Adventures in Off-the-Grid Cooking with a Solar Oven from Huffington Post

Part 1: Why Go Solar?

The closer I get to living in alignment with my values of a healthy, environmentally-sustainable and socially-just lifestyle, the more I realize my life revolves around producing, obtaining, and preparing food.

Solar cooking at the Wisconsin Permaculture Convergence (Jeremiah Garcia)

Solar cooking at the Wisconsin Permaculture Convergence (Jeremiah Garcia)

I strive to know where my food comes from and how it was grown, and to eat meals that are delicious and even indulgent, yet have the maximum benefit for my physical and mental health and my energy levels. To do this in a way that is affordable means cooking much of our food “from scratch.” It can be a lot of work but also extremely satisfying, and since food is one of the few things we need to survive, it seems worthwhile to do it right. This goes for not just the food itself, but also for our cooking processes.

Cooking on a camp stove in our mobile kitchen, on BLM land in Wyoming. (Jeremiah Garcia)

Cooking on a camp stove in our mobile kitchen, on BLM land in Wyoming. (Jeremiah Garcia)

Spending the summer living off-the-grid in a mobile tiny house (pictured above), we cooked primarily with a 2-burner propane camp stove, and now we’re living in an off-the-grid house with a propane stove. Propane is one of our few housing-related expenses since we don’t pay for electricity (100% solar) or water (100% rainwater catchment), and we’re eager to cut back on our propane consumption.

We cooked with natural gas for years at our last house, but now that we actually buy each canister of propane—rather than just paying a monthly utilities bill that comes directly out of our bank account and lumps together gas and electric use, making it easy to ignore—we know exactly how much propane we’re using. And now that we live in Colorado’s fracking country, the impacts of industrial natural gas (as opposed to NG from small-scale biogas digesters) are impossible to ignore.

Dangers of Fracking. (Friends of the Earth Europe)

Dangers of Fracking. (Friends of the Earth Europe)

A solar oven seemed like a simple, economically and environmentally-friendly alternative to cooking with propane or natural gas.

Solar ovens and solar cookers use passive solar technology, usually some sort of black box with metal reflectors, to concentrate the sun’s heat onto whatever you’re cooking.

Solar Cooking Diagram. (FR.HOWTOPEDIA.ORG)

Solar Cooking Diagram. (FR.HOWTOPEDIA.ORG)

If it’s sunny outside, over the course of the day—or sometimes just a few hours—you can cook a variety of foods this way: stews, grains, meats, roasted vegetables, granola, hard-“boiled” eggs, and even cakes and other baked goods! Of course this means you have to plan ahead; solar-cooking is slow food, not fast food.

We already plan many of our meals in advance because we eat a lot of grains and beans which we like to soak or sprout to make them easier to digest and the nutrients more accessible. So for us, the biggest barrier to solar cooking was not lack of convenience, but simply that building our own solar cooker seemed a bit daunting (to me, at least).

Part 2: Choosing a Solar Cooker

Ever since my partner Jeremiah weatherproofed the underside of our mobile tiny home back in February, we’ve been carrying around remnants of sheet metal to build a solar cooker. I began perusing designs trying to find something that would be easy to construct and easily transportable. I’ve seen models that were as simple as cardboard boxes covered in aluminum foil (or even aluminum chewing gum wrappers!) or as creative as an old tire between two pieces of glass, as well as far more sophisticated designs.

But we were looking for something durable yet still lightweight and easily transportable. Something we could quickly throw in our trailer if a storm came along and we needed to pack up camp, something that wasn’t too bulky or too fragile and could handle being jostled around with the rest of our gear while we towed our tiny home over mountains and back roads.

Synchronistically, right around that time I received an email from a representative at Solavore, a Minneapolis-based company that manufactures Solavore Sport Ovens, asking if I’d be interested in testing out and reviewing one of their solar ovens. I was initially a bit hesitant because marketing and product promotion of consumer goods run contrary to my belief in living a low-impact lifestyle, and I have very high standards for the companies I do support (for more info on this, see the new report “25 Enterprises that Build Resilience”).

But after doing a bit of research on Solavore and learning that it’s a small, women-owned business; conscious of how its product is produced, packaged, and shipped; striving to become a Certified B-Corps; and selling a product that has an important role to play in building a low-carbon future, I decided to give it a try.

Solavore Works project in Kenya. (Solavore)

Solavore Works project in Kenya. (Solavore)

Another great thing about Solavore is that the company works with local entrepreneurs  to increase access to solar cookers in KenyaCambodia, and India, areas where cooking over open fires is a major health and environmental concern and is linked to serious respiratory problems as well as deforestation and even low status of women (girls often have to miss school to collect firewood).

Part 3: Cooking with the Solavore Sport Oven

I picked up my Solavore Sport test oven from the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance, a non-profit organization and Solavore distributor, at the Midwest Renewable Energy Fair. I’ve spent the last couple of months experimenting with it, and had some wonderful results.

The unit is made of thick recycled plastic (reinforced with glass fibers to prevent heat degradation and crushing) and is lightweight (9 lbs), durable, and easy to transport and assemble, which has made it very convenient for us to use. I’m by no means an expert on solar ovens, but it seems extremely well-designed (read more here).

Solavore Sport Oven

Solavore Sport Oven

The clear plastic lid is made of two layers (one is thicker plastic, one is a thinner polyester film) with a space in between to help retain heat. From what I’ve read on the Solavore website, it sounds like there can sometimes be issues with moisture getting trapped between the two layers (Solavore recommends storing the unit on its side to help drain out any moisture), or with the polyester film getting punctured. I haven’t experienced either of these issues, but it’s nice to know that if you do have a problem with the lid you can order a new lid or lid repair kit, rather than having to replace the whole oven. The oven also comes with a thermometer and a WAPI stick for water pasteurization.

