Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving Afterthoughts

Thank you, Lord, for what we've got
 Even if it's not a lot
Think that we have got all that we need. . .

Erica is a really good cook. She really is. She always thanks me for teaching her well. There's always something new to learn, though. 

When she heard that both her grandmas were visiting relatives out of town leaving me, Rick, and Annalee with nowhere to go she decided to host Thanksgiving in her new place and invite her boyfriend's family and us. It was also Chris's birthday, so that added to the element of excitement—their first big shindig living together in their home.

So, okay, Chris went shopping for a turkey with his mom last Monday, bought at the local grocery store. They were expecting 14 people, so he came home with a 22 pounder. Chris also loves to grill and decided to cook it on his Weber charcoal grill. He and Erica figured they'd brine it Wednesday night and he'd get up nice and early Thanksgiving morning to get the grill ready. Except . . . our phone rang at maybe 10:00 Wednesday evening. It's Erica and, in a voice that sounded like she'd been crying, she's yelling that their turkey still had a neck. I told her the neck was in the cavity along with the giblets. Pull them out. And she kept saying, no they got the giblets out, but the turkey had a neck. It was bloody and it was gross. At a loss, I passed the phone to Rick. Finally he told her to e-mail us a photo. Rick clicked it open and exclaimed (excuse the language), holy shit, that's disgusting. Being a really sympathetic father he e-mailed back "got a chainsaw?" After a bit of google searching, we told Chris to hack it off as best he could. There didn't seem to be any thing else to do. And I told her that she'd really better make sure she'd gotten the giblets 'cause they should be in a bag and from her description I wasn't sure she'd really gotten them out. At this point she was freaking out a bit, because no way did she want to reach into the cavity, but she found them. According to Erica there was blood splattered everywhere and the kitchen was a mess. She and Chris finally got the turkey cleaned and into the brining bag. Then she wiped the kitchen down, took all their clothes and put them in the wash, and they both took showers. She sent me an e-mail stating that she never wanted to clean or cook a turkey ever again.

Wow, that was exciting. And while I felt bad this was happening on their first Thanksgiving attempt—heck, their first big dinner party attempt—I was also having a hard time not laughing. It reminded me of some of the crazy things I called my mom about when I first left home.

Annalee and I were up early Thanksgiving morning so we could get our contributions together. I didn't check e-mail until 10:00 a.m. when I found one from Erica, dated just moments before. She had to take Chris to the ER at 2:00 a.m. and had just woken up. Chris had slipped on ice years back and tore a bunch of muscles in his leg. He was laid up in bed for months with a cast and now has arthritis in his hip. I'm not sure of the exact sequence of events, but I believe he'd gotten some medication for the arthritis. Maybe he'd had a reaction to that, but his ankles were swollen and on fire, and he was in excruciating pain. They got home at 5:00 a.m. Chris was given crutches and would no longer be able to grill the turkey since he couldn't really stand or move around. The new plan was for Erica to roast it in the oven except she didn't have a roasting pan. What a Thanksgiving—and birthday—this was turning out to be.

The grocery store was only a mile away and we figured it was faster for her to run there and buy a disposable pan rather than wait for Rick to run ours over to the house since we're about a half hour away, not to mention Annalee's apple pie was still cooking and she was stuffing mushrooms. We got there as early as possible, anyway, to help her vacuum, set the tables, and finish preparing the meal. Chris was parked at the counter, busily cutting up vegetables. Since they don't have many pots and pans yet, Erica had a precise order she was following. She had a grid posted on the fridge showing the order things needed to be cooked and for how long. She was doing a good job of keeping everything under control despite the turkey neck incident and the run to the emergency room. 

By the time the rest of the guests showed up the house was in order, Erica and Chris had both managed to grab a shower, and the food was warming on the serving trays. And it was all absolutely delicious. As we were leaving, though, Erica gave me the turkey carcass and said take it, no way am I making soup out of this stupid bird.

I made a delicious turkey soup yesterday, which we just finished up for lunch today. And you know turkey soup is best made with dumplings. For 30 years I've made the butter dumplings recipe from the Joy of Cooking. If I tried to serve chicken or turkey soup without them I'd have a revolt on my hands.
Turkey soup with butter dumplings

Butter dumplings
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 eggs
6 tablespoons flour
pinch of salt

Mash the butter with a fork, add the eggs and mix together until creamy. Add the flour and mix well.
Add the batter by the spoonful to simmering soup, cover, and cook for 8 minutes.

I hope everyone's Thanksgiving turned out as well as ours in the end. Hopefully with less excitement, although in years to come this first Thanksgiving for Erica and Chris together will always be memorable.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

14 Carrot Gold

Eating locally grown food helps in the fight against global warming. Rich Pirog of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture reports that the average fresh food item on our dinner table travels 1,500 miles to get there. Buying locally-produced food eliminates the need for all that fuel-guzzling transportation.
Wow, I really cannot believe Thanksgiving is around the corner! I still can't get used to the fact that summer is over, but in just a few short weeks the local farmstand will close for the season. I've been dashing there once a week and buying as many vegetables as Rick and I can handle at a time. I mean, there's just so much space to store everything so it doesn't go bad before we can get a chance to dehydrate, can, ferment, freeze, or cook it all. The stand is maybe 8 miles away, in a direction I rarely travel, so I try and get as much as possible in one trip. Our refrigerator is so packed you can barely see what's in there (probably moldy leftovers from last month hidden somewhere!) and we have baskets of fruits and vegetables sitting all over the counters waiting. I went again yesterday and found bags of radishes, carrots, lemons, limes, (more) apples, and celery on the $1.00 discount rack. Last week I found a 6 lb. bag of bananas, several bags of tomatoes, and two bags of mushrooms—and there was absolutely nothing wrong with them—all for just $1.00 a bag. The mushrooms themselves would have been $5 at the grocery store, and I'm guessing each bag of tomatoes weighed 4 lbs. One week I bought enough cabbage for Rick to make a crock of sauerkraut, kim chi, cortido, and dehydrate the rest.

Rick thinks my underlying scheme is to either drive him totally crazy, keep him barefoot in the kitchen, or something equally as evil. I keep dragging bags out, telling him what to deal with next. His poor hands looked awful after the cabbages were dealt with; red and chapped with a few cuts and scrapes. But, he sure does make a mean ferment. When I hear the pop of the kombucha bottle opening I come running.

