Kitchen / Garden / Sanctuary - Urban Homesteading to Nourish Body + Spirit

Month: July 2010 (Page 1 of 2)

Delicious Chocolate-Orange Macaroons

Well it’s obviously been far too long since I’ve posted a recipe from one of my favorite food groups. So here!

You should definitely try out these macaroons sometime — they’re delicious! I made mine with granulated coconut sugar, which darkens the color of the macaroons as you can see in the picture above. They’re also gluten free if you make them with arrowroot powder instead of whole wheat flour. In fact, I prefer them with arrowroot because of the crunchy-edge-soft-center texture that results!

Chocolate-Orange Macaroons

2 cups unsweetened dried coconut, shredded

2/3 cup sugar (granulated coconut sugar or sucanat are health-minded choices…but use white sugar if it’s important that they be white, like typical macaroons)

1/4 cup arrowroot powder* OR whole wheat flour

1 Tbsp fresh orange zest

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/4 tsp almond extract

2 egg whites, unbeaten (I like to freeze egg whites for times like this)

2 tablespoons coconut oil or unsalted butter, melted

1/4 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, mix the coconut, sugar, flour, orange zest, and salt. Stir the almond extract into the egg whites. Then mix the egg whites and coconut oil into the dry coconut mixture. Stir well. Now, mix in the chocolate chips.

Either generously oil your cookie sheet, or line it with parchment paper (the macaroons will be easier to remove from parchment). Form tablespoons of dough into balls and place onto the cookie sheet; they won’t really expand, so you can place them pretty close together. Bake about 10 minutes or until they’re firm to the touch and lightly browned on the bottom.

Cool before serving, and enjoy!


*Curious about arrowroot? It’s actually not a refined product despite the look of it. It’s the dried, powdered root of a tropical plant that only grows in tidal flats where sea minerals are available. It’s therefore rich in trace minerals and in calcium ash (calcium chloride), which makes it very easily digestible. In addition, the calcium ash in arrowroot is very important for maintaining the proper acid-alkali balances in the human body. Its downside is the price — it’s $5.35 for a 1lb 4oz bag at our local health food store.

Free Shipping Today Only (July 26) at Tropical Traditions!

As you know, Tropical Traditions is one of my favorite companies because of the high quality products they carry. Today only, Monday July 26th through Midnight EDT, they’re offering free ground shipping when you enter coupon code 260710FS at checkout, so it would be a good time to check them out if you’ve been wanting to try some of their stuff. You can click here to see my favorite Tropical Traditions products.

Quinoa Salad, Greek Style

This is a recipe that my best friend Sonja gave me a long time ago; it was one of our very favorite things to eat. I love it! It’s a light, refreshing dinner choice which is great for this time of the year because it doesn’t require use of the oven. Heck, you could even cook the quinoa in your solar oven (you have built one, right? ;-)) and you wouldn’t even need the stove, either! It would also be a great meal to take on a picnic.

Quinoa Salad, Greek Style

1 cup uncooked quinoa

2 tomatoes, chopped

1 cucumber, diced

3/4 cup chopped green onions

Scant 1/2 cup olive oil

6 Tbsp freshly-squeezed lemon juice

6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

Black or Kalamata olives, chopped (as many as you like…I usually use between 1/2 and 1 cup)

Lettuce, torn into pieces (use as much as you like, though not too much — it’s not meant to be the main ingredient)

Salt + Pepper to taste

Cook the quinoa* and cool it to room temperature. If I’m in a hurry, I’ll put my hot quinoa into the freezer to cool it quickly.

Then, gently stir everything else — except the lettuce — into the quinoa. I leave the lettuce out until I’m ready to serve the salad, and then I stir it in. That way, I can store the leftovers for a day or two and not have to worry about wilted, soggy lettuce. You could also leave the lettuce out altogether, and just serve the salad on a bed of lettuce leaves, as in the picture above.

This salad is best served on the day you make it. Enjoy!


