Moroccan-Style Lamb Stew… a la Solar Oven

It’s no secret, I like to eat!  The good thing for me is that I’m not afraid to try new and exotic dishes whenever I travel!  Since I’m traveling in the US now, it makes sense that I learn to cook some of the dishes I really enjoy that are often difficult, if not impossible, to find in small town America.  With the internet and You Tube available anywhere your smart-phone has reception, it’s pretty easy to learn how to make just about any dish imaginable, as long as you can find the necessary ingredients!

Let me first make a *disclaimer,*… I do not claim to be a formally trained executive chef!  But I’m not afraid to try my hand at preparing dishes that some may consider “a bridge too far” while vehicle camping or Overlanding!  Let’s face it… just because you are car-camping or RVing doesn’t mean you have to eat hotdogs and hamburgers everyday!  A friend who happens to be a really great cook once told me, “if you can read and have an imagination, then you can learn to cook.”  I will take it one step further… if you can watch a video and have an imagination, then you can learn to cook!  A few years ago I traveled to Morocco and Greece, two countries that know how to make great lamb dishes.  It was at that time I really fell in love with lamb… the cooked kind mind you!  Since I love Lamb and spice… I decided to try my hand at a Moroccan-style lamb stew today for a late lunch!  I headed to the local Whole Foods Market and had the butcher section-up a pound of lamb shank for me.  I also picked up a few of the spices I was missing and headed back to my campsite.  Today’s meal was prepared completely outdoors with the use of a single burner butane stove (ChefMaster brand, $20) and a folding solar oven (SunFlair brand $90).

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The ChefMaster Butane one burner stove and the SunFlair Solar Oven.

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By adding a simple piece of metal grate to your stove you will be able to cook with a tin cup or canteen cup.

I’ve blogged quite a bit about solar cooking over the last few years.  If you are interested in learning more about solar cooking, just type in the word “solar” in my blog’s search window and other solar cooking post will appear.

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All the ingredients needed to make a Moroccan Style Lamb Stew.

The ingredients for the Moroccan-Style Lamb Stew are,

1/2 tablespoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 pound of cubed lamb shank.

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 small onion

1 small tomato or small can diced tomatoes

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1/2 can garbanzo beans

2 cups chicken broth

1 generous sprig of cilantro

To prepare, take the first 6 ingredients listed above and combine in a pot.  Stir in the olive oil and add the cubed lamb.  Sauté on medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes.

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Browning the lamb before cooking in the solar oven helps the meat remain moist as you slow cook it.

The browning of the lamb before you place it in the solar oven helps seal in moisture as it slow cooks.

Next, chop your onion and add the rest of the ingredients listed above to the pot, then place the covered pot in the solar oven.  Depending on where you are and the time of year… your solar oven cooking temperature will differ slightly.  Today I cooked the stew for 2 hours at a temperature between 225 and 250 degrees f.  Remember, you will need to adjust the angle of your solar oven every 30 minuets or so to keep it best aligned with the suns rays.

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All the ingredients, ready to go into the solar oven.

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The SunFlair Solar Oven can be used just about anywhere! Today’s Lamb Stew was cooked for 2 hours at 250 degrees f.

I know some of you are saying… “Geez, that’s too complicated with too may ingredients.”  Truth is, all the spices listed above can be found in the small 1/2 oz size containers for less than a few dollars each and the only ingredients requiring refrigeration are the lamb, onion, tomato and cilantro.  It takes minimal prep-time and the results are well worth the effort.  The stew was incredible, the lamb was very moist and the dish had just the right amount of spice kick to it!  The recipe above made enough to serve two people!

So next time you are Car-Camping, RVing or Overlanding, break-out your smart-phone, search for a dish you like on You Tube, pick up the ingredients, turn on your imagination and try your hand at cooking a new dish, you might just surprise yourself and bring out your inner-chef!

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The finished lamb stew ready for consumption.

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The stew was delicious, with just the right amount of kick to it!

 

 

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Tips For a Successful Day-Hike.

During a recent visit to Mesa Verde National Park, I hiked the Spruce Canyon Trail.  It’s a relatively short hike, only 3.0 miles long, starting at about 7000 feet elevation and consisting of a 200 foot decent along a well marked trail into a canyon and then a steep, rugged 200 foot ascent out of the canyon, ending about half a mile from the start point. The trail itself wasn’t particularly remarkable, what was remarkable to me, was that in 2013, a 51 year old man from Texas, hiking the same trail, went missing and has never been found!  The missing hiker’s wife reported that he was an avid hiker but on that hot June day in 2013, he took nothing with him on his hike, no water, no food, no map…only the clothes on his back!

