Author Chat with Ashley L. Jones on Modern Cast Iron

This author interview is special for so many reasons. I met Ashley during a writer’s conference several years ago, and we formed an instant friendship. She is such a godly friend and gifted writer, and I am so excited for you to learn about her new release, Modern Cast Iron. It’s a guidebook to choosing, using, caring for, and cooking with cast iron.

Q: What prompted you to write Modern Cast Iron?

It was totally a “God thing”! I had been using and researching cast iron for years for the health benefits and nostalgia of it, but it wasn’t until I met the publisher (Red Lightning Books) at a book expo and saw their amazing lineup of books that I thought, “A book about cast iron would really fit here!” In a moment, God gave me the complete idea for the book—and it came out just as He planned!

Q: Why do you think cooking with cast iron is relevant and beneficial for today’s generation?

We’ve been using lightweight aluminum and chemical nonstick pans since their introduction in the 1970s, and now we’re becoming aware of the potential health issues associated with those products. In contrast, cast iron doesn’t leach or off-gas any harmful chemicals or fumes. It only leaches iron, which is something our bodies need anyway.

Plus, I think there’s a “back to basics” movement going on right now where young women are looking to capture the simplicity and wholesomeness of past generations. Cooking in cast iron is a way great way to do that because we’re able to recreate the recipes our grandmothers made and enjoy the nostalgia that comes along with them.

Q: You shared that Modern Cast Iron isn’t a cookbook but a guidebook. Explain what you mean by that.

Most cookbooks these days are filled with hard-and-fast recipes featuring the trendiest ingredients that are only available at specialty grocery stores. It may be fun to watch chefs prepare those meals on TV, but it’s not so fun to shop for them or prepare them on a busy weeknight.

Instead, Modern Cast Iron is a guidebook to all things cast iron, from selecting the best pan for your kitchen to cleaning and seasoning your pan. Of course, the book includes a bunch of recipes—fifty, to be exact—to pique your interest and get you started. However, those recipes are rather simple and can be easily modified to fit your diet and nutritional needs.

Q: What would you tell young adults who don’t feel confident in the kitchen? How could this book help them?

My primary goal in writing this book was to encourage readers to gain confidence in the kitchen by using cast-iron cookware—because that’s how I gained my confidence. If you tend to use your smoke detector as the oven timer, take note of the following ways cast iron can help.

The texture and flavor of many traditional dishes, especially Southern food, can only be recreated if they’re cooked in cast iron. (Ever tried to make cornbread in a glass dish? The texture is all wrong!)

Even if you’re not trying to make Southern food, you’ll appreciate cast iron’s superior heat retention and its ability to heat evenly. This is what allows you to sear a steak to perfection without burning it (so you can give that smoke detector a rest).

Another benefit of cast iron is that you can take it from the stove top to the oven and back again—something other cookware just can’t do. So if you can’t get that steak to cook all the way through on the stove top, you can pop it in the oven for a couple minutes. Voila!

Don’t see your pain point listed here? There are many more advantages of cast iron listed in the book, so be sure to check it out.

Q: Our culture leans toward “fast food” and “instant meals” for quick and easy satisfaction. What problems does this mindset present in the present and in the long run?

Eating out—even if you’re grabbing dinner from the hot bar at the grocery store—can present health issues because that food is usually loaded with salt and preservatives. If you make food at home, you can still suffer from the same health issues if you’re merely heating up prepackaged food. While these are alright in moderation, cooking more wholesome meals at home should be a health goal for all of us.

Devices like instant cookers, pressure cookers, air fryers, and even slow cookers are intended to help us cook faster or at least have dinner ready when we get home. All of these gadgets have their place, but they make it difficult to understand the process of cooking—how foods come together and how to create different textures and layers of flavors. For some of them, you can’t even smell the food cooking!

When I cook with cast iron, I have control over the ingredients and the entire cooking process, and I appreciate the results more—it’s like I’m being more “intentional” in the way I prepare food. And with few exceptions, it doesn’t actually take any longer to cook in cast iron than it does in those other kitchen gadgets.

