Cast Iron Classic

Along with having pantry staples, every kitchen should be stocked with certain cookware staples. Tops on my list? A Cast-Iron Skillet.
I had one in my cupboard but it met a plastic colander and fell in love. They literally melted together. I still have it, but “restoring it” is another story.
For over a year I’ve been deprived of the joy and ease of cooking with cast iron.
Until this Christmas!!

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Love my Mom. Not only did I get the cream of the crop of cast-iron skillets but she added a super cute vintage apron to boot!
In 1896, Joseph Lodge and his wife, settled alongside the Cumberland Plateau of the Appalachian Mountains in Tennessee. Joseph opened his first foundry, cast some skillets and they sold like hot cakes. Lodge Cast Iron was born and to this day, “100 years and still cooking”, this family run business has boomed with not only cast iron skillets of all different sizes, but also a line of cookware and more. This company also prides itself on it’s Eco responsibility.

I was on my own the other night, craving a nice steak. I decided to christen my cast-iron.
I took out a nice piece of meat, seasoned it with salt & pepper and let it come to room temp. In the meantime, I added a little oil to the pan and let it get nice and hot. I carefully placed the steak in the pan.

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I turned the heat to medium and cooked on each side for maybe 4min each? It’s really something to eye. I like my meat medium rare. Once I felt it was done I pulled from the pan and let it rest on a cutting board. I then added a little butter to the pan and some sliced mushrooms. Added a splash of red wine to deglaze the pan and scraped up the bits and stirred the shrooms with a wooden spoon(I hate using metal in cast iron). I had some summer squash steaming in another pan. I portioned my steak(to save some for lunch the next day!) and topped with the mushrooms. Delicious!

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I’m so glad I started using my pan instead of saving for some special dinner. Every dinner is special when you cook it yourself.
The next day I was cleaning up a storm. I was hungry and happily realized I had some steak left in the fridge! I pulled it out, sliced it up and lightly sautéed the slices in a small pan with mushrooms. I topped some torn red leaf lettuce with the warm steak and shroom mixture. Drizzled with some fabulous oil and vinegar from Olive Del Mondo

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Olive Del Mondo, independently owned, is Providence, RI’s first olive oil and vinegar tasting bar. For this salad I chose a spicy olive oil and an Espresso vinegar.

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I seriously don’t know which was more delicious, the seared steak or my luncheon salad. I do know both were super easy to make.
A Lodge skillet is affordable with so many scrumptious possibilities: corn bread, buttermilk biscuits, chicken under a brick, bacon and more. Invest in this American-made classic.
Come on over, supper’s ready!

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Chicken and muffins

No, it’s not the new trend. I do love chicken and waffles and we’ll keep that combo the way it is! It just so happens that one recent day found me baking and slow cooking…..
Let’s start with bananas. You know how it goes, those last 2 bananas didn’t get eaten fast enough and now they are turning black. Wait! Don’t throw them away, they are ready to be mashed and added to an easy batter for some yummy muffins. The recipe I go to time after time is an oldie but goody dating back to Bon Appetit circa 1999! I kid you not. Why change a good thing? Super easy, here you go:
Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
Makes 12
Ingredients:
11/2 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
11/2 Tspn baking powder
1/4 Tspn salt
1 cup mashed bananas ( about 2 large)
1 large egg
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup milk
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Preparation:
Preheat oven to 350F. Line 12 muffin cups w/foil muffin liners. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Mix mashed bananas, egg, melted butter and milk in a medium bowl. Stir banana mixture into dry ingredients just until blended ( do not over mix). Stir in chocolate chips.

Divide batter among prepared muffin cups, filling each about 3/4 full. Bake muffins until tops are pale golden and tester inserted into center comes out with some melted chocolate attached but no crumbs, about 32 minutes. Transfer muffins to rack; cool.

