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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

How to Make a Wonder Box / Oven

It's starting to get warm out - yippee!
Shopko had a sale on their bean bag filling.
The fates have aligned it's time to try out a Wonder Box.  (A big bean bag like box that you put hot food in and let it cook for the next few hours using the retained heat)  *can also be used to keep cold food cool - think camping with ice cream.
I have looked at several different tutorials from very basic sew pieces together to ones with zippers and straps, I bet you can't guess which one I'll be using?

Right - simple

I really liked these tutorials because they had pictures and that seems to help me.  iwillprepare.com Cooking without electricity - Wonderbox and The Thermal Cooking Weblog  and Building a Wonderbox at Food Storage and Survival these sites have a lot of information if you are interested in different ways of cooking without electricity I would definitely check them out.

The hardest part for me was making the pattern from their instructions so I took a bunch of pictures but really if you are in the Kanesville area and just want to copy mine, leave a comment or send me an e-mail  and we'll work that out.

I tend to be a bit on the messy side so you'll probably have better luck with this . . .I did have several small people to help me clean up though.  BEST part of the process was when one of our little friends saw the mess and  informed me that I had made the mess and I had to clean it up.  I guess her Mom is teaching her well.

My Wonder Oven with cans stored inside
Using a pitcher is definitely easier and lets you follow the recommended amount instead of just guessing (The reason why I unpicked mine, added more filling and resewed - not so much fun!)

Trial and Error 

1st attempt - brownies - FAIL, I followed the instructions for muffins but they never cooked, just got to that nice warm gooey consistency (overnight) and then I put them in the oven.  *I may not have filled my bag full enough - need to experiment some more!  UPDATE After attending a class on wonder oven cooking at the community preparedness fair I've learned that I need to cut back on the water in my brownies (and cakes too) so I'll be trying that one again.  As soon as the treat supply in the house goes down.
      EDIT 4/26 - I tried the cake with less water and even after boiling for 10 minutes and cooking for 4 hours TWICE it was still goopy, if you do try this and have success please leave a comment, I'd love to have this work.

2nd - attempt - rice (I wanted something that I knew would work) - PASS (but I prefer the rice cooker).  I added 2 cups of white rice to 3 cups boiling water and boiled for 5 minutes than put the whole pan (lid and all) into the wonder oven and left it for 2 1/2 hours.  The recipe said 1 1/2 to 2 hours so this might have been part of the problem.  The rice was good, but had a slight crunch (like it wasn't almost but not quite done) and the bottom of the pan was a little soggy (like it was over cooked).  Next time, less water, less time.  UPDATE - from the class, she said I should only boil the rice for one minute.

3rd attempt - bread- PASS, My super picky 5 year old loved it, it was like crustless Wonder bread, really soft and moist.  I did have to make it in soup cans because I didn't have any larger ones but I'll be remedying that soon.  I made a regular white bread recipe and let it rise once (but I was using quick rise yeast so I'll probably skip that next time, then I put the bread into soup cans that I had sprayed with cooking spray.  I filled it about half full and let the dough rise to close to the top of the can.  Then I covered it with foil and used an elastic band to hold the foil on.  The cans went into my big pan, then I added water up to about 2/3 of the cans height.  I had a problem here because my cans wanted to float so I jammed in two more soup cans of dough.  I boiled the water for about 10 minutes (with the lid on) and then transferred  the whole thing to the wonder oven and put the cover on.  I cooked for 2 hours and was done.
first attempt -need to spray the cans better not so pretty but tasty

Wonder oven bread slices, no crust
Just out of the Wonder Oven, in time for lunch, it's still VERY hot
       Second Try - at bread - I bought some larger cans, greased them well and voila - another success

One vegetable juice can and one spaghetti sauce can perfect for my pot
Wonder Oven bread, still looks nicer sliced

3rd Attempt - Hamburger Soup - PASS  - This was a use up the leftovers, soup and because it's hot out and I didn't want it simmering on the stove the wonder oven was a good idea. I did brown the hamburger in the same pot I boiled it all in.  I won't list the ingredients because although it worked, it didn't taste good, I used rice and that was great, it only boiled for a minute so I guess that is the trick.  I should have used more liquid than I did (all I used was a 46 oz. can of vegetable juice but with a cup of rice that definitely wasn't enough).  My main problem (and this is not at ALL uncommon(for me) is that I turned it on high to boil and burnt the bottom so it tasted burnt).  Next time . . . It was really nice to have it nice and hot at dinner time without adding any heat to the kitchen.