But I think yesterday I pushed it too far. I walked in with my handy dandy large sized tote bag so full and heavy I could barely carry it with two hands. Besides all the dollar bags of seconds I had bought acorn and butternut squash, too, so I was struggling. I dropped the bag on the kitchen floor and proudly withdrew all my goodies. Rick looked at me and said, "You're kidding, right? Why did you buy so many radishes? And don't we already have a ton of carrots in the fridge?" To which I pointed out that they were only a $1.00 a bag and how could anyone resist. Besides he needs radishes for the kim chi. But Rick wanted to make some beef jerky, so I decided I needed to give in and actually cut some of this stuff up myself. Rick patted me on the head and said he had trained me well and he was ready to pass the torch. I like it so much better when he deals with the preserving, but I proceeded to peel and chop carrots and zucchini, made jars of lemons, limes, and radishes in salt, and dehydrated three huge bunches of cilantro. As soon as the jerky is done (it's doing taking its turn in the dehydrator now) I'll start on the celery.

All this dehydrating has been fun, though. We've never dehydrated before, but it made sense to try it. We bought the 5 tray Excalibur food dehydrator and it's been amazing. We haven't dipped into anything yet except the previous batch of beef jerky, the dried apples, and the dried bananas. We thought we'd wait until the farmstand closed for the season before we really started using everything. May as well still use fresh while it's here. There's so much talk about buying local and buying in season that we thought, well, maybe we should try and see what we could do. When we first moved into our house 30 years ago our neighbor said she never bought tomatoes out of season. I thought she was a little odd at the time, but it's time to reconsider that attitude.

Our garden hasn't produced excess for years—just enough to eat fresh during the season (well, except the garlic, which has been a huge success)—because we're usually busy performing over the summer. This year, though, gigs were light so Rick did a lot of work to get the garden back in shape. He's got some kick-ass compost going. We're hoping next year it'll be even better, but I don't know, those dollar bags of blemished fruit at the farmstand are hard to beat. 

dehydrated food waiting to get eaten!
Believe it or not, that jar in the photo has 14 carrots in it!! Wow. Rick called it 14 carrot gold. (He's quite the wit.) I'm afraid that when I go to make soup I'll over add the vegetables because they look so darn tiny. Which is why I actually paid attention to the recommendation that you label how much you put in each container and what it weighed beforehand. I even noted how many rounds I cut a large carrot into versus a medium one.

I was also really fascinated by the idea of preserving the lemons and limes in salt. Lemons preserved in salt are often called for in Moroccan dishes. Not sure what to do with the limes, but I'll figure it out. I googled several different recipes for preserved lemons, but this worked best. Now I can't wait for them to be done so I can try a Moroccan recipe!

Lemons Preserved in Salt
lemons and limes a day after salting
1. Grab yourself a bowl and sharp knife
2. Wash the lemons well
3. While holding a lemon over the bowl, cut the lemon lengthwise and then across the width. Don't make the cuts go quite the whole way and do NOT cut through the lemon. You want the lemons to stay intact
4. Pack salt into the cuts
5. Put 2 or 3 tablespoons of salt in the bottom of the jar
6. Pack the lemons in tightly, adding a little salt in between each one
7. Finish with a layer of salt
8. Cover the jar tightly and leave at room temperature for several days. Keep and eye on the level of liquid in the jar
9. If the lemons don't make enough juice to cover themselves, open the jar back up and add some lemon juice until they're covered (seems like I'll have to in a day or so)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sunshine Daydream Chicken

A day without sunshine is like, you know, night.  – Steve Martin 
I've been waiting for that bright sunshine to show up and shine in my back door someday. – Luther Allison 
You've got to get out and pray to the sky to appreciate the sunshine. – Ken Kesey 
Our mostly shady yard
I haven't been able to cook in the solar oven in, like, forever. I did manage to make another coffeecake one day, but ended up bringing some chicken drumsticks inside to finish on another day's attempt. Our property is heavily treed and at this time of year the trees still have leaves and the sun is lower in the sky. Doesn't make for good solar cooking. Also, although we've had a few sunny days, some warm days, and even a hot day here and there, we've mostly had clouds and rain. And more rain. And even more rain. Including thunderstorms today.

We performed last weekend at the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival. We left on Friday around 1:30 pm for Saugerties, which is normally a 3 1/2 hour drive. As we neared the Throgs Neck Bridge we were listening to the traffic reports. The upper level of the George Washington Bridge was flooded, head for the lower level. But, oh no, there was an accident blocking two lanes so the Cross Bronx Expressway had heavy delays. It took us 45 minutes or so to get off at the Bronx River Parkway exit. I think that was about a mile. But, guess what!? That was backed up also and all traffic was being diverted. We went 5 miles in 3 hours. Apparently, all Hudson River crossings were flooded. And the rain kept coming down. We eventually made it to our hotel a little before 9 pm, exhausted, frustrated, and very hungry.

But the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival is the Woodstock of garlic festivals and we look forward all year to performing there. They have 5 stages of music and zillions of garlic growers, food vendors (including garlic ice cream), arts & craft booths, and fresh & prepared food vendors (like fresh peppers or prepared salsas). They can get crowds of 50,000 people if it's nice—and, thankfully, it was an absolutely gorgeous weekend after so much rain, although the grounds were pretty darn muddy. We played three one-hour sets each day with an hour break in between when we dashed around like chickens without heads to buy buy buy and eat eat eat. We ate garlic pizza, garlic chicken, garlic sausage, garlic pickles, pulled pork sandwiches with garlic, and Annalee even got a sticker for taking a garlic shot. We bought 4 lbs. of Turkish Red garlic and will use the biggest cloves for seed garlic. (Rick grew 80 bulbs of garlic in the garden also, so I think we're set there.) We bought 25 lbs. of onions, 30 lbs. of tomatoes, 5 pounds of hot peppers (jalapenos and Ghost peppers), and Annalee bought tubs of homemade pesto, aged balsamic vinegar, new pickles, and horseradish cheddar cheese. Besides garlic and hot peppers, Erica bought hot sauce appropriately named "Apocalyptic." She actually gave Rick money and asked him to pick something her boyfriend might like. I think the vendor was shocked when Rick licked the sample and said he loved it. He was waiting for Rick to break out in a sweat and faint or something. Which is about how Chris reacted when he took his first taste. I'm sure he'll get used to it, though.

