Non Stick Pan Nonsense

Non-stick coated “Teflon” pans make me nervous. We are told to throw them away if the surface becomes scratched to avoid getting the non-stick substance in our food (this seems wasteful to me).   Toxins may be leached out of non-stick surfaces into our food and into the air whether they are scratched or not. That is part of the reason I do not use Teflon non-stick frying pans. There is an interesting history of Teflon, etc. at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polytetrafluoroethylene. The other reason is that if you have a quality frying pan that is well seasoned not only will you have a naturally non-sticking pan, but you will either keep it your whole life or it can be recycled.

The oldest non-stick frying pan (without teflon) would be the cast iron pan. Cast iron was so valuable and durable historically in the kitchen that old time homemakers often passed them on to their children. Cast iron pans have excellent heat retention, can add iron to your food (great if you are anemic) and when well seasoned are non-stick.

Though I have some cast iron I primarily use Calphalon frying pans in my home. My pans are about 9 years old. I am unsure whether they are the same as what is on the market today, and I am not advertising Calphalon necessarily. What I enjoy about my pans is that they are receptive to seasoning.

Large Seasoned Frying Pan

Large Seasoned Frying Pan

This large pan I use to make quesadillas and grilled cheese and items of that nature. I no longer need to add any oil to this pan when cooking low-protein foods. It has darkened into a perfectly smooth surface. I never run this pan or the little pan I use for eggs through the dishwasher. I hand wash these and scrub sparingly. Though I seasoned them when I bought them, time has seasoned them better.  Seasoning can be reached through applying shortening or lard to a pan and heating it. It may take a few seasonings to reach non-stick.   For me it took carefully cooking in the pan for awhile. Then I baby the pans, only lightly scrubbing so as to not remove that precious layer. For more detailed instructions for seasoning various kinds of pans click here: http://www.webstaurantstore.com/guide/562/pan-seasoning.html

Take note: that if you do burn something in your seasoned pan, you will have to scrub it thoroughly and then reseason.

Lastly, how you cook in your pan also determines how well your seasoned pans work. Overheating or burning something in your pan will cause problems on the slickest surface. When cooking protein’s like fish, meat or eggs it is best to heat your pan first, add a little cooking fat like olive oil or coconut oil and make sure that it is hot, usually on a medium heat before adding eggs or meat.  Cold dry pans cause sticking. In other words, you’re best friend in keeping your pans in prime condition and your food at it’s yummiest is patience.

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Tips for Hard Boiling Farm Fresh Eggs

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Have you ever tried to hard boil an egg from your very own chicken and had it turn out nearly impossible to peel?  Bits of egg came away with the peel and the thing ended up looking mutilated.

Method 1.  Wait:  The reason farm eggs are hard to boil and peel is because they are so fresh!  If you keep your eggs in the refrigerator for 2 weeks and then boil for 10 minutes, they should peel easily.  This is a great solution for those eggs of questionable age in mid-summer when the girls are laying so quickly that it’s hard to keep up your egg consumption.  If a batch of eggs starts to seem a little older, then boil them for snacking. 

This leads to the question… why are grocery store eggs usually so easy to boil and peel?   The logical answer is that they are already older.  Hmmmmmmm.

Method 2.  Steam:  Let’s say you don’t have time to age your eggs.  You need boiled eggs now!!  Instead of boiling, put them in a steamer.  When you get a good steam going turn the timer to 20 minutes.  You’re eggs should peel beautifully.

Method 3:  Baking Soda:   Sprinkle baking soda in your cold water and add eggs.  Bring to a boil for ten minutes.  Bon appetit!

Monday is Baking Day

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Inspired by Ma (Caroline) Ingalls I have decided that Monday will be Baking Day.  My budget is currently squeezed and after analyzing my expenses I’ve come to the conclusion that the area in which I can squeeze even more is the food budget.  I have always cooked dinner, but I haven’t always made everything from scratch.  The advantages to baking or cooking from scratch are that you know exactly what ingredients are in your food.  You do not need to worry about preservatives and questionable things like partially hydrogenated oils.  You can eliminate the worry of pesticides and genetically modified foods by using organic ingredients as well.

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Sometimes I wish I had as many days as Ma Ingalls had to work around the house.  Here is what her week looked like after she had done the daily chores:

“Wash on Monday,

Iron on Tuesday,

Mend on Wednesday,

Churn on Thursday,

Clean on Friday,

Bake on Saturday,

Rest on Sunday.”

