Monday, August 30, 2010

The Monday Recipe Blog

Hello - hope you are not too hot on this Monday!  Fall is right around the corner, at least that's what I keep telling myself.

Here's another recipe that works nicely in a cast iron skillet - fried corn.

Fried Corn:

8 ears of fresh corn
2 T. butter or bacon grease

Cut the kernels off of 8 ears of corn, scraping the cobs to get the milky liquid.  Put the corn and corn liquid in a cast iron skillet.

Add the butter or bacon grease and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to medium.

Stir constantly, cooking until the mixture begins to thicken.  This will be about 5 minutes, then reduce the heat to low - a slow simmer.

Simmer for about 5 minutes more, stirring constantly or else it will scorch.

Remove it from heat, stir in a little salt and pepper to taste, then serve immediately.

Note - Be sure and don't salt the corn until the very end, or else the kernels will be tough.

This recipe yields about 4-6 servings.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Friday Dog Blog

Hello and happy Friday!!

Jim and Mary's Shepherd pup has blue eyes and a sweet disposition.  She's wishing she could ditch her fur coat until winter rolls around again!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Oprah Book Club Selection #5 - White Oleander by Janet Fitch

The next book in my year-long Oprah Book Club Challenge is White Oleander, 1999, 390 pages. Published in hardback by Little Brown and Co., paperback in 2000 by Back Bay Books.

This is an intriguing first novel by Janet Fitch. Narrated by 13-year-old Astrid Magnussen, it’s the story of a young girl faced with heart-wrenching circumstances beyond her control. The mother-daughter theme is prevalent throughout.

Astrid lives with her mother, a poet with astounding beauty and considerable skills and fame. Astrid’s mother, Ingrid, uses her beauty to manipulate men. Her emotional problems ensure that Astrid’s life will never be safe and secure, and her huge ego ensures that Ingrid will never be a true success as a poet.

When the mother, Ingrid, becomes obsessed with a boyfriend that proves difficult to manipulate, she finds herself separated from her daughter.   Astrid is left in the apartment, alone and terrified. When it becomes obvious that her mother will not be returning, Astrid enters the world of institutions and foster homes.

Throughout Astrid’s teenage years, her disturbed, manipulative mother wields her considerable power over her daughter in absentia.

This is a story of survival, of finding oneself in the worst of circumstances, in understanding who and what you have become, and eventually, in triumphing over what life has offered.

It’s a nice read. Out of five stars, I give White Oleander…..

* * * *

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Monday Recipe Blog

What a great Monday it's turning out to be!!

Here's another one of the traditional cast iron recipes - Pineapple upside-down cake.  Again, you can use other cookware besides cast iron with these recipes, they just work and taste better in cast iron.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake:

3 T. butter
1 c. light brown sugar
7 slices of canned pineapples
1/2 c. pineapple juice (reserved from the canned pineapples)
7 candied cherries (optional)
12 pecan halves (optional)
3 eggs
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 t. vanilla
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt

You will use a 10 inch cast iron skillet.

Preheat the oven to 350.

Melt the butter in your skillet over low heat.  When melted, sprinkle the brown sugar over the butter and remove from heat when the brown sugar begins to melt.

Place the pineapple rings in the skillet.  You can cut some in half if you need to in order to fit them in.  If using cherries, place one in the center of each ring.  Lay the pecan halves between the rings.

Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl, then stir in the white sugar.  Add the vanilla and pineapple juice - mix all of this up well.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt, then add them to the egg mixture and blend it together.

Pour the batter over the brown sugar and pineapple rings in the skillet.

Bake for about 45 minutes, until nicely brown and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  While it's still warm, invert it onto a platter.  The pineapple rings and caramelized sugar will be on top, and the cake will be delicious!

This recipe will serve about 8 people, and has 445 calories per serving.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Friday Dog Blog

Hello everyone....In the hot dog days of summer, it's kind of refreshing to look back at our nice snowstorms of last winter.  For the dog blog today we have Vicki's Princess Leia, the 10 foot tall poodle from Poteau. 

Wouldn't you just love to have some of that snow today?????

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

How To Restore Old Cast-Iron Cookware

So, your grandmother said you could have all of her old cast-iron.  Great!  But she hasn't used her cast-iron in years.  This could pose a problem.  Unless cast-iron is stored properly, it will develop rust and worse, pits.  There also may be burnt-on particles of food from sixty or seventy years ago that need to come off.

How can old, abused cast-iron cookware be restored?  There are several ways....