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If you are a regular reader you know I love my slow cooker. It gets a tremendous amount of use. I have a new favorite “dish” I will be cooking up in my slow cooker on a regular basis.
Roast Chicken in the Crockpot
This could not be easier! I’ve tried a few different “recipes” and now this will be the way I cook it.
I cut up some carrots and onions into 2inch large chunks and make a full layer on the bottom of the crockpot. You could add potatoes and parsnips but I found my chicken did not fit as nicely in with too many veggies on the bottom. Keep it simple.
I then take a 4lb chicken ( or less, no bigger though, it will not fit!) , take the insides out and rinse/pat dry. Coat chicken with a dry rub mixture. You could use paprika, garlic powder, salt and all-purpose seasoning like Mrs. Dash. This time I used a mixture of thyme, garlic powder, salt, dried parsley and oregano.
Place chicken on the veggie layer, cover and cook on high for 6 hours or low for 8.
Do not add any liquid! The chicken releases it’s own yummy juices while cooking.
My kitchen smelled amazing and the chicken looked delicious. I will not buy a rotisserie chicken anymore.

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For a complete meal you could cook up some rice pilaf, carve some slices of chicken, add the cooked onions/carrots and drizzle with some juice.
If you’d like a crispy skin you could transfer your cooked chicken to an oven safe pan and broil for a few minutes.
This chicken is now so versatile. I plan on making some chicken soup tomorrow during the snow storm. Prepping some chicken enchiladas for Sunday, and saving some for a healthy salad topping.
I just found out the Crockpot turns 75 today! Happy Birthday, yum yum.
The simple pleasure of coming home to a meal that is all ready.
Enjoy my friends!

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Coffee: the last cheap drug…….

It was a sad state of affairs this morning. I raided my change purse for a cup of coffee.

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I can give up a lot: dairy, bread, sugar, but coffee?! Um…no.
I love that first morning cup and how inspired I “suddenly” feel. Inspiration and motivation are key factors for this enthusiastic job seeker.
I may have been out of coffee to brew, but I have plenty of tea.

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You name it, I have it. Green, peppermint, Rooibos, Assam, Ear Grey and Chai. Tea, however, just doesn’t do it for me in the morning. I take a nice tea break in the afternoon and have some herbal in the evening but NOT in the morning.
What coffee do you like to brew in the morning? I have a French-press I love. Brews a great cup (or 3). My fave morning blend is Cafe Marika roasted locally by New Harvest Coffee Roasters
I’m on a strict budget now. Need something cheaper. Any suggestions?

From now on, I’d like to save my pennies for coffee out with friends.
I’ll keep the coffee trips to my top 3 Providence choices:
1.) White Electric Coffee

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2.) Seven Stars Bakery
3.) The Shop

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I’ve finished my cup(sigh…..), need to get down to business before this caffeine buzz goes away.
Don’t forget, please send me your coffee bean suggestions for a gal on a budget…
Cheers!

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Time to Stew

Winter has set in. Many a cold and grey day ahead of us.
A perfect time to cook up some stews.

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I pulled out my handy dandy crockpot. As you can see it gets a lot of use.

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Despite the fact that I am home most days, I have no time to spend all day cooking up a feast in the kitchen. I love slow cookers and recommend one to everyone I know! You take a little time prepping in the morning, place your ingredients in the pot, set the timer and go. No fuss, no muss.
I use the official “crockpot” cookbook as a guide and for inspiration.

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I borrowed it (it’s on a long term loan) from my Mom. I love that she has written comments and suggestions throughout the book. She especially loves the meatloaf recipe.

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This time around I made Beef Stew. In the book, the recipe is for a Wild Mushroom Beef Stew. I subbed a few items that I had on hand.
INGREDIENTS:
1 1/2 to 2lbs. Beef stew meat, cut into 1inch cubes
1/8 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 1/2 cups beef broth
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. ground paprika: I used smoked
4 shiitake mushrooms, sliced
2 med carrots, sliced
2 med potatoes, diced
1 small white onion, chopped
1 rib celery, sliced
Put the beef in the slow-cooker. Mix together the flour, salt and pepper, and sprinkle over the meat; stirring to coat each piece of meat with flour. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to mix well. Cover; cook on Low 10-12hrs( or on High for 4-6hrs). Remove the bay leaf and stir the stew thoroughly before serving.

