Lodge Cast Iron Loaf Pan – a Baking Review

I won this Lodge cast iron loaf pan in a contest on Linda’s Pantry YouTube channel. It is such a great addition to my cast iron collection. I now have a Lodge cast iron 10″ frying pan, a 10″ dutch oven and a 12″ dutch oven. I’ve used the loaf pan several times already, but I will tell you about my first bake in this extraordinary little guy.


I made dill bread. Many years ago, my husband and I would go to a dinner theater. I had been going to this theater with my mother since I was a little girl. The one thing I always remembered about the place was…. the bread. They served the most amazing dill bread and cheese bread that you have ever tasted. Everyone would ask for seconds, thirds, and more. After many years, the theater actually opened up a separate bakery on site where they would sell loaves so that you could bring some home. They sold out almost every time. It is that good. Soft and airy, with a great dill flavor. It became the routine that when you went there, you rushed to the bakery line that winded down several hallways, and bought your bread before the meal was served. Some people even came late to the meal so that they could get their bread. I wanted to recreate the kind of dill bread that my husband and I had been served at this fantastic dinner theater.  It is that good. Soft and airy, with a great dill flavor.

To recreate this recipe I used my tried and true white bread dough recipe and added 2 tablespoons of dill. It looked good. It smelled good. I set it for the first rise and then pressed it into the Lodge cast iron loaf pan for the second rise.

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I sprinkled some cheese on top, just like they do at the theater bakery.


The house smelled amazing. I wish I would bake bread more often because whenever I do, I am so happy. And the family loves it, too. While we’re waiting for it to bake, I will review the pan.


When the loaf pan first came, I was surprised by how small it was. I’m used to long skinny loaf pans, and this one is a bit wider, but not very long. It measures 10″ long, 5″ wide, and has a depth of 2 3/4″. Once I used it, I realized that it is the perfect size. It weighs a nice and heavy 4.5 pounds. You know you are using cast iron when you pick this thing up! My daughters’ eyes bulged with surprise when they held it!

The pan is already seasoned and ready to use. After baking dill bread, banana bread, sourdough bread and meatloaf, everything just kind of slid out when it was baked, leaving little to clean up. A quick wipe with warm to hot water and a thin coating of fresh oil, and it was ready for it’s next use. This pan can also be used on the grill for holding smoker chips! That’s what I love about cast iron, it is pretty much indestructible!

So, how did my bread turn out?

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Yum! It wasn’t quite as light as we get from the theater bakery, but we loved it. Next time, I’m going to add more dill. While we could taste the dill, we were expecting a stronger flavor, so next time I’ll double it and see if that is better.

The bread was gone in a few hours. And the crust all around was just perfect. Yep, I’m in love with my new Lodge cast iron loaf pan!


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My Last Day of Christmas Break

This summer, I purchased a pressure canner. It has become one of my favorite tools. I had wanted one for years, and after making too much corn on the cob for the 4th of July, I really wanted to can the leftovers because my freezer was full. I had used a water bath canner for years, but was excited to spread my wings challenge myself to canning meats, beans, vegetables, soup, etc.

I went and bought it, yes, I went that night and bought it! It was already 8:00pm by the time I got home.  I canned that corn until 1:00am, loving every minute of it. Yes, I am insane! Now, six months later, I have over 100 jars of food in my reorganized basement pantry. I have a variety of beans (kidney, garbanzo, and pinto,) corn, green beans, red cabbage, peaches, blueberries, barbecue sauce, pickles, potatoes, jams, chicken, pork, sloppy joes, and just a few days ago I canned chicken soup. I plan to can chili, more meat, and some more jam in the months to come.

But today is the last day of Christmas Break, and my family needs something yummy and healthy to eat. Enough with over-indulgence. We need to get back to the weight watchers meals and drop some more pounds! So I decided to make banana bread? Yes, I had 12 frozen bananas taking up too much space in my freezer, so I whipped up 3 large loaves of banana bread, using my new cast iron loaf pan for one. That loaf turned out the best!

One of my loaves. It looks slightly burnt in the picture, but it wasn’t. 

