Sunday, January 29, 2012

Cooking with Cast Iron

We have been cooking with a cast iron for over a year now. Our reasons for switching from standard non-stick cookware were based primarily on health considerations and the confusing information we had read on the chemicals used in the non-stick coating.

Before switching to cast iron, we had been using a 'green' non-stick version that had eliminated the controversial PTFE (Polytetrafluoroethylene)  and PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic acid) coatings. But we didn't think it held up very well and just started worrying all over again about the various other chemicals used to create this new form of non-stick.

So we made it very simple for ourselves and went back to the 'original non stick' - cast iron.

Cast iron possesses no potential dangerous coatings, will not chip or scratch and is also a great way to introduce trace amounts of iron into your diet.And if that wasn't enough incentive, cast iron is also very affordable. A twelve inch skillet for example is less than $30 (here) and it will last forever.

Cast iron is also great to cook with as it distributes heat evenly. We primarily use a pair of large and small skillets for everyday cooking. We also use a cast iron dutch oven in place of a crock pot for stews, slow roasts and soups. Our remaining cookware consists of copper-bottomed stainless steel sauce pans.

We purchased our Lodge cast iron skillets pre-seasoned.  Every several months, we re-season them by coating with oil and baking in the oven at 350 for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, we turn the oven off and let them cool on the oven racks.

For daily maintenance, we soak the pans in warm water after each use. We then scrub with a scouring sponge, rinse with hot water, and pat dry. Occasionally, we also rub a light coating of oil into the skillets while they are still warm from rinsing. We follow the same care with our Dutch Oven.  With cast iron it is recommended to not use soap and to not soak in water for long periods of time as this promotes rust and deteriorates the seasoned condition of the cookware (which makes the cast iron non-stick). In the worst-case scenario, you just have to re-season the cookware as described above.

Like all choices we make in life,  we strive to find ways in which we can live by the healthiest means possible. Some choices are easy to make, some take effort. But we are passionate about creating the healthiest life for ourselves and our babies, so the transition to cast iron does not feel like extra work. In fact, it offers quite the opposite for nothing outweighs peace of mind.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Ice Storm

Our fireplace has been burning at all hours of the day and night these past several days. Following the abundant snowfall we received last week, we received an even greater abundance of freezing rain. Many power outages followed, making the fireplace our main source of heat for a few days. 

With the ice and cold, the blooming forsythia provided all the more 
warmth with its bright smiling flowers. 

Mike worked overtime splitting kindling and firewood. 

I stepped out onto the porch to snap this picture of our frozen landscape and the trees weighed down with heavy snow and ice. The oak and aspen trees fared the worst, with many broken limbs and downed trees. The sound of the limbs snapping and crashing to the ground was sad to hear. I wished there was something we could have done for them. 

The boxwood were completely coated with ice.
Many of the other plants and trees looked the same. 

 Indoors, our summer lanterns were helpful in the evening 
and early morning hours during the outages.  

The first morning light was always a welcome sight. 

When the power was on, we raided the freezer for warm meals that we could make quickly. One really appreciates a hot cup of tea or a warm dinner after being without for several hours. One delicious freezer treat all four of us enjoyed (babies loved it) was this cauliflower and kale soup Mike made a while back. 

The recipe is from Martha Stewart, which you can find here. Mike used twice the amount of kale that the recipe called for. It's very savory and delicious. It reminds me of cream of artichoke soup. 

Friday, January 20, 2012


After several months of a mild green Winter, the snow has come. Over two feet of snow fell over 
the course of one cozy winter day. It is knee deep, and as high as the porch floor. 

The landscape is quiet under a blanket of white.      

The berry garden (blackberries and blueberries) will be sleepy for some time. 

The soft twinkle from the holiday lights still strung along the fence whisper a soft warmth. 

The dining patio stands still. I was out to sweep the boxwood 
hedge, something I do after each big snowstorm. 