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Looking down into Spruce Canyon at the end of the 3.0 mile hike.

I, like many travelers, enjoy hiking!  It’s a great way to decompress after hours behind the wheel, not to mention, some of the most beautiful places on earth are only accessible by foot.  In the US, most people hike the thousands of trails that State and National Parks have to offer and never encounter a problem.  But, becoming a lost hiker in the US is more common than you might think.  One article I read stated that the US National Park Service conducts about 3,300 search and rescue operations annually.  If you doubt me, do a simple “Google” search of a few key words like, “missing hiker” and see the thousand of articles that appear!  Fortunately, most hikers who go missing are found quickly, but unfortunately some are never found.  Many hikers assume that the State and National Parks are “controlled-environments,” kind of like amusement parks.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  Much of the US back-country is extremely rugged and can be unforgiving to even experienced hikers and much more so to the uneducated and unprepared.  Even though all hiking comes with some risk, I don’t recommend that everyone stop hiking.  I simply recommend that hikers, even day-hikers, follow a few simple rules when hiking and take a few essential items with them!

By following a few safety rules and taking a few extra pounds of gear when hiking, you might just prevent disaster during your next outdoor adventure!

Rules for Hikers:

Have a Plan.  Do some research about the area you are planning to enter and the trail you plan to hike!  Know what elevations you will be covering during your hike.  Know what the water situation is in the area you plan to hike!  Know the weather forecast for the area you plan to hike!  All of this information is readily available on the internet and can be easily accessed before you step off on your hike.

Tell Someone Your Plan.  Always tell someone where you are going and when you plan to be back!  It can be a friend, family member or even a Park Ranger, the important thing is you tell someone who will notify authorities should you fail to return as planned!  A quick phone call or text message may be sufficient to inform someone of your hike plan!

Be Fit Enough for Your Plan.  I know it may sound obvious but many hikers get in way over their heads!  Always ask yourself, “am I prepared for this hike?”  If you have not walked more than 2 miles in one outing, maybe you shouldn’t be hiking a 10 miler with extreme elevation changes!

Carry a Day Pack with Essential Items.  Never hike without a small backpack with essential survival items!  Never… Period!  I know, you are driving on a beautiful paved road in a National Park and you see a turnoff for “Easy Meadow Trail.”  You read the information board at the trailhead and it states the trail is 1.5 miles long and relatively flat terrain, you think… “that’s easy, let’s go!”  Wrong answer!  Have that Day-Pack ready in the trunk of your car and always take it with you!

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Items for a pretty good Day-Hike Backpack, might help you if you get lost!

Suggested Items For Day-Hikers,

Water, Take sufficient water for your hike conditions!  You should super-hydrate hours before the start of your hike.  Don’t start your hike thirsty!  Most healthy people can survive about 3 weeks without food, but only about 3 days without water!

Food, Take at least a few energy bars on your hike.  When we are dehydrated and hungry, we tend to make poor decisions!  In a time of crisis, like getting lost on a hike, you want to be in the best mental state possible!

Fire making items.  Take waterproof matches or a good backwoods lighter on your hike.  Practice making a fire before you go hiking!  Your ability to make a fire could be critical to your survival, should you become lost.  It may prevent hypothermia, allow you to boil water making it safe to drink, cook food or even signal for your rescue.

Whistle, Take a whistle on your hike to signal distress in a time of need!  3 long blasts of a whistle is internationally recognized as “help me.”

Protective clothing, Take rain-gear and insulating-gear on your hike.  You want to stay dry and warm for the environment you are in!

Headlamp, Take a good headlamp or flashlight powerful enough to light-up the ground in front of you.

Pocket knife, Take a sharp and sturdy knife.  You don’t need a Rambo knife, unless you think it looks cool and you don’t mind carrying a 3 pound knife!

Sturdy Footwear, Take appropriate footwear for your hike environment.  You don’t need $250 boots for all environments, unless you want them!  When I was in Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge Soldiers I met used sandals made from used automobile tires.  The sandals protected the bottoms of their feet from punctures and allowed them to air-dry in the wet, humid jungle conditions.  Remember, you need footwear appropriate for your environment!

