Shepherd’s Pie

A good friend is experiencing a dream vacation with her family in Australia and New Zealand right now. Yes, I’m a wee bit jealous, but also can’t wait for her to get back to learn about her amazing trip. Before she left we went out to lunch at a favorite Reno restaurant, the very healthy and divine Great Full Gardens, and our conversation naturally turned to her planned adventures and what types of local cuisine she’ll sample. I confess I have never tasted the notorious vegamite (she had and didn’t care for it), but I remember trying shepherd’s pie made by some Australian students during a fun University of Nevada, Reno event – the Night of All Nations. The event features cuisine, music, dance and other experiences which represent the University’s and Reno’s cultural diversity. The annual event offers a wide sample of global cuisine and attendees can pass from booth to booth filling their plates full of such items as Spanish paella, Indian chicken masala, and Australian shepherd’s pie. Even the Klingon nation was represented, but I don’t recall trying any of their food.

So, inspired by my friend’s trip and what I experienced at Night of All Nations, I decided to make shepherd’s pie in my skillet. Traditional shepherd’s pie is made with lamb or mutton, but more common versions are made with ground beef. I decided to make a heartier version, using steak. I knew this would be a dish my husband would like because it is topped with a mashed potato crust. The following recipe is inspired by one found at simplyrecipes.com, with a few personal tweaks. The recipe also left the herbal seasonings up to the choice of the cook. I used Herbs de Provence because it consists of a nice assortment of herbs and seasonings, including basil, rosemary, tarragon, garlic, lavender, marjoram, savory, thyme and parsley. All that spicy goodness in one bottle!

Shepherd's PieIngredients
Approximately 1 1/2 lbs. Steak, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 Onion, chopped
1 – 2 cups vegetables such as chopped Carrots and Celery, Fresh Corn sliced from the cob
Approximately 3 large Potatoes
8 Tbsps of Butter (1 stick)
1/2 cup Beef Broth
1 tsp. Worcestershire Sauce
Salt, Pepper, Seasonings of choice (I used Herbs de Provence)

Peel and quarter potatoes. Boil in salted water until tender, about 20 minutes

Peel and quarter potatoes. Boil in salted water until tender, about 20 minutes

Melt 4 Tbsps. of butter in large skillet.

Melt 4 Tbsps. of butter in large skillet.

Saute onion, carrots and celery over medium heat until tender, about 10 minutes.

Saute onion, carrots and celery over medium heat until tender, about 10 minutes.

Add steak and saute until no longer pink.

Add steak and saute until no longer pink.

Add fresh corn and heat through.

Add fresh corn and heat through.

Add salt, pepper and Herbs de Provence (or your seasonings of choice).

Add salt, pepper and Herbs de Provence (or your seasonings of choice).

Add Worcestershire sauce and beef broth.

Add Worcestershire sauce and beef broth.

Combine everything thoroughly.

Combine everything thoroughly.

Mash cooked potatoes with the remaining butter (4 Tbsps.) and cover the meat mixture. My potatoes are a little on the chunky side - just how I like them!

Mash cooked potatoes with the remaining butter (4 Tbsps.) and cover the meat mixture. My potatoes are a little on the chunky side – just how I like them!

Completely covered with mashed potatoes.

Completely covered with mashed potatoes.

Bake in a 400 degree oven until bubbling and the crust begins to brown, about 30 minutes.

Bake in a 400 degree oven until bubbling and the crust begins to brown, about 30 minutes.

The tasty layers of Shepherd's Pie. Enjoy!

The tasty layers of Shepherd’s Pie.

Enjoy!

Enjoy!

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Rustic Skillet Pot Pie

Well, guess who has returned to the blogosphere! I sincerely did not intend to take such a long hiatus, but it seems my life got full again over the past few months. I hope all of you had a wonderful holiday and shared it with those nearest and dearest to your hearts.

My husband and I actually went out for Thanksgiving dinner, something we haven’t done in 10 years. With both of our hectic schedules, we decided to truly take the day off and let someone else do the cooking this year. Sadly, no Turkey Day leftovers, but also no big mess in the kitchen to clean up.

