My kids are suddenly really into cooking and science in the kitchen. While to be perfectly honest sometimes I can’t stand having anyone underfoot in my tiny area, I LOVED cooking as a kid and want to foster that love for my own kids. Plus there are so many lessons to learn between chemistry, math, measuring and experimenting.
We were given the opportunity to try a couple SunFlair Solar ovens this year and I jumped at the chance. What a great way to show an alternative use of energy in a really green way AND get us out of the kitchen and into some open air! Plus, we have attempted to make our own solar ovens again and again and have been largely unsuccessful for more than just melting crayons any maybe producing a little heat. I was looking forward to the guess work taken out for me and being able to really test how they WORK!
The kids and I did a little cook-off. We each chose a couple recipes and spent a lot of time preparing and then letting them cook. Learning to really be success using a solar oven is a little bit like learning to cook again. I have really no idea how long things will take to be done. It was a lot of experimenting, trying, and trying again.
Truthfully, this experiment/cook-off is far from being done. Both the kids and I have a handful (or more) of other recipes we would like to try. And we want to retry the ones that failed the first time.
We were cooking in both the Sun Flair Mini and the Sun Flair Standard. While the kids quickly claimed the Standard, I insisted on mixing things up a bit too. We wanted to be able to really make a decision over which oven we preferred.
Quick List of What We Noticed Right Away:
Both ovens maintained exactly the same temperatures – we were really surprised about that!
You can’t fit a cookie pan or something in the smaller one
If bread, etc. is rising, you have to account for the space it will take up as it expands
We agree with the suggestion from Sun Flair to reduce the amount of liquid in the recipes by nearly half. Traditional recipes need more liquid to account for moisture loss. That doesn’t happen in the solar ovens.
The ovens are very light, pack well, and are easy to haul around
You, of course, have to be watching the sun and making sure the oven is staying pointed towards it as the sun moves for successful cooking. This can be tricky if you get busy and aren’t paying attention…
The kids decided to make chocolate chip cookies and homemade cheddar crackers.
I made homemade mac and cheese and some bread.
We both attempted banana bread.
The cookies were definitely the winner. They took about 2 hours to cook and were delicious right out of the oven. We kept waiting for them to brown (which they didn’t), so they were a little crunchier than we are used to, but still a win!
The cheddar crackers were good….but a new recipe and the kids weren’t crazy about them. We managed to dodge rain clouds and they finished in time to float around in some soup. I think we should have just cooked them a little longer, but we ran out of sun (a hazard when you’re using solar ovens….)
The Mac and Cheese was dinner this weekend. It works really well. They told me it didn’t look that good….but tasted great. I was thrilled that I could just pretty much dump everything in and stir and come back to it in 3 hours for lunch.
The bread would have worked great, but we left the lid on as they suggested, and it billowed out and then sunk. Next time we’ll leave the lid off! It was tasty, though!
The banana bread was really the same problem. Next time less liquid, no lid and more sun!
Do we think Solar Oven cooking is worth it?
Yes, definitely. It’s the perfect thing to bring camping, along with some cookie dough, of course. Homemade cookies without having to use any energy except the kind given to us by the sun!
We will be continuing to try, continuing to perfect our recipes and continuing to learn.
Again, I think it’s a perfect homeschool lesson (and a great challenge for me, as a cook!)
We do think that it’s worth it to just get the Standard Size. The Mini is nice and compact, but it’s not a HUGE difference between the two of them and we really appreciated the extra room in the oven.
We were very impressed with the ovens themselves. They are very lightweight, but also obviously made of quality materials. We had no issues with the zippers, setting them up or any of the included pans (Roaster and Silicone pans).
Sun Flair generously provided us this gear in order to facilitate this review. However, as always, the opinions expressed here are completely and honestly our own. You can find my full disclosure here.
Oakiwear has been one of our favorite makers of kids’ gear for a few years now….but just this year they expanded to include some boots for women. We were given the opportunity to test our some of their new Noxen boots this fall and were pleasantly surprised.
To be honest, when I first got them, I sort of wrote them off as somewhat flimsy boots I really wouldn’t be able to use much. But, I think it’s very important we test gear again and again, and sometimes we find something we really love. Hence the case here.
The Noxen boots are lightweight and very flexible, with just enough of shaft height for keeping feet dry….without feeling encumbered by really tall boots. Also perfect for larger calves.
