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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Baked dinner!

OK, it's not really called "baked dinner."  But, it was baked, and it was dinner!

I went to a friend's house for dinner recently, and liked it so much that I copied what she did the next day.

She got all her recipe ideas from pinterest.  Which I have not yet become involved with.

The main course was baked shrimp:

Lay out pieces of uncooked shrimp on a cast iron pizza pan. Pour on some olive oil, and add rosemary, oregano, tarragon and thyme.  Into the oven at 350.

The first side dish was smashed red potatoes:

Boil red potatoes, whole.  After boiling, smash them with a potato masher so they're flat.  Lay them out in a cast iron pan.  Pour on some olive oil, add a little bit of grated white cheese*, and add rosemary, oregano, tarragon, and thyme.

*White cheese could be any white cheese you like, whether it's mozzarella, parmesan, provolone, or white american.

Into the oven at 350 at the same time you're baking the shrimp.

Depending on how much room you have in your oven, you may need to bake the second side dish separately:

Slice some red tomatoes.  Lay out on a cast iron pan.  Add a slice of provolone (or any white cheese).  Pour on some olive oil, and add rosemary, oregano, tarragon, and thyme.

This is a very easy and VERY GOOD dinner!

And nothing is better for baked dinner, than cast iron.

Bacon is not politically correct?

First, let me say that there are many different ways to "season" cast iron, in order to make it non-stick.

In fact, there are as many different ways to season cast iron, as there are people who use cast iron.

And while everyone has their own preferred method, it's also a well known fact that some methods are more effective than others.

One quick, easy, tried and true method to seasoning your cast iron pan, is to fry bacon in the pan a few times.  

What I do is, after frying the bacon, put the pan in the oven at 250 degrees for an hour or two; The bacon grease "bakes into" the pan and makes a great non-stick surface.

Since this is my preferred (and very effective) method, that's the one I usually suggest.

Well yesterday I came to find out, bacon is not politically correct!

Bacon is a (gasp!) animal product, you see.  

And bacon has (gasp!) fat in it, you see.

You think I'm joking?  This is what I was told:  

"We are receiving complaints on your referencing bacon for the remedy to many problems.  Many folks on our site are vegetarians, or do not use bacon or other animal fat for any of their cooking needs."

Well for pete's sake!  You don't use olive oil to season a cast iron pan!

Just because the celebrity chefs on TV use extra virgin olive oil in every recipe, and just because extra virgin olive oil is indeed VERY good to cook with, doesn't mean it's any good for seasoning cast iron!

In all seriousness, animal based fats are much more effective for seasoning cast iron, than vegetable based oils.

If you do not use pork for religious reasons, use butter.

If you don't want to handle fat because it's messy, use butter (or lard, which can be purchased on the bakery aisle).

If you are a vegetarian, use butter.  

If you are vegan, coconut oil, or peanut oil, are the best "non animal" products to use.

I simply cannot, with a clear conscience, suggest olive oil, or vegetable oil, as an effective seasoning agent for cast iron -- no matter how popular, trendy, or politically correct it is.

Olive oil is wonderful to cook with, but because it has a low smoking point, it cannot get hot enough to effectively season cast iron.

Vegetable oil, when used for seasoning cast iron, leaves a very sticky residue that must be removed before the pan can be used again.

Here's what I think is going on:

Cast iron is much more than a cookware:  It's a lifestyle.

Vegetarians and vegans traditionally have not used cast iron.  

After all, there's little point to using cast iron to make steamed vegetables; All you need for that, is a plastic bowl and a microwave.

Young urban professionals traditionally have not used cast iron, because they are obsessed with dieting, and want to copy the celebrity chefs they watch on TV.

Lodge wants to market their product to populations that traditionally have not used cast iron.

Suggesting bacon is not "trendy"; It puts off people who are obsessed with dieting and refuse to use animal products.

So, suggesting bacon is contrary to their current marketing efforts.  

Suggesting olive oil "looks better", and makes their product more appealing to those people.

It's like trying to market leather gun holsters to residents of New York City; You wouldn't dare suggest it be used to hold your gun, but rather to hold your cell phone.

And you wouldn't dare suggest conditioning it with saddle soap-- how countrified!  

This blog is not, has never been intended to be, and never will be, an advertising or marketing blog.

I only endorse Lodge products on my blog because they are indeed the best quality cast iron currently in production.

Believe me, it's not because they are my friends-- in fact, I'm sure they would love to see me go away.

So again I say, the fastest and easiest way to season your pans, is to fry bacon in them, and then stick them in the oven for an hour at 250.

It's obviously not "popular", but then again, neither am I.

Monday, March 18, 2013

not only have I HAD boiled dinner, I've MADE boiled dinner!

