In the Kitchen...Dutch Ovens

Top row: Sue's Dutch ovens, Bottom row: Myrna's Dutch ovens
Can any kitchen get along without a Dutch oven?  I think our mom did although she had a nice Dutch oven size round roaster that probably served much the same purpose, but we sure wouldn’t want to, even when we’re now only regularly cooking for two or three.
I have two Dutch ovens, a relatively inexpensive enameled cast iron 5 ½ quart one from Tramontina that cooks evenly and is a nice size.  The enameled coating has held up well and it’s fairly easy to clean, but can’t go in the dishwasher.  The downside…the top rim of the pot is not enameled, and started rusting a little - it needs to be completely dried, and it’s very heavy when filled.  It is oven-safe up to 400°.  I haven’t regretted not buying one of the very expensive brands as this one works fine for me.
The other is my favorite, now my go-to pan, even though it’s a lot more expensive…a Calphalon Unison 5 quart nonstick Dutch oven with a glass cover.  Its comparatively light weight, even the outside will stand up to the dishwasher, the glass lid lets you see what’s cooking, and best of all, it cooks very evenly and browns meat perfectly, much better than most nonstick pans…just as good as the cast iron one.  The handles stay cool on the cooktop, and the whole thing is oven-proof.
Myrna had an old Magnalite cast aluminum Dutch oven that she bought inexpensively at an estate auction, that she used for years.  It had a ribbed bottom so she couldn’t use it on her glass stove top, but she can use it in the oven.  The newer Magnalite models are round, with flat bottoms and a removable trivet to keep meat out of the juices instead of the older ribbed bottom.  Myrna's has been passed on to the younger generation.
She now uses a Calphalon tri-ply stainless steel 5 quart model.  She likes it but says it’s pretty heavy to use, and she’d like a smaller model.  The tri-ply stainless models cook pretty evenly on the stovetop and can go in the dishwasher too.
Last Christmas Myrna purchased two enameled cast iron models from Aldi’s at a good price and gave them to her daughter and granddaughter.  They both are very satisfied, and say their pans cook evenly and serve the purpose.
None of these Dutch ovens are cheap, but they have earned a place in our small kitchens for cooking roasts, stews and soups, as well as an extra good sized pot to help on canning day.

Cooking in your Dutch Oven:

Chicken or Turkey Stew with Dumplings

Southwest Cheese Soup

Spareribs and Sauerkraut

Individual Pot Roasts with Herbs and Carrots

Braised Pork and Cabbage

Freezer Herbed Tomato Soup

Beef Bourguignonne

Do You Remember?

Southeastern Iowa at the Stringtown Amish community
north of  Kalona on a very cold day
Do you remember.....

  • When the wash went on the outside clothes line no matter how cold it was?
  • When clothes sometimes were  freeze-dried, and stiff as a board?
  • When most barns were red and utility poles only had 2 lines..one for electricity and one for the telephone?
  • When cattle gleaned in the harvested corn field?
Bonnie, my sister-in-law, and I talked about this over coffee time.  She remembers her mother hanging wash on a line in the living room in the coldest months; Myrna and I remember hanging laundry in the basement furnace room.  None of us had a clothes dryer until we married.  And no, none of us want to go back to winter outside clothes drying.  I do use laundry racks and hangers for a lot of our wash, but I also have a first-floor laundry room that our mothers would have appreciated.  

Family Favorites...Fine Cooking Potato Chip Cookies


Sweet and Salty
  This is almost the same recipe that Sue has posted for Potato Chip cookies though they came out quite different. I think the method of flattening them and finely chopping the pecans make a difference. Either way, this recipe from Fine Cooking Cookies or Sue’s recipe these are a great cookie and very few people will guess that there are potato chips in the cookies. A sweet and salty cookie at the same time.
  My only problem with the recipe is that it made way too small of a batch. Made them yesterday afternoon and this morning they are almost gone. Next time I will make more as they are so easy to make I just have to find a better flat bottom glass to use to flatten them. I didn’t realize that I did not have a flat bottomed glass anymore. I think we used to use jelly glasses. Good way to use up broken chips in bottom of bag.
Potato-Chip Cookies
½ lb. (1 cup) butter at room temperature (about 20 minutes to soften)
½ cup granulated sugar; more for shaping
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 ounces (scant 2 cups) all purpose flour
2 ounces (1/2 cup) finely chopped pecans
½ cup finely crushed potato chips (try crushing in a ziplock bag with a rolling pin)
  Position oven rack in the middle of oven and heat to 350°. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  Using a mixer on medium speed beat the butter and sugar till creamy and well blended, about 4 minutes. Add the vanilla and beat until blended. To bowl, on low speed add the flour, pecans and potato chips just until blended.
  Shape heaping teaspoons of dough into 1 inch balls (I used cookie scoop). Place about 2 inches apart on lined cookie sheets. Lightly butter the bottom of a flat bottomed glass, dip into granulated sugar and press cookie to about to ¼ inch thick.  Bake at 350° for 10 to 11 minutes until edges are brown. Cool on pans for 5 minutes and then on wire rack. 
Yield: About 30 cookies
  To store, do not cover and to freeze, layer with wax paper between each layer of cookies
*TIP: Do not freeze or refrigerate the unbaked cookie dough or the potato chips will become soggy. 

