Tag Archives: cast iron skillet

Tasty Tidbits

18 Jul

Life is changing in ways we couldn’t have imagined just a few months ago and can be somewhat confusing at times. News can saturate us with negativism, leadership is questionable at times, and we cannot move about out lives like we once could. Where is the joy in these times of “quarantine projects” and staying home? For me, even if it is just for my small quarantine crew, it is cooking

Not in the labor of it per se-although I don’t mind it most days. It is the coming together over food that lifts my spirit and feeds my soul. It is sitting at the table eating, chatting, laughing, sharing, listening, and ultimately, connecting.

These days, I tend toward more simple but savory dishes when I set my mind to cooking. Let’s look at two tantalizing tasty treats that are not time consuming. One is simply assembling, the other involves a bit of mixing and cooking.

First, lets go super easy.

For a quick refreshing summer appetizer with minimal ingredients and a few minutes of time, you will have a savory summer delicacy sure to please. This appetizer is in the category of “assemble and serve”. Get these simple ingredients together:

  • Cherry or grape tomateos
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into bite size pieces
  • Your favorite vinaigrette or balsamic reduction
  • toothpicks (the frilly fancy kind if you have ’em)

Take a toothpick, and thread a tomato, basil leaf, and piece of mozzarella cheese. Drizzle with vinaigrette, balsamic reduction, or whatever strikes your fancy. Lay them on a fun pretty little plate or dish. Next, pour a refreshing chilled cocktail and enjoy this fun delectable tidbit.

My favorite “assemble and serve” summer appetizer.

Want something a little more creamy? Got a little more time? Then we can go the dip route. A hot rich dip. Using basic pantry and fridge staples so no fuss. Don’t want to heat up the kitchen? Me either. That is why I grill my savory summer dip in my cast iron skillet. Let’s get some basics together and get started.

You will need:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 can of 8-10 count artichoke hearts
  • I can of diced green chilis
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup fresh parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 t. chopped garlic (substitute with garlic powder if necessary)
  • Salt and red pepper flakes

Just a couple of staples and an easy and savory dip is at your fingertips.

Take the cream cheese out of the fridge about 20 minutes before mixing this up. It needs to soften. Then a can opener, a knife, a large mixing bowl, a rubber spatula and a cutting board is all we need to get this going.

Squeeze the excess liquid from the artichokes and give them a rough chop.

Before mixing this up, go out and get your grill hot. Then give it a good cleaning with your wire brush. Back in the kitchen get your cast iron skillet out. Mix everything together in a bowl but only use half of the cheese. No need to drain the green chilis-just toss the whole can in and keep mixing. When it is all nice and smooth put your dip into your cast iron skillet. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the top.

Put your dip into an 8 or 10 inch cast iron skillet.

Cover this with foil and take it out to the grill. Turn the heat to medium and place this on the grill. Close the lid and let it get to work.

Cover your dip with foil and put it on the grill.

After about 10 minutes covered remove the foil. This dip is well on its way to bubbly deliciousness! Let this hang out on the grill for another 15 minutes.

And just like that your dip is done. A nice brown crust along the edge and hot all the way through. Perfecto!

Get your chips out. This is ready! Put a trivet out, line up the chips, and get ready to dip into this…well… dip! It’ll be hot and it needs a few minutes to cool down a bit. On the plus side, your hot oven isn’t competing with your air-conditioning in summer mode. Enjoy this with some refreshing summer iced tea or perhaps an ice cold beer.

Grilled Summer Artichoke Dip

8 ounces cream cheese
1 can of 8-10 count artichoke hearts
I can of diced green chilis
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup fresh parmesan cheese
1/2 t. chopped garlic (substitute with garlic powder if necessary)
Salt, red pepper flakes, black pepper (to taste)

About 20 minutes before mixing your dip, take your cream cheese out of the fridge, unwrap it, and place it in a mixing bowl. It needs to soften a bit before assembling the dip. Drain artichoke can and squeeze out additional liquid from the hearts. Roughly chop and put into mixing bowl. Add the sour cream, dices green chilis (undrained) and 1/2 of the parmesan cheese. Mix to incorporate. Add the garlic, salt and pepper. Mix well.

