Making lasagna for a hungry crew, using just the sun and limited ingredients on board a cruising sailboat.

Sitting at Isla Coronado, the last thing I would have wanted on this day was to heat up the galley in making a  Lasagna in the afternoon…but I really don’t need to worry about that anyways, cause our oven doesn’t work right now.  But I did need to worry about a strong dinner for my crew (morale improvement through food is a proven technique on a sailboat) and the fact that I only had certain ingredients on the boat.  I cook a lot here on Tulum and I try to mix my techniques and tools for cooking based on what I have available and what the weather is doing on any given day.  Usually it’s sunny, humid and hot.  Or it’s windy.  Not much in between those too right now, but perhaps soon we’ll have some sort of fall weather…probably in November.

Putting my ingredients together.  Note my precious Yerba Mate…which I’m nearly out of again as I write this post….darn it!

I start my recipe knowing that I don’t have to cook the lasagna noodles, as my solar oven will do that for me as the whole delicious mess cooks in the oven…which is a win as cooking the lasagna noodles would also heat up the galley, something none of us were into as it was hot and still enough right after Tropical Storm Hernan had come along the outside of Baja.  I also knew I needed a framework for the lasagna recipe (even though I didn’t have all the ingredients from the recipe, I knew I needed some of the basics) so I pulled out my trusty “Cooking with Sunshine”, which has some basic solar oven recipes, including lasagna.[i]  Using the recipe for Lasagna[1] I starting assembling the ingredients…knowing I would be using ground beef instead of going vegetarian like the recipe stated.

Sauce Mix and Ground Beef/Veggie Mixes Done, really to put the Lasagna together in the pan.

At this point I also followed the recipe to start putting the whole lasagna together, with my trusty cheese grater Ms. Kellyn already done grating our dwindling cheese stock, a last piece of mozzerella and a nice chunk of hard cheddar.  The recipe also called for ricotta (which we didn’t have) so I substituted this for LaLa Media Crema (more consistency than sour cream but doesn’t need refrigeration till you open it) and we were out of eggs, so I substituted for a couple of good squeezes of mayonnaise (thanks to the “Boat Galley” for the idea).  I did lightly brown the ground beef on the stove, making sure not to allow all the moisture to come out of the beef, as I knew it would cook well in the solar oven.  I was also out of carrots as the recipe called for, but substituted for Italian squash.  For the red wine we didn’t have an open bottle at the time, so I simply added a bit of Marsala, worked just fine.  And, in addition to what the recipe called for, we had a spaghetti sauce left over from several nights before, so I threw that into the sauce portion to use it and help clear the fridge.

Lasagna ready to cook (with fresh basil leaves on top).

After putting it all together, I seemed to have a healthy looking lasagna that was ready for cooking.  The challenge we always have with our solar oven is that it never attains the temperatures called for in the book…as the boat always swings to and fro and the oven needs adjusting if you’re really worried about attaining max temperature.  So we simply put on the mirrors and let it rip….often having to leave it cooking in place for several more hours than the recipe called for….but on this day we going by dinghy caravan to snorke so it didn’t matter.

Lasagna in the solar oven, with just two sailboats in the anchorage and a nice day (after several windy and cloudy days)

Nearly five hours later my lasagna was done and smelled great.

Fully Perfectly Cooked- a little crackly on the outside and gooey and hot on the inside.

After a day of work and play in the hot sun, temperatures finally started to come down and we had a sundown cocktail knowing our dinner was ready and cooling in the galley.  Eating it with a great glass of Vino Rojo was a treat.  The consistency was perfect and my substitutions seemed to work as no one could tell there wasn’t eggs or ricotta in the mix.  Luckily this lasagna was so filling we had leftovers and we were able to turn those into good lunches over the next few days.

I love to cook using the tools I have onboard.  We have a Big Green Egg, pressure cooker, solar oven and have just recently started using cast iron pans.  While I don’t cook every meal, I love to be involved with meal planning and the HelmsMistress and I usually trade-off cooking duties during the week.  We live, work and play on our sailboat as we slowly cruise with our kids and Great Dane, taking life as it comes.  We invite you to FOLLOW our blog and website as we continue our travels.

-Last Note:

Once I was finished putting the lasagna together, I had some of the sauce/ground beef mixture left over and we try not to waste much on the boat.  Using a bit of extra cooking pasta I already had, I combined the two and whipped up a quicky lunch for the crew that day- see pic-


Lunch using lasagna ingredient leftovers.


[1] Pg. 41, Cooking with Sunshine

[i] The only thing that frustrates me about “Cooking with Sunshine” is that there’s an entire chapter or more dedicated to making and using solar ovens, instead of more recipes.

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