Heavenly Chocolate Chip Cookies

I am pleased to present my all-time favorite dessert recipe for company: chocolate chip cookies.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

What do I mean, ‘for company’? Well, you remember how in the Little House on the Prairie books, Ma Ingalls made Vanity Cakes whenever ‘company’ (i.e. visitors) came over or when there was a super special occasion? Other times, she made desserts out of things they had on hand, like in-season fruit pies or maple candy. But for company, she often whipped out her vanity cakes because were quick, easy, delicious, and offered an element of fanciness to the gathering.

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Polyface Check-out Part 4: Heading Home

This is the 4th post in a 4-part series. Read the first, second, and third parts by clicking the links).

My morning wakeup on Sunday, October 27th, 2019 was unfortunate. All I really had to look forward to today was a super long drive, and an empty fridge. I planned on having eggs for dinner when I got home, and then going to bed…so that I could go back to my office job tomorrow. On top of that, I had originally planned on taking an hour to do a hike in the Shenandoah National Park before going home…but the sky was dumping buckets of rain on everything, so that wasn’t going to happen. 

But, it couldn’t be helped, and I was grateful for the last couple of days. Since the Salatins had said we could help with chores before we left if we wanted – and that would likely be the highlight of my day – I got out of bed right away. I immediately rolled up my sleeping bag and pulled on a dirty pair of jeans – after all, no point in soiling a fresh pair for only an hour or so of chores. Then I double and triple checked that everything was packed up for the drive home, except a fresh pair of clean clothes and shoes for me to change into.

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Polyface Check-out Part 3: The Second Work Day

This is the 3rd post in a 4-part series. Read the first, second, and fourth parts by clicking the links).

Weirdly, it was actually easier for me to get out of bed on the second day. I slept really well the night before, and awoke feeling refreshed…even though I hadn’t actually gotten as many hours of sleep as usual. My muscles weren’t particularly sore either – I could tell that I had worked my whole body hard the day before, but it wasn’t the same as a big workout, which targets specific muscle groups to exhaustion. The only muscles that were specifically, painfully sore were my hand muscles, of all things. I guess I don’t normally grip a lot of stuff. I made a mental note to add “gripping stuff” to my workouts.

It had rained overnight, and the morning sky was still gray. I hoped it wouldn’t rain during the work day, as I dodged puddles on my way over to the main farm. Gray or not, the morning was just as beautiful as it had been yesterday, and I felt invigorated by the brisk air.

Once again, everyone met by the outdoor woodburner and the Polyface staff went over the plan for the day. Since today was Saturday and the Salatins don’t work on Sunday, there were no new faces…and a smaller group of checkouts than yesterday. Everyone who was still here was on their second work day, or was just helping with chores before leaving.

Continue reading “Polyface Check-out Part 3: The Second Work Day”

Polyface Check-out Part 2: The First Work Day

(This is the 2nd post in a 4-part series. Read the first, third, and fourth parts by clicking the links).

My alarm went off at 6:30 the next morning, and I grunted slightly. This was later than I normally slept, but I’d been up late talking to the other checkouts and hadn’t slept all that well – I never do, in a new place. 

Forcing myself to get out of my warm blankets, I climbed down from the bunk, and mustered all of my willpower to leave the warm bedroom. Although a space heater had kept us warm throughout the night – too warm, really – the late October air had permeated the kitchen and bathroom, making me cringe as my bare feet padded across the icy wood floor.

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Polyface Check-out Part 1: The Drive

(read THIS first)

I woke up at 5:15am on Thursday, October 24th, and completed a basic, maintenance workout. Then I made eggs and had a leisurely cup of coffee, complete with petting cats and reading the news.

So it was like most Thursdays. Except that this time, instead of leaving for work, I’d be leaving for Swoope, Virginia for the Polyface Check-out. Continue reading “Polyface Check-out Part 1: The Drive”

Announcement: Summer of 2020

So you may have read my most recent post called “Life Changes.” If you haven’t, you should go read it now because you sort of need that background knowledge to totally appreciate this post. 

This post is the Big Announcement about what’s happening in the summer of 2020.

*Drumroll please*

I’m going to spend five months in Virginia.

After that…who knows?

Continue reading “Announcement: Summer of 2020”

Life Changes

You may have noticed that this website has been a bit quiet lately. The thing is, there’s been some pretty big changes going on at the Homesteading House, and I’ve been hesitant to write about them publicly.

