Posts tagged: summer cooking

Kelp Noodles!

By , August 13, 2012

Have you tried kelp noodles? I just tried them for the first time this week and I like them! They have an unexpected crunchy texture and, somehow, a completely neutral taste. They’re also a raw food, and made only of seaweed. I mixed them into my solar-cooked “stir fry” for breakfast this morning, yum. I like the fact that they’re made from kelp, so they add iodine and trace minerals to my meal. My still-delicate tummy also gave them a thumbs up, as far as digestibility goes.

They cost about $3.50 at our local health food store.

Have you tried them? How do you like to eat them??

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The stir fry was delicious by the way — I love making those because you can toss anything in and it always comes out great. This time it was: Bean sprouts, yellow squash, onions, garlic, Nama Shoyu soy sauce, and a tiny bit of sesame oil…steamed in the solar oven…and served over kelp noodles…topped with more Nama Shoyu, fresh Thai basil, culantro (or you can use cilantro which is similar), and chopped green onion tops.

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Classic Tabbouleh

By , April 4, 2012

One of my all-time favorite foods, ever! This is my mom’s famous recipe.

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And since my diet has gone essentially low fat vegetarian, which is presently all my body will handle, this stuff is my mainstay. I plow through an entire batch all by myself every 2 or 3 days! And since I can’t eat much oil at all, I change up the dressing to be only a small drizzle of oil, and tons of lemon juice, and I’ve grown to really love it this way!

Also, tabbouleh is normally made with bulghur. I always make it with quinoa now since I love the taste of it and it’s more nutritious and also a complete protein — but bulghur is of course delicious too!

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Mom’s Tabbouleh

1/2 cup uncooked bulghur or quinoa*

1-2 cups chopped tomatoes — (2 cups = about 1 lb) (I always make it with 2 cups of tomatoes now, but if you do, you may need to increase the amounts of lemon juice and olive oil slightly)

2 cups finely chopped parsley — chop first and then measure (about 1 medium-large bunch parsley…but do measure it first)

1/2 cup chopped green onion or 1/3 cup finely chopped white onion

1 level Tbsp dried mint, crushed (or 2 Tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped)

1/4 – 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

1/3 cup olive oil

Salt (about 1 to 1 1/2 tsp), or to taste

Pepper to taste

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Cook the 1/2 cup bulghur or quinoa* (1/2 cup grain to 1 cup boiling water + dash of salt; cover, simmer till water’s absorbed, about 20 minutes). Cool it to room temperature. If I’m in a hurry, I’ll put the hot quinoa into the freezer to cool it quickly.

Mix everything together in a big bowl. But if you don’t think you’ll eat all of it within a day or two, mix the dressing separately, and add it to the tabbouleh right before you eat a helping of it. That way the tabbouleh will stay fresh several days longer in your fridge.

Enjoy!

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*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.

So…

To soak quinoa: Thoroughly rinse 1/2 cup of dry quinoa to remove bitter saponin residue. Put 1 Tbsp of lemon juice or vinegar into a measuring cup and fill to the 1/2 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, and place in a saucepan. Add a scant 1/2 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.

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Gazpacho & Garden Shopping List

By , August 30, 2011

I love this time of the year because meals can be made almost entirely out of the garden! Today I made one of my faaaaaavorite dishes, Gazpacho. How can a combination of vegetables taste so good?!

And since the gazpacho used up almost all the produce I picked last week at my garden, I was really tickled to be writing up a “shopping list” for the things I need to get when I go back in the next couple days. Going shopping in one’s own garden is way too much fun!

Dashboard Croutons & Other Car Cookery Ideas

By , July 22, 2011

Up here in our little 3rd floor attic Homestead In The Sky, the summers are sweltering. We forgo almost all oven use during these months, relying instead on the solar oven or the stovetop (see my Baking Cookies on the Stove post). Or, sometimes, the car. Actually we don’t have a car anymore — the old ’71 Jeepster finally reached a point where putting more money into it wouldn’t make sense. (Don’t worry, we gave it to someone who could completely appreciate it and at least part it out.) The last year we had it, it wasn’t running — but it served as a really handy oven during the summer months.

