Turnips baking in the solar oven

Solar cooking this morn: Chopped up a bunch of turnips I had almost forgotten about because they were in a cloth bag in the back of my fridge crisper drawer. And added the remaining half of a red onion that was in there.

Then I was going to stir in this chili paste that I made the other day. But then I decided to just cook the vegetables plain in a little bit of coconut oil and apple cider vinegar, and add the deep rich seasonings and spices to taste later, to the cooked veggies once they are on my plate.

I am not a terrible cook, but I’m not a great cook either, and one of my most useful learning experiences has been to cook things plain and then taste how they taste without seasoning or with minimal seasoning, and only then, if I still want, I’ll add “thicker” condiments (leftover chili or hot mustard or soy-sauce packets from Chinese delivery when they did not listen to my request to leave out the sauce packets and utensils) and/or sprinkles (bacon, bleu cheese crumbles), etc.

I’m looking forward to topping the baked root vegetables with some of that chili paste, and maybe some nutritional yeast or nuts or blue cheese.

Chili paste: I found at the back of my cabinet a vacuum packed bag of dried chili peppers purchased at the Asian grocery a while back. I opened it, stuck them in the blender with a bit of water, added a bit of coconut oil and then honey, date syrup, and blackstrap molasses and touch of vinegar. The flavor isn’t blast-your-face-off spicy, but it’s definitely deeply richly warm. If I had had any maple syrup in the cabinet I would’ve added some of that too.

One of the challenges some of us face in our efforts to incorporate lots of plain fresh vegetables in our diets, as opposed to easy grab & go processed foods, is making them taste truly yummy but in a healthy way.

Some people like plain steamed or boiled veggies just fine, and do not have this issue. Others of us like cooked-in seasonings, or added-after toppings, or both. The best way to find out what works for you & your other household members is experiment! A lot less produce would go to waste if we find tasty ways to eat it. And if you make something you like, don’t be afraid to take a sample to a friend or neighbor!

Although I’m not a great cook, I find that one thing that helps me is a willingness to explore and blend different seasonings and condiments. It’s a pretty low-stakes experiment and yields enjoyable results.

In midsummer with the high sun angle, a solar oven can get hot enough to start cooking by midmorning, say around 930 or even 9 if you really push it by optimizing the oven tilt.

(See photos here on my DEEP GREEN Facebook page.)