Saturday, July 25, 2015

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

homemade quinine syrup


Over on our Obvious Observer blog, I've just posted a recipe for homemade quinine syrup made from Peruvian Cinchona Bark. I did the simmering in the solar oven, but since this is basically little more than a strongly-brewed tea, it seemed equally appropriate to the other blog - please come join us there for a refreshing summer drink!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

gluten-free sourdough bread

this is the proper consistency for the dough - almost batter-like - gluten-free bread does not need to be kneaded.

if you are using a sun-oven: a glass bread pan fits very nicely inside an oblong black enamel pot.

this is what the finished product looks like - chewy on the inside, with crunchy crust.

My sourdough starter came from an old neighbor lady who'd had it for over 20 years...I converted it to GF by feeding it brown or white rice flour instead of wheat...I gave away the first few loaves I made from's now been going with only GF ingredients for about 5 years.

Here's the recipe for the starter:

In a quart-size mason jar with plastic lid with a few holes drilled in the top, mix the following:

A few tablespoons of starter (to get started, you'll need to find a friend or kindly old lady who is willing to share!)
1/4 C potato flakes (I use Bob's Red Mill, because other kinds seem to have preservatives)
1/4 C unbleached sugar
1 1/2 C luke warm water

Leave this standing until it bubbles a little, then put in fridge. Use not more than once every 4 days (it needs a chance to recharge), and don't ignore for more than 14 days (it will require feeding). Mark the date of use on a label attached to the jar or lid. Instead of making bread, you can always create a second jar of starter, to use for yourself or to give away! I use it frequently, so I have two jars on hand at all times so that I always have a batch ready for use.

My recipe is based on one for GF French Bread I found at Bob's Red Mill. 

Into the bowl of the food processor:

First, pour in all the sourdough starter in the jar, except for a few tablespoons (then add more flour, potato flakes, sugar, and water as per recipe above)

Then add:

1-1/2 cups warm water

1 Tb unbleached sugar

2 cups brown rice flour

1/2 cup potato starch

1/4 cup tapioca flour

2 tsp xanthan gum

1/4 cup buckwheat flour

1-3/4 tsp sea salt

3 Tb olive oil

3 egg whites

Other flours, such as almond, teff, or white rice flour can be substituted for some of the brown rice flour in 1/4 cup increments. I find that a SPRINKLE (not more than 2 tablespoons) of sorghum keeps the bread moist...too much and it makes it unpleasantly sticky!!

The dough should be almost BATTER-LIKE...add water until it is a smooth consistency, wetter than you would expect bread dough to be, but not as runny as pancake batter. 

Scoop into 2 glass loaf pans LINED WITH PARCHMENT (this is THE SECRET to hassle-free gluten-free cookery!!).

Let rise in a warm place overnight. The longer you leave it rising, the more sour it will be!

If using sun oven, bake at hottest possible temp. If using household oven, bake at 350°F until golden brown. 

I find that gluten free bread needs to cook longer (ie: a bit more golden brown than you think it should be) than regular can take it out of the pans and place it right on the wire oven racks for the last 20 min of cooking for extra-crunchy crust. You can even turn up the temp a bit during those final minutes.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

cosmic cookery: DIY sun ovens 101

i recently had the opportunity to teach a group of 9 - 12 year olds how to build and cook in their own sun ovens - the upshot is that i am now more fully convinced than ever that sun oven cookery is something that is absolutely accessible to anyone who has access to a few basic materials and a sunny day.

after much experimentation with a variety of designs, variations on the one pictured worked best. for the full result of our tests, please come visit THE OBVIOUS OBSERVER.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

dairy-free coconut pumpkin flan

WOW, this was good...

I used home-grown pumpkin cooked previously in the sun oven.


