Caramelizing Onions (Slice, Cry, Stir, Stir, Stir)

Aldi had 3 lb bags of vidalia onions for 79 cents. I bought three and caramelized 2 1/2 of them. 

This is my work station…

I use a mandolin, but I’ve done it with a knife too. I’ve done it with a food processor, but I like my slices more controlled than it makes them. 

This is my bowl full of peels for the compost pile…

This is my face in agony…

It was awful. I lit candles. I chewed gum.  Like three pieces. That helped a little. 

I filled a pot…

I divided the pot…

All it takes is about 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter and tons of onions and some salt. I used kosher. And time. Like an hour… after you slice them all. 

Cook stirring frequently on medium high until they’re soft and starting to brown. (About 20 minutes)

Reduce heat to medium. Add 2 teaspoons of sugar to each batch and stir almost continuously for 30-40 minutes (yep) until onions reduce to a jam like consistency (and your face has an onion facial.)

After this point I was able to put it in one pot to get dark. An enameled Dutch oven promotes browning better than nonstick and a light pan helps you judge color better than a dark pan. 

Jam like…

Made 3 cups. That’s a lot of work for such a tiny yield, but this keeps in a fridge a long time. 

I use my onions on hot dogs and sausages. 

I add a good amount to broth for instant French onion soup. I stir it into my mixture for quiche for the BEST quiche you’ve ever had. 

How about you?  What’s a labor intensive recipe you make that’s totally worth it?


Long Lasting

Today is our 10 year wedding anniversary. 

The last gallon of milk I bought was dated today. So nice of my milk to celebrate with us… by going bad?  Oh well, our marriage is not “Best before” today. It’s going to get better and worse. That’s a vow. 

The 10 year traditional gift is tin/aluminum. The modern gift is diamond jewelry. Seriously!  That’s a big price difference. My dad was theorizing that 10 years is not what it used to be when it comes to a lasting marriage. He said it seemed way more of a milestone now in our divorce prone world. 

I recently visited with a couple about to celebrate 50 years. I asked them if they’ve outlived all of their wedding gifts. She told me stories of a glass bowl set of many colors. She said a few broke and one red one is now white from being washed in a dishwasher.  (There’s some symbolism in there if you scratch the surface, I’m sure.) The gift they still use and has lasted is a hot/cold chafing dish. 

As much as it is frustrating when something we use all the time breaks, I think, well, our marriage has lasted longer than…

Our coffee pot (I’ve broken three, no four!). Our toaster. All of our non stick pans (if their coating is gone, you’re supposed to replace it.) A blender. A microwave. A dryer. Two DVD players and two Blu Ray players. 

We’ve lasted through several world events. Three presidential elections. Three summer Olympic Games.  We survived several life events, including some of the big stressors. Having kids, check check. Moving, check. Changing jobs, check. Illness, check check. 

It’s fun to take inventory like this. What has your marriage outlasted? 

What is keeping up with you?  Our electric tea kettle still works.  Thanks Grandma and Annette. Our red cloth napkins have made the journey with us too. Thanks Tarrah. 

Splinter Kit

I’m sorting through the mess that is my homemade first aid kit. 

A good kit should be accessible and I’m sure there’s stuff that needs to be pitched in the depths of this bin. 

I was keeping “like” things in plastic bags. If you’ve ever put anti itch instead of anti bacterial cream on a boo boo you’ll separate things too. 

My favorite invention is our splinter kit. Truth be told, our magnifying glass is blurry and never used, so the only things we need are the tweezers and needles. It’s so nice when someone has a splinter to not hunt for tweezers in the cosmetic bag and a needle in the sewing kit. 

After dumping or relocating some things I’m left with a much neater first aid kit. 

Lots of trash…  I’m not sure about expiration dates on medicine. I’m guessing it’s a potency thing rather than a spoiling, but when one is labeled 2012, it’s time.  Well, way past time. 