Space Blanket, Take a space blanket or other material that will allow you to build a shelter to keep you dry!  One cheap and simple solution is a large piece of plastic drop-cloth, like the kind painters use.

Map and Compass, Take a map of the area you plan to hike and know basic map reading skills like how to orient your map and compass.

First Aide Items, Take the most important life saving items on your hike.  They are probably any medications you require on a daily basis and something to stop bleeding in case of an emergency, like pressure bandages or a tourniquet.

Cell Phone, Take a cell phone and carry emergency phone numbers for the area you are hiking.  Remember, in many places a cell phone will be outside of coverage, so don’t think you can always call 911 in an emergency!

Section of Para-cord, Take about 20 feet of para-cord or twine with you, it will probably be enough to help you fashion a simple shelter with available tree branches and sticks.

Sunscreen, Take a small bottle of sunscreen, sunburn will add to dehydration.

Insect Repellent, Take a good quality insect repellent, high in DEET, buzzing insects can literally drive you crazy.

Vaseline Lotion, Take a small tube of Vaseline, or hand lotion, it will help prevent and treat chapped lips, chapped butts and chapped crotches… trust me!

Babywipes, Babywipes work wonders when need to go number 2 in the wild!

Sunglasses, Sunglasses are an essential piece of hiking gear, you should always protect your peeps.

Small Metal Cup, Take a small metal cup with handle to procure water from a lake, river or stream and to use to boil water, making it safe to drink.  A common household sponge is also handy to have in the event you need to scrounge water off of rocks or shallow puddles.  A ziplock bag will also help you get water from shallow sources!

Hat, Take a good hiking hat with brim to shield your head, neck and face from the sun, keeping you cooler in hot climates.

I know there are countless other items that you can and may choose to take on a day-hike, like a GPS or a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB).  Those items are great, as long as you can afford them and know how to use them.

The items I listed above are just suggestions and you should always tailor your Day-Hike-Gear to fit your specific needs!

The Key is you take the gear with you on your next hike and realize that it may make the difference between life and death!  Your LIFE or Death!

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The Day-Hike Backpack and Hat… ready for the Colorado Trail!

 

 

 

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Welcome to the New Blog!

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The Blogger at the Spreckels Organ Pavillion, June of 2014.

I’m currently in the process of moving my blog from Blogger to WordPress. If you are reading this post, that’s great, it means you’ve found the new address, www.pocketfullofwanderlust.com Please Bookmark the new blog address for your next visit.  After I move all content to the WordPress Blog, I will no longer update the old Blogger Blog! All future content will be on the WordPress site. Why did I make the move to WordPress? The short answer….WordPress is more user-friendly and offers more flexibility and ease of use!  In the future, I plan to add all types of media, to include videos, photographs and maps. My Blog recently passed the “100,000 page view” mark and I sincerely appreciate my readers taking the time to visit the site! -Thanks, Andrew

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Overland Expo 2014 and Navajo Nachos.