I made croutons that turned out great. They made the car smell really good too.

To cook things in your car, just park it in a sunny place where the interior will get nice n’ hot. Slide your cookie sheet of croutons (or whatever else) onto your dashboard or back seat, and check on it every now and then. This is a very fun way to cook!

The back seat works, too...

 

Need to dehydrate some food? Use the car! Cook something at low heat? Use the car!

Making fruit leather? The car! Roasting pumpkin seeds? Car!

Bet those kale chips would even work in the car, too.

If you go to work and park in a hot parking lot, put your lunch container on the dashboard in the morning, and it’ll be warm for you at lunchtime.

Another thing I like to do is make crackers out of sprouted grain tortillas, like these:

Cut them up and spread on a cookie sheet. Bake in your car till very lightly browned and crunchy (or in an oven or solar oven at about 250°). Be careful that they don’t get too brown or else they won’t taste as good.

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I bet there are so many other fun car-cooking ideas out there too — do you have any to share??

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Israeli Cucumber-Tomato Salad

By , September 14, 2010

I love eating this light, fresh Israeli staple dish almost every day now that the tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and parsley are so abundant in the garden. In fact, preparing and eating this particular salad brings me so much joy because almost all of its ingredients come from our garden. I close my eyes and savor each bite, knowing I’m nourishing my body with the very freshest, purest food possible, and that feels so good! Our homegrown vegetables seem so alive and life-giving! I’m very grateful to have them.

Using quality ingredients in this salad will make it shine!…fresh, flavorful vegetables, good olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice, unrefined sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

The ingredient amounts below are approximate, and I never measure when making this salad. Adjust the recipe to your liking!

Israeli Cucumber-Tomato Salad

Makes 1 large salad or two small side salads

1 large tomato, chopped (roughly equal to the amount of cucumber used)

1/2 a cucumber, chopped (roughly equal to the amount of tomato used)

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (approximately!)

2-4 Tbsp green onion (or substitute a smaller amount of red or white onion), finely chopped

1-2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (about half a lemon)

2 Tbsp olive oil

Sea salt / freshly ground pepper to taste

Combine the tomato, cucumber, parsley, and onion; the proportions are up to you, but the recipe gives a rough idea. Drizzle the olive oil and lemon juice over the salad just before serving; I love the zingy taste of lemon so I use equal parts lemon juice and olive oil, but it’s more common to use 1 part lemon juice to 2 parts olive oil.  Add salt & pepper to taste!

For packed lunches, I like to mix up the tomatoes, cucumbers, parsley, onion, and ground pepper the night before, and then pack the olive oil and lemon juice in a small glass jar, adding that — along with the salt — at the last minute.

I love mine plain, but you can also serve this with rustic crackers or toasted pita bread.

For a nice variation, add Feta cheese and Kalamata olives! Or, add some cooked quinoa for protein to make it more of a main dish.

Quinoa Salad, Greek Style

By , July 26, 2010

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!

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*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.

So…

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.

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How to Build a Solar Oven

By , July 15, 2010

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.

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Materials:

– 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

Early Summer Update, Solar Oven, and Baby Robins

By , June 13, 2010

How’s your summer going so far?

Mine’s nice! It’s just starting to get hot here, after an unusually cool, wet, windy spring. I usually don’t love hot weather, but the heat feels good right now, after being cold for such a long time…for the last 8 months, it seems.

I spent the last 3 weeks house/cat sitting for my parents, since they were out of town house sitting for family friends. It was great to stay in a real house with a real yard. While of course we have a nice apartment in the attic of a 100-year-old house, I do miss having a clothesline, a private yard, a front and back porch, and my gardens. I spent most of my time outside on the porch, reading and drinking tea! It was like a little retreat. And since my parents have a piano, I played a lot of piano while I was there. I love playing; it’s both a creative outlet and a stress release for me. Though I sure hated those piano lessons in my younger years! But now, I’m so glad my mom & dad forced me to stick with it. (Side note: If you’re considering the Suzuki method of piano instruction for your children, beware! I’ve been playing since I was seven… I took Suzuki lessons for nine years… and I still cannot read sheet music proficiently and I really regret that! It takes me hours upon weeks to learn a complicated piece, and although I then have it memorized, I would give anything to be able to sit down in front of an unfamiliar piece of music and just play it. If I were going to invest in piano lessons for my children, I would make sure they learned how to read music!) Anyway, moving right along!

