Monday, February 16, 2015


I realized this fact when a houseguest cooked breakfast and left me with a huge mess in the cast-iron pan he used and refused to clean it up. I couldn't understand why when he cooked, the food stuck to the pan, and when I cooked, the food released, and then I finally realized one very important thing.

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He was not allowing the pan to heat up before he dumped in the eggs!

Now in case you're not aware, cast-iron cookware can get very expensive, especially when you get into the antiques (many of my pots and pans are over seventy-five years old, and one is over a hundred years old).

A light in my brain went on, because we need to understand a little of materials science to cook food in cast-iron without having it stick.

When food hits a cold (even greased) pan, the raw food touches the pan, and there is the potential for sticking. But when food hits a hot greased pan, the moisture on the surface of the food turns to steam, forming a small barrier between the food and the fat. The steam (being at 212°F, or 100°C) starts to cook the food. Then the surface of the food cooks in the fat that forms the barrier between the food and the pan, before it ever touches the pan. As we all know, the texture of food changes when it is cooked. Therefore the food that hits a hot pan doesn't stick because only the finished (cooked) surface touches the pan.

So part of the key to having your supposedly non-stick cast-iron pans work properly is simply to allow the pan to heat up hot enough to cook the food while it is still empty.

If you're constantly having to clean up messes in your cast-iron cooking pots and pans, I think you'll find that they come out a lot cleaner if you try this.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Herb Hack

So, in case anyone missed it, I got an Aerogarden from one of my neighbors when she moved, and I tried growing expensive lettuces in it and loved it, but the lettuces gave out after about four months. But my mother bought me another as a present, and inside was a herb kit, so I gave that a try and I love it, too. (What is an Aerogarden? This thing:

.) I've even reviewed it elsewhere, and yes, I love it.) But the problem is, the herbs grow much faster than just one person can eat them, so what should I do? One day when I was reorganizing my kitchen (which is growing to be my all-consuming task), I looked at a glass spice jar I was about to recycle, and . . .

I realized I could use the holes in the lid as support for herb stems! So I filled the jar with water, clipped the herbs, stuck the stems in the holes, and voilĂ ! The herbs stay fresh, and some are even rooting (and with a week of nice weather and spring around the corner, time to get my patio garden going).
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So before you throw out (or better yet, recycle) your empty spice jars, consider repurposing them to root cuttings, or to keep fresh herbs fresh. If you have a chance to pick up empty shaker jars anywhere, or even the shaker lids (contact your local Italian or pizza restaurant and ask them to save the lids from broken jars for you) to put on other jars, it's just a really handy way to keep those herbs fresh for when you want them, or want to plant them to grow even more.