At the end of the day, I can pick up the whole oven, with food still hot inside of it, and carry it into the house. It comes with two 9-inch black graniteware pots so we can cook two dishes at once (which is somewhat rare for solar ovens), or multiple ingredients for the same dish that require different cooking times (for example, a pot of rice and a pot of roasted veggies).

Roasting eggplant, tomatoes and onions for "Punjabi Eggplant." (Author)

Roasting eggplant, tomatoes and onions for "Punjabi Eggplant." (Author)

I’ve experimented with a number of recipes, and had the best results with roasted veggies (beets, eggplant, tomatoes, etc.), which come out absolutely juicy and delicious after just a couple of hours. As a rule of thumb, cooking time is twice as long as conventional methods, with an additional half hour for the solar oven to preheat.

One of my favorite things about using the solar oven is that is doesn’t require oil to cook veggies (which is both healthier and more economical). Because the oven cooks slowly at lower temperatures (typically ranging from 210º – 260º F, maxing out at 300º F), it’s hard to burn or overcook things, and the veggies retain more nutrients. This is a big perk for me because I tend to multi-task and get distracted when I’m cooking veggies on the stove and often end up overcooking them.

Lentils and rice (after being soaked overnight) have also come out beautifully in the solar cooker. One of my current life goals is to get better at cooking “exotic” cuisine – Indian, Ethiopian, etc. I used to work at an Afghani restaurant that served the most exquisitely delicious food I’ve ever eaten, and learned that one of their secrets (in addition to high-quality ingredients and some serious culinary talent) was cooking dishes for long periods of time over low heat, to allow the flavors to really sink in. I’m hoping the solar oven will work well for this task, sort of like a slow cooker.

Solar-cooked rice & lentils. (Author)

Solar-cooked rice & lentils. (Author)

One thing that’s important to note about cooking in the solar oven is that you need to use less water than usual (about 25% less), because water takes longer to heat up. I’m still experimenting with liquid ratios for rice, beans, lentils, etc. A few times I haven’t added enough liquid and the final product comes out a bit dry and under-cooked, so I’ve end up adding water and finishing it on the stove (which takes less time than if I were to cook the dish on the stove from the beginning).

I’m also trying to figure out how to cook larger dried beans like black beans, Great Northern white beans, and pinto beans. After soaking some Great Northern white beans for two days, I tried cooking them in the solar cooker. After a full day in the sun they were still pretty uncooked, so I ended up putting them in the slow cooker. But I tried the same thing with black beans, and it worked beautifully. Either way, it’s important to soak the beans before cooking them.

Another challenge is that if you’re cooking something that takes all day, you need to be able to adjust the oven so that it stays in the sun. On a cloudy day, you can add metal reflectors that easily snap on to the oven to concentrate the limited sunlight, and usually things cook just fine that way. According to the website, the Solavore Sport Oven also works well for winter cooking—which I’m excited to try—and can maintain a cooking temperature of 250 degrees even when the air temperature is below zero. The oven can be turned on its side for winter cooking to better capture the lower angle of winter sun rays. Amazing – talk about appropriate technology!

The Solavore Sport Oven with reflectors retails for $269, and you can order it from the Solavore website. For a low-budget homesteader this feels like a big investment, especially when you could build a solar cooker yourself. But it’s actually cheaper than other commercial models, and personally, the time I would have spent researching and deciding on a design, gathering materials, and building the oven could be worth the financial investment, especially since I know the Solavore Sport Oven is so well-designed, efficient, durable, and convenient to use.

If you’re already thinking about purchasing a solar oven, I highly recommend this model. You can purchase the oven without reflectors for $229, but if you’re going to make the investment in the oven, I’d recommend purchasing the reflectors for those days that aren’t as sunny. I’ve already gotten a lot of use out of mine. You can also save a bit of money (about $25 per oven) if you and a friend go in together on a two-pack of ovens.

That’s all for now – time for a dinner of solar-roasted zucchini and some solar baked peach-banana bread for dessert!

Part 4: Recipes & Tips for Solar Cooking

You’d be surprised by the variety of what you can cook in a solar oven! It’s definitely an art, and there are a few nuances that make it different from cooking on a conventional stove. Here are a few tips and recipes to help you get started.

To begin, Solavore has a wonderful website full of tips and gourmet recipes. Check it out: http://www.solavore.com/

Here are a few of my favorite recipes:

Punjabi Eggplant (Baingan Barta)

Rosemary Potatoes

Roasted Beet Hummus (This version calls for canned chickpeas – I’m working on a version that uses raw/sprouted or solar-cooked chickpeas)

Solar-roasted beet hummus. (Author)

Solar-roasted beet hummus. (Author)

Veggie Broth

A few other tips…

You can cook soups and other liquid-y items in a solar oven if you first bring it to a boil on your kitchen stove, then put it in the pre-heated solar oven to simmer. I’ve made some delicious solar-infused vegetable broth this way.

Solar-infused homemade veggie broth. (Author)

Solar-infused homemade veggie broth. (Author)

I’ve had success cooking hard-boiled eggs in the Solavore Sport Oven without any water – I just set the pot lid upside down inside the cooking pot and let the eggs cook for about an hour and a half (I’m at a higher elevation so it could be less – I’ve read 45 minutes works for some people).

Solar-hardcooked eggs (fresh from our free-range chickens) [Author]

Solar-hardcooked eggs (fresh from our free-range chickens) [Author]

You can also bake in the oven – I’ve made delicious banana bread in the Solavore but ended up throwing it in the conventional oven for a few minutes at the end because I got a late start and ran out of sun. Solavore has a carrot cake recipe they strongly recommend, which I’ve yet to try (I’ll probably try a reduced-sugar version!).

