Sometimes I wish I didn’t work from home just so I could pack a lunch. When I did work in an office I used to looked forward to my mid-day meal. Even though I’d made it myself, opening the various containers always felt a little bit like Christmas. But having some fun-to-eat, quick-to-heat up lunch fare is a good idea for those of us who work from home, too. Many days I don’t start thinking about lunch until I’m so hungry that I just start raiding the fridge and that’s never a good way to enjoy a meal. These mac and cheese muffins make a great quick lunch option.
I got the idea to bake mac and cheese in individual portions form “The Sneaky Chef” by Missy Chase Lapine. She bulks up otherwise not so heathy recipes with lots of vegetables, a trick I use a lot too, but since they’re mostly for kids they’re a little on the bland side. I borrowed her idea of using sweet potatoes, carrots, and eggs in place of the usual milk, butter, and flour roux, but, since I don’t have any picky-eaters to deal with, I spiced it up a bit and even threw in a bit of green. I’m sure any mac and cheese recipe could be made into muffins. They would be a great for picnics or potlucks.
You can used canned pumpkin (not pie filling) instead of the sweet potato and carrot puree. The recipe below makes more than you’ll need for the muffins. The leftovers can be frozen for future use.
Sun Oven mac and cheese will dry out if it’s not covered so it’s easier to use ramekins or silicone molds placed in a baking pan rather than a muffin tin.
We love solar baked eggs for lunch, so I’m always on the look out for new ways to prepare them, and, if you’re lucky enough to have a vegetable garden (I’m not), you’re probably looking for ways to use all the tomatoes that are ripening this time of year. I got this recipe from “The Silver Spoon” cookbook. It’s about as simple as recipes come and can easily be personalized with different herbs or other add-ins of your choice.
Solar Baked Eggs in Tomatoes
1 or 2 large tomatoes per person
1 egg per tomato (at room temperature)
1/2 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil per tomato
Since we got our Sun Oven, bacon and eggs have become lunch fare in our house and it seems I’m always coming up with new ways of combining the two. Today I got some bacon going first thing and it’s a good thing you can smell it from a mile away because I’d almost forgotten about it until I opened the patio door and was hit with its aroma. When it was ready I crumbled it up and mixed it with four beaten eggs, about a cup of chopped uncooked baby spinach, some freshly grated Parmesan cheese, and a splash of milk. After dividing the mixture up in four lightly oiled metal mugs I popped it in the Sun Oven for about 20 minutes. The result were four sandwich-sized frittatas that made a perfect lunch. I bet you could cook up a bunch of these and keep them in the fridge for a super quick weekday breakfast.
Click here to see how to cook bacon in the Sun Oven.
This is a bit of a project. The onions need to cook for quite a long time, but, as with most solar cooking, you’ll be able to go about you business while they simmer away. If pie pumpkins aren’t available, use butternut squash, it works just as well. It can also be used as a filling for a savory pie. The pumpkin onion mixture is also good on it’s own.
Savory Solar Pumpkin Pudding
(adapted from “Savory Roasted Pumpkin Pie” New York Times Nov. 4 2008)
2 small pie pumpkins or 1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeds discarded, and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
I’ll admit, this quiche recipe needs a little tweaking. Normally I’d play with it a bit before posting, but I think it makes a good enough base to merit a mention. Many of my favorite recipes start out this way; first I follow it exactly as written (with the exception of cooking it in the GSO) than I play with it until it’s mine. This is the kind of recipe that is very easy to fiddle with. I’d recommend jazzing it up with your favorite vegetables or other add-ins; chopped spinach and crumbled bacon come to mind. If you want to get real creative you could personalize each quiche according to the individual tastes of each family member, kind of like an omelette station in your own back yard.