1 1/2 C COCONUT MILK (the high-fat kind that comes in a can)
1/2 t NUTMEG
dash SALT

approximately 1/4 C MAPLE SYRUP (to go in the bottom of the pot instead of caramelized sugar)

instead of making a traditional flan with caramelized sugar, i just poured pure grade B maple syrup into the bottom of the pot to form a light coating.

blend all ingredients (except maple syrup), pour into pot.

bake at 350F for approximately 40 minutes - when it looks congealed and slightly golden, remove from oven. i did not try to flip it over like a traditional flan...i imagine that if you put parchment in the bottom of the pan before cooking, it would help make this process a little easier!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Saturday, April 2, 2011

gluten free rhubarb polenta cake

i spotted a recipe in permaculture magazine this morning for a rhubarb polenta cake with ginger, cardamon, cinnamon, and almonds and knew i needed to make it immediately. our second year rhubarb was prime for the picking. with a few adjustments to make it gluten-free - and a couple of extrapolations from UK grams to US cups - i forged ahead:


approximately 2 cups chopped fresh rhubarb
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup brown rice syrup
1 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup tapioca flour
1/4 cup potato starch
1.5 cups cornmeal
1/2 cup almond meal
2 t baking soda
2 t xanthan gum
1 t fresh ground cardamom
2 t cinnamon
1 t vanilla extract
1 cup unsweetened soy milk
3 eggs
pinch salt

blend by hand or in food processor 'til mixed. bake in parchment-lined sun oven pot for 1 hour at 350F.

Monday, May 31, 2010

apricot tart

doesn't look like much in the picture, but it was outrageously delicious!! i made a crust similar to the one used in the ridiculously delicious healthy pecan pie recipe, then made a mixture of 1 cup of almond meal, one egg, and a pat of coconut oil (butter or earth balance would work fine here too) in the cuisinart, and spooned it on top. then, on top of that i spread some apricot compote given to by my friend sandra. the apricots came fresh from her neighbor's tree. cooked in the sun oven for about an hour - et voila! a french apricot frangipane gallette!

Friday, May 28, 2010

$10 brand new sun oven

today i scored a global sun oven brand sun oven (the swanky kind) - brand new in the box - for $10 at an estate sale. now i can cook rice and beans at once, or dessert and dinner at the same time. miracles can happen...

Saturday, April 24, 2010


quinoa is one of my favorite grains. it's wonderful in soups and in veggie burger recipes, and for those who avoid gluten, it's a wonderful substitute for bulgar in tabouli. 2C water to 1C quinoa, cook for 1 hour in the sun oven at 350F.

for this salad, i threw together whatever i had on hand - a few walnuts, olives, chopped apples, parsley, and red onions. the dressing is made of lime juice, olive oil, powered anise, salt, and pepper.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

butternut squash

time to cook up what's left of last season's harvest. i simply cut two smallish squash in half without peeling, let them bake in the sun oven for about an hour and a half at approximately 350. the flesh was very easy to scrape out to add to a simple soup.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

baked tofu with cabbage

marinate a pound of tofu in a sauce made from rice vinegar, bragg's liquid aminos (or soy sauce if you prefer), toasted sesame oil, and peanut butter. coat each slice of tofu and let sit for at least an hour. put a little olive oil in the bottom of your sunoven pot, then throw in a pile of shredded cabbage. arrange your tofu slices on top, cover the pot, and bake in the sun oven for an hour and 15 minutes at 350F - a delightful lunch, and great left over.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

brussels sprouts

simple instructions for a little over a pound of brussels sprouts, rinsed, de-stemmed, and cut in half: drizzle a few tablespoons of olive oil over the top, add a sprinkle of salt and fresh-ground pepper. cook in the sun oven at 350 for 40 minutes for a tender, healthy treat!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

sun oven pinto beans

nothing could be easier than cooking beans in the sun oven. today we cooked pintos, which are a larger bean and generally require more cooking time than smaller beans such as plain old black or white. we started with our dry beans at 1pm and had a pot of beautifully cooked frijoles at 4:45pm. it was a beautiful day, and the oven stayed at a fairly constant temp of 350. we repositioned the oven slightly twice in that time - we find we usually need to adjust it once every hour or hour and a half.

if you're using a standard round black enamel pot with lid, pour 2 cups dry beans into the pot (if you've soaked them overnight you may need to adjust your cooking time - today we started with dry beans) and cover with as much water as your pot can hold.

