Enhanced Carrot Cake in an Enhanced Turn of the Century Kitchen

Just park your "brolly" and come into the most interesting kitchen in, well, the United States and Texas.

A delightful family bought a large old turn of the penultimate century home in my village.  The wife, a Canadian transplant and I have cooking and art and music and home restoration and even Canada in common.  She has painted and sanded and worked her way through each room of this manse to bring a new life to an historic home.  Her kitchen is the heart of the “plant” and that is where she embellishes recipes daily.  She is a mother to three but all are in college except one.  She is, therefore, cooking for 3 and often me.

Catherine went out and found period cupboards and hutches to put in the kitchen.  She had the granite kitchen island installed with her sink across from her range/oven.  The brick pillar is what remains of a chimney for an old pot-belly stove.

Harry James is the family’s Beagle mix.  Make no mistake.  He is the king of this castle.  He stays close to the cook because it’s warm and fulfilling in the kitchen.

Large windows overlook the gardens in back of the house.  The pantry can be seen at the far end of the room.Harry James has his own chair at his own large window.

Below, a picture of an interesting lamp Catherine picked up at a garage sale.  She has an eye for prints and old things of all periods and she pulls them all together in vignettes that are fresh and imaginative and completely her own.

Behold, the better carrot cake - a lot like a better mousetrap! It really grabs you if you love fruit cakes.

Catherine loves to tweak recipes and to generally add more of the healthy ingredients to them.  With the carrot cake she baked this week, she added extra nuts (walnuts AND pecans), cran-raisins (in addition to raisins called for by the recipe), extra carrots and, in her one slip from the healthy pathway, she used coconut oil instead of vegetable.  What a moist, sweet cake.  We enjoyed it without frosting.

Just take your favorite carrot cake recipe and tweak it a la Catherine. Bravery in the culinary field of battle should be recognized.  Catherine, this is in honor of  your successful cooking campaigns over many years.  You get a SamHenry heart of appreciation ♥

Cast Iron Cookware Care

I guess this isn’t really a recipe, per se, at least not for something you can eat.  But it is a recipe for caring for your cast iron.

Cast iron can seem a little intimidating to someone who’s unfamiliar with it.  It seems so “high maintenance!”  It’s really not though.  🙂  Grandma knew that, and her grandma did too.  Odds are good that if she went west in a wagon, she used cast iron to cook for her family along the way.  Campers use it still today because it’s easy maintenance and durable as all get out.  

Assuming you’ve gone through the curing process, or purchased an already cured pan, here’s what you do to clean it after use.

Rinse off as much of the cooking residue as you can using the hottest water your faucet spews, and a plastic scrub brush.  I have one that’s good for use on Teflon pans.  Never use scouring pads, brushes, or powders on cast iron as that will scratch it and cause rusting.  Don’t use soap either, as that ruins the curing that you’ve put on it.  It’s the curing that creates the non-stick quality that well cared for cast iron has.

Now that you’ve gotten all the gunk off the skillet, put it back on the burner, med-high heat.  This is how cast iron dries.  You can’t leave it with wet spots or it will rust.  While it’s on the heat, pour in about 1-2 tablespoons of oil, either vegetable or canola – something plain.  Now, into the heating oil, pour in an equal amount of table salt.  Yep, plain old salt.  Grab a wad of paper towels, I usually just need 2, and I make a sort of ball and scrub the oil/salt mix all over the pan, and it picks up all the leftover bits of debris from your cooking.  The salt also acts as a disinfectant, so now you have no worries about not using soap.  See how easy that was? 

You need oil so it doesn’t dissolve the salt, like water would.

By the time I’ve gotten all the inside stuff scrubbed, I can take the skillet to the sink, flip it over, and use the rest of my “ball” to scrub the bottom and sides, just to keep the cure nice.  Then, rinse all the salt off under the hottest water you can, put back on the burner for 3-4 min, or until all the water drops are gone. 

Check out how nice it looks!  Easy-peasy!


from DF with love 🙂

In Praise of Pressure Cooking

Pressure cookers have been used for centuries around the world and are coming back into use. Many use pressure cookers for canning but my grandparents used them for cooking.  A chuck roast made in a pressure cooker just melts in your mouth.  Sear/brown the meat in butter or olive oil in the bottom of the cooker, add onion, bay leaf and carrot, put on the lid and turn up the heat. Why a pressure cooker?

Unlike other gadgets which rise in popularity due to changing technology, pressure cookers and pressure cooker recipes are becoming highly pertinent in the 21st century due to the changing times. That’s because the features that originally made pressure cookers one of the handiest cooking tools are more important now than ever. pressure cookers save energy, save time and open the doors to thousands of healthy, flavorful pressure cooker recipes that retain the nutritious vitamins and minerals in their all-natural ingredients. [Pressure Cooker Recipes]

What is a pressure cooker? How does it work?  There is an excellent Wikipedia article on that here.

Here is an assemblage  of models available at Macy’s and Amazon.com. They start at Amazon at $25.00.