Q: Do you have a special memory of cooking with your grandma? If so, please share!

My grandmother was always cooking something, usually from scratch. It seemed that she used her hand mixer every night, whether for mashed potatoes or for baking a cake for my grandfather. The sound that mixer made as it bumped around the bowl—vroom, va-va-vroom, varoom—was such a happy sound to me! Every time I get my hand mixer out, it takes me back to her kitchen.

Q: How do you think cast iron cooking will become a legacy for your own family?

Ever since I learned of the health benefits of cooking with cast iron, I’ve challenged myself by asking, “Can I make this in cast iron?” That’s why we use cast iron at nearly every meal. I plan to teach my son Gordon (now 20 months old) to cook on cast iron at an early age because I want him to feel confident in the kitchen, too. I also want him to be conscientious of what he puts in his body so he can make wise decisions when he’s an adult.

Q: How did you first discover your writing ability, and how have you seen God use it in unexpected ways?

I’ve always enjoyed writing, but I never thought it could be a career for me. In 2003, God gave me an idea for a faith-based nonfiction book, Girls with Gusto, which is still looking for a publishing home. However, it wasn’t until I went to my first writers conference in 2015 that I really felt like I had the tools and knowledge to pursue a writing career.

I never intended to write a book about cast-iron cooking, but God is using this book to develop my writing platform and to enable me to reach people I would never have reached otherwise. And what do those people find when they visit my website, BigSisterKnows.com? Lots of articles about God and faith. I pray those help to plant seeds!

Next year, my children’s series, “Big Answers” (Little Lamb Books), debuts with Who is God? I can’t wait to share this one with moms around the world!

Q: Can you hint about what next project you have in the works?

I’m working on some new children’s books, and I’d really like to find a home for Girls with Gusto. I also have an idea for a powerful nonfiction book that explores the secret lives of the Appalachian people.

Be sure to follow me on BigSisterKnows.com and on social media so you can follow along on these projects. There’s no telling what God will do next!

Author Chat with Ashley L. Jones on Modern Cast Iron with @khogrefeparnell

About the Author

Ashley L. Jones is an author and blogger, but she prefers the title of Big Sister. A firm believer that we all know something worth sharing, she started the blog Big Sister Knows as a way to encourage other young women to live with gusto. Her upcoming releases — Modern Cast Iron (Red Lightning Books, 2020) and the children’s series Big Answers (Little Lamb Books, 2021) — are a continuation of that mission. Ashley lives in Tallahassee, Florida, with her uber-patient hubby and one busy toddler. Find your encouragement and follow Ashley’s journey at BigSisterKnows.com.

About Modern Cast Iron

In Modern Cast Iron, self-proclaimed cast-iron connoisseur Ashley L. Jones recaptures the ease and joy of cooking with cast-iron cookware. Jones introduces readers to the best brands and types of cast-iron cookware to fulfill any cook’s needs. She offers detailed tips and tricks for rescuing old, rusted pans and keeping them properly seasoned, and she shares recommendations for the best cooking oil for every recipe. With Jones’s help, both experienced and beginner cooks will be able to rival grandma’s cooking. Chock-full of stories from Jones’s own childhood growing up with cast-iron meals, as well as recipe after tantalizing recipe―from breakfast quiche to gluten-free meals and beautiful blueberry cobbler―Modern Cast Iron explores the countless ways that cast iron benefits health and happiness.

A comprehensive guide to all things cast iron and home-style cookin’, Modern Cast Iron offers a new way for cooks to spice up the kitchen using all-natural tools and ingredients.

Get your copy.

Upset the World – Giveaway & Review

When I first read the title Upset the World, it immediately grabbed my attention. “Upset” so accurately describes our society these days. I was curious to learn what Tim Ross meant by “upset the world” and how being an “upsetter” could radically change people for good.