Overall, I’m stoked to be cooking with the Solavore Sport Oven and looking forward to fine-tuning my craft! I love cooking for dinner parties and potlucks in the solar oven because people are so curious and often surprised by what’s possible. Next up: granola (with no processed sugar), lentil soup (a staple), garden veggie frittata (with eggs fresh from the chicken coop) and scalloped potatoes (a decadent Thanksgiving treat for my family).

Cook With The Sun: Solavore Solar Oven Review on GearJunkie.com

Solavore Sport solar oven review on gearjunkie.com

The Solavore solar oven is a portable cooking compartment that focuses and retains the sun’s rays to bake a meal without any electricity or gas.

We tested the brand’s flagship Solavore Sport at GearJunkie headquarters to see how practical (and delicious) a set-it-and-forget-it solar cooker really is.

What Is Solavore?

Formerly the non-profit company Solar Oven Society (SOS), Solavore became a for-profit business after Anne Patterson took the reigns in 2015.

Despite the change in ownership and business model, Solavore maintained its mission to improve the lives of women in the developing world by making solar ovens more accessible. Typically, women in these areas forego school and career to cook for their families, often on potentially lethal indoor wood-burning stoves. Read the rest of the review here.

Creating ‘Solavores’ By Thinking Inside the Box- on Nextbillion.com

If your diet includes meat you’re a carnivore. Herbivores consume plants only. Both? You’re an omnivore. But if you’re a solavore that must mean that you eat “of the sun.” Creating solavores the world over – that’s my goal, as CEO of Solavore LLC, the manufacturer of the Solavore Sport solar oven. As a St. Paul, MN headquartered social enterprise, the company’s mission is to enlighten families in the developed world (who arguably have every means under the sun to cook their meals) to the fun and magic of solar cooking. We then use profits to subsidize this clean-cooking technology for the 2.7 billion people in the developing world for whom wood fire is the only cooking option, with the inevitable result: lung damage (over 4 million deaths per year of respiratory illness in women cooking over open fire, often indoors, including the infants on their backs and the toddlers at their sides). An equally dire casualty: the world’s forests. Haiti, now98 percent deforested, is the poster child country of denuded landscape – an image indelibly burned in the memory of anyone who has ever flown over Dominica and looked down on the harsh contrast between the jungles of the Dominican Republic juxtaposed against the moonscape that is Haiti (left). On the other side of the world, Cambodia’s primary rainforest cover fell dramatically from over 70 percent in 1970 at the end of the Vietnam War to just 3.1 percent in 2007. Turning to Africa, charcoal burning has been named the biggest threat to Kenyan forests, where less than 2 of the country’s forests still stand. A daunting challenge, for which Solavore has joined forces with the UN Foundation’s Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, calls for 100 million households to gain access to clean and efficient cookstoves and fuels by 2020. Read the entire article here.

If your diet includes meat you’re a carnivore. Herbivores consume plants only. Both? You’re an omnivore. But if you’re a solavore that must mean that you eat “of the sun.”

Creating solavores the world over – that’s my goal, as CEO of Solavore LLC, the manufacturer of the Solavore Sport solar oven. As a St. Paul, MN headquartered social enterprise, the company’s mission is to enlighten families in the developed world (who arguably have every means under the sun to cook their meals) to the fun and magic of solar cooking. We then use profits to subsidize this clean-cooking technology for the 2.7 billion people in the developing world for whom wood fire is the only cooking option, with the inevitable result: lung damage (over 4 million deaths per year of respiratory illness in women cooking over open fire, often indoors, including the infants on their backs and the toddlers at their sides).

An equally dire casualty: the world’s forests. Haiti, now98 percent deforested, is the poster child country of denuded landscape – an image indelibly burned in the memory of anyone who has ever flown over Dominica and looked down on the harsh contrast between the jungles of the Dominican Republic juxtaposed against the moonscape that is Haiti (left).

On the other side of the world, Cambodia’s primary rainforest cover fell dramatically from over 70 percent in 1970 at the end of the Vietnam War to just 3.1 percent in 2007.

Turning to Africa, charcoal burning has been named the biggest threat to Kenyan forests, where less than 2 of the country’s forests still stand. A daunting challenge, for which Solavore has joined forces with the UN Foundation’s Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, calls for 100 million households to gain access to clean and efficient cookstoves and fuels by 2020. Read the entire article here.

Solavore Sport - solar oven / solar cooker review on Permies.com

solavore sport solar cooker review on permies.com

Excerpt from permies.com. Read the entire review here.

This type of solar cooker is a solar box oven, which means it works similar to a slow cooker or a crock pot. I adore crock pot cooking, I even "bake" things in crock pots, and I had not realized how similar these methods are until today. In the heat this summer, I've taken to plugging in crock pots out on the back porch to keep the heat outside of the house, and this is even better - no electricity needed at all! Plus, I think it's more secure from flies and critters since a crock pot lid has that edge between the lid and the pot that some times slips to make a gap and where flies could hang out and do their nasty things. 

The easy instructions talk about centering your shadow over the oven to make sure it's facing south. This was at about 10:20 a.m. facing a bit southeast. Check. 

Solavore, LLC Receives National Certification as a Women's Business Enterprise by the Women's Business Enterprise National Council

certified womens business enterprise
 

Link to  the story here.

July 25, 2016 10:50 ET

Solar Oven Manufacturer, Solavore, LLC Receives National Certification as a Women's Business Enterprise by the Women's Business Enterprise National Council

ST. PAUL, MN--(Marketwired - Jul 25, 2016) - Solavore, LLC, a women-owned social enterprise committed to the manufacture and global distribution of 100% fuel-free clean cooking technology, announced today that it received national certification as a Women's Business Enterprise by the Women's Business Development Center - Minnesota (WBDC-MN), a regional certifying partner of the Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC).

