solar cooking

I’ve tried making my own, with moderate success.  Unfortunately, wanted something light weight, that could be put away when not in use, yet capable of handling pretty much anything – and nothing I made came to that. They were big and bulky.

So I turned to commercially made and my first was a solar flare parabolic cooker which was fortunately cheap as it was far too limited.

Then my slow cooker died and it was replace or really go solar.

hence the Sunflair portable solar oven kit.  So simple, once you see it, you will see how you can make it for far less. Its maybe too light weight, a good gust of wind will send your meal into the next county.  and unlike the for more expensive Sun Oven, it only gets to between 200-225F depending on its alignment to the sun.  So as a slow cooker, its perfect.

The Sun oven gets over 300F.

The kit came with two racks, two trays, 2 silicone cooking pots and one larger metal pot to be used as a roaster or saucepan as well as a thermometer and a carry bag to put it all in.

With shorter winter days, and our eating our main meal at noon, this will have some use to re-heat food cooked the previous day.  During the summer, the days are long enough to allow for cooking for mid-day eating.

Today made rice – one cup brown rice, 2 cups water.  have no idea how long it took, put it up and went about my business.  When I realized the sun was getting low, about 3 hours later, went out to find it done, and still warm though the oven temp was all the way down. It wouldn’t burn, it can’t overcook.  So pot roast, chicken, stew, beans, can be cooked all day, then reheated the next for dinner.

The one caveat is always use a sealed / covered container.  heated chicken today in an open roaster (a precooked rotisserie chicken) and the moisture condensed on the inside of the plastic and acted as a cloud, cutting the temperature significantly.  It would have been okay with another hour at that temp, or in a cooking bag or covered pan to keep that from happening.

This unit comes with instructions for cooking bacon, eggs, making omelets and even using it as a dehydrator. Can see it starting to show wear and tare with every day use though, while at the same time, can see how to keep it working one way or another for a long time to come.



Did a batch of turkey, rice and vegetable soup.  Using these cool trays, dried the soup.

img_0918  did have to keep the soup stirred as it was drying as the top part would dry while the bottom wasn’t as quickly.  Can also transfer to sheets once its not so liquidy.

img_0934 six quarts of soup in a one gallon bag.  Weighed this out (10g tare for the bag) and divided by six. then measured out how much that was

img_0937 each measure went into a plastic sandwich bag, labeled with contents and instructions, then sealed in a vacuum sealer which protects the labels as well as the contents. Ready for storage, the back pack, the go bag.

img_0938 did the same with some refried beans, but instead of smaller packages, just put it in jars with instructions as to how much equals a serving.  We use refrieds often, so just ladled some out of the cook pot with our breakfast the first day. each ladle became one side serving.  After the top of the trays had dried, flipped the rest out onto sheets and when fully dry into the jars with instructions. counted how many ladles went onto the trays.  Weighed it all out, divided by the number of servings, and measured that weight by volume. In this case, 1/2C.

img_0935 Drying Chili.  Each sheet is one quart which is enough for two to three people depending on whether they are 60 or 20, and what else is being served with it.   Will just jar this as I did the refries. Our grand nephew is coming for a couple of months so expect this will go quickly.  In the future, will likely package some up as I did the soup.

dehydrated rations

Have been experimenting with dehydrating foods.  Some things are easy, like refried beans.  And we eat those often enough that I can keep several pints worth in a plastic bag like the one in the picture.  But this is Turkey vegetable rice soup – 6 quarts worth.  560 grams.  While I prefer whole foods to dehydrated (do we store 100 gallons of water and dehydrated food or 50 gallons of water and whole food?), there are times like camping or a bug out bag, or in the car, that some dehydrated meals are good.  Even if its just for that one or two times you are on the road and can’t find a decent restaurant.  Or if you have special dietary needs.

Will weigh this out into 6 portions and measure it by volume to determine how much water will be needed to make that quart of soup and then vacuum pack it accordingly.


just a thought

If (more likely when) the SHTF, what are you going to do with your garbage?  So many mylar bags, cans, cardboard packages, plastic bags, seals, etc.  Okay, the cans can be hammered flat and used as metal. #10 cans can be caulked together and create duct work.  Cardboard can be burned.  but all that plastic?

Are we going to start our new world on a pile of garbage?

gluten free meal

Among my preps this week cooked up a lot of gluten free grains: oatmeal, buckwheat, amaranth and polenta in water with salt.  The cooked up some apples with the last of the rhubarb and some sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger (apple rhubarb pie filling?!)  and mixed all together.  Chopped up some almonds and added that to the mix,  then scooped out 1/2C lots onto dryer sheets.

img_0923 next batch added some craisins, last batch had craisins and chocolate chips (which melted).  Then all were dried.

