Kitchen Essentails...The Cast Iron Skillet...


Cast iron.  Really, do I need to say anymore?  I mean, before there was aluminum, before copper, before stainless steel, and before Teflon, there was cast iron. Most of the dishes you remember your grandmother preparing were made in it. And though cast iron pans became nearly obsolete for a generation, they are making a huge comeback!  Let's take a look at what makes cast iron an essential part of your kitchen.

  • First of all, cast iron is a great conductor of heat.  They do take a little while to heat up, but once they are hot, they retain that heat beautifully making for a nice, even cooking surface for your culinary masterpieces! 
  • Secondly, cast iron is wonderful for starting on your stovetop and transitioning into the oven.  For example, you can get a nice sear on your pork chops, and then simply finish them off in the oven. 
  • Thirdly, cast iron is a beautiful way to connect to the past.  I say this because most of us inherited pieces from our mothers and grand mothers.  Or, you remember that skillet covered with bacon grease that she used to make everything, and everything turned out great.  Perhaps you didn't inherit pieces. Perhaps you purchased pieces on your own. You still will find yourself standing over the stove, thinking about how they used to cook in the pioneer days, or about cooking with your grandma in her kitchen.  Yes, cast iron connects us to the past like few pieces in our modern day world can. 
  • Fourthly, it is non-reactive with your food.  What does that mean?  Well, when we use things like non-stick cookware with Teflon, it seeps toxic chemicals into our food.  Over time, that can take it's toll on our bodies.  The only thing you are getting from your cast iron pans is iron, a mineral the your body needs anyway. 
  • And lastly, as Greg Bryson in the Cast Iron Cooking Facebook group says..."Because Cast Iron is easier to say & spell than Polytetrafluoroethylene" 'Nuff said!
I know what you are thinking right now.  "All of that may be true, but I heard..."  Well, let's take a look at some of he myths of cast iron cookware.

YOU CAN'T COOK WITH THEM ON FLAT SURFACE COOK-TOPS:

  • All of us have heard this at one time or another, and while you have to be careful, you can use cast iron on your flat surface ranges.  I know many people who use cast iron on theirs daily.  There are a couple things to keep in mind though.  One, you need to be gentle when you are placing CI on your stove-top.  Secondly, you need to heed sliding it around on your cook-top.  This way your are less likely to get scratches.
YOU CAN'T USE TOMATO PRODUCTS IN THEM:
  •   While it has been said that Cast Iron leaves a metallic flavor in your tomato based dished, I have never noticed it.  I am sure it happens from time to time, but in that instance I recommend using enamel coated cast iron.
EVERYTHING STICKS TO THEM:
  •  Okay, here is the thing.  Cast Iron DOES require a little love.  You have to care for and season it properly, but...If you love your Cast Iron it will love you back.  I can honestly say that my Cast Iron is as stick resistant as any Teflon I have used. 
With that being said, let's look at care...

Here is a great video to show you how to initially season your cast iron pans. I will say this, in the video they use vegetable oil.  I personally prefer Crisco.  I have found that vegetable oil can burn and leave a film on your pan and your food. Often times people will use bacon grease or lard for this as well. 




Now let's look at everyday care....



For a well seasoned pan, it can be as simple as wiping it out with a towel, but for those tougher jobs, here is how you clean them on a daily basis. 


Put your pan under hot water. 
 Use a non metallic scrubber to scrub those tough bits off of your pan.


Next, dry your pan off with a towel, and place over heat to dry it out completely. 


Once the pan is dry, you will need to get a little Crisco and...


Rub it all over your pan while it is still hot. 


Allow your pan to cool completely and put away. 


You know that your pan is well seasoned and ready for use when it has this nice, black, glossy finish to it. 


Out of all the cookware in my kitchen, I definitely use my cast iron the most!  The reason that is has stood the test of time is because it is the best thing to cook with.  Yes, cast iron does require some love, but again I say, if you love it, it will love you back!  The best part about cast iron is, for cookware it is relatively inexpensive.  The pan pictured above I purchased for $20, new, at Target, but you can pick up used pieces much cheaper and easily restore them.  Or, better yet, ask someone in your family to hook you up!  Bottom line, cast iron IS a kitchen essential.  So save those pennies, shop around, and get one today!

