 3 of the garlic cloves into thin strips. Use a sharp knife to cut 1 or 2 slits into each chunk of beef. Insert a piece of garlic and salt pork into the slits. Season the meat with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven, add half of the beef and brown on all sides transferring it to a plate as it browns. Repeat with the remaining beef. Add the onion to the Dutch oven and cook, stirring often, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Mince the remaining 3 cloves of garlic and add it to the onions with the meat and any accumulated juices. Strain the mushroom reserving the soaking water. Stir in the wine, tomato paste, drained mushrooms, cinnamon, bay leaf, and rosemary. Strain the mushroom water through a paper towel and add it to the pot. Cover and transfer to the Sun Oven. Cook until the beef is very tender, about 3 hours. Discard the rosemary sprig and the bay leaf. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Just before serving cook the pasta according to the instructions of the package. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the beef chunks to a warm serving plater. Toss the cooked pasta with the sauce in the Dutch oven and the grated cheese.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

*Frozen salt pork or bacon will be easier to work with.



Fall Veggies in a Curry Stew

Veggie Curry

A bowl of this rich, satisfying, vegan stew hits the spot on a cold winter’s night.

Curried Vegetable Stew

(adapted for the Sun Oven from Ellie Krieger’s Comfort Food Fix)


1 onion, coarsely chopped

4 cloves garlic, peeled

1 piece (1 1/2-inch long) fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced

1 1/2 tablespoons yellow curry powder

1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder (or more to taste)

2 tablespoons coconut oil

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 cups vegetable broth

1 cup light coconut milk

1 cinnamon stick

freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/2 head cauliflower broken into 1 1/2-inch florets (about 3 cups)

1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

2 larges carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch rounds

2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped

grated zest of 1 lime

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

1 can (15-ounce) chickpeas, drained and rinsed

5 cups baby spinach leaves

salt to taste

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves


Set Sun Oven out to preheat.

Place the onion, garlic, ginger, curry powder, and cayenne in a food processor; pulse to combine. Add the coconut oil and process until a smooth puree has formed. Transfer the curry puree to a Dutch oven over medium heat and cook, stirring often for about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and continue cooking and stirring until the mixture darkens; about 5 more minutes. Add the broth, coconut milk, cinnamon, pepper, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, carrots, and tomatoes. Cover and transfer to the Sun Oven. Cook until the vegetables are tender, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Remove and discard the cinnamon stick (can be prepared up to this point then finished stovetop just before serving).

Transfer the Dutch oven to the stove over medium heat. Stir in the zest, lime juice, chickpeas, and spinach. Cook until the spinach has wilted; about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt.

Ladle into bowls or serve over rice. Garnish each serving with cilantro.




Super Easy Sausage Sandwiches


Here’s another dinner that easy to throw together on a hectic day. Once again, it uses an ingredient that I normally stay away from; purchased spaghetti sauce, but this time of year I’m grateful for its convenience. I’d even have used frozen bell peppers if I’d thought of it.

Solar Sausage Sandwich

(adapted for the Sun Oven from Crock-Pot Best Loved Slow Cooker Recipes)


4 to 6 Italian sausages

1 jar (26-ounces) tomato spaghetti sauce

1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced

2 red bell peppers, seeded and thinly sliced

1/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed


Set Sun Oven out to preheat.

Place the sausages in a large pot. Cover with the onion and peppers. Mix the sugar into the sauce and pour it over the contents in the pot. Cover and cook in the Sun Oven until the vegetables are soft and the sausages are fully cooked, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Serve with Italian rolls.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Sun Simmered Soup

New Sun Oven

Weight Watcher members know this as Garden Soup and know that it can be a life saver. Having a big pot of it on hand this week may be all it takes to make it through the holiday without packing on a few extra pounds. It’s so low in calories and high in healthy vegetables that it’s considered a “free food”. Enjoy a bowl of it for lunch while you take a break from baking pies for Thanksgiving day. You can use any mixture of low calorie vegetables you like, just stay away from corn, peas, potatoes, yams, and beans. And while I normally shy away from them, you can significantly cut down on the prep time by purchasing any precut vegetables you local market may offer.

Solar Practically No Calorie Soup

(adapted for the Sun Oven from Moosewood Restaurant New Classics)


1 carton (32 ounce) nonfat or 99% fat free broth, vegetable or chicken

2 onions, diced (about two cups)

4 to 5 stalks celery, diced (about 1 cup)

2 carrots, peeled and diced (about 1 cup)

1 cup frozen cut green beans

1 1/2 cups shredded green cabbage

1 bell red bell pepper, seeded and diced (about 1 cup)

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 can (28-ounce) diced tomatoes with their juices

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried dill

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme


Set Sun Oven out to preheat.

Combine all the ingredients in a large pot. Cover and cook in the Sun Oven until the vegetables are tender, about 1 hour. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve as is or use an immersion blender to puree.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.


Savory Solar Breakfast Sandwiches

Mini Omlettes

Single serve customized mini omelettes are another great do-ahead option for anyone who prefers a savory breakfast. To make them simply gather a variety of the usual omelette components: shredded cheese, crumbled cooked bacon, diced ham, chopped veggies and herbs, etc. Beat some eggs (calculate 1 egg per omelette) with a touch of milk, salt, and pepper. Coat muffin tins or silicon baking molds with cooking spray. Sprinkle a mixture of the assembled filler into the bottom of the tins (be sure to leave enough room for the egg) and cover with beaten eggs. Pop the tins in the Sun Oven and bake until set, 20 to 30 minutes. Serve immediately or let cool and wrap each mini-omelette in plastic wrap.  They can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Use them for breakfast sandwiches or serve with a tossed salad for a light lunch.