WBENC's national standard of certification is a meticulous process including an in-depth review of the business and site inspection. The certification process is designed to confirm the business is at least 51% owned, operated and controlled by a woman or women.

"We are thrilled to receive this certification from WBENC," said Anne Patterson, CEO of Solavore. "We expect our solar ovens to help their (mostly female) owners in the developing world improve their health by reducing wood-fire cooking, save time spent gathering firewood, and generate income by providing goods to sell in the marketplace. Local assembly of ovens creates jobs as does the sales, distribution, and support of new ovens. WBENC certification shares the fact that we are women helping women."

Founded by former tech industry senior executive, Anne Patterson, Solavore™ is the manufacturer of the Sport solar oven, a 100% renewable energy solar oven. A solar oven can be used in your back yard, on a boat or a camping trip to cook a broad range of delicious food including meat, poultry, vegetables, fish, slow cooked meals and baked goods, without using cooking fuel of any kind other than sunlight. It is also a big time saver because you can literally "set it and forget it" and in a few hours the food will be perfectly cooked when you return.

Every Solavore solar oven purchased helps to fund a Solavore Sport somewhere in the world where an open fire is still the main kitchen appliance. The benefits that Solavore Works, Solavore's corporate social responsibility program, brings to communities in the developing world include:

  • Respiratory health: freedom from common diseases such as pneumonia, which kills more women and children each year than malaria or AIDS
  • The removal of one of the main causes of deforestation in the developing world
  • Savings in energy expenditures, which can range up to 25-50% of a family's budget
  • Water pasteurization and food dehydration
  • The ability for girls to attend school rather than spend their days collecting firewood with their mothers
  • Increased income generation, enabling a woman to sell the food that she bakes or dehydrates in her solar oven

Designed by engineers from 3M, the Solavore Sport is a virtually indestructible, retained-heat box-type solar oven made of rugged, durable, lightweight injection-molded nylon resin. Surround insulation and two-pot capacity enable unattended, family-size year-round cooking. The included water pasteurization indicator adds clean water to the Sport's versatility, along with slow-cooking, baking, and dehydrating. The Sport solar oven is an industry leader in price, performance, family-size capacity and rugged durability.

By including women-owned businesses among their suppliers, corporations and government agencies demonstrate their commitment to fostering diversity and the continued development of their supplier/vendor diversity programs.

About Solavore:

Solavore is a women-owned social enterprise whose mission is to promote clean-cooking technology around the world. Solavore pledges to use its profits to remain independent and self-sustaining while providing clean cooking alternatives to the world's 3 billion people who are still cooking over open fires. Over 20,000 Solavore Sport ovens have been deployed in 60 countries. Solavore is an active member of the Global Alliance for Clean Cook Stoves and Solar Cookers International. For further information please visit www.solavore.com. Follow Solavore on Facebook at www.facebook.com/solavore, on Instagram and on Twitter @Solavore.

About WBENC

The Women's Business Enterprise National Council is the nation's largest third party certifier of businesses owned and operated by women in the United States. WBENC is a resource for the more than 700 US companies and government agencies that rely on WBENC's certification as an integral part of their supplier diversity programs.

Commerce With a Conscience: Solavore Sport on Active Junky

activejunky.com reviews the solavore sport

For nearly nine years, I’ve walked, biked and motored by neighbor Steve’s driveway.  Off to the side but appearing to move gradually of their own accord have been two wedge-shaped plastic enclosures, placed to suck up sunlight and churn out seven-bean casseroles.

While the Sun likely has a few more years of light-producing fuel on its surface and deep in its core, it was time this spring to hurry up and take advantage of one of Colorado’s finest crops.  No, not that one.  Solar radiation, Active Junky readers, as the region harvests as many sunny days annually as San Diego.  

Solavore became the focus of all that’s good or ponderous about solar cooking, offering their Sport model up for testing.  Not only complete with a water purification indicator for H2O-compromised settings, this unit arrived with an optional metal reflector and the promise of double the captured energy in a crock-pot like appliance. 

After a number of set-it-and-forget-it cooking sessions, along with some more closely monitored spin-to-follow-the-Sun attempts, the truth (small “t” in this case) can be told, throwing caution to the solar winds.  Five discoveries came forth in rapid succession.

Discovery #1:  It really works. Really.

The oversized black plastic form is, indeed, a magnet for even fleeting sunlight during variable cloud coverage.  While blue skies are best, ten minutes here and there of compromised radiation did nothing to dissuade the Sport from going to work, taking from 50 to 90 minutes to fully cook side dishes, entrees and even vanilla white cake.  The flatter enamelware cookware included made sure ingredients weren’t stacked too thick to be able to cook consistently. 

Discovery #2:  What looks like condensation is hydration.

Every dish came out plumper, juicier and more flavorful than if cooked in a steamer, oven or on a grill.  Flavors of vegetables were nuanced, textures fuller and more satisfying after cooking with the Solavore.  Yes, some additional planning and recipe adjustment are required but can bring new riffs on regional and national cuisines including South African and Indian recipes.  This is your chance to try new recipes along with experiencing a little-understood cooking methodology.

Discovery #3:  Optional reflectors are mandatory.

To keep solar relevant with other cooking methods, it needs to minimize the time to completion.  In addition, meat dishes must be prepared with greater confidence by employing higher temperatures and more sustained cooking conditions.  While they add expense to the project, reflectors pop up and fold down in less than 60 seconds, requiring inconsequential storage space for the notable gain in cooking power.