I still managed to bake a pumpkin pie and have cranberries patiently waiting in my fridge to be turned into homemade sauce. And I finally attempted my first skillet pot pie, which in this version I made with leftover grilled chicken, but it would also work beautifully with leftover turkey.

The pie crust comes from a recipe I received when I took a pie crust class at Nothing To It Cooking School, a local culinary center. As much as I’d like to share the recipe with you, I don’t feel that I can as it may be proprietary and I don’t have permission to publish it. But you can certainly find basic pie crust recipes online or find frozen crusts at the grocery store.

Finally, I failed to take a group photo of all of the ingredients. See what happens when you neglect your blog too long, you forget how to do things. I’ll get my act together, I swear!

Anyway, enjoy this rustic dish and my thanks to all of you who continue to follow The Skillet.

Ingredients
2 Pie Crusts
6 Tbs. Butter
1/2 cup chopped Onion
1 cup chopped Carrots
1 cup chopped Celery
1/3 cup All-Purpose Flour
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp. Pepper
1 3/4 cup Chicken Broth
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
2 1/2 cups cooked Chicken or Turkey, cut into bite-size pieces

If using a cast iron skillet, heat oven to 400 degrees and remove all racks, except one on the lowest rung. If using a glass, ceramic or aluminum pie pan, then heat oven to 425 degrees. One thing I learned at the pie crust class is to always cook pies on the lowest rack in your oven.

In a deep cast iron skillet or 2-quart saucepan, melt butter and saute onions, carrots and celery together until soft.

In a deep cast iron skillet or 2-quart saucepan, melt butter and saute onions, carrots and celery together until soft.

Add flour, salt and pepper.

Add flour, salt and pepper.

Combine thoroughly until dry ingredients coat vegetables.

Combine thoroughly until dry ingredients coat vegetables.

Stir in chicken broth.

Stir in chicken broth.

Add heavy cream.

Add heavy cream.

Combine thoroughly.

Combine thoroughly.

Add chicken or turkey.

Add chicken or turkey.

Combine thoroughly into creamy veggie sauce.

Combine thoroughly into creamy veggie sauce.

Place one crust in 10-inch cast iron skillet or 9-inch pie pan. Spoon filling into skillet.

Place one crust in 10-inch cast iron skillet or 9-inch pie pan. Spoon filling into skillet. Place the second crust on top, seal edges, and cut a few vents.

Bake 30-40 minutes until crust becomes golden brown.

Bake 30-40 minutes until crust becomes golden brown.

Let it rest for 5-10 minutes, then serve. I am thankful for my skillets and plentiful food.

Let it rest for 5-10 minutes, then serve. I am thankful for my skillets and plentiful food.

Dutch Oven Lovin’ and Some Bitchin’ Chicken

Did you know you can make lumpia in a Dutch oven? You can and, man, is it good!

Filipino lumpia made in a Dutch oven.

So, I may have been away from my blog too long, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been cooking! It’s summer time and Dutch oven season is in full swing. My Dutch oven group, the Northern Sierra Dutch Oven Group (NSDOG), was busy this month with two events – a delectable global Dutch oven cook-off (meaning, make an international dish in your little black pot) and a first-time class at the Lahontan State Recreation Area, where members of the group taught about 25 participants. Both events had great turn-outs and tasty dishes.

Lahontan class participants put a lasagna together.

Lahontan class participants put a lasagna together.

I started NSDOG in 2009 as a way to hone my cast iron cooking skills and find like-minded individuals. Now the group has over 150 members and we are often invited to cook and/or teach for the community. We are a diverse group of individuals from various backgrounds and locations, but we all share a common passion for cast iron cuisine. It amazes me still how fabulously we get along and work well together. Our Dutch Oven Lovefest knows no bounds!

My buddy Doug enjoying cast iron cuisine

My buddy Doug enjoying cast iron cuisine

My friend Doug, also a founding member of the group, makes a zesty chicken dish called Butch’s Bitchin’ Chicken, which is a hit at the classes we teach. It is simple to make (especially for beginners), packed with flavor, and not too hard on the waistline. My husband never ate this totally rad dish before (did that sound a little ’80s to you?) so I converted it to my kitchen Dutch oven and served it up for dinner last night.

