Aunt Itsy’s Skillet

Making the most of heat

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IMG_20171024_184006I wanted to say a little something about making the most of the heat you generate in your wood stove, complete with a crappy cell-phone photo to illustrate.

I store all of my cooking iron on top of the wood stove. Every time the wood stove gets hot all of my iron: a flat-iron, a massive dutch oven (the much beloved Aunt Itsy’s Skillet), and three smaller iron skillets 8”, 6”, and 4” in size respectively. The last is a single-egger. All that cast iron –itself not entirely easy to heat through and through– re-releases all the heat it absorbs as the stove & cabin air cools down. Kept well-oiled and lovingly-used the deep and healthy cure of each piece is renewed every time it’s heated without the loss of substance attendant on most types of dutch oven cooking. This extends the life of each piece in a damp climate and keeps each more or less sterile and ready for use at any time, especially the sealed dutch oven.

You’ll see all that iron being put to use in different ways in this picture. I’ve got a big-ass and damned cheery fire blazing in the wood stove below, so here you see my flat-iron being used to keep the bottom of a pot of rice from scorching, the dutch oven doing what it does second-best (sit there & look pretty), and the trio of omelet pans supporting a saute pan full of dinner in conditions so stable and sustaining it’d make a chef look twice at his/her expensive food warmer.

You’ll also see a big-ass stock pot with a steamy lid here. There’s three gallons of water in the act of being brought to a quiescent boil. The little bit of steam that escapes the snug lid keeps things vaguely humid in a sinus-friendly (but not mold-pleasing) way. All of the clean, hot water that doesn’t get used for washing up after dinner will sit there cheerily re-releasing warmth into the cabin all night; even after the fire has gone out.

There’s plenty of thermal mass in a giant iron wood stove already, but finding ways to enhance that mass allows me to heat the same space for longer with less fuel.

PS: Dinner was delicious.

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Amenities and shortcuts

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The only current built-in amenity at the cabin is a Magic Chef RV stove/oven (with the oven inoperable). Some online investigation has shown me that this specific model of stove/oven often has problems with oven lighting but I haven’t been able to devote the time and resources I need to sussing out the solution. Come winter I’ll wish I had an oven for all manner of warming foods, but come winter I’ll be able to use the wood stove & Aunt Itsy’s skillet (really a dutch oven) in combination to handle a lot of these tasks. Getting the oven operational isn’t near the top of my list. I’ve even considered the wisdom of switching to a cooktop only situation to claw back some shelf space in the kitchen.

I bought a radiant propane shop heater to provide spot heat on the coldest mornings and was the proud recipient of a rechargeable handheld DeWalt shop vacuum for my birthday this year so we’re able to add significant points to the comfort and cleanliness gauges.

The radiant heater has been useful in drying out the floors after my initial bout of hot soap scrubbing, and will be an especially welcome addition for newcomers who might not be used to the chill of a Northwest morning.

The little shop vac allowed me to vacuum surfaces that had never been vacuumed before: floors yes but also walls, joints, concealed surfaces, and all those little nooks & crannies full of two decades-worth of dead spiders and the hair of long-departed tenants. Dust mites, surreptitious mouse turds, sand, and cobwebs all sucked up and neatly containerized. It might be psychosomatic but the house just felt cleaner after a week of daily vacuuming projects.

One major additional benefit of the rechargeable shop vac (and the reason I never let it run all the way down if I can avoid it) is its perfect utility as a collector of ginormous spiders of the sort that wander in from the forest if I leave the place open to the breeze. Having dealt with forest spiders in Virginia during grad school my general rule of thumb is if the spread of its legs is bigger than a quarter it has to go. Too many mornings with spider bites…to many times awakened to feel some bold arachnid scurrying across my face. There’s a chance being sucked out of your web and hurled at high velocity down a tunnel into a hard plastic container will kill the spider but absent this solution there’s a 100% chance the spider dies via a rolled up New York Times magazine or something. The use of vacuum technology as a way to avoid having to get close to them and/or killing them makes me feel a little better…a little less eek-y.