But I’ve done some thinking and I’ve decided the following:

  1. I like writing and I want to keep this blog going.
  2. So I’m GOING to keep this blog going – there will be recipes, gardening stuff, pictures of cats, and more.
  3. I owe my readers an explanation for what’s been going on in my life, but I also don’t want to bog down this blog or turn it into a personal journal of angst. After all, that’s not what it’s for.
  4. Changing site titles (Yep, “Hardheaded Homesteading Housewife” magically turned into “Hardheaded Homesteading House”) and cagily describing my “rural” surroundings without explaining why I’m not in the suburbs anymore isn’t really fair either.
  5. I have a reeaallly exciting project coming up, but you sort of need background information about my life to understand why I’m doing what I’m doing (stay tuned! Cool things are happening!)

I’m a big fan of transparency, y’all. Transparency is good!

So here’s the deal:

Several months ago, I came home from visiting my sister’s new baby. I was super excited because my sister had taught me how to make soap, and I was looking forward to surprising my husband with one of his favorite dinners – Guinness Beef Stew.

But wait. When I got home…my husband was gone.

Continue reading “Life Changes”

Home-ground Peanut Butter

Ah, peanut butter. It’s one of my favorite things on the planet. I’ll spread it on toast, apples,bananas, and squares of dark chocolate; I’ll make cookies, brownies, and cakes with it; I’ll eat it by the spoon…it’s wonderful. It (unfortunately) shouldn’t be eaten excessively, but when consumed in moderation it’s a healthy, protein-filled choice. And it’s delightful.

Here’s the Part Where I Tell You A Story. Feel free to scroll to the “recipe.”

But I learned a long time ago that normal, store-bought peanut butter is full of nasty death oil (aka vegetable oil), large quantities of sugar, and some  not-so-fun preservatives. Check out the label of good ol’ Jif peanut butter here. I wouldn’t eat most of that.

[Note: Jif has improved their ingredients in the last five years…but they still use death oil and plenty of sugar. So I’m still a nope.] Continue reading “Home-ground Peanut Butter”

Cast Iron Cookware: Reseasoning & Refurbishing

So maybe you’ve decided to use cast iron, but you’re not sure how to season the pan after buying it from the store. Or maybe you have an old cast iron pan lying around somewhere, and you’re wondering if you can still use it. Maybe your well-meaning cousin’s boyfriend’s grandmother hands you an old pan covered in rust as a gift.

Yes, you can still use it, with a little reseasoning. Read on to find out how!

(Read Part 1: Using Cast Iron and Part 2: Why You Should Use It for the full story)

Once I decided to use exclusively cast iron and stainless steel cookware, I needed to expand my cast iron collection beyond the single 12″ skillet. But even though cast iron isn’t expensive, I don’t like to spend money.

So of course, I waited until I found a good deal on a pan at a garage sale…a 10″ skillet for $3. It had a small rust spot on it, so I scrubbed the rust off, reseasoned it, cooked some bacon, and now it’s perfect. I have since added a dutch oven (free from someone’s basement) and waffle iron (received as a gift) to my collection. Combined with my trusty stainless steel skillet and saucepan that I use for highly acidic things (like tomato sauce), I figured I’d never buy another pan.

Until now.

No, none of my pans broke. They all work great, and I’ll probably have them until I die. But I discovered that you can roast coffee beans in a cast iron pan…but your pan will taste like coffee forever. So I decided that obviously, I needed a pan specifically for coffee beans.

My “New” Coffee Roasting Pan

Ironically, the price I paid for this pan was twice what I paid for all of my cast equipment combined – a whole $6, from a yard sale.

It was also, by far, the dirtiest, most disgusting pan I’ve ever seen. Rust covered most of the bottom of the pan, as well as the handle, and it was filthy with literal dirt. When you touched it, you got what looked like axle grease on your hands. You know, the black, icky stuff from the car or lawn mower. This is what happens when dirt meets grease. To make matters worse, it had cobwebs on it. And in it.

It was gross.

But it was a pan. And it was $6. And I was too impatient to wait for a cheaper or a better pan. Besides, now I can write a blog post about refurbishing a cast iron pan.

Part 1: Making It Not Broken

Remove the Ick

For all of my love of not “cleaning” cast iron, you don’t want dirt in your pan. If your pan has been sitting in a garage or a garbage dump for awhile, you need to clean it. And I recommend cleaning it really, really well. In order to do this, I washed it in the sink with a whole lot of dish soap. It turned my sponge black and ran black water into the sink. It was gross. But when I was done, the cobwebs, dirt, and “axle grease” was gone. I washed both the inside and the outside of the pan. Actually, I washed it three separate times because that is what it took to get off all the ‘ick’.

If you have a rusty pan that is otherwise not dirty, you can skip this step.