IMG_8004Ingredients
4 boneless, skinless Chicken Breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
1 1/4 cups Chicken Broth
1/2 cup diced Sun-Dried Tomatoes (packed in oil)
8 oz. Fettuccine Noodles (try whole grain for a healthier version)
1/2 cup Pesto
Salt, Pepper and Italian Seasoning

Season the chicken pieces with salt, pepper and Italian seasoning. Mix with your hands until the chicken is thoroughly coated.

Season the chicken pieces with salt, pepper and Italian seasoning. Mix with your hands until the chicken is thoroughly coated.

Heat a little oil in a Dutch oven and place chicken pieces inside.

Heat a little oil in a Dutch oven and place chicken pieces inside.

Pour in the chicken broth and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Pour in the chicken broth and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Boil the noodles in a separate pot. Drain and mix in the pesto.

Boil the noodles in a separate pot. Drain and mix in the pesto.

Add the noodles to the chicken.

Add the noodles to the chicken.

Combine.

Combine.

Sprinkle the sun-dried tomatoes on top and simmer for another 10 minutes.

Sprinkle the sun-dried tomatoes on top and simmer for another 10 minutes.

Serve with a garnish of fresh basil. Ummm...dare I say it? Yep, totally bitchin'!

Serve with a garnish of fresh basil. Ummm…dare I say it? Yep, totally bitchin’!

A Flavorful Life – Tex Mex Chicken Panini

I spent St. Patrick’s Day weekend at a dog trial in northern California. The trial was a blast and I always enjoy spending time with agility dogs and the humans who love them. I found myself chatting with one of my agility buddies (the human kind), expounding about how busy my schedule was and how it would only get busier in the summer when I had to juggle Dutch oven events, dog trials, a full time job and quality time with my husband. I wasn’t complaining and I actually blurted out to my friend that “I have a full life.” Not “I have a full schedule.” “I have a full life.” It made me pause.

How often do we think about our lives in this way? I imagine we all have busy schedules juggling jobs, family obligations, hobbies, school, or other pursuits. We each are given one life to live and it is up to us to make it a flavorful one. The fun part is that we get to season it to our own tastes. The challenge is finding the right balance for all of those seasonings. Despite how hectic my schedule gets, I much prefer my crazy flavorful life to a bland one.

Funny how dog trials always give me too much time to think. Now that I got carried away waxing philosophical, following is a very flavorful recipe for a Tex Mex Chicken Panini that I hope adds a little spice to your life.

Tex Mex Chicken PaniniIngredients
2 cups cooked or rotisserie Chicken, shredded
1/2 of a 10-oz. can of Rotel Diced Tomatoes with Chiles
1/2 cup Mayonnaise
1/4 cup chopped Cilantro
1/2 Tbsp. minced Garlic
Salt and Pepper
2 French Bread Sandwich Rolls
1 Red Bell Pepper, halved
1/2 White Onion, cut into slices
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack Cheese

Roast the bell pepper and onion slices for 20 minutes in a 400-degree oven.

Roast the bell pepper and onion slices for 20 minutes in a 400-degree oven.

The onions should be tender and the pepper skin should begin to blister.

The onions should be tender and the pepper skin should begin to blister. A little char adds more flavor.

In a bowl, combine the chicken, Rotel tomatoes, mayo, cilantro and garlic.

In a bowl, combine the chicken, Rotel tomatoes, mayo, cilantro and garlic.

Mix lightly but thoroughly.

Mix lightly but thoroughly.

Assemble the sandwich with a layer of the chicken mixture.

Assemble the sandwich with a layer of the chicken mixture.

Then some of the roasted onions.

Then some of the roasted onions.

And slices of the roasted bell pepper.

And slices of the roasted bell pepper.

Finally, top with the shredded Monterey Jack cheese.

Finally, top with the shredded Monterey Jack cheese.

Grill in a panini press or grill the sandwich on a cast iron griddle on medium-high heat. Place a bacon press on top.

Grill in a panini press or on a cast iron griddle on medium-high heat. Place a bacon press or small skillet on top.

Grill on each side for 2 minutes until golden grill marks appear and the cheese melts.