But how do you recharge the battery? you might ask. Every day I come into town to conduct my affairs, usually involving a stop at a favorite coffee shop for an hour or two to get my connected work done (e.g., emails sent, online shopping done, research projects, professional tasks). On arrival while I’m plugging in my laptop I also plug in the cable of whichever recharger(s) I brought with me that day. Sometimes it’s the vacuum. Sometimes it’s the drill. Sometimes it’s the 18650 battery charger that reliably powers so many of my household items (e.g., high-intensity LED flashlights, holiday light strings, a wireless clip fan &c). All but the 18650 batteries charge in less than an hour and two hours of charging those, even if it doesn’t show me the green ‘charged’ lamp before I leave, is going to be sufficient to get me through the night at least.

Fresh basil tofu stir fry

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Spicy Fresh Basil Tofu Stir Fry
Spicy Fresh Basil Tofu Stir Fry

I had a pound of fried Than Son tofu from Uwajimaya in my fridge at risk of becoming un-fresh, a basil plant in need of debushing, and a son demanding something stir-fried on the double. A quick scan of available tofu fresh basil stir fry recipes revealed this gem, which I adapted for our purposes. The original includes a mess of greens in lieu of the carrots & green beans I had on hand, which also sounds good.

Spicy Fresh Basil Tofu Stir Fry

Ingredients

  • 500-750g fried ‘restaurant style’ tofu (or an equivalent amount of fresh firm pressed, cut into 1.5″ cubes, and fried in hot peanut oil until golden & crisp)
  • 1 tbsp peanut oil
  • 2 large red chilies, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 tbsp ginger, minced
  • 200g carrot, sliced
  • 200g green beans, trimmed
  • .5 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 c. light soy sauce
  • 1/2 c. vegetable stock
  • 1/4 c. Mirin
  • 1 c. basil leaves, chopped
  • cooked brown rice Note: I use Gen-Ji-Mai Quick Cooking Nutri-Whole Grain Premium Brown Rice b/c it doesn’t send my Type 1 Diabetic daughter’s blood glucose through the roof.

Instructions

  1. Steam the carrots and green beans 5m.
  2. Heat a large cast-iron skillet (or non stick frying pan or large wok) over high heat. Add 1/2 tablespoon of oil and the fried tofu and cook just 3-4 minutes or until becomes golden. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  3. Add 1/2 tablespoon of oil, chili, garlic, ginger and pepper and cook for 1-2 minutes. Return the tofu to the pan and add the carrots & green beans; stir fry until up-to-temperature.
  4. Add the soy sauce, stock and wine. Cook another 2-3 minutes. Note: Add a little ( .5 tsp) corn starch if the sauce takes too long to thicken.
  5. Top with the basil and serve over brown rice.

Serves 4.

Nutrition

  1. 1 c. Gen-Ji-Mai Quick Cooking Nutri-Whole Grain Premium Brown Rice (2*.25c uncooked is 2*.5 cooked) 70g CHO; 4g fiber; 2g total fat; 6g protein
  2. 250g fried tofu 25g CHO; 0g fiber; 18g total fat; 31g protein
  3. 1/16 c. Mirin 3.5g CHO; 0g fiber; 0g total fat; 0g protein
  4. 1/8 c. vegetable stock .5g CHO; .5g fiber; 0g total fat; 0g protein
  5. 1/16 c. soy sauce 0g CHO; 0g fiber; 0g fat; 2g protein
  6. 50g carrot 4g CHO; 1.5g fiber; 0g fat; .5g protein
  7. 50g green beans 3.5 g CHO;  1.5g fiber; 0g fat; .5g protein
  8. 106g CHO;   7.5G fiber;   20g total fat;   40g protein

Apple-Glazed Pork Tenderloin

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Apple-Glazed Pork Tenderloin
Apple-Glazed Pork Tenderloin, from AllRecipes.com

Last night’s pigmeat dinner for Calvin & me, lifted from the pages of AllRecipes.com:

