Two seemingly unrelated topics in this here post: Dad’s favorite dinner and how to shine up your boots so you look like a superstar. Really though, these two things, at least for me, have a lot to do with one another. I was raised to appreciate the value of things and that ‘things’ had value beyond occasional wear. Maybe that is why I love thrift stores? At any rate, when I was little and would beg for new shoes, rather than my parents giving in right away, they taught me to polish my shoes, thus rendering them brand spankin’ new!

But first – this was a meal made fairly often in my household growing up, especially made on days when Dad had off work. Italian Roasted Sausages. He would labor over the stove for what may have been hours cooking up perfect marinara sauce and then serve the dish to everyone in separate oval-shaped ramekins. I wish I had a set of my own…someday. At any rate, here is a tribute to one of Dad’s favorite dinners.

This recipe is really easy. First step is to caramelize some sweet onions* (*For easy step-by-step instructions to caramelize foods, I recommend checking out Joy of Cooking – they can offer you much more detailed, nuanced points than I care to explain here). Start by melting butter and some olive oil together in your most awesome cast iron skillet,

Then chop up your onion into longer half-moon slices,

And throw them in the skillet once the butter and EVOO are hot. Let them sizzle for about 15 min. on medium-high heat (they will get brown – let it go – it’s a good thing). Turning our attention to other matters, pull out gorgeous, nitrate-free hot (or sweet!) Italian sausage links.

*Truth be told, I actually made this dish awhile back so don’t worry when you see the date on the meat – I cooked it then!

Watch your onions again, turning the heat down to low, and stirring occasionally for another 20 min. at least (45 is recommended, but seriously, that is a long time!). If they get stuck to the bottom of the pan, you can add a little water (makes them more juicy) or salt also works.Pull the onions off the stove and set aside. Now throw your sausages into the same pan you were just using so they can soak up the amazing flavor and cook a bit in the remaining oil, and cook on medium heat (watch for splattering!).

Turn them every so often to make sure they get browned on all sides. They don’t have to get cooked completely through because we will throw them in the oven. When they are sufficiently browned up, place them in a pretty baking dish and layer your caramelized onions over them (if you have any left/avoided eating them while you waited for the sausages to cook). 

Then add ‘Dad’s Favorite Red Sauce’ (which is whatever red sauce you currently have on hand as opposed to the homemade version that doesn’t seem to show up as often these days 😦 ). I think I added a bit of olive oil on the bottom of the dish to ensure nothing stuck too much, hence the EVOO yellow glow around the edge.

Next top your creation with shredded mozzarella/parmesan/pecorino romano blend of your choosing. 

Pop it in a preheated 350 degree oven for 12-15 minutes. Wait patiently because you decided to make this after going to the gym (wicked smart) and now you are so hungry you could eat your laptop. A few quick minutes later 🙂 pull your dish (covered with yummy splatters!) out and bask in the glory that is melted, browned amazing cheese.

Serve with tons of salad to compensate for the high caloric intake and smile because it reminds you of childhood and homecooked Italian meals, which are the best. My plate was still steaming but I could wait and ate about half of a sausage link before breathing again.

Ok, after a delicious dinner, it’s DIY-time! First, find your dusty cowgirl boots and riding boots and any other similar brown leather footwear. Here are your supplies; pretty simple. Brown shoe polish, like this one from Kiwi, lasts a long, long time. Maybe for life. A dark shade of brown will cover many spectrums of dark brown leather; it doesn’t have to match perfectly. You also need a brush with natural bristles that you won’t care if it gets dirty permanently.

See how the toes of my boots are all dull and the shine isn’t consistent across the front of the shoe? Let’s fix it!

Rub a paper towel or cloth rag in your polish. This part can be messy. I should’ve taken this task outside but you could also put out newspapers to catch any messes. Or just not care like me. 

Then place your boot over your arm, like so. Imagine if your arms had boots on them and you walked on your hands. I would certainly get much better at my handstands that is for sure. 

You want to rub the polish all over the surface of the boot but pay special attention to areas where there are cracks or obvious wear, scratches, etc. 

After rubbing polish all over the boot, take your brush and brusha-brusha-brusha all the spots you applied polish. The polish gets into the brush and begins to ‘shine up’ areas where the polish was applied. You can work the polish into the brush a bit too and shine up the whole boot. It will take a few minutes of brushing before the leather starts to shine. See the boot on the left? It is shinier and prettier than the one on the right. Next shoe!

Look at that gleam! That is what you are going for, I think, right? I mean, dusty boots are great for hanging out in a Western-style saloon, drinkin’ whiskey, and listening to sad country music, but who has time for that? Actually sounds like fun and something I wish I had more time for!

Shining & clean, and I think the polish does help protect the leather by making it more supple so it doesn’t crack as often and keeps it ‘somewhat’ waterproof. I even applied some polish to the new wood block heels that I had recobbled (yes, I did. I had broken these boots in and they are seriously the most comfortable shoes I own, so I wasn’t about to toss them when the heel started to wear out).

Any questions? Happy with your like-new shoes? In other exciting news – check out my one of many Christmas gift to myself! New cutting boards! I picked up the small paring board, which has a cool sticky surface on the bottom, and the larger chopping board at Targe’t.

The large board was made of cool recycled materials but can stand up to industrial-grade chopping (or hacking), heat, and cleans easy. Plus, it has silver stars embedded in the core. Cool huh?

What other DIY projects do you have on your list? Are they holiday projects or regular everyday life projects? I need to patch a hole on my front door (random), find a permanent winter home for my bicycles/possibly install a bike hook, photo project (ongoing; ugh, I take too many pictures), and refurbishing an old barn door as a possible bed headboard! Whew, that’s a lot!