*Cooking quinoa:

Be sure to rinse the quinoa well to remove bitter saponin residue. The quick way to cook it is to boil your water (ratio of 1 cup grain to scant 2 cups water), add some salt, add quinoa and cover, simmering until the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes.

However, if you’re able to plan ahead enough, it’s much better, healthwise, to soak your quinoa for at least 12 hours to make it more digestible — the way traditional cultures do. Soaking grains neutralizes phytic acid (which binds to essential minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc, and blocks their absorption) as well as enzyme inhibitors in the grain. Soaking also breaks down difficult-to-digest proteins and encourages the production of beneficial enzymes which in turn increases the vitamin (especially B vitamin) content of the grain.


To soak quinoa: Thoroughly rinse 1 cup of dry quinoa to remove bitter saponin residue. Put 2 Tbsp of lemon juice or vinegar into a measuring cup and fill to the 1 cup mark with warm water, then mix with the quinoa in a bowl. Cover and let sit at room temperature for at least 12 hours, or up to 24. When you’re ready to cook, rinse and drain the quinoa well. Place in a saucepan. Add a scant 1 cup of water, and a little salt. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, until all the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Cool, and proceed with the recipe.


Update + Garden Pictures

Scene from my mini vacation

Well, long time no post!

This past week was the death anniversary of my best friend Sonja – my soul sister – and it upset my emotional balance a little more than I would have liked. When that happens, in addition to surrendering to the sadness (rather than stuffing it), I know I need to devote extra time to good medicine, as well as make a point to get out of the house and do fun things. So on one of my days off, I rode my bike over to Hubby’s office and met him for lunch, which is something we both just totally love. On the way back I stopped at Whole Foods and wandered around, picking out some fun things while completely ignoring the exorbitant prices. On my other day off, my mom and I took a mini vacation day and drove to a botanic gardens area. We enjoyed the water gardens and natural woodlands amidst sprinkling rain, snarfed potato chips at the cafe, and relished how we had the place to ourselves. After that we went to Penzeys Spices (we get so inspired at that store!) and I bought some special peppercorns, expensive Ceylon cinnamon, smoked Spanish paprika, and Cajun seasoning (an all-time favorite). To top it off, we had drinks and a cookie at a little sidewalk cafe. Back at their house, I made a batch of homemade cat food, worked in the garden, and visited with mom and dad over wine and cheese. Lovely! Family, gardens, nature, mini vacations…those are all things that help lift the funk and get me re-energized for daily life.

In other news, it’s been pretty hot here. Though the sweltering 95-degree days are punctuated with not-as-hot days in the mid-80s. It’s been really nice actually.

And the garden is progressing well! The bell peppers and a few of the tomatoes are still puny, but the zucchini, cucumbers, cabbage, potatoes, onions, and the tomatoes I started early in the Walls-O-Water are doing very well. I harvested the first ripe tomato today, and I think in a week’s time there should be many more, as well as the first of the cucumbers; I did harvest a nice zucchini today which I cannot wait to sautee in the Penzeys Cajun seasoning — such amazing flavor!! The garden seems a bit delayed compared to some other years; we had a long, wet, cold spring, plus I did plant a little late this year due to surgery interfering with my normal seed-starting schedule. But that’s okay! I just love watching the veggie garden grow and produce. Here are a couple pictures of it:

How to Build a Solar Oven

Baking a chocolate cake in the solar oven

I finally wrote up instructions on how to build a solar oven!

It’s the most magical toy! I love cooking things off the grid, using only the power of the sun. And solar ovens are fantastic for summer cooking when you want to cook (or bake!) without heating up your kitchen.

This design produces a powerful solar cooker — 350° or more. It can be made for only a few dollars, using ordinary household materials and tools, and is also a great project for older children.

Although my solar cooker is based on Joe Radabaugh’s original “Heaven’s Flame” (a.k.a. “SunStar”) design, I’ve simplified and made some modifications, which are reflected in my instructions below.