Discovery #4:  Cleaning and draining the unit isn’t optional, either.

With so much moisture retained inside the oven both from the food and trapped air, some condensation is bound to seep into the solar cooker’s tiny joints.  Simply wiping it down with a clean, damp cloth and propping Solavore upside down at an angle to drain was all the “maintenance” needed.  Periodic checking of lid clips and reflector springs prevent loose seals or rattling in the wind in a system designed for a decade or more of reliable service.

Discovery #5:  Teach your car to love solar – but keep its distance.

Orienting the solar oven to the sun takes some practice, as does reading the included, sealed-in thermometer during the process.  Ditto for avoiding foot and vehicle traffic if the cooker is placed on a driveway, stoop or sidewalk.  While more secluded spots may be workable and less accident-prone, putting the Black Box in the public eye is a great way to start conversations.  Perhaps even enjoy a meal together as neighbors.

After all, we share the same solar system.  Along with the identical Sun.

Read the entire review on Active Junky.

Rodale's Organic Life

baking cookies in the solavore sport in rodales organic life

The idea of cooking with the sun has long fascinated me. Who hasn’t heard the old idiom of a day so hot you can fry an egg on the sidewalk? As a child, I took those words to heart and once attempted to sear fish on a sizzling metal slide. Now as an adult, I live in Montana in a home with no air conditioning, and the thought of turning on the oven on a summer day sends me back to the idea of cooking outside with the sun, this time using a proper solar oven.

In it’s most rudimentary form, a solar oven is a black box with a clear lid and possibly reflectors to focus the sun. Besides being a completely environmentally friendly option that requires no fuel, one of the best aspects is it doesn’t heat up the house. It’s also a more forgiving method. I tend to be a distracted cook, particularly in the summer when I wander out into the vegetable garden and dash back inside to the smoke alarm. 

To start, I tried to build my own solar oven out of a cardboard box using instructions similar to these—though without much success after I inhaled way too much black spray paint. So I ditched the DIY route and got a Solavore Sport, a small unit that easily fits into the car or can be set on the picnic table while I work in the garden.

My first experiment was a batch of chocolate chip cookies using my go-to recipe I’ve made countless times in my kitchen. Even on a warm day with high overcast skies, they took two hours to bake, coming out tasty, though I was missing that touch of browning that gives cookies that crispiness I love. Read the entire article here

 

Survival Mom Reviews the Solavore Sport

solavore sport review on survivalmom.com

I have been using the Solavore Sport Oven for the past month and had an opportunity to review this product.

When the unit arrived, I noticed that it was lightweight, and it was easy to put all the “parts” together. This is just a matter of putting together 3 pieces: the black oven itself, the plastic top, and the reflector panels, which line the oven. It came with a WAPI stick to confirm you have achieved water pasteurization, which is a handy survival tool to have on hand. Since the easiest test of all is the heating of water,  I thought I’d try that first as part of my Solavore review. The weather was optimal, because the sun was out, it was around 45-50 degrees, but breezy.

I put cold tap water in my quart Mason jar, and suspended the WAPI stick so that it remained in the center of the jar. Then I placed the lid on, and reflector panels. I went to do some outdoor work and checked on it 30 minutes later. The interior temperature of the Solavore was already up to 220 and there was some condensation on the inside of the oven’s lid. The wax in the WAPI had already flipped from one side of the tube to the other end, indicating the water had achieved pasteurization. Since the water was nice and hot,  I used it to make a pot of hot tea!

Main dishes in the Solavore

Next, I wanted to try a main dish, so I decided to make Chicken Cacciatore. Weather conditions were in the mid-fifties, sunny, and breezy. I started with four large partially frozen chicken breasts. I placed two in each black enamel pan and added a quart of store bought spaghetti sauce, fresh basil, and garlic. I put the lids on and placed them in the oven. After an hour or so, I could actually smell the chicken, but I didn’t want to open it up and peek. I didn’t want to risk losing the heat that had built up. I did occasionally rotate the oven for optimal sun.

After about 4 ½ hours later, I had to check it, because of how good it smelled. To my surprise, it was completely done. The chicken was tender, juicy, and it easily pulled apart with just a fork. (I made my pasta on the stove, because the unit was full of my Chicken Cacciatore.) I plated it up, and added parmesan cheese. The slow cooking had infused the sauce and chicken with the basil and garlic. It was delicious and my family loved it.

The next time weather permitted, I made two pans of bratwurst and onions for some company I was expecting. The brats were defrosted, and I placed them on top of the sliced onions, and into the Solavore. Weather conditions were full sun, low 60’s, and breezy. This time it only took 3 hours for it to be fully cooked and BROWNED, which I didn’t expect. I didn’t realize how much water onions contained, because I had quite a bit of liquid at the bottom of the pan. It looked more like soup, so I drained it, and it was fine. I served it with hot dog buns, and everyone raved about it.

A few days later, I went to my mom’s for the day to mow her large property. I thought I’d get the meal started before leaving, and then get to work on her yard. This meal was two pans each of a 3-pound, mostly frozen chuck roast, pound of halved potatoes, and a pound of mini carrots. No water was added. Weather conditions were favorable that day with full sun, 60 degree temperatures,  Read the rest of the review here.

Star Tribune- Baking a carrot cake on a boat led to buying a company

Baking a carrot cake on a boat led to buying a company

anne patterson CEO of Solavore

Years ago, businesswoman Anne Patterson ate some whole wheat bread baked by a friend in a solar oven on the deck of her sailboat.

Patterson, who didn’t like cooking with propane in the boat’s cramped, one-burner galley, tried her hand with carrot cake.

“It was stunningly good,” Patterson recalled. “The carrots and coconut don’t turn to mush as they do in a conventional oven.”