when your oven reaches 300 - 350F, stick the beans in. after an hour, pour off the water (conserve for use on plants if you like - but this initial water will soak out the hard-to-digest sugar molecules - rinsing your beans this way will make them much easier on the stomach!).

add fresh water to cover the beans by an inch or two. bay leaves or dried rosemary are okay to add at this point, but no salt or anything acidic, such as tomatoes, 'til later. these make the beans tough if added before they're fully cooked.

after two more hours, add spices to taste (we use a few tablespoons cumin, salt and pepper, a chopped onion, several cloves of chopped garlic, juice of one lime, and one dried cayenne pepper).

in 30 - 45 min more, your beans will be cooked to perfection!

we ate ours in a bowl topped with avocado, shredded red cabbage, and tomato salsa with warm corn tortillas on the side.

Friday, January 22, 2010

ridiculously delicious gluten free healthy pecan pie

this turns out like a cross between a pecan pie and a pecan coffee cake/sticky bun. it’s out of this world, which is why there are no pictures at the moment – before we could snap any, we'd eaten it all! ah well, next time…

CRUST, adapted from Bob’s Mill “Rice Flour Pie Crust – Eggless”


1-1/4 cups brown rice flour
1 Tb turbinado sugar
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 Tb cider vinegar or lemon juice (cold)
1/2 cup cold unsweetened soy milk
1/2 cup chilled earth balance
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted

mix in food processor or by hand until smooth and blended.
spread with spatula onto parchment paper cut to the shape of the bottom of your sun oven pot (i use an oval-shaped one for this). cook in the sun oven at 350 for 15 minutes. then remove and pour on your filling.


3 eggs
1/3 of melted Earth Balance
1 1⁄2 cups of pecan halves
1⁄4 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup grade B maple syrup
1/2 cup brown rice syrup
3 teaspoons molasses

mix in food processor or by hand ‘til blended. pour over crust and bake for 45-50 minutes at 350. will appear fully gelled when it’s done. cool, and EAT!!

Friday, January 1, 2010

new year's 2010 vegan hoppin' john

while i am cooking this very recipe in the sun oven THIS VERY MINUTE, it is published here by special request from my dear friend mary!

Good Luck New Year’s Vegan Hoppin’ John

"Eat poor today, eat rich the rest of the year.”- Southern Proverb

It has long been believed that eating this humble dish of black-eyed peas, or cowpeas as they are otherwise known, on New Year’s Day, increases one’s odds of good fortune in the coming year. Legend has it that the individual beans represent coins (which swell as they cook, ensuring prosperity) and the accompanying greens represent paper money. If you eat them together on New Year's Day, especially along with some cornbread (which represents gold), you will not only have a delicious meal, you will be sealing your fate, and improving your health to boot. Both beans and greens are full of nutrients and antioxidants that are heart-healthy and prevent disease.

Please serve with cornbread and collards, chard, kale, or coleslaw for additional good health and fortune! I'll be serving it this afternoon with warm quinoa salad on the side.

2 C dried black eyed peas, power soaked* or soaked overnight
bay leaf, oregano, epizote** if you can find it

place beans and dried herbs in sun oven covered with at least 2" water.
do not add salt 'til later...this keeps the beans from getting soft.

after 2 hours cooking at 350, add:
1-1/2 teaspoons salt or to taste
1 onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon pepper or to taste
1 cup chopped celery
4-5 cloves garlic, minced

cook 1 - 2 hours longer

garnish with chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
liquid hot pepper sauce or hot pepper vinegar

* to power-soak beans: boil beans in water for 3 minutes. Cover and set aside for 2 to 4 hours (soaking longer doesn’t help or hurt). Drain and discard water. Rinse beans. Proceed with cooking. This method reduces hard-to-digest complex sugars by 80%.