Now get the grill going. If using a gas grill, put on medium heat to preheat. Back inside, take out your cast iron skillet and put the dip into it. Spread to even the dip throughout. Add the rest of the parmesan cheese on top. Cover loosely with foil.

Now that the grill is preheated, turn of half of the grill. Place the dip on the heated side. Close lid for 10 minutes. Remove foil and continue to cook until hot and bubbly, about 15-20 minutes. Bon appetite!

Basics

12 Feb

If you don’t have one, run out and get one. What in the world am I talking about? A cast iron skillet. It is a kitchen must have. A basic. But don’t go to an expensive kitchen store to get one. Go to your local hardware store. You will find the best brand at your good old hardware store-Lodge.

As I love to cook, I have a couple cast iron skillets. One  of my favorites has ridges to sear a lovely tenderloin, grill some delicious hamburgers. or make a creamy warm panini. There are a zillion ways to use your cast iron skillet. If you keep it seasoned, it will also become something you can hand down through the generations. Here is one of my well seasoned cast iron skillets.

IMG_1256

 

How do you season it you ask? It is easy. But remember, you need to continue to season your cast iron skillet every so often. Here are some tips to season your skillet:

  • Wash the cookware with hot, soapy water.
  • Rinse and dry completely.
  • Apply melted solid vegetable shortening (or cooking oil of your choice) to the cookware inside and out. Too much oil will result in a sticky finish so keep your application thin.
  • Set oven temperature to 350 – 400 degrees F.
  • Place cookware upside down on the top rack of the oven to prevent pooling.
  • Bake the cookware for at least one hour. After the hour, turn the oven off and let the cookware cool in the oven.
  • Store the cookware uncovered
  • Repeat as necessary
  • When I use and wash my skillet, I dry it not with a towel but over low heat on a burner.

I recently used this skillet to sear some zucchini for dinner. I simply split the zucchini lengthwise, and sprinkled it with salt, pepper, and olive oil. Next, I got my cast iron skillet good and hot on the stove. Then I seared the zucchini halves with the flesh side down first.

Grilled zucchini in my (very inexpensive) cast iron grill pan.  It was sizzling and searing.  Yum! I seared it much like a piece of meat. After searing one side, I turned it over and seared the second side. I flipped the fleshy side of the zucchini up and put a little freshly served parmesan on top. Ooh! So yummy!

I flipped the fleshy side of the zucchini up and put a little freshly served parmesan on top.  Ooh!  So good!

This recipe is a keeper.  It was super quick, hardly any ingredients, and so very tasty!  It was beautiful on the plate as well.  So look for variety not only in your food, but in ways to prepare them.

 

 

 

Zucchini-Grilled

30 Mar

I really like vegetables. Even more than fruit.  Eating seasonally and taking advantage of farm fresh vegetables all year long not only provides great flavor and variety, but eating seasonally is budget friendly. My kids and I are adventurous when it comes to food, so I am challenged to find new ways to cook veggies.

Since it is winter, root vegetables have been the staple lately.  Luckily, my family enjoys carrots, potatoes, squash,beets…all the delicious colorful winter vegetables.  Did I say all?  Um, I meant most.  My kids aren’t crazy about one winter vegetable…brussel sprouts.

My kids tend to delight in normal kid stuff like, well, farts.  Brussel sprouts, closely related to cabbage, are notoriously gas producing.  Shouldn’t that be my number one selling point in adding brussel sprouts to our dinner repertoire?  I mean, what could be more fun than that for my kids….seriously.  With their competitive nature, I see this as a win win food offering, if you catch my drift (waft, hang time…).

And that’s how I tried to sell it to my kids. They know enough to know what a cruciferous vegetable is, and what that produces.  Slow roasted fresh brussel sprouts gently browning in the oven smell, well, cabbage like.  Rats.  That wasn’t going to sell my kids on these delicious sprouts.  Of course my mouth is watering, but the kids are scrunching their nose up.  So in the interest of family peace, I now reserve brussel spouts for when I dine at a restaurant.   So I took the sprouts out of the family dinner rotation, but continue on a quest for a fresh seasonal change.

Still wanting variety, I reverted back to another inexpensive vegetable…zucchini.  I like to roast these with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, with perhaps a few shreds of fresh parmesan.  But on this particular night, I was pinched for time and looking for a quick veggie option.  I still used zucchini, but took it in a super quick and easy direction.

