Caring for Cast Iron

One of the greatest pieces in a Southern cook's arsenal is a good cast iron skillet. I have several that were handed down to me from my great-grandmother, and one that Jordan bought me for my birthday this year. 

The trick, though, is cleaning these suckers properly. Left unattended and uncared for, they get rusted and persnickety. A good cast iron pan should release the food once it's done cooking, but a poorly cared for cast iron will burn everything you try to make, leaving a sticky, charred warzone behind. It can be frustrating and eventually make you choose to abandon cast iron altogether. 

But don't! Once you get the hang of it, you and your cast iron will be best friends for the rest of your life. Because they'll last you that long if you treat 'em right.  

I let a couple of my pans get too dirty recently, so I hunted for the best method to rejuvenate them. I found a few videos online and thought I'd share for all my Southern girls out there who need to fry a piece of chicken the best way: in a cast iron skillet. I've been seasoning and caring for my pans in this method (thanks, Crisco!) ever since I saw this and they work like a dream. 

Hope it helps! 

On cleaning and seasoning: 

On restoring cast iron that's too far gone to season or clean:
Note: this video uses oil instead of Crisco, but I'd use Crisco. It's a wonder-product.

The Coolest Dyed Easter Eggs

So my friend Katie and I were talking recently about a fresh way to dye Easter eggs, and she sent me a link to a Southern Living post about using nail polish. 

So I tried it, failed at the original method, and modified it for us. I know. I'm just a martyr that way. 

But seriously, though - this is such a cool, unique, and quick way to dye Easter eggs! If you have little ones, it would probably need to be either heavily supervised or an adults-only project given that you're working with nail polish. 

What you'll need: 
Hard-boiled or blown (hollow) eggs
Nail polish of your choosing
Tupperware/disposable container
Room temperature water
Egg crate (for drying the eggs) 
Optional: Plastic gloves to keep your hands clean

The process is so simple that I did the whole thing in this short video below, but the steps written out right under the video should you need to re-read them. 

Step 1: Fill the container with room-temperature water. The temperature of the water is crucial because if the water is cold, the nail polish will sink to the bottom of the tub. 

Step 2: Drop as many or as few drops of the polish into the water. Wait for the nail polish to dissipate and form a film on top of the water. 

Step 3: Gently roll your egg across the surface of the water until all of the nail polish has been picked up. Repeat the process as many times as you'd like to achieve your desired result on a single egg. 

Step 4: Set the egg back into its crate to dry. The polish will dry without sticking to the crate, so don't worry about ruining your masterpiece. Eggs dry in about 3 hours!

Happy dye-ing! 

Perfect "Boiled" Eggs, Just In Time For Easter!

I mean I should really just write two sentences for this post. 

Find your oven.

Head that oven to 375 degrees. 

Grab a dozen eggs. 

Place an egg into each space of a muffin tin. 

Put that tin in the oven for 30 minutes. 

Most important step! When the eggs come out, plunge them into an ice bath immediately to stop the cooking process. Keep the eggs there until they're completely cooled. 

Eat 'em, decorate 'em, whatever your heart desires. 

(Seriously though, why did no one tell me about this sooner?) 

Tips for Conquering The Whole30.

My Pure Barre studio is doing a group Whole30 challenge this month, and as it's the first of the month, I thought I'd share some tips from my experience with this program a few years ago. 

1. Meal plan. 

This one is a no-brainer and is absolutely essential to surviving. Because the Whole30 is so strict in terms of what you can and can't eat (read more about the guidelines here), meal planning is the key to happiness while doing this challenge. If you're not a meal planner or an intentional grocery shopper, this month will make you into one! In fact, I'd never meal planned a day in my life prior to doing the Whole30. It actually does make shopping easier and, ultimately, less expensive, since you only buy the ingredients on your list and not extra things just because you're hungry. I wrote a blog post on meal planning here that you can check out for tips!  

This also means that if you do choose to go out to dinner, look ahead at the restaurant's menu. Make sure there's a W30-compliant option for you. There is nothing worse (and I can say this from experience) than sitting at a table and watching your friends gorge themselves on the bread basket when you can't eat anything because you didn't call ahead.

Find W30 recipes on the following sites: 

2. Snack plan. 

Technically, this program isn't big on snacks, but I like to think it's a principle issue: they don't want you to mindlessly snack on something because the point of undergoing the 30 day challenge is to re-set your impulses. However, doing this for the first time is a big change. Especially in the first couple of weeks, you will be hungry. And when I'm hungry, I'm usually also hangry. Meaning I need a quick, easy, pre-made option to tame the beast. Some great W30 snack options include: 

  • Fruit and sugar-free almond butter. 
  • Slices of bell pepper or baby carrots in this sweet potato hummus.
  • Roasted almonds or salted cashews. 
  • Boiled eggs and bacon.