** a uniquely flavored mexican herb that aids in digestion of complex sugars.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

bob's mill GF raisin bread

okay, so this was almost TOO easy. open a bag of bob's mill gluten-free raisin bread mix, follow the directions, and cook it in the sun oven. have the earth balance and a knife handy when it's done. irresistible!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

gluten-free, dairy free brown rice pudding

we've had lots of cloudy days here lately, so my posts have slowed down a bit...


this pudding is great warm or chilled, and makes a great quick breakfast with the addition of sliced banana or berries. i made this batch with homemade soymilk…i use a soyabella maker…i added a few almonds to the soybeans before the maker grinds them into mush. this adds a slightly almond flavor to the soymilk, and therefore the pudding.

cook the following in a 300-350 degree sun oven for approximately 50 minutes, until rice is cooked soft:

3 cups fresh soymilk/“okara”mixture (okara is the soybean mush left after making homemade soymilk). If you are not using fresh soymilk, 3 cups plain, unsweetened soymilk will do just fine.
1 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup brown rice
several tablespoons agave nectar, to taste

while this is cooking, mix together in a small bowl:

1 teaspoon lemon rind
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
dash of salt

when the rice mixture is done, add a dollop at a time to the egg mixture, stirring after each addition. keep adding until most of the rice mixture is added, then pour back into sunoven pot.

put back in hot oven for 10-15 minutes.

remove from heat and let set for 30 minutes before serving.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

sun oven granola

For us, making homemade granola is usually a winter activity. In fact, we often try to come up with things to bake (bread, cookies, muffins, etc), since we count on the heat from our oven to warm up our tiny home on chilly days.

The sun oven gives us an excuse to make granola even in summer!


Preheat the sunoven to approximately 350 degrees.

1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup brown rice syrup (or agave nectar, honey, or maple syrup)
any combination of the following: chopped walnuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, shredded coconut, and/or any combination of these or other things you like in your granola (if you are going to add dried fruit, I usually wait until after it’s cooked and cooled…it stays fresher that way).
Dash salt (I think the dash of salt adds a lot. But if you don’t want the extra sodium, feel free to omit).

Mix all this together thoroughly so it’s all coated with the oil/sweetener mixture. Place in the pre-heated oven. At 350, give it 45 minutes and then check up on it. If it’s starting to look a little golden, it’s done! The key to nice lumpy granola is to let it cool completely into one big lump and then break it up when it’s completely cool.

Try not to eat it all in one sitting.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

baba ganoush

roasting vegetables in the sun oven could not be simpler.

yesterday morning i harvested two fat eggplants from the garden. we decided a batch of baba ganoush was in order. i set out the sun oven, and it heated up to 350 in about 15 minutes.

i washed and dried the eggplants, and put them in the sun oven pot whole. i didn't even cut off the ends. i also put about 10 whole unpeeled cloves of garlic in the pot along with the eggplants. then i put the pot, without the lid, in the oven and clamped down the glass.

after about 20 minutes, i noticed that the eggplants were beginning to brown. i opened the lid and turned them. after about 45 minutes, i opened the lid again and gave them a poke...they felt very soft.

i removed the pot from the oven and let them cool down for awhile.

when they were cool enough to handle, i pulled off the skin, removed as many of the seeds as possible, and put them in the food processor. the two eggplants probably yielded about 3 cups of mushy roasted flesh.

(all measurements approximate and adjustable according to taste):

3 cups roasted eggplant flesh, seeds removed
1/2 cup tahini
1 teaspoon salt
5-10 cloves roasted garlic, squeezed out of peels
(this may sound like a lot, but roasted garlic does not have the same potency as fresh)
juice of 2 limes
handful fresh parsley

whirl all that around in the food processor until creamy.
serve in a bowl and make a little pool of olive oil on top.
chips, pita triangles, crackers, crudites, olives all make nice accompaniments.