So we've been cooking away here at home the past few days. I think Rick has outdone me. He's made jars of hot pepper relish, dried apples, dried mushrooms, and is busily dehydrating the tomatoes in our Excalibur food dehydrator. His dried tomatoes in olive oil are to die for. (Next year we'd like to try sun drying the tomatoes, but I think I'd rather build a simple solar dehydrator than use the sun oven, so I can keep that free for meals.) After all the drying he's planning on making hot pepper jelly.

While he's busy stocking up, instead of using my solar oven, I've been using my new Pomaireware ceramic bean pot, which was a present from Rick back in June. I had only used it twice before, but now I'm using it all the time and really liking it. The whole idea of making one pot (or close to it) meals was foreign to me, but I had to rethink my approach to what constituted a complete meal when I began solar cooking. Otherwise the whole idea of it was pointless. Why cook the chicken outside if I was going to cook 10 other things in 10 different pots inside. Okay, a bit of an exaggeration, but you get my drift. So, now I'm making meals inside in the clay pot with very similar results to solar cooking and trying to still keep it simple. I think I know what will be on my Christmas list (more clay pots!).

I made a yummy chicken dish tonight that I've renamed Sunshine Daydream Chicken since I've been humming the Grateful Dead lyrics all day. I didn't take any photos because it's so dark and dismal. Cut 1 1/2 pounds of boneless chicken thighs into huge pieces (I cut each thigh in thirds). Melt 2 tablespoons butter in the bottom of the clay pot (or the black enamel pot for the solar oven) and lightly brown the chicken. Add one large onion sliced really thin, several cloves of garlic chopped, a handful of parsley, salt, pepper, 1/4 cup tomato sauce, 1/3 cup good red wine vinegar, and 1/2 cup of chicken broth. Cover the clay pot and pop into the oven at 275º for 4 hours. Or cover the black pot and pop into the solar oven for a few hours. I admit I used another pot to make rice and poured the chicken over the rice to serve. On the side I made a cucumber salad, fresh homemade semolina bread, and some of the fresh pesto Annalee had bought at the festival.

Okay, tomorrow's forecast is for partly cloudy skies with a stray shower or thunderstorm possible, and rain highly probably on both Saturday and Sunday. But, but, but . . . as of now, incredibly, the forecast says sunny all next week. Cross your fingers 'cause it'll sure be good to see some sunny and dry weather!!!

Sunshine daydream, walkin' in the tall trees, going where the wind goes, blooming like a red rose... – Grateful Dead, Sugar Magnolia

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Goodnight Irene Coffeecake

Sometimes I live in the country
Sometimes I live in town
Sometimes I take a great notion
To jump in the river and drown
Irene, goodnight
Irene, goodnight
Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
I'll see you in my dreams
– attributed to Huddie Ledbetter

With Hurricane Irene bearing down on the east coast I took advantage of the beautiful sunshine last Friday to make what I planned on calling batten down the hatches coffeecake. It was very surreal to be outside moving everything into the garage, washing and hanging laundry, solar cooking, and stockpiling water for a hurricane while it was so absolutely gorgeous. Just a beautiful summer day. We kept checking, watching Irene's progress, though, trying to get everything done before we had to leave since it was supposed to already be raining by Saturday morning.

We had a show Friday evening in East Meadow, which is about 50 miles away heading west, and were leaving at 4pm to set up and sound check. I guess too many people were freaked out about the coming hurricane and were out buying batteries, bread, and milk because we had a grand total of 14 people in the audience. We were hoping that by evening everyone would be finished with their preparations and, because the weather was so beautiful, come out to hear some live music. We were wrong. Normally library audience size ranges from 75 to 300 depending on the library. But we had a great time with those 14 people. They were very attentive and seemed to really enjoy the music. And I think we played rather well. I had a lot of fun, in any case. At the end of the show, Rick asked the audience to sing along. As soon as the first words were sung everyone roared with laughter and clapped, then settled in to singing along to Goodnight Irene.

Huddie "Lead Belly" Ledbetter, an iconic American folk and blues musician and master of the 12 string guitar, was born around 1888 or 1889 on a plantation in Louisiana to sharecropper parents, and is often credited with writing Goodnight Irene. Lead Belly was the first to record it in 1932, but the actual origins of the song are unknown, although some point to a similar song from the 1880s as its basis. Lead Belly himself claimed he learned the song from his uncle and could remember singing it as early as 1908. By the 1930s, though, he had modified the rhythm and rewritten many of the verses, making the song essentially his own. In 1933, musicologists John and Alan Lomax were touring the south collecting folk songs for the Library of Congress and discovered that Southern prisons were a good place to collect the work songs, ballads and spirituals they were looking for. During a visit to the Louisiana State Penitentiary (some accounts call it the Angola State Farm or Louisiana's Angola Penitentiary) they came across Lead Belly, who was serving time for assault with attempt to murder (he had already served time previously for murder). They recorded a number of his songs, including Goodnight Irene, for the Library of Congress. In 1934, Lead Belly was pardoned for good behavior and released from prison. He would continue to perform and record throughout the 1930s, often with the support and guidance of the Lomaxes. Toward the end of the 1940s, though, it was discovered that he had Lou Gehrig's Disease. He died in New York City on December 6, 1949. Goodnight Irene has since been recorded by such artists as the Weavers, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Cash, the Kingston Trio, Little Richard, and Jimi Hendrix.

We drove home feeling energized from the show. We dropped Erica off at her apt. with warnings to be careful. As soon as Rick, Annalee and I got home we checked on the hurricane's status. The storm was closing in, but the actual path was still iffy, with so many variables. Ultimately, we were lucky. Even though we only live 1,000 feet from the beach our house only sustained one downed tree—which missed our car by about 5 feet! Other than that we had a lot of downed branches and leaves everywhere. And, of course, we lost power. I believe there were approximately 470,000 Long Islanders without power. Many still don't have it. Annalee was thrilled. She was ready to don a bonnet and get a horse and buggy. To her, it was a grand adventure. Rick got to act manly and run the generator. We had bought it immediately after Hurricane Gloria when we were without power for 5 days. It's been sitting in our basement untouched for 25 years. We weren't even sure it would start. But Rick had dragged it out of hiding last Thursday and, amazingly, it worked. He got a kick out of that and did an I'm-the-man dance with a few chest thumps thrown in for emphasis. He ran the generator for 45 minutes or so every few hours just to keep the fridge & freezer cold so we wouldn't lose the food.