So I decided that I wanted to try "boiled dinner", thinking that I'd never tried it before.

Until I did a search for the recipe.  And I discovered that not only have I HAD boiled dinner before, I've MADE boiled dinner before!

It's corned beef and cabbage.  And I could have sworn I've posted the recipe on this blog before, but I can't find it.

I just always thought it was corned beef and cabbage.  I figured boiled dinner was something different.

You can use a camp oven, crock pot, or a cast iron pot in the oven or on the stove.

Take corned beef brisket, put it in the pot with the seasoning packet it comes with, and add beef broth.  I also add chopped onions and minced garlic.

Simmer until done.

Remove the corned beef, but leave the liquid in the pot.  

Add your cabbage, RED potatoes, and carrots.  Add some black pepper.

The recipe doesn't call for onion powder and garlic powder, but I add some anyway.

Simmer in the liquid until done.

Then add the corned beef back in with the vegetables.

Serve with mustard and malt vinegar.

Why not cook them all together?

Well, first of all, it wouldn't all fit in the pot at once.

Second of all, it historically was not considered "proper" to cook the veggies and the meat in the same pot.

To save time, you can use two separate pots; Just have some extra beef broth to use in the veggie pot.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Whoops I made a mistake! I was talking about my birthday cake!

Last year I made my first cake, and it was my own birthday cake.

That was using a cake mix.  This year I made my first "from scratch" cake, and it was also my birthday cake.

I tell you what:  While I was making the cake, I was lamenting that it was more effort to make a cake from scratch, and that from then on, I would use a mix.

Until I actually tried the cake.  And it was incredible!  It was the best cake I ever had!

The actual recipe I used was to the letter from the smitten kitchen website.

Instead of using two round cake pans and making it into layers, I just baked it all in a 12 inch cast iron skillet.

I'll retype the ingredients and method here:

4 cups plus 2 tablespoons of CAKE flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp table salt
2 sticks softened butter
2 cups sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract (I actually used 3)
4 large eggs at room temperature
2 cups buttermilk

On the ingredients:  

1.  Yes, I used cake flour.  Cake flour is flour specially formulated for cake.  A few friends told me that all purpose flour would have been fine.  I'm sure it would have been, but I used cake flour, and the results were amazing.

2.  Yes, I used pure vanilla.  A few friends also told me that imitation would have been fine, but it's my birthday; I used pure vanilla!  I added an extra teaspoon to give it more zing.

3.  Be sure you take the butter and eggs out of the refrigerator for about an hour before you start making the cake.  I didn't do this, so I was delayed an hour because the butter had to be softened and the eggs had to be room temperature.

4.  Absolutely do not substitute self rising flour.  I realize that self rising flour is flour with baking powder and salt already in it, but this is cake, not biscuits, pancakes or cornbread!  

Now for the method:

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Use a cake mixer!  It will make the job a lot easier!

In a separate bowl, beat butter and sugar until fluffy, then beat in the vanilla.  Add eggs one at a time and continue to beat.  Then beat in the buttermilk.

Then add the flour mixture in small amounts until it's all mixed.

I poured it all in the cast iron skillet and baked at 350 degrees until done.

The recipe also calls for a scratch made frosting, but I used store bought.

pork tenderloin roast in a pot

This is actually a crock pot recipe, but can be slow cooked in a cast iron pot, in the oven or over coals.

First, brown the pork roast on all sides.

Then, in the pot, season with salt and pepper, onion powder and garlic powder, rosemary.

Then throw in some applesauce, dijon mustard, and honey.

Roast in the pot until the pork roast is done, as indicated by a meat thermometer.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Bacon Crispy Bake chicken

Tonight I made baked chicken using JD's Bacon Crispy Bake.

It's essentially, bacon flavored shake and bake.  If your grocery store doesn't carry it, you can order it online.

It doesn't come with a shaking bag, so you have to use a ziploc bag.

Just coat the pieces of chicken in the bag with the seasoning, lay the pieces on a cast iron pan, and bake at 350 until done.

You could make your own, with plain bread crumbs and bacon salt.  Or perhaps bacon bits.

Friday, March 1, 2013

tried to roast a boneless ham

When I roasted this bone in ham for Christmas, it was a very delicious ham!

So I decided to try the exact same recipe on a boneless ham.

The recipe was a boneless ham, a can of pineapple with the juice, some brown sugar, some dry mustard and some ground cloves.

Unfortunately, the same recipe on a boneless ham, wasn't anywhere near as good.

Roasting a bone-in ham had the advantage of both the bone and some fat, which enhanced its flavor.

I will definitely be using a bone-in ham from now on.  It's not only much cheaper per pound, but much better!