Grit Blogs > Desert Homesteading

Solar Oven: Homemade Granola Baked by the Sun

Dave L HeadshotOne of the real benefits of our intense Arizona sun is the incredible efficiency of our solar oven. Granted, solar ovens are used nearly everywhere the sun shines, but at our nearly 5,000 foot elevation in southeastern Arizona, it works exceptionally well. While we do have a conventional oven in our propane kitchen stove here at the Bear Cave, our solar oven is often the tool of choice in the hot months. It saves energy and doesn’t heat up the house in the summer months.

The list of dishes cooked in the solar oven is extensive. We cook beets to ready them for my favorite beet pickle recipe. Winter squash is cooked, scooped, and frozen in freezer bags for our winter recipes. Candle holders and glass votives with candle stubs are put into the solar oven and melted down ready for cleaning and new candles with very little muss and no odors in the house. You’ve got the idea! We love our solar oven.

Perhaps my favorite use of the solar cooker is home-made granola. Nearly every day when the weather is warm and that is much of the time here, we breakfast on home-made granola, with Barbara’s home-made yogurt served with fruit and honey. A slice of Barbara’s whole wheat bread with peanut butter and a hot cup of coffee and I am a happy guy.

     Empty Granola Cannister
 

When the level of cereal in the canister is nearly empty, it is time to break out the solar oven and make a new batch of great granola. Granted, there are wide varieties of packaged granola and even bulk granola available in grocery stores. But commercial granola is typically more expensive than I want to pay for cereal and who knows how long the cereal has been waiting to have its package opened.  Packaged or bulk granola  just can’t compare to home-made for cost, freshness, and flavor  

Barbara's Solar Granola 

 Ingredients:

3 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup raw whole almonds
1/2 cup raw wheat germ
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup honey

          Solar Granola Cooking
 

For granola in the solar oven, Barbara uses a 10” springform cake pan. There isn’t anything particularly special about this. It just happens to be a container that fits our solar oven and holds the quantity of ingredients for a batch of granola. If it happens to be cloudy or excessively windy weather and we do have to use the kitchen oven, she uses a conventional cookie sheet with sides high enough to keep the mix from spilling.

     Adding Honey to Granola
 

Mix all the dry ingredients thoroughly and put the pan of mix into the solar oven. The intensity of the sun here makes it necessary to be pretty attentive to the process. Take a glance at the mix in the solar oven every 10 minutes or so. When signs of browning appear, remove the pan and stir the dry ingredients.  Usually, the coconut will begin to brown first and is a good tell-tale. The purpose of this first step is to heat the dry ingredients so that the honey will disperse evenly when it’s added.

       Finished Granola Mixture
 

When the dry ingredients are browned to your satisfaction, remove the pan and add honey and canola oil. Stir thoroughly and replace in the oven. Continue browning the mixture. Be very attentive at this time and check every five to ten minutes as the granola browns to suit your inclination.  When the mixture is browned to your satisfaction, remove the pan from the solar oven. Be sure to use oven mitts or hot pads! Give it a final stir and let it cool.

Barbara sometimes adds dried cranberries or raisins when the mixture is cooked, but still warm. If you only have roasted sunflower seeds or wheat germ, also add them at this time and mix them in thoroughly.

This basic recipe allows for a great deal of creativity. For example, cashews can be substituted for almonds. Almost any dry fruit can be added to the browned and warm mix. Knock yourself out and give your family a real treat!

Not only will you appreciate the wonderful taste of fresh granola, but your budget will thank you!

For more on Solar Cooking, visit us at www.grow-cook-eat-beans.com.

 

muck boot diva
8/9/2011 1:16:15 PM

Sounds good. I might try this. I just need to find a place on the farm where the bugs won't "join" my granola if you know what I mean. The Diva has been looking for something to perk up her appetite -- this will go nice with my Chobani! MBD


eva m.
8/2/2011 11:14:58 AM

Thanks Dave, I just managed to miss the solar oven section the first time, but I found it this time :).


dave larson
8/2/2011 11:02:45 AM

Hi Eva, I tried a DIY solar oven and it didn't work very well. If you visit our website, there is more information on the solar oven we use and love. You can get to resources for buying one through the site as well. www.grow-cook-eat-beans.com We'd love to have you visit our site and hope you enjoy cooking with solar.


eva m.
8/2/2011 9:53:18 AM

Dave, I have been wanting to buy/build a solar oven. I like the design of yours and am curious whether it is one that you purchased or built? If you built it, are there plans available anywhere?


dave larson
8/2/2011 9:40:11 AM

Hi MW, Hope you enjoy the recipe for granola. If you find yourself out this way, we'd love to see you! Your farm is so green and lovely, a marked contrast from the desert. But both are beautiful. Have a great day on Red Pine Mountain.


mountain woman
8/1/2011 9:10:30 AM

Wow, Dave, I know where I'm headed if we travel out West. I want to spend some time enjoying Barbara's cooking. I'm not sure solar cooking would work for us. We did build a solar wood drying kiln. We try not to cook inside our house much in the summer but instead use our barbecue. Anyway, what a wonderful idea and what a fabulous recipe. I think I'm going to try it in our oven this fall. I know I'd love to visit your desert paradise.


dave larson
7/30/2011 9:36:35 AM

Hi Nebraska Dave, I remember those hot and humid midwest summer days all too well. When we have our super high temps, it is usually in June with single digit humidity. As the Bear Cave is at nearly 5000 ft elevation, our local temps are much lower than either Phoenix or Tucson. Don't envy you those temps plus high humidity. I do enjoy the way the old body feels when I eat healthy food. As to gardening, we have a great garden and, while it was a lot of work getting it started, we eat tomatoes until December and greens all year round. Green beans, beets, carrots etc - plus four kinds of peppers - we have immersed ourselves in the local food strongly influenced by Mexican culture. In fact, I will blog on starting a garden in the desert next week. Thanks for the question! Stay cool for another month!


nebraska dave
7/30/2011 8:58:43 AM

Dave, home made yogurt, granola, and bread for breakfast. Wow, you are going to live forever on all that natural food. No wonder you can leap on top of a roof rafter in a single bound and climb up and down ladders all day while building a straw bale house. I think it's great that you and your wife have found your niche in this season of life. I should look into the solar cooking. This year it's been unbearably hot. Well, not like your area but for us it's really hot. The humidity is the killer this year. It seems to hover above 90 percent almost every day. With the temperatures creeping up into the 90s on a daily basis, the solar cooker would be a valuable thing to try this year. Recorded temperatures of close to 200 degrees inside cars rival slow cooker temperatures. Story has it that someone in my city decided to set a steak on the dash of the car in a skillet and by afternoon it was cooked to medium well done. Dave, is it possible to grow a garden where you live or do you have to trek into town for supplies? Have a great desert day.