I hope this helps you all out, and as always...

Happy Reading, Happy Eating, and Happy Living,
~The Kitchen Wife~























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Shepard's Pie....

I'm not sure if it is just a regional thing or not, but in this area, you grow up eating Shepard's Pie.  Even if your mother never made it for you, it was guaranteed to be on your plate at least two times a month at school.  For me, it consisted of a croissant crust, a funky hamburger mixture, mushy peas and carrots, and a mashed potato topping.  If you were lucky, you got cheese on top.  I know it sounds horrible, but man, as a kid, I LOVED IT!  So when I was thinking one day of my childhood favorites, I immediately thought of this.  However, I wanted to make it little more refined to serve my husband and mother in love.  I tinkered with the ingredients a little and what I have come up with is truly wonderful!  It is a one pot meal, with a show stopper presentation, and I know EVERYONE is going to love it! It's so quick and easy, let's get started!
 
 
Here is what you'll need:
 
 


  • 1 tbsp. Butter
  • 2 tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 2 lb. Ground Beef
  • 1 Onion, diced
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic, minced
  • 2 Carrots, diced
  • 1 tbsp. Flour
  • 1 tsp. Thyme
  • 1 c. Beef Stock
  • 2 c. Peas
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Shredded Cheese (optional)
  • Parsley to finish

  •  
     
    Tools You Will Need:
    • Cast Iron Skillet
    • Chef's Knife
    • Wooden Spoon


     
    Heat your cast iron skillet, or any oven proof skillet, and add 2 tbsp. of butter, and 2 tbsp. of oil.
     

     
    Once the skillet is hot and the butter is melted, add your diced onions and sweat until soft and translucent.
     
     
     
    When the onions are soft and translucent, add the diced carrots.  Allow them to cook for 2-3 minutes to soften.

     
    As the carrots begin to soften, add the garlic.
     

     
    Next, you will toss in your ground beef and brown, this will take 8-10 minutes. 
     
     
    When the ground beef is nice and brown, add the flour.
    Stir the flour into the beef well.

     
    Now you will add the beef stock.  Immediately you will see a gravy happen. 
    Isn't gravy beautiful?  *SIGH* Gravy...I know, I know....moving forward.

     
    It will look like this.  :)...Gravy....
    Taste for seasoning.  Add salt and pepper, as well as the thyme.

     
    Here is where you will want to add your frozen peas. 

     
    And then your mashed potato topping.  I am going to be honest about something here.  I am an advocate for making things from scratch.  Ask any of my friends.  HOWEVER, I have found that instant mashed potatoes, in this recipe, work best.  It takes two packages, but the result is divine!  Don't judge me.  You are more than welcome to do all that peeling and boiling and mashing if you want, but on a busy weeknight, I am keeping it simple! 
     
    Spread the mashed potatoes in a nice single layer over your filling.  You can even add shredded cheese, if you want.

     
    Place your pie in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.
     

     
    Look at this presentation!  Bringing this to the table to serve from will definitely wow your family!
     
     

     
    YUM!
     
    And there you have it!  By using simple, fresh, ingredients, we are able to turn a lunchroom classic into a wonderful meal that your entire family will devour!  I can't wait to hear how this works for you and I would LOVE to see your pictures on my Facebook page!  Enjoy, and as always...
     
    Happy Reading, Happy Eating, and Happy Living,
    ~The Kitchen Wife~
     
     
     
     
     
     
    Shepard's Pie:
     
     
    *Prep-Time: 10 minutes  *Cook Time:  30 Minutes  *Difficulty:  Easy  *Servings: 6-8
     
    Ingredients:
    • 1 tbsp. Butter
    • 2 tbsp. Olive Oil
    • 2 lb. Ground Beef
    • 1 Onion, diced
    • 2 Cloves of Garlic, minced
    • 2 Carrots, diced
    • 1 tbsp. Flour
    • 1 tsp. Thyme
    • 1 c. Beef Stock
    • 2 c. Peas
    • Mashed Potatoes
    • Shredded Cheese
    • Parsley to finish
    Tools You Will Need:
    • Cast Iron Skillet
    • Chef's Knife
    • Wooden Spoon
     
    Directions:
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    2. In a cast iron skillet, melt your better and add oil. 
    3. Sauté your onions until they are soft and translucent.
    4. Add garlic and sweat until you smell it. 
    5. Add your diced carrots and sauté until soft.
    6. Add your ground beef and brown.
    7. Season with salt and pepper.
    8. Add flour and stir.
    9. Add beef stock.
    10. Add peas.
    11. Top with mashed potatoes.  Spread out so the cover the entire filling.
    12. Sprinkle with shredded cheese.
    13. Bake for 30 minutes.
    14. Finish with parsley and serve.
    15. ENJOY!
     
