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Monday, February 27, 2012

my first birthday cake

This is the first birthday cake I ever made, and it was for my own birthday.

In a Lodge 12 inch cast iron skillet, of course.

A 12 inch cast iron skillet is a similar volume to a 13 x 9 inch rectangular pan.

Which is important to know, if that's what the recipe calls for!

This is a yellow cake with chocolate frosting. I added pecans to the batter and the top of the cake.

It's probably the same birthday cake I had 30 years ago! I used to always ask for that cake for my birthday.

I used a Duncan Hines mix, and followed the recipe on the box.

If you're using cast iron, you need to make the oven temperature 25 degrees cooler than the directions state. For example, 350 instead of 375.

This is because cast iron retains heat much longer than aluminum and glass.

Also, be sure you wait until the cake cools before you add the frosting!

I learned that you should not attempt to make a cake without a cake mixer.

I used an immersion blender, which did the job, but initially made a mess on the floor and the cabinets!

Happy birthday to me.

Monday, February 20, 2012

can you steam in a crock pot?

Hi! Once again, I realize this is "ramblings on cast iron" and not "ramblings on crock pots."

Anyway, I previously posted about my Rival brand crock pot.

Rival's new design is flawed, rendering it useless as a slow cooker, and I'd encourage you to buy Hamilton Beach instead.

But I didn't want to just throw it away. So I wondered if it could be used as an electric steamer.

The short answer is yes. Put water or broth on the bottom, then whatever you want to steam, and turn it on high.

I used it first to steam lobster tails and frozen corn on the cob. Then I used it to steam salmon.

Both times it took about an hour, but it turned out good.

You could do the same thing with a covered cast iron pot on your stove.

Of course if you WANT an electric steamer, you're better off getting an electric steamer, or large rice cooker.

Don't buy a Rival crock pot just to have an electric steamer handy. Don't buy Rival crock pots at all!

But at least now we know that you can steam in a crock pot. And in a cast iron pot!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Don't buy Rival brand crock pots anymore

I realize this is "ramblings on cast iron" and not "ramblings on crock pots", but I'm deviating for a moment.

I'm sorry I haven't kept up much with this blog lately.

I've gone back to school for computer science, which has cut into my "experimental cooking" time.

Anyway, I advise you NOT to buy Rival brand crock pots anymore, and here is why:

They changed their design in the last couple of years, and it's a flawed design.

Do a search for recent reviews on the Rival brand crock pot; there are numerous complaints due to this new faulty design.

I recently bought a 4 quart crock pot from wal mart, which I thought for sure was defective!

The lid was not seating properly on the pot, causing a quarter inch gap, in which moisture was escaping.

As a result, the food was overcooked and dry, both times I used it.

So I called Rival to report that I had a defective product, and to ask for a replacement.

They told me that their crock pots are purposely designed that way now!

They purposely design it so that the lid does NOT fit. It's supposed to wobble and have a quarter inch gap.


"Because customers were complaining that the food was being simmered, so we re-designed it to allow moisture to escape."

That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. The whole purpose of a crock pot is to simmer!

The new design renders the crock pot useless as a slow cooker!

The concept of SLOW cooking is to trap the heat in, and allow the food to simmer on low, for several hours.

And the ONLY reason I ever use a crock pot, is if I'm not going to be home to cook!

If I wanted to BAKE, I would use the OVEN and a cast iron pot!

I would encourage all of you, to buy a Hamilton Beach brand slow cooker instead.

Their slow cookers are still designed to work as a slow cooker.

I've also read reviews that the Cuisinart brand slow cooker has a "simmer" setting. I don't have one.

I plan to forward this article to the Rival company as soon as I post it. If they reply, I'll let you know.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

brownies in an 8 inch square pan

This seems like something silly to write an article about.

After all, aren't brownies usually made in an 8 inch square pan?

Well, maybe, but I've never personally made brownies in my 8 inch square cast iron pan.

Since I've switched to cast iron, it's always been the wedge pan*, or a cornstick pan!

*Read more about the wedge pan here.

And I've been looking for ways to use my 8 inch square pan, which I don't use much.

So, there you go: brownies.

Be sure the mix you're using, calls for an 8 inch pan. Some require a 9 x 13 pan.

The mix I'm using tonight is from Sam's, and it's Hershey's ultimate chocolate.

I will say, it's more convenient to use that pan. Spooning the brownie mix in the individual wedges or corn molds, can be a pain, although I do like the edges.

"skip a couple of steps" chicken and dumplings

I've made chicken and dumplings before.

There are lots of recipes for chicken and dumplings.

Here's another recipe I tried, that "skips a couple of steps" over my previous recipe.

It is meant for a crock pot, but can also be slow cooked in a cast iron pot* or camp oven.

*When I slow cook in a cast iron pot, I prefer to do it in the oven at 250, over using a stove burner. It cooks more evenly that way.

Season raw boneless chicken*, with poultry seasoning, onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper.

*I found that using "pre cooked" chicken makes it too dry.

Brown it in a cast iron skillet, then add to the pot.

Add 1 can cream of chicken soup, 1 can cream of celery soup.

Add equal portions of chicken broth and milk. More if you like it soupy, which I don't, so I add less.

Add your veggies. Normal veggies are carrots, onions and celery, but I used what I had in the fridge.

Those were carrots, mushrooms, and one red potato.

Some people like to add peas.

Let it simmer on low heat, until the chicken is all the way cooked. Use a meat thermometer.

Take a can of Grands biscuits and break them into small pieces.

Or you can use thawed frozen biscuits, if you don't like canned. (I don't usually).

Drop them in the pot and continue cooking until they're done. About an hour.

Season with more black pepper. Chicken and dumplings!