My mother used to tease me when I was younger about being a hopeless romantic.  From the time I can remember ever being described by her to someone she would say I wanted to believe only in the good side of things.  She called that being naïve.   I felt like this wasn’t meant to be a compliment.  Whatever it was, I have grown to be all right with this – it is who I am and I am comfortable in my skin.  Try that I might, I cannot nor do I want to view the ugly side of life.  Perhaps that is why Laura Ingalls Wilder and her books about living on the prairie have always appealed to me.

When I first read these books in elementary school they made me feel good about life in a simple way.  My favorite make-believe play (outside of playing school with Julie, Cindy and Lisa) was with a school friend, Estelle Moundfield.  I have no idea where Estelle is now but we had such fun together.  You see, she lived on a large piece of land in what was the nearest to being a farmhouse of any of my friends.  Estelle even had a barn so we would play for hours in the hayloft.  I would be Laura and she would be Mary.  It was great fun until one day I watched nature in real-time when Estelle’s cat leapt in the air and caught a bird flying by.  So long little bird.  Ugh!  That was enough of the loft for a while…

Life on the prairie

Anyway, my point to this is that my inner child has always been a little bit Laura Ingalls on the prairie.  I love everything about the idealistic side of how she and her family lived.  Now here I am in the big state of Illinois right smack dab living on the prairie.  I am a good case in point for intention bringing to fruition what you want to achieve!

Pancakes cooking on the stove

Pancakes cooking on the stove

Having read “The Little House” series dozens and dozens of times I know that the one pan Ma always used was an iron skillet.  I’m thinking that might be why it is my all-time fave cooking utensil for my kitchen.  I am guessing my skillet is over thirty-five years old or rather in iron skillet lingo, thirty-five years “well seasoned”.  I cook everything imaginable in my cast iron skillet each and every day.  I use it on the stove and in the oven.  I use it for everything from making my Sunday morning pancakes I wrote about in my post, Homemade Pancakes – What Could Be Better?  to stir-fry to oven baked chicken potpie and cobblers like the recipe in my post, Quick Summer Fruit Cobbler.

The benefits of using cast iron cookware

Did you know that cast iron cookware has been around since 513 BC?  Did you know that the Chinese first introduced it?  I figure that for most of you readers, acting like you live on the prairie isn’t a reason to own and use cast iron cookware.  So, here is a list of reasons why if you don’t already own and use any you will want to now:

  • Cast iron is virtually indestructible.
  • Cast iron is an excellent heat conductor, retaining heat well and distributing it evenly over the cooking surface.
  • Cast iron is a long lasting choice and can be reused irrespective of its age.
  • Most seasoned cooks believe that food has better flavor when cooked in cast iron than other cookware choices.
  • Cast iron is the healthiest option for cooking, as it requires little or no oil at all.
  • Cast iron is low on maintenance and can be cleaned using dishwashing soap, hot water and old-fashioned elbow grease.
  • Cast iron is environmentally friendly unlike non-stick cookware that releases toxic fumes into the air.
  • Best of all ~ cooking in cast iron has tremendous health benefits.  One of the biggest health benefits is cast iron’s ability to increase the source of iron in the food that is cooked in it which then increases the iron you absorb in your diet.

Using cast iron properly

Stuffed Peppers hot out of the oven

Stuffed Peppers hot out of the oven

In a previous blog post, Creating Homespace Beauty With Family Treasures, I wrote about the clearing and dividing of our mother’s home we six siblings did after we moved her into Richfield, an Assisted Living Facility for Alzheimer’s care.  As I wrote in the post, the six of us very carefully and methodically thought through dividing Mom’s furnishings and each of us six sibs chose items we personally treasured.  Most of what I chose I then passed on to my children.  All three of my kids are stellar cooks.  We all routinely text each other photos of our latest beautiful meals we have cooked.  But, Jimmy (my baby) has a deep love of all things happening in the kitchen and so I gave him one of my mother’s cast iron skillets I got.  Well seasoned, it is ready for whatever Jimmy has in mind to prepare!

“Seasoning” is a must so be sure to do this when you purchase any new cast iron.  For those of you new to the world of cast iron cookware, here are a few tips on how to season your pieces:

  • Clean your new cookware thoroughly with dish soap, hot water and a plastic brush.
  • Rinse and dry the utensil completely.
  • Apply a thin, even coat of vegetable oil to the surface of the utensil.
  • In a pre-heated oven of approximately 300 – 400 degrees, place the utensil upside down on the oven’s top rack.  (Put some aluminum foil under the utensil to catch any oil that might spill.)
  • Bake the utensil for one hour and then allow it to cool in the oven.

