Homemade Italian Meatballs

I used to be able to get away with making spaghetti as a meatless dish.  Our homemade sauce was sufficient to make it a satisfying meal.  It was a dish I could get on the table with little work and no planning ahead.

Unfortunately for me, I decided one time that I was going to be fancy and make some homemade meatballs to go with it.  The next time I made spaghetti without them I was met with “Don’t you usually add some meat to this?”  So, now whenever I want to make spaghetti I have to make meatballs too.

If you have (or are) an Italian grandmother, you’ll probably want to stop reading now.  I’m not making any claims that these are authentic Italian meatballs. However, I wanted to make the distinction because you’re not going to want to slather them in barbecue sauce and serve them as an appetizer.

So, here’s how I make my meatballs… Feel free to adjust the amount of this or substitute for that.  I won’t be insulted, I promise.

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Woodpile in October

I have a love/hate relationship with our wood furnace.  I love keeping the house warmer than average in the winter and I love not paying for propane.  I never feel bad using the furnace early in the fall or late in the spring.  We have even lit a small fire a time or two on damp, cool summer days just to take some moisture out of the air.

However, I hate lighting it.

My husband doesn’t have any issues with it, but if it’s raining, snowing, damp, warm, or windy outside I have trouble getting it going.  I load the box up with newspaper, cardboard, the driest split wood I can find, and a little oak to get a nice coal bed.  I take a match, light the paper and… well… lets just say it takes a certain skill to only have half of the paper burn before it goes right out.Read More »

Apple Caramel Sauce (From Scratch)

I love caramel on my ice cream… second only to pineapple.  I’ve been making my caramel sauce from scratch for awhile now because it’s just so simple.  It’s hard to go wrong with plain caramel, but since it’s fall and I have a gallon of pressed apple cider in my fridge I decided to get a little creative, and the results turned out amazing.

It tastes like the inside of an apple pie – spoon some of this sauce over vanilla ice cream and it tastes like apple pie a la mode.Read More »

Homemade Sauerkraut

This past summer we grew three large cabbages.  I planted four but at the end of the season we had a rainy spell and one ended up rotting from the inside out.  Each cabbage ended up weighing in at about 10 pounds once it was trimmed down to the edible portion.

Since the variety I planted was a white kraut cabbage, I figured I should try making some.  Besides, one can only eat so much cole slaw.

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I found this amazing tutorial on how to make sauerkraut in small batches: http://www.killerpickles.com/klassic-kraut/

I wanted to do it in small batches because if something went awry I didn’t lose the whole batch and all my time and effort.Read More »

Peanut Butter Cookies

I halve a lot of recipes – especially cookies.  We just don’t need 4 dozen cookies laying around the house because you know what happens?  We eat 4 dozen cookies.  Half batches usually give me the right amount for my husband’s lunches for the week plus a few extra for us to munch on.

Way back when I shared my peanut butter blondies post I mentioned my husband likes peanut butter cookies.  However, I made soft, chewy peanut butter cookies for years before he told me he prefers them thin and crispy.  What’s nice about these cookies is that you can make them chewy or crispy without altering the recipe – it’s all in how much you flatten them before you bake them.  If you want soft cookies, press them with the back of your fork a little bit.  If you want them crispy, press them down a lot!

If 2 dozen cookies is still too much, or you want to multiply the recipe and stockpile some cookie dough for later, this dough is great for freezing. Read More »

Extending the Shelf Life – A “Bread-speriment”

Few things are better than homemade bread.  The flavor is hard to beat, and it makes the kitchen smell amazing.  However, the shelf life often leaves much to be desired.  It’s not something you need to worry about if you intend to gobble up your loaf right away, but if you make a loaf on Sunday and want it to last through lunch on Friday you might end up disappointed when by Thursday the loaf starts to mold.  And lets face it, you’re not saving any money making your own bread if you have to throw it out.

I usually have good luck with my bun recipe lasting a full week.  My recipe uses an egg, and the lecithin in the egg yolk can act as a preservative, so that could be why.  However, as wonderful as my bun recipe is, sometimes I want to make a different kind of bread.  I know, crazy, right?  Besides, I wouldn’t mind squeaking a few more days of freshness out of my buns from time to time.

I don’t want to go out and buy a commercial dough enhancer because they’re pretty expensive and the reviews on whether they work or not seem pretty mixed.  In hopes of finding a cheaper alternative, I decided to embark on an adventure to try to find if there is something, natural or commercial, that I can add to a bread recipe that will help extend its shelf life.  My first contender: Vital wheat gluten with vitamin C.

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Vital wheat gluten is better known to improve the texture of breads, however this product has vitamin C, which is an additive that should improve shelf life. Read More »

Help Me Paint My Kitchen!

Don’t worry, I’m not asking you to do any manual labor….