Solar Baked Cherry Oatmeal

Cherry Oatmeal

Baked oatmeal is the perfect make ahead breakfast. It’s good straight out of the oven but it’s even better the next day. You can use any kind of fruit and nuts, but I like using cherries this time of year. It’s a little unexpected surprise and a break from the apples and pumpkin that seems to be in just about all the holiday baked treats.

Cherry Almond Oatmeal Bake


2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

3/4 cup brown sugar, packed

1 cup raw almonds, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup dried cherries

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

pinch ground nutmeg

2 cups milk

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup butter, melted

1 bag (10-ounces) frozen sweet cherries


Set Sun Oven out to preheat. Spray a baking pan with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, brown sugar, almonds, dried cherries, baking powder, salt, cardamom, cinnamon, and nutmeg. In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, vanilla extract, and melted butter. Pour the milk mixture into the oat mixture and stir to combine. Spread the cherries out in the prepared baking pan. Pour the oat mixture evenly over the cherries. Cover and bake in the Sun Oven until set and golden, 1 t0 1 1/2 hours. Serve warm or at room temperature. Can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.


Sun Oven Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry Sauce Bowl

Cranberry sauce is so easy to prepare stove top that I’ve never really though about making it in my Sun Oven. After all, you just combine the ingredients in a sauce pan, bring it to a boil, simmer a few minutes, let it cool, and it’s done. It practically makes itself. Then I remembered all those times when the turkey was about to come out of the oven and I suddenly shouted, “The cranberry sauce! I forgot to make it!” Well, this year I only have to remember to take it out of the refrigerator. And if I forget, cold cranberry sauce is better than no cranberry sauce.

Solar Cranberry Sauce


2 oranges

The zest from one of the oranges

1 (12-ounce) bag fresh cranberries, picked over and rinsed

1 cup sugar

3 tablespoons water

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon


Set Sun Oven out to preheat.

Peel both oranges taking care to remove all the white pith. Roughly chop the fruit. Combine the zest and fruit with the remaining ingredients in a large pot. Cover and cook in the Sun Oven until the cranberries burst, 1 t0 1 1/2 hours. Let cool slightly then transfer the sauce to a serving bowl. Sauce will look watery but will set as it cools. Can be stored in a cover container and refrigerated for up to two weeks.

Cranberry Sauce


Make and Bake Pasta

Sausage Penne

This time of year, with fewer hours of sunlight and more chance of cloudy days, I like to do my prep work the night before. If the atmospheric conditions are favorable I’m ready to pop dinner (or lunch) in the Sun Oven and if clouds roll in I use a conventional oven.

Baked Penne and Sausage

(adapted for the Sun Oven from America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family)


1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes, with their juices

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, halved and thinly sliced

1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into matchsticks

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more to taste)

2 Italian sausages, (pork, turkey, or chicken) casings removed

8 ounces whole-wheat penne

1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese


Set Sun Oven out to preheat. Coat a 8-inch square baking dish with cooking spray; set aside. In a food processor, pulse the tomatoes with their juices until mostly smooth, about 5 pulses.

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and bell pepper and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes. Add the sausage, stirring with a wooden spoon to break it up. Cook until no longer pink. Stir in the processed tomatoes. Bring to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

While the sauce is cooking, bring 4 quarts of water to boil in a large pot. Add the pasta and 1 tablespoon salt and cook, stirring often, until almost al dente, slightly less than the time indicated on the package. Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta and return it to the pot.

Add the sauce and the reserved cooking water to the pasta, tossing to combine. Spread half of the pasta mixture into the prepared baking dish, sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the mozzarella. Repeat with remaining pasta and cheese. Cover the baking dish with tin foil and a dark kitchen towel. Bake in the Sun Oven until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese has melted, about 45 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.

To Make Ahead

After draining the pasta, rinse it under cold water until cool. Assemble the dish as directed with cooled pasta, cooled sauce and pasta water. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Remove the pan from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before baking in the Sun Oven.

Makes 4 servings.

Split Pea and Sweet Potato Soup

Chunky SP SoupI usually use a white potato for this colorful vegetarian soup but I had just over half a sweet potato left over from yesterday’s gratin so into the soup it went.

Chunky Vegetable Split Pea Soup


2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

1 leek, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced

3 carrots, diced

2 stalks celery, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 pound dried split peas, picked over, rinsed, and drained

1 small sweet potato, peeled and diced

8 cups vegetable broth

2 bay leaves

salt and pepper to taste

sour cream for serving (optional)


Set Sun Oven out to preheat.

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, leek, carrots, celery, garlic, and oregano. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the split peas, broth, and bay leaves. Cover and transfer the pot to the Sun Oven until the peas are tender, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and top each serving with a dollop of sour cream.

Makes 8 servings.


Solar Sweet and Sour Pork with Cranberries and Pineapple

Cranberry Pork

The prep time on this roast is practically zero. Serve it with mashed potatoes or creamy polenta.

Pork and Cranberry Roast

(adapted for the Sun Oven from The Noble Pig)


1 boneless pork roast (4 to 5 pounds), trimmed of excess fat, and cut into 2 or three large pieces

Kosher salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste for seasoning the roast

1 can (20-ounce) crushed pineapple

1 can (14.5-ounce) whole berry cranberry sauce

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt


Set Sun Oven out to preheat.

Pat the roast dry and rub with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Place the meat in a large pot or roasting pan. In a large bowl, combine the pineapple, cranberry sauce, cloves, nutmeg, and salt. Pour the mixture over the meat. Cover and cook in the Sun Oven until the meat is tender, 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Serve sliced topped with sauce.

Makes 6 servings.

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