A cast iron skillet is a very versatile kitchen item to have in your arsenal. Did you know you can cook every meal in a cast iron skillet? Not only is it multifunctional, it is said to have health benefits as well. According to a study by the American Dietetic Association, cast iron cook wear can leach significant amounts of dietary iron into food. The amounts of iron absorbed varied greatly depending on the food, its acidity, its water content, how long it was cooked, and how old the cookware is. Those with anemia or iron deficiencies may benefit from this effect.

Another benefit of the cast iron skillet is its seasoning attributes. They have a stick-resistant coating created by polymerized oils and fats. Seasoning is a process by which a layer of animal fat or vegetable oil is applied and cooked onto cast iron or carbon steel cookware. Because of these seasoning qualities, the care of the skillet is important. Other cookware cleaning techniques like scouring or washing in a dishwasher can remove or damage the seasoning on a bare cast iron pan, so these pans should not be cleaned like most other cookware. Some chefs advocate never cleaning cast iron pans at all; simply wipe them out after use, or wash them with hot water and a stiff brush. Others recommend washing with mild soap and water, and then re-applying a thin layer of fat or oil. A third approach is to scrub with coarse salt and a paper towel or clean rag.

Here are three recipes that highlight how you can use the versatile cast iron skillet for any meal throughout the day.

BREAKFAST STREET BAKE

Servings: 8

Ingredients:
1 package (26-32 oz.) frozen shredded hash brown potatoes
1 jar Bellisari''s Saigon Street Sauce 
1 package sausage crumbles
2 cup (8 oz.) shredded mozzarella cheese
½ cup (2 oz.) shredded parmesan cheese
½ cup julienne-cut red bell peppers packed in oil, drained
6 green onions, sliced
12 eggs
½ cups milk
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350°F.

Using a large cast iron skillet that is properly seasoned, layer half of the potatoes on the bottom of the dish and drizzle with Bellisari's Saigon Street Sauce.

Top with half of the sausage, mozzarella, parmesan, red peppers, and green onion. Repeat layering with Bellisari’s Saigon Street Sauce on each layer. Beat eggs, milk, salt, and pepper in large bowl with a wire whisk until well-blended. Pour evenly over potato-sausage mixture. Place cast iron skillet in oven and cook for 1 ½ hours or until eggs are set. Dish can be garnished with a sliced tomato if desired.

BLT

Servings: 6

Ingredients:
2 ½ cups fresh basil leaves
½ jar of Bellisari's Calabrian & Sweet Tomato Fennel Spread
¼ cup butter, room temperature
12 thick-sliced bacon strips (about 1 lb.)
12 half-inch-thick slices fresh country-style white bread
2 ripe avocados, pitted, peeled, sliced
1 red onion, thinly sliced
6 lettuce leaves

Directions:
Mix basil, mayonnaise and butter in processor until basil is finely chopped and mixture is well blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Cook bacon in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat until crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer to paper towels; drain.

Spread half of mayo mixture over 1 side of 6 bread slices. Top each with a tbsp. of Bellisari's Calabrian & Sweet Tomato Fennel Spread. Top with avocado slices, bacon, onion and lettuce. Top with other slice of bread and serve.

DINNER PIZZA

Ingredients:
1 ½ cups water
1 wheat bread mix, 1 yeast packet included
2 tsp. garlic
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
2 tsp. parmesan cheese, shredded
Parmesan cheese for sprinkling
½ cup Bellisari’s Balsamic and Shallot & Black Garlic Spread, warmed to drizzle
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Olive oil for drizzling
½ cup chopped onion
½ cup baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 large tomato, sliced
½ cup spinach, fresh
2 large fresh mozzarella balls, sliced.

Instructions:
In small bowl, whisk together water and yeast. Let sit for 5 minutes.

In large bowl, combine bread mix, garlic, salt, Italian seasoning, parmesan cheese, and oil. Stir in yeast. Place dough onto flour surface and knead for 10 minutes until dough is soft and has elasticity. Split dough into two balls and place in a greased bowl. Cover and let sit in a warm place until dough doubles in size.

Preheat oven to 425 °F.

With fingers, spread dough into bottom of a greased 12-inch cast iron skillet. Bring dough up to the edges of skillet to make a crust shape. Place skillet in oven for 4 minutes or until slightly golden. Drizzle olive oil over top of crust. Layer tomato, onion, mushrooms, spinach and fresh mozzarella. Drizzle with Bellisari’s Balsamic Shallot and Black Garlic Spread. Bake for 5 minutes or until cheese melts.

Repeat process with 2nd dough ball. Let each cool slightly and enjoy 2 tasty pizzas!

Cast iron info from hobbyfarms.com and Wikipedia.