Over the last 8 years we’ve done significant work on every room in the house except our kitchen.  We plan on remodeling it, but that realistically isn’t going to happen for probably 10-15 years.  The kitchen was by far the most agreeable as far as color palette and functionality, so we were in no rush to do anything to it.  My husband has repainted the ceiling, turned the coat closet into a walk-in pantry, and installed a dishwasher – that’s about all that’s been done.

About a month or two ago I was moving something and hit the bottom of one of the drawers next to the fridge and took out a chunk of the veneer on the drawer face.  I decided then I’m sick of how the kitchen looks we need to do something to it in the interim. If you look closely, some of the veneer on the cabinets is starting to get worn and chipped, and the stuff in front of the sink has some water damage.  Nothing is bad, it all just needs some freshening up.Read More »

Fall Clean-up & Summer Wrap-up

Even though the garden hasn’t frosted out yet, we took some time this weekend to clean up what we could.

My husband tackled the garden.  He pulled out the dead tomato plants and cucumber vines.  He also pulled out the associated stakes, cages, and trellises and tilled up the newly vacated parts of the garden.  Our beans, bunching onions, kale, peppers, and Brussels sprouts are still doing pretty well.  Those two volunteer tomato plants are on the decline but are still producing a little so those were left in as well.

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I pulled out my gladiolus and calla lily bulbs and put them on a rack (this was from a fridge of some sort) to dry.

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I’ll leave them here until next weekend then I’ll brush off the excess dirt, put them in ice cream buckets (probably with a little pine bedding thrown in for good measure), and store them in the basement for the winter.  I did have a number of bulbs that rotted in the ground before I could get to digging them up, but that was largely a function of the repeated couple-inch dumpings of rain we’ve gotten over the last two months!

I didn’t pull out my dahlias yet… because they’re still blooming!  I’m very impressed with my Sam’s Club dahlias!

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Two of my day lilies – Purpleicious and The Jury’s Out – produced seed pods this year.  Some have dried out already, so I harvested them and have plans to try and start them next spring.  I’m still waiting on some of the pods to dry out, but I’ll collect them as they do.  I would love to see what kinds of hybrids I get from all of my day lilies.

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When I planted this spring I showed you that I put down newspaper and straw to help keep the weeds down.  Did it work?  At first.  The issue was that the weeds that did work their way through were the larger and more aggressive weeds, so when I pulled them they left a hole in the paper and let more weeds populate that area.  Will I do it again?  Probably not.  It’s easier to just hoe or till the weeds in between the plants.

Tomatoes are always boom or bust around here.  This year was bust – thanks to early blight.  Luckily, we had a bumper crop in 2015 and still have ample tomatoes in the pantry.  We ate some fresh, I made and froze some tomato paste, and canned some jalapeno hot sauce.  I found a different fungicide that I felt was working at least marginally better than the stuff I had used prior, so I will buy more of that next year and use it regularly as a preventive in hopes of keeping the pesky blight at bay.

We had a pretty typical crop of green beans.  We were running a full batch of quarts through the canner about once a week.  They’re still growing pretty good, and are actually still flowering.  We definitely haven’t put the canner away yet – there’s a batch of beans going in today!  If you missed my post on how to can green beans, you can find it HERE.

The corn.  Well, that was a lot of corn.  We ate a lot of corn, we gave away a lot of corn, we canned a LOT of corn.  If you’re following me on Facebook or Twitter you likely saw this photo one morning about a month ago…

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All that corn was cut up the night prior and was ready to be canned that day.  We ultimately put up about about 70 quarts of corn.  We just ate our first quart a few days ago and (luckily) we’re very happy with how it turned out.

The cucumbers did okay.  As usual, it took a couple replantings to get them going so we didn’t get a terribly abundant harvest.  We ate a good amount of cucumbers fresh, and I canned some relish.  Next year I really need to be on top of things and start my cucumber seeds indoors.  I’ve historically had terrible luck starting seeds, but I think the birds are getting at my cucumber seeds when I direct seed them.  So, I need to give seed starting another shot – at least with the cucumbers, anyway.  If that doesn’t work I’ll have to resort to buying them from the greenhouse.

The cabbages and Brussels sprouts had a great year, with the exception of one cabbage that rotted on me (from the inside… it was weird, I had never seen a cabbage do that before… but we got a LOT of rain towards the end of the growing season).  The cabbages got made into cole slaw, then what we couldn’t eat fresh (which was a lot) got made into sauerkraut.  Here is one cabbage, all shredded up…

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It’s still fermenting, so you’ll hear more about that if it turns out (so far it looks promising).  We’ll leave the Brussels sprouts in the garden through winter or until we’ve eaten them all.

After a pretty successful growing season we have a fully stocked pantry and are ready for the apocalypse…

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…or just another Wisconsin winter!

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