Last weekend I attended the Overland Expo 2014 at Mormon Lake, Arizona, just 30 minutes south-east of Flagstaff.  It was my second time attending the Overland Expo in the last 3 years.  For anyone not familiar with Overland Expo, it’s basically where people of all walks of life and from all parts of the globe gather for 3 days to celebrate all forms of overland-vehicular travel.  Participants arrive in just about every vehicle imaginable, from 500 thousand dollar MadMax looking live-in vehicles to jeeps, trucks, motorcycles and everything in between.  The Expo hosts classes on all aspects of vehicular travel from how to fix a flat tire, to cooking on the road or how to negotiate challenging obstacles properly in your vehicle.  Vendors also have the opportunity to show-off and sell their latest equipment and vehicles.  So in a nutshell, if it has anything to do with overland-vehicles, travel and people who like to venture off the beaten-path, then it was probably at the Overland Expo last weekend!  I tent-cot camped in the pasture with about 900 of my closest friends and their vehicles.  The Expo opens a large cattle pasture for attendees to overnight.  I have no idea how many vehicles camped there but it was probably close to 1000!  The weather was dry and windy, translating into lots of dust in your face, your food and in your vehicles!  Despite the daily sandblasting, it was still an awesome weekend!
I met some of my friends there and made new ones over the 3 day event!  It was kind-of-like a “Woodstock” for overland-vehicle lovers, minus the drugs and nudity…. darn!  I participated in some great classes, with particular interest in the motorcycle ones in order to prepare for a possible trip through the Americas starting in the next 12 months!  The only down-side to the entire weekend was when I ate the dreaded “Navajo Nachos” for the first time!  What are “Navajo Nachos” you ask…. well they are a large piece of “Fry Bread,” covered with refried beans, ground beef, cheese, lettuce and tomato of course.  They tasted great but after about an hour, I felt like I had swallowed a helium-ballon!  I could have squeezed about a cup of oil out of the “Fry Bread,” which may have contributed to the “bloated” feeling.  As you can imagine, the best way to pass the “bloated” feeling is to…. well…. let the methane escape…. and boy did I….. I was afraid my tent-cot was going to float away like the Goodyear Blimp!  Lucky for me, I had strapped the cot down to my vehicle running board because of the high winds and I was safety-strapped to the ground and suffered no unintentional flights!
All joking aside, the best part of the Overland Expo was meeting so many great people, eager to offer their expertise in overland vehicular travel, regardless of your level of experience….
It was just the motivation a guy needs when contemplating a 6000 mile motorcycle ride south of the border!
My Tacoma with Tent-Cot and Kelty Carport.
Breakfast of Overlanders must include BACON!
The cot – awning set-up.
An Earth-Roamer.
A few GXVs ready to road trip!
An Earth Roamer negotiating the obstacle course.
A nice innovative truck cap.
Lots of motorcycles attended!
A new GXV ready for a new owner,
A Sportsmobile.
An XP Camper.
An Earth Cruiser.

 

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A Wander-er’s Kitchen.

Great place for a lunch-break while wandering, sure beats a fast-food parking-lot or truck-stop.

A blog reader recently asked me what sort of “kitchen set-up” I use while traveling in my Tacoma.  Since it’s often difficult to explain something with only words, (anyone who has bought furniture from “Ikea” knows that the assembly diagrams with the text are greatly appreciated by us non-engineer types), I decided to explain what I call the “Wander-er’s Kitchen” with a series of photographs and text!

I wanted my “Wander-er’s Kitchen” to be compact and highly mobile, so I can easily move it between vehicles when necessary.  I appreciate the fancy “chuck wagon style kitchen boxes” many travelers use, but I didn’t want something quite that large, since my space in the truck bed is limited and also serves as my bedroom from time to time!

My kitchen set-up consists of a small aluminum folding table by the “Travel-Chair Company” and a water-resistant “Gander Mountain” Sportsman’s Bag, as you can see in the pictures below.

All my pots, pans, camping stove, fuel canisters, cups, plates, utensils, thermos and coffee-press fit nicely in one bag.    

The Gander Mountain “Sportsman’s Bag” with all kitchen items.

Above, the Gander Mountain Sportsman’s Bag with all necessary kitchen items.

Below, the folding kitchen table in the carrying bag.  The table is the aluminum “Grand Canyon Table” made by the “Travel-Chair Company.”  It’s strong, compact, and the legs are adjustable, making it great for use on uneven ground.

The Grand Canyon Table from the “Travel Chair” Company.

As you can see in the 3 pictures below, the “Grand Canyon Table” comes in two pieces, the folding base and the folding top.  When I cook on my truck’s tailgate, I use the “Grand Canyon Table” top without the base.  This makes a great, flat, heat resistant cooking surface on the tailgate.

The 2 pieces of the Grand Canyon Table, base and top.
The top of the Grand Canyon Table fits nicely on the tailgate making a great cooking surface!
The base of the Grand Canyon Table.
Some of the kitchen items on the tailgate, a great surface for cooking.
The kitchen items on the table with legs in the shortest position.
The kitchen items, close-up.
The table with legs fully extended.

All the kitchen items are pretty much self-explanatory.  Depending on how many friends travel with me, I may take an extra small butane one burner stove in addition to the Optimus stove so I have 2 burners.  I also take a collapsable “kitchen sink” made of PVC type cloth material for washing dishes.  It folds flat and weighs next to nothing.  For drinking water, I like the 3 gallon size water containers, as they are easier to pour than the larger NATO style containers.  The 3 gallon size has a wider base and does not tip-over as easily as the NATO cans.  For washing fruits and veggies, I have 2 small plastic water bottles with small spray tips.  They provide more than enough water pressure for washing away dirt.  I also like stainless steel cups, plates and bowls.  I know they are heaver than plastic but they also last longer and are much more heat resistant than plastic!  Add a small collapsable solar oven to the set-up and you have a kitchen that will do just about everything a designer-home kitchen can do!