What really sold me on them, however, was a really great sole including a 1″ block heel for style and comfort. They traction is excellent and I really feel like it’s beefy enough to keep out the cold and wet more than a standard mud boot.
Truth be told – these are the footwear I just throw on right now to go outside. They slip on great and don’t feel like big, clunky, boots.
NOTE: The Noxon style does run SMALL. Be sure to order up one size!
You can purchase them here for $44.99 (thanks for clicking through that affiliate link – doesn’t cost you a dime and helps us out a tiny bit!)
Oakiwear generously provided us this gear in order to facilitate this review. However, as always, the opinions expressed here are completely and honestly our own. You can find my full disclosure here.
Busy, busy, busy. Aren’t we all? Places to be, things to, 10 million things that just never get done.
I love all the fun we pack in, I hate that I have to work so hard to slow down (is that an oxymoron?!?)
One big benefit of homeschooling is the ability to be able to schedule things how I want to….but sometimes even with all that flexibility I struggle to get outside as much as we really should. Just like everyone else, I’m full of excuses. Because the fact is that sometimes the mere fact of taking things OUT of doors just takes a bit more work. Books flap in the wind, papers blow away, kids are distracted easily, I can’t multitask quite as much, etc., etc.
Anyway, I decided to make a list of ways we ALL can just get outside more. Help me grow list, will you?
Park further out and walk…to work, to school, to the grocery store. If you can ditch the car all together, even better. I watch people around me literally drive 1/4 mile to work. Blows my mind every time. If you’re one of those people, do something different even one day this week.
Eat out(side). We love to pack a picnic because it prolongs our play time outside, keeps the kitchen a little cleaner, helps me have one meal done and out of the way before the day has hardly started AND (most importantly), the kids love it. **See below for more about those great lunch sets – our favorite!**
Start the day outside. Take just 10 minutes and walk around the block, go shovel the snow (yep, it really is coming one of these days!), or take the dog out. Make it a part of your morning routine so you ALL know what to expect. And don’t let weather get in your way. Dress accordingly and get out anyway.
Bring a friend. Plan on meeting for a hike, a playground morning, a boat ride, a bike ride, etc. Better yet? Make it a weekly plan, rain or shine.
Go outside as a family after dinner and before bed. Even just 15 minutes. Everyone will settle better AND sleep better.
Unplug and detach from work on the weekends. Yes, it’s easy to get sucked into Saturday projects (which we ALL have), but set aside Sunday for outdoor time. It seems to set the tone for the rest of the week….
Let them decide. Have reluctant kids/spouses/dogs/alter ego? Give them the choice of what you will do outside. Climb trees? Fish for frogs? Jump in puddles? Read in hammocks? It really doesn’t matter WHAT it is…just that it’s in the fresh air.
Ok, your turn! How do you squeeze it in? What works for your family?
When we plan to eat outside, sometimes we do it in the backyard, but more often than not, everyone prefers to pack it and go. I used to do one big massive food bag, but the kids really prefer their own packed meals AND for some reason they end to eat more too.
Plus, when they’re hungry 5 seconds after they eat, I can just direct them back to their own packed meal and help them take ownership of their nutrition.
L.L. Bean sent us some sets to try this fall and they are a big favorite here. I love that I can coordinate lunch box patterns with the water bottles and food containers (to help me AND them remember which set belongs to which kid). And L.L. Bean is guaranteed excellent quality – these will last forever.
Lunch Box($19.95)- not huge, but big enough for kid meals to be packed in. I love the inside mesh pocket for an ice pack or spoon. There’s also a zippered outside pocket and a mesh pocket outside for extras (money, more snacks, etc.)
Water Bottle ($14) – These are Avex brand (which we LOVE) and are newly designed. The straw attaches inside to keep it from being lost and works every time. Plus there’s a cover for the spout to keep it clean. And they don’t leak. Love these bottles.
Stainless Steel Vacuum Food Container 9 oz.($24.95) This is the kids’ favorite thing. Perfect for yogurt, cottage cheese, soup, spaghetti or even, on a really good day, ice cream. They recommend pre-heating or pre-cooling for best use, and we have found that to be really helpful.
L.L. Bean also has coordinating pencil cases($9.95) which are SOOOO great for homeschool. They are large enough for markers, pencils, crayons, a small pencil sharpener and eraser too. The zippers work great, the kids know which one is theirs and they bring it everywhere. It also has an outside zippered pocket for a bit of organization. Highly recommend for adults too.
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