Good for a Laugh

I’m coming off conference high right now. It was three days full of workshops and main sessions, amazing challenges and innovative ideas. I laughed until I cried every day.  Too many times I was still laughing from one gaff when the next was zinging me before I was done. Like labor contractions on top of each other… but with laughter, not crazy pain. 

It’s been too long. 

I need to laugh more.

It’s not that I’m grumpy or angry, maybe just too serious. 

Can you have a New Years resolution start in May?  I say yes!

So please please please I need suggestions for great reads, watches, and listens that will make me laugh. 

I’ve got my own little list of what gets me. I’m curious what your list would include. I can’t promise I’ll read or watch what you suggest, but I might. I’m guessing it would reveal some personal taste in humor and that’s good to know even for our own benefit. 

What makes you laugh?
My list…

Jon Acuff 

Mike Rowe (The Way I Heard It podcast)

Bob Goff

Jenny Lawson

People you may not know…

My Life Group (church small group)

Book Club

Sharon Sontag

Kristen and Jeff (my neighbors)

Unloading vs. Loading

Loading the dishwasher is enjoyable, maybe especially for those of us who went years without one, because of the challenge to arrange things in the best way to get clean and to stuff it to the max.  I’ll rearrange it over and over as I fill it just to get it all in there.  If there’s something just won’t fit, I may leave it for the next load rather than handwash it.  I’m that person.  Lazy?  Yeah, that shoe fits.

Unloading is another matter.

It shouldn’t be.  The dishes are clean, the work has been done, but somehow I feel less enthusiastic about putting it all away.  Laundry can be like that, (love to wash; hate to fold?) but once I got efficient about my folding and putting away I do it expeditiously.  Woo!  Making word-of-the-day proud.

So, I’ve been working on a system to make unloading the dishwasher, which is a chore, less of a chore.  I amuse myself that I’ve found what goads my laziness or at least my procrastination to do something about the full-clean dishwasher.  It’s the back-tracking that bugs me.  I don’t like opening this cabinet to put this dish in, then a different cabinet to put away that dish, then lo and behold there’s another dish to go in the previous cabinet.  As exercise though, I’m sure it increases my steps.

When you move houses, it’s most efficient to load a large moving truck with everything, drive it to your location and unload it even if you’re moving down the block.  I need to pile the dishes once, in a single location, and then put them away.  Is that why loading the dishwasher is easier as most dirty dishes are in a single location, already in the sink or on the counter?  I’m making it a habit to unload the entire dishwasher in drip-efficient order onto the nearest clean counter, then moving a whole stack to their destination.  No more two plates at a time.

First, I need to unload the sink-side drain of all dishes that were drying from the previous dishwasher load and anything that had to be washed by hand.  I need the drain empty so I can air-dry this current load.


My silverware is on the door itself, not everyone’s is.  This is my step one, but if yours is on the bottom rack I would suggest making this your first unload in the bottom rack.  I try to load my silverware heads up to get clean and to be able to put them away without having to turn them.  I can do it in one trip with loaded fistfuls.   Anything else in the silverware holder that is not silverware then gets put away or put in the drying rack.

Then the bottom rack.  Why?  Because the top rack often contains plastics which retain water drops.  If you pull out the top rack, that water will drip on the bottom dry dishes.  (When this happens you can hear my disappointed “NOOOOOO!” from space.  Seriously, it’s just water, but it feels like failure.)  I have been unloading the bottom rack entirely and stacking the plates, bowls, etc into groups to be put away.  Just like unloading a laundry basket into piles by a garment’s destination.

Then I unload the top rack, which is mostly wet and goes straight into the sink-side drain to finish air drying, but the dry items join the queue on the counter.  Finally, I close the dishwasher and put everything on the counter away in the fewest trips possible.   Or sometimes I load it anew from the dirty dish piles on the counter and in the sink, and then close it and then put dishes away.  Truth.