The dining room is very quiet early on this snowy winter morning. 
The babies are playing in the warm coziness of the living room with 'DaDa.' 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Old and New

Our home is filled with a mixed collection of old and new. Perhaps one 
of the most frequent reminders of this is found in our kitchen drawers.  

Our everyday cutlery consists of two mismatched but complimentary sets found several years ago 
at Home Goods. They reside in front of my Grandmother's every day silver plate cutlery that is 
kept in the wicker basket at the back of the drawer. Next to the collection of antique bottle openers 
I've collected are hardware store clothespins used to fasten bags. 

The wood cutlery box was my Grandmothers. 

This old wicker paper basket holds our knives and some of our serving utensils. 

The other kitchen drawer holds mostly new utensils with a few old things mixed in. 

This twenty-piece set of cutlery is from Martha Stewart's old line 
at K-Mart, which I found on sale for $9.99. The wire basket that holds this set 
was found at an antique store. 

My Grandmother's old ice cream scoops co-habitate with the modern metal can opener, scissors 
and peeler. I love the mix between the cool metals and the warmth of the wood and wicker. 

It's amazing to think of the different time periods in which these items were made and originally 
used, yet how compatible they are today. 

Here are the latest additions to our drawers. My mom sent my old baby spoons to us when 
Graham and Margaret started eating solid foods. Each has its own subtle design. These are the 
only baby spoons we use so they're used several times a day. 


Thursday, January 5, 2012

Winter's Nest

Shortly after Country Living was here for the photo shoot, I told Mike that I'd like to dismantle our antique four poster bed and put the mattress on the floor. Never did he think I would utter such words, but I explained to him that it was a precaution because I was worried about the babies tumbling off the bed now that they were becoming much more mobile. 

With the stark room that was left after removing the bed frame, the side tables and the bedside lamps, it wasn't long before I started to think of ways to spruce the space up a bit. At first I asked Mike to 'whip up' a headboard that we could upholster, but that involved more spare time than we had. 

Then I remembered reading a post on Little Green Notebook about pelmet boxes that Jenny had made to go over her girls' bedroom windows. They were so beautiful and added such lovely detail to the room. Plus, it only took her two hours, and the materials were so simple...foam core, fabric, duct tape! 

So I basically used her tutorial, except I made one large pelmet box on the wall at the head of the bed. 

The upholstered foam core was attached to a large metal curtain bracket mounted on the wall. The linen drapes hang behind the pelmet box, suspended from a piece of surplus wood trim also mounted to the wall. Behind the linen drapes, we also tacked up quilted padding as another baby precaution.

In the spirit of the season, we hung the boxwood wreath in place of the heavier artwork that hung in the space previously. 

I really enjoy the effect that this small change had on the room, as it adds a few crisp lines around the casual mattress placement, yet with a supple texture. 

I love that it's baby friendly, and that it was an 
affordable solution to dressing up our placement of the mattress on the floor. 

This man helped me a lot! We often laugh about the Country Living article which stated, "Mike can build or fix anything." He thought that was ridiculous but I think it's really very true! For this project, he did all the math and measurements necessary to make the pattern for the cutout. Then, after we "upholstered" the foam core (with duct tape of course), he made sure the installation was centered, straight and level on the wall. 

He was also in charge of the exacto knife (with a steady hand) to cut the pattern from the foam core. 

It was a team effort which we were able to work on in spurts (often when my mom was visiting) over the course of TWO MONTHS! I often muttered, "I can't believe Jenny did all this in two hours...she's amazing...I can't even sketch out a do you upholster this?...I can't cut a straight line..."

But I assure you - it could be accomplished in several hours if you have the spare time.

Our materials list: 
Thick foam core 
Duct tape (white of course!)
Metal curtain bracket
Linen fabric (50% off from Joann's)
Wood trim (or you could use a smaller metal curtain bracket)
Quilting to pad wall (optional)

I washed the linen, sewed six foot-long drapes, and then pressed them before hanging. 

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