Peach Cobbler

Hey there–today I have a tasty post; a solar cooker experiment that turned out really well. I wanted to try something sweet, but it still had to be diet friendly and delicious. This peach cobbler filled both those requirements.

First the recipe. It’s one from the McDougall cookbook so there’s no refined sugar in it and since I had an abundance of peaches from my tree this year (that’s only happened twice since I planted fruit trees 7 years ago.) I swapped out the blueberries called for in the recipe for these luscious peaches  I had on hand. Fruit is a crap shoot in Burney, California, and I won the jackpot this year.

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Peach Cobbler (or blueberry, or ?)

2/3 C whole wheat pastry flour        2/3 C vanilla almond milk

1 1/2 tsp Baking powder                       3 Tbs Honey

Pinch of salt (optional)                        2 C sliced peaches

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir in “milk” and honey and mix until smooth. Pour batter into a dark non stick baking pan, 9 x 13, and sprinkle fruit over the top. You can sprinkle some cinnamon on top, too, if you like.  Place the pan inside a clear plastic bag, vented to let the moisture escape, and place in the solar cooker. Go do something fun.   ** If you’re cooking in a regular oven preheat to 350, use an 8″ square pan, and cook for 45 minutes or until browned and bubbly.

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With solar cooking there are some key points to remember:

  • You must use a dark pan … this pulls in the needed heat. Shiny will deflect the heat.
  • For baking, and best results, you need to keep the cooker facing the sun so this means turning the whole cooker every now and then. This is to keep the heat consistant.
  • Shallow pans are best, but if the batter is right near the rim you will have to use something to keep the plastic off the top of the cobbler so it will brown –otherwise you’re going to have soggy cobbler. I used a shallow pan for my first attempt and ended up having to use a glass jar to prop the plastic up.
  • It will take much longer to cook by solar than by convential means.  Probably 3 to 4 times longer. The nice thing is, other than turning the cooker, you don’t have to babysit it. It won’t burn!
  • Baking means venting. You will need to enclose your baking pan in a plastic bag to hold the heat in, but it will also need to be vented so moisture doesn’t build up.
  • The pan will be HOT. Use mitts or a towel any time you grab a pan in the cooker and wear sunglasses so the brightness of the cooker doesn’t blind you. 😉 Only half kidding about this. I have really sun sensitive eyes and I do wear sunglasses when solar cooking.

Thanks for stopping by 2Dogs. Hugs, Shawna  Life is uncertain

ASH CREEK and the TRIAL RUN

I needed a break from the past two weeks of doing almost nothing but sitting at my desk working on transcription.  There’s hell to pay when one takes three weeks off! It was grueling, but I’m back where I need to be, and I decided the boys needed a treat as much as I needed time off.  We headed for Ash Creek Campground, a dispersed area for boondocking; a new place to explore and a good opportunity to give the new solar installation a good test.

It’s past noon before we are able to leave, and we head east, again, on Hy 299 to Adin. It’s rapidly warming up, and a cloud in the sky. It’s a pleasant 40 mile drive. Just as we come into Adin proper, we take County Road 88 and drive 8 dusty, wash boardy miles to the turn off to Ash  Creek. Dry grass, lava rock protrusions, and squat juniper trees is our only view. A pretty sad looking landscape for someone wanting a campsite. I am just beginning to wonder if there will be any shade at the camp ground when the landscape makes some subtle changes, and the junipers allow the pines to stand tall among them. This is a bit more reassuring.

We jounce along, kicking up a dust trail behind us. Being the height of summer everything is dry, and the dust is awful. There is no indication of just where or how far the campground is until we get to the sign on the opposite side of the road that says Adin 8 miles. So we’ve been on this rough dusty road for 8 miles. It felt like 16. Then magically, as we round a curve, I see the sign: Ash Creek Campground ½ mile. We turn left onto the access road and motor down to Ash Creek. .It is beautiful!  Who would have thought all this loveliness would be nestled in among all this parched summer landscape?