His definition provided the starting point: “An upsetter is a person who has been upset by the overwhelming love of Jesus and upsets others” (Ross 12).

Before we can do that, though, we must first allow Jesus Christ to upset our lives. In other words, we need Him not only to save us, but also to make changes. As Ross says, “If you come into a relationship with Jesus Christ but nothing about you changes, then you probably didn’t really meet him” (17). He makes the point that Jesus upset the world so radically that he literally split the calendar before and after Him (20). It is our job to follow His example by rocking the world’s boat with the overwhelming love of God. Ross encourages us to use our testimonies and share how God has personally upset or changed our lives.

Before Ross moves into how we can upset others, He also explains the Holy Spirit’s role and work in our lives (chapter 3-4). He challenges us readers not to become “trapped” with religion but evaluate the heart motivation behind all our actions (chapter 5). Then, we’re ready to “do good” (chapter 6), love life in spite of what happens to us (chapter 7), be willing to disturb the “piece” of people’s lives that doesn’t match God’s will (chapter 8), and get used to upsetting people on a regular basis in obedience to the Holy Spirit (chapters 9-10).

Takeaways

I absolutely love that Ross explains that to upset the world, we’re not supposed to use hate or anger. We are simply to “go out and share the love of Christ in the most relational way possible” (13). He recognizes our current politically- and racially-charged climate and urges readers to take all their passionate feelings and convert them into love for people.

This is such an important point. Too many people think that hate and violence are healthy expressions. Feeling angry about injustice is absolutely justified and understandable, but channeling that anger into violence accomplishes nothing but more hurt. Ross explains this so well:

“We need to take all that passion and hostility toward people and turn it into love for others. You need to love them, because if you don’t love them, then His Kingdom can’t come to them. Let me put it another way: if you’re mad at somebody, you will also be mad at Jesus” (35).

Another point he makes is that we can love people without agreeing with them (48-49), which is also powerful and true. We can hate their sin without hating the person.

That said, a person who gives His life to Christ shouldn’t remain the same. Even though each one of us comes to know Christ just as we are, we can’t stay the way we are once we’ve accepted the gospel invitation. As Ross says, “We want everyone to come, but we don’t want anybody to stay the same” (167). Amen to that!

Review

I highly recommend the book as a whole with one personal caveat. I am a Bible-believing Christian and recognize different preferences in worship and practice. For example, some of my fellow believers and friends are highly conservative while some are pentecostal. I personally think God cares about the heart of our worship more than the means of expression. Ross is much more charismatic than I, which is neither here nor there, but I personally felt uncomfortable with some of his practices, such as attending a presbytery service where his wife supposedly received a “word” that her deceased father was “pleased” with her (101).

Now I certainly believe we can feel God’s pleasure in our lives when we are obeying Him, but from my knowledge of the Bible, receiving affirmations from deceased loved ones is not a Scriptural practice. Again, this is my understanding, and I am not a pastor like Tim Ross. However, this is the reason I’m giving the book a four out of five stars review.

That said, I am sincerely grateful to have read this book and highly recommend it, especially for those who are seeking a biblical perspective on how to deal with all the hostility and hate in our world. We are to upset people in the nicest way possible: with the overwhelming love of Jesus.

Enter the Giveaway

People need both to hear us tell about God’s love and to see us showing it. Ross provides practical examples and insights on what love-in-action should look like, and that’s why I’m excited to share a copy of the book plus study guide with one of my readers! I truly think these resources will be a blessing to you.

Upset the World by Tim Ross – Giveaway & Review by @khogrefeparnell

To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post or last week’s post. You can share why you think this book would be a help to you or someone you know. You could even just say something like, “I want to learn how to upset the world for Jesus!” I’ll announce the winner on the blog next week.

~ Kristen

Special thanks to the Blog About Blogger Network for hosting this giveaway.

All quotes are taken from: Ross, Tim. Upset the Word. Gateway Press, 2020.


And the Giveaway Winner Is …

Congrats to Nancy on winning our Upset the World giveaway!! Thank you to everyone who participated and shared about the giveaway online.