Below are a few links for some of the items found in the “Wanderer’s Kitchen.”

Kitchen Table:
http://travelchair.com/products/grand-canyon-table-model-2089cg

Gander Mountain Sportsman’s Bag:
http://www.gandermountain.com/modperl/product/details.cgi?pdesc=Gander-Mountain-Sportsmans-Bag-Large&i=698456

Primus Thermos
http://www.primus.eu/templates/pages/3_cols_white_middle.aspx?SectionId=6392

MSR Quick 2 System Cookware Set
http://www.cascadedesigns.com/msr/cookware/simple-cooking/quick-2-system/product

MSR Alpine Kitchen Set


Optimus Crux Lite Camp Stove
http://www.optimusstoves.com/seen/optimus-products/products/katadynshopconnect/optimus-outdoor-kocher/optimus-crux/

Hydro-Flask Insulated Bottle
http://www.hydroflask.com/products/hydro-flask-insulated-water-bottle-40oz-large

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The $5.00 Dollar Solar Oven.

I know it seems like I have solar-cooking on the brain lately, since my last 3 posts have been about solar cooking options.  Don’t worry, I promise you it’s nothing more than a mild case of heat-stroke!
All kidding aside, I have really become a fan of solar cooking, like you haven’t noticed.  This time of year, much of the nation would be hard pressed to cook a meal with solar energy, but since I am in the “sunshine-state,” I might as well try a few solar experiments.  I have 3 store bought solar cooking options I purchased over the last 5 years,

– The “SunOven” solar oven. About $275.00,

– The “SunFlair” portable, folding solar oven.  About $99.00,

– The “SunRocket” portable, solar kettle.  About $60.00,

All three set-ups have their pros and cons, and as you can see above, all 3 cost a fair amount to purchase. On a popular mobile lifestyle website I frequent, “CheapRVLiving,” one fellow reader showed how he built a solar oven out of a cardboard box, aluminum foil and glue… that was really pretty cool, and really inexpensive at a total cost of about $5.00.  That led me to search the internet, looking for other people who have built their own solar ovens on the cheap.  On “You Tube,” I found a video of a woman who built a “Dollar Store” solar oven with the folding windshield reflectors many of us put in our car windows on hot, sunny days and oven bags.  I thought the idea was pretty awesome, so yesterday I purchased the materials necessary to build my own “Dollar Store Solar Oven.”

Materials and Costs of the “Dollar Store Solar Oven.”

– Two folding windshield reflectors, $1.50 each for a total cost of $3.00
– A 2 count box of Oven Bags, cost…………………………….. $1.00
– A 4 count box of medium metal office clips, cost………………$1.00

Total Cost………………………………………………………..$5.00 Dollars.

You will need a pot to cook in and of course the ingredients of your meal.

I reused a few other items that came with previous solar oven purchases, namely a small bakers rack, a small bakers tray, a silicone pot and an oven thermometer.  All four of these items were available at the “Dollar Store” I shopped at, for about an additional $10.00 dollars.  So I guess if you needed to buy all items at once you could probably do it for around $15.00.

The build is quite simple as you will see in the pictures below,
Unfold the 2 windshield reflectors and place one below your cooking pot and one behind your cooking pot.  I used a small folding chair to help the sun reflectors maintain their shape with the support of the chair’s back, seat and arms.  I used the metal office clips, the kind you can use to hold a stack of papers together, to clip the sun reflector to the chair.  This helped the oven maintain its form in the wind.  I then took the black silicone pot, filled it with my meal of sweet peppers and ground turkey, and placed it on the bakers rack and tray.  The rack, tray, thermometer and pot go into the oven bag and I then used one clip to seal the end of the oven bag.  I placed the bag on the reflectors and started cooking.  The bakers rack elevates the food so the heat is evenly distributed 360 degrees around the pot.  The bakers tray helps to maintain heat in the oven as the metal heats up and then gives off that heat slowly.  I was really amazed at how quickly the Bag / Oven heated up, the thermometer went from 60 degrees to over 200 degrees in about 20 minutes.  Pretty amazing, but then again I am easily amazed and amused!  Remember to seal the bag tightly, as that is how the “oven” stays hot in order to cook evenly.  The bags are reusable and if the pot is sealed correctly, there will be no condensation build-up in the bag making reading your thermometer easy!  I read that ground turkey needs to reach a minimum of 165 degrees to properly cook.  After about 30 mins my oven reached 220 degrees!  The oven eventually reached about 260 degrees when I removed the food from the bag!  Not bad for a $5.00 dollar, “Dollar Store” Solar Oven.

