The sun and rain are important resources that are often overlooked or taken for granted. Harnessing the power of these natural resources is an important practice for improving our relationship with the environment and our role in conservation efforts.
There are many productive things we can do with the energy from the sun and cooking food is one of them! Solar cooking is safe, simple, and convenient. The moderate cooking temperatures help preserve nutrients and won’t burn your food. Using a solar oven eliminates the need to consume fuels or be exposed to smoky cooking conditions which can irritate eyes and lungs or cause disease. It is free to use the sun’s energy, it does not waste any of our limited natural resources, and it is without pollution!
Solar ovens work by letting UV light rays in and converting them to infrared light rays that cannot escape. Infrared radiation has the type of energy that makes the water, fat and protein molecules in food vibrate and heat up. This process is very similar to the way that a greenhouse retains heat or a car heats up quickly in the sun when its windows are up.
A good activity to complete at home is to build your own solar oven. Use recycled materials or household items in order to reduce waste. Then you can really test the power of the sun by trying out a few recipes.
- Pizza box
- Aluminum foil
- Plastic wrap
- Black construction paper
- Utility knife or scissors
- Ruler, wooden spoon, or “prop”
- Clear tape
Follow these simple steps to build your own solar oven:
- Use knife to cut flap in lid of pizza box. Cut along 3 sides, leaving about an inch between sides of flap and edges of lid. Fold flap out so it stands up when lid is closed.
- Cover inner side of flap with aluminum foil. Fold smoothly and tape to back of lid.
- Use plastic wrap to create airtight window for sun to enter pizza box. Open box and tape double layer of plastic over opening that was made when you cut the flap. Tape down securely, sealing out air.
- Line bottom of box with black construction paper.
- Insulate by rolling up sheets of newspaper and place on bottom of box. Tape down to form a border around the cooking area. Make sure lid can still close and there is seal inside box so air cannot escape.
- Set up oven when sun is overhead. Adjust flap until most sun is reflecting off foil and onto plastic covered window. Use roller to prop flap in the right place.
- Reposition oven when needed so it faces direct sunlight.
Now that your oven is complete enjoy some of these tasty treats that can be prepared with only the power generated from our sun.
- Small pitas
- Tomato sauce
- Grated cheese
- Mushrooms, peppers, pepperoni, etc (toppings of choice)
Spread sauce on pitas, sprinkle toppings and cover with cheese. Place in solar oven that has already been sitting in the sun (pre heated) and cook until cheese melts.
Peanut Butter Cookies:
- 1 egg
- 1 cup of smooth peanut butter
- 2/3 cups of sugar
Combine egg, peanut butter, and sugar in a bowl. Stir until mixed. Put heaping teaspoons of dough on an oven proof plate or mini muffin tin. Press down with fork. Place in oven and check every half hour or so. Dough will not brown but cookies should be done in an hour.
Apples with Cinnamon:
- 1 teaspoon of sugar
- 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
- Splash of water
Core and slice apple then place in a baking pan. Add sugar, cinnamon, and little bit of water. Stir. Place in solar oven. Stir and check every 30 minutes. Bake for several hours until apples are softened and warm all the way through. You can serve over ice cream.