There are 5 campsites in the campground., and what I think is a group site in the flat. There isn’t a single person camped here and after driving through the sites dotting the hillside, we decide to camp on the flat. Fewer trees to give shade, but the other sites are not very level and there’s only a bit of sun filtering through; not enough for placing the solar panel.  We need some shade and some sun, and the site on the flat that I am dubbing the “group site” has both these requirements.

 

We arrive in the heat of the day, and I busy myself setting up camp; the first thing is to get the dogs staked out. The ground is hard as rock. I think it’s pretty much lava rock and there is no way I am getting those stakes into the ground.  I settle for wrapping the tie outs to the trees and small bushes.

Next is the solar panel.  So easy to set up. (thank you, thank, thank you—you know who you are!) and I plug in the fan and open all the doors.  We are going into another heat wave and it doesn’t cool down as much as I want , but the sun will soon slide behind the treeline and that will help. Without the solar and being able to run the portable fan, we would have to go home.

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I set up the solar cooker  to heat some water and warm up the chili I brought. While it heats I  finish making camp. The lounge chair is brought out. The water jug and wash tub are set up on the wooden table that’s there.

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An hour or so later I feed the dogs and eat my chili, gazing out over the open space between us and the creek. The sun finally dips behind the distant line of trees to the west and it slowly, slowly cools off a bit. The mosquitoes drive us inside, and all I can say is I am very thankful for that solar panel and being able to run the fan. It runs all evening and through the night without draining the battery. I am, literally, a happy camper!

Sunday we play hide and seek with the sun, and I move the van about six times to keep it in the shade. It’s well worth it. Without starting the day off with an already hot vehicle it is cooler inside, and again, solar energy (I am in love!) to run the fan along with some nice shade keeps our little mobile home livable.

We take an early morning walk to get closer to the creek and I take some photographs. The boys, of course, check their p-mail. The rest of the day, as it heats up fast, is spent lounging around camp reading and napping. A few visitors come to beautiful Ash Creek to play by the water, but the campground is far enough away that it isn’t intrusive at all. No one came to camp. Another walk, this time on up the road then back down beside the creek in the evening and we call it a day.  I watch a movie on my Kindle while The Chiweenie Brothers burrow under the covers and Burger curls up in the front seat. Home tomorrow. I do not want to leave.

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As always, thanks for stopping by 2 Dogs Travel. We love that you’re interested in our adventures. Hugs, Shawna

“Adventure is worthwhile”–Aristotle

MORE SOLAR NEWS

 

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I have solar in Miss Freedom now thanks to a generous couple who are pet sitting clients of mine who offered to install the components I have been purchasing over the course of many months.  Not sure if they would want to be named here, so I’ll keep it to first names.  You know who you are!

Not only did Chuck install the panel and charge controller, but supplied a small inverter and a used-but-still-good gel battery from his solar stash.  How awesome is that?

As he prepared to get started,  he noticed that my right hand back door wouldn’t stay open and that the seat belts for the bench seat were still in place. He insisted on fixing that situation. He took out the tail light to get to the bolts that needed tightening on the right side back door and removed the seat belts. Thank you so much for that!  I don’t have the tools nor the strength required for that job, and I am ever so grateful for his offer to do that for me. That back door stays open now when it’s supposed to, and I don’t continually get whacked in the side while doing whatever it is that needs doing in the back. 

Once the door and seat belts were take care of, he made short work of getting the solar hooked up. The man is an expert. 

How many people get such a generous offer from an expert in solar installation?  Not kidding about this, he is an expert. Their home is run on solar that he installed and that wasn’t his first rodeo. Chuck and his wife  were the first people in their neighborhood to install solar in their former home, and it was such a new thing that Chuck even had to explain to the county inspector how to inspect it! 

I’ll be able to run a fan, charge my Kindle, and most important of all I will be able to charge my laptop which will allow me to work , which means I am not tied down if I want to take off and other obligations do not keep me at home.  Incredible!