Instant Pot Pork Chops and potatoes

 Another meal from my newest appliance Instant Pot. I have quit making pork chops as we feel they are too dry and tough. I decided to try them in the pressure cooker and looked for recipes to use. Most of them called for a can of mushroom soup and water which I am not supposed to eat so took the directions and used a mix of chicken stock and beef stock for the liquid. One of the things I like the best is the sauté function. 
 These chops turned out great and as I had put potatoes on the rack and placed the rack over the chops we had a meal ready to go. You could add vegies also, just be sure they take about the same amount of time or close to the end of the time, let the pressure down and add and than bring back up to pressure to finish. I just used the juice but it is easy to thicken for gravy.

Pork Chops and potatoes in Instant Pot
4 bone in pork chops (about ¾ inch thick)
2 tablespoons of oil
2 cups of chicken and/or beef stock 
2 tablespoons sherry optional
Salt and pepper to taste
4 to 5 medium baking potatoes, peeled, halved, or quarter if larger
 Season chops and put oil in the instant pot. Turn to Sauté function and brown chops on both sides, if you need to, brown in two batches. Remove to a plate and add the stock and sherry if using to deglaze pan and loosen brown bits from the bottom. Add the pork chops back and the juices from the plate. Place rack over the chops and place peeled, quartered or halved potatoes on rack.
 Lock lid in place and using manual setting, set time for 18 minutes. When timer runs down, use a natural release or wait 10 minutes and turn to vent and let the rest of the pressure down. Remove potatoes and chops, keep warm and thicken broth for gravy if desired .

In the Kitchen...Stockpots


Stockpots have replaced granite-ware enameled water bath canners in my kitchen these days, and I also use them for big batches of stock or for blanching fruit or vegetables or soaking and draining dried beans and the like. 
I have 2 now, a 12 quart Tramontina stockpot from Walmart that I use primarily as a water-bath canner, and an 8 quart stockpot with a strainer insert that I simply love for blanching everything from peaches and tomatoes so I can slip skins, to blanching green beans and other vegetables, as well as making small pots of stock where I can simply strain out the bones and vegetables easily.  
Neither pot was terribly expensive, but I like the stainless steel for its cleanup properties, as well as the tri-ply bottoms that are heavy and also smooth enough for my glass-top range.  If I was looking for a new pot, I would definitely choose the handle over the knob on the lid as it doesn’t spin around and stays attached better.   I also like the silicone cover on the handles on the newer models.   If you water-bath quart jars, you will need at least a 20 quart stockpot for the height.
I do like the glass lids, as I can see if the water is over the jars or food.  I have purchased pressure cooker trivets that fit into the stockpots for canning…I do occasionally use the 8 quart pot when I can a few half pints, as it doesn’t take as much water to heat up.  Round cake racks of the right size will also work for canning.
I store the stock pots with my canners, in a shelved cabinet with doors outside my kitchen area.
Even if I gave up canning, I would keep the 8 quart pot with the strainers for their versatility around the kitchen.
Some recipes for your stockpots...remember the stock recipes can be frozen or canned.
Home Canned Soup Vegetables

Sunday in Iowa...


This is on the square in Bloomfield, Iowa, population 2640.  
We occasionally see parking down the middle of the street in other county seat towns around Iowa.
The courthouse is out of sight in the center of the square on the left.  Notice the frost coated trees.

Do You Remember?

On the edge of Pella, Iowa
Do You Remember….

When “the convenience” wasn’t so convenient?
When many farms looked like this one – with a chicken house, barns, “foursquare” white house, silos?
When there were geese in the pasture?