In 2012, Patterson called St. Paul-based Solar Oven Society, the distributor of the ovens.

She was retiring at the time, and eventually bought the solar-oven business that had run out of gas after 15 years. In 2014, Patterson, who is now CEO, acquired and invested what now totals about $500,000 in the business.

Renamed Solavore, Latin for “devour the sun,” the company targets environmentalists for easier-than-you-think solar cooking. It’s also a social enterprise that plans to provide thousands of low-cost cookers to women in Third World countries, who cook over dangerous wood coals in their smoky huts.

“This is an ‘encore career’ in the sense that it is a complete departure from my professional pursuits,” said Patterson, 63, an energetic woman who looks 20 years younger. “I care about the environment and I care about women. And I love to cook.”

The former Solar Oven Society was a nonprofit started years ago by Mike and Martha Port. They worked through church groups, other nonprofits and volunteers to assemble and ship solar ovens around the globe.

By 2013, the Ports were losing their lease and tiring of the noble grind of fundraising and bootstrapping the operation.

They had sold or donated more than 20,000 ovens. Patterson and two minority partners bought the assets and converted the nonprofit to a private company.

Eyeing the LOHAS crowd

The plan, starting in 2015, calls for increasing commercial sales of the $229 per-unit oven to the growing, so-called “LOHAS”(Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability) crowd that seeks a low-carbon footprint and likes alternative energy.

Also, Patterson wants to maintain the Ports’ mission. They wanted to help the estimated 3 billion people who must use polluting charcoal or wood to cook in their huts. Many must search for wood for hours daily in deforested lands such as Haiti.

“I was smitten with the challenge of introducing this healthy-life product into a convenience-oriented America,” Patterson said. “Our aim is to eventually sell one to a full-pay customer, and then we’ll subsidize one through a nonprofit or other partners in a developing world.

“That model will vary. We will sell at deep discounts into some countries through a third party, such as ‘impact investors’ who subsidize the introduction of green technology. We want to help women and their micro-enterprises. Some already use the Solavore oven to make a cake, but also bake another cake to sell at market to generate family income.”

Solavore lost money on sales of 1,100 units in 2015 and expects to break even on sales of 3,000 units this year.

Patterson has struck agreements with the government of Cambodia to distribute Solavore ovens as environmental and economic development tools, as well as the BigLife Foundation in Kenya.

The sturdy, assemble-with-a-screwdriver Solavore Sport comes with two 9-inch black, granite-wear pots. It weighs about 9 pounds. It sells for $229, plus another $39.50 for an aluminum reflector that magnifies heat.

The cooking range is 225 to 275 degrees, like a slow cooker. With the reflector, it can reach 350 degrees, more like an oven.

Gateway to clean cooking

Derek Markham, a veteran independent blogger at Treehugger.com, this month called it the “gateway appliance to clean cooking.”

Thanks to its rectangular footprint, the Sport is one of the only solar ovens large enough to hold two pots at once. It is designed to cook at a 30-degree slant for overhead summertime sun, and can be placed on its side to capture the low-angle winter sun.

Patterson, who has a master’s degree in mathematics, as well as a degree in music, has worked mostly in operations and marketing for companies such as Hewlett-Packard, 3Com and Next Computer, where she reported to the late Steve Jobs before he returned to Apple.

Patterson, who lives with her husband in a Connecticut cottage on the Long Island Sound, cooks on their sailboat or porch several times weekly. Puerto Rican stewed beans, carrot-pumpkin soup, banana bread and Caribbean spicy chicken are among her favorites.

Patterson spends a week a quarter in the Twin Cities and otherwise works on marketing and finance wherever she is.

Read the entire article here.

Solavore on Ecowatch.com

3 Solar Ovens that give you the power to Cook with the Sun

solavore sport on Ecowatch

 

With barbecue season around the corner, what could be more planet-friendly than cooking with the sun? Instead of gas/electricity/charcoal/wood, a solar cooker harnesses heat from the sun to cook food.

From baking cookies to frying eggs, these pollution-free devices work wherever there is sunshine, regardless of how cold it is outside. With ample sunlight, most get into temperatures between 250-350 degrees Fahrenheit, with some top end varieties going nearly 600 degrees.

Solar cookers come in all shapes, sizes and price ranges and you can even DIY. Here are instructions for solar box cookersparabolic cookers and panel cookers. And here’s a kid-friendly version from NASA that basically requires a cardboard box, plastic wrap, aluminum foil and regular office supplies.

For those of you who are less handy, check out some of our favorites you can buy online.

Solavore Sport

Think of the Solavore Sport as a crockpot within an oven. Here’s how it works: Sunlight enters through the transparent cover and hits internal cooking pots that transform light into heat. Heat builds inside the longer it sits while the exterior of the box remains cool to the touch.

TreeHugger’s Derek Markham recently reviewed the unit and said that the 9-pound cooker is “light and portable, and a convenient addition to home cooking.”

The Sport can roast, bake, steam using only solar energy. “Using the natural moisture in meats, fish, and vegetables, the Sport cooks without additional water so all the natural vitamins and minerals are retained, giving food a wonderful rich flavor,” the company says.

“Using something as simple and elegant as a black box with a lens on top, putting your pots inside and knowing that all day the sun’s going to be making that dinner,” Solavore CEO Anne Patterson says in the video. “There’s something just beautiful about that simplicity.”

The company is even paying it forward with each purchase. Every solar oven that’s purchased helps fund a Solavore Sport somewhere in the world where an open fire is still the main kitchen appliance.  Read the entire article here.

 

Treehugger reviews the Solavore Sport

Simmer like a crock pot and bake like an oven, using the clean energy of sunlight.

