What Should I Do?

Sun Oven Preheating

Cooking with the Sun

5 easy sun-oven recipes
Saturday, August 18, 2012, 9:26 AM

We hit 108°F this week in the Sierra Foot Hills of California.  It's too hot to do much of anything, but it is definitely too hot to cook in the house.  We have used our sun oven all summer, but this week we were particularly thankful to have an outdoor cooking apparatus, something that requires no electricity, charcoal, or propane.

The following recipes are fool-proof, easy, and reliable recipes for cooking in your sun-oven.  You don't have to own a sun oven or solar cooker to use these recipes; you can easily use these recipes in your electric or gas oven as well.  However, I highly recommend a sun oven.  They are efficient, easy to use, and help to keep the heat outside on hot summer days.

You can use any type of cookware in your sun-oven that you would use in your traditional oven: cast iron, muffin pans, baking sheets, Corningware, glass casserole pans, etc.  If it is oven-safe, it is sun-oven-safe.  My only word of caution is that cast iron, when covered, can get even hotter inside the pot/pan than what the oven temp reads, so it may need to be monitored more closely than other types of cookware.

The thing I always remind myself when using my solar oven is that the temperature may vary based on the weather, so I need to be flexible with my cooking time.  Some days my solar cooker will hit 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Other days, I'm lucky to hit 300. 

When cooking vegetarian recipes, the oven temperature and cook time can vary without much consequence.  If the temperature is a bit low, extend your cook time by about one minute for every drop in two degrees of recommended temperature.  For example, if the recipe asks for 30 minutes at a 375°F temperature but your sun oven is hitting only 350°F, cook the meal for about 12 minutes longer.  If your sun oven is cooking at a higher temperature, shorten cook time by two minutes for every 5 degrees above the recommended temp (not to exceed a ten-minute reduction in cook-time) in order to avoid overcooking. 

When cooking meat, it is important to monitor the temperature of your sun oven closely.  I highly recommend getting a meat thermometer.  Generally, rare beef needs to reach 145 degrees; ground beef and beef cooked to medium should hit 160; poultry, goat, and ham should hit 165; and well-done beef and pork should hit 170.  If you are cooking on a partly cloudy day, it is really important to check on your sun oven frequently in case there are major drops in the oven's temperature.

My favorite way to use the sun oven is for baking.  It's a sad fact that the best fruit ripens in the hottest part of the year, at a time when it is not fun to bake.  I'm not much of a baker during the traditional baking season.  For me, there are few things in this world more wonderful than a hot blackberry cobbler made with fresh-picked blackberries.  My sun oven allows me to indulge in the bounty of summer without my electricity/gas bill suffering and without turning my house into a furnace.  In the spirit of joyful summer baking, let's start with dessert first.

Blackberry Cobbler

Ingredients:

  • Non-stick spray (optional but recommended)
  • 4 cups blackberries
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil (butter may be substituted)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • cinnamon (to taste)

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat sun oven to 325°F.
  2. Spray a glass 8x8" pan with non-stick spray, or coat the bottom and sides of the pan with a little oil.  Evenly spread blackberries on bottom of the pan and sprinkle with 1/4 cup of granulated sugar. 
  3. In mixing bowl, mix ingredients coconut oil through milk together until evenly combined.  Pour mixture over blackberries.
  4. Spread the chopped walnuts evenly over batter and then sprinkle with cinnamon.
  5. Cook in sun oven at 325°F for 50 minutes.
  6. Let stand for at least 15 minutes before serving.  I highly recommend vanilla ice cream to top.

This next recipe is a way to use all the stuff in your summer garden that ripened all at once: the zucchini, the tomatoes, the peppers, the eggplant, and even the greens.  Ratatouille loosely translates to "toss the food together" so really, you can't go wrong.  If you leave out one or two of the ingredients, you can still call this ratatouille.

Ratatouille

Ingredients:

  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 eggplant
  • 2-3 medium tomatoes
  • 1 sweet pepper
  • 1 cup chopped greens (optional)
  • olive oil
  • Onion or garlic
  • Italian herbs such as thyme, basil, oregano or rosemary
  • Salt and pepper
  • Parmesan cheese (optional)

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat sun oven to 325°F.
  2. In oven-safe casserole dish with a lid, drizzle oil to coat the bottom.
  3. Thinly slice zucchini, eggplant and tomatoes.  Dice pepper and onion and/or garlic.  Chop greens if you have them.  Layer the vegetables evenly, drizzling olive oil and sprinkling the herbs, salt and pepper with each layer.  If you are using cheese, sprinkle cheese evenly with each layer.
  4. Cover and cook for 45 minutes at 325°F.
  5. Serve by itself or on a slice of toasted bread.

Maybe you're expecting a guest that is really a "meat and potatoes" kind of person.  I love to serve meat, but I hate the way it smells in the house after I've cooked it.  The sun oven is a wonderful solution.  Try this:

Chicken Cordon Bleu (the sun-oven way)

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 6 slices of ham or 12 slices of bacon or prosciutto
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup bleu cheese
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary
  • Olive oil to taste
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat sun oven to 375°F.
  2. In oven-safe casserole dish with a lid, drizzle oil to coat the bottom.
  3. Place 1/2 the ham, bacon or prosciutto on the bottom of the pan.  Set chicken on top of the bacon-bed.  Salt the chicken as desired, keeping in mind that pork can be salty.  Drape the rest of the pork on top of the chicken.  Evenly distribute the mozzarella and blue cheese on the top layer.  Cover with the bread crumbs and rosemary.  Lightly drizzle olive oil on top.
  4. Cover and cook at 375°F for an hour and five minutes.

Need a good crowd-pleasing recipe but don't want to work?  Sick of dishes?  Here you go:

Taco Pie

Ingredients:

  • 1 can of whole pinto beans
  • 1 can of whole black beans
  • 1 can of whole-kernel corn
  • 1 can of green chilies
  • 1 packet of taco seasoning
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 box of corn bread mix and whatever ingredients it requires (usually an egg, water and oil.)

Directions:

  1. Preheat sun oven to 325°F.
  2. In large, oven-safe casserole dish, drizzle oil to coat the bottom.
  3. Place the first five ingredients directly into the pan and mix together. Mix cornbread in mixing bowl, following the recipe on the box.  Spread cornbread batter evenly over taco mix. 
  4. Place uncovered in sun oven at 325°F for an hour and 10 minutes.  Look to see if the cornbread is tanning a bit in order to know that it is done.  If the corn bread is really blond, give it some extra time. 
  5. Let sit for 20 minutes before serving.

This is the easiest and most affordable side dish that I have ever come across:

Garlic Chard with Peas

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups chopped chard (one regular bunch is usually enough)
  • 1 bag of frozen peas
  • 2 cloves chopped garlic
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup of water

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat sun oven to 325°F.
  2. In oven-safe casserole dish with a lid, toss all ingredients together.  Cover and cook for 20 minutes.  Serve warm.

Resources:

I welcome you to explore this wonderful way of cooking and preparing meals and invite you to share your recipes, tips and experiences with solar cooking. Thanks for reading and Bon Appétit!

Related content

Login or Register to post comments