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I did head out that day to run some errands. It was so nice to walk up my stairs and smell yummy food cooking!
I ladled myself some stew and settled in for the evening.

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This recipe makes 5 hearty servings. A nice slice of crusty bread or some biscuits would be great alongside. This is such a family friendly meal. Both of my girls enjoy it; although Emma, my oldest, could without the carrots.
Go pull out your crock-pots my friends and Stew away!!

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A moment of reflection

While a ham stock simmers on the stove and a pork shoulder slowly cooks in the oven; I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on this past year.

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Instead of wallowing in the struggles and downsides of the year, I thought I’d count my blessings. A much preferred way to head into the New Year.
Health: so far this Fall and Winter I’m breathing well, no lung or sinus issues. I’m pretty sure my attitude helps.

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I moved this Summer to a bigger brighter space. I love all of the windows I have! My new space makes me smile every day.

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Being laid off from a job I was at for almost 5 years, sucked. I struggle at times to make ends meet. However there are silver linings and blessings underneath the crummy stuff.
My friends and family have been so supportive in so many ways. Really just being there for me. I am eternally grateful and cherish them all.

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While I job hunt I am able to look for a position I really want and am great at. Perhaps as a foodie “Vanna White”?

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I’m truly relishing the time I get to spend with my girls. Whether it’s walking my youngest to school, enjoying tea time or being there when my oldest finds out she got accepted to her top choice college!!

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We learn from our struggles and the lows make us stronger.
The savory aromas coming from my kitchen right now are making me smile and making me hungry!
Time to get back to New Year’s prep.
I raise a glass to you dear readers. Health and Happiness in the New Year ahead. 2015!! BRING IT

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Rise and Shine and Shop Local!

A couple Mondays ago I had a meeting in downtown Providence. I was too rushed in the morning to eat or even have a cup of coffee for that matter. My meeting was on Washington St. and I thought, “Oh great, where am i going to park?!” No need to fret! Sunshine and luck were shining down on me as I scored a parking spot right in front of my meeting site! The meeting went well and I still had time left on the meter so i ventured out in search of a little bite to eat and a good cup of joe.

Ellie's Chicken This festive rooster was calling my name. Cock a doodle doo…come in for coffee!

This attractive fellow is the mascot for a charming intimate bakery called Ellie’s Bakery located at 61 Washington St. in Providence RI. Inspired by the Parisian way of life, this cozy, warm bakery welcomed me in.

Ellie's festive signBut goodness, gracious, what to get? Everything looked so tasty and divine. I ordered my coffee straight away, they carry coffee from New Harvest Coffee Roasters, a local coffee company who roasts a blend just for them.

As my taste buds prefer savory things in the morning, I went with a delicious looking Savory Ciabatta

Ellie's Savory ciabattaAs I looked at this scrumptious ciabatta I thought, “oh I will eat half and bring the other half home.” Who was I kidding? Friends, this was so very tasty, I gobbled it up straight away. I hope no one was looking. I must have been awfully hungry. What was so special about this savory morning treat? Well, the ciabatta itself was light, slightly crusty on the outside, fluffy on the inside (I should have asked to have it heated a bit) the topping was a not-too strong feta cheese, basil and arugula pesto and a chunky fig jam. YES!!! Amazing. My coffee was lovely. I take mine black and this cup was nice and smooth.

When i wasn’t scoffing down my breakfast treat, I took a look around this lovely shop to get some Holiday gift ideas.

Ellie's shelf of coffeeThey had a wall devoted to jams, bags of coffee and travel mugs with the rooster on them.