Below, you can see the end results…. a tasty lunch of Sweet Peppers and Ground Turkey, courtesy of the mighty Sun.  Since I can’t share a bite with you, trust me when I tell you it was delicious!

The $5.00 Dollar Solar Oven Materials.
Sweet Peppers with Ground Turkey.
The Oven ready to start cooking.
Close-up of the Oven, Pot on Rack and Tray and Thermometer.
Peppers with Ground Turkey done cooking.
Peppers with Ground Turkey, hot sauce and cheese added!

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Solar Options, The “SunFlair” Portable Solar Oven.

Being in Florida this time of year has given me the opportunity to test a few solar cooking options.  Cooking with solar today in Kentucky would be next to impossible, seeing that it’s 9 degrees fahrenheit and partly cloudy.  Here in the “Sunshine State” of Florida, it’s not a perfect day for solar cooking, but good enough.  It’s 54 degrees, breezy with full sun, warm enough for me to test my new “SunFlair.”  The “SunFlair” is a lightweight, portable, folding solar oven.  It weighs in at about 3 pounds and folds up small enough to fit into a bag the size of a reusable shopping bag.  The “SunFlair” seems to be well made and comes out of the box with everything you need to prepare a meal, minus the food.  Included are a thermometer, a small metal cooking rack, a baking tray and 2 collapsible silicon pots and a carrying-bag.  The silicone pots are rated up to 485 degrees.  I paid $99.00 for my “SunFlair” on Amazon.  The “SunFlair” website advertises a price of $119.00 as I type this post.

For more details about the “SunFlair,” checkout their website,

http://sunflair.net

The website has great cooking tips for anyone new to solar cooking!

Setting up the “SunFlair” solar oven takes less than 5 mins.  Simply remove the oven from the carrying-bag and unfold.  Then place the cooking rack in the oven, add the pot with food and thermometer, then zip-up the plastic lid.  It really is that simple!  Of course, food preparation time will depend on what you are making.  Today I made a chorizo and sweet pepper quiche, prep time about 10 mins!

After about 90 mins of “noon-time” slow cooking (160 degrees), the quiche was fully cooked!

Below are a few pictures of the “SunFlair” in action….

The “SunFlair” Solar Oven in the carrying bag.
The cooking rack, thermometer, and 2 silicone cooking pots.  One pot is expanded.
The “SunFlair” solar oven unfolded.
The “SunFlair” solar oven unfolded with cooking rack and pot.
Today’s lunch, chorizo and sweet pepper quiche.
The Quiche ready to go in the solar oven.
The Quiche after 90 mins of cook time.
The Quiche ready to eat!  It was delicious!

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Solar Options… The “SunRocket.”

The “Sunrocket” solar kettle.

My first experience with solar cooking was about 5 years ago when I purchased a “Sun-Oven,”  solar oven.  I’ve blogged about the “Sun-Oven” a few times over the last three years.  I think solar is a really cool way to cook or pasteurize water, mainly because solar is a clean, renewable energy source.  The “Sun-Oven” is great to use when I’m camping in Bertha the Truck Camper but it’s a bit too big to take in my smaller Tacoma truck-camping set-up and definitely way too big to carry while backpacking.  I did some research, looking for other solar cooking and water purifying options that are more compact and found the “Sunrocket.”  The “Sunrocket” is a small, light-weight, portable solar kettle, capable of heating or boiling water.  The kettle holds 17 oz of water and depending on weather conditions can boil water in about 45 mins.  I put the “Sunrocket” to the test this week and it performed as advertised, I brought 3 cups of tap water to a boil in 50 mins.  The “Sunrocket” makes a great addition to anyone’s emergency preparedness kit or camping kit!  For me the best thing about the “Sunrocket” is that I can use it to pasteurize water, making safe drinking water with nothing more than the power of the sun…. no fire needed!

Below are a few more pictures of the “Sunrocket” in action!    