Grill on each side for 2 minutes until golden brown and the cheese melts.

Cut it in half and enjoy some slightly spicy goodness.

Cut it in half and savor the spicy goodness.

Chipotle Lime Steak Tacos with Roasted Corn Relish

Here’s a fun twist on Taco Night – marinated steak tacos with a scrumptious roasted corn relish. The steak takes a few hours to marinate, but cooking and assembly time are pretty quick, approximately 30 to 40 minutes. Good for any night of the week!

Steak Tacos with Roasted Corn RelishSteak Marinade Ingredients
Juice and zest from 3 Limes
2 Tbsps. of Honey
2 Tbsps. Oil, vegetable or canola
2 Tbsps. Adobo Sauce
1 tsp. ground Cumin
1/4 tsp. Ground Black Pepper
1.5 lbs. Skirt Steak or Round Sirloin Tip Boneless Thin Cut

In bowl, combine lime juice and zest, honey, oil, adobo sauce, cumin and pepper.

In bowl, combine lime juice and zest, honey, oil, adobo sauce, cumin and pepper.

Combine ingredients thoroughly.

Combine ingredients thoroughly.

Cut steak into thin strips.

Cut steak into thin strips.

Place steak and marinade in a Ziploc bag. Refrigerate for 6 to 14 hours.

Place steak and marinade in a Ziploc bag. Refrigerate for 6 to 14 hours.

Steak Tacos with Roasted Corn RelishCorn Relish Ingredients
6 Green Onions
2 Ears of Corn, husked
1 – 2 Tbsps. Oil, divided
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/2 cup chopped fresh Cilantro
1 tsp. Lime Zest
1 Tbsp. Lime Juice
1/2 tsp. Chile Powder

To prepare the relish, brush the corn and onions with oil.

To prepare the relish, brush the corn and onions with oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Grill over medium-high heat until slightly charred, about 2 minutes for the onions and 7 minutes for the corn. Turn each frequently.

Grill over medium-high heat until slightly charred, about 2 minutes for the onions and 7 minutes for the corn. Turn each frequently.

Slightly charred corn.

Slightly charred corn.

Cut the corn off the cobs. Coarsely chop the onions and add them to the corn. Next add the cilantro, lime zest and juice, chile powder, 1 tbsp. of oil, and salt and pepper.

Cut the corn off the cobs. Coarsely chop the onions and add them to the corn. Next add the cilantro, lime zest and juice, chile powder, 1 tbsp. of oil, and salt and pepper.

Mix thoroughly.

Mix thoroughly.

When the steak is marinated, grill over medium-high heat on a cast iron griddle. Takes about 5 to 7 minutes.

When the steak is marinated, grill over medium-high heat on a cast iron griddle. Takes about 5 to 7 minutes.

Heat the corn tortillas over a burner or on the griddle. Fill with steak and corn relish. Que bueno!

Heat the corn tortillas over a burner or on the griddle. Fill with steak and corn relish and serve. Enjoy!

Herb-Crusted Chicken Breasts with Simple Pasta

Another crazy work week has passed and not much cooking has happened in my skillet lately. My poor blog is feeling neglected. And now I’m off for the weekend to a dog trial in Northern California, so like the Santana song so aptly puts it – my house is empty and my pots are cold. What can I say – life keeps moving and I’m trying to keep up!

So, before I pack up all my doggy stuff and head over the Sierras, I am leaving you with a simple and delicious herb-crusted chicken recipe, baked in my skillet of course, and served with a side of a delicious bow-tie pasta with tomatoes. It is surprisingly easy to make, packed full of flavor and tastes just as good when cold.

Hope you all have a great weekend. Maybe next week won’t be so crazy…

IMG_7193Ingredients
1/2 cup dry Bread Crumbs
2 tsps. dried Thyme
2 tsps. dried Basil
2 tsps. dried Oregano
1/2 cup All-Purpose Flour
2 Whole Eggs
1/4 cup Water
3-4 boneless, skinless Chicken Breasts

In a large mixing bowl, combine bread crumbs with herbs.

In a large mixing bowl, combine bread crumbs with herbs.

Mix well.

Mix well.

IMG_7197

Place flour in a shallow bowl. I used a pie pan.

