Thanks for all the comments on what I thought would be my most boring post ever about pots and pans! Here’s a couple of interesting things that were brought to our attention we want to share with you.
Bruce and Kathy from British Columbia shared this great find with us: a meatloaf pan! I never even knew such a thing existed, but this is pure genius! Who amongst us hasn’t struggled to get meatloaf out of the pan after cooking, only to mess up several portions. No more!
So, I recently learned a lot about Dutch ovens. Pre-17th century, the Dutch were the best makers of pots and pans in the world, using copper and brass. Then an Englishman thought cast iron would work, and be much more affordable … but to make it work, he had to use the “Dutch process” to cast them, so they’ve been known as Dutch ovens ever since.
It also turns out that if you want to get really picky, Dutch ovens are made of uncoated cast iron. The French devised a way to coat them with enamel, making them much easier to clean, and became known as French ovens (I never knew this). Here is a great article from Allrecipies on “What is a Dutch Oven” with lots more information, tips, and recipes.
So, last time, as to not totally bore you to death, I didn’t say much about fry pans. Haha, sorry, but yes, there’s more! Besides the Swiss Zyliss non-stick, we also have an uncoated cast iron fry pan (another Christmas gift from Terri to me), and a little, inexpensive copper coated fry/saute pan. After a very bad experience with the failure of a non-stick PFOA (teflon-type) fry pan, we went looking for alternatives. I was VERY skepical because of how little the copper-coated pan cost, but it has been a winner. It is amazingly fast and easy to clean, and the coating still appears to be very durable. Here is a link to a video on USA Today about the differences between cast-iron and stainless steel fry pans, and when to use each one for best results.
So now I’m even more curious – do you have a unique pan you absolutely love? Come on and share with the rest of us!
One of our first purchases together was a set of hard anodized Calphalon Cookware. We wanted something durable, well-made, and high quality that would outlast us. The investment in having the right assortment of sizes continues to pay great dividends as we find ourselves in the kitchen even more, due to the pandemic.
We have cooked for others in their homes a few times, and one of our biggest challenges has been the lack of pots and pans needed to perfectly prepare the meal. We have continued to add to our collection over the years, with some pieces absolutely worth every penny spent.
Several years back, we had our eyes on a classic Le Creuset dutch oven. When I naively asked Terri if that’s what she wanted for Christmas, she said “NEVER buy things for the kitchen for me for Christmas!” Message received, loud and clear. So I said, hey buy it for me for Christmas then, and she did. We have used it over and over again for countless soups, stews and specialty meals, and it is always a joy to get it out of the cupboard and onto the stove. We know a good meal is in the making!
I used to think that I was one of very few men in America who would willingly go into a kitchen store with his wife, but it’s been amazing to see how many men do most of the cooking when we watch reality TV shows on people buying homes across the USA. When we are in the fabulous little town of LaConner, we always stop in at The Ginger Grater and Olive Shoppe to see what’s new. One time we stumbled across this fry pan made by Zyliss, and bought it based on the owner’s glowing recommendation. It has been a terrific workhorse for us. It has a non-PFOA nonstick coating that is better than every other non-stick pan we’ve had, including one from Colophon. It heats evenly, and cleans super-easy every time.
We are fortunate to have a Le Creuset store in an outlet center near us … we popped in one day, and found a pan we just could not resist. The closest thing I can find on their website is a “Cassadou,” but ours is wider, and not as deep. After the Zyliss fry pan above, this may be our most-used pan. No crowding here when cooking up a big batch of chicken, or the Tuscan Chicken with Garbanzo Beans!
We were wandering around Whidbey Island doing an artist studio tour one year, and came across this beautiful ceramic cookpot. It is basically on display on the open bottom shelf of our sideboard. We haven’t used it as much as I thought we would, but it sure adds beauty to our eating area – and Terri just found a recipe for Vegetarian Butternut Squash Chili with Black Beans that just cries out to be cooked in this pot.
Well, Congratulations! You actually read this all the way to the end! Pots and pans aren’t a very exciting topic, but having the right tools for the job at your disposal can make all the difference in your cooking experience. Now, let’s get cooking!
