Pots, Pans, & Cast Iron

When we gutted our kitchen area about 10 years ago, we made sure to install enough kitchen cabinets to hold most of our dishes and our cooking utensils. We designed a cookware cabinet that would contain many of our pots and pans but it just wasn’t convenient to stoop down every time I reached for one of them.  Since I love to cook and make everything from scratch, we have quite a few pots, pans, and skillets — I was bending and down on my knees too often.  Besides that, some of our larger items like the roasting pans and Dutch ovens were taking up quite a bit of shelf room.

We then decided to install 2 hanging racks to hold pots, pans, and skillets. One is just for some of our cast ironware.

Rack for Cast Iron Skillets

Our other hanging rack holds quite a few stainless pans, plus a few of our colinders.

Rack for Stainless Cookware

We found that having a cookware cabinet is great for the large soup pots, lids, and a few large roasting pans. But without having the hanging racks, the pots and pans were stacked much too high and they were difficult to manage. We’re glad we re-organized our cookware because we now have a bit of extra space in our cookware cabinets. And we have room for the cast iron Dutch oven and the Romertopf clay-baking oven in those cabinets now.

Cookware Cabinet AreaWe now store 2 roasting pans in the drawer below the oven and several very large soup pots downstairs on top of my soap and candle cabinet. Plus, we now have the 2 hanging racks for some pots, pans, and cast iron.

Our hanging racks for most of the pans and cast iron skillets provide the easiest way to store and access the cookware that is used the most. I also like how they look against the cabinetry.

A bit of planning and effort made our kitchen more efficient and I’m glad we took the time to do this. How do you store your cookware? Do you have too many pots and pans and need to rethink your own storage system for cookware?

Yard Work and Gardening In February

February is promising to be a month of fickle weather. Last weekend, was jacket-weather so we did some vine trimming along a fence line. We are heading into another Arctic blast now, though, with probable snow later today. That means the rest of the Winter trimming will have to wait.

We are in the process of dropping a very large deciduous tree that is only 10 feet from the house. I transplanted that tree from the woods 25 years ago and now it’s a threatening behemoth so it must go. We devised a plan and are cutting the large top branches first. Two of the branches overhang the house roof but being diehard do-it-yourself types, we have teamed up with reliable roping, webbing, a come-along, and the tractor to pull the branches as we cut.

Once the tree has been dropped, it won’t be long before it’s time to trim the shrubbery in the front and trim some of the fruit trees. Until we can do the trimming, I have a greenhouse that needs to be cleaned and prepped for my late-Winter seed-sowing.

Empty GreenhouseThe 2015 Seed List was just posted this morning and it includes new seeds as well as many of the saved seeds we have. Our seeds have come from seed companies, family members, seed trades, and friends nearby and from afar. We keep viable seeds for the vegetables, herbs, and flowers we like to grow. We also retain some seeds from veggies we may choose not to grow. In all, there are now 5 boxes of viable seed packets and envelopes in our seed collection.

We purchased some new open-pollinated seed to try this year: 12 veggie varieties and 6 flower varieties. Here are the new seeds by category:

  • Beet:  Lutz Salad Leaf Beet, Cylindra
  • Carrot: Muscade
  • Cucumber: Muncher
  • Eggplant: Fengyuan Purple, Ping Tung
  • Leek: Autumn Giant
  • Lettuce: Chatwick’s Rodan, Big Boston
  • Pea: Carouby De Maussane Snow Pea
  • Peppers:  Etuida, Lemon Drop (mild hot)
  • Flowers: Red Cherry Marigold, Italian White Sunflower, Crimson Queen Sunflower, Rustic Color Mix Rudbeckia, Arika Sunflower, Cupcake Mix Zinnia

Last year was fantastic for sweet peppers and some other veggies. Our tomatoes were late to arrive but when they did, we had buckets filled with tomatoes to eat and can for sauces. But our tomato plants were as ugly as can be — the leaves on most tomato plants turned brown so we figured that we may have a virus.  We have cleared all garden debris out and then burned the debris. We will spray our tomato cages with a bleach and water solution this Spring, too. We are erring on the side of caution and are not planting any tomato or potato crops in our gardens this year — it’s hard to imagine this! We are planning to dig 5 new spots in a different area for just 5 tomato plants, though — hoping to have homegrown, fresh tomatoes while trying to allow our soil to heal from a possible virus or fungus. We are only growing our favorite slicers and cherry tomatoes this year and since we have an ample supply of home-canned tomato sauces, we will have enough to get us through another year.

Our plans for homegrown potatoes will take us on a new adventure this year because we have planned to keep potatoes out of the gardens, too. Potatoes and tomatoes are from the nightshade genus, Solanum, so both will be planted outside of our garden areas.

