Cast Iron I have

Monday, February 28, 2011

Things I have learned this week

- my little point and shoot just really isn't up to food photography

- food stylists must not use real mashed potatoes

- you can make crepes in a non-stick pan works but they don't get that wonderful slightly crisp texture they do from cast iron

- if you are making crepes for people you are having over, you really need two pans to keep up

- if you don't have two pans, start cooking an hour before everyone gets there

- talking about food is more fun when you aren't working the late shift in health care.  Or really any late shift, I would bet...

- my toddler thinks whipped cream is "cake"

- when feeding toddlers, it is better to cut the food on their plate in the kitchen so they don't object to seeing you messing with their food in the dining room.  Since I have a kitchen diner, I am just screwed. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Less Mess Shepard's pie.

One of the nice things about cast iron is how nicely it doubles as a both a stove top pan and a oven ready casserole. I love using my Lodge signature pan for just this reason.

Now the recipe:

Shepard's pie
Dutch oven
Large Lodge Casserole
wooden spatula
paring knife
Chef's knife
cutting board
potato masher 
measuring spoons and cups

Meat filling
1 tbsp. Cooking oil
1 tsp. garlic, minced
1 cup onion, chopped
1 ½ lbs extra lean ground beef
1 tbsp. flour
1 ½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
⅓ cup milk
1 tbsp. ketchup
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. prepared horseradish
2 cup mixed vegetables, frozen

4 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
boiling salted water
1 tbsp. butter
3-4 tbsp. milk
2 tbsp. butter, melted
½ tsp. garlic

1. Peel potatoes and cook in boiling salted water until tender, about 20 minutes
2. While potatoes are boiling, heat cooking oil in frying pan. Add garlic and onion. Saute until onions are clear. Add beef. Saute until beef is lightly browned.
3. Sprinkle with flour, salt and pepper. Mix well. Stir in first amount of milk until mixture boils.
4. Add ketchup, Worcestershire, horseradish, frozen mixed veg. Pack into greased 8x8 inch pan or casserole.
5. Drain and mash potatoes. Add first amount of butter, second amount of milk, and garlic. Mash together. Spread over beef mixture.
6. Sprinkle with paprika. Make wave pattern with fork in potato. Bake, uncovered, near top of 350 degree F oven for about 30 minutes until hot and lightly browned. Serves 4 to 6.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A couple of days off

Just a quick warning. I have been lucky enough to invited for dinner ato friends and family members homes for all suppers this weekend. So new posts for a little while. I'll see you on Tuesday. In the mean time, a brief pause for cast iron love.

My father in law makes the most amazing crepes.  I would LOVE to get my hands on two of these so I could make them too: 

And here is the recipe to go with them:

6 eggs
4 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 cup flour
½ cup canola oil
2 ½ cups milk

1. Cream together eggs and sugar until you reach the ribbon stage (about 2-3 minutes)
2. slowly pour in canola oil and milk mix well, add salt
3. slowly add the flour one spoonful at a time, allow each spoonful to mix in before adding the next, remember speed kills AND makes lumpy crepes.
4. cook by the ladle full on hot pans over medium heat, stir the mixture between each crepe because it tends to settle and the bottoms ones will be tough if you don't

Now is it just me, or is it weird that a crepe spatula is more money than the crepe pans? Anyway, one of these is nice to have for making crepes too. It isn't strictly necessary. Really the oxo spatula works fine too; you just need a little more care not to tear the crepes while flipping them.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Tonight for supper I am making homemade perogies, garlic sausage and assorted fresh veg. And that's where retro style cooking gets complicated. My Gramma would make this kind of dinner on a some what regular basis and she likely wouldn't include the veg. There would be canned fruit for dessert, maybe. So based on the theory that we should be eating non-processed foods that way our forefathers did, how does this fit in?

It was a good high fat, high carb, high protien meal when you were working a farm without tractors. My husband has a desk job, my kids only have gym a couple of times a week. As much work as it is chasing a toddler, it doesn't compare to driving cattle or chopping wood.

But this is the cooking I learned on my Gramma's knee. I still make my perogies, by hand, to her recipe. I just don't serve them everyday. And I include fresh vegetables, which are not authentic to this part of the world at this time of year a hundred years ago.

I always grit my teeth a little when people say things like "if your granny wouldn't recognize it, you shouldn't be eating." My granny wouldn't know a kiwi if it bit her. She learned about blueberries from my mom. That theory that your gramma ate better than people today only applies if she lived someplace warm all year. And even then, only maybe.