Monday, July 14, 2008

gluten free jalepeno onion cornbread

this saturday i went over to farmstand marfa to pedal my wares. in addition, i brought along the sun oven and baked a loaf of cornbread while the market was going on. it was lots of fun! folks were very intrigued, and had lots of questions. and the smell of fresh-baking cornbread sure attracted people over to my table.

here's the recipe i use. it's adapted from the back of the arrowhead mills cornmeal bag:


set out your sun oven to pre-heat. around here it takes about 20 minutes for it to get up to 350 on a cloudless day. during farmstand, there were a few clouds in the sky and it only got up to around 300. not to worry...just add a few minutes to the cooking time!

cut a circle of unbleached parchment to fit in the bottom of your black enamel sun oven pot. place in the bottom, and spray or brush with canola oil.


1 cup fine or medium grind cormeal (i often use blue cornmeal)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 eggs beaten
1 cup soymilk or water
3 tablespoons canola oil
3 tablespoons honey (use the same measuring spoon you used for the oil and the honey will slide right off!)
1 cup onion, finely chopped
2-4 chopped jalepeno peppers

the arrowhead recipe also calls for 1 1/4 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese, which i'm sure is delicious, but i omit!

pour the batter into your prepared pot, put the lid on, and place in preheated oven.
if it's at 350, check it in 25 minutes. on saturday the oven temp only got up to 300, so it took closer to 35 or 40 minutes.

i have yet to OVER cook something, as the moisture is pretty much sealed into the pot. the temp is completely even inside the black box, so it's very difficult to actually burn something.


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

baked stuffed squash blossoms

we have more male squash blossoms in our garden than we need right now (there only needs to be ONE male flower available for any female flower currently in bloom). a good thing to do with the extras is to pick 'em in the morning before they wilt and put them in a bowl of cool water until you're ready to deal with them. let's say you've got 4 or 5 good-sized squash blossoms...

get out your sun oven, and let it heat up to around 350.

meanwhile, compile your ingredients.

here's what i used, but you may not have exactly the same things on hand and will need to improvise. i'm big on improvisation (not only in cooking, but in other things too...). for example, you may not have silken tofu on hand, but maybe you eat dairy and have some grated cheese. you could add that instead. you may not have bob's mill gluten free cornbread mix. but you could use some plain cornmeal and add a little bit of baking powder.


1 egg
a few tablespoons of finely-chopped red onion
1/4 cup silken tofu
3/4 cup bob's mill gluten free cornbread mix
a splash of unsweetened soy milk
4 tablespoons olive oil
chopped fresh herbs, such as oregano & thyme
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
fresh ground black pepper

mix this all together thoroughly with a fork, being sure to mash the tofu into the batter.

oil the bottom of your black enamel sun oven pot, or cut a piece of baking parchment to fit.

remove the male flower parts from the inside of your flowers.

spoon the filling into each flower as far as you can without it spilling out between the petals. fold the tops of the petals over, overlapping them to enclose the filling.

place the stuffed blossom, top down, in your oiled pot.

repeat with remaining flowers.

put the lid on, and place the pot in your sun oven.

check back in about 35 minutes if your oven is at a pretty constant 350.
adjust accordingly if it's lower or higher.

when your blossoms are fully cooked, they should look something like this picture. ours have been tasting out of this world. i hope yours do too!!

the joy of sun oven cookery

cooking in a sun oven is an extremely simple and profoundly rewarding experience. solar ovens work with absolutely no fuel of any wood, charcoal, gas, electric...nothing. nothing but concentrated heat from the sun. it doesn't even have to be a hot day to use can be the middle of winter, as long as there's a fairly cloudless sky.

a sun oven consists of an insulated black box with a glass cover and some reflective panels. you can purchase a sun oven already assembled, or you can build one yourself. there are many plans available on line if you google "solar oven". perhaps some of the best ideas can be found at path to freedom website.

we have the sun oven brand sun oven. we never would have thought to spend the money on buying one of these new, but some extremely thoughtful friends insisted we take it in exchange for some work we'd done. turns out, we completely love it. we use our sun oven at every possible opportunity. here in west texas, the sun shines almost every day. on a good cookin' day, we might start baking a loaf of sourdough bread in the morning and have it with lunch, then cook up a big sweet potato pancake to have with the next day's breakfast, then throw together a bean and veggie stew, forget about it for a few hours and have it for dinner.

on a good day, i can't stop cooking.