Our adventure is over with now, but we do have a festival to get to on Sunday at the West Kortright Centre in East Meredith NY. I'm not sure how to get there, or whether we should leave after Annalee gets home from work Saturday evening, because the Catskills were hit pretty bad. The flooding throughout the area is incredible, with whole towns under water. I'm afraid a 4 1/2 hour drive will turn into twice that if we leave Sunday morning as planned.

But I'll figure that out later. Meanwhile, here's a tweak on my coffeecake recipe. I used up all the strawberries and blueberries I had left in the fridge (wish I'd had a few more, though), and threw a few chopped almonds on for good luck.

Goodnight Irene Coffeecake
All the fruit I had left before the hurricane
Grease a baking pan.

1 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
1 tbl. softened butter
1 cup sour cream

Whatever fruit (strawberries, blueberries...), almonds. Whatever you want, really.

Crumb topping:
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tbl. flour
1 3/4 tbl. melted butter

Mix the first four dry ingredients in a bowl. In a separate bowl, beat the sugar, vanilla, egg, soft butter, and sour cream until mixed well. All recipes say beat until light and fluffy, but I'm really impatient. Often, I'll either make a well in the dry ingredients, or push the dry as far to the side as I can, and mix the wet ingredients right in the same bowl. Then I'll slowly push the dry ingredients into the well and mix them in a little at a time. Kind of how you make fresh pasta. I'm sure there's a zillion reasons not to do that, but it works for me.

Once the batter is mixed, spread it in the pan. Now, I've found from experience that when cooking in a solar oven the topping sinks and looks very uncoffeecake-like if you add it right from the start. So I went and put the coffeecake out in the solar oven for about a half hour while I came back inside and sliced the strawberries, rinsed the blueberries, chopped some almonds, and cleaned up a bit. (I didn't use many almonds—maybe 10—and I chopped them on the smaller side.) For the crumb topping take about 1/3 cup brown sugar and mix 2 tablespoons flour in, then add about 1 3/4 tablespoons melted butter and mix until it looks a bit crumbly. I cleaned the kitchen, washed the bowl, then went outside with all the toppings. The coffeecake was cooked just enough so that the toppings wouldn't sink. I took the cake out, shut the glass cover so as not to lose heat, and carefully (but quickly) placed the fruit all over the top, sprinkled the tiny chopped almonds all over, sprinkled on the crumb topping, and put the coffeecake back in the solar oven to finish cooking. The solar oven was at about 325º. I left it out there another hour or so.  (Or bake it in a 375º oven for half an hour all told.)

It was a great breakfast when you didn't want to be opening the fridge too often. And even when you do!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Poultry in Motion

Run like hell and get the agony over with. — Clarence DeMar
Do a little more each day than you think you possibly can. — Lowell Thomas 

I'm not sure if Rick was feeling sorry for me or just wanted to get back out running, but he came up to me Monday morning with a big grin on his face and announced he was going to run with me and clock my route. Hmmmm, how nice, except I wasn't too sure I wanted to know how slow I went. Rick has this fancy GPS watch by Garmin. The girls and I had chipped in to buy it for him as a Father's Day present. We thought it would be nifty for him to use on his long runs in the woods since he liked to "go exploring." He'd come home with this happy glazed look and tell us how he started off on a 6 mile run that turned into 18 because he decided to check out another path and got lost. Like Daniel Boone blazing a trail. But then he fell. Three times in ten days and hurt his hand pretty bad, probably broken, since he managed to fall on his right side (and right hand) all three times. The watch tracks your route via GPS so you can plug it in afterward to find where, how far, and how fast you went. I was hoping the watch would also allow me to monitor his progress on my computer so I could go rescue him if the beep showed he stayed in the same spot for more than 10 minutes. It didn't work that way, though, but it did give Rick some fun before he got hurt—again—and this time got sidelined. So Monday was either desperation or pity for his poor wife (me!) who has to run alone now that Erica has moved. I made a coffeecake to go out in the solar oven, stripped the bed, and did a load of laundry to hang outside in the sun. Basically I dawdled a bit to psyche myself up and get my legs working some before this big adventure. Heck, Erica and I usually walked a mile first to gossip mommy-daughter stuff. And we didn't actually run together. Our running routes criss-crossed each other and we had it worked out so we ended at the same time. But Rick? He blasts out the door. He says walking is for sissies. I was in for trouble.

I felt like I was about to run the New York City Marathon. Rick kept looking down at his watch. I'm sure we made a strange running couple—the chubby wife beet red and sweating and the fit husband effortlessly running alongside. He said he could still feel all his various injuries, but who could tell? Not me. To top it off, at the end, as we got halfway up the block, our mailman got out of the mail truck and started waving his arms to indicate a finish line. That gave Rick the incentive to sprint home and throw his arms in the air in victory. Fun. Turns out the route was just shy of 2 miles and we had run a 10 minute pace. I ran farther when I went out with Erica, but I guess I ran slower since I had no one alongside pushing me. And I could walk-run up the steepest hills.

You can imagine my surprise when he went back out with me today. I admit I actually asked him, though, because I know he really wants to get back to running and going with me keeps him going short and slow. On his own he'd go too far too fast too soon. I must be insane, but out we went again. This time I added in an extra block to make it 2 miles on the dot. Sheesh. I won a race right here in our own neighborhood when I was pregnant with Erica. Well, I won the women's division. Rick won the race itself. But I was remembering how I raced up all the hills and felt really really good instead of panting and feeling like I was seriously going to pass out, which is how I felt today. Then, I think I ran 4 miles in just under 27 minutes. Today, with Rick egging me on, I managed 2 miles in 19 and a half minutes. Faster than Monday, but, oh, so much slower than all those years ago. Where did the time go? As I dragged myself up the stairs Rick announced that tomorrow we'll go even further and faster. Oh, no! 

Nothing beats chicken cooked in the solar oven
Anyway, on Monday, the coffeecake was done by the time I finished showering. I brought it in and set out a pot of chicken drumsticks. This was a totally fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants recipe, but it was super yummy.