Another Giveaway Opportunity!

The month of August, I’m hosting a giveaway for a Kindle Fire HD8 to encourage readers to “go places” through reading, even if we’re limited in our travel opportunities due to Covid19.

For more details, read the full post. To enter, click here or the image below.

Renovating Our Homes and Hearts, Part 3

If you’ve been following along with our kitchen remodel story (now on day four), you can only imagine how eager we were for Monday to come. Having already waited an extra two days to use our kitchen, I silenced my alarm when it went off and ignored the snooze button. “Hurry up and get over!” I told the day. Yet once it started, the day dragged by.

Pound. Whack. Thud. Pound. Pound. All. Day. Long.

We started to get nervous when the crew wasn’t done by dinner time. Then the project manager arrived, and James and I offered Gatorade and snacks to the workers. Finally, they reached the last part of the project, spackling the drywall. And then their spackle machine broke, and they had to find an alternate solution. It must have been 9:30 at night when they finished and left.

With the house finally silent, James and I soaked in the finished product. The cave with its Neanderthal fluorescent lighting was gone. In its place was a more open, well-lit space. We still had to put in new top cabinets, but at the moment, I could have hugged the kitchen.

Before/After

Rebuilding is messy, time-consuming, and loud; but it is so worthwhile.

Before we accept God’s gift of salvation, we are spiritually dead. The only future we have is eternal destruction (with no demo option). But look what Christ did! “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).

Don’t miss this part, because it is incredible. In and of ourselves, we have nothing to offer God, for it is only by grace we are saved through faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8). But when we become God’s children, we also become His workmanship (Ephesians 2:10), and as His workmanship, He gives us everything we need to build effectively. Essentially, we become “God’s fellow workers” (I Corinthians 3:9). 

In I Corinthians, Paul compares believers to builders who are building on Jesus Christ’s foundation. The only way that’s possible is because God first laid the foundation (I Corinthians 3:11), with Jesus Christ being “the chief cornerstone” (Matthew 21:42). In other words, we are not only God’s work, but He also allows us to be part of His work (I Peter 2:4-5).

When we allow God’s spiritual reconstruction in our lives, we can then help spread His Word so more people can know Him and join His “household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). What a privilege that is!

In our home, James is the outgoing one. I’ll be working at my desk and all of a sudden hear him talking with neighbors in the backyard or starting a conversation with the couple across the pond. His friendliness paves the way to relationships that might one day let us share the Gospel with others.

Although I truly believe my writing is a ministry, God has also challenged me to get out of my introverted comfort zone and start up conversations with people I meet while jogging in the neighborhood. You never know how one conversation might open doors later.

The bottom line is that as God’s children, He can use us wherever we are to share the Good News with others. Let’s not take that responsibility lightly.

A Prayer for Willing Hearts

Our kitchen renovations aren’t finished, although I’m proud that we were able to install all the top cabinets by ourselves. You can check out the video, and you’re welcome that it’s sped up, or you’d be watching for hours.

Wa-la! We make a good team. And yes, when James didn’t need me, I was editing my manuscript. 🙂

The bottom line is that we’re on this adventure together, and along the way, we’re learning and growing so much. May that also be our mindset as God continues His renovating work in our lives.

Dear Lord, thank you for sending your Son Jesus to die for and redeem a sinner like me. I confess that I am very much in need of your saving grace and sanctifying work in my life. Thank you for your patience with me even when I complain about the refining process. I trust that you can use me where I am right now to share your Word with others and be a light for you in this hurting world. Amen.

~ Kristen

Giveaway Opportunity!

I’ve been reading Victoria Duerstock’s devotional called Heart & Home: Design Basics for Your Soul and Living Space as a supplement to my daily quiet time. In it, she draws spiritual parallels to design principles that make our homes inviting places for our families and guests.