First, determine whether the pan has serious cracks or pits on its surface, or is warped.  If so, it may be time for the junkpile.  A crack means it has to go now.  Deep pitting will ensure that your food will not cook evenly and defeats the purpose of using cast-iron in the first place.  And you don't want a warped pan, do you?

So, the pan doesn't have cracks, warps or serious pits, but it has a ton of rust, several dead spiders and looks like it has been in the barn for fifty years.  Well, it may have been.  Rust isn't a deal-breaker.  Almost all old, unused cast-iron pieces have rust - no big deal.

Some techniques for removing rust:
Sandpaper, fine to medium grit, may do the trick. 
Scouring the rust with dish detergent and steel wool.
Scouring powder and a potato cut in half.  The potato acts as your scrubber.
Drill and wire brush sander.  Be very careful - you don't want to sand too much off of your pan.
Sandblasting (by a professional).  This also removes any markings on your pan - and if your marking says something like "Griswold" or "Wagner" this is a very bad thing.  I wouldn't use this option.

Once the rust is gone, you will need to remove the gunk that has built up on your pan.

Some techniques for removing gunk:
Put the piece in your self-cleaning oven and turn on the cleaner.  This burns off the gunk at a very high temperature and should remove all it.
Using plastic gloves, spray oven cleaner on the pan and put it in a plastic bag for a couple of days.  Then wash off the cleaner and wash the pan in hot water and soap.  Rinse twice to make sure all the oven cleaner is off the pan.

So, there you have it.  Restoring old cast-iron isn't rocket science, and it doesn't require any special equipment.  Once you have restored your piece, you will need to re-season it.  That's a subject for a later blog....

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Monday Recipe Blog

Hello....How's your Monday going so far?? In keeping with the recent and upcoming blogs featuring cast iron cookware, I will post some recipes in the next few weeks that are great when using cast iron. Please bear in mind that other types of cookware can also be used with these recipes, but they taste best when cooked in cast iron.

Some dishes immediately spring to mind when discussing cast iron. Examples are cornbread, biscuits and pineapple upside-down cake. Today we'll look at a great Southern cornbread recipe. (Northern cornbread is sweet and generally uses yellow cornmeal, and Southern cornmeal is not sweet and uses white cornmeal.)

Southern Cornbread:

1 1/2 c. white corn meal
1 c. flour
1 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
3 level t. baking powder
2 c. buttermilk
1 egg
2 T. oil of your choice (old-timers used bacon grease)

You will use your 10 inch cast iron skillet with this recipe.

Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Add the egg and buttermilk and mix until everything is combined. Rub your skillet with shortening or oil and put it in the oven while preheating the oven to 450 degrees. When preheated, remove the skillet, pour the batter in immediately and bake at 450 for about 20 minutes.

Cornbread goes great with any meal. I use stone-ground whole grain cornmeal, which makes it healthier. Try a Tennessee Milkshake, which is crumbled-up cornbread in a glass of ice-cold milk. Delicious!!

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Friday Dog Blog

Hope you're having a great Friday!  Here's a dog, just for you....

Kristi's Schnauzer Shadow is in a contemplative mood today.  Or maybe the weather's just too hot to do anything but sit and and brood....

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Loving Cast-Iron Cookware

I love my cast-iron cookware.  There are so many benefits to using cast-iron that I don't really know where to start....

For one, cast-iron is healthy.  Eating food cooked with cast iron adds trace amounts of iron, which we all need.  (There are certain rare diseases where iron in the system is actually detrimental - if you have one of these, then you wouldn't want any extra iron in your system).  Many physicians actually recommend switching to cast iron to their enemic patients.

Many foods taste better when cooked with cast iron.  No kidding.  Try cornbread cooked in a cast-iron skillet.  You'll fall in love.  And once you eat an egg cooked in a cast-iron skillet, you'll never want an egg cooked in anything else. 

Cast-iron is almost indestructible.  I use a Griswold Good Health skillet that was made in the 1920's.  It belonged to my grandmother, and it only gets better with age and use.

Cast-iron is highly collectible.  There are some brands that are more collectible than others, but all of the old, American-made pieces are sought-after.

Cast-iron is affordable.  New cast-iron manufactured by a top brand such as Lodge and made in America (where there are rules and regulations on how it must be made) can be purchased at such places as Bass Pro Shops and some Ace Hardware stores, as well as online.  Compared to "designer" cookware, cast-iron is very inexpensive, with pre-seasoned skillets usually going for $20-30.00. 

