Q & A

Chris Kimball, left, and Harry Smith discuss solar cookers on The Early Show
Monday (CBS/The Early Show)

Q. …we’d like to do some solar cooking and are unsure of how/what to do. – Tia

A. Cooking with the sun is fun, easy and environmentally friendly. We made our first sun oven out of cardboard and aluminum foil over 12 years ago and have cooked with the sun free ray’s ever since.   What I like about using the sun (especially in summer) is you don’t have to heat up the kitchen, keeping the temperature comfortable. Also, food never burns.  That’s right!  Here’s a great video clip and article from ‘The Early Morning Show’ on CBS who recently did a segment on solar cookers.

Cooking With The SunSolar Cookers Get Put To The Test By “America’s Test Kitchen”

(CBS) If you don’t want to heat up the stove or grill on a really hot day, there’s another source of energy to cook food with — and it’s directly overhead: the sun! Solar cookers, devices that use the sun prepare food, are drawing increased attention because of the fuel they employ, and because they add a lot of flavor to meals. The public broadcasting show “America’s Test Kitchen” (www.americastestkitchen.com) gave solar cookers a try, and the program’s host, Chris Kimball, filled in Early Show viewers on the results Monday. Kimball, the creator and editor in chief of Cook’s Illustrated magazine (www.cooksillustrated.com), explained that solar cookers not only use nothing more than the sun’s rays to work, they don’t emit smoky fumes, and use only minimal amounts of water. ….For those tempted to purchase a solar cooker, we would recommend the SOS Sport Oven. It had the greatest capacity (it could hold a small baking sheet, while we had to use the pot lid to bake the cookies in the Sun Oven), and kept the most level temperature:
continue reading article and check out video

Get them while they are HOT! You can purchase your very ownSOS SPORT OVEN from PTF’s online store.

Q. Would you share your rose syrup recipe? – herbfever

A. I love making rose petal syrup – so aromatic and very pleasant. Of course with this recipe I LEAVE OUT the artificial coloring – who needs it?
Rose Petal SyrupRose petals are not just ornamental, they make a delicious syrup. Chef: Sally Wise A lovely syrup with a rose flavour and aromaYou need:4 cups rose petals2 cups water2 cups sugarred food colouring (optional)Method:Simmer rose petals with water and sugar for one hour. Add drops of red food colouring to get desired colour.Strain through a fine seive.Bring back to the boil and put in hot sterilised bottles. [http://www.abc.net.au/hobart/stories/s586825.htm]

Q. I’ve been reading your weekly menus with great interest, partly because I’m trying to move to a more vegetarian-based diet. But I am struck by how little protein there appears to be in your diet. You all look healthy and given the level of physical activity you must have in your daily lives, whatever you’re doing seems to work for you. But I’m wondering if there are protein sources in your diet (other than the occasional mention of cheese) that perhaps aren’t getting mentioned in your weekly menus. – Claire

We have been vegetarian for about 17years now. My how time flies!  We get our proteins through nuts, eggs and dairy products.   As for the weekly menus I didn’t mention that on some days we do eat snacks, mostly peanut butter (high in protein) with homemade jam or honey. We purchase some peanut butter by the 15lb bucket from our co-op. On our salads we sprinkle nuts (also high in protein), sometimes cheese and our homemade granola also contains nuts. In the winter time our meals will consist of more dried legumes (lentils, black beans). From time to time on special occasions we do splurge and eat vege burgers or vege hot dogs. We are blessed that we are healthy.   Some folks don’t believe we are vegetarian because “we don’t look it.” On one occasion a reporter couldn’t believe Justin didn’t eat meat because he’s of healthy build and muscles (in light of our Belgian heritage we’ve nicknamed Justin “muscles from Brussels”).   I guess the reporter couldn’t get over how “buff” he looked and seem to think that if a person was vegetarian they have to look “weak.”

Q. What about hosting yourself? – Sean

A. An idea which sounds like a great idea: we have solar/green energy and it can’t be that hard right?- or so we thought. We did our research last year and looked into that option and we also talked with a friend of ours who’s quite knowledgeable in the computer/internet field and hosts websites. One would need a large server (an expensive proposition) to fit our website and traffic plus a special high speed phone line from the phone company (~$100 a month).   The major obstacle that we  faced – and can’t overcome – was that since our home has no air conditioning, it can get quite warm with hot weather. A server requires an optimum operating temp and if the server overheated – well, that would not be good, plus a server which would be generating a lot of its own heat and would raise the indoor temps even higher.   Not to mention you can’t turn off a server so it would sound like jet engine motor running 24/7 – yikes! One could buy a soundproof/dustproof server cabinet, but where do we put it and who has time to manage it? Basically, one thing leads to another – and it is another tangled web!