Through July 25, you can enter to win an autographed copy of Heart & Home, special thanks to Victoria herself! I’ll announce the winner (must have US address) the week of July 26. You can enter several ways for more than one entry.

Click here or the image below to enter.

Stay Connected for Future Giveaways

Subscribe to Kristen’s newsletter for monthly book buzz about Christian fiction for adults and teens, plus be the first to learn about giveaways and personal takeaways for your everyday adventures. 

When you join, you’ll receive a free copy of Kristen’s novella, A Cord of Three Strands, the prequel to her award-winning novel, The Revisionary. 

Renovating Our Homes and Hearts, Part 2

Day one of kitchen renovations went so quickly that we had high hopes day two would complete the job and let us get our home back to normal. Seriously, have you tried not using the kitchen sink for a full day? Go to your kitchen right now and thank God for your sink.

Okay, back to the story.

Around noon on the second day, we started getting worried. “He is coming, right?” I asked James. Although the AC duct guy was almost done, the electrician had just arrived, and we hadn’t heard a word from the project manager.

“He’s supposed to,” James said and shot off a text. By two o’clock, the electrician was almost done but still no word from the manager.

At four o’clock, James received a text to this effect: We’ll finish on Monday. Have a nice weekend.

This was the state of our kitchen.

Long story short, there was a miscommunication. When the project manager told us two days, he meant two days for his crew plus another day for the electrician and AC guy. Since the project began on a Friday, that translated into four days.

Need I mention that Sunday was Mother’s Day, and James’ mom was coming over? Even though our kitchen wasn’t functional, we made the best of it. James grilled, and we ordered take-out Pizookies from BJs for dessert. Thankful for our screen porch, we celebrated outdoors and truly enjoyed our time together.

Celebrating James’ beautiful Mom on Mother’s Day

God’s Sanctifying Work

The kitchen situation reminded me a little of God’s sanctifying work in our lives. We want fast results. We tell God, “Okay, hurry up and get this painful process over so I can move on with my life.”

But that’s not how God works. His molding process is part of His purpose for our lifetime, not a “quick fix.” It began before we were born when He formed us in our mother’s wombs and “skillfully wrought” our frames (Psalm 139:13,15). It continues throughout our lives as He “mars” and remakes us as He sees “good” (Jeremiah 18:4). Ultimately, God designs us to be “His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

He refines our rough edges to make us more like Him. For me, one area the Lord continues to shape me is in the area of patience. Some people have told me I seem patient, but they don’t have any idea how much I agonize over waiting. For over a decade, I prayed God would send me a godly spouse before He answered my prayer with James. Then, we had to wait over a year before we found our new home. I could go on with personal examples, but the point is that waiting is part of the refining. God teaches me things in those “waiting room” days (and years!) that I might not otherwise learn.

How might God be refining you today? Let’s not resist His work but trust He knows best.

God’s molding process is part of His purpose for our lifetime, not a “quick fix.” @khogrefeparnell

Giveaway Opportunity

I’ve been reading Victoria Duerstock’s devotional called Heart & Home: Design Basics for Your Soul and Living Space as a supplement to my daily quiet time. In it, she draws spiritual parallels to design principles that make our homes inviting places for our families and guests.

Through July 25, you can enter to win an autographed copy of Heart & Home, special thanks to Victoria herself! I’ll announce the winner (must have US address) the week of July 26. You can enter several ways for more than one entry.

Click here or the image below to enter.

Learn about Revived and Renovated, Victoria’s Upcoming Project!

Victoria Duerstock, along with her friend Paige Rein, are launching a new video series soon! They’ll be sharing honest conversations on the intersection of faith and design in our spaces.

You can sign up to hear all the good news and updates at revivedandrenovated.com.

Uncertain Future, Certain God

I used to have the bad habit of flipping to the last pages of a book to find out what happened. Maybe you don’t have that problem, but have you ever wanted to know something that’s out of reach? Right now, I think we’re all wondering when life might get back to normal. Perhaps you’re wondering if you’ll be able to attend college in the fall or if working from home is now a permanent situation.

