Stuffed Shells in the Crock Pot – Is that lazy?

It has been hot hot hot here! That means I avoid using the oven if possible. So today I made stuffed shells in the crock pot. After I had everything put into the crock pot, I realized I should have posted this as a recipe. Oh well! I thought my pasta sauce was a little thin anyway.

Yesterday, I posted about homemade ricotta cheese. So today I used that ricotta cheese in the stuffed shells! I also had to make my own pasta sauce and that was not quite as successful as the ricotta cheese. I think it was mostly because I had to throw it together in less than 30 minutes. I was also afraid to season the sauce too much because my boys don’t like their food “spicy.” I would definitely go with a jarred pasta sauce in this if you have it. There are seven of us in our family so I have to buy the large jars of pasta sauce from Costco. Sometime soon I will figure out how to make my own pasta sauce but that is a project for another day!

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The shells were done after about 3 hours in the crock pot.
My plating skills leave something to be desired, but the shells tasted good! I even went back to get more.
My plating skills leave something to be desired, but the shells tasted good! I even went back to get more.

I did sneak a taste of the leftover ricotta cheese. It does taste different than store bought. It definitely has a fresher taste as well as an aftertaste of sweetness that made me think of mixing honey with it and eating it for dessert. I think the next time I make ricotta I will probably use it to make a honey ricotta cheesecake.

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Moving posts – the tedious way

We started our blog at another site and had a few posts over there that I will be moving over here. I don’t know how to port them all over lickety-split so I will be one at a time copying them over here and putting them in the right categories. I may not even move all of them since some of the posts, especially the ones about our bathroom remodel, may be too boring, have too many numbers, etc.

Wow, this place is a mess!  We hope to have it looking better soon!
Wow, this place is a mess! We hope to have it looking better soon!

Making butter – originally published 4/11/2015 – in a baby food jar?

If I had known how fun this homeschool activity would be, I would have done this much earlier in the year!  Yesterday, during my sons’ homeschool videos, I had them make butter.  I put some heavy whipping cream and some real whipped cream into four baby food jars and had my boys shake away!

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Animals of Our Hobby Farm

We currently have two bunnies as part of our hobby farm, a white mini-Rex named Tofu and a white and brown Holland lop named Mochi. They live in a bunny hutch in the side yard and have really been a fun experience for us. Our son, Corran, all of 11 years old and 5 feet tall already, feeds them every morning, though our son, Matthias, who is 8 years old and adores all animals, will go see them just because. Tofu loves anything new and exciting, while Mochi takes a bit to warm up to anything new, food or toy-wise, that enters her hutch.

Mochi soon after we first bought her.
Mochi soon after we first bought her.
Mochi - 6 months old. Mochi is our calm, sweet bunny who likes to be petted and has soulful brown eyes.
Mochi – 6 months old. Mochi is our calm, sweet bunny who likes to be petted and has soulful brown eyes.
Tofu - now 6 months old - is our fun, crazy bunny. She loves to hop around her cage, sniff anything new, and devours carrot tops whenever we give them to her.
Tofu – now 6 months old – is our fun, crazy bunny. She loves to hop around her cage, sniff anything new, and devours carrot tops whenever we give them to her.

Josh has started clearing a corner of the yard to build a chicken coop.  They will be our next hobby farm animal project! With the price of eggs escalating and most likely not recovering for another year or two, we look forward to collecting eggs