If you watch this quick video of Chef Emirl Lagasse, you’ll get the gist of how I cook in 20 seconds. Click HERE to jump right to the Menu Planning and Recipes for this week. Or, just keep reading for “the rest of the story.” One day years ago, I realized how much I am tuned-in to the stimulation of my senses. I love using my sight to enrapture me with the beauty of nature, with art, and capturing the wonderment of life. I love listening to music, and marvel as some of it reaches way down deep inside of me. I love to use my sense of touch to translate the physical external into the areas of the soul. Now, can we get to taste?? I have no recollection of when the desire to experience the multifaceted dimensions of flavor started. It may have been the first time I had a hot pepper, or hot sauce.
I started to learn about herbs, how they grew, which herb went best with main dish ingredients. While my garden size is a bit diminished, I still grow much of our herbs. Sage, Rosemary, Thyme and Oregano are perennials that we can pick fresh practically year around. In the outdoor growing season, we always grow Basil and Jalapeno Peppers, with varied success. Tarragon and Parsley have carried over the winter occasionally, always a treat to see them going strong after a long winter.
Then, the Coup’ de Gras – our indoor, year-around AeroGarden herb garden. Totally hydroponic, easy to care for, this little guy produces copious amounts of fresh herbs; right now we have two types of Basil, and Mint, which far outlasted the Oregano, Parsley and Thyme. During the bland months of winter, a small handful of Basil in a green salad just makes the whole thing dance in your mouth.
And we haven’t even started talking about Spices! The brightness and depth they can bring to meals is simply the difference between a frozen TV dinner and your mother’s cooking. As I tried one spice, I had to try the next, and the next, and the next. Now, as you can see, we have two drawers full of spices and dried herbs. In my Recipes and Menu planning page, you’ll see Zucchini and Spinach Chilaquiles. You may notice that we have always raved about it … BUT, we “made it our own” by adding ground meat and the six spices at the top of the page that made it turn from Good to GREAT! Note there are no measurements for these spices, just add according to your taste. Click here for the recipe.
Here are a few of my must-have spices:
Granulated Onion & Granulated Garlic So easy to add another layer of flavor! I always use them on roasted chicken, in soups and stews, and as my inspiration dictates.
Chili Powder … which should include Medium and hot Chili Powder, Ground Chipotle and let’s just throw in Cayenne for fun. Adding a half-teaspoon of one of these to a boring dish will indeed “kick it up a notch. POW!”
Cumin It’s not “Mexican” if it doesn’t have Cumin in it! Also good on chicken.
Jerk Seasoning – but please, do me a favor. If you don’t make your own, PLEASE look for a salt-free version! They are typically scary-high in sodium, and we don’t want anything bad to happen to anyone.
Curry Haha, “curry.” There must be 100,000 recipes for curry, regional variations on down to grandma’s recipe. Right now we have 10 spice jars with different curries in them. Curries can be anywhere from mild to burn-your-face-off. Do a bit of homework, then find something with more than the word Curry on it.
Herbs and Spices! Growing up, my dad was a “meat-and-potatoes” guy, salt and pepper only. Mom had a few tins of herbs in red-and-white tins – Shilling? – that were primarily used for stuffing in the Thanksgiving turkey. That and a dash of cinnamon for her home-made applesauce. Spicy spices were never even a thing, and still aren’t for some family members. But now, here I am, clearly an herb and spice addict, always wanting more. More layers of flavors, using alchemy to synthesize a whole new dimension in taste. Onward, fearless cooks! Be generous with the herbs and spices you employ to bring enjoyment to those around you. Now, let’s get cooking!
P.S. Our FAVORITE place to buy herbs and spices is online, from Penzy’s. I can’t recommend them enough! What herbs or spices other than the above are in your “must have” list? Asking for a friend…
At the end of May, 1972, my mom told me she had breast cancer. As she underwent treatment, she also did research, and found a link between the hormone DES that was fed to beef at the time and was linked to cancer. I was already exploring healthier eating options, as well as eastern religions, so I decided to stop eating beef (and lamb and pork and other mammals) for one year. I never started again, and so was spared all the angst of Mad Cow Disease, and later all the links with heart disease.
More recently, we had our own encounter with the “big C”, and took a closer look at our diet, and determined that using as much organic food as possible could be very beneficial to our health. While it is tough to absolutely prove it, this study seems to show a 25% reduced risk from cancer by eating organic foods. Read how eating organic can reduce cancer risk link here: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323407
The problem with conventionally grown fruits and vegetables is the residual pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals. Many of them are linked to cancer in humans; they are absorbed into the cell structure of plants, and cannot be washed off. The Environmental Working Group has a list of foods that are the worst to buy that are conventionally raised:
EWG’s 2020 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce
EWG’s 2020 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™
+ Hot Peppers
Eating organic can be more expensive, so EWG also put together a list of the Clean Fifteen, foods you can safely buy and eat that don’t need to be organic:
EWG’s 2020 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™
2. Sweet Corn*
6. Sweet Peas Frozen
14. Honeydew Melon
The * denotes plants that may use genetically altered seeds.