In another bowl, combine the water and eggs.

In another bowl, combine the water and eggs.

Place the chicken breasts in the flour and dust completely.

Place the chicken breast in the flour and dust completely.

Next, coat the breasts with the egg mixture.

Next, coat the breast with the egg mixture.

Finally, coat the breasts with the herb mixture.

Finally, coat the breast with the herb mixture.

Place the breast in a skillet or baking dish coated with cooking spray.

Place the breast in a skillet or baking dish coated with cooking spray.

Repeat the process for all of the chicken breasts.

Repeat the process for all of the chicken breasts.

Bake in a 375-degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes until the internal temperature is 165 degrees.

Bake in a 375-degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes until the internal temperature is 165 degrees.

While the chicken breasts are baking, make the pasta.

IMG_7207Ingredients
2 Tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped fresh Basil
1/8 cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
1 Garlic Clove, minced
1/2 tsp Salt
1/8 – 1/4 tsp crushed Red Pepper Flakes
1/4 tsp Black Pepper
1/2 pound Bow-Tie Pasta
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan Cheese

Cut the tomatoes in half and gently squeeze the juice into a bowl.

Cut the tomatoes in half and gently squeeze the juice into a bowl.

Chop the tomatoes and add to the juice.

Chop the tomatoes and add to the juice.

Add the chopped basil, olive oil, garlic, salt, red pepper flakes and black pepper.

Add the chopped basil, olive oil, garlic, salt, red pepper flakes and black pepper.

Combine and let rest at room temperature for 15 minutes.

Combine and let rest at room temperature for 15 minutes.

While the tomato mixture is gelling with all those good flavors, prepare the bow-tie pasta as directed on the package.

Add to the tomato mixture and combine well. Add the Parmesan cheese.

Add to the tomato mixture and combine well. Add the Parmesan cheese.

Serve with the herb-crusted chicken breast. Enjoy!

Serve with the herb-crusted chicken breast. Enjoy!

No Headache Crab Cakes with Broccoli Slaw

So another reason why I haven’t been posting much is that I have been suffering from a cluster of mini-migraines over the past couple of weeks. They haven’t been bad enough for me to miss work, but annoying enough to make me feel…well, a little crabby. For those of you who don’t suffer from migraines, they can be pretty miserable when they are bad. You feel like a vice is around your head and someone is poking a spike from behind your skull through your eye. When they’re not so bad, you usually feel this dull ache behind your eye, along your temple, down your neck and into your shoulder. It’s hard to concentrate or feel like doing much activity. But suffer through them one must.

When I was in my 20s, my migraines were horrible. I became nauseous, severely sensitive to light (a sunny day actually hurt and it was hard to drive), and I needed about 14 hours of sleep in a very dark, quiet room with a cold washcloth over my eyes to kill the pain. As I’ve aged, the severity of my migraines has diminished (I guess there is one positive thing about getting older). Today, I can usually get through a day with a generic version of Excedrin Migraine, lots of caffeine and protein, and maybe some yoga to relax and get all my kinks out. I’m a pretty healthy person, but migraines remain the number one reason I call in sick at work. They are my nemesis.

Needless to say, I haven’t felt like cooking much over the past couple of weeks. But, since I’ve been migraine-free for the past three days and my crabbiness has diminished, I think a little celebration is in order.

So how about some No Headache Crab Cakes?

IMG_7155Ingredients
2 6-oz. cans Crabmeat, drained, flaked
1/2 tsp. Seafood Seasoning (or try Cajun seasoning to spice things up!)
1 Tbsp. Oil
2-3 Scallions, chopped
1 Red Bell Pepper, chopped
1 cup shredded Mozzarella Cheese
1/2 cup HeartSmart Bisquick mix
1/2 cup Milk
2 Eggs

In a bowl, combine the crab meat and seafood seasoning, then set aside.

In a bowl, combine the crab meat and seafood seasoning, then set aside.

Heat the oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.

Heat the oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.

IMG_7158

Add veggies and cook for 4 minutes.

Add the crab meat and heat through.

Add the crab meat and heat through.

Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.

Once cool, add the cheese.

Once cool, add the cheese.