     
     
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    Broccoli Cheddar Soup



    You love it. Oh, come on, you know you do.  Warm, creamy, smooth, all the way down to your soul.  You know what I am talking about, Broccoli Cheddar Soup!  This feels like the winter that will never, and today was no exception.  We woke up this morning to a mild blizzard and instead of getting all bent out of shape about it, I decided to make something heart warming and delightful instead!

    This recipe is to die for, and there is no time to waist.  Let's get started!
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    Homemade Baguettes...

    Three baguettes laying on a cooling rack, on the counter.


    I am beginning to think that this truly is the winter that will never end! 
    After a couple fantastic days this weekend of warmer temps and sunshine, we woke up to another snow storm this morning.  :(
     Oh well, I refuse to let that get me down! 
    Since it is cold and blustery out, my heart is crying out for some scrumptious Broccoli Cheddar Soup.  However, you can't have something as decadent as broccoli cheddar soup and not have a nice, crusty bread to dip in it.  The problem is that there is no way I am leaving the house today for bread.  Now I know you have been told that it is impossible to make beautiful, crusty, artisan baguettes at home. And, if you have been told it was possible, you were told you had to have a special pan and steam functions on your oven.  Well, kitchen friends, I am here to prove them all wrong!  Today, I am going to be making some beautiful baguettes in my 10x10 galley kitchen with a standard oven, and are your ready for this, no baguette pan!  Oh yeah, I'm breaking all the rules today and you can too!  This is a little bit of a time commitment, but I promise you, if you come to the table with these show stoppers your family will be blown away!  Let's get started...

    Homemade Baguettes:
    *Prep-Time:  2 hr. and 20 min.  *Cook Time:  30 minutes  *Difficulty:  Intermediate  *Servings:  3 loaves

    


    Here is what you need:

    Flour, sugar, yeast, oil, water, and a Kitchenaid mixer.

    • 3-4 c. of All Purpose Flour
    • 1 1/2 c. Warm Water
    • 1 1/2 tsp. Dry Active Yeast
    • 1 tsp. Sugar
    • 2 tsp. Salt

     Here we go!


    A measuring cup, sitting on a counter, with yeast blooming in it.

    Put the yeast and sugar in a measuring cup and add the WARM water.
    Set aside and give the yeast time to proof, about 10 minutes.

    A picture of the mixer bowl with flour in it.

    While the yeast is proofing, put your flour and salt in the bowl of the stand mixer.

    A measuring cup, sitting on the counter, with the yeast fully bloomed inside.

    After 10 minutes have elapsed, the yeast should be alive and active.  There will be a foam on the top of the water.


    Turn the mixer on low and slowly add the yeast mixture to the flour.


    A kitchenaid  mixer kneading bread dough.

    The flour and yeast will come together and make the dough.  You may have to use a rubber spatula to scrap the sides of the bowl.  Turn your mixer up one level and allow the dough to knead for 5-6 minutes.

    A mixing bowl being brushed with oil.

    While the dough is kneading, take this time to oil a large mixing bowl.

    A mixing bowl, on the counter, with a dishtowel over it.

    When your dough has finished kneading, place in the oiled bowl and cover with a damp towel. 
    Let it rise, in a warm place, for 1 hour.

    A mixing bowl, on the counter, with risen bread dough in it.

    After the dough has risen it should be double in size.

    Flour on the counter with a ball of bread dough on it.

    Now you will need to heavily flour your work space and place the dough on it.

    Flour on the counter with a ball of bread dough being cut into portions with a bench scraper.

    Cut into 3 equal parts.  This will give you 3 thin baguettes. 
     If you would like a little heartier loaf, cut the dough in 2 parts.