Presto 02160 Pressure Cooker, Stainless Steel Electric 

Fagor "Elite" Pressure Cooker, 6 Qt.  

Reg. $90.00
Sale $69.99
Fagor "Elite" Pressure Cooker Set  

Reg. $150.00
Sale $119.99
Fagor Commercial Stainless Steel 4-Piece Multi Steamer/Cooker Set, 8 Qt.  

The following is from Wikipedia:

Pressure cookers are generally made from aluminium or stainless steel. The former may be stamped and buffed or anodized, but this metal is unsuitable for the dishwasher. Higher quality stainless steel pressure cookers are made with heavy, three-ply, or copper-clad bottom (heat spreader) for uniform heating, since stainless steel has lower thermal conductivity. Most modern units are dishwasher safe, although some manufacturers may recommend washing by hand.

A gasket or sealing ring forms a gas-tight seal which does not allow air or steam to escape between the pot and the lid; normally, the only way the steam can escape is through a regulator on the lid when the pressure has built up. In case the regulator is blocked, a safety valve is provided as a backup escape route for steam. The simplest safety valve is a loose-fitting rubber plug in the lid, held in place by steam pressure. If the pressure exceeds design limits, the plug pops out of its seat.

To seal the gasket, some pressure cookers have a lid lock with flanges, similar to a bayonet-style lens mount, that works by placing the lid on the pot and twisting it about 30° to lock it in place. Contemporary designs of this style of cooker also have a pressure-activated interlock mechanism that prevents the lid from being removed while the cooker is pressurized.[

Safety features

Pressure cookers have a reputation as a dangerous method of cooking with the risk of explosion. Early pressure cookers equipped with only a primary safety valve were at risk of explosion if poorly maintained, allowing food residues to contaminate the release valve. Modern pressure cookers typically have two or three independent safety valves, as well as some additional safety features, such as an interlock to prevent opening the lid while internal pressure exceeds atmospheric pressure. However there is still a risk of explosion, especially if cookers are not thoroughly and regularly maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

The primary safety valve or regulator usually takes the form of a weighted stopper, commonly called “the rocker,” or “vent weight”. This weighted stopper is lifted by the steam pressure, allowing excess pressure to be relieved. There is a backup pressure release mechanism that may employ any of several different techniques to release pressure quickly if the primary pressure release mechanism fails (for example, if food jams the steam discharge path). One such method is in the form of a hole in the lid blocked by a plug of low melting point alloy; another is a rubber grommet with a metal insert at the center. At a sufficiently high pressure, the grommet will distort and the insert will blow out of its mounting hole, relieving the pressure. If the pressure gets still higher, the grommet itself will blow out. A common safety feature is the design of the gasket, which expands and releases excess pressure downward between the lid and the pot.


Grandpa’s Table: Breakfast At Our Adirondack “Camp” from SamHenry

My maternal great grandfather started going to this little gem of a Lake in the foothills of the Adirondacks before I was born.  His son, my grandfater, owned his first cottage in a fairly well-populated bay but found a heavenly parcel with three lots and government property ringing most of it.

The house dated from the turn of the last century and was buried in trees with tall grass.  Not much mowing and all natural.

My favorite view of the property - from the old flat-bottomed fishing boat.

Inside was plain, not winterized, with tongue and groove unpainted walls.  The furniture was about the same date as the house; the kitchen dishes were depression-era glass and cheap reproduction willow ware and deep blue glasses.  In short, these camps were filled with anything you didn’t want at your main house anymore.

Grandpa with an iron frying pan full of sunny side up fried eggs cooked in bacon grease.

I began my trips there my first year on the planet and they continued until the camp (cottage for non-Adirondack vacation homes) was sold following my grandfather’s death.  In later years, my grandfather, a doctor, was the chief cook.  He and my uncle cooked wonderful breakfasts.  There was no dishwasher, a refrigerator only instituted in the place after 1970 and just the most basic iron cookware.  Water piped in from a well and turned off and on using faucets replaced the pump on the counter next to the sink around the same time.

All dining table and cooking equipment was kept in tall metal cabinets that shut tight to protect them from the mice and bugs.  Shelves were lined with oil cloth and, unlike today, seemed effortlessly spaced for successful storage.

I loved going fishing with Grandpa – often for the entire day.  He made up some Grandma Brown’s Baked Bean sandwiches (canned beans made in Mexico, NY) and brought some pop and other unrefrigerated snacks for lunch.  This was before ice packs and coolers.  He was not good about minding my mother’s rules about candy.  He would give me a few pieces and say “now I want you to take one of these once every ten minutes and see if you don’t feel better.”  When she would complain, he would turn to her and say: “I don’t get cavities from eating candy.  I keep my teeth in a glass nights and they are fine.”  He was a tease and a character.

Grandma and Grandpa on their way to the camp next door that was owned by his roommate at medical school. That family still owns their camp. This is one of my all time favorite pictures albeit from an early Kodak Instamatic.