This year, our potatoes will be grown in containers and we will “hill” the plants as they grow. We plan to use some spare buckets and a few of our spare garbage containers, maybe an old 55-gallon plastic rain barrel, too. We are only growing 25 pounds of potato this year so we are hoping for a decent yield.

Without the potatoes and tomatoes in the garden areas, we are planning to grow several plantings of corn plus more melons and Winter squash. And, of course, the standard variety of all other delicious veggies we have seeds for.

Hopefully, in a few months, the greenhouse will be greening up, filled with plants, hope, and activities.  I must have early Spring Fever — do you have Spring Fever yet?

Greenhouse Looking ForwardToSpring

Skillet Meal: Italian Cacciatori

Cacciatori is a hearty Italian dish that was traditionally made in-the-field or in the countryside kitchens. Cacciatori means hunter-style, and this Italian dish was originally a rugged stew made with chicken or rabbit, mushrooms, herbs, and garlic.  Cacciatori was often cooked over an open flame and for the fortunate hunters who made this in-the-field, there might be a freshly butchered rabbit and freshly foraged mushrooms for the stew. So the traditional Cacciatori was an earthy and flavorful meal that was made with ingredients at-hand, whether out in-the-field or at home.

The sauce for traditional Cacciatori was made with a regional Italian wine. Southern Italians made their wine sauce with red wine. Northern Italians used a white wine for their sauce. I make the Southern Cacciatori. Today’s cooks make Chicken Cacciatori and use tomatoes for their sauce, but this is not the traditional, hunter-style Italian Cacciatori.

Skillet-made Cacciatori pays homage to the original Italian hunter-style Cacciatori — it’s a full-bodied, rugged dish with a red wine sauce, served with egg noodles. While it takes a little bit of preparation (cutting the chicken or rabbit into bite-sized pieces, and slicing a few fresh portabello mushrooms) it’s really worth making. Make sure you have a few portabello mushrooms and some dry red wine and you’ll make an almost-traditional Italian Cacciatori in less time, in a large skillet.


Italian Cacciatori


  • Chicken or Rabbit (about 3 cups bite-sized pieces (remove skin and bone first)
  • Large onion, quartered, then sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 8 oz Portabello mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cups dry red wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon Rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon Thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon Sage
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Making Chicken CacciatoriCut chicken or rabbit into bite-size pieces. Add salt and pepper to season meat, then cook over medium heat in large skillet to brown in olive oil or butter.  Add sliced onion, garlic, and sliced mushrooms. Cook for several minutes, until onion is slightly tender.

Add herbs and wine to cover meat. Cover with lid and simmer for about 15 minutes. Remove lid and continue simmering until sauce has reduced and meat is fork-tender — about 15 minutes. Serve hot over egg noodles.

Serves 4.



Skillet Meal: MexiMac

A skillet meal with bit of Mexican flavor.

Mexi Mac

Skillet MexiMac

If these ingredients are on your pantry shelf, this meal can be assembled very quickly.

  • 1 pint home-canned ground beef (or 1 pound ground beef, cooked)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 pints home-canned salsa (or 4 cups of fresh or store-bought salsa)
  • 1 pint home-canned corn (or 1 15-ounce can of corn, drained)
  • 1 pint home-canned kidney beans (or 1 15-ounce of kidney beans), rinsed and drained
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder (or to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Combine ground beef and chopped onion in large skillet. Over medium heat, stir together and allow onion to cook in residual fat and beef broth (from the jar of home-canned beef) until tender. (Note: If using fresh/defrosted ground beef, cook and drain ground beef before adding onion to cook until tender.)

Add chili powder and cumin, then stir to blend. Add salsa, corn, and beans and stir to combine ingredients while skillet dish is heating over medium heat. Salt and pepper to taste.

Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serves 6.

Skillet Meal: Beef & Cheese Rotini

This skillet meal has the fewest ingredients so it comes together very quickly. Nothing beats home-made fast food!

Skillet Beef And Cheese Rotini

Skillet Beef & Cheese Rotini
  • 1 pint home-canned ground beef (or 1 pound cooked ground beef, drained)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 6 ounces shredded Cheddar cheese (or 1 7 oz can Bega processed cheese)
  • 12 ounces milk
  • 4 cups Rotini pasta, cooked and drained
  • Salt & Pepper, as desired

In large skillet, heat contents of canned ground beef. Add chopped onion and cook until tender. (Note: If using fresh ground beef, cook ground beef and drain before adding chopped onion.)

Add milk, salt and pepper to skillet mixture. Blend together and cook over low flame until heated, then add shredded cheese. Stir to blend and allow cheese to thoroughly melt while stirring occasionally. When cheese has melted, add cooked pasta. Stir to blend before serving.

Serves 4.