Category Archives: Around home

Spaghetti and Meatballs: Classic Favorite with an Attitude

On our first anniversary, I told Alan I’d make anything he wanted for dinner, assuming it would be something we couldn’t usually afford, like lobster or steak. Do you know what he wanted? Spaghetti and meatballs! It was then I realized he might be Scottish by heritage, but he has an Italian stomach! So, for the next forty-five years, if I really want to spoil him, I roll out that ever-lovin’ classic, spaghetti and meatballs! It’s so simple that you probably don’t think it’s even worth discussing, but I have found a few ways to add taste points that make it more memorable, and I’ll include those at the end. Meanwhile, here’s the basic:

Classic Spaghetti and Meatballs
(serves 6± depending on how much you eat!!)

Meatballs:
Add together in a large mixing bowl:
1 pound hamburger (or ground chuck, ground round, or whatever you like)
1 cup bread crumbs (make your own by toasting old bread and crushing the slices in a paper bag with a rolling pin, or buy some already made)
1 egg
1 teaspoon Montreal steak seasoning (or your favorite)
1 tablespoon crushed garlic (fresh is best, but you can use commercially prepared or even crushed, dried garlic)
1/2 teaspoon onion powder (or 1 finely chopped onion if you’re an onion lover)
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper   Mix thoroughly (may as well get your hands dirty; it takes less time) and form into golf-ball-sized balls (or smaller, depending on your taste). Fry in a large skillet until well browned and cooked through, turning carefully just once or twice so they don’t burn. . . or fall apart on you.

Meanwhile, prepare your Pasta Sauce:

In a very large saucepan, saute with 2 tablespoons of butter:
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large pepper, chopped (any color you choose; green works fine and provides good color contrast, but other colors are sweeter)
8 oz. chopped mushrooms (any edible variety you like!)
1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt (I like Lawry’s, but use whatever you like)
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon crushed garlic (There’s an old saying that families should eat their pasta together, and I’m quite sure it’s because good pasta is loaded with garlic, which tastes great going down but is sure to displease your friends if it’s on your breath but not theirs!)

Once the veggies are tender, add:
1 large can of stewed, diced Italian tomatoes
1 jar pasta sauce (your favorite; I use Prego flavored with meat, but there are a lot of good brands and varieties out there)   Simmer until all the ingredients are hot and well mixed, then add the meatballs  gently into the pot with the veggies and let it all simmer away for at least another half an hour (can be longer). If you’ve used hamburger, and there’s a lot of grease floating on top, spoon off as much as you can and throw it away. Grease=flavor, but it also=calories, so a little goes a long way.

Pasta:

While your meatballs are simmering in the sauce, cook the pasta. You can suit yourself as to the type you want to use, and just follow the directions on the side of the box. . .or make your own if you’re really a pasta aficionado! Theoretically, I’ve heard that Italians like their pasta “al dente,” which means “to the tooth” and refers to pasta that is neither too crunchy nor too soft, so that it appeals to your teeth when they bite into it! I don’t mind my pasta pretty well done, but the advantage of starting out al dente is that if you accidentally have any left over (which happens!), then if you rewarm it, the pasta doesn’t become too mushy to be good. But, it’s totally personal preference! My husband definitely wants his al dente!

Add any (but not all) of these to create memorable taste points:

*An extra pound of grilled and chopped Italian sausage
*A small jar of capers
*4-8 oz. of diced, sun-dried tomatoes
*1 cup chopped olives (black, green, or whatever you have on hand!)
* A small jar of smoked egg plants, diced
* “Primavera” refers to “in the style of spring” and usually means pasta served with a mixture of fresh vegetables, such as peas, broccoli, or zucchini. However, you can also add any of of a number of veggies to the basic sauce to increase the nutritive value and add color and texture. Just make sure you don’t overcook the veggies so that they become discolored and mushy. Add them in the last 5-10 minutes before you serve them.   Serve your pasta hot, and if you have any, have some grated cheese and crushed pepper available for people to add as they please.  The traditional meal includes a side salad, garlic bread, and grape juice. Okay, so maybe in Italy it’s wine, but at my house it’s grape juice! 🙂  Hope you enjoy!

Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 9:9, ESV).

 

Sharing our Poetic Hearts for National Poetry Month

So, I’ll start with a haiku that mourns the loss of my beloved dog, who has passed from this life. The thought came me as I was shooing the geese off our dock  …yet again! 😦  I don’t mind the geese claiming our yard as their nesting ground, but they have absolutely no sense of decorum concerning appropriate dock etiquette and care!

