Thursday, February 28, 2013

Cleaning Cast Iron Cookware How-to

I love my cast iron cookware. I'm using it more and more, even my old, old stuff that's considered vintage. I find it so easy to use. So you can image my surprise while writing some product lenses (that's Squidoo speak for articles) that lots of people were intimated by cast iron. Why... because of the cleaning.

Well, we have to fix that because, cleaning cast iron as easy as... well, frying eggs!

Cast iron cookware has been around for centuries. It goes all the way back to the Han Dynasty in 220 AD. In the days of cooking in the fireplace, it's was a must. Even after woodstoves became a household essential back in the mid-1800s, cast iron cookware was still THE cookware to be used.

Times change, of course, and new styles of cookware has replaced the old. Especially "non-stick!" That's what everyone wants. However, it turns out non-stick isn't so non-stick. It can also be expensive and when it flakes... YUCK, what's that going in your body?!

That's why lots of folks are coming back to cast ironed. A well seasoned cast iron pan is really non-stick. It's also heats up slow and retains that heat. You can cook just about anything in a cast iron pan.

The old wisdom, however, is that you don't wash cast iron. And that's a scary thought -- does that mean you cook in crusty old pans?


But water and cast iron don't mix well. The result can be rust. That's why it's it's important to make sure cast iron is always completely dry before putting it away. Also, soaps and detergents can strip away the patina of seasoning that makes a cast iron pan so non-stick.

So how do you clean cast iron? With warm water, a little elbow grease when neccessary a little TLC. The following steps are what I use to clean my cast iron. It's the same way that my mother, my hubby's mother and our grandmothers cleaned their cast iron. And some of those pans are the same ones I'm using today.

Sometimes, a pan is easy to clean, like the skillet I use to fry my morning eggs. Simple warm water and a few minutes on the stove to dry is all that's needed. But then there are the times where I need a little extra effort, like last night's pork chops.

A little crusty! Okay... a lot crusty!

To clean this kind of mess, I blot out any excess grease with a paper towel and then add about an inch of water to the pan. 

I boil the water for a couple of minutes and then the cleaning begins.

I scrap out the chunky parts off the bottom with a spatula (unlike non stick cookware, a stainless steel sputula is fine). The boiling water really helps lift those chunks off the pan.

In the sink I run a little warm water in the pan. Don't add cold water because it is possible to crack the cast iron. You might want to let the hot water cool a little first so you don't burn yourself. I use a scrubby or a stainless steel pad to clean the pan with warm water. Remember, you shouldn't use detergent or soap.

Then I rinse with warm water and dry with a towel or paper towel. To make sure it's completly dry, I put the pan back on the burner for a couple of minutes.

When I remember I will re-season the pan. That's just wiping it down with vegetable oil, but to be honest I don't do that every time. Most of my pans have built up a seasoning patina over the years so it's not as necessary.

It's really just that easy to clean cast iron cookware. The most important thing to remember is to make sure the pan or pot is completely dry.

Do you have another way of cleaning cast iron? Or questions? Let me know.

Till later...


P.S. Oh, those Squidoo lenses... here's some links if you're interested:

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Frugal Monday Menu | Mama Mia Minestrone

I had all the right intentions, but life just got in the way yesterday. But that's okay, because any day is the right day for a frugal meal. 

Going meatless is a sure way to keep a meal within budget. In my family a favorite meatless meal is minestrone. I haven't figured it out yet, but my meat-loving guys love it! 

Minestrone is an Italian vegetable soup and is a great way to clean-out-the-fridge and makes an affordable meal. There are tons of recipes that use a variety of ingredients. Martha Stewart alone has a few variations including a Classic Style and her Autumn Minestrone (which seem mixed up to me because her Classic seems more Autumn and her Autumn feels more classic ??).

Most recipes have three constants: a tomato broth, beans and pasta. The differences come with the types of vegetables that are added. 

For me, it's was clean out refrigerator (and freezer) day which is good since Minestrone is also one of the recipes that doesn't need exact measurements. 

I started by sauteing a diced onion in some olive oil. I would have used celery, but that wasn't in the fridge. After the onion was softened I added diced carrot and sliced mushrooms. I cook those until the mushrooms were fairly soft. Then I added two small cans (14.5 oz ea) of diced tomatoes and three cans of water. I also added some dried herbs: basil, oregano, parsley and a couple shakes of hot red pepper flakes. Salt and pepper was also added.

While the soup simmered, I boiled a small pan of water and added a couple handfuls of Orecchiette pasta (those are those cute hat-shaped pasta). I always cook my pasta separate from the soup to keep it from getting gummy (the soup, that is). I also drained and rinsed a small can of cannellini beans (aka white kidney beans).

After the broth and veggies cooked for about 40 minutes, I added green beans and broccoli from the freezer (and I still haven't emptied those partial bags - UGG!) I cooked the soup for another 10 minutes or so and then added the beans and pasta. Five minutes later, it was ready to eat.

With the sprinkle of a little Parmesan cheese and French Bread, we called it dinner.

The bread was probably the most expensive part of the meal. In all, I have to say this was another less than $5.00 dinner. And my guys ate it up!

Do you have a go-to minestrone recipe or do you just wing it! I'd love to hear what you have to say!

Till later...


Sunday, February 24, 2013

He Answered My Question, Yes He Did!

The conversation after Hubby made coffee this morning (sweet). But first the picture of what I found.

Me: Ah, honey, where did all the coffee grounds come from?

Him: I was meaning to ask you about that. How to you stop the coffee grinder?

Me: Well, I usually only grind what I need. See the switch that says 2-4-6-8-12. But if I want to stop it, I just slide the switch to off!

Him: Oh! (pause) You don't pull the cup out to stop it then.