    ***UPDATE***
    UPON TRYING THIS OUT A FEW MORE TIMES, I HAVE FOUND THAT
    IT WORKS BEST IF YOU ONLY CUT THE DOUGH INTO TWO EQUAL PARTS.

    Flour on the counter with the bread dough cut into three separate portions.

    Like this.  :)

    Flour on the counter with the three dough portions.  One is being flattened out and rolled into a snake.

    Take each piece, flatten a little, and fold one half of the dough roll in...


    And then the other.

    Flour on the counter.  Two portions of bread dough at the top of image, on by a ruler.

    Take a moment and fold the ends under.  Each loaf should measure about 12 inches long.


    Place all 3 loaves on a floured baking sheet. 


    Cover, again, with a damp towel and allow to rise for another hour. 


    While the dough is rising, take this opportunity to place one rack on the very top of your oven, and one rack on the bottom.  On the bottom rack you will want to place the cast iron skillet or a baking sheet.  Pre-heat the oven to 475. 


    After about an hour the loaves will have doubled in size.  They are nearly ready to bake. 


    But, before you put them into the oven, take a pairing knife and score the loaves 3 or 4 times. 


    Like this.


    Put the loaves on the top rack and pour 1 cup of water into the skillet.  Quickly close the door and DO NOT OPEN IT!!  What you are doing here is creating that steam environment that artisan breads need to get nice and crusty on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside.


    The loaves will bake for 30 minutes. 
    However, at about 20 minutes I would starting keeping an eye on them. 
     I only baked mine for 25.


    There you have it!  Beautiful baguettes. 
    No special pan, no steam oven. 
     The crust is beautifully crisp and crunchy...


    While the inside is soft and chewy! 


    This pairs perfect with any soup on a cold night!  :) 
     Now, go out there and wow your friends with your Parisian baking skills and as always...

    Happy Reading, Happy Eating, and Happy Living,

    ~The Kitchen Wife~


    Homemade Baguettes:


    *Prep-Time: 2 Hr. and 20 Min. *Cook Time:  30 Minutes  *Difficulty: Intermediate *Servings:  3 Loaves
    Ingredients:
    • 1 1/2 tsp. Dry Active Yeast
    • 1 tsp. Sugar
    • 3-4 c. All Purpose Flour
    • 2 tsp. Salt
    • 1 1/2 c. Warm Water
    Tools You Will Need:
    • Standing mixer with a hook attachment.
    • Measuring cups
    • Measuring spoons
    • Large mixing bowl
    • Rubber spatula
    • Baking Sheets
    • Parchment paper
    • Cast Iron skillet
    Directions:
    1. In a 2 cup measuring cup, add your yeast and sugar. 
    2. Then fill the measuring with 1 1/2 c. of WARM water.
    3. Stir and set aside for 10 minutes to allow the yeast to activate and proof. 
    4. While yeast is proofing add the flour and salt to the bowl of your stand mixer with the hook attachment.
    5. When yeast is proofed and active, turn your mixer on low and slowly add your yeast mixture. 
    6. When all the yeast is incorporated, turn the mixer up one level and allow to knead for 6 minutes.  You may have to use a rubber spatula to scrap the flour off the sides of the bowl.
    7. While the dough is kneading, you will need to oil a large bowl. 
    8. After 6 minutes of kneading, use your rubber spatula to scrap dough into the bowl.  The dough will be sticky.  This is a good thing.  :)
    9. Cover with a damp towel and allow the dough to rise, for one hour, in a warm place.  It should double in size.
    10. After dough has doubled in size, dump onto a floured surface, and cut into two equal pieces. 
    11. Roll each piece into a 12 inch rope and place onto a parchment lined baking sheet or into a baguette pan.
    12. Using a pairing knife, place 3-4 shallow slits in the top of your baguette loaves.
    13. Cover with a towel and let rise again for one hour.  It should double in size.
    14. While dough is rising, place one rack in your oven on the highest setting, and the other rack on the lowest. 
    15. Place a cast iron skillet or baking sheet on the lowest rack and pre-heat your oven to 475 degrees.
    16. When your baguettes have finished rising, place them on the top rack of your oven and pour 1 cup of water into your skillet or baking dish and close the door.
    17. Allow them to bake for 30 minutes.
    18. Remove from oven and place on cooling racks.
    19. Let them cool and serve.
    20. ENJOY!
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