“Oh, Where, Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone?”   Geese are on our dock.   I will have to shoo them off.   Where did my dog go?

From earlier this April:

“Cast Away”   Dreams, like branches, fall.
Casualties of stormy springs.
Half buried in snow.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16).

The Lord gave this next poem to my friend…as she sat in silence during the early morning…lamenting the death of her beloved son:

“As I come downstairs early in the morning
You, O Lord, are waiting for me
You meet me in the darkness of the early morning
You meet me in the darkness of my life..my grief
As the light of day appears
Your WORD pours LIGHT into my heart
The LIGHT I need to face this day…..”
(—she prefers not sharing her name)
You, Lord are my lamp; the Lord turns my darkness into light.
(2 Samuel 22:29)
“PEARL”
(by a dear friend since college days, Phyliss Hammerstrom)
Every poem begins
with some uncomfortable,
aching,
irritating grain,
around which I layer
word
after sibilant word,
encasing it with shimmering
veils of opalescence,
until its sharp edges are smooth,
until I can live with it.
–Then the knife
that digs the treasure out of my flesh!

Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty: For he makes sore, and binds up: he wounds, and his hands make whole” (Job 5:17-18).

“Anxiety”
(by Carri Nelson Cassarino, September 20, 2017)

When anxiety was great within me,
Your consolation brought joy to my soul.
You say worry is against your kingdom,
So we must seek and must know.

Truly your best effort is to shield us from worry.
Your best hope is to keep solid for you and be in awe.
For the joy before us is your great joy,
And the way forward to trust your law.

For the glory of Him who loves us is His great and wonderful love,
We must ever trust him and give him our love,
For the way forward is to obey what He says.
And never seek our own way and be His beloved.

For the joy is found in obedience.
And the glory of Him for us is love.
For the hope He gives is eternal.
Then He will take what is His, above.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

Even If You Can’t Dance, You Can Zumba!

By the time I was five, I was trying to imitate my swingin’ teenaged brothers as they danced to hot new songs like “The Terror of Highway 101.” By six, I was learning to “Rock Around the Clock,” and by seven, I was practicing Elvis the Pelvis’s swinging hips from songs like “I ain’t nothing but a hound dog.” By twelve, I was practicing the Peppermint Twist with my girlfriends at slumber parties. And then, I surrendered my life to Jesus, and the dancing stopped. It wasn’t just that I started attending a very conservative church where they considered dancing the “vertical expression of horizontal thoughts,” I was beginning to think there might be something even more exciting in the world of guys than being nicknamed “Buckwheat” and allowed to play first base on their ball team!

Long story short, I decided that dancing was way too provocative and romantic to be a part of my life if I wanted to make it to adulthood keeping my name in tact. (Kathryn means “pure.”) Marriage didn’t exactly stop all attractions to the opposite sex either, and so it seemed wise to continue a hands-off, no-dance policy indefinitely.  However, 45 years into marriage and finding myself pretty stable emotionally, Alan and I both noticed that we were becoming the least bit unstable physically. One bit of advice we’ve heard repeatedly about aging well is to participate in new physical activities that stress grace and balance, such as dancing. So, we decided that it’s time to start dancing again…together…in our basement…with our video Zumba instructor, Beto Perez, the Colombian dancer and choreographer who developed a fitness program called Zumba in the 1990’s. Zumba combines dance steps with various martial arts moves and is the perfect combination of fun and aerobic exercise. It really took off in 2006, and today there are more than 14 million people who participate in some 160,000 classes in 185 countries…and counting! At 14, Beto was working 3 jobs to support his single mother and their family in Columbia. Today?! Talk about the American Dream come true!! The wife of one of our psychiatrists sponsors a Zumba class on Tuesday afternoons where Alan works, but we are a little too old (or self-conscious) to join that group. However, for $7.99 we got Zumba 101: Can’t Dance? from Amazon, and we’ve been working out ever since! At first, we could hardly make it through the first two songs without needing a rest, but now we can dance through the entire hour session and are ready for something more. The funny thing is, it’s just as appealing to our grandchildren, and when they come to visit, the kids beg to work out with us! It’s just SO. MUCH. FUN!

So, if you’re looking for a way of exercising that doesn’t bore you to tears and makes you feel happy, consider giving Zumba a try…maybe even in the privacy of your own basement! Alan is still struggling to swing his hips, but…I’m back to my roots! 🙂

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die. . .a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-4; this is our time to dance~).