The older cast-iron, which I prefer, can be picked up for a song at farm sales and garage sales.  There are simple ways to restore these old pieces, so long as they are not pitted or misshapen from years of neglect.

I will continue to post information about cast-iron cooking and cookware, as well as some recipes that are great for cast-iron.  I hope that some of you will try it out - you won't be sorry!

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Monday Recipe Blog

We are now officially in the Dog Days of Summer.  Hot enough for you, yet?

Today we have another grilling recipe.  You don't normally think about bread when the subject of grilling comes up, but some nice flat bread slapped on the grill makes a terrific appetizer when paired with your favorite spread or topping.  Here's how to make some grilled flat bread...

Grilled Flat Bread:

1 1/2 c. water, heated to 100 to 110 degrees
1 pkg of dry yeast, fast-acting
4 1/2 c. flour, all-purpose
3 T. olive oil
2 t. kosher salt

In a large bowl, combing the water, yeast and sugar.  Make sure the water temperature is between 100 and 100 degrees - it's best to use a thermometer - this ensures that the yeast will be able to do its job.  Mix this together a little and let it sit for about 5 minutes or until the mixture is starting to get bubbly and frothy. 

Add the flour, oil and salt to the yeast mixture.  Mix it, preferably with an electric stand mixture and dough hook, but not absolutely necessary.  If you're using the mixer, mix it on low with the hook for about a minute, then increase to medium.  Either with the mixer or without, the dough needs to be mixed until it is a little sticky, smooth and elastic.  This will take some time - at least 10 minutes.

Roll the dough into a ball and put it in an oiled bowl.  Turn it to coat all sides with oil, then cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and put it in a warm place for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until it has doubled in size.

You will cook this bread in direct, medium heat so now is the time to prepare your coals.

When the dough has risen, cut it into 12 portions.  The surface and your fingers should be oiled well.  With your hands, stretch each portion to about 8 inches long.  If it springs back, keep working it until it is consistently the right length.

Place each strip over direct medium heat.  Only do a few at a time, because they don't take long to cook.  When the undersides of the dough crisp, darken and harden, about 1 to 2 minutes, and the tops puff a little, burn them and continue cooking until both sides are dark brown.  This will be a total of about 5 or 6 minutes.  You can keep them warm over indirect heat while the others are cooking.

Serve with your favorite topping.

Serves four.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Friday Dog Blog

Hello, TGIF! 

This is Bill's Bella -  She's a huge Groucho Marx fan....

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Have You Been To A Green-Cleaning Party?

Hello, and happy Wednesday!

There is a new twist on the old Tupperware parties of the 1950's and 1960's.  Green-Cleaning parties are the latest party hit, and they are great ways to educate people about the harmful effects of chemicals on the earth.  The organization Woman's Voices For The Earth came up with the idea a couple of years ago, and the parties have caught on like wildfire.  More than 1,500 parties have been held.

At Green-Cleaning parties, women, usually about 10, get together at someone's house.  They use the kitchen to mix non-toxic household cleansers, furniture polish and other things.  The home-made versions of the all-purpose vinegar-based spray cleaner costs about 38 cents to make, as compared to $4.00 to $8.00 for store-bought chemical versions.  The soft scrub made with baking soda costs 78 cents to make, compared to the store price of $3.75.

Lavender or lemon is used to mask the vinegar smells, and vegetable glycerin helps the products to last when stored in an airtight container.

Each guest contributes to the cost of buying the ingredients, then takes home his/her share of the finished products.

Recipes are taken from the internet, particularly

So, next time you have an urge to get together with your friends, consider a Green-Cleaning party.  The earth will thank you for it!

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Monday Recipe Blog

Hello and I hope you're having a good Monday.

Have you gone camping lately?  If you have, you probably had the traditional campfire food in the dutch oven.  But if you have access to an outdoor grill at your camping site, you can have some nice food now and then.

Today we will look at grilling shrimp and scallops.

Campfire Shrimp and Scallops:

For ingredients, you just need some shrimp and scallops, obviously, and a few cherry tomatoes, bell peppers and little mushrooms.  Also some Italian dressing. You are going to skewer these up.

Before you leave the house, peel and devein the shrimp.  Rinse it and put it in a plastic bag.
Toss the scallops in the bag after you have rinsed them off.

Now pour some Italian dressing in the bag, shake it up and head for the campground.

Score the tomatoes, cap the mushrooms and slice the peppers.  Put them all in the bag and shake it up again when you're ready to cook.

Skewer this all up and grill each about 4 minutes for each side.