Remove the Rust

I have read online that you can run your cast-iron pan through the “self-clean” function on your oven to remove rust. In theory, this is easy and great. But it practice, I hate using the “self-clean” feature on my oven. It runs for, like, five hours. It uses a ton of power. And it emits so much heat that I would never think to do it in the summer. I was certainly not going to run this feature on a clean oven just to remove rust from a pan, especially when there is no guarantee that is actually works. But I mention it because you can feel free to try this.

I used good ol’ elbow grease. I turned on the radio, got a piece of steel wool, and scrubbed. And then I scrubbed more. And then my arm got tired, and I kept scrubbing anyway.

Did I mention there was a lot of rust?

Rusty cast iron pan
This photo was taken AFTER I’d washed the pan and scrubbed off some of the rust…..

If you have one little rust spot, it’s pretty easy to scrub it off with steel wool. It probably won’t take more than a couple of minutes. But if you have a lot of rust, it’s harder and it takes longer.

Basically, you want to rub all of the rust off of the pan. You might see shiny black finish underneath. You might see silver steel. Either way is fine. When I was done, this pan mostly had black shiny finish, with a few spots of silver.

Don’t neglect rust spots on the outside of the pan when you do this!

Part 2: Reseasoning The Pan

Once you get all the rust and dirt off of an old cast iron pan, you can go about reseasoning it. You should also do this when you first buy a cast iron pan. Sometimes cast iron cookware comes “pre-seasoned”, but in my experienced that shiny black finish from the store isn’t very good, and you should season it again. Other times, it comes without any finish at all, and looks silver and metallic. If you don’t season the pan to get the nice black finish, everything will stick terribly and be awful.

1) Preheat your oven to 450.

2) Smear liberal amounts of grease or oil on the inside of your pan. You can use paper towel, or an old rag, or your fingers. It doesn’t matter. The raw iron will soak up the grease, so don’t be shy.

3) Smear a SMALL amount of grease or oil on the outside of your pan. You want the outside of your pan to be seasoned as well as the inside, to prevent rust, but you also don’t want the outside to feel greasy. The outside isn’t getting washed or cooked on regularly, so a tiny amount should do you just fine.

4) Line a baking sheet with parchment paper to prevent a pain-in-the-neck cleanup

5) Turn the pan upside down, put it on the baking sheet and bake for 1 hour.

6) Let the pan cool.

7) Repeat a few times. For a brand-new, already store-seasoned pan, one time through this cycle is probably enough. One time is probably also enough if you’re just cleaning up one or two tiny rust spots on a pan. For a completely “raw” iron pan, or a badly damaged pan, 3-4 times may be required. You don’t need to do all this on the same day, although you can if you want. After the initial “seasoning”, your pan will be relatively resilient. I typically will season it 3-4 more times over the next few weeks, waiting until I’m already heating up my oven for some other reason to run the pan through an additional seasoning cycle.

Basically, each time you complete these steps, you get a thicker patina on your pan.

Reseasoned pan
See that shiny black patina in the pan?

If you have a rusty old pan that you scrubbed clean, keep in mind that you may have missed a spot or two. Examine the pan after the reseasoning process, and make sure you don’t see any rust. If you do, get the rust off and run it through the oven again.

I’d also recommend re-oiling your pan (see: cast iron care) the first few times you use a new or refurbished pan. You just want to make sure that the patina is as pretty and non-stick as possible, and cooking grease into the pan is how that happens.

Why Should You Do This?

Uh…because you can?

I’ll admit – this process isn’t quick or fun. It’d be easier to buy a pre-seasoned pan from the store, run it through the oven once, and start cooking. And you can certainly do that.

But personally, I think there is something satisfying about preserving an old pan. This week, I was able to take something that is essentially dirty trash, purchase it for a few dollars, and turn it into something usable that will last me for many years. To me, that’s worth a little elbow grease.

There may also be sentimental reasons to do this. Perhaps your grandmother has an old cast iron pan that has gotten rusty after years of disuse. Perhaps you find a pan with a really cool story behind it that you want to preserve. Whatever the reason, now you know how to do it, and can enjoy your antique iron pans.

Cast Iron Cookware – Why You Should Use It

PS. Throw Out Your Teflon Pans

You read all about how to take care of your cast iron pan (or maybe you didn’t, in which case you can click here), and now you’re wondering why on earth you should bother. You already know how to take care of a Teflon non-stick pan. Why go through the learning curve to use cast iron? Why do all these homesteading websites insist that cast iron is amazing? Are people just crazy? Do homesteaders just like extra work?

No. Most homesteaders do not like extra work. It seems like we do, but we don’t. Really. Also, cast iron pans are not extra work.

Continuing My Cast Iron Tale

Continue reading “Cast Iron Cookware – Why You Should Use It”