My poor honey, some times I think he's living in the wrong time period. 

Hope you're all having a great Sunday. I'm writing bunches of product articles today and thinking about dinner!

Happy Sunday,


Saturday, February 23, 2013

A Peek Into History in an Old Cookbook

I love old cookbooks. Like this one below. It's just beautiful with it's embossed cover. You don't find books like that today. But it's more than just a pretty cover, it's what's inside. And I'm not talking about old recipes.

I'm not sure where I came across this book. Maybe an old bookstore, but the embossed cover had me. It was published in 1932, the heart of the Great Depression. 

It's filled with frugal recipes that stretch a little meat a loooong way, like this recipe for Chicken Corn-Meal Soup: 6 cups of chicken broth, 1 cup of diced chicken, some onion and diced potato and 1/4 cup of corn meal. Hmm. I guess the corn meal thickens the soup and makes it feel more substantial. 

There are more recipes that sometimes leave me scratching my head. Grape Nut Omelet!

Different. Maybe GrapeNuts add an extra crunch. Or fiber?!? 

While I could browse these old recipes for hours, it's the other little treasures archived inside old cookbooks that I like to discover. 

In this cookbook there were a bunch of treasures. Old handwritten recipes written in the back of the book: Mrs. Schnader's Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake looks worth trying.

Pieces of memorabilia like this 1969 dog sled scene from the Los Angeles Times Travel section. It makes me wonder why it was saved. Was the the lady of house dreaming of travel or was it just something that caught her eye?

The most interesting piece of treasure was a letter  folded inside the book that gives a little insight into the original owner and proof that things never change. Even in 1933, divorce, movie ambitions and family dysfunction prevailed.

I hope there's no dysfunction in your life and all it beautiful on this lovely day. 

Till later, 


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Snow Day Take 2

Yes, it does snow in Southern California.

At least at 3,600 feet. 

And this isn't even last night's snow. It's the last snow, just a week or so ago. While we do get snow here, it's at most once or twice for the whole winter season. Not twice within 10 days! 

And it's not melting off as usual either. So cold! I'm hunkered around the woodstove trying to get some work done.

Hope you're all keeping warm!


Monday, February 18, 2013

Frugal Monday Menu - Poached Eggs in Sauce

Being self-employed again means money is tight (not that it wasn't before). So where to start tightening? Food is a good place to start. I'm searching my recipe box and the Internet for recipes that are frugal and good.

Eggs are my go-to cheap staple. I'm always looking for a new ways to use them. I found this recipe -- poached eggs in sauce -- a few years ago and it's turned out to be a great find. It's hardy, delicious and oh so cheap!

It's also easy. I love that combo.

There's not much to it. I could never master poaching eggs in the sauce, so I did it the easy way. First, I warmed a can of sauce in the microwave (in this case a can of Hunt's) and added some sauce into each bowl (I'm also not much into measuring). I poached six eggs in a pan of water and used a slotted spoon to drain the eggs and add to the bowls. I sprinkled with shredded Parmesan cheese. With the addition of a tube of biscuits (on sale at Walmart) and a green salad, dinner was served.

Everyone was on their own for dessert, which around here is usually fruit or cookies.

In all, I probably spent $5 on dinner. It's served me and my two big guys. Later, the son came back and grabbed the rest of the biscuits and sauce (his dessert). It's the kind of recipe that can be expanded with the addition of a few more eggs.

Do you have some interesting ways to use eggs? I'd love to hear about them!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Time to Fly!

I'm officially unemployed again! I probably should be upset, but I'm not!

No, instead I'm ready to soar!

It was fun and in another life it would have be a dream job, but my six months at the Mouse Factory was just a job. Now it's time to get back to my real life! Yayyy!!

The little guy in the pic is a symbol of how I feel. Isn't he cute? He a solar-powered flying pig. He doesn't really fly, but his wings do flap when he's put in a lighted location. And the brighter the location, the faster his wings flap!

My oldest son gave him to me at Christmas to join my flying pig collection. He's been sitting on the coffee station for a while and this morning as I was photographing him, I started to wonder.... "where is my flying pig collection?"

Moving, rearranging and working has taken it's toll on my poor little collection, but I did find a few of them.

Some were hanging out in chest in the living room. (Hi guys! Sorry I haven't talked to you in a while!)

And another was tucked in a corner on a craft shelf!

But where are the others? Well, that's anyone's guess.I think it's time to find them all and gather them in one location again.

While I'm doing that, hope you're having a wonderful Sunday and are ready to soar, too!

Till later...

Linking to: 

Sunny Simple Life: Sunny Simple Sunday
Mockingbird Hill Cottage: A Favorite Thing

Sunday, February 3, 2013

A Pretty Little Pot

The countdown continues. 10 more working days at the Mouse Factory. Then it's home and unemployed... but I'm looking forward to it.

While the drive is horrendous, I do like that I'm only two exits away from Ikea. I've run over there whenever I can. Last Thursday was one of those days. I like browsing there for the ideas. Once and while I come across something I can't resist... and if it fits my budget, it comes home with me, like this pretty little pot.

It's sort of a shabby chic and appeals to my girl side. It's a metal pot with rose decals inside a metal basket. I do think it needs to be roughed up a bit. Maybe a little sand paper, but that will have to wait for a couple of weeks.

A new pot, of course, calls for a plant flowers, so on the way home Friday, I stopped at Walmart. Not a lot to choose from, but this sweet pink Cyclamen will do just fine. It's green and it's growing.

Now I just have a find a new home for it. The kitchen counter just won't do.

Hope you're all enjoying this lovely Sunday afternoon.

Linking to:

Claudia's A Favorite Thing link party at Mockingbird Hill Cottage
The Sunny Simple Sunday Link Party at.. where else, Sunny Simple Life