Cast Iron Skillets – Grandmother’s Non-Stick

Our grandmothers didn’t have non-stick but they survived. They cooked eggs, made sauces, and seared meat all in a piece of cooking equipment that is coming back into vogue: the cast iron skillet. As many avid cooks know, these pans are: oven safe, last forever, get scalding hot, and when cared for properly, are non-stick. With the downsides to Teflon and traditional non-stick pan getting more and more attention in the press, people today are looking for alternatives. I for one am glad to see the return of the cast iron skillet. As mentioned in our post on carbon steel pans non-stick as we think of it has a host of issues. It decomposes flaking off into food, it releases toxic fumes above 500 degrees, and it has a limited heat range for searing. Cast Iron on the other hand has none of those drawbacks and can last forever.

Caring for Cast Iron
Cast Iron Skillets like their carbon brethren require more care than the conventional non-stick. What you get in return is healthier food and a more durable pan. Cleaning is the big place that these skillets differ from a traditional frying pan. The surface achieves it’s non-stick properties through the seasoning process and as such requires care to preserve it. Here is an in-depth guide to cleaning and refinishing cast iron from Lodge, the makers of our favorite cast iron skillets. In short, if you follow these steps you’ll preserve them perfectly: clean the pan out quickly after use, scrub with kosher salt if you need an abrasive cleaner, wipe it down with vegetable oil when finished.

What to cook?
These pans are great for anything that requires time on the stove top as well as in the oven to cook through. Cast iron skillets are by far the best tools for searing things like cuts of steak or pork since they hold heat more effectively than thin metal frying pans. Another great use is as a baking tool. Cast Iron Corn Bread is one of my favorite dishes to serve large groups, because it tastes great and it has a huge presence when served on the table.

I have really enjoyed my cooking experiences with a cast iron skillet. It gives me peace of mind to know that I am avoiding the dangers of Teflon pans, and I am using something that is ultimately more effective too. Let us know your thoughts and experiences cooking with cast iron skillets.

Greening Your Home: Why you should chose LED Light Bulbs

LED Light Bulbs are growing in popularity in the US and across the world for a number of reasons, but chiefly because they last a very long time and over the long haul save you money. A recent piece on Vox.com discussed this in detail, the writer bought 26 bulbs (in order to replace each one in his house). Although this was a significant onetime expense over time the bulbs last they are projected to save him hundreds of dollars in utility bills. The full text of that piece, with some purchase recommendations can be found here.

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5 Uses for Used Coffee Grounds in the Garden

I drink a lot of coffee. I love the process of making it. I like the taste, of course I don’t mind the caffeine either – but it leaves me with a lot of used coffee grounds. As mentioned in other Life Home Living pieces we like things that do double duty a digital scale and measuring cup all-in-one is a great example of that. So I started digging around for things that I could do with all of the spent coffee grounds from my morning pot of Joe. Several interesting potential uses popped up in my searches – they can be used as an abrasive cleaner, or when dried out apparently make a good deodorizer for the fridge in place of something like baking soda. The Applications that appealed to me the most though were in the yard, I love to garden and we have covered off on here before on subjects like getting a greener lawn and growing better tomatoes. The idea that in these used coffee grounds I had an organic, FREE, and readily available fertilizer just sitting in my trash was exciting to say the least. Not only does coffee work as a fertilizer it has a number of other in garden benefits, Used coffee grounds can:

1.) Be used to repel slugs and snails.
2.) Repel ants, if they are crawling up your trees sprinkle them in a circle around the base.
3.) As a high nitrogen element in compost.

Most of all though used coffee grounds make a very good fertilizer, especially if your soil is low in nitrogen, they contain over 2% at a ratio of 24:1 – our west especially or in places with soil that is high in clay or sand this is a great addition directly to the soil. You can applu used coffee grounds 2 ways: the easy way as a solid or as a liquid. I tend to prefer option one which means I just rake them into the soil about 2 inches deep. If you want to make a liquid fertilizer for more even application soak about 2 cups of coffee grounds in a 5 gallon bucket overnight and then apply directly.