If this seems like waaaay too much thought put in to unloading a dishwasher, you’re absolutely right.  Over-thinking it… also a shoe sized “Maria.”  Maybe simply being grateful to have clean dishes I get to put away is enough to get the job done.  Finish strong friends!!

Bowl Backboard 

We planned our spring break getaway with enough time for me to prepare some road snacks. 

I made no bake cookies. This is my favorite recipe. Love that it gives you the number of seconds to let your liquid be at a rolling boil. So exact. Actually we ate the first batch and I had to make more. These are perfect when you crave chocolate and salt while driving. Plus the oatmeal helps things move instead of what long car rides usually do to all of us. 

We brought other snacks and drinks, so I knew we’d need a cooler. This time I thought ahead and stocked up on ice in advance so we wouldn’t have to make a stop to buy a bag. I emptied my ice maker into freezer bags as it filled up. 

Kinda hard to dump this much ice in a small opening. When I’m filling a ziplock with liquid contents or something that wants to shift I try to fit the bag into a bowl or glass and fold back the lip.

I was trying to think of a way to make a homemade funnel and I thought of my flexi cutting board. This one was a welcome gift in the mail when we bought our house, but I know a lot of people have these. 

Fold and insert. 

Now I have a backboard to pour into. 

Sorry for a blurry picture. This was hard to do with one hand so I could snap this shot.

One down. I filled two more bags this way storing them in the freezer until travel time, then replaced the ice maker to fill up. Plenty of ice for the cooler. Mission accomplished and I got a new multitasking kitchen gadget in the process. 

Making Caroline Ingalls Proud

I’ve started reading the Little House series to my 6 year old.  We’re now in Farmer Boy and she loves them as much as I did as a kid.  In the first book, Little House in the Big Woods, Laura mentions her mom’s weekly housekeeping schedule.


It includes a washing day (I do a load of laundry pretty much every day, but I don’t have to fill a washtub with creek water), an ironing day (no thanks!), a mending day (this one I should incorporate), a day to churn, a day to rest, and a baking day.  Baking day sounded awesome, so I’ve declared Tuesday as baking day!  The most delicious day of the week.

When the flour, etc. is already out making multiple baked items is less of a chore.  My husband feels the same way about frying things.  “The oil is hot, what else should we deep fry…”

My freezer needs to have space to store for baking day.  I learned by listening to the America’s Test Kitchen podcast that baked items go stale at the same rate if you store on the counter or if you stir in the fridge.  What preserves freshness best is the freezer, as long as you wrap things properly.  Most things need two layers of plastic wrap and a freezer bag or aluminum foil.  Sliced frozen bread is great to go straight into the toaster.  A lot of bread will thaw on the counter from frozen in 30 minutes to an hour.  Then I noticed my microwave has a bread defrost button.  Does everyone know about this frozen bread thing but me?!

The first baking day I made a pie and froze it and also New York bagels, biscuits and blueberry muffins.  I wrapped the cooled muffins individually (after being short a couple) in two layers of plastic wrap then into a freezer bag .  Defrosting them in the microwave means every morning we could have warm blueberry muffins.  The next week I made ultimate cinnamon buns, double chocolate banana bread, baked ham and jalapeno empanadas, and more bagels (because we ate them all).  Last week I only made chocolate croissants.  These take the entirety of your baking day with all the resting in the fridge they need.  Worth it.  Oh so worth it.

Or course Ma didn’t often have the luxury of chocolate and white sugar and berries out of season and, and, and…  She and all those like her were wonder women at making things work.  But I think she’d be proud to know she influenced one modern-age woman to bake crazy delicious things for her family and friends on a designated day I SO look forward to.  And I get to bring my husband home from work with a text like this…

img_6737How about you?  Would a designated day encourage you to bake from scratch?  Do you store baked goods in the freezer and you’ve been sitting on this trick without telling me?!