The Pots and Pans!

My boyfriend and I live a little while apart from each other and on the way there is a big red barn with lots of…well really lots of junk out front. It’s an antique store out in the middle of the country, and that is waaaay up my alley. My boyfriend and I went last weekend to do some furniture shopping, mostly browse, but we were blown away with the quality of the stuff they had when we walked in. The inside was way different than what they had sitting out front! Unfortunately we didn’t find any furniture to take with us, but when I went into the knick-knack room I found a cast iron dutch over and then a maaaasive skillet. Both are huge but were in pretty crappy condition. But I was not deterred because I had seen a how-to site recently (http://www.ibelieveicanfry.com/2010/12/reconditioning-re-seasoning-cast-iron.html) and it really didn’t look too hard. I got some flack and skepticism for purchasing them in that state, but I knew I’d show everyone!

Items needed:
– Heavy duty oven cleaner
– Gloves
– Steel wool
– Garbage bags
– White vinegar
– Lard

Directions
1. Take your cast iron items and cover completely in the over cleaner. You definitely need to wear gloves during this part, oven cleaner will burn your skin. I ignored it at the very end because I just wanted to get the bag tied up – oh, man. That was a mistake. I burned the crap out of my hands, they were dried and peeling for days.

How they looked at purchase

How they looked at purchase

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Original inside of the skillet

Original bottom

Original bottom

Dutch oven before - notice the massive discoloration of the lid and pot

Dutch oven before – notice the massive discoloration of the lid and pot

2. Once the item is coated, put it in the garbage bag and seal tightly. The oven cleaner starts working immediately!! I kept them in my dining area because I don’t have a garage and I didn’t want to leave them outside on my balcony for fear of rusting or doing more damage to it in the southern humidity. The site recommends leaving them in the bag for 2-3 or a week for super grimy items.

Oven cleaner doing its job!

Oven cleaner doing its job!

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3. I left them in the bag for 3 days. Then I removed them, cleaned them off with warm water (this was super gross but sooooo awesome seeing the change), and dried off with paper towels. They all needed another couple days of soaking so I reapplied the oven cleaner, put them back in the garbage bags, and let them sit for another 2 days.

The difference on the pot after the first round, halfway cleaned.

The difference on the pot after the first round, halfway cleaned.

Lid after the first round, still some rust. About to be coated again.

Lid after the first round, still some rust. About to be coated again.

4. Once they were ready I took them out again, cleaned them off with warm water, wiped them off with paper towels, and put them in a bin to soak in a bath of water and white distilled vinegar, 2:1 water to vinegar. The site recommends leaving them in for 30-60 minutes and I left each in for 60 minutes.
5. Preheat your oven to 250 degrees F so it’s ready to go immediately.

This is the skillet, I wrapped the handle in wet paper towels so it wouldn't rust.

This is the skillet, I wrapped the handle in wet paper towels so it wouldn’t rust.

6. This is the hard but fun part. When you take it out of the soak, it’s time to scrub with the steel wool. Scrub every inch of it! This takes some time and isn’t very easy to do. I tried to keep it wet at all times because I could see some rust beginning. Once you’re sure you’ve scrubbed it perfectly then clean it with soap and water, dry it off, and transfer immediately to the pre-heated oven. Make sure it’s upside down!

After the steel wool scrub down. I cannot emphasize how annoying those spikes were to clean.

After the steel wool scrub down. I cannot emphasize how annoying those spikes were to clean.

After the steel wool scrub down.

After the steel wool scrub down.

7. Bake the item at 250 for 15 minutes then increase to 500 and bake for 45 minutes more. Then turn off the oven and remove the item. Coat with lard, I dipped a paper towel into the lard and then coated it on. It’s ok if smokes a little when you do it the first time. With a clean paper towel wipe off any excess. This step smells super bad. As my boyfriend put it “vomit inducing bad.” I don’t think it was thaaaat bad, but it’s sure not pleasant.

First coating of lard.

First coating of lard.

Now return to the oven, always upside-down so the lard doesn’t pool in the bottom. Every 10-15 minutes wipe off excess, and every 30 minutes do a new coating of lard. After an hour open the door for a few minutes to finish cooling the oven.
8. Now it should be done!!

Done!

Done!

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I couldn’t get a few flecks off no matter how hard I scrubbed, but it’s the bottom so I wasn’t too bothered.

14-1I did make one major mistake and that was try to do two pieces at the same time without realizing the baking steps. Since the oven needs to cool with the cast iron item, you can’t do the second with a cold oven and can’t cool the first with a hot one! But I was stuck since the second was already soaking, so I decided I’d have to wing it. I did the skillet first, and as you can see there is some color variation on the bottom and on the inside. It’s not much of a problem for me really since it’s not super bad, but it’s a lesson to learn from!

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Added this one to show the color without any reflection from the table.

Added this one to show the color without any reflection from the table.