Ellie's coffee to goA terrific gift for that friend who needs to have their hot beverage on the run. These travel mugs were accompanied by bars of artisan chocolate and marshmallows!!!

Meringue CloudsIf you are headed to a Holiday party and need a great hostess gift, you can’t go wrong with these colorful clouds of meringue! Or purchase these for a special dessert and place a few on each guests plate with a nip of something on the side to accompany.

Vanilla and Cinnamon MeringueThese cinnamon clouds and vanilla bean clouds would be perfect with some spicy hot cocoa sipped by the fire while staring at the twinkly lights on the Christmas Tree.

Ellie's MacaronOf course I cannot write a post about Ellie’s without talking about their famous macarons! All of their products are prepared with the seasons in mind and these macarons are no exception. They are always adding new flavors to tantalize your sweet tooth.

Cran Cheesecake MacaronThese Cranberry Cheesecake Macarons are wheat free! A bonus for sure.

In addition to these delectable treats, Ellie’s also sells a variety of freshly baked breads and has seasonal cakes, cookies and soups and sandwiches.

Whether or not, you need a gift for that special someone or just a break from the hustle and bustle of this hectic shopping season, head down to Ellie’s and experience the simple pleasures of a tasty life.

I’ll leave you with a lovely quote I read on their website:

“There is little in life that could not benefit from a little love, a little time, and a little butter.”

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Date night at The Grange

After being cooped up at home recovering from a sprained ankle, it felt so good to get out this weekend.
Saturday night ended up being a date night for me. Apparently the new dating “rules” say dinner out on the first date is old fashioned or “too much pressure”. I thought I’d buck the trend this time and say yes when I was asked!
We are so lucky in Providence (and Rhode Island really) to have so many great restaurants at our fingertips. My date was not from RI so I was excited to offer my suggestions on where we should go. He is not a huge meat eater so I suggested The Grange, a wonderful “vegetable restaurant” located on the Westside of town.
I felt at home on the grange…right away. A bustling but cozy interior with candles flickering. With a seat for two by the window, it was the perfect setting for getting to know someone. We started out with a pair of craft cocktails; mine: bourbon based with some bitters and what not. His: a vodka base with some thyme and a little more.
With the conversation flowing, we ordered some specials, all sourced from local farms highlighting what’s in season.

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We started out with some perfectly roasted Brussels sprouts with smoked mushroom and a tangy tasty cranberry mustardo on the side.

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Next, some sautéed Pioppino and Oyster mushrooms sourced from R.I. Mushroom Company

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Delicious delicata squash ( did you know you can eat the skin?!) on top of soft polenta with radishes and dollops of parsley pistou.

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To accompany these varied vegetarian dishes, my date chose a bottle of Zinfandel. A perfect choice I might add. Not too intense.

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Still talking and still hungry, we added a couple more plates.
A quinoa salad with lettuces, avocado, beets, sweet potatoes and sprinkling of sunflower seeds and all topped with a roasted garlic dressing.

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Lastly, one of my all time fave dishes: risotto. This dish was so creamy. Incorporated into the creamy rice was: sunchokes, red wine onions, turnips, baby kale and fried green olives.

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We enjoyed our wine, and cleaned our plates. Everything was delicious!

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The night was still young, we were enjoying ourselves. Since we were on the Westside, we drove over to Pastiche. Miraculously we found a parking spot but the charming bakery was mobbed as usual. There was no getting in…. Not a problem. We ended up going to The Duck and Bunny, my choice for best date spot for dessert in Providence. This charming spot on Wickenden St., is considered a “snuggery”. It is an adorable, cozy and warm spot to enjoy a pot of tea

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We also had something sweet, banana and Nutella crepe and a slice of banana cream pie. Scrumptious. A sweet way to end a fabulous evening.

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Whether you’re headed out for a first date or your 100th, I hope you’ll consider these Providence gems.
Here’s to more cozy, romantic, full of promise evenings.

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