Q. I would love to know more about the lemon verbena syrup. I love your site!! So inspirational. Mia


 1/3 cup lemon juice

1/3 cup sugar

3 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon minced fresh lemon verbena or lemon thyme

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil until sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and let mixture steep for 20 minutes. Strain syrup to remove lemon verbena.


Q. I didn’t know apples would grow in Pasadena (I grew up in Covina)–I didn’t think it was cool enough long enough. What type of apples are they? Growing up (and even now when we visit in the fall) we would make an annual trek to Oak Glen. Lots of good memories there. Thanks – d’Heat

A. We picked up a low chill variety called ‘Anna’. This apple seems to do well in our hot and dry climate. We planted our trees on the northwest side of the property and the plants are thriving. Local fruit grower,Dave Wilson describes the Anne as:

“Remarkable fruit for mild-winter climates in So. Calif., So. Ariz. Heavy crops of sweet, crisp, flavorful apples even in low desert. Fresh/cooked. Keeps 2 months in refrigerator. 200 hours. Self-fruitful or pollinated by Dorsett Golden or Einshemer”.

Q. How much wine do you usually make per year, and is it all from your own grapes? – Nick

A. Last year was our first foray into making homemade wine and since our grape crop was affected by the intense heat last summer we made wine using our homegrown peaches and elderberries instead.    This year it looks as if we are blessed with a decent grape harvest and will be adding grape wine to our fruit wine selection.

Q. Can you post your recipe for the apricot fruit sauce? – Nancy

Apricot Syrup Apricot syrup makes an unusual dessert sauce to go with pancakes, waffles or fruit fritters as well as with ice cream. Whip a little of the syrup with double cream and use to fill proflteroles or meringues.ingredientssound ripe apricots3 1/2 cups (800 g) 1 3/4 lb lump sugar, crushed, for each 1 litre (1 3/4 pint)s of juicemethod1. Stone and halve the apricots then put them in a large heatproof bowl. 2. Crack half the stones and stir the kernels into the fruit.3. Stand the bowl over a saucepan of water and simmer until the fruit is quite soft and the juice flows freely. 4. Crush the fruit occasionally.5. Strain the liquid through a scalded jelly bag or sieve lined with scalded muslin. 6. Measure the juice and weigh out the sugar. 7. Place the sugar in a saucepan and add the juice. 8. Heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves, then bring to the boil. 9. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.10. Skim the syrup and pour it into warmed, clean, dry bottles. 11. Leave 2 cm (3/4 inch) head space12. Tighten the caps, label and store. [http://www.cookitsimply.com/recipe-0010-052r47.html]

Q. This looks so delicious! about the squash (and my zucchini blossoms), if you harvest the blossoms will you get squash? – nika

A. Yes, even if we harvest the squash flowers we’ll still get squash. Why? because we only harvest the male flowers.

Q. Anais, where did you find those gallon sized jars??? I’ve been trying to find some for over a year now; would love a local source so I don’t have to pay shipping but as time passes I’m getting less picky ;-). – Tia

A. From an online wholesale companyhttp://www.specialtybottle.com/index.asp?PageAction=Custom&ID=27
Air head {Salon}

I could buy an air conditioner — but what would summer be without the romance of a shockingly cold beer, sweaty sheets and rustling leaves?Some might call this nostalgia. But you needn’t go back 20 years for an example. Last night, for instance, as I lay in bed reading with the windows open, the curtains were moving, and a vivid green bug the size of a red pepper flake kept getting entangled in my chest hair. Every few minutes, a horsefly zoomed past the pages of my book, then disappeared for another lap. A dog barked in a downstairs apartment, while a train mooed north along the Hudson. This is summer. In summer we pack up the blankets and sleep beneath sheets. In summer we listen to the leaves. Sometimes we can smell the stone-clear river water on the breeze. Who would ever want to efface such details?
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  1. nika says:

    We keep our computers and local servers down in the basement (like an electronic dry cellar) .. we then network up through the floors. We live in MA and they are happy down there year round (whether its 96 out or -20)