The banana bread will be perfect for my little girls to eat for breakfast. And if we save up enough points during the day, we can also have a slice. I figured that each slice is about 6 – 8 points. Without butter. Yeah, it’s pricey, but ohh so good!

My official start time = 4:30pm

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I put 4 chicken thighs and 4 skinless chicken breasts in a baking tray and slathered on some of my homemade zesty peach barbecue sauce from the Ball Canning recipe. I covered the meat and baked it at 350 F for 30 minutes and then checked it. I slathered on some more sauce and baked it uncovered for 45 more minutes until the internal temperature was 165F.

Meanwhile, the banana bread also baked away in the oven. I made some rice in my rice cooker, and heated up my homemade canned green beans with mushrooms. This recipe is from my new Ball Canning Book.


When the chicken and rice were done, and the green beans were heated up, we sat down for a wonderful meal. We added even more of the zesty peach barbecue sauce, and served up some canned peaches to help take away from the heat of the sauce. Supper was wonderful.

Our goal is to stay around 15 smartpoints per meal. The sauce was 5 points per serving, the rice was 4 points, the chicken was 3 points, and the peaches were 4, for a total of 16 points. That was close enough to our goal of 15 to make us happy eaters! I cleaned up the table and baking supplies and returned my kitchen to normal.

My kitchen was closed at 7:17 pm

So, in less then three hours I had three loaves of yummy banana bread and a healthy meal of zesty peach barbecued chicken with rice, green beans and canned peaches. I also had all of the dishes in the dishwasher and the kitchen was returned to normal. I’d call that a pretty good night!

Now, back to work!

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Chicken Soup – Part 1 – Bone Broth

It’s winter. Christmas is finished. The house is chilly in the mornings and we are home for a week from school. What’s a great way to warm up the house on a day where the high temperature is only 19 F? Can up some chicken soup!!

It’s an easy two day process, and surprisingly, it isn’t a lot of work. Of course I use my Electric Pressure Cooker, which is one of my favorite tools,  to make it even easier! This makes the best broth I have ever made. My youngest daughter will drink the broth alone, it’s THAT good! (Read 5 Things I Love About My Pressure Cooker)

I start with chicken legs or thighs. Today thighs were priced pretty cheaply, so I picked up a family pack.

Bone Broth Ingredients – 6 Chicken thighs, 2 carrots, 2 stalks of celery, one onion, garlic, 12 cups of water.

I used six thighs for the bone broth and froze the other four to be used in another meal. I tossed the meat in the electric pressure cooker, washed and cut up (cutting in large hunks… you don’t have to dice this up to look pretty because it won’t be eaten, it is purely for flavor) 2 carrots, 2 stalks of celery, an a large onion. You can leave the leaves on the celery stalks for even more flavor. SO EASY! Put it all in the pot, add a clove or two of garlic if you like (we do) and 12 cups of water.


No seasonings are added, and still, the broth will taste fantastic! I do add salt when using it for soups, but I don’t add it here. I add the salt after the broth had been cooked and cooled. Next, the lid for the pressure cooker gets locked into place, the vent is set to closed, and the timer is set for 60 minutes. That’s it. Now we wait.

After it has come up to pressure and cooked for 60 minutes, I let it come down from pressure naturally. This takes time. I usually make bone broth on a weekend, or a Friday night when I get home from work so that it is finished by the time I’m ready for bed. When I open the lid, it is beautiful! And the smell? Whoa!

I wish you could smell this!

I let it cool a bit and then I carefully scoop out the big pieces of chicken (trying to keep them in one piece as much as possible), and I scoop out as much of the carrots, onion, and celery as I can. I set them in a bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and store it in the fridge for tomorrow. Next I remove the inner pot of the pressure cooker, cover it with plastic wrap, and  put it into the fridge.

Done. For today. Tomorrow, we make and can the soup.

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Merry Christmas Meal!

Within nine months of one another, we lost both my mother and father-in-law, leaving my husband and I without any living parents. Both of them would come to my house for Christmas each year. My father-in-law would stay with us for over a week, and we loved having him with us. My mother, because of her Alzheimer's Disease, would only come for the day, and even that became hard for her on her last Christmas.