Very lightly oil the bottom of a pot. Roll the chicken drumsticks around to get them coated. Crush two large cloves of garlic in a bowl. Add some salt, pepper, paprika, thyme, pinch of cayenne, crushed red pepper, and a dash of sugar. I just kept adjusting the amounts until I had what looked like enough to rub all over the drumsticks. Then I set the covered pot outside in the Sun Oven for maybe 4 hours. The oven was at 300º when I set them out, but it was down to 150º by the time I took everything in at dinnertime. On the side, I also made macaroni salad and cooked some collard greens in a bit of chicken broth with crumbled bacon and minced onion. Totally delicious!!

Enjoy. I have to go get a good night's sleep. Rick says I'm in training. For what I don't know.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Ramblings of a Tired Mother

Grown don't mean nothing to a mother.  A child is a child.  They get bigger, older, but grown?  What's that suppose to mean?  In my heart it don't mean a thing.  ~Toni Morrison, Beloved, 1987

Wow! I've been meaning to write another really witty post, but I've been too tired to think of anything. Just really drained, you know? But Amanda left a comment asking me not to stop, and I wasn't planning to, but I guess I'd best get back in the groove. (Thanks, Amanda!)

We don't have a television, so we listen to the radio a lot. Right now it's baseball season—and we're Mets fans—so we get to listen to them lose. A lot. Although they have been having what the announcer calls an awesome 500 season. They just won't quit. But the point was, there's a commercial on the radio where a guy sings "Ohhhhhhh, so tired." I'm not even sure what he's tired of, or what he's trying to sell, nor can I understand the rest of what he says, but I keep singing along with that part anyway.

Erica on the playground
Erica moved into her very own first apartment on Monday, August 1, which also happened to be her 27th birthday. And Annalee's boyfriend broke up with her, so she was feeling a bit vulnerable and needed sympathy. I think she's pretty much over it, and Erica is settling into her place nicely, so things are getting back to some kind of normal. If there ever was a normal around here. I'm hoping my exhaustion will go away now, too.

We traveled to Pennsylvania, Delaware, home to Long Island, then on up to Cape Cod and Connecticut in the 10 days before Erica moved. Annalee's now ex called her while we were in Massachusetts to break things off. At that point, we still had two more shows to do and I was really worried that she wouldn't be able to concentrate. The driving and performing all went wonderfully, though, and we had a good time otherwise. Our show in Delaware was particularly awesome. But after that whirlwind, we got home on Friday, and on Sunday had a party to celebrate Erica's birthday and new apartment. Erica had been stashing all sorts of things for her new apartment over the past two months: pots & pans, lamps, a vacuum, dishes, towels, curtains, toaster, can opener—everything she could possibly think of. Our house, which is small to begin with, was over crowded with boxes and boxes of things she would need in her new place. It got to the point where I couldn't really clean or put anything away because of all her stuff. So we had a LOT to move. As soon as everyone left Sunday evening, we loaded all our cars in anticipation of the big day. Rick and I ultimately made two trips with the minivan stuffed to bursting, and by 5:30 p.m. we had her totally unpacked and moved in. Her boyfriend, Chris, showed up with a box truck of his stuff as Rick and I were leaving. Annalee stayed to help with round #2, but we came home to tackle our house.

And I do mean tackle. Our tiny 900+ square foot house was loaded to the gills with four adults living in it. The first thing Rick and I did was go through all our books. We estimated we donated 250 books to the local library. You'd never know by looking at our bookshelves (we love books!), but we now have everything in categories and shelved vertically. No more books piled sideways across the tops of others. After that, we tackled old magazines and clothes and dishes. We made several trips to the local thrift store. We moved all of Annalee's stuff out from the rest of the house and into the bedroom that she had shared with Erica, but now has all to herself. We worked for days carting things up and down the stairs; moving a desk here, a shelf there, a dresser down, a vanity up, and staying awake until 2 and 3 a.m. The first time Erica came home she walked around and said, it looks the same. Well, we didn't paint or re-wallpaper or buy new furniture, so everything is familiar. But it feels lighter, more organized. I'd still like to get rid of, or donate, quite a bit more but this was a great first step. I feel like I can breathe.

I'm completely achy from all the moving, though. My arms are in agony, my knees are throbbing, and my ankles aren't bending all that well. I feel old!

Annalee attempting to play banjo
And underneath all of this is a slight sadness that I'm not sure words can explain. A sadness that my children are 27 and 23, not 7 and 3. There are still things I want to tell those young children that I forgot, pushed off for some other time, or that just dawned on me now. I see a book and think, gee, the kids would enjoy that if I read it out loud. I want to tell Erica how to efficiently run a house, how to shop smart, how to save, but that would be intrusive rather than instructive now. I want to tell Annalee she'll find someone who will really love her, or maybe she'll be fine alone, but it will all be okay and have that be the truth. Do I still have the power to kiss the boo boos and have the hurt go away? 

I have been cooking during all of this. I've put chicken drumsticks out in the solar oven coated in an amazing spice blend from Penzey's Spices. I've made beef stew, cold lentil salad, and fresh tomato sauce outside so I wouldn't have to worry about dinner while we sweated inside hauling around furniture or books. But it's also been raining a lot, so cooking moved inside often. I've made chili in a clay Pomaireware bean pot. I've made my own pasta and my own egg noodles, which I haven't done in years. I'm feeling good about my newly spacious house. I know the girls will be fine. I'll be fine. I guess I'll just go annoy Rick.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Hungry, Hot, and Humid

Just as air-conditioning has allowed affluent societies to expand into thermally hostile environments, it is now being looked to as a means of extending our current way of life into a thermally hostile future. 
– Stan Cox, Losing Our Cool 

A heat advisory was initially issued over 10 days ago now for Long Island and other areas of the northeast. Cooling centers were opened in several communities due to the high temperatures. What has made the heat worse is the infamous Long Island humidity, not to mention how long the heat and humidity have stayed around. People are retreating indoors. Interestingly, though, no one seems to realize that air conditioning isn't exactly good for you and is pretty bad for the environment, too. Numerous studies have been done, most of which are ignored because, hey, who doesn't want some relief from the heat? I remember years ago reading that, because of heating in the winter and air conditioning in the summer, people's bodies have lost the ability to adjust to temperature changes making heart attacks more likely. I tried looking that up again and also found that, due to the same combination of heating in the winter and AC in the summer, your body doesn't need to expend any energy in order to heat or cool itself so you end up with increased fat stores, which means, folks, weight gain. Yet another health related study states people are getting sick from the "unnatural coldness," and apparently air conditioners also create mold, which, once established, is hard to get rid of.

