(Slowly) Replacing Non-Stick

I hate non-stick pans. They wear out quickly, you have to be careful not to scratch them, stuff ultimately does stick and there’s always that whole cancer thing. Yuck. The biggest problem with replacing it, though, is that the alternatives are expensive and not always good. Over the years I’ve been finding alternatives that I love and slowly replacing my old stuff.

So, here is a list of what we’re cooking with now:

Cast-iron: We have three cast iron pans. Two were passed down to us, and one was purchased new. Although cast iron is a little more expensive than regular, cheap pans, it can last forever if taken care of. On that note, it is a lot more work that other pans. We also have 2 cast-iron enamel pots, which are fantatic for making bread, soup, stews, pretty much anything.

Alternative Non-stick: For Kurt’s past birthday I bought him this:

http://www.cuisinart.ca/cuisinart_product.php?item_id=260&product_id=235&cat_id=514

It is ceramic non-stick, and it’s absolutely amazing. I’ve made eggs in it with no oil and they come off perfectly. They are pretty expensive, but it looks like really good quality. Plus, I bought it for 40% off. If they go on sale again, I would seriously consider getting another one.

Aluminum Wok: We bought this in Chinatown. It works well, but needs to be seasoned like cast iron. It’s great for stir-fries.

Silicone: I have a couple of loaf pans and muffin tins. I’m not crazy about it because it seems to tear easily and is really hard to wash because they always seem to put weird grooves in everything.

Ceramic  Bakeware: Most of my bakeware is now this:

http://www.earthchef.ca/earthChefBakeware.html

I love it. It’s soooooo easy to clean and seems to bake things more evenly. I just picked up a couple more pieces at Zellers at a major discount since they’re closing.

This basically covers everything. We do still have a few non-stick things kicking around, but they were mainly gifts, which we feel bad getting rid of. Other than that we’re quite happy with what we use and feel much better about not ingesting any non-stick. If anyone has any other suggestions or ideas about things they use and love, please share!

Apple Round-Up

At the beginning of the month we went apple picking. We picked a little more than a half bushel, all of them honey crisp. The orchard had more varieties available at the time, but honey crisp are hard to find (and expensive) in stores, so that’s what we went with. I figured it was the best value. We were planning just to eat them, rather than preserve, bake or freeze, mainly because we still have apple stuff left from last year. It was a lot of apples though. One day we will have a cold room, and we will pick bushels and bushels of apples to see up through the year. These particular apples, however, sat in their bag in a corner of the dining room. The other day I went through them, mostly to make sure Daisy hadn’t bite any more holes into them. I discovered that about half of our apples had some sort of pox. There were little brown dots all over them. I quickly separated them from them good ones (isn’t there a saying about one rotten apple?). For the past few days the pox apples have been sitting on the counter, while I decided to do with them. Kurt claimed they were great to eat still as long as you cut the skin off, but I figured we should probably concentrate on eating the good apples, before they too became weird.

Today was the day. I was tired of them sitting there. There were around 20 large apples that I needed to use. I decided to make sauce, since our apple sauce from last year doesn’t taste great, so I only use it for baking. Peeling, coring and slicing them all was a lot of work by myself, but I got in done. The sauce smelled absolutely amazing cooking on the stove. It tastes fantastic too, it’s a little sour, so I’m not sure I’ll be able to cook with it though.

When I ran out of room in my pot for apples, I put the rest into freezer bags, so we’re definitely well equipped with apples for the year. I’m also doing something really interesting with the scraps. I will post more about that later on.

Savour Stratford

This past weekend we drove over to Stratford for their 5th annual Savour event. This was our second year attending. What it is, basically, is a weekend event celebrating all things culinary. They have tastings, meals prepared by local chefs, lectures, food vendors and a market. This year we attended talks on bee-keeping, breaking down a chicken (and using most of the parts), and fermenting. We also saw a presentation with David Rocco. We also got to eat some great food. The things I like most about this event is that it brings so many different groups and people together just to celebrate food. It is fantastic.

Freezing Tomatoes- Part 2

Today I set out to conquer the rest of my tomato pile by roasting them. I started early, because this particular recipe takes 10 hours. All I did was wash them, cut them in half and remove the stem part (I don’t know the technical term for this). Then I took two rectangular high walled baking pans (ie. brownie pan), drizzled some olive oil on the bottom, threw in some thyme, oregano, basil, whole garlic, salt and pepper, then placed in the tomatoes, cut side down. A little more oil drizzled on top and they are ready for a 200 degree oven. Simple. Much easier than blanching and removing the skins of 30 pounds of tomatoes.

After all day, untouched, in the oven, they turned into this:

Then, all that was left to do was peel off the skin (which was really gross). I guess, as mentioned in the title of this post, there should be the additional step of freezing them, but I’ve decided to make them into some roasted tomato basil soup, so my title is misleading. If you did want to freeze them, you would just throw them into a freezer bag and squeeze out the air. Again, simple. Plus, they taste great. Seriously, you should try this next time you have 10 hours free! I will let you know how the soup goes next week.

Freezing Tomatoes- Part 1

Earlier in the summer I got a great deal on tomatoes. I bought 25 pounds of romas for 7 dollars. I just canned them whole, because I used a lot of canned tomatoes. I was planning on making the rest of my tomato products when I got back (I spent the summer at my mom’s), since I wanted to freeze them and didn’t want to have to travel with frozen stuff. Anyways, since I’ve been back I’ve been looking for romas. Turns out, not only was I too late, since the growing season here is so much earlier, but since my mom lives in a city that’s, like 60% Italian, they just weren’t so plentiful here. Finally when I did find some, they were really expensive and not nice looking. I decided to try regular tomatoes. I got probably about 30+ pounds of ‘seconds’ for 10 dollars. A few had woody spots and they were dirty, but good otherwise. Most of them were great, mostly meat, with very few seeds, but I did find it much easier to core the romas.

