Another Lesson in Solar Cooking

Solar Cooking

Solar cooking was put on the back burner, so to speak, while Albuquerque experienced several wonderful days of afternoon and evening rains at the beginning of our 2012 monsoon season. I am very grateful for the rains!!!

I was anxious to try the solar oven for a third time, however, and the forecast for today was for a lessened chance of rain. The morning was actually supposed to be pretty sunny. I had purchased some chicken tenders on sale, and planned to cook different things in each of the two pots. I thought I would cook some plain, to use to make chicken salad tomorrow. I thought I would try a recipe for bbq chicken in the other pot.

A day for solar cooking of chicken

A day for solar cooking of chicken

I had the oven out and preheating starting at 8:30 am, a little earlier than the two previous times I have tried solar cooking. By 9:30 am the temperature in the oven was 230 F, which was great. There were a few clouds in the sky, but nothing that looked like rain (or even close!). It is pretty clear to me that I am going to be learning things about solar cooking for a long time to come!

Acceptable temperature for solar cooking

Acceptable temperature for solar cooking

At 9:50 am, I put the two separate pots of chicken in.

Chicken ready for solar cooking

Chicken ready for solar cooking

The temperature almost immediately fell to 150 F, which is what has happened before, so I did not think much about it. At 10:30, however, when I went out to see if the temperature had begun to rise, I was a little horrified to find the temperature back to what the thermometer registers at room temperature. That I was not comfortable with! As long as the food stays above 140 F, I’m pretty comfortable, but food should not be below that temperature for prolonged periods. So, I brought the two pots of chicken in and finished the cooking in the electric oven. I thought that perhaps the temperature variation from previous attempts was due to the scattered clouds.

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Jalapeno Peppers

Jalapeno peppers, and peppers of all kinds, are a staple in the Southwest. This year I decided to try growing a couple of varieties of jalapenos because

    I love the flavor they add to all kinds of dishes, and
    I prefer the milder ones to the hotter ones.

That is, I like flavor, which to me is lost if the heat burns.

One jalapeno pepper I am growing this year is ‘False Alarm Hybrid.’ Burpee describes ‘False Alarm’ this way:

Very mild 3″ long sweet jalapeno for small pots and gardens; bears heavy yields on 18″ tall plants. Excellent flavor.

'false alarm hybrid' jalapeno pepper

‘False Alarm Hybrid’ jalapeno pepper

I have to say, I agree completely with that description. These peppers have a nice thick wall; the plant produces abundantly; and these jalapeno peppers are mild but tasty. This is a jalapeno pepper I imagine I will be growing year after year. It is pretty to look at and tasty to eat. I may have to try some stuffed jalapenos this weekend! 🙂 (I’ve already had nachos.)

The other jalapeno pepper I tried this year is ‘Sweet Heat Hybrid,’ described by Burpee as

A perfectly calibrated blend of sweetness and heat. . .13″ tall plants bear 3.5×1.5″ fruit.

'sweet heat hybrid' jalapeno peppers

‘Sweet Heat Hybrid’ jalapeno peppers

As you can see, this compact little plant is a prolific producer. It is early in the growing season, and I’ll revisit what I am about to say here later in the fall. I will say now I do like the flavor of this jalapeno. The plant is nice and compact, sets fruit even at days of 100 F, and appears to be very healthy. The one thing I do not like is that the peppers are very thin-walled. Again, I am hoping this improves as the season progresses, because there are many nice things about this pepper.

Jalapeno peppers – these small ones can be a very nice addition to container gardening in the desert Southwest.


Solar Cooking Day 2

Solar Cooking Day 2 – Pot Roast

Solar cooking or cooking with a solar oven requires sunshine. Last week I cooked pork chops, and this week I wanted to try a pot roast. I am cooking with the SOS Sport solar oven.

This summer has been very hot and dry, making for a very bad wildfire season in the Southwest. But, last weekend, the forecast for this week called for monsoonal flows to begin on Wednesday (July 4), and perhaps last into the coming weekend. In looking at the forecast, it appeared that Tuesday (July 3) would be the best day of the week to try the pot roast.

