Making Cooking Cool: Induction Cooktop

Induction CooktopMy husband and I have tried various alternative cooking methods over the years. This was not only a search for useful techniques but also a way to stretch our own cooking skills.

For whatever reason–a broken oven, lack of electricity, or whatnot–our stove may not be available. Too, without a traditional summer kitchen, finding other ways to prepare meals in the summer without heating up the kitchen can save money. Definitely a win-win, all the way around.

Here are some cooking methods that we’ve tried:

  1. Solar oven
  2. Campfire
  3. Wonderbag
  4. Induction cooktop

And here’s one that I’m still considering: a Herc Oven. I would love to try this method but so far have not been able to justify the initial expense.

So with the heat of summer still lingering, I decided to purchase an induction cooktop. After doing a bit of research, I finally decided on this one. I won’t pretend to understand the science behind this cooking method, but I can tell you that it works. And best of all, it doesn’t heat up the room, so we can enjoy a hot meal without turning up the air conditioning.

Other than a cooler kitchen, one of the main benefits of using this cooktop is precise temperature control. Also, the time to do anything is lessened; you can boil a pot of water in just minutes. Seriously! Wondering about drawbacks? Well, you can’t use all cookware with this although you can purchase a heat diffuser that will allow you to do so.

We’ve mainly cooked with the skillet so far, but we’re eager to try cooking with a dutch oven and the like.¬†Have you tried cooking on an induction cooktop? What are your thoughts?

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Boiled Eggs in a Wonderbag

boiled eggs wonderbagSo, if you follow me on Twitter, you might have seen a recent tweet about my purchase of a Wonderbag.¬†Although I covet very little these days, I must admit that I had been wanting one for quite awhile. Challenging myself to learn different cooking methods is kind of fun–perhaps I’m a bit odd that way–and so this looked to be right up my alley. I finally relented and bought one online.

When we first began our solar cooking journey, we jumped right in and began cooking full meals. While not disasters, the stews and soups didn’t always quite turn out. We then decided to go back to basics, learning to cooking single items, such as rice and eggs, to see how the solar oven performed and give us a better idea of the quirks involved with solar cooking. Having learned from those experiences, I decided to begin my Wonderbag journey with the easy stuff.

Waking up this morning, I thought, “Today is the day!” I would finally use my Wonderbag for the first time! Thinking about the food we currently had on hand, I decided to boil some eggs. With just a bit of searching, I found a guideline for doing this in the Wonderbag. It looked simple enough, so I began as the directions described, covering the eggs in water and bringing it all to a boil. After a quick period on the stove, the pot was boiling nicely and ready for the Wonderbag. In the bag it went, the whole kit-n-kaboodle sitting on my counter for about seven or so hours.

And the result? The eggs cooked perfectly. About the only difference from what was described in the guidelines was the ease of peeling of the eggs. The eggs were fully cooked, but they just didn’t peel very easily. I’ll admit that this might have been due to the quality or age of our eggs. After peeling one egg, I did put the rest in a bowl of cold water, which seemed to help significantly. However, I would say that this method is a success as it was easy–always a bonus!–and utilized very little gas for cooking.

My opinion of the Wonderbag so far? I have to say I’m a fan. This method of cooking would certainly be perfect for those days when cooking in the solar oven would not be possible, and it didn’t heat up my home during even a hot morning.

Do you have a Wonderbag? What are your experiences? Any favorite meals or recipes? Please share!

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Cooking Lunch in a Solar Oven

solar lunch finishedWhen I first purchased our solar oven, my husband was a tad frustrated. “What will you cook in it?” he asked. Honestly, I hadn’t thought about it at the time. I just knew I had to try solar cooking for myself.

We started slowly, cooking single items, such as rice or eggs. Gradually as we became more comfortable with the solar oven, we relaxed and just started cooking. Although cooking in a solar oven does take a bit of adjustment and more watching than a regular oven, it’s not difficult to do. And once you get comfy-cozy with solar, then the sky’s the limit!

This morning I decided to go ahead and put us some lunch in the solar cooker. One nice thing is that you can use a solar oven pretty much like a slow cooker, allowing you to “set it and forget it.” I put our lunch in this morning, turning the oven once or twice during cooking time, and our lunch was hot and ready for us by noon.

solar oven SaturdaySo what did I put in the pot? All leftover stuff that we needed to use up! It was a frugal meal that didn’t heat up the house. Here are the ingredients:

  1. Progresso Fire-Roasted Tomato Recipe Starter
  2. Simply Balanced Sausage (2 hot dogs)
  3. 1/2 Bag of Fingerling Potatoes
  4. 1 can of black beans

I first poured a bit of olive oil in the pot and then came the tomato soup. We like things spicy, and so I next added assorted spices. Everything else got thrown in the pot and stirred around. And that’s it!

Keep in mind that cooking times will vary, and so I can’t give you an exact time for cooking. However, we allowed it to cook several hours, which resulted in a nice, thick chili. Also, don’t feel confined by my ingredient list. If you’ve got something else on hand, then that’s fine! This is more to give you an idea of what’s possible than a strict guideline.

Do you solar cook or want to learn more about solar cooking? Let me know! And feel free to share your own tips and tricks for cooking in a solar oven.

How to Make Recycled Candles in a Solar Oven

How to Make Recycled Candles in a Solar Oven

Click on the above link to learn more about using up all of those candle stubs that you have lying around the house. And by using a solar oven, you can do it all without heating up your home. Now that’s green and frugal!

Homemade Coffee Syrup

homemadecoffeesyrupIn our home, coffee is more than a drink. It’s a ritual. We love everything about the process of making our cup of coffee, including grinding the coffee beans, preparing the coffee maker, heating the milk, and adding our favorite flavored syrups. Homemade specialty coffee can be rewarding in its own right and is certainly much cheaper than purchasing a drink at your favorite coffee place.

However, we have found that coffee syrup can be quite expensive, especially when you’re drinking multiple cups of coffee per day. Although we enjoyed the convenience, we couldn’t justify the expense. But do without it? Not unless the end really is near. Living frugally doesn’t mean that we have to do without all of life’s little pleasures.

And that is when my husband decided that he would make our coffee syrups. I thought it was a bit of a wacky idea at first, but then many of our best frugal endeavors have started out in the same fashion. He found a couple of basic recipes, including one from Paula Deen and a selection of recipes from Food & Family. These became starting points for our own syrups.

While the flavorings and spices may vary among the recipes, the same basic ratio of water to sugar seems to apply to all. Once you have discovered this, you realize that you can easily alter the recipes based on your own needs or tastes. Too making the syrups isn’t very difficult, just mix together and cook for a while. Although making these syrups at home takes a bit of effort, it really is much more frugal to do so.

vanillacoffeesyrup

One green idea of my husband’s was to heat the syrup in our solar oven. While the syrup didn’t thicken as much as it might have on the stove, it actually made the process of making it that much easier. We didn’t need to worry about it boiling over in the pot; we simply set it in the oven and forgot about it for a few hours. As with any solar cooking endeavor, though, always be aware of the outside temperature and your oven’s capabilities so that you don’t have a solar oven mishap.

Whether you’re making the coffee syrups for yourself or as a gift, it’s worth the little effort needed for the preparation. It is much easier on the budget and allows you to make your homemade specialty coffee especially for you.

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