While most of the attention on solar as a viable renewable energy resource these days may focus on using photovoltaic (PV) panels to generate clean electricity, it's not necessary for us to turn sunlight into electrons to put solar to work. Yes, installing a solar electric system is getting cheaper by the minute, and could be a great investment for a business or homeowner, but honestly, that's not for everybody, whether it's an issue of not owning the property, or not having enough space, or not being able to qualify for financing or leasing. Community solar, and the option of choosing renewable energy from local utilities, are becoming more widely available these days, and we're starting to see a shift in clean energy adoption, but we've still got a ways to go before renewable home electricity really gets off the ground.

However, there is another incredibly easy and affordable solar technology that can be put to work almost immediately, with no long-term financial commitments or construction involved, and although it's certainly not a new thing, by any means, it really ought to be considered a clean tech solution and used more widely. Solar thermal is the general term for using the sun's energy as heat, which can be put to work to supply domestic hot water, or used to heat a space, or to superheat water for steam production (which then drives turbines generating electricity), or a number of other purposes.

But perhaps the simplest way, and the most accessible way, to use it is to cook our food with it, using a solar oven, and Solavore's Sport model could be the gateway appliance to cleaner cooking.  I recently got to spend some time using the Sport, which is a reboot of the once popular Solar Oven Society (SOS) model that went out of production in 2013, and found it to be easy to use, light and portable, and a convenient addition to home cooking. (I previously covered Solavore's 'buy one give one' Indiegogo campaign, which aimed to enable more solar ovens in the developing world to act as economic tools for change in those communities.) 

Read the full article here.

Gear Review: The Solavore Sport in Misadventures Magazine

Read the entire review on the Misadventures Magazine website. Here is an excerpt:

The second day, I decided to cook a chili recipe from Solavore’s user guide (which, along with their website, includes all sorts of dishes to try out). Unlike the dip, the chili recipe included raw meat; and I like my chili with rice, which can also be tricky to cook right–so this was a more challenging test. To top it off, that day I started cooking in the morning, before the sun was at its peak, and it was also a bit cloudy out.

Luckily, though, the Solavore comes prepared for just these sorts of conditions, and includes solar reflectors, designed to funnel the sunlight onto the oven and trap every last bit of heat. After attaching my reflectors, it took about 30 minutes for the oven to reach 200 degrees, and about three hours overall to cook my chili and rice all the way through.

I probably could have left both dishes in for about a half hour more, to really let the spices simmer and the rice soak a little longer, but the smell when I popped open the plastic cover at the three-hour mark was absolutely amazing. (Like, knocked-me-over-amazing.) And I was hungry. The rice was a bit undercooked, but I chalk that up to my inexperience with the oven. Overall, the Solar Oven Chili definitely hit the spot.

Solavore Sport in Mother Earth News

Everyday Solar Cooking

We’ll show you how to build a solar oven, so you can create savory meals while cooking without fuel.

By Joel Dufour 
August/September 2015

solavore sport in mother earth news

Summer’s arrived and the heat is inescapable. You don’t want to turn on the stove to make dinner, which will heat up the house even more. If you’re like me and don’t have air conditioning — or if you’re energy conscious and keep the AC low — cooking indoors can be unbearable. Instead, why not use the source of all this heat to your advantage?

Solar radiation is the most prolific source of energy on our planet. About 84 billion kilowatt-hours of light reach Earth every day — more than four times our global energy consumption. The challenge is to efficiently harness this energy. Most people settle for gathering solar energy by eating vegetables from their gardens or catching its reflection with their cameras. Trap that energy in an insulated box with some food — then you’ll really be cookin’!

The functioning principles of a solar oven are simple: concentrate, convert, contain. Sunlight — or visible light — is concentrated by several reflective surfaces to pass through a glass lid into an insulated box. A pot of food you put inside the box will absorb the light and convert it into longer-wavelength infrared energy, or heat. The insulation will inhibit the heat from escaping, and the wavelengths will be too long to pass back through the glass lid. So, they’ll bounce around and heat up your food. Ever leave your car windows closed on a bright, warm day? Then you’ll recognize the basic principles of solar cooking.  Read the entire article here.

Press Release: Solavore Participates in Cambodian Renewable Energy Technology Pilot

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE June 15, 2015 

SOLAVORE PARTICIPATES IN CAMBODIAN RENEWABLE ENERGY TECHNOLOGY PILOT

Solavore™ Sport Solar Oven Tapped to Reduce Fuel-Wood Needs of Smallholder Farmers

(Austin, Texas) – Solavore, LLC, a women-owned social enterprise committed to the manufacture and global distribution of clean cooking technology, has been selected to participate in a pilot test of alternative renewable energy technologies in rural Cambodia. The project is jointly financed by the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), an international financial institution and a specialized United Nations agency based in Rome. Additional funding has been secured from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and IFAD’s Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP).

Over 80% of the rural population of Cambodia depends on firewood and charcoal for their household energy needs. As a result, women and children suffer disproportionately from eye infections and respiratory illness – pneumonia is the number one killer of young children worldwide. In rural Cambodia, such firewood consumption leads to deforestation and the resulting erosion and nutrient depletion negatively impacts the soil upon which farmers depend for their livelihoods.

The Royal Government of Cambodia has prioritized the agriculture sector's contribution to national development, and renewable energy is a key element to achieving this objective particularly with low-cost alternatives. In addition to solar, the project will explore biogas, small-scale-biomass gasifiers, solar water pumping technologies and high-efficiency wood-burning stoves.

The Solavore Sport was selected for its lightweight, rugged durability, cooking capacity and low cost. In addition to being a 100% renewable energy appliance for daily family meal preparation, the Sport effectively pasteurizes water and efficiently dehydrates food. This provides an important means of increasing shelf life and increasing the value of products, for example transporting dried produce to market as opposed to perishable fruits and vegetables.

