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!
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
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…