Anyways, so far I’ve made paste and pizza sauce. I decided to freeze and not jar it all because I use so little at a time and I don’t like jars sitting open in the fridge for a long time, I also don’t like using those itty bitty jars because it seems like such a waste of a lid.

For the sauce, I just made my regular pizza sauce, with the skinned and cored tomatoes, onions, garlic and some herbs, then I put it in the blender. I simmered it for a few hours, then poured it into a silicone muffin tin and put in the freezer. Once they were frozen I popped them out and put them into a freezer bag. This way I have just enough for one pizza at a time.

                         

The paste was pretty easy, but ridiculously messy. I peeled (by first scalding and them shocking in ice water) and cored the tomatoes, put them in the blend, then  put them in a roasting pan in the oven at 425. It took a few hours. You know it’s done because you can draw a line with a spoon and it stays. I froze this the same at the sauce, but used a silicone ice pop mold, since the muffin tin was in use.

 

I still have about half the tomatoes left, so next I think I will be oven-roasting some…stay tuned.

 

Sneakin’ in the Veggies

I really like to try to add grated vegetables into whatever I can. It’s a super easy way to up your veggie intake and it’s especially great for people who have kids who claim they don’t like vegetables. This recipe I found is extra good because it has carrots and zucchini.

http://realmomkitchen.com/7878/carrot-and-zucchini-bars-with-lemon-cream-cheese-frosting/

The only changes I made were to use sugar instead of honey (I don’t like to bake with honey because it’s expensive and super messy to measure), and I used homemade jarred apple sauce instead of the oil. I also made tiny muffins instead of bars, so I baked them so 10 minutes. Because mine had no fat I kept them in the fridge to be safe.

I ate them with cream cheese icing left over from my last batch of cupcakes, but I think they would be great with just a smear of strawberry jam.

 

Nature is Glorious

Have you ever looked at a vegetable and thought about how beautiful it is? Sometimes I like to stop and marvel at them. This guy in particular sort of shouts, “Hey, stop! Look at me. I’m amazing.”

It’s called a candy cane beet. I think it’s beautiful. Also, nutritious.

Anyways, I just thought I’d take a moment to share some appreciation.

Holy Oversized Produce Batman

I love this time of year because we can pretty much all of our produce from local farms and growers. We have a lot of great farms and little markets near our house and when we can we try to go to the local farmers’ market, which is hard since it is Fridays 12-4; terrible. This year we’ve been able to get some great deals and some ridiculous stuff.

For instance, here is a butternut squash we got for 3 bucks.

I think it weighs at least 15 pounds.

We were also given a giant watermelon from a friend’s garden.

We also went apple picking recently. Many of the apples were big, but what always amazes me is the amount of apples that grow on these 5 foot trees. It’s shocking. Here is a picture of Daisy trying to make away with an apple. She loves stealing apples so much that it only took her about a minute from when I brought the bag in the house. She grabs them in her mouth and runs away. I wish I had a picture of that.

Wedding Registries

As I’ve mentioned, I will be getting married next summer. I’ve been reading over lists of things to do in planning a wedding. Something that seems quite important is registering for gifts. I’ve been thinking about this for a while now and I’ve come across a few problems.

1. The stores we like and shop at don’t do registries. It sucks that there is so little choice in the places that do these things, especially because it seems like such an amazing marketing scheme. These stores just have to program a scanner thingy to save registries, and maybe create a website, then presto, they have people spending crazy money. Maybe it’s not that simple, but it would really be nice for more stores to do it.

2. The stores that are okay, that do have registries do not have any locations where more of our guests live. Our families both live in Northern Ontario. I think the only store most people have access to is Sears. I really don’t feel comfortable asking people to pay significantly more for something they can get elsewhere for cheaper. This really frustrates me. Grrrr.

3. I would be happy to do an online registry, which there seems to be many websites devoted to, but then probably a third of my guest list is older people who wouldn’t feel comfortable doing this or wouldn’t know how.

4. We really don’t need to want very much stuff. We have been living together for years and we pretty much have everything. I’ve seen some websites that do experience gifts, like people can give money to put towards a trip or buying a house, but again, these are websites. Grrrrrrrrrrr.

I think that pretty much covers the problems. Now, I have to work on a solution. My cousin got married a few years ago and she didn’t register anywhere. With 2 showers and a wedding this left her with 3 non-matching dish sets, 5 sets of bed sheets, 10 cookie sheets, and so on. Not only did she probably not need all that crap, she probably didn’t like most of it. So clearly, this isn’t a solution.

I think maybe the only answer to register in a few different places. Maybe do some online stuff, some experiences and then a physical registry as well (probably as Sears *shudder*). This way everyone feels comfortable and hopefully we won’t have to buy a storage unit for the bed sheets we get.

Does anyone have any experience with this? Any advice? Am I just over thinking thing?

Homemade Holidays

Holidays already, seriously? I know, I know. Because I want to make all my Christmas gifts myself this year, I plan to start early. Also, I am less busy right now that I will be in the coming months. I haven’t actually began making stuff, I’ve just been brainstorming. We usually give preserves and other canned stuff, but we had a lot left over from last year so we didn’t really make anything special this year and I don’t want to give repeats of last year. I was thinking about doing fudge, but today I saw a picture of some really cute biscotti, so now I think that would be fantastic. I also want to make this caramel sauce:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/bettycrockerrecipes/5257751073/in/set-72157613087579655

I will let you know what I decide on, and if you have any great ideas let me know!