Solar cooked lentil stew

My wife has been taking a legume-based soup/stew with her to work. I’ve decided to cut costs by solar cooking dry legumes. Cooking beans and lentils in a solar cooker is my favorite way to cook legumes. Some people often mistakenly believe that legumes will not soften in a solar cooker. Not true. Some people also mistakenly believe that legumes never soften fully at 7,000 feet elevation. Not true either! While it’s possible to sauté in a solar oven, I didn’t have time until later in the evening. My wife did the sautéing and added the lentils and herbs and spices to suit her taste.

Boiling pinto beans in a solar cooker

Yes, solar cookers really do get hot and cook food! My Sun Oven reaches 350°F easily. The boiling point at sea level is 212°F. The boiling point at 7,000 feet elevation is 199°F.

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Solar cooking garbanzo French fries and rice for lunch

At this time of year, the south-facing area in front of my front door and side garage door is the best location for solar cooking. In fact, it’s quite a bit hotter than the microclimate on my south-facing balcony in Flagstaff was, so everything cooks significantly faster and I am having to adjust some of my cooking times and adding extra liquid to the cooking pot.

I cooked garbanzo/chick pea flour (besan in Hindi) polenta in the Sun Oven, and then baked the French fry-like slices in my indoor oven after it cooled; I basted the slices with olive oil before baking. After cooking the polenta, I cooked some brown rice and wild rice to go with the fries. The “fries” were a hit with my wife, LynnAnnRose, a relatively new vegan.

Spring is here early—more food & gardening posts coming soon

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We’ve been doing some kitchen remodeling. My Santa Fe kitchen had no stove vent. One has finally been installed by bartering baked goods and other vegan goodies with a friend who is good at home remodeling. I put the iron stove grills on this 50 lb wheat bag from my local food cooperative to keep them out of the way. Pablo decided this would be a good place to sit, naturally.

Spring has arrived a few week early, thanks to climate change. This past weekend I’ve started gardening at my neighborhood community garden and have also been using my solar cooker. I need to work on posting up some new blog posts this week.

Solar cooking in my Santa Fe backyard

Most of my new backyard faces west and north and is heavily shaded by trees. However, a strip of land along the northern side of the house receives plenty of sunlight between the morning and early afternoon during the couple of months on either side of the summer solstice. I’ve decided to use my solar cooker there, directly on the ground, for now. Monsoon clouds and rain tend to appear in the afternoons when that piece of land is shaded by the house anyway. I like this location because there is easy access to the kitchen through the patio door and the dining room. I am storing the cooker uncovered underneath the patio overhang to protect it from rain. During late fall, winter, and early spring, I’ll have to use the cooker in front of my house, which faces south; that location will require carrying food up and down half a flight of stairs, and through the front door and front gate, and storing the cooker in the garage.

It’s getting close to moving time

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I’ve been packing up all of my kitchen and cooking tools and equipment in stages. I packed my Global Sun Oven in a large box using the blanket pieces from my fireless cooker as padding. The Sun Oven reflectors fold up neatly  across the oven door, and there is a latch that holds the reflector snugly against the oven body. I placed a piece of bubble wrap in between the glass door and the reflectors to protect the glass.

Solar cooking forgotten lentils in the pantry

I’m in the process of packing for our move to Santa Fe, New Mexico. One thing I’m doing is cooking remaining foods in storage so that there is less stuff to move. I found this several-year-old jar of brown lentils in the pantry. Lentils last forever, at least in terms of human lifetimes, making them good for long-term/emergency storage.

I decided to cook the entire jar. Now that the summer solstice is fast approaching, the rod at the back of my solar cooker is adjusted so that the cooker face is almost horizontal to capture the most sunlight during the middle of the day when the sun is almost directly overhead. Lentils are quick-cooking legumes and don’t need pre-soaking.

Lentils are cool season legumes that grows well at high altitudes. In hot climates like the Middle East, Ethiopia and India, where they are staples of local cuisines, they are grown during the cooler months. In my climate, however, they are grown during the summer.