La Rue Howells is always willing to shed light on her favorite cooking appliance -- the solar oven.
"A sun oven has actually become an emerging cooking source," said the Salt Lake City resident who has taught dozen of Utahns how to use reflective boxes to cook stew and bake bread. They are becoming especially popular as people prepare for emergency situations or look for "greener" products to help the earth.
"But it's important to play with it now, then when a disaster happens you'll know how to use it," she said.
That's the whole premise behind the Solar Cooking Challenge, which starts Thursday and continues through July 1. Cooks are encouraged to make dinner in their solar ovens. The week-long event includes cooking classes and a chance to win prizes; details are on the website: http://www.utahsunovens.blogspot.com" Target="_BLANK">http://www.utahsunovens.blogspot.com.
The goal is to cook 50,000 meals during the challenge, said Paul Munsen with Sun Ovens International, which is sponsoring the event.
Munsen estimates that there are more than 7,000 families in Utah whos own a solar oven, but only about 40 percent use the devise on a regular basis. Typically, they are sitting unused in the basement, next to the food storage shelves.
There are dozens of different solar ovens available on the market. While size and materials vary, most all contain some sort of reflecting material to concentrate the sun's energy and an insulated container to hold in the heat. Food in a solar oven is typically cooked inside a black pot -- the dark color helps to absorb the sun's energy -- with a tight-fitting lid.
As long as there is sun, solar cookers can be used, no matter the outside temperature. They even work on a sunny Utah winter day. Howells especially likes using them in the summer to keep her kitchen cool.
Besides emergencies and camping, solar ovens also have helped provide a cooking source to people in developing countries that lack electricity or have scarce amounts of firewood.
Friday » 10 a.m. at Kitchen Kneads, 3030 Grant, Ogden; free.
Saturday » 10 a.m. at Kitchen Kneads, 7579 S Redwood Road, West Jordan; free.
Saturday noon, Vernon Worthen Park, 300 S. 400 East, St. George, $33.