In 2008, Joe Klein wrote an interesting article entitled "Kill Your Air Conditioner" in which he laments "the unnecessary refrigeration of America has become a chronic disease." In a more scientific study, Stan Cox, a senior scientist at a nonprofit agricultural research institute, "documents how greenhouse emissions increased and ozone depletion skyrocketed once air conditioners became prevalent, and presents staggering statistics ... and some surprising information as he explores air conditioning as a potential spreader of contagions." More can be found on his Losing Our Cool Web site and blog. Or order his book Losing Our Cool: Uncomfortable Truths about Our Air-Conditioned World (and Finding New Ways to Get through the Summer)(I actually interlibrary loaned it—I love the library!)

And yes, we are air conditioner-less. I'm not sure how that explains my extra fat stores, but hopefully I'll have less summer colds and lessen my chances for a heart attack. And hopefully I'm doing my little bit for the planet also. And honestly, I'd rather be dripping sweat and feel connected to nature, be able to hear the birds and the sounds of other people, than be inside a closed up house.

On the bright side (pun intended) it was—and continues to be—hot and sunny. And sunny means solar cooking. If we didn't have the Sun Oven I think I would have skipped cooking all together this past week because the idea of turning the oven on in the house would be a form of insanity. Of course, just because it's been gorgeous solar cooking weather doesn't mean I'm always prepared. Rick tells me there's a certain sense of adventure in cooking whatever you can find in the fridge. It's the modern day form of foraging, I suppose. In a world where food prices are escalating and our income is plummeting I often stand in the kitchen at a loss, though, because I can't possibly stock half of what I would like to. No matter what I say about improvising, there are days—like these—when I'm hot and tired, can't think, don't want to think, and would love to open the freezer or cabinets and have on hand any ingredient imaginable.

So, yeah, it's hot, it's humid, and everyone is a tad bit grumpy. Rick snapped at me and when I asked why he said he didn't know. Erica has been knitting a sweater for a magazine submission and the yarn sitting on her lap makes hot days even hotter. Annalee is being totally hormonal and making no sense, although I don't think that's totally weather related. And I would love to crash someone's pool. But, like I said, we're still hungry.

For this particular dinner I had 3/4 lb. of beef top round cut thin for making braciole. With all four of us home for dinner I couldn't make braciole the usual way because there was only enough meat for two, so I cut those two pieces into eight smaller pieces and made it to go on top of pasta. The Italian name for the dish is Braciole alla Pizzaiola, which means pizza style. This was the version I came up with.

Braciole alla Pizzaiola
• Heat some olive oil in pot.
• Brown the braciole (thin cut, or pound thin) meat for a minute or two on each side
• Add 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, minced
• Add 1/2 medium onion, sliced super thin
• Add 1 28-ounce can, or 1 lb. fresh, coarsely chopped tomatoes
• Salt & pepper to taste.
• Sprinkle 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (or 2 teaspoons dried) on top
• Cover and place in solar oven.

Braciole alla Pizzaiola on top of pasta
If you're making this inside on the stovetop, bring to a boil then simmer on low for 20 or 30 minutes. But I left this in the solar oven until dinnertime, which I had positioned outside to stay at around 250º for about 4 hours. I served the meat on top of curly pasta, toasted some pita bread that I had seasoned with olive oil and garlic salt, and served with a salad on the side. A perfect, and simple dinner, for a hot summer evening.

Off to figure something out for tonight. Probably chicken, although I'm kind of liking the idea of just ice cream at this point.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Sweet Potatoes, Apples, and Simplicity

We often get an idea of what simplicity should look like and then we proceed to push and shove until, bruised and battered, we "fit." But that is not the way simplicity comes. It slips in unawares. A new sense of wonder, concentration, even profundity steels into our personality. We change our lifestyle, even taking up the ministry of poverty when it is clearly right and good, out of inner promptings, knowing that when the call is made the power is given. The tailor-made fit is perfect. Simplicity is grace.
–excerpted from Freedom of Simplicity by Richard J. Foster

I suppose we've always identified most with the testimony of simplicity. For us, it also meant no tv (still don't have one), and no dishwasher, air conditioner, mixer, clothes dryer, microwave, etc. We did most everything by hand. Playing music, books, food, homeschooling, gardening, running, dance, arts & crafts . . . these identified who we were, not fancy houses or expensive cars. And we did things together, as a family.

Rick worked as a fine arts photographer when we first got married, then opened a photolab. After 21 years, he closed the store in January 2008, death by digital photography. We were/are also performing as a family band, The Homegrown String Band. We've been playing together as a family since 1997 (the girls grew up in front of an audience), and have played some pretty cool venues, like the Appalachian Fiddle & Bluegrass Association's bluegrass festival in Wind Gap PA, the National Theatre in Washington DC, and the Festival of American Music in Branson MO, to name only a few. Like everything else, though, the arts were hit hard these last few years, gas prices have made traveling difficult, and so this year we seem to be surviving on a limited amount of library shows. Which is okay because library audiences are fantastic—they come to listen and to learn, and really appreciate our music.

Deciding to close the photolab was a hard decision—to go from a set weekly income to being dependent on an iffy amount of shows for an even iffier amount of pay was incredibly scary. But also kind of liberating. When your income level meets poverty guidelines, though, it's tough to stand up and say, yup, this is where I want to be right now. Family and friends tend to look at you in pity, like you're crazy. Did we really want to get this simple, does it hold meaning for us, and is simplicity really grace? 

I read tons of books (well, it seemed like it) these past few years, trying to find . . . hmm, others to identify with, I guess. Books I really enjoyed, and read several times over, were Radical Homemaking, Deep Economy, Un-jobbing, Simplicity: the Art of Living, and Not Buying ItWe've also all learned new skills or expanded on others: Erica has become a published knitwear designer; Rick has learned to do kumihimo braiding, cast pewter buttons, make Navajo spindles, and is right now learning to weave on an inkle loom (along with much muttering); Annalee makes soap, has taken numerous herbal and wise woman courses, and started a blog; and I'm trying to learn to sew, I designed a cookbook for our Quaker meeting's 50th anniversary, and did go almost an entire year without buying anything except groceries (I gave in at Christmas and bought presents). Oh, I learned to woodburn, too, and decorate Rick's spindles. Erica, Annalee, and I were certified in Reiki level I. 