Some helpful websites:
Food Storage and Survival - Recipes for stew, oatmeal, rice, chicken and other meats
My Year Living on Food Storage - Making bread in a wonder oven
Eco Wonder Oven - Lots of recipes; oatmeal, rice, vegetable, pasta, meats, muffin, bread, jam, yogurt, carrot jam
 My Food Storage Cookbook  Really detailed instructions  with pictures for making bread, muffins, yogurt, tamales, lasagna, overnight oatmeal, arroz con pollo, chicken cacciatore with herbed polenta,
This one contradicts some of the info I received at the Community Preparedness Fair, so there is definitely some trial and error involved, probably depends on the pan you use, how strict you are with measurements etc. and of course the construction of your wonder oven.

WHAT I LEARNED (Community Preparedness Fair) - unfortunately they don't have a website  but you can check out part of the presentation on you-tube or e-mail with questions wonderoven@ymail.com  They do sell pre-made Wonder-ovens with a container and a DVD, if you'd rather not attempt making your own.  She was very kind to share her knowledge at the class (and some yummy samples too).

Rice - boil for one minute with less water, she didn't share ratios but I think my 3 cups boiling water to 2 cups white rice is probably OK (maybe a bit more for brown rice).

Chicken - cut breasts in half (add seasoning-optional), put in an oven bag or she used Ziploc steamer bags and put in pan of water (don't cover the top of the bag, especially if it's vented, I've also read that you can stick the top of the oven bag outside of the lid) bring the water to boil, when boiling, boil for 12 minutes, with the lid on.  Transfer the whole pot to your wonder oven and cook for 2 hours.

Other meat  - Similar to chicken, she said with a 3 lb. roast, she will at least cut it in half and I think she said to boil it for 12 minutes and then let it cook in the wonder oven for 2 hours, but here's another post from someone else she introduced to Wonder ovens. My Food Storage Cookbook all about cooking meat in the Wonder oven.

Beans - soak overnight, season, boil for 15 minutes, add millet and carrots to help with the gas beans produce and put the whole pot, lid and all into the wonder oven for 5 hours.

Stew - boil for 10 minutes - wonder oven for 2 1/2 hours

If you forget and leave anything too long don't worry - IT WON'T BURN - just don't leave it so long that it cools down and on that note don't put anything in the Wonder oven that's not really (like boiling) hot or really cold or you're going to have some yucky things growing there.

As I've been experimenting I keep finding myself coming back to check out different post to see how to do something or how long so I made this little cheat sheet combining a few of the things I've learned.  I hope it helps you.

printable quick tips

Wonder Oven Quick Tips

Bread -
Raise to within 1 inch of top of can, cover can with foil, secure with elastic band,
put in pot with water 2/3 of the way up the can.  Boil with lid on 10 min.  "Bake"  2 hours

Brownies / Cake
Decrease water (ex. 1 1/2 cups down to 1 cup),
Boil (in can like bread) Boil 10 min.  "Bake" 3 - 4 hours
    ** I have not had success with this . . .

Chicken -
Boil in bag 12 minutes, "Bake" 1 to 2 hours

Dry beans -
soak overnight, boil 15 minutes, "Bake" 4-5 hours

Meats -
Brown meat, Boil in bag 12 minutes, :"Bake" 2 hours, if you've cut it up
For a whole roast, "Bake" 3-4 hours *5-6 hours if it's really big

Meatloaf -
boil 15 minutes, "Bake" 4 hours

Muffins -
In a can like bread, boil 10 minutes "Bake" 3 - 4 hours

Boil 1 - 2 minutes, add dried fruit,
"Bake" 1 -2 hours or overnight, to really plump dried fruits

Rice -
decrease water 3 to 3 /12 cups water to 2 cups white rice,
3 1/2 to 4 cups water for brown rice boil 1 minute, "Bake" 2 1/2 hours
or boil 10 min - "Bake" 40 min,
or boil 5 minutes - "Bake" 1 1/2 hours

Soup / Stew -
Boil 10 min, "Bake" 2 hours (add extra liquid)

Vegetables -
Potatoes or root vegetable can be boiled in their skin
Or can be cut up and put in bag, boiled 5 minutes"Bake" 1 - 2 hours
Hard winter squash, boil 10 minutes"Bake" 1 -2 hours

Bags to use -
Crisp bags (like the ones in a cereal box)
oven bags
Steamer bags Ziploc makes one
Cans to use -
The gold lined cans (spaghetti sauce, some fruits)
work well, don't use the pop top cans they leave a rim.