– Small Box. This is the inner part of the oven, where you put the food. Ideally square in shape, and measuring about 9-12” wide and deep. (Square makes a more powerful oven, but rectangular would work.)

– Large Box. This is the outer box, and needs to be 2-3” larger (or more) in all directions than the Small Box.

– Insulation cardboard. Gather lots of boxes of any size, since you’ll be cutting them up to stuff in between the Small Box and Large Box. Try the liquor store or grocery store for boxes.

– Cardboard for Collectors (4 pieces). Find four large, flat pieces of regular (not double strength) cardboard. Each piece should measure about 2’ x 3’. Appliance stores or bike shops usually have big boxes you can cut up.

– White Elmer’s Glue. (1 part glue to 2 parts water so that it’s more easily spreadable)

– Aluminum Foil, one roll. Any type will work, but an extra-wide roll of heavy duty foil is ideal.

– Glass. About ½” larger than both the length & width of the Small Box. Double strength glass will insulate better than single strength. It’ll only cost a couple dollars at a hardware store, and they can cut to size. Be sure to sand down the sharp edges of the glass with sandpaper or a rock.

– Duct tape

– 5 Pipe cleaners, or some twine

Making the Oven:

1. With a mat knife, begin cutting up your insulation boxes to fit into the bottom of the Large Box. Build up the cardboard layers so that when you place the Small Box inside, its top edge rests one inch below the top edge of the Large Box.

2. If your Large Box still has its flaps attached, leave two opposite flaps sticking out, and fold in the other two so that they’re inside the box. For the Small Box, bend all 4 flaps all the way back and tuck in between the Small and Large Box, or else just cut them off altogether. If you cut them off, take care to leave a smooth edge around the top rim.

3. Cut up the rest of the insulation boxes and stuff them into the space between the side walls of the Small Box and Large Box. Try not to leave big gaps in the insulation, and use enough insulation so that the Small Box is wedged tightly inside.

Solar Oven Cross Section

4. When your solar oven is in use, it’ll be tipped toward the sun. Therefore, you’ll need to leave a piece of insulation cardboard sticking up a bit to keep the glass in position. If you have a rectangular oven, it should be tipped on its wider side for stability. Therefore, the cardboard should stick up on one of the two wider sides.

Also, when you rest the glass on top of the Small Box, be sure there are no gaps between the box rim and the glass where hot air can escape.

5. Line the inside of the Small Box with aluminum foil, shiny side out. Glue it down if you want. (10/3/2012, Edited to add: Instructions for many solar ovens will tell you to paint the inside of your oven black. In fact, underneath the foil in my own oven is black paint! I use foil because I discovered that it makes for a hotter oven — hotter by about 25° to 50°. This is actually fairly significant especially if you’re baking things in your oven. Although that’s reason enough for me, another advantage to foil is that the black paint will off-gas when it’s heated in direct sun. Even after 8 years, when I took the foil off to re-test my conclusion, I could smell the black paint. And also, foil is more likely to be found in a typical household cupboard than black paint is.)

Making the Collectors:

6. On your four flat pieces of cardboard, draw the collectors according to the pattern below. Note that if your Small Box is rectangular, your collectors will be two different sizes (based on the length & width of your glass), and if it’s square, the collectors will all be the same size. The 67 degree angle can be found by using a protractor, or by folding paper as shown in the second diagram (don’t worry about the 67.5 degrees — it’s close enough to 67 degrees, and pinpoint accuracy is not crucial here).

7. Cut out all four collectors with your mat knife. With a blunt-pointed tool, draw a crease along the dotted lines, and then fold the cardboard along the crease lines.

8. On three of the four collectors, bend the top and bottom flaps all the way over and tape them down with duct tape. On the fourth collector (which should be one of the wide collectors if your oven is rectangular), bend and tape the top flap, but don’t bend or tape the bottom flap because you’ll be attaching the Slip-In Piece to that bottom flap later.