Each day is a wonderful blessing. Sure, the girls fight and argue and complain and whine, I get hot flashes and grouchy, and Rick gets moody at times. But it's all good. It was a gorgeous day, the sun was shining, and the solar oven was loaded with sweet potatoes & apples sprinkled with brown sugar. And, hey, we also got a practice session in.

Sweet Potatoes with Apples
(Sorry, I forgot to take photos)

• Peel two medium sized sweet potatoes and cut into rounds, about 1/4" thick
• Peel, core, and cut an apple (or two depending on size) into similar size slices as the sweet potato
• Toss with a few dabs of butter (about 2 tbl.) and brown sugar (about 1/4 cup)
Optional: Add a tablespoon or two (or three) of boiling water
when making in a solar oven, stir to mix, then continue on to next step.
(I've made this recipe without any liquid and wasn't as happy with the results,
so now I add a splash of water.)
• Drizzle the top with some maple syrup, and a dusting of cinnamon and another pinch of brown sugar
• Cover and put in the solar oven until the sweet potatoes and apples are soft
This should take 50–60 minutes at 350º in a regular oven, so adjust time accordingly.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Plantain Pot Pie

Not all food needs to look good in order to taste good, does it? That's what I told myself when I saw the cooked pot pie. I consider myself a pretty darn good cook—Erica even once did a photo essay for a college paper on just my hands making homemade pasta—but I guess I tried to cut some corners here. So, although this dish was delicious, it wouldn't exactly pass a magazine photo shoot. Well, unless the photographer is your husband or the subject was how not to make pie crust.

Although Elinor Klivans might have a hard time recognizing this, it's a solar cooked version of her Costa Rican Spicy Picadillo & Plantain Pot Pie. You can find the recipe in her book Pot Pies: Yumminess in a Dish. I found the book several years ago while browsing through Borders Books. Actually Erica saw it first and brought it to my attention. I kept looking at it and putting it down only to pick it back up. I had never made a pot pie before, they didn't exactly interest me, but something about the book kept saying "buy me," so I did. I'm not sure I'd classify all the recipes as pot pies per se—or not what I always thought of as a pot pie—but so far every recipe I've tried has been delicious no matter how you classify them.

Rick and I were eating alone last evening and I wanted something a bit different. I opened the freezer and we had one pound of ground turkey (managers special, no less), several packages of various types of sausages, loads of frozen vegetables, two homemade hot dog rolls, some homemade frozen stuffed shells, and two half filled ice cube trays. I was kind of tired of sausage, so the ground turkey it was. Next, I opened the Pot Pie cookbook. I flipped through the book several times and each time passed this recipe by, thinking ick, plantains in a pot pie, sounds gross. Now, don't get me wrong. I love plantains. I usually diagonally slice them in rounds and sauté them in butter until they're golden brown, then sprinkle lightly with salt and serve on the side. But this recipe calls for chopped onion, chopped green pepper, garlic, ground beef, crushed tomatoes, raisins, green olives, parsley, wine, crushed red pepper, and plantains. Seemed kind of an odd combo, but I kept staring at the delicious looking photo and thinking, well, maybe it's not that weird. And I just happened to have two plantains on hand.

Interesting pie crust, but delicious nonetheless. photo by Rick
To change a dish like this to be cooked in a solar oven I often start it inside on the kitchen stove. (i.e. by browning the beef, adding the vegetables and sautéing 'til soft, then adding all the rest of the ingredients before covering it with the pie crust and placing it in the solar oven to finish cooking.) But, it was supposed to be gorgeously sunny all day and we're in prime solar cooking days here on Long Island, so I chose to do it all outside. I broke up the ground turkey (no ground beef in my impoverished freezer) and added the chopped onion and green pepper, stirred to mix, then placed the covered pot outside until the ground turkey looked cooked through (close to an hour today, and you know I went running during that time). Next I added the crushed tomatoes, raisins, olives, plantain, crushed red pepper, parsley, and wine and placed back outside to meld the flavors while I showered and then made the pie crust. This is where I fouled up. I have to admit to being in a rush and not handling the crust with care. I didn't let it chill at all, and pie crust really does need to chill so you can roll it out, so it broke as I tried to get it off the counter. I scraped it up, sort of patchworked it on top as best I could, and set the whole thing back outside for the third and last time. Between the initial patchworking of the crust and the juggling from the constant repositioning of the solar oven around the yard, the crust took on a life of its own as the juices bubbled up from underneath. But, hey, it still tasted great. I left the pot pie in the solar oven until dinner time, around 6:30 p.m. The pie was still all hot and steamy and smelled delicious. I nervously scooped some up, scared to taste olives, tomatoes, raisins, and bananas (plantain) in the same bite. Amazingly, it tasted as wonderful as it smelled and I had second helpings, as did Rick. I wanted to go back for thirds, but I restrained myself and left it for, well, leftovers for lunch today.

Not only is this dish yummy, as the cookbook claims, but it's also very economical, especially when you factor in the manager's special $1.99/lb. ground turkey replacement for the more expensive ground beef the recipe calls for. The two plantains cost $1 (and can often be found for less). The rest of the ingredients I always have on hand, making the true cost hard to figure. 

So, although Klivans takes liberty with her definition of a pot pie, she made me a pot pie convert. They're quick and easy and taste delicious, and work wonderfully in the kitchen oven and the solar oven alike. Pick up a copy of Pot Pies: Yumminess in a Dish for loads of great ideas. (But please, chill the pie crust before rolling!!!!)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Apple Coffeecake

Erica and I run every morning, heading out the door somewhere between 9:30 and 10. We got in the habit of walking a mile to loosen up, but it's really just an excuse to gab a bit and postpone the actual running. I mean, who really wants to run? Well, I guess Rick does. But then he's fairly crazy and thinks a 20 mile run is the ultimate in fun things to do. For me, however, 3 miles is like an ultramarathon, but it does give me a good excuse to eat a piece of coffeecake every now and then.

Anyway, Erica and I end the same way we started—with a mile walk home to cool down. In between we run 3 and 4 miles respectively. (I keep cutting down streets to "catch up.") Best of all, though, we're gone the perfect amount of time to cook a coffeecake in the solar oven. I usually put them together before we leave and take them out as soon as I'm home and showered.

