Woohoo! A Cast Iron Skillet

Ok, so for some reason I’ve been having this almost primordial, iron-age craving to cook in a cast iron skillet. I’m not sure from whence this feeling derives.

I started researching and decided I wanted to jump right in with a pre-seasoned variety. I decided to go with the Lodge brand, which speaks of itself as “America’s Cast Iron.” That sounds strong, eh? I did some more research and learned that this skillet was sold by various vendors, including hardware stores. I really was excited about buying a cast iron pan at a hardware store. I felt like that would add this extra sort of ‘Iron Age’ dynamic to the experience. So, yesterday, I went to Ace Hardware after work and purchased it.

I followed my trip to the hardware store with a trip to the grocery store, to buy crackers. The bag felt heavy as I carried it around with me. I think it just added to the experience.

Today I used the pan for the first time, after following the cleaning instructions on the Lodge website. I made salmon with a miso sauce. It came out great. The sauce was made with red miso, sucanat, soy sauce, Asian cooking oil (pre-flavored), and scallions.

After searing the salmon for a few minutes, I flipped it and popped the entire pan into the oven to finish the process. There was something almost decadent about using the same pan for the stovetop and oven. I had never done this before. My stainless steel pans with non-stainless steel handles have not allowed this.

Here are some of the benefits of cast-iron, from what I’ve heard:
1. Even cooking.
2. Some iron goes into your food, good if you may need some more iron in your diet.
3. Can be nearly non-stick.

It’s important to follow the special care instructions, though – it needs to be treated differently than other types of cookware.

Have you used cast iron?

Mung Bean Mania

I recently defrosted a big batch of leftover mung beans and am now searching for ways to use them.

Today I whipped up a quick ‘sweet bean’ dish of mung beans simmered with sucanat & sliced ginger. (I had added extra water to the pan as well.) I had found a similar recipe online, which inspired this, but the online version called for a lot more sugar than I was willing to use in an entree dish.

These sweet gingered beans went well with the semi-homemade cornbread (it was from a mix).

This photo makes it look like there were barely any beans/bread on the dish. That’s due to the perspective of the photo, wherein the greens have apparent dominance. In real life, it looked less like greens 80% – other food – 20% and more like greens 60% – other food – 40%. This is a good example of why we can’t always trust photographs to tell the full story.

Back to the beans: do you by chance have a recipe or way for me to use up the rest of these mung beans?

New Year’s Day & Today

In my New Year’s Day menu planning, I tried to incorporate some “lucky” foods for the new year.

I had read that leafy green foods were supposed to encourage a prosperous year; after all, they’re thin and green, very much like $.

Enter this salad.

These kale chips were tasty; although next time I’ll be sure to use less EVOO and salt in their preparation. (The paprika and Spike seasoning were nice touches, though.)

This white acorn squash (it’s actually more yellow than white) was filled with a lentil/carrot/celery mixture. Lentils are supposed to be another lucky New Year’s food.

Today, I took advantage of the sunny day to let the light shine in as I ate my breakfast.

I made these poached eggs by boiling water + a splash of ac vinegar. The eggs formed themselves together into these little packages. I have used this method of making poached eggs quite a few times. Sometimes it works better than others. Today it worked well.

New Year’s Eve

My husband and I went ice skating and there was a DJ taking song requests at the rink. I requested “Ice, Ice, Baby” and it was kind of awesome to skate around to that. Someone should use that song in their figure skating performance. Just sayin’.

After enjoying some more festivities, and more manifestations of ice (in the form of ice sculptures),

we went out to eat and I was very glad we had made reservations (the wait at this particular restaurant would have been about 1.5 hours.)

We started off sharing this hummus platter. I had to ask myself again: what is it about ramekins that makes them so fun to eat out of? Why are ramekins so awesome?

My entree was this Mediterranean Pappardelle dish. The pasta was fresh & a great consistency. The dish was a bit too spicy for my taste buds (lots of pepper perhaps?) but I still enjoyed it, especially when I was eating the small chunks of feta cheese.

For dessert, we shared this chocolate mousse. Yes to that. This was probably the most perfect dessert of 2010. And because of its rich sumptuousness, a few bites was totally satisfying.

Warm and Comforting

Grains, Greens & Beans
Seasoned Red Quinoa, Mellow Brown Rice and Beans, Baby Bok Choy
Another great meal, courtesy of my mom.

Here’s another photo from the archives of the past week. It’s a snow person I ‘crafted’. I decided to name her Belissa. Several people asked me what her name was, and all misheard me saying ‘Melissa’ at first.

Cute Little ‘Biscuit’ Cookies, Homemade Pizza

My mom is a great cook!

Yesterday she made homemade blueberry waffles that I enjoyed with some homemade applesauce.

Alongside the waffles, I ate some biscuit cookies with peanut butter.

These biscuit cookies make fun bite-sized snacks. They are also vegan, for those who are interested in vegan cookies.

I asked my mom if she could recall the recipe she created for them, so here it is:
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups oats
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup very finely chopped walnuts
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup applesauce or 1/2 cup margarine
1 cup brown sugar or 2 tbs stevia
3 tbs almond milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Mix flour, baking soda and cinnamon in one bowl.
2. In another bowl, combine margarine or applesauce, sugar or stevia, almond milk, and vanilla. Beat together.
3. Combine the contents of the two bowls into one bowl. Stir in oats and raisins.
4. Mix well.
5. Drop spoonfuls onto sheet.
6. Bake at 350 until golden brown on bottom.

Yesterday, my mom also made some pizza.


Christmas Day

On Christmas Day, we woke up early, following a late Christmas Eve celebration. We started off the day at my in-laws’ house listening to the dulcet tones of the Yule Log.

For those of you who have yet to witness the wondrousness of the Yule Log, essentially, it is an uninterrupted movie of a log burning in a fireplace, set to Christmas music. I like the Yule Log because it reminds me of Ye Olde Times. And it’s satisfying.

My in-laws have a cat who likes to play amongst wrapping paper. He was in his glory yesterday morning. I think that the wrapping paper is his equivalent of the best amusement park ever, and the most comfy bed, all rolled into one.

After gift sharing I finally became hungry for breakfast. I’m very rarely hungry first thing in the morning.

I had a not-too-sour grapefruit:

It was followed by a whole wheat bread, peanut butter and raisin open faced sandwich.

My husband and I proceeded to travel to my mom’s house. My mom had made a great spread of all sorts of goodies.
There was a savory butternut squash soup, nice & warm.

The salad was “crisp and verdant”.

The entrees were hearty & tasty: eggplant rollatini, chicken marsala, broccoli rabe, and a rice dish.

I ended the meal with some sweet and smooth apple crisp.

It was a great and relaxing day!