I believe that dedicating a day to baking is the most efficient way to do time intensive cooking.  If I tackle these food projects individually throughout the week then each time I will need to get all the ingredients and cooking implements out.  I will also need to wash everything multiple times.   But if I’m cooking bread and then making pizza dough, my mixer doesn’t really need much washing in between uses.   Also, while the oven is heated I can bake multiple things so long as they are at compatible temperatures.  The only drawbacks I really experience is that I wish I had 4 loaf pans instead of 2.  Occasionally the oven is full, and I need to wait for one thing to finish while I start something else, but I can always keep up on the dishes while I’m waiting.

While I have been endeavoring to do Baking Day for a while, each week I have been adding new items to my repertoire.  Not all recipes are worthy of sharing yet, but that’s alright because I am still learning how to make raviolis and bagels and some items that take a certain level of trial and error.

Here is last Monday’s “baking”:

2 loaves of Wheat Bread: One side note about the bread.  I have a new mill!! So I ground my required 2 cups of wheat flower, and I used organic flour for the rest.  I think they turned out nicely.  I enjoy this bread best fresh and one loaf is used for dinner on Monday night while it’s still hot.

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2 loaves Zucchini Bread:  Hey, you’ve gotta love zucchini bread in March.  I keep 2 cup portions in the freezer that are left over from the inevitable summer bumper crop.  The kids often have a slice for breakfast.

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Ravioli:  This was the first time I made ravioli….or any pasta actually.  So maybe I should have started with an egg noodle (which I will try next Monday) but I had some ingredients in the fridge that needed to be used up that I thought would be yummy in a ravioli.  I don’t like to have anything go to waste and that goal often dictates my recipes when allowable.  I also used hand ground wheat for this recipe as well as our fresh eggs.  These have been frozen for use on a night when there isn’t much time to cook.

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Pizza Dough:  I just made the dough and put it in the refrigerator to be used another night instead of having frozen pizzas.  We did end up eating this on Tuesday.  I didn’t have pepperoni or anything so I got creative with the meat.  Thin sliced ham and bacon crumbles turned out great on this pizza.  I also used a mix of cheeses and my homemade marinara sauce.  Yum!

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Marinara:  See my Marinara Mash-up posting for details and recipe.  I used this marinara with Monday’s dinner and bread.  Then it was my base sauce for our Tuesday pizza.  Then I still had some leftover and had some with pasta for lunch on Wednesday.

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Cookies: At this point in my Monday baking goal I was running out of time!!  So I did enlist my son to make the chocolate chip cookies for treats throughout the week.  He made them all himself.   (This is another goal of mine which is to ensure that my children can bake and cook when they leave my household.  Home economics aren’t taught in schools anymore).  The biggest trick with cookies is to keep the kids and husband from gorging on them the first day.

What else: Some other food items that come up on baking day, but didn’t happen this week: Bagels, granola and cheesy breads.  Things I would like to learn for baking day: Cereal, crackers, and other pastas.  Do you have go-to make in advance meals that you want to share, or something I should include on my Baking Day?

Marinara Mash-up Recipe

Tonight dinner was fresh baked bread, broccoli, and chicken smothered in home-made marinara with cheese.  My family always asks about the sauce.  What kind of sauce is this?  Did you make it?  In other words… is it store bought?  I think the reason they have such a hard time nailing down my signature marinara sauce taste is because it is different every time I make it.

Here was tonight’s recipe:

1 jar whole tomatoes

2 cloves elephant garlic

3 small sweet peppers

8 leaves spinach

A couple pinches of my home dried herbs (oregano, savory, thyme and rosemary)

A dash of salt, sugar and olive oil

All whirled through the food processor and then simmered for half an hour.

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My frugal ingredients from the garden

The tomatoes, garlic, and herbs are really all this sauce needs (all of which are items I had laid up for the winter) but I like to use up fresh ingredients from the fridge in this recipe, or excess produce in the summertime.  Marinara can be a true waste not, want not adventure.  Here are some of my other favorite marinara add-ins:  carrots, peppers, basil, greens like spinach or chard, summer squashes, onions and all garlic varieties, capers, olives and wine (substitute wine for sugar), and of course… meat.  You may grate or food-process any of these items to add flavor and nutrients (your kids will have no idea) to your dinner.  You may cook your ingredients anywhere from ten minutes (I do min. 10 minutes on home canned tomatoes…. just in case) at a brisk simmer for a fresh tasting distinct sauce to a slow-cook of several hours for a rich and densely melded marinara sauce.

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Quick Cook Marinara

No Recipe?  Now, we’re Cooking.