1½ cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
½ cup sugar
½ cup butter
½ cup milk
1 egg beaten
1 apple peeled, cored, and sliced thin
¼ cup chopped walnuts (chopped to whatever size you like. I like them to be slightly smaller than pea size.)
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons extra sugar

Lightly grease a 9 x 13-inch pan.
In a large bowl, mix flour, baking powder, salt, and ½ cup sugar. Cut in ½ cup butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. (I usually just cut the butter in small pieces and use my hands to mix it for that crumbly look. I'm all about the hands on method!)
Scoop ¼ cup of the flour mixture and set aside.
Add the milk and egg to the flour mixture, stir to mix (but don't over stir). Pour batter into the greased pan.
Arrange the sliced apples over the top of the batter.
Sprinkle the chopped walnuts over the apples.
Add 2 tablespoons sugar plus the ½ teaspoon cinnamon to the flour mixture you set aside. Sprinkle this over the top of the apples and walnuts.

Annalee holds the finished coffeecake. Photo by me!
Set cake in the solar oven and go for a walk or a run. Of course, cooking time will depend on how hot the solar oven got. I'm pretty sure, on this day, it was hovering between 300º and 325º. And between the walking, running, and showering, the coffeecake was in the solar oven for close to 90 minutes. 

For those of you who don't have a solar oven, or you put this together and the sun decided to disappear, preheat your oven to 375º and bake for 30–35 minutes or so until golden brown.

I'm tempted to try this with blueberries or peaches. Next time!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Rainy Day Bread

 We had three days of rain and had been out of bread for as long. The forecast was for more rain over the next two days, our solar oven was forlornly sitting in the basement, and I was in full fledged bread withdrawal. If you read my first post, you know I love the bread Rick makes in our Romertopf clay baker in the kitchen oven. You also know I love bread period. What to do? Well, I annoyed him Thursday night until he mixed his dough so we would have some freshly baked bread for lunch yesterday. Unfortunately, I was busy all morning so wasn't able to remind (pinch, poke, prod?) Rick into remembering to actually put the bread in the oven. Minor technicality. I wandered in at noon, looked around, and whined to the best of my ability. To his credit. Rick volunteered to stay home, but he was all dressed and ready to go run 9 miles in the woods, so I told him I'd take care of it. Besides, I figured maybe I ought to make use of a hot oven, so decided to make a focaccia-style bread to go along with our dinner at the same time.

*Rick's bread recipe, hinted at in post #1:
3 2/3 cups unbleached white flour
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
2 cups water
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

No knead bread cooked in clay pot. photo by Rick
Mix the flours, sea salt, and yeast together in a bowl. Add 1 3/4 cups of the water and the apple cider vinegar. Mix quickly. Add the extra 1/4 cup of water as needed. Do not knead, just make sure it's well mixed. (The dough might be stickier/wetter than you're used to.) Cover and let ferment overnight for 12 – 14 hours. The next day, soak your unglazed clay pot in water. After it has soaked for 10 minutes or so, place the clay pot in a cold oven on a rack in the second lowest position. Turn the oven on to 475º. While the oven is preheating, scoop the bread dough out of the bowl and onto a piece of parchment paper (cut to fit the clay pot) that has been dusted with some wheat flour. Sprinkle more flour on top of the dough along with some wheat germ, if you have it on hand. Cover and let rest until the oven comes to temperature. Carefully take the clay pot out (never put it on metal, but rather on a thick potholder). Plop the dough, parchment paper and all, into the bottom of the clay pot. Cover and place back in the oven. If you're only cooking the one loaf, then leave the bread in at 475º for 40–45 minutes, covered. If you think the bread needs a little more color, you can leave it in for an extra minute or two uncovered. Once done, the hardest part is to leave the bread alone for 45–60 minutes before slicing and eating.

(Note: Since I was also cooking the focaccia, though, I put the bread in at 475º for 20 minutes, then lowered the temperature to 450º while the focaccia baked along with it for the second 20 minutes. Once the focaccia was out I left the bread in for another 6 minutes or so uncovered to brown.)

I was fairly proud of myself for how the bread came out since the last time I had tried to bake a loaf of semolina bread in our smaller Romertopf baker I had forgotten to put it in the cold oven. When the oven came to temperature I went to plop the bread in the clay pot and saw it still soaking in the sink. I handled that in the best way possible: I stomped downstairs and scolded Rick for not reminding me to put the clay pot in the cold oven before turning it on. He just stared at me as if I'd lost my mind (probably have) and said he had no idea what I was talking about. Husbands can be so thick at times! So I stomped back upstairs and, after a moment of muttering, stuck two of my regular old Calphalon metal bread loaf pans in the oven. I let them heat for about 15 minutes then dropped the dough in one loaf pan and carefully placed the other on top. It worked perfectly, even if it was a bit clumsy. So if you don't have a clay baker, improvise. The standard bread loaf pans worked in a pinch. Jim Lahey, of the Sullivan Street Bakery, advises using a Dutch oven (we don't own one, though). The idea is to have a pan that can go in a very hot oven, that can be covered, and that was preheated first.

Next time we have a super sunny day and I think I can get the solar oven up to 350º or even 400º for awhile, I might give this recipe a try outside. My feeling, though, is that whatever bread goes out in the solar oven needs to have a firmer dough and a longer second rise in the loaf pan. You know, the old standard where you let the dough rise the second time in the pan it's being cooked in until it's about an inch above the rim. That's what I did with my first attempt at bread outside (post #1). Rick wants to see what would happen if we used my oops-I-made-a-mistake method mentioned above using two loaf pans. i.e. heat the loaf pans in a hot solar oven for an hour, then drop the bread in one loaf pan and cover with the second and leave in the solar oven until done.

A peak at the crumb. photo by me!
This bread is awesome, but we probably won't make it too often during the summer months. With no AC and loads of hot humid days here on Long Island, turning the oven on isn't very desirable. But on those cold, snowy winter days when you actually want the oven on inside it's heaven. I guess it wasn't too bad for a dreary chilly June day, either, when you despair that summer took a vacation.

*This recipe is Rick's adaptation of Jim Lahey's revolutionary no knead bread. And rather than go into the science of no knead bread dough (I would never be able to explain it as well anyway), please visit's explanation of how and why no knead bread works, the reason for the really hot oven, and the covered pot.