Splitting the zucchini down the middle, I then pulled my cast iron grill pan out and heated it up.  I drizzled with zucchini with olive oil, and onto the grill pan it went.  I seared it much like a piece of meat, not quite knowing how it would end up.   After searing one side, I turned it over and seared the second side.  I then put a bit of fresh parmesan cheese on top.  The result was fantastic.

Grilled zucchini in my (very inexpensive) cast iron grill pan.  It was sizzling and searing.  Yum!

Grilled zucchini in my (very inexpensive) cast iron grill pan. It was sizzling and searing. Yum!

I flipped the fleshy side of the zucchini up and put a little freshly served parmesan on top.  Ooh!  So good!

I flipped the fleshy side of the zucchini up and put a little freshly served parmesan on top. Ooh! So good!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a keeper.  It was super quick, hardly any ingredients, and oh so tasty!  It was beautiful on the plate as well.  So look for variety not only in your food, but in ways to prepare them.

Oh, and  you may want to take a page out of my book and order your brussel sprouts out at your favorite place Saturday night!

 

 

Tale of a Saturday morning

18 Mar

Today is just a regular Saturday.  I got up, did a load of laundry, and made a big lunch for my son heading out to a long day of life guarding class.  While I was doing this, I nibbled on a bagel.  Trying to shake the long week off, I head to the gym for  a workout with Denis.

At the gym, we hopped on some treadmills for a good 40 minute run.  Then we headed over to the free weights for a little strength training.  Such a great start to the weekend!  We zipped on back home, and were surprised that the workout didn’t leave us super hungry.  Peculiar, I thought, as we usually have a pretty healthy appetite!  But knowing post workout major food craving comes on fast and strong, I decided to make something when we got home anyway.  Eating some protein after a workout is important.  Since it was still morning, I thought eggs would work for the post workout nibbler.  And what better way to eat eggs than a big honkin frittata?  (Okay, maybe deviled eggs, but that’s a story for another day!). There were 2 goals here-a great post workout dish plus plenty of leftovers for my teenagers!

I went the fridge and pulled out 1/2 dozen eggs.  Then I started digging.  My frittata would be totally dependent on what was on hand.  As Denis would say, I am the best refrigerator cook he knows.  I can pull any meal together with the odds and ends in my kitchen.  I dug into the pantry, the freezer, and the fridge.  Here is what I pulled out:

4 pieces of uncooked leftover bacon

1/4 bag leftover frozen hash brown style potatoes

1/2 an onion

1 package frozen chopped spinach

jar of roasted red peppers

6 eggs

skim milk

A chunk of sharp cheddar cheese

First, I got my trusty ol’ cast iron skillet out.  Then I turned the oven to 450 to preheat.  Next, I cut the left over bacon into small pieces  and tossed it into the skillet, which was on medium high heat.  That started sizzling, and I cracked the eggs into a mixing bowl.  To cut down on the fat, I used 4 whole eggs and 2 with the whites only.  I whipped those while the bacon was cooking, and added about 3/4 cup skim milk.  I let that sit.  While I was working on that, Denis chopped 1/2 the  onion, 1/2 the jar of roasted red peppers, and shredded about 1/2 cup of the cheese.

When the bacon was done, I scooped it out of the skillet and put it on some paper towels to soak up the grease.   I tossed the chopped onion and the potatoes into the still hot skillet.  That started cooking.  I cooked it, stirring twice, until the onions were translucent  and the potatoes soft, about 4-5 minutes.  While that was cooking, I put the package of frozen spinach in the microwave to thaw, then squeezed it dry.  After the onion and potatoes were cooked, in went the red peppers and spinach.  I gave everything a good solid stir and let it heat through.

After about 2 minutes I gently poured the egg mixture into the pan.  I gave the whole thing a good stir.   Only one.  That was it.  The heat was still medium high, and I left the skillet on the heat until the eggs started to set, about 4 minutes.  I sprinkled the cheese on top, then popped it into the oven for 10 minutes.  I toasted some whole wheat bread to accompany the frittata.  It was a yummy dish, I used up some leftovers, and it was ready in a snap.  With all the vegetables I added, it was also packed with nutrients.

So what is in your pantry, your fridge, your freezer?  Have some fun, get creative, and whip up something fun!