In a bowl, whisk the Bisquick, milk and eggs.

In a bowl, whisk the Bisquick, milk and eggs…

until combined.

until combined.

Spoon a couple of tablespoons of batter into a cast iron biscuit pan or muffin tin.

Coat a cast iron biscuit pan or muffin tin with cooking spray. Spoon a couple of tablespoons of batter into each section.

Spoon a 1/4 cup of crab mix on top of the batter.

Spoon a 1/4 cup of crab mix on top of the batter.

Spoon another couple of tablespoons of batter on top of the crab mixture.

Spoon another couple of tablespoons of batter on top of the crab mixture.

Repeat until the biscuit pan is full.

Repeat until the biscuit pan is full.

Bake in a 375-degree oven for 30 minutes until golden brown. Cool for 5 minutes.

Bake in a 375-degree oven for 30 minutes until golden brown. Cool for 5 minutes.

Remove the crab cakes with a knife and cool for 10 minutes on a wire baking rack.

Remove the crab cakes with a knife and cool for 10 minutes on a wire baking rack.

While your crab cakes are cooling, make the broccoli slaw.

IMG_7176Ingredients
2 cups Broccoli Slaw (you can also use cole slaw mix if you cannot find broccoli slaw at the grocery store)
1/4 cup Sour Cream
1/3 cup Salsa
1-2 Tbsps. chopped Cilantro

Combine the four ingredients in a bowl...

Combine the four ingredients in a bowl…

and mix thoroughly.

and mix thoroughly.

Serve the crab cake on a bed of broccoli slaw...no headaches in making these simple cakes. Enjoy!

Serve the crab cake on a bed of broccoli slaw…no headaches in making these simple cakes. Enjoy!

Mother-Daughter Cream of Potato Soup with Dumplings

As a child, I loved my mother’s cream of potato soup. Whenever I was sick, that’s what I wanted to make me feel better, along with a hot cup of tea with cream and sugar. As a child, I didn’t realize how bland my mother’s soup tasted as it was very basic…milk, butter, onions, potatoes and a little seasoning. As I grew up and began to expand my palate, I decided to experiment with her very basic soup and make it my own. Today’s rendition is packed with flavor and lots of goodies like carrots, red onion, turkey sausage, and dumplings. No matter how much I change what I put in her soup, I still keep the basic foundation. And every time I make it, I always remember my childhood cravings and how good my mom’s soup continues to make me feel.

Soup Ingredients
1 Potato, peeled and diced
1 cup sliced Carrots
1/2 cup Red Onion, chopped
6 – 7 oz. Turkey Sausage, diced
2 1/2 cups Milk (okay to use low-fat to make this a leaner soup)
1 cup Chicken Broth
2 Tbsps. Butter
2 Tbsps. Flour
1 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Pepper

Dumplings Ingredients
2/3 cups Bisquick baking mix (use the HeartSmart variety)
3 Tbsps. low-fat milk

First, make the roux, which is a thickening agent of equal parts fat and flour.

In a small saucepan, melt 2 Tbsps. of butter.

To the melted butter, add 2 Tbsps of flour, the salt and pepper.

Combine to get a thick, bubbly, gooey mixture.

Add 1/2 cup of milk to the roux and stir continuously over low heat until completely combined.

In a Dutch oven, add 2 cups of milk, 1 cup of chicken broth, and the roux mixture. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, but be careful not to scorch the milk.

Once the milky mixture is boiling, add the potatoes, carrots and red onion.

Cover the Dutch oven and let the soup simmer over medium heat for about 15 minutes until potatoes are cooked through.

While the potatoes are cooking, saute the turkey sausage in a cast iron skillet until they are slightly brown and heated through.

You also have time to make the dumpling dough by mixing 2/3 cups of Bisquick mix with 3 Tbsps. of milk until a soft dough forms (forgot to take a picture of the dough).

Once the potatoes are cooked, add the turkey sausage to the soup.

Form teaspoon-sized dumplings and drop them into the soup. Cook uncovered for 10 minutes, then cover and cook for another 10 minutes.

Serve hot with a couple of plump dumplings. Invite your mom or daughter to join you…or the whole family for that matter. Enjoy!