Crustless Solar Quiche
1 cup milk
3 eggs, room temperature
Longer summer days mean more hours can be dedicated to solar cooking. Here in Arizona it’s not unusual to be able to cook with the sun from as early 8:00 AM to as late as 6:00 PM. But for an even earlier start to your solar cooking day turn the GSO “topside down” (the side with the thermometer will be on the ground), remove the leveling tray, then place a rack or trivet what is now the floor of the cooking chamber and you’ll be ready to catch the first rays of sunshine. I use this trick to bake breakfast casseroles that I assemble the night before or a simple bowl of steel cut oatmeal. First thing in the morning I pop my breakfast in the GSO then I go about my business. Oatmeal is usually ready by the time I’ve finished my morning routine; casseroles take longer and are best for week-ends. Solar cooked oatmeal tastes so good even my porridge hating husband will eat it.
Breakfast for two, oatmeal in the covered mug and and eggs in the other.
Now if only I can figure out a way to get my espresso maker to run on solar power.
Huevos rancheros from the GSO make an easy to prepare, attractive lunch.
Solar Baked Huevos Rancheros
6 small corn tortillas
1 (16 oz) can refried beans
6 room temperature eggs
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
green or red salsa
Set Global Sun Oven out to preheat
Spray a six cup muffin pan with cooking spray.
Soften the tortillas one at a time by covering them with a paper towel and heating in the microwave for 10 to 20 seconds each. Place one corn tortilla in each muffin cup. Divide the beans among the cups and make a well in the middle of each one. Crack one egg into each well. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake in GSO approx. 30 minutes. About 1 minute before eggs are cooked sprinkle cheese on each egg, continue cooking until cheese melts.
Carefully transfer huevos to plates. Top with green or red salsa.
We usually have these solar baked eggs for lunch since solar cooking early in the morning is a bit problematic. If there are any left over I use them for breakfast sandwiches the next day.
6 slices black forest ham
6 eggs, at room temperature
Salt and pepper to taste
Set Global Sun Oven out to preheat
Spray six muffin cups with cooking spray. Line each cup with 1 slice of ham. Arrange baby spinach, approximately 4 leaves per muffin cup, over ham. Place one egg in each ham and spinach lined muffin cup. Place in preheated GSO and cook for 20 – 30 minutes. Carefully remove eggs from cups using a spoon. Serve with toast.
Eggs have become more of a lunch or late weekend brunch food since we’ve had the Global Sun Oven. I cook them in muffin tins or enamelware cups, greased and lined with whatever I have on hand – spinach, zucchini, ham, etc. Room temperature eggs will be ready in 20 minutes. Bacon comes out great, too. It takes a little longer to cook than the eggs, so I get it started first. Just spread it out on a small, rimmed baking sheet, cover it with a cooling rack, then cook the eggs on that. Sometimes we even have breakfast for dinner!
A frittata is an Italian egg dish that could be described as a cross between an omelette and a quiche. It consists of beaten eggs that are combined with various ingredients, usually herbs and vegetables, then fried or baked. Frittatas come out quite nicely in the Sun Oven. You’ll need a 9 inch cast iron frying pan and a lid, preferably glass, that fits snuggly on it.
Frittata with Zucchini, Leek, and Potato
1 tablespoon olive oil plus 1 teaspoon oil
1 medium zucchini squash, thinly sliced
1 leek, pale green and white parts only, thinly sliced
1 small potato, sliced paper thin
1 teaspoon milk
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Set the Sun Oven out to preheat
Sauté the leeks and zucchini in 1 tablespoon olive oil in a 9 inch cast iron frying pan with the olive oil until they soften slightly, about 5 minutes. This can be done in the Sun Oven by preheating the frying pan along with the Sun Oven. By the time you’re done cutting up the vegetables it should be hot enough to sauté. Be careful not to let the vegetables burn, they will soften quickly. Remove the vegetables from the heat and cool in a separate bowl. Wipe the frying pan clean, coat with the remaining teaspoon olive oil, and line it with the potato slices.
In a large bowl beat the eggs with the milk. Beat in the parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper. Mix in the cooled vegetables and pour the egg mixture into the potato lined frying pan. Cover with a glass lid and place in the Sun Oven. Bake for approx. 45 minutes.
Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as a side dish or appetizer.