At some point, most of us have wanted to know the end without dealing with the drama in between. In real life, we often don’t understand why we have to wait so long for answers or why our prayers hit the ceiling.

I have good and bad news. The good news is that God never designed for us to know what tomorrow holds. In fact, not knowing deepens our dependence on the Lord and strengthens our faith in Him. The downside, from our perspective, is that there are some things we just can’t know right now. When we try to get what we want on our timeline, we create problems for ourselves and others. Perhaps we can spare ourselves some heartache by learning from others’ mistakes.

Choose to Wait instead of Rush.

The fall of mankind hinged on knowledge that God asked us to entrust to Him. God’s instructions to Adam and Eve were simple: They could eat of any tree except “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:17 NKJV).

The serpent capitalized on our innate desire for knowledge when he tempted Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. “For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5 NKJV).

Pause for a second. What if Adam and Eve had been content not to know? There would be no broken world. We would still be living in paradise!

The serpent used the urgent temptation to know back then, and he still uses it today. Urgency is not an attribute Scripture applauds. Instead, the Bible frequently repeats the command to “wait” on God and records the blessings associated with it. Consider Psalm 27:14, Psalm 37:9, and Isaiah 40:31 for starters.

Yet the opposite of waiting is what Satan wants us to do. He wants us to rush ahead for immediate gratification or pleasure, because he knows that regret will hurt our relationship with God. We can spare ourselves much pain if we rest on God’s timing.

Let God’s Sufficiency be our Security.

Regardless of our life stage, we all face situations where God asks us to wait. For example, my husband and I recently bought a new home and are in the process of renovating it. Newsflash: Renovations do not happen overnight. We have made so much progress, but sometimes, it’s easy to become impatient. Yet much like house renovations, we ourselves are works in progress. God’s renovating work in our circumstances and spiritual lives keeps us going back to His throne of grace, asking for guidance and grace.

God’s renovating work in our circumstances and spiritual lives keeps us going back to His throne of grace, asking for guidance and grace. @kjhogrefe

And that’s a good thing. If we had all the answers, we could fall toward the sin of self-sufficiency. If we were in charge, why would we need God?

King David fell into this trap when he commanded a census (2 Samuel 24:2). Even Joab, his general, cautioned him against this decision. “And Joab said to the king, ‘Now may the Lord your God add to the people a hundred times more than there are, and may the eyes of my lord the king see it. But why does my lord the king desire this thing?’” (2 Samuel 24:3 NKJV)

However, David disregarded the warning. Because he demanded to know the size of his kingdom, God stripped him of the very security his soul craved with a plague that decimated the people. God bluntly reminded David that his sufficiency and security come from Him alone, not from the scope of his realm.

Joab’s question to David is one we should ask when we find ourselves insisting on answers. Why do we desire to know? If we can honestly say the reason will strengthen our faith or another person’s, then we can prayerfully proceed. However, if the root cause has to do with pride or securing selfish interests, we need to stop and reevaluate.

Embrace Knowing God, not Knowing the Future.

There’s an old hymn that says, “Farther along, we’ll know all about it. Farther along, we’ll understand why.”

I think the hymn writer had good intentions and wanted to encourage people that it’s okay not to know everything right now. However, whether we’ll understand one day is not something Scripture guarantees. Maybe God will or won’t take the time to gently reveal His plan.

Ultimately, knowing the details won’t matter. What will matter is that He remains the God who loves us lavishly, unfathomably, and infinitely. Knowing God is enough. We can rest assured that even though we don’t know what’s going to happen, God can more than supply any need.

We can rest assured that even though we don’t know what’s going to happen, God can more than supply any need. @kjhogrefe

Dear Father, please forgive me for trying to control my circumstances and wanting to rush ahead of your timing. I accept that even when I don’t understand how You are working, I can trust Your plan. Please use times of uncertainty in my life to bring me closer to You and to give me a greater awareness of Your presence. Amen.

~ Kristen