In other news, my gardens are doing well; as always, some veggies are doing better than others, and it’s different year to year. This year the spinach did nothing. Which was actually fine with me, since last year it went berserk and grew waist-high (it actually did!). The kale has more than made up for that, having self seeded from last year. We have organic, homegrown Red Russian Kale everywhere! What a wonderful “problem”! I’ve been making lots of lacto-fermented kale (like sauerkraut) with good results. The recipe for that is forthcoming.

I’ve heard you can also toast kale in the oven at high heat to make kale crisps. Has anyone tried that?

Over Memorial Day Weekend, I hauled out my solar oven while I was house sitting. I built it six years ago and used it all the time that first year, but since then it’s mostly been in the shed, sadly. I dusted it off, and baked some wonderful things in it – eggs topped with garden herbs and parmesan cheese, apple-blueberry crisp, and a homemade frozen calzone. The temperature inside reached an amazing 330*F! I’m going to write up and post some instructions for you on how to build a solar oven…it’s easy, cheap (a few dollars total), and completely fun and satisfying to cook stuff using nothing more than the sun in the sky. [UPDATE: I’ve posted the instructions here.] It’s also very useful for summer cooking, since you don’t have to heat up the house with your regular oven – and of course that will also save you money on the energy bill.

Baking herbed eggs with parmesan and apple-blueberry crisp in the solar oven.

I have to show you one more thing. There’s a brand new family of robins at the house next to my parents’. The house sitting job came at the perfect time because I was able to watch each day as the robins vigilantly sat on their eggs, keeping very silent so as not to attract attention. One day the robin was gone, and instead I saw a little yellow beak — wide open — waving frailly back and forth above the edge of the nest. Now there are four little babies packed into that nest, and every day they’re bigger and stronger. It’s so incredible to watch! Take a look:

Mama's tasks: 1.) Be very quiet. 2.) Keep eggs warm.

"What do I do with it?"

...And Then There Were Three...

A fresh, plump worm for snack.

I'm still HUNGRY!

A quiet moment.

FEAR. (She had just heard crows squawking overhead.)

Serving up dinner bugs.

You'd be exasperated too.

Moroccan Carrot Salad

By , May 19, 2010

I made the most delicious carrot salad the other day, and the recipe is just too good not to share with you! It even features two ingredients that I don’t always love…carrots and cumin. But in this dish, they’re both dynamite! Do try it. As with most salads, this one is best enjoyed the same day it’s made. I was still eating mine two days after I made it, and it was still yummy, but just not quite as fresh. If serving to company, I’d definitely make it that same day. It’s a frugal dish too. I ate mine as a main dish for lunch with some cottage cheese on the side for protein. Yum!

Moroccan Carrot Salad

For the salad:

6 cups shredded carrots (about 6 large carrots)

1 cup raisins

2 1/2 cups chopped oranges (about 3-4 oranges)

1 1/2 cups green onions, thinly sliced

1 cup cilantro leaves, chopped and well-packed into the measuring cup

For the dressing:

1/3 cup olive oil

1/4 – 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

2 – 3 tsp honey (raw is nice)

1 1/2 to 2 tsp ground cumin (more if you like)

1/2 tsp smoked or regular paprika

1/8 tsp cayenne

salt to taste

Combine dressing ingredients into a jar and shake well to combine. (Heat the honey gently if needed so that it’ll mix into the dressing more easily.)

Put all the salad ingredients into a bowl and pour the dressing over top. Mix gently to combine well, and enjoy!

Next time I might add some toasted pine nuts since I think they’d further enhance this already delightful dish. But it’s wonderful just as it is. Since it is a frugal dish that can be used as a light lunch or dinner with a bit of protein on the side, I’m including it in this week’s Pennywise Platter Carnival over at The Nourishing Gourmet.

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