Italian Wedding Soup

Italian Wedding Soup – my absolute favorite soup on the planet, hands down. I first ate it, believe it or not, in the cafeteria at the university where I work and have been hooked ever since. Rich in simplicity, it consists of four ingredients – meatballs, chicken broth, spinach and pasta. Although traditionally served at Italian weddings (thus the name), I use it as one of my go-to soups when I have a cold or simply want some warm comfort in my system. I can’t get enough of it.

Ingredients
1 Egg, lightly beaten
3/4 lb. Lean Ground Beef
1/2 cup, chopped Onion
3 Tbsp. plain Bread Crumbs
3 Tbsp. grated Parmesan Cheese
1 tsp. dried Parsley
Salt and Pepper
2 32 oz. containers of Chicken Broth
5 oz. fresh Spinach
1 1/2 tsp. dried Oregano
8 oz. Acini di Pepe Pasta

First, the meatballs:

Put the lightly beaten egg in a large bowl.

Add the ground beef…

Onion…

Bread crumbs…

1 Tbsp. of the parmesan cheese and the parsley.

Combine all ingredients.

Form beef mixture into meatballs, about 1 inch in size. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

Place the baked meatballs in the bottom of a cast iron Dutch oven.

Cover the meatballs with the chicken broth.

Add the spinach.

And the oregano.

Combine ingredients and cover the pot. Let it simmer 10 to 15 minutes to allow the spinach to wilt.

Spinach as it gently wilts.

Cook the pasta in a separate pot for about 11 minutes. Drain and add to the soup mixture. Let it simmer for an additional 3 to 5 minutes.

Serve hot with a sprinkle of some of the remaining parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

The Health Benefits of Cast Iron

So posts this week have been pretty light – quite frankly, non-existent. The reason? I’ve just been super busy (dog trial, agility awards dinner, crazy work deadlines, etcetera, etcetera) and not able to cook much this past week. I’ll be back in the cast iron swing of things soon and I have some fun dishes planned for future posts. Stay tuned!

Meanwhile, I thought I’d cover some of the health benefits and sustainable reasons for cooking with cast iron.

  1. Because cast iron pots and skillets are so well-seasoned, they have a natural non-stick surface, meaning you don’t need to use as much oil or butter when cooking. And that’s good for the love handles.
  2. Cast iron cookware is free of potentially harmful chemicals that are found in non-stick pans like those with Teflon surfaces. Many non-stick pans are made with perfluorocarbons or PFCs, which are known to be highly toxic and carcinogenic. PFCs are released and inhaled from non-stick pans through fumes when the pans are heated on high heat. They can also be ingested if a non-stick pan is scratched. I’ve had a few scratched up Teflon skillets in my time. I don’t use them any more. I strive for a Teflon-free kitchen.
  3. Cast iron fortifies your food with iron, which is good if you have an iron deficiency or want to avoid taking Geritol. One of my Dutch oven cooking buddies was instructed by his doctor to cook in a cast iron skillet once a week to help avoid becoming anemic. Geez…I’m on my way to becoming Iron Man.
  4. Cast iron is made to last a lifetime, if properly maintained. My mother used her cast iron skillet for decades and many of my friends have skillets and Dutch ovens that belonged to their parents and grandparents. Cast iron is very vintage.
  5. Cast iron cleans easily by using hot water, a stiff brush and a little vinegar. No soap is required. Many dish soaps contain high levels of phosphates which act much like fertilizers, increasing algae and aquatic weed growth in bodies of water. Wastewater containing phosphates can end up in lakes, rivers and streams. Cast iron can be very eco-friendly.
  6. Cast iron is versatile, as I’ve tried to demonstrate through this blog. One cast iron skillet can be used on the stove, in the oven, on the grill, and over the campfire. You can cook multiple dishes in a cast iron skillet, meaning less equipment to purchase for your kitchen. Unless you’re a total addict like me.
  7. Cast iron is affordable. My favorite Lodge skillet cost around $25 and is the most used piece of cookware in my household. And since I intend to be cooking with it when I’m 90, I’d say that’s the best $25 I’ve ever spent.

Sources:

EatingWell Magazine
sustainablebabysteps.com