Many, many thanks for doing this!  I owe you big time!

Grateful thankful blessed We’re planning a little getaway to try it out!  Hugs,                                                                                Shawna

Solar Cooking

What to do when you can’t be out there enjoying some camping/travel time? Work on your solar cooker, of course! I have been wanting to do this, and just never had what I felt was enough time, so today was the day, and this week is the week to try it out.

I bought a used solar cookbook last winter, and was pretty amazed with what they said could be cooked using a solar oven; everything from boiled eggs to baking a cake and everything in between.  Instructions for two types of cookers; a box cooker and a panel cooker, were also included, along with a list of retail sources should you want to buy instead of make.

I want to be keep “stuff” to a minimum, but I also want to have what I need, and with a single burner propane-powered stove, a tiny folding backpacker’s stove that utilizes wood, alcohol, or solid fuel, and now my panel solar cooker (which can be stored flat), all bases are covered for any situation and any weather; and all three take up very little precious space.

For this first attempt, which ended up being my only attempt so far, I utilized leftover Reflectix from other Freedom projects. The directions were written to use cardboard which is then covered in aluminum foil, but I didn’t have cardboard on hand, so Reflectix was my choice. No cardboard used and I didn’t need to glue aluminum foil to anything; the Reflectix is sturdy enough on its own.

There wasn’t quite enough of the Reflectix left from the window and ice chest lining projects, but I had some irregular pieces that I duct taped together to get the sheet of Reflectix to the size I needed per the instructions in the book.  What the heck. I figure I can always make a prettier one somewhere down the road.

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Piecing the Reflextic Together
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Lines Drawn
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Cutting to Make the Fold

What the pattern boils down to is drawing lines on your material at specified points as a means of knowing where to cut using the intersecting lines on each side of your panel to remove a triangle out of each side. This enables you to fold it up, kind of cupping your cooking vessel to catch as much sun as possible and reflect it back to all sides of the pot. The sunbeams bounce everywhere! Per the instructions, there’s a slot cut in each side to put the ends of the folded panel into for stability. Not sure what I did wrong, but my side panels wouldn’t stay in the slots.  Not be deterred, I used  two binder clips to secure the sides.  *smile*

Bottom line: IT WORKS. I am very impressed with just how well it works. I’ve cooked whole potatoes in it. They came out great!

Being the skeptic that I am I had to find out for myself just how well things would work, or not work in some cases. Yes, the experts are correct when they say the shorter the cooking vessel, the better. Squat dark pans with  large dark lids work best. Dark cake pans, one for the bottom and one for the lid, work very well. Keep them together with binder clips.

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Cooking With the Sun! It worked, but there are techniques that make it work better and faster.

Yes, you have to enclose the cooking pot in a clear plastic bag to keep the heat from dissipating. I didn’t have a bag big enough to enclose the pot in the above photo. I tried a smaller pot enclosed in a bag and it worked much better. Note: The potatoes did cook in the pot in the above photo, but it took longer. I can see where the bag would come in as essential if you were trying to cook on a windy day. It would be tough to keep the pot hot enough with out it.

I went through way too many oven cooking bags for my liking, so I ended up digging out my roll of Food Saver plastic and made a bag long enough to accommodate the largest pan (a 13 x 9) I will likely use, ever, and I believe because of the thickness of those Food Saver bags it will hold up through many, many cooking sessions.

One other thing I did was to spray paint a couple different sizes of glass jars with lids a flat black to use as small solar cooking vessels.  They work great for smaller portions or one potato, and are especially useful to warm up cooked food. Lay them on their sides for maximum heat absorption and quicker cooking/heating. I can envision using them to heat up lunch on the dash of the van if we happen to be heading into the sun.  I’ll let you know how that turns out.

Information and instructions on solar cooking taken from Cooking With Sunshine, Lorraine Anderson and Rick Palkovic. Lots of recipes and information in this book.

Thanks for stopping by 2Dogs! Hugs, Shawna

 

A watched pot never boils…