So as much as this is likely the most old fashioned meal I make, I am not under any illusions that this is will meet the full nutritional requirements for my kids as everyday food in modern world. I also don't believe that food is "good" or "bad." Food is just food, it's up to people to find a way to balance their diet with a variety of choices.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


This recipe is adapted from one by the fabulous menu planner Sandi Richard.   I don't like ketchup as much as she does, but one of my girls does and always adds more. Through a series of interesting events, we discovered my family likes more Worcestershire sauce then the original recipe calls for. So... Here is my version:

1 lbs. Extra lean ground beef
1 tablespoon Onion flakes
½ cup Ketchup
2 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
½ cup Water
2 teaspoons Thai Garlic Chili sauce
2 tablespoons mustard
1 cup Grated cheddar cheese
Approximately 8 Dinner buns

Brown Meat in large cast iron casserole at med high until no longer pink.

Add onion flakes to pan and cook until meat starts to brown.

Add ketchup, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, water and chili sauce and bring to light boil.

Stir, then turn off stove and cover. The residual heat will allow this to simmer lightly for 10 minutes which with rehydrate the onion flakes.

Serve with buns and grated cheese.

Feeds 2 adults, 2 teenagers and a toddler with a little leftover for someone to take for lunch the next day. Once again, I have to say thank you to the 5 minute bread people for the buns. Really if you haven't tried this method of baking, hop over to the I Have tab and check out this book.

Approximate Nutritional Info, not including the buns:

I found some lovely carrots at the farmers market this weekend, so I am serving this
with carrots and dip and green kiwi for dessert.

Why Cast Iron?

The easy answer is iron.  I have been anemic all my life.  Not always in the "stage three, passing out" kind of anemia that people think of, but in the "my ferritin is so low I am almost" there kind of way.  Plus those three kids I mentioned earlier are all girls and my lovely husband and I are regular blood donors.  The extra iron is good for us.

This isn't true for everyone.  Hemochromatosis is real.  It just isn't in our family.  Everyone has their own health challenges.  We deal with type 1 diabetes, cerebral palsy and asthma.  When I start offering recipes, I will include the nutritional information as best as I can because there are lots of people out there that need it for what ever reason.

Plus cast iron in as non stick as my teflon pans.  It heats evenly and holds the heat evenly.  If I take the pot to the table and then need to spend 15 - 20 minutes getting my toddler ready to eat, the food is still hot.  Cooking in cast iron means that in the summer I can use the same recipes and use my BBQ as an outdoor stove or oven without worrying about a flare up cracking my Pyrex or scorching my stainless steal.  I have found that stainless steel, isn't as stainless as it claims, and in case of emergency, you can always put plain cast iron through a clean cycle in your self cleaning oven and have it back to perfectly sanitized.

Yes, it takes a little more work to make sure it is seasoned properly and you can't leave it soaking over night.  I think it is worth it.  This is real life.  If I leave a pan soaking overnight, I'm not going to have time at breakfast to wash it.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Quick but Not Dirty Tomato Clam Soup

In my Kitchen Aid dutch oven I have:
Saute in 1 tbsp of canola oil until translucent:
1 small onion, diced
1 stalk of celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 clove of garlic
1 can gold seal baby clams (I like gold seal because they aren't gritty)

You can pulse for about a minute in your food processor if you need to feed toddlers who might not like the chunky clams, then return to dutch oven (or if you have a stick blender, mix right in the pot) and add:

1 can spicy chopped tomatoes
1 - 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce (to taste)
1 quart low sodium chicken broth

Simmer on low for a couple of hours, stirring occasionally while helping with homework.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Here is the approximate nutritional information:

Serve with fresh buns.  I hope to have more pictures in the future, but for now just use your imagination.

I am not a foodie

I am a stay at home mom trying to feed a blended family of five on a grocery budget that occasionally approaches zero.  This month, for example, it was $80 and what ever I had in my pantry and freezer to get us through to payday.  I love reading food blogs.  I can't afford fancy ingredients, even if I could find them in my local market.  I want a "work with what you've got" food blog that doesn't morph into a restaurant tour blog (Sorry Average Betty, I love what you did, but lately you haven't been much help).  That doesn't need special tools.  Or lots of time.  Or lots of dishes.  Or lots of experience. 

I am not a good cook.  I didn't learn on my momma's knee.  I love my mom, but I don't cook the way she does and my kids likely won't cook the way I do.   And that's OK.  I am learning as I go and I promise to publish my failures.  Where are the blogs for those of us that are learning?  Following ones where everything turns out ALL THE TIME, just makes me feel worse when my supper doesn't go according to plan.  I really miss Ctrl Alt Chicken for that keep going even if it doesn't work attitude.