The Best Muffins Ever

I have been in a weird frame of mind where I just want it to be fall. I don’t know why! I think I just miss leggings and boots. And because fall in North Carolina is just the best! My friend and I were watching Farmhouse Rules this past weekend, as us old people do on a Saturday morning, and watching Nancy in her faaabulous historic home make mulled wine compelled me to bake something fall related. So I turned to a trusted recipe, http://www.cookingclassy.com/2013/10/gingerbread-doughnut-muffins/, that I knew would satisfy my unseasonable desire, at least for the day. PS – still want fall.

The Gingerbread Donut Muffins
Ingredients
Batter

– 3 cups all-purpose flour
– 2 tsp baking powder
– 1/4 tsp baking soda
– 3/4 tsp salt
– 1 tbsp ground ginger
– 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
– 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
– 3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
– 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
– 1/4 cup vegetable oil, divided
– 1 tsp orange zest
– 2 tbsp unsweetened applesauce
– 2 large eggs
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp molasses
– 1 1/4 cups milk
Glaze
– 2 cups powdered sugar
– 2 1/2 – 3 1/2 Tbsp fresh orange juice or milk KB Note: I recommend milk. With the orange zest it gets to be too orange-y.
– 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and butter a 12-hole muffin tin.
2. In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg for 30 seconds, set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip brown sugar with butter, 1 Tbsp vegetable oil and the orange zest on medium-high speed until mixture becomes pale and fluffy.
4. Blend in remaining 3 tbsp vegetable oil and the applesauce. Add in eggs one at a time and mix just until combined after each addition while adding in 1 tsp vanilla with second egg. Stir in molasses.
5. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture and fold into batter with a rubber spatula, while scraping sides and bottom of bowl (don’t over-mix, batter should be lumpy and a few streaks of flour are fine before going on to next addition) then add 1/2 of the milk and fold just until nearly combined, then repeat process and end mixing in last 1/3 of the flour mixture and fold just until until combined (batter should be lumpy).
6. Divide batter among greased muffin cups, filling each well nearly full.
7. Bake in preheated oven 8 minutes then reduce oven temperture to 375 and continue to bake 8 – 11 minutes longer until toothpick inserted into center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached.
8. Remove from oven and run a knife around muffins (if you greased properly they should just slide out) to remove and transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly.
9.When muffins are slightly warm, dip into glaze or spread over tops (I have tried both and I prefer spreading with a spoon by pouring the glaze on top. If you dip you run the risk of pieces breaking off), then return to cooling rack and allow glaze to set at room temperature.
10. Store in an airtight container.
For the glaze:
1. In a mixing bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, vanilla and enough orange juice/milk to make a smooth glaze.

I apologize for only one picture, I was too involved in the baking to think about my phone! They also look better once removed from the dripping plate.

I apologize for only one picture, I was too involved in the baking to think about my phone! They also look better once removed from the dripping plate.

The First Expedition with Kale

I have to admit, as much as I love lettuce and salads, I don’t really enjoy kale. I find it to be just too much – too big, too bitter, too trendy! But I want to love it for its health benefits, and since I’m trying to be really good with my diet, I bought it in a fit of “I need to buy as much healthy foods as possible!” shopping one day. And then it sat in my refrigerator. Thank God it took forever to get wilt-y. I finally found a kale chip recipe I was excited to try, and truthfully it was a great success. They were delicious and honestly filling enough as a meal! Salad on the go? But it also introduced me to SMOKED PAPRIKA. How do I love thee, smoked paprika? Let me count the ways! I LOOOOOVE this spice now, and I am Googling recipes with it just so I can use it more. It’s for sure going into my chili recipe from here on out.

Zesty Kale Chips
Ingredients

– 1 large bunch of kale
– 1/4 cup tahini KB Note: I shop at Food Lion that straddles suburban and country areas so if I can find tahini, so can you! Just look over in the Asian/Indian/international foods section where you might find soy sauce or the Patak’s Indian jarred sauces.
– 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
– 1/4 cup nutritional yeast KB Note: I made a second batch without the yeast (since I used it all!) and they came out just as well albeit less crispy.
– 1 tsp cumin
– 1/4 tsp smoked paprika KB Note: I LOVE THIS SPICE
– 1/2 tsp chili powder
– 1 tsp roasted garlic powder
– 1/2 tsp sea salt

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 300F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Remove the leaves from the stems of the kale (using the same method you would if you were de-stemming collard greens) and tear the leaves into large pieces. I unfortunately made mine too small and thus when they got too much sauce on them they were still wet coming out of the oven. Make sure the kale is dry before applying the sauce.
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4. Combine all the ingredients in a food processor until smooth.
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5. Pour sauce over kale and mix until evenly coated, you’ll probably need to use your hands to get it all over.
6. Spread the kale out evenly onto the prepared baking sheet into a single layer trying not to overlap (or else it won’t crisp!)
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7. Bake for roughly 10 minutes, rotate the pan, and bake for another 12 minutes more until the kale begins to crisp up.
8. Remove from oven and let the chips cool slightly before enjoying. Just a warning, these don’t store well. They lose their crispness.