Was hoping to get something like a chewy bar but they have come out as thick crackers, although they could be eaten as is.  Easy enough to add them to a 1/2C of water and rehydrate for a meal.

img_0926 vacuum sealed them, three per.  Tried to do them individually, but that didn’t work out.  One bag didn’t seal completely, so that one is left out to see how long they will keep as is.  Guess I could have left this moister, and kept them sealed (next batch), vs this super dry which will probably keep without the sealing.

reading and stuff

am one of those people the modern meme is about. You know the one : my parents watch the debates so they know how much food to put away in the basement”.   Yeah, that’s me.  SO there is lots of stuff going on as winter approaches, the farmer’s market is filled with fresh squash (far more than what I can grow), and other good things.    I’m working with the dehydrator, going to learn how to ferment veggies and have the dummies guide to Ham Radio at the ready for winter reading.  Also knitting long sleeve sweaters and discovering the comfort of FINALLY being able to carry on body regularly instead of killing my shoulders with always purse carrying.

So on to this blog’s book review: Lights Out by Ted Koppel.

If you know someone whom you would like to hit over the head with a 2×4 to wake them up to how close to the abyss we are, this is the book for them to read.  Hey, its Ted Koppel. We all know Ted Koppel, award winning journalist, night time visitor to most homes in America, respected reporter.  Well, it seems Ted has become a prepper!  Guess it was lurking for him anyway – it seems he got to spend his early childhood in London during the Blitz – and then, like a lot of people, he read One Second After by Wm Forstchen.  I’ve not read that one, and many of you haven’t either, but for some reason a lot of people who normally wouldn’t read such books have. Its life for a man in a small east coast town after a country wide EMP attack.  And it seems to have put the burr under the saddle for a lot of folks, including Ted Koppel.

Lights Out isn’t about an EMP, though he does explore that possibility, this is about how insecure our electrical grid system is, particularly to cyber attack.

Now what makes this book different than all others is, ONE its by Ted Koppel and TWO Ted gets to interview all kinds of AUTHORITIES on the subject: NSA, DHS, DOD, FEMA, and other government agency types, past and present.  He interviews the CEO’s of the electrical companies and gets the real scoop on how the current electrical distribution system runs.  He’s interviewing people who are working real world Cyber Security. There is much discussion on how the authorities would handle such a situation, where and how they could evacuate folks, how they would get them supplies, and how long it would take to put it all back together.  Oh yeah, the answers are, when someone was willing to give them, was NOT.

He gets into the Mormen’s whole system of storing and distribution of supplies and the WHY of what they do.  He talks to a guy who worries about the security of Cody Wyoming and what makes them different than folks in NYC.  He talks to Ray Kelly, Rudy Giulliani and what worked in NYC after 9/11.  he talks about real cyber attacks that have taken place and how they were able to be pulled off.  He talks about the world wide political picture that shapes our current thought processes.  he talks about how long it would take to implement ANY system that would make what we have more secure.

This is not fiction, nor is it some hysterical ‘wing nut’. This is Ted Koppel, of the neat hair style, the calm speech, the informed journalist and investigative reporter.

So if you have some folks who need a bit of a wake up call so they are not pounding on your door one day expecting to share in what you have put away, give them this book as their holiday gift.

BTW, after reading this book, cyber attack on our grid has moved much further down my list of possible things that could happen, while a north Korean launched EMP has moved UP, especially as a west coaster!  I now see failure of our grid as a possibility from any number of different scenerios, none having to do with cyber attack, but all having to do with human fraility, the age and complexity of the system, and the lack of awareness most people bring to their jobs.   I see the possibility of local failures and having the system shut those areas of the country out of the loop to protect the big grid and it still taking months to years to repair that local damage and getting it back up and running.

Cyber attacks I see happening more to our economic system.  Think economic unrest would do more damage to the system as a whole than bringing down the grid.  It would create the kind of unrest among the people that can bring down a government and leave a leadership gap because there could still be communications and large scale planning.  taking down the grid would lead to unrest, but without communications, groups could not plan anything to act in concert.

at least that’s how I felt after reading this book and looking at all the “evidence” Ted presents.  Your take might vary, and at $17 for the hardcover (a little less for the Kindle) doubt that you would put this on your necessary reading list.  But, again, if you have someone who needs a wake up call as to how delicate our balance really is, it could be money well spent.

On another note, this book came to my awareness when I got an e-mail from some politician in Oregon who was basically their DHS guy and it freaked him out enough (along with One Second After) to send out a blanket e-mail with details about what minimum supplies they should have for at least 3 months cause if any of this should happen, there wouldn’t be any help coming from them!