“We are thrilled to be invited by IFAD to participate in this important pilot for rural families in Cambodia,” commented Anne Patterson, Solavore CEO. “Solar ovens dramatically reduce fuel-wood consumption and health impacts and are an important component of the renewable energy solution for rural households.”

IFAD’s project, Building Adaptive Capacity Through the Scaling up of Renewable Energy Technologies in Rural Cambodia (S-RET), will benefit approximately 10,000 rural households across five provinces in Cambodia. Following the implementation stage, on-going activities will be folded into the IFAD-funded Agriculture Development and Economic Empowerment project in Cambodia.

ABOUT Solavore: is a women-owned manufacturer of solar ovens whose mission is to promote clean-cooking technology around the world. The Solavore Sport oven was purpose-built by solar-cooking experts for maximum efficiency, durability and ease of use. Solavore pledges to use profits to remain independent and self- sustaining while providing clean-cooking alternatives to the world’s 3 billion people SOLAVORE/two who are still cooking over open fires. For further information please visit www.solavore.com. Follow them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/solavore, on Instagram and on Twitter @Solavore.

ABOUT IFAD: The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) invests in rural people, empowering them to reduce poverty, increase food security, improve nutrition and strengthen resilience. Since 1978, IFAD has provided nearly US$16.6 billion in grants and low-interest loans to projects that have reached about 445 million people. Smallholder farmers and rural families often feel the brunt of climate change - extreme cycles of storms, droughts and floods threaten the ecosystems they rely upon. IFAD’s Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP) is the largest global climate adaptation program for smallholder farmers.

*** MEDIA CONTACT:
Stef Shapira
Perennial Public Relations
281.748.9474
stef@perennialpr.com

Melissa Grady  
Perennial Public Relations
281.748.9474 540.219.4999
melissa@perennialpr.com

Solavore Sport on Gizmag.com

Solavore camping oven cooks and bakes with the power of the sun

Most of the equipment we saw at Overland Expo came in large, XL and XXXL sizes, but there were also a few interesting accessories on show. The Solavore oven is a simple cooking device that transforms the sun's rays into baking and slow-cooking heat.

solavore-sport-on-gizmag.jpg



The Solavore Sport isn't the first outdoor cooking contraption to capitalize on the energy source literally dropping from the heavens. We've seen others like the GoSun Stove and SolSource. Solavore brings a different form factor, however, aimed at both slow cooking and baking.

What we like about the Solavore Sport is its ultra-simple design and ample size. It's basically a portable greenhouse box. The black interior lining attracts the sun's rays and the insulated walls and polymer lid keep the heat in, turning the interior into an effective oven with temperatures up to 300 ºF (149 ºC).

The Solavore Sport is not to be confused with a propane-powered camp stove or grill, and is not the solution for racing the setting sun to get your steaks or burgers cooked. It provides an average heat range of 210 to 260 ºF (99 to 127 ºC) and is meant to work as a slow cooker. It's sold with a pair of 3-qt (2.8-L) black granite wear pots that hold your meal and slow cook it over the course of several hours.

Cooking times will vary based on food type and sun conditions, but Solavore's general rule of thumb is that it'll take twice the time of conventional methods, like home oven cooking, plus a half-hour for the oven to preheat. If you're able to get the Sport oven to around the same heat as a slow cooker, cooking time will be comparable. So on a camping trip, you could start cooking lunch or dinner in the morning, go enjoy the outdoors, then come back to a cooked meal, much like you might do with a slow cooker at home. Because of its low maximum temperature, Solavore promises that the oven won't burn your food.

Solavore constructs the base of the oven out of an injection-molded resin reinforced with glass fibers. The interior is lined with black powder-coated aluminum, and 1-in (2.5-cm)-thick water-impervious foam insulation sits between the liner and the resin base. Solavore lists the R-value at 6.5 and says that the insulation keeps the exterior cool to the touch, so that you can handle the oven while it's cooking. The double-layer transparent lid is made from a vacuum-formed polymer and sits snugly around the edge of the oven, securing with metal clips. The unit weighs 9 lb (4 kg) empty and measures about 27 x 17 x 12 in ( 68.5 x 43 x 30.5 cm).

The Sport oven is angled at 30 degrees for direct overhead sunlight and can also be placed on its side to increase the angle to 60 degrees for lower-angled winter sun. The available fold-up reflector sits around the outer edge and improves sunlight collection.

Unfortunately, we missed the carrot cake that Solavore baked up at Overland Expo, but the traveling word around the show was that it was quite good. And just the idea of baking a cake at camp with a relatively compact, solar-powered gadget is pretty good, too.

The only reservation we have about Solavore's design, outside of not actually having tested it hands on, is its shape. It surely won't be an issue if you're traveling in one of the massive, hydraulically-expanded expedition vehicles we saw at the show, but if you're camping with a more compact SUV or car, that package might be hard to wrestle inside with all your other camping gear and fellow campers. Spending a week on the road, I was tempted several times to throw my Weber Smokey Joe charcoal grill away for this very reason. The kettle grill is compact, but it's an awkward fit inside a crowded cargo area. The tilted trapezoidal shape of the Solavore Sport might prove similarly awkward.

Then again, the Solavore Sport doesn't require a bag of charcoal or propane tank to use, and could probably store other things during transport. So maybe it wouldn't be that hard to squeeze in. It really depends upon what you're driving and what else you're hauling.

The Solavore Sport retails for US$229.50, which includes the two 9-in 3-qt pots. The aluminum reflector is available separately for $39.50. Solavore makes its hardware in the US.

read online here