Organic fruits and vegetables are now widely available at Fred Meyer (Kroger), Walmart, Target, and even Costco! Our very favorite place to shop and get the very best in organics is at our local farmers markets. Generally they are picked the same day, so they are incredibly fresh, and often young and tender, plus they often offer many more varieties.
Things we didn’t used to think about: raisins are just dried grapes, which is #6 on the dirty list. Oats aren’t on the list, but we use them a lot for our home-made granola, so we get organic. Canned tomatoes, pasta sauce and salsa uses tomatoes, #10 of the dirty list, so we go organic there, as well as canned beans.
Finally, a huge percentage of organic foods are grown on smaller farms, grown by independent farmers. In this day and age of huge conglomerates taking over the world, it feels good to support the little guy/gal trying to make the world a better place. Food grown with love and cooked with love … we think that’s a win/win!
Looking for our menu planner and recipes? Click this link, or on the blog menu, click on the Recipe and Menu Planner .
Another mixed bag this week. One amazingly great recipe, one recipe that we tried once; after we highly modified it, it is now a keeper, and another that got eliminated. That’s right folks, you only get the best of the best here. Sorry for the late post; hopefully you had some planned-overs to get you through until today.
Well, that’s it for this week, hope you find a recipe that you love. We have some incredible meals coming up next, so stay tuned, and Let’s Get Cooking!
By now, you are familiar with our own private cookbook, full of our very favorite recipes. We love every one of them, but we reamain curious whenever we see something that looks great. Sometimes they are winners, and sometimes just meh. That’s what happened when we were cooking up a storm before we left for the Long Beach Peninsula recently. One recipe turned out much better than expected, and will be going in our Favorites. The other was quite disappointing, very flat and one-dimensional. I’m including it here just because maybe you can figure out what’s missing, and share it with the rest of us. I did slather it with Sriracha last night, and that did help.
As a bonus, I’m including a recipe for the Best Fried Chicken Ever, which we used in place of the frozen, store-bought, over-salted chicken fingers. We cut the breasts in half, followed the recipe, then cut them into fingers for the Hawaiian Chicken Casserole. It worked out great, and the recipe was stunning. Hope you like it!
WE kicked it up a notch in the kitchen this week! Tryng a new layout – Meni first, followed by photos, and then the recipes with notes. Hope you get a chance to try a few of these … let me know what you think!
In an earlier post, I talked about how I first learned to like new foods, and to cook. I also developed a new interest in having a healthier diet; I found the magazine Cooking Light, and found tons of inspiration in every issue. I tried dozens, no, hundreds of new recipes – some were good, some great, and some … well, no need to go back there.
Fast forward to about 15 years ago when Terri and I traded two kitchens for one, and we started cooking up a storm together. One day we had the inspiration to start saving the recipes we enjoyed in our own notebook. Generally we would make a note of the day we cooked it, along with our rating: “Good!” Or “Great!!” Or “Company worthy!!!” We organized them by some basic categories, such as Chicken, Fish, Breakfast, Soups and Stews, etc.
Well, after 15 years, it kinda got out of hand. We had recipes stuffed here and there, some filed in the wrong places, some we tried, some were waiting for the right moment, some with no ratings. One of my retirement projects was to go through that overflowing 3” notebook and bring a bit more order to the chaos … but Terri beat me to it. It took awhile, but now its organized much better, marginal recipes discarded (too much sodium, too much work for not enough flavor, not rated highly enough). This thing, if not a work of art, is a thing of beauty!
Back before COVID-19, we used to enjoy hosting people for dinner at our home. Terri and I both love to cook, and by some miracle, we work together very well in the kitchen, and get a ton of enjoyment cooking for our friends and family. Now, perhaps our guests were just being polite, but we were often told that our meals were good. We hope so, and hope that everyone felt the love we poured into them.