The “SunRocket” solar kettle in the upright, closed position.
The “SunRocket” solar kettle in the upright, open position.
The “SunRocket” solar kettle in the horizontal, open position.

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Thermal Cooker Lamb Stew.

Today I finally paid a visit to the Lexington Farmer’s Market.  I have been wanting to go for the last few months, especially since I have a pretty nice garden going this year on the little farm.  I was really impressed with the variety of vendors as well as the number of patrons.  The Market was pretty busy for early morning on a Saturday!  Since it was my first visit, I was more interested in seeing what local produce is available rather than doing a lot of shopping.  My garden won’t produce any vegetables until probably mid-July or early August and in the meantime, I’d like to have some healthy options where I can buy good quality, local produce.  I like supporting local, small-scale farms, because I know they work hard and in my opinion deserve a fair price for their products.  I saw a few farmers selling locally produced lamb.   Lamb is one of my favorite meats so I decided to buy some and the necessary vegetables to make a stew.  I bought zucchini squash, onions, tomatoes, garlic, new potatoes and a pound of ground lamb.  It was my first visit to the Lexington Farmer’s Market but it certainly won’t be my last!  
For more information about the Lexington Farmer’s Market, checkout the link below,
http://www.lexingtonfarmersmarket.com
Back at the farm, I broke out the Coleman Apex II camping stove and my Tiger thermal cooker.  I’ve posted articles before about thermal cookers, but still can’t say enough good things about them!  They really are a wonderful way to cook with minimal effort and minimal fuel use!   After washing and chopping the produce, I put all ingredients (see pictures below) including the lamb, into the thermal cooker inner-pot and placed it over the burner.  Once the contents have reached a rolling boil, in about 10 mins, I placed the inner-pot into the outer (thermal) pot and simply waited about 4 hours until the ingredients were fully cooked to enjoy!  For about $15.00 dollars I was able to make a healthy meal that fed me and 3 friends!  

Above and Below the ingredients of my Lamb Stew.

Above, the ingredients washed and chopped, ready to cook!

Below,  the thermal cooker reaching a rolling boil.

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Meanwhile Back on the Kentucky Farm… Part 3

I am currently in Kentucky, having visited family in Ohio and Michigan during the last month since I returned from a 6 month work deployment to Africa.  I am now preparing “Bertha” the Bigfoot Camper for Summer-Residency.  As you know, the best thing about a house on wheels is that those wheels turn and I will definitely be hitting the road for some adventures.  I’d hoped by-now that it would have been warmer in the Mid-West.  I mean come-on, we are almost into May?  But unfortunately at night the mercury still dips down into the 30s and April-Showers have been in full swing too!  It’s not that the cold is all that awful (I did grow up in Cleveland), but I could do without the muddy-mushy earth that comes with all the rain and the cooler temps!

The off-grid base camp / farm has many little projects that will keep me busy for the next few weeks …. trimming trees, burning brush, planting a large garden, working on the gravel-road, painting a fence… etc … there is always something to do when you own a little piece of property, with or without a home on it, there is always work to be done!

And the most important thing to do in the next few months is to spend time with Family and Friends!

Below a few pictures of the recently completed, “Bertha’s Bedroom.”

Last year, after a terribly hot Kentucky-August in Bertha, I decided to build a structure that would provide me and Bertha some shade.  In 2012, there were many nights when I went to bed at 11:00 PM and the camper’s inside temperature was in the high 80s and even 90s,  that makes sleeping a challenge. Before I left for Africa in September of 2012, a buddy and I were able to get the structure’s wood frame completed.  This week we were able to just about finish work on what I call, “Bertha’s Bedroom.”
There is a little more work to be done, but for the most part, she is ready.  And the good news is she survived the icy winter with no problems!  I am hoping that with the shade, the inside temperatures will be a lot cooler this Summer.  My experience with the benefits of shade came in Sisophon, Cambodia in 1993.  I was on a UN mission and living in a military GP tent for 7 months.  During the days, the temps inside the tent could reach the high 90s.  After a few months in country, our Engineer Platoon built tin-roofed structures over the tents, much like Bertha’s Bedroom and temperatures dropped 20 degrees immediately.  That’s what I am hoping for.  We will see… more to follow!

Below, this year I’ve decided size does matter and will plant a bigger garden!
I am a tilled-up and ready to plant… I just need the soil to dry-up a bit!

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