Dutch Ovens

This morning, for some reason, while working in the garden, I kept thinking about Dutch Oven cooking.  I have a cast iron Dutch Oven but lately everything I’ve cooked in it has a metallic taste.  I’ve re-seasoned it twice.  My guess is that while Chad was home and cooking, he used soap in it or scrubbed it or more likely . . left it sitting in sink of dirty dishwater overnight.  I think I’m going to take it to my dad and let him fix it.  He can always make cast iron work!

I love slow cooking in the oven and try as I might, I cannot love the crockpot.  The stove here is propane and our propane bill is so low  and our house is so small and so easy to cool, that I don’t mind using the oven for several hours.  In fact, we were looking back at electric bills and this same time last year, we paid over $300 in MO and here, our bill was less than $100.  Along with propane, we’re paying a total of maybe $130 per month here (combined electricity and propane) and that includes cooling the sewing room.  Not bad, huh?  Thank goodness we’re not paying for water!

With the seasoning issues and not being able to use tomatoes in the cast iron pot, I decided to order one of the pretty, colored, enamel coated Dutch Ovens.  I researched  and read blogs and read reviews and called three companies – LeCreuset, Cuisinart and Lodge.  Why am I struggling so much with this decision?

The Le Creuset pots are just outrageously expensive in my book.  Maybe they’re the best but how much better can they be?  I can buy Lodge for less than $60 and the same size Le Creuset is over $300.  I know how things go in my kitchen and there’s a better than average chance that a pot or the lid will get dropped . . on tile floor. 

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For me, it doesn’t matter so much about the cost.  I’m willing to pay $300 for a pot if it’s 5 times better than a $60 pot but if not . . I’m not doing it.  About 20 or 25  years ago I decided I had to have the Calphalon professional pots that the local kitchen store was pushing.  The pots and pans were sold individually and were terribly expensive.  Over a period of a few years, I got just about every piece they sold.  Then when living in Kentucky and we ended up with a house in town and a house in the country, I wanted an inexpensive set of pots for the house in town.  I figured I’d use them rarely and get rid of them when we moved. 

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We bought this set of Farberware . . I think we paid about $80 for the entire set . . way, way less than I paid for one of the Calphalon pots.  That was in 2006 and those are the only pots I currently have in my kitchen.  I still have the Calphalon but they’re packed, in boxes, somewhere . . probably never to be used again. 

I have used cheap pots and I don’t like them but these Farberware pots are heavy, and they heat evenly.  I love them!  What I’m saying is – if inexpensive does the job, I’m happy with inexpensive.

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So, I pretty much ruled out the Le Creuset simply because of the cost.  I have a few of their pieces and they’re great but they’re not any greater than any other similar pieces I have.

That left Lodge and Cuisinart . . both of which are made in China.  I decided I wouldn’t get those because of that but after talking to the Lodge folks, who assure me that there are numerous tests done on the pots to be sure they’re safe and the quality meets their standards, I went ahead and ordered the 3 quart and 6 quart Dutch Ovens. 

I love the blue and I’m thinking when I get other pieces, I might get red and then I’ll have some patriotic pots!  Smile

Chicken with Kale

DSC01685We could eat kale every day!  For dinner last night, we had Chicken with Kale, pasta, dilled carrots, salad and bread.  If you’re not a big fan of kale or if you don’t have it, zucchini or yellow squash or spinach . . lots of other veggies could be substituted for the kale.

Chicken with Kale

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 bunch of kale
  • 2 – 3 cups spaghetti sauce (can be storebought or homemade – I used some I had canned)
  • 3/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan or goat cheese
  • 3 T. butter
  • 3 T. olive oil
  • 1 T. fennel seeds
  • salt, pepper to taste (and other seasonings you may like)

Preheat oven to 350º.

Pound chicken breasts thin (I sometimes cut them in half to make them thinner).  Season with salt, pepper.  I also used garlic powder and onion powder.

Wash the kale thoroughly.  Remove stems and tear into large pieces.  Shake off as much water as possible (I use a salad spinner).

Heat half the butter and olive oil in a large skillet.

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Saute the kale just til wilted and place it in a baking dish that has been sprayed with a non-stick spray.  Season with a little salt and pepper (the chicken has been seasoned and the spaghetti sauce will have seasonings so go lightly with the salt!)  Top with the fennel seeds.

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Add the remaining butter and olive oil to the skillet.  Brown the chicken.  It should be cooked completely through.  Arrange the chicken breasts on top of the kale.

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Pour the spaghetti sauce into the skillet and stir only long enough to combine the sauce with all the pan drippings and to heat the sauce.

Pour the sauce over the chicken and kale.

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Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese over the chicken and top with the Parmesan or goat cheese.  I used goat cheese because we love it and I have plenty of it.  And, while digging in the fridge for cheese, I even found a refreshing drink for myself!  Wonder how long that’s been in the fridge!

Bake at 350º for about 20 minutes or until the cheese melts and everything is heated.  Serve over cooked pasta.

My Artist’s Way Toolkit – Review

Through the years, I’ve done The Artist’s Way study several times.  The study is truly a commitment and it does take time but it’s so worth it.  Every time I’ve finished the study, my response has been “Why didn’t I do this before now?” 

BlogHer Book Club is reviewing My Artist’s Way Toolkit which is an online version of Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way.  I thought the book was great but this online toolkit is amazing!   The kit includes: 

  • A contract
  • The Artist’s Date
  • Artist’s Way Exercises
  • Artist’s Way Creativity Pages
  • Artist’s Way Creativity Notes

Online, there’s also creative soundbites and quotes . . so much inspiration!

All of the above are done online.  The morning pages . . the dreaded morning pages  . . are done by hand on paper.  When I was first introduced to My Artist’s Way Toolkit, my first thought was that being able to do the morning pages online was a fantastic idea.  Then I read that those must still be written.in.hand.on.paper!  I grumbled but after doing the study for a few weeks, I see the benefit of hand writing those morning pages.  No matter how much I dread doing them, they are so very beneficial.

If you have ever done The Artist’s Way and are feeling the need to rejuvenate your creativity, or if you’ve never done the study, I cannot say enough good about it and how much it helps me.

I was compensated for this BlogHer Book Club review but all opinions expressed are my own.   I have loved this study for many years and hope you will love it too!