Last year, with only my father-in-law with us, I decided to scale back on my Christmas. Instead of the mega shopping, the hours of wrapping, and the explosion of gifts under the tree, we each brought a $20 gift and played a game to see who would get each gift. My father-in-law loved it! We also had a bonfire with chili and hot dogs, no big meal to prepare. Everyone was happy.

So, finding ourselves very alone this year for the first time, we decided to change things again. We had our bonfire with chili and ham sandwiches on Winter Solstice with a gift exchange. Santa brought the girls a few presents on Christmas morning, but the entire event was MUCH smaller than years past. And much happier.  Our new tradition was getting out of the house and going snowshoeing. It was beautiful!


We met a nice couple on the trail and wished them a Merry Christmas. We stopped for some hot tea and hot chocolate that I always carry along in my backpack. The woods was so peaceful and beautiful with snow hanging from the limbs of every tree.

Afterwards, it was time to get supper started. On the menu was roast lamb with roasted potatoes, cran-raspberry pineapple jello salad from Linda's Pantry, and vegetables and rolls. I love to cook, so this is not a huge event for me. My family loves lamb, and if you don't love it, or if you think that you don't love it, I encourage you to try this roast. It isn't as expensive as an entire leg of lamb, and if you are serving four or five, there won't be a lot of leftovers if everyone has just one serving. I worried that by starting at 4:00pm, we wouldn't be eating until 7:30pm, but then again….. we ate when we ate! It was actually done by 6:00pm.

I seasoned the boneless lamb roast with oregano, salt, pepper, garlic, a bit of cayenne pepper, rosemary, lemon juice and olive oil. That wet rub was slathered over the lamb on all sides and the roast was set on carrots to cook with onion around it. The roast was covered and cooked at 400 F for 30 minutes. The house quickly began to smell amazing! Then I added the potatoes and returned the roast to a reduced temperature of 325 F until the internal temperature was 150 F.

For the final 30 minutes of cooking, I removed the foil cover to let things brown up a bit, and after it was done, I let it rest for a good 15 – 20 minutes. We set the table, complete with Christmas crackers that have been our family's tradition for years. We love the silly hats and the jokes!

Our table, waiting for the meal. 


It was strange having a table set for so few, no kid's table needed this year, but our small group enjoyed the day. The hike in the afternoon left us hungry and ready for some good food!

The food was devoured! Even my kids liked the lamb (one more than the other) but there were so many other choices that if they didn't eat the lamb they could still fill up on potatoes, vegetables, rolls, and the jello salad.

Roasted Boneless Lamb Roast…YUM!

I love our new holiday traditions! My adult and young children love them, too. There is no rushing around, no wrapping until the middle of the night, and much less stress. That leaves us with a lot more time to enjoy each other!

I hope that you enjoyed your holiday and that you also had an amazing Christmas meal!





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Crumpets for Breakfast!

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Several years ago I tasted my first crumpet. I was in a bigger city and saw a package of them in the grocery store. I had always wanted to try one, so I bought the package and warmed them up when we got home. Oh, man! Sometimes British food can be so surprising! Why hadn't I grown up on these? They were fabulous!

A few weeks ago, I was thinking about those crumpets and wishing that I had a big store in my little neck of the woods where I could buy some more. But, sadly, after searching every grocery store within 30 miles, I came up empty (there are only 5 different stores to check). No crumpets anywhere. Well, I'd prefer to make my own anyway.

Not one to give up, I searched the Internet and YouTube for a recipe and found this King Arthur Flour Crumpet recipe . I followed it to the letter, and …. FLOP! They were hard and solid on the outside, and raw inside. I knew what the problem was. My yeast was old. I also didn't have muffin rings, which would have helped a lot. They aren't necessary, but I knew that I wanted some.

I made a trip to the store for some new instant yeast and a new lease on crumpet making, I also purchased these Crumpet, English muffin rings and went to bed filled with dreams of the perfect crumpet. I was ready to try again!

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Crumpet Rings… a multi-purpose tool.

I mixed the dough, and from the very beginning I could tell that this time, things would be different. This time, it just might work! The dough rested for 1 hour and doubled in size just like it should (funny what fresh yeast will do)!

