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Now we’re cooking!

Sharpen your knives, assess your appliances and pregame for the cooking marathon that lies ahead. 

Publisher Lori Goodridge-Cribb flips through a cookbook at the J. Banks Deisgn Group Showroom. If you’re looking to purchase or gift a unique cookbook, browse the impressive selections. Find recipes from a few of the books on page 132.

Cooking is my favorite pastime. As a person who loves to eat and create, it’s the perfect hobby, one I plan on continuing for the rest of my life. While I enjoy following a good recipe, I really love creating a wonderful meal on the fly with random items I find in my refrigerator and pantry. Through years of trial and error, I’ve gotten pretty good at recipe roulette.  

Grab the healthy box of quinoa and a can of lima beans from the pantry. Get last night’s roasted chicken, a bag of salad and lemon juice from the fridge. With a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper, I can have dinner ready in 20 minutes. 

A recent survey found many of our readers share this same passion. With the holiday season upon us, now is the perfect time to sharpen our knives, assess our appliances and pregame for the cooking marathon that lies ahead.  

With this issue, you will master new cooking techniques, discover the best cooking classes, find new kitchen gadgets and learn secrets for cooking seafood, poultry, meat — even chocolate — from top local chefs and cooks. 

Find fresh produce and ingredients at the area’s best farms and markets. Save money by growing your favorite herbs at home. Turn your kitchen into a chef’s kitchen with the right tools and appliances. 

Be prepared to make a healthy meal any time with a checklist of items to keep in your fridge and pantry. Feeling saucy? Recreate copycat recipes of the most famous restaurant sauces. Learn to cook smarter by downloading the best apps to your phone or tablet. 

Obviously, food is the highlight of any good holiday gathering. We share practical advice for hosting the ultimate dinner party, from place settings to party favors. Great cookbooks, local foodies, food festivals … you’ll find all of that and more inside this appetizing and entertaining issue of LOCAL Life. We hope it whets your appetite and inspires you to make your best-ever meals this holiday season. May your heart be as full as your belly!

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“Cooking is like painting or writing a song. Just as there are only so many notes or colors, there are only so many flavors — it’s how you combine them that sets you apart.” – Wolfgang Puck

Fun fact – 99.8 percent of cast-iron skillet owners have burned themselves on the handle. Use caution!

Be an iron chef

Ever wonder why fish prepared by your favorite restaurant is so much better than what you make at home? A chef once clued me in on a little secret — an oven-friendly cast-iron skillet. Use one to sear or sauté the fish on the stovetop, then finish the process in the oven. This simple technique works with all types of foods and results in perfectly cooked dishes. The even temperature of a cast-iron skillet also makes it perfect for braising, baking breads and small pies and frying, with about an inch of oil. 

How to season
Wash the skillet with soap and warm water. Rinse and dry. Coat with a thin layer of vegetable oil and bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour. Let the skillet cool completely before using or storing. 

Pro tip
After cooking, clean your skillet without soap — just warm water and a sponge. The more seasoned your skillet is, the better flavor your food will have. Only use soap if you are planning to restart the seasoning process.