9. Now, flip all four collectors over so that the taped flaps are underneath. You will now cover the smooth surface of your collectors with aluminum foil. With the shiny side up, roll the foil out over the collectors and cut so that it almost reaches the creased edges of the cardboard. (Don’t cover the side flaps with foil.) Thinly spread some of the Elmer’s Glue mixture onto the collectors and lay the foil in place (again, shiny side up), smoothing it outward with a clean cloth to minimize wrinkles.

Making the Slip-In Piece

10. The Slip-In Piece is a piece of cardboard that attaches to the bottom flap from Step 8 that you didn’t tape down. It slips in amongst the pieces of insulation cardboard, allowing easy attachment of the collectors to the solar oven base. To make the Slip-In Piece, cut a piece of cardboard that’s roughly equal in dimension to (or a little smaller than) the height and width of your Small Box. Punch two sets of two small holes along the narrow end of the Slip-In Piece (as in the diagram on the right), and then punch corresponding holes into the bottom flap of your collector. Attach them with one of the pipe cleaners which has been cut in half (or, use twine).

Connecting the Collectors

11. Punch three small, evenly-spaced holes into the side flaps of each collector, as in the diagram on the right. Place the holes in the exact same spot on all of the collectors’ side flaps so that they’ll line up when you’re ready to connect the collectors. And try to punch the holes as close to the crease in the cardboard as you can.

12. If you’re using pipe cleaners, cut four pipe cleaners into three pieces each. If you’re using twine, cut twelve 4-inch-length pieces. You’ll attach the collectors so that the foil-covered surfaces are facing each other, as in the diagram below. Thread the pipe cleaners or twine through the holes in the side flaps, and tie tightly.

If possible, get a cat to inspect your handiwork.

Setting Up & Cooking In Your Solar Oven

Tipped toward the sun, resting on the edge of the raised garden bed.

13. Take your solar oven to a spot in your yard that receives unobstructed sunshine. Attach the collectors to the oven by sliding the Slip-In Piece in between pieces of cardboard insulation at the top of the oven. Tilt your solar oven so that it’s pointed at the sun, and support it using bricks, rocks, overturned clay pots, or other sturdy things. Wearing sunglasses, fine-tune your oven’s position by observing the shadows inside the Small Box. Place your food inside the Small Box and set the glass into place. Again, there shouldn’t be any gaps between the glass and the top rim of the Small Box, and the glass should be supported by the piece of cardboard insulation that you left sticking up in Step 4.

– For best results, you’ll want to reposition your oven approx. every 30 minutes to keep it aligned with the sun. However, you can also cook while you’re away by pointing the oven toward where the sun will be at mid-day; you’ll then return home to hot food!

– My oven reaches a maximum of 350°. If I used double strength glass, it would probably be higher. For a lower temperature, keep the oven slightly misaligned with the sun.

– Your solar oven can be used to cook anything: rice, beans, grains, vegetables, meat, eggs, bread, cakes, cookies, pies, fruit cobbler, etc. I’ve noticed, though, that food doesn’t tend to brown in the same way that it would in a normal oven, so it may not look done when it actually is.

– I do most of my cooking in a large, wide-mouth glass jar with the lid screwed on very loosely. You can also cook (or bake!) in normal pans if you rig up a flat cooking rack.

– Don’t put anything into your solar oven that you wouldn’t put into your regular oven (plastics, etc.). Use an oven mitt or tea towel to lift off the glass — it gets very hot! Also, don’t forget to wear sunglasses when working around your solar oven (try without and you’ll see why!).

– It’s fun to keep an oven thermometer inside your solar oven to gauge the temperature.

– On a windy day, poke holes in both flaps that were left sticking out of the Large Box, and then poke some holes into the collectors. Tie the collectors to the Large Box flaps with twine.

– After using your oven a few times, the insulation cardboard might shrink a little. Add more cardboard so that it’s packed snugly.

– To keep your food warm after cooking, cover your oven with its collector panels.

Cooking brown rice

Solar Baking: Herbed Eggs & Apple-Blueberry Crisp

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