Next, the new rings were greased up, the pan was set on low, and I poured in the batter. After 10 minutes, it looked like this:

Crumpets after 10 minutes of cooking.

I was giggling, I was so happy. Waiting ten minutes to flip them was BRUTAL!

I constantly wanted to check them, fiddle with them, and adjust things, but my head kept telling my heart to, "Be patient." That battle paid off.

Crumpets flipped for the final 4 minutes.

After the first round, I turned down the heat a bit. Big mistake. Three rounds later, I finally had the heat set at the best temperature so that I could replicate my first round results.

They were a hit! The kids each ate three of them with jam right away and so did my husband. They were eaten as fast as they came off of the frying pan. Even the burnt ones!

Here is a record of my results:

Round 1 – perfect

Round 2 – undercooked (the pan seemed too hot so I turned down the heat)

Round 3 – undercooked

Round 4 – burnt (I turned up the heat because the last two rounds were so pale)

Round 5 – perfect (set the heat to low AND LEAVE IT ALONE!)

Round 6 – perfect – but needed to leave them in a bit longer than the 15 minutes.

Last one – I added water to thin the batter and see how that  would work. WOW! THE PERFECT CRUMPET!!!!

The three on the left were from Round 6 and the one on the right is the final crumpet. You can really see the difference!

A review of the recipe:

This is NOT something you want to make at the last minute. While the batter mixes up quickly, it sits for an hour before cooking, and each batch you make takes from 15 – 20 minutes. Total time cooking from beginning (mixing the batter) to the end (cleaning up) was 3 hours. I could do things while each round cooked (like write this blog post), but I needed to stay in the kitchen.

My final crumpet was the best, making me think that I will add water to the batter after it has risen next time. Rounds 1 – 6 were  a thick batter that had to be scraped out of the measuring cup when putting into the rings.  The rings are a MUST! The first time I made them, my batter spread and sometimes connected to another crumpet. You can make your own rings by using tuna cans and removing both top and bottom lids, or I have seen a picture of someone using canning jar lids. After 4 minutes of cooking in the ring, I giggled when each ring could be removed cleanly! So much fun!

The temperature settings need to be low, but sometimes the pan cooled too low. The original recipe called for a setting of 325 F on a griddle. I don't have a griddle, so  I am left to  wonder if that would have solved the problem. Maybe this will be a last minute item for my gift list?

Considering everything that went into making these, the time they took from beginning to end, the ease of mixing the batter, and the fact that my family devoured them as soon as they came out of the pan, I will make them again! In fact, my husband and both little girls at home asked for them again next weekend! Rule, Britannia!




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Why I Wanted an Overhaul

Many years ago I started noticing all of the extra ingredients that were in the food I was buying. Being on a strict budget, I stretched the family dollar by buying cheap foods like macaroni and cheese, ramen noodles, and so on. I clipped coupons and I shopped sales, often going to two or more grocery stores in a week to get their sale items and their free items with a minimum purchase of $25. I knew how to work the system, or so I thought. After awhile, I felt like my time was wasted as I noticed that purchasing the ingredients to make a meal myself was often cheaper than buying the sale priced instant product.

I also noticed that these bargain foods seemed to last forever. If I misplaced a box of macaroni and cheese in the back of my cupboard for a year, it was still good. Even if it was the kind that had the cheese sauce already prepared in the tinfoil packet. What was in this food that made it shelf stable for so long? I knew that whatever it was, it couldn’t be as good for you as regular ingredients like cheese, milk, butter, and water.

The organic movement was just starting, and no one really knew what the term organic really meant. There wasn’t a lot of trust in that label early on. But I started to look more carefully at the meals I was feeding to my family. I learned about healthier eating, cooking quick meals, and stretching my budget in different and more healthy ways. I found great tools that made my life easier, and I want to share all of that information here. I am not a nutritionist, I’m not a chef, and I’m not in the medical field. I’m a working mom who cares about what my family eats. I love to cook, and I love to serve delicious, healthy, inexpensive meals.

Welcome to my journey as I continue to learn more!

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