A few weeks ago when we were enjoying a social-distance moment with Terri’s sister Lauren, and BIL John, he commented on how much he enjoyed our meals, and wondered if we could help them with meal-planning ideas and strategies. Terri and I kicked the idea around, and it kept growing and expanding beyond all reasonable expectations until we were internet superstars. The cold light of dawn put a sharp pin in that fantasy balloon, but the original idea never went away. So John, this is for you!
First thing we do is to pull out our Menu Planner (I may have mentioned I am a chronic list-maker). We pull out our calendar to see if we will be home, traveling, or otherwise eating out – a very quick task these days, as we continue to maintain a very high level of isolation.
Then we pull out our Cooking with Bill and Terri Cookbook, plus any recipes that may have caught our eye as we checked our inbox. Our healthy-eating goal is to have two fish meals a week. I also am a huge believer in “planned-overs” – we love being able to go to the fridge or freezer and pull out a great meal that just needs a salad, so quick and easy!
Once I plan out the meals, I pull out our grocery list (yep, another list) that is arranged by the layout of the store. These day things are a bit more challenging, as we don’t feel safe or comfortable going into stores, so I open the Fred Meyer app, and place my order there for pickup the next day.
That’s all there is to it! I’ve included a copy of my Menu Planner, along with this week’s meals, and the matching recipes. What do you think? Helpful? Too much work? Hope it inspires you to get Cooking with Bill and Terri!
The Roasted Chile Verde Chicken Enchiladas is very time consuming – maybe two hours total. BUT it makes eight servings, so that’s four meals at one whack for us! I always add a bit of granulated onion, powdered garlic, and some medium chili powder to kick it up a notch.
For the Chicken Cutlets with Sun-dried Tomatoes my only modification was to use chicken breasts and cut them in half lengthwise. We served over a whole grain, but it would also be breat over a pasta that would catch the great sauce.
Seared Tuna with Avacado Salsa
We were blessed recently with a gift of tuna loins from our daughter Jenn! Then, while at the ocean recently, we saw a shop that does both fishing charters and fish processing … AND they sell frozen Tuna loins there, maybe a couple of pounds to a package, so we got three. We got four medium steaks plus smaller ends from that, so it made a great meal, plus leftovers. You should be able to find tuna steaks at your grocery store.
A Magnitude 9 earthquake has been predicted up here in the Pacific Northwest for some time. When it hits, it’s going to be crippling – we have no place to run to the west (salt water), to the east (the treacherous road over the pass is closed six months of the year). To the north and south, vulnerable bridges cross rivers just a few miles away.
Then we are at risk of pyroclastic flows screaming down an erupting Mount Baker, following the nearby Skagit River, or lowland flooding from increasingly extreme weather. Until this week, I’ve felt pretty secure from forest/wildfires in our small town of 15,000 souls. Watching the devastation of complete towns in Washington recently ramped up my awareness; we are two blocks away from a small swath of farmland that butts up against miles of heavily forested mountains, and two homes away from a 5-10 acre undeveloped parcel with tinder-ready grasses and weeds.
Our risk just became very real. It’s been my intention to prepare a “Go Bag” with some essentials for years, but I never got around to it. Now, with one of my Oregon brothers close to Mount Hood evacuating, a sister on the coast under evacuation alert, level 3 evacuations in populated areas near family in Portland, and a near-miss from cousins in Idaho, and our being stuck inside due to heavy smoke in this area, it seemed like an opportune time to finally prepare my Go Bag.
Except that my idea of pre-packing two backpacks just seemed to present too many limitations. Then I had my aha moment … I needed to think inside the box! As part of my retirement projects to organize the garage, I bought some plastic storage bins, and I had one large one left over that we’ve been using to pick up our grocery order at the store. It turned out contain a bit less than I hoped, but for now, it holds most of what I deemed essential if we need to bug out in a hurry with no clear destination. I still need to get a couple of things – another sleeping pad, a portable solar charger, 50’ of nylon rope and more dehydrated meals, but my Go Box seems pretty ready.
There are a number of other items that would be extremely helpful, but that don’t make sense to pre-pack, so that list is taped to the outside of the Go Box. My sister Jae sent a copy of a list she had, which made me think of even more things to pack … if I have time, so that is listed separately.
We are certainly living in unprecedented times, and it’s becoming evident we really need to be able to take care of ourselves for a time in the face of disaster, whatever that may look like where you live. My heart goes out to those who are right now losing homes and businesses, and even loved ones to the super-charged natural disasters we are experiencing this year. Stay safe, and lend a hand however you are able.