I'm 8 months pregnant and it's been hot (at least for me) here in soCal, so I was looking for a way to cook a meal without heating my house up...I came upon this awesome site on building your own solar ovens: http://www.solarcooking.org/plans/
Solar ovens also have the awesome benefit of requiring no energy input other than the sun and no pollutants, etc....very earth-friendly!
I was inspired to try out the simple plan for making a funnel-style solar cooker with a windshield sun shade that people use to keep their cars cool. I didn't want to spend a lot of time or money on the thing...I bought a jumbo size (think for a big truck windshield) sunshade at Walmart for $3.50, and some Reynolds Oven Bags for $2. I already had a black anodized aluminum pot with a glass lid, a cake rack and some clothespins lying around, so this was a very cheap experiment.
After some fiddling with the shade and several different clothespin constructed designs, I finally got the shape I thought I'd need, and tried it out today with just 2 inches of water in the pot:
The shade was a bit floppy, so I used my kiddo's chair to prop the thing up.
After an hour on a 73F day, the water was steaming, bubbles were forming on the bottom and sides of the pot and the pot itself was too hot to touch. Convinced I could get the pot hot, I tried making an indian style curry for dinner in the thing...raw chicken and all even though I wasn't sure it would be hot enough to cook something.
Dinner ala Solar Oven:
I used the oven bag this time, hoping that would keep the heat in.
After 2.5 hours in the sun, here's how it looked:
Chicken and veggies cooked perfectly! My own solar crock pot!
Anyway, I'm pretty thrilled at how cheap and easy it was...so I thought I'd share. The best part of this design is that I can take it apart and fold up the shade for storage....it'd be great for camping or for a picnic too.
This site has some great info on solar cooking, including recipes, etc if you'd like more info:http://www.solarcooking.org/