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 (1 1/4 pound) pork tenderloin
  • kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 sweet onion, diced
  • 1 Gala apple, cut into chunks
  • 1/2 cup Riesling wine
  • 1 cup apple jelly
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Directions

  1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a baking dish large enough to hold the tenderloin without folding it.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, and brown the pork tenderloin on all sides. Remove the browned tenderloin to the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle all sides of the meat with salt, pepper, and parsley.
  3. Cook and stir the onion and apple in the same skillet over medium heat until the onion becomes soft, about 5 minutes, and pour in the Riesling wine. Scrape all the browned flavor bits off the bottom of the skillet and stir to help dissolve them into the wine. Bring to a boil, and pour the onion, apple, and wine mixture over the tenderloin.
  4. Mix together the apple jelly and balsamic vinegar in a bowl until the mixture is smooth and without lumps. Spread the jelly mixture all over the pork.
  5. Bake loin in the preheated oven until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center reads 145 degrees F (63 degrees C), 30 to 45 minutes. Allow the tenderloin to rest for 10 minutes before slicing, and serve each slice with a spoonful of the apple-onion mixture.

NOTES: We substituted apricot jelly for apple and used only about half as much, so our CHO count was likely substantially lower than that referenced below. Still full fat, though. 🙂

CARB COUNT FOR DIABETICS: 65.1g CHO/serving

Apple Glazed Pork Tenderloin Nutrition Information
Nutrition Information for the Apple Glazed Pork Tenderloin recipe from AllRecipes.com.

picadillo

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picadillo

Originally uploaded by wesh

Made this for self & kids tonight. Lovely stuff…sherry, salt, sweet-acid tomatoes…

tofu pelau

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tofu pelau

Originally uploaded by wesh

Tofu Pelau

Adapted from a recipe in A recipe from Trinidad & Tobago, found on p. 121-2 of Jessica Harris examination of African cooking in the new world Iron Pots & Wooden Spoons.

  • 1 lb. tofu, cubed & fried until golden brown (I use prepared fried tofu, available in most Asian markets)
  • 1 medium tomato, peeled & chopped
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 t chopped fresh chives
  • 1 T red wine vinegar
  • salt & fresh black pepper to taste
  • 2 T peanut oil
  • 1 T brown sugar
  • 2 c. water
  • 1.5 c. white rice
  • 16 oz. pigeon peas (or one can, drained)

Briefly marinate the tofu in a mixture of the tomato, thyme, onion, chives, vinegar, salt & pepper. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a heavy saucepan and brown the sugar over medium to high heat. Lower the heat, add the tofu & the marinade to the browned sugar and fry the tofu until it is browned on all sides. Add 1c. of water, cover, and simmer over medium heat for about 15 minutes. Add the rice and the remaining water, lower the heat, and simmer very slowly for an additional 15 minutes. Stir the drained pigeon peas gently into the pelau. Simmer for another 5 minutes, adjust the seasoning, and serve hot.

NOTE: The tofu can disintegrate if left too long in the marinade, so count on the tofu picking up the flavor of the dish in the saute instead of the marination step.

Ham & Corn Fritters

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Ham & Corn Fritters

Originally uploaded by wesh

Ham & Corn Fritters

Preheat deep fryer to 375F.

Beat until light:
•Two egg yolks

Add and combine with a few swift strokes:
•.5 c milk
•1.5 c sifted flour
•2 tsp double-acting baking powder
•.75 tsp salt
•.25 tsp paprika

Fold in:
•2 tbsp minced parsley or onion
•.25 c drained cream-style corn
•.75 c minced ham
•2 stiffly-beaten egg whites

Drop large spoons-full of the batter into the hot oil, being careful not to lower the temperature of the oil too much at once. Flip the fritters once during cooking, and remove with a slotted spoon. Drain over paper towels. Best served hot or warm, but if not overly greasy these can be enjoyed cold as well.

NOTE: If using Virginia ham or another salty cure, consider omitting much of the salt from the recipe.