One drawback to solar cooking is timing.
A solar cooked dinner has to get started early in the day and a change of plans means you might find yourself with a fully cooked meal that you’re not going to be eating right away.
This happened to me last weekend. I had a batch of braised chicken with tomatoes and olives going in the Sun Oven when we decided to meet up with some friends on the other side of town for dinner.
Once again, just like with yesterday’s cookies, the freezer saved the day.
I divided the stew up into single serving sizes and put them in the freezer.
This morning I popped one in the Sun Oven about an hour before lunch time and I was able to enjoy a hot, solar cooked meal with no prep work and very little clean up.
When it comes to treats I’d rather have a small serving made with real butter than the store bought reduced fat ones.
The problem is limiting myself to just one or two when a freshly baked dozen or so comes out of the oven.
That’s why I like to make cookie dough that can be frozen. When the craving strikes I can bake as many, or as few, as I want.
With the Sun Oven I don’t have to feel guilty about turning on the oven for just one or two cookies.
Sun Oven Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 generous cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1/2 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
A small amount of white rice gives this soup a creamy texture without adding any fat. Try using different vegetable and herb combinations to create your own favorite or use up whatever you have on hand.
Creamy Low Fat Vegetable Soup
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 (10-ounce) bags mixed vegetables, cauliflower, broccoli, and carrots
5 to 6 cups broth, chicken or vegetable
1/4 cup arborio rice*
The potatoes will need to bake longer than the carrots in the first part of this recipe. Start them first – you can put them in the Sun Oven when you set it out to preheat – or leave them in longer. Either way works fine.
Sun Oven Carrot and Potato Bake
4 tablespoons butter, room temperature, divided
2 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, scrubbed
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
3/4 cup sour cream
Farinata is a kind of pancake that is popular in the Italian city of Genoa and the surrounding areas. Made from chickpea flour, it is sold in bakeries and pizzerias and is more of a street food than something that would be prepared at home.
The last time I’d had it was over 30 years ago. Unfortunately, the day after tasting if for the first time I came down with an awful case of the flu and, even though I knew it wasn’t the farinata’s fault, I was convinced I didn’t like it.
Recently I found a mix in the clearance section of my local supermarket where it was marked down to 50 cents, so I decided to give it a second chance. I tossed a few packages in my cart without even reading the cooking instructions assuming it would be a good candidate for the Sun Oven.
When I finally read the directions I wasn’t so sure. According to the package the oven needs to be heated to 500 degrees. With many baked goods the lower temperature of the Sun Oven isn’t an issue and while the cooking times may be longer the end result does not suffer. But 500 degrees is quite a bit hotter than the Sun Oven can reach even on an ideal day. I was starting to feel a little unsure about baking it in the Sun Oven.
Luckily, having bought more than one package, I was able to do some experimenting. I baked the first one in my gas oven according to the directions to have something to compare to the solar baked version to.
Like pizza, farinata is traditionally baked in an open, wood-burning oven and in my experience no home oven, not even one set to 500 degrees, can produce the same results. In fact, while my gas oven baked farinata came out nicely browned, it was not charred in spots like it would have been if it were baked in a pizza oven. Now I was pretty sure the Sun Oven could handle it. It took a lot longer to cook, 2 hours as opposed to 30 minutes, but the taste and texture were almost identical. Too bad the supermarket doesn’t carry the mix any more, turns out I do like it.
This light version of cheese bread has even more flavor when it’s baked in the sun. It goes great with all the other Super Bowl snacks on your table.
Cheesy Sun Oven Quick Bread
(adapted for the Sun Oven from The America’s Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook)
3/4 cup coarsely grated Parmesan cheese (use the large holes of a box grater)
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
Braised bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs are packed with flavor but the skin tends to get soggy and unpleasant. In this recipe they are browned, then the skin is discarded. Leaving behind all of the flavor and none of the unpleasantness.
Sun Oven Braised Chicken with Herbs
8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 onion, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
1 anchovy fillet, rinsed and minced
The past few weeks have been cold and rainy here in Southern California, so when the sun made an appearance the other day I was ready for some solar cooked grub.
The days are still short, so something that could be finished up on the stove, and served hot at dinnertime, seemed like the way to go.
This is one of the few pasta dishes that, in my opinion, is better with whole wheat pasta.
Sun Oven Chickpea Pasta Sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 white onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 sprig rosemary
1 whole dried hot red pepper
2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas
10 ounces whole wheat pasta such as shells, fusilli, or cavatappi
Bananas and chocolate chips combined with sunshine make for a super moist, slightly decadent, very delicious loaf.
Sun Oven Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips
1/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
The juices from the chicken blend with the bed of root vegetables in this simple and satisfying solar roasted meal.
Sun Oven Chicken with Root Vegetables
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 pounds small red potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
1 pound carrots, peeled, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 rutabaga, peeled and cut into 2 inch chunks
1 tablespoon kosher salt