I did the shopping on Monday, because I’ve already read enough to know that if whole meals, such as I am trying to prepare, are going to cook successfully in a solar oven, everything needs to go into a preheated oven no later than 10:00 am. Cross rib roast was on sale, as were red potatoes, carrots, and sweet onions. Great! That seemed auspicious.

By 9:00 am on Tuesday, I had the SOS Sport solar oven out on the patio, preheating. Inside, I was doing the food preparation.

Beef pot roast ingredients for solar cooking

Beef pot roast ingredients

Because of the quantity of food involved, I decided to split the ingredients in half and use two pots. Some recipes suggest cooking the meat in one pot, and the vegetables in the other. But part of what makes pot roast so good is the flavor of the vegetables cooked in the beef broth. So, I put half the meat and half the vegetables together in each pot. I brushed the top of the meat with Tamari and then added fresh-ground pepper. That was the only seasoning I used, because I was pretty liberal with fresh garlic and a lot of sweet onion. This is what the pots looked like at the end of prepping.

Ingredients ready for solar cooking of pot roast

Ingredients ready for solar cooking of pot roast

The oven was up to 235 F.

Oven preheated for solar cooking

Oven preheated for solar cooking

The first time I used the Sport oven, I had a hard time with the clips used to fasten the lid to the oven. I thought it was just my hands. In reading, I found a lot of people had trouble with them, and someone suggested the large paper clips (clamp style). So, I decided to try that, and I cannot begin to say how much easier that made things!!!

Solar cooking with SOS Sport, using paper clip clamps in place of clips

Solar cooking with SOS Sport, using paper clip clamps in place of clips

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Happy Independence Day!

Happy Independence Day to everyone in the United States! What a great Holiday here in the middle of summer.

The Southwest remains gripped by extreme drought, although the monsoons are said to be upon us. Albuquerque has had spot rains on July 1 and 2, but the rain was extremely spotty. The afternoon of July 3 I got 3/8″ at my house, for which I am extremely grateful! The forecast is for more rain the remainder of this week.

The extreme drought really does make the use of fireworks for celebration unsafe for celebrating Independence Day, here in this part of the country. 2012 has been a terrible year for wildfires in New Mexico (the largest ever in the history of New Mexico, the Whitewater Baldy Complex is about over, but it burned 297,000+ acres [the largest previous was last year’s Las Conchas fire at 156,000+ acres]); in Colorado; in Utah; and elsewhere.

Last year, on July 4, a gladiolus bloomed that I thought had all the spirit of fireworks. I do not know the name of that gladiolus, but much to my delight, it is blooming again just in time for the 2012 Independence Day celebration! I will give it the nickname, ‘Independence Day.’ This photograph was taken July 3, 2012. I hope you enjoy the beauty of this gladiolus.

gladiolus for indepemdemce day

Happy Independence Day! Bright gladiolus in place of fireworks this year!

And I hope you have a safe and joyful Fourth of July, celebrating our Independence Day!


PX3 Prix de la Photographie Paris Winner 2012

PX3 Prix de la Photographie Paris Winner 2012

This is the image that was a PX3 Prix de la Photographie Paris Winner 2012. ‘Lily’ was awarded a Bronze Medal (third place) in the category “Nature.”

PX3 Prix de la Photographie Paris Winner 2012

PX3 Winner of the Bronze Medal in “Nature” – ‘Lily’

I was very pleased about this PX3 award for several reasons:

    The winners were chosen from thousands of entries from 85 countries;

    My mother grew this lily;

    As I was photographing this lily, my mom held things for me so I could get a “clean” image.

It is a photograph to which many memories are attached.

I have been using this image for note cards; it just seems to lend itself to that purpose. While it is available for purchase on regular photographic paper, this is an image that looks best on fine art watercolor paper. This image (and others) are available for purchase at Susan Brandt Graham Photography.

You may see all of the winning entries at PX3.

June 2012 was a very good month for me for international photography awards. My image ‘Instruments 3’ was a 2012 Black and White Spider Awards Nominee.

The winning image in the 2012 Black and White Spider Awards may be viewed here.

‘Instruments 3’ is available for purchase here.

Thanks to the jurors in both competitions for selecting my images for awards!