3. Be accountable. 

Anyone who's completed this program will tell you that it's difficult, and they're right. When I did it in 2014, I was absolutely floored at how many of the foods I ate every day contained ingredients I'd never noticed, like added sugar or preservatives. It will change the way you see food for the rest of your life. And it's true that the best way to go through this experience is to do it all the way - not to cheat with a little something here and there. You'll feel so proud of yourself, and, if you're anything like me, you'll have lost some weight by the end. I was 12 pounds down when I did it! 

That being said, it's definitely easier to do this if you know someone who's doing it with you. When I was doing the W30, I had two great girlfriends from college and my mom alongside me. It made dinners so much more fun because I could pop over to my mom's house - we were in it together! It also gives you someone to text when you feel like you might actually cut off your right arm if it means you can have a cheeseburger. 


4. Learn to say, "No."

I think women, and particularly Southern women, are bad at saying, "No." We want to be all things to all people, we want to be polite, we want to please everyone. 

The Whole30 is not about that. 

Saying, "No," is a BIG part of this month. You will have to turn down the offer for dessert. You'll have to pass on having someone pick up lunch for you at work. The daily bagel run instantly goes out the window. Coffee with sugar and caramel and whatever other kind of sugary goodness is a negative. Wave goodbye! 

BUT - there's a flipside to that coin. Saying, "No," is empowering. Emboldening, even. When I did this program and chose not to indulge in something, initially, there was disappointment, but in the end, I felt so proud of myself that I chose self-control over a slice of chocolate cake. There is power in "no," and beyond just food-related things, it's something we could all learn to say more often. Politely, of course. ;) 


5. Get fancy and treat yo'self! 

It's easy to feel deprived during this experience, but fret not! There are so many beautiful, decadent meals in your future, if you're willing to step into the kitchen and step up to the plate. It really is a culinary adventure. I learned more about cooking during this month than at any other point in my life.

Below are some photos of totally compliant meals to get your tastebuds interested in the days to come!

 Shrimp on a set of spaghetti squash and veggies in clarified butter sauce. 

Shrimp on a set of spaghetti squash and veggies in clarified butter sauce. 

 Chef Thomas Keller's roast chicken.

Chef Thomas Keller's roast chicken.

 Chicken salad with W30-approved mayo.

Chicken salad with W30-approved mayo.

 Steak prepared with olive oil instead of canola. 

Steak prepared with olive oil instead of canola. 

 Shortribs on a set of mirepoix with clarified butter. 

Shortribs on a set of mirepoix with clarified butter. 

 Incredibly easy-to-make pompano fillets with clarified butter. 

Incredibly easy-to-make pompano fillets with clarified butter. 

I mean, right? Doesn't that look great?? Other ideas not pictured but still swimming in my memory are: 

  • Homemade chicken soup with a side of sliced pear.
  • Hot spinach salad with boiled egg and bacon dressing. 
  • Pork tenderloin, sweet potato fries, and a salad with homemade (compliant!) dressing. 
  • Fruit salad drenched in fresh coconut milk. 
  • Sweet potato hash with crispy eggs on top. 
  • Sauteed sausages on a set of crispy roasted veggies. 

SO - may the force be with you! Good luck!  

Lyra and Jane's Cauliflower Soup.

I don't know about where you are, but it's been grey and drizzly here for the last couple of days. Cue the soup! 

Jordan and I have been in a little bit of a recipe rut - we make more or less the same meals over and over. Luckily, I have a friend whose blog addresses just such a hiccup! 

Enter Norma Boyd Powell!

  Photos c/o lyraandjane.com

Photos c/o lyraandjane.com

I know. The cutest. 

Norma is a precious friend of mine who I met through Alabama's Junior Miss (it's a scholarship program, not a pageant, okay?). Her beautiful blog, Lyra and Jane, shares lots of fun things, but the recipes are unquestionably a highlight. Because she's a registered dietitian, Norma is always conscious of the ingredients that make it to the plate and is great about creating balanced, nutritious, and insanely tasty meals. Other recipes of hers we've used: Chicken Sausage Broccoli Orecchiette, One Dish Taco Skillet, and the best Cookie Bars you'll ever try. (Spoiler alert: they're made with garbanzo beans. RIGHT?? Who thinks of that? Norma. That's who.)

We made her cauliflower soup last night (accompanied by bacon grilled cheese because we're a little #fatter than the Powells) and Jordan went back for seconds AND thirds. That's right: a grown man couldn't get enough of a totally meat-free soup Hi! That's pretty dang good.  

Click the dreamy photo below to find the full recipe on lyraandjane.com. It is an absolute knockout. 

 Photo and recipe c/o  lyraandjane.com. 

Photo and recipe c/o lyraandjane.com.