One 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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.