Home and Family Quandaries

Here are a few more haiku based on family fun:

On Turning One  Little Birthday Girl   Why are your favorite gifts Boxes and paper?

Play Actors  All the world’s a stage.  But if they won’t let you act,  You still get to play!

Life or Death MattersGreat expectations!I want chicks, but he wants eggs.Life and Death collide.

Asclepias   Snowy bird brooding
On your nest of eggs, are you
Hatching milkweed seeds?

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God” (1 John 4:7).

The World Aswirl

Have you been working on any poems for National Poetry Month? I’ve been agog with all the beauty swirling in the late April snows around Tanglewood Cottage, so I wanted to share a few of my favorite photos that inspired haiku:

“Still Beautiful”  Cherry blossoms bloom,  But not here in Michigan.  Here snowflakes blossom!

 

“Artist” Great artists abound.  But in all the world I know   There is none like God.

 

“All Paupers Are Princes”   Snows melt in the sun.  The world gleams with jewels.  Beauty is treasure.

Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow?” (Job 38:22)

(P.S.—The photo of the cherry blossoms was taken by Elizabeth K. in Washington D.C.; they aren’t blooming at my house yet!)

Has Spring Failed to Install in Michigan?

While my brothers are sending me photos of glorious spring weather
in California and New York City, I’m singing “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!” Because, here in Michigan there are still snowflakes sifting down from heaven! There were power outages over the weekend, and over 200 churches closed
(ours included) due to  dangerous, “almost impossible” driving conditions. In Williamston, MI, east of Grand Rapids, my friend, John Bjorlie, posted these three photos from the ice storm that hit their area, with the following caption: “Excellent crop yield this year from our Ice harvest.
The Ice plants were full and fruitful.”  🙂 Yes, if ice were a cash crop, he’d be in the money! Last week our lake was reflecting dreamy blue sky eyes, and our cherry tree was beginning to bud. This morning all our hopes for spring have been put on hold. Our lives are like this sometimes, too, aren’t they? Stormy, fragile, and uncertain. And yet, I believe God cares for us and will continue to provide for us. If you feel like your life is on hold because of unexpected storms—
Be patient and hang tough! Spring will come again!

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
(Romans 12:12)

 

P.S.—A big thank you to John to sharing his photos with me. By the way, if you’re looking for an idyllic, rural setting for an event in the Lansing area, John and his wife have a new venue that is open for business. They’ve christened it Rosrmål Barn, after the Norwegian painting style of Rosemåling, so if you’re looking for a place to celebrate, let me know, and I can put you in contact with them!

 

 

Coconut Snowballs: Elegant Sundae for Coconut and Chocolate Lovers

On our original honeymoon, 45 years ago, we had a “coconut snowball” for dessert one night at Weber’s Inn in Ann Arbor, and we’ve been enjoying them during getaways to Weber’s Inn ever since. However, it occurred to me that they would be very simple to make, and so I’ve developed my own recipe for this rather unique but classic sundae. If you’re a fan of coconut and enjoy ice cream sundaes, I think you’ll love this one!

Coconut Snowball
(Per serving)

Ingredients:
Hot fudge sauce: Store bought, or make your own. My recipe is here: https://kathrynwarmstrong.wordpress.com/2015/08/05/recipe-for-the-best-hot-fudge/

Coconut ice cream: Buy it at the store (I like Hudsonville’s here in GR) or make your own by slightly softening vanilla ice cream, stirring in 1 heaping tablespoon of coconut per serving, forming into sundae-sized balls, and refreezing hard.

Toasted coconut: Bake at 350° for 5-10 minutes, but check it carefully, or you might end up with a fire higher than flaming cheese! (I made the mistake of trying to broil mine first try, and it was a total disaster!)

Whipping cream and maraschino cherries

1. Make or open your hot fudge first. It should be warm but not too hot when you prepare the sundae, so if you make it ahead, give it plenty of time to cool down to “warm.”  2. Toast shredded coconut in an oven on a baking sheet at 350° for 5-10 minutes (depending on how golden brown you like it). Place on a plate (so it doesn’t continue to brown) and let it cool completely. 3. Buy or make coconut ice cream and form into sundae-sized balls. Roll them in the toasted coconut until they’re well covered. Freeze hard.4. Fill the bottom of your sundae dish with warm “hot fudge.”5. Add your coconut snowball.6. Cover generously with more warm “hot fudge.” Cover lavishly with whipping cream and crown with a maraschino cherry. Enjoy!

Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies; Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Psalm 103: 1-5).