Enjoy the art of cooking with cast iron.  In this modern world we live in with new gadgets and gizmos developed every day and advertised as the “latest and greatest”, do yourself a favor and return to cooking the way your ancestors did.  You and the environment will be glad you did!

To cast iron cooking…

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I don’t know about most of you but I associate certain foods with certain seasons.  This is not just for the obvious reason that fruits and vegetables have specific growing seasons.  Rather, food for me has memories and feelings associated with it specific to different times of the year.

For example, summer for me includes daily trips to the local Farmers’ Market for the makings of a summertime feast.  (Unless it comes from my own garden!) Give me a meal of mouth-watering slices of watermelon, silver queen corn, tomatoes fresh off the vine topped off with freshly made iced tea and cobbler and I’m a happy camper.  (You can find my recipe for cobbler on my post, Quick Summer Fruit Cobbler.) And, what summer doesn’t include outdoor barbeques?  Nothing beats the aroma wafting through the air of something on the backyard grill.  It signals summer for me just as much as the smell of freshly cut grass does.

For many of us, the autumn chill signals football and tailgating as Chef Ryan writes in his post, Tailgating- A Great American Tradition.  For me, the changing season signals pancakes.

The smell of pancakes cooking on a cool autumn morning does much the same thing for me as smelling a backyard grill in the heat of the summer.  For me, pancakes are a way to feel warm and cozy as the weather changes.

The tradition in my home is to have pancakes every Sunday morning.  It is something both David and I look forward to as it is really the only breakfast of the week that we actually sit down and enjoy together – the rest are eaten on the run or are eaten quickly to merely fortify our bodies and start the day.  Sunday morning pancakes are a total feel good experience for us!

Years ago I thumbed my nose at pancake mix in any pre-made form.  Seriously, what could be better than homemade pancakes?  I can whip up a batch in less than ten minutes using all organic ingredients that are better than any out of a box, can or bag. Last Sunday morning when David and I sat down to eat he looked at me and said, “Pancakes together on Sunday morning is my favorite time of the weekend”.   My David loves food but, this Sunday morning ritual is what he looks forward to as much as the yummy meal!

How to prepare pancake batter

Getting started

I do have one secret step in making my pancakes that I want to share.  It is a step that in my view absolutely, positively makes the lightest and fluffiest pancakes ever.  I witnessed this step years ago while I was in junior high school.  I had a friend whose mom was Swedish and so every Saturday morning she made Swedish Pancakes.  I was always thrilled to be invited to Laurie’s house, as I loved these pancakes.  I noticed one day that Laurie’s mom let the batter sit on the counter for a long time untouched.  Nosy me, I observed this and watched the batter actually rise up with tiny bubbles forming on the surface.  (I later realized this is what crepe recipes call for you to do.)  Once I began to make pancakes myself, albeit the traditional kind, I did this as well.  I soon learned that perfect pancakes are the result of letting the batter sit untouched for about 45 minutes.  So, every Sunday morning after I have started brewing a pot of coffee I make the pancake batter and let it sit.  David and I enjoy our mugs of coffee, play scrabble on our IPad and wait for breakfast.  This Sunday morning ritual of relaxing while the pancake batter rises gives us both warm fuzzies!

Here’s my recipe:

1 ½ c. flour                    1 egg, beaten

2 T. sugar                       1 ½ c. milk

3 t. baking powder      3 T. butter, melted

1 t. salt

Cooking homemade pancakes in an iron skillet

Cooking in the iron skillet

Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Combine in a separate bowl egg and milk; blend well.  Add egg mixture and melted butter to the dry ingredients until the batter is stirred.  Be sure to leave it lumpy.  Let sit for 45 min. to an hour.  Cook preferably on a griddle or cast iron skillet.

Get creative:

Add any fresh berries or fruits you want.  You can also add nuts such as pecans or spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg.

Enjoy!

Best homemade pancakes

Mmm, Mmm good

Everything begins in the home.  How you live in your home, the way you interact with others in your home, the traditions and rituals in your home and the foods you eat in your home all evoke feelings in you.  Each part of the goings on in your space is vital to your essence.  Be cognizant of the importance of this!

Food does more than nourish our bodies. It nourishes our hearts and souls as well.

To living and loving life…

I know Chef Ryan is the resident foodie on this blog but every once in a while I feel compelled to share with you one of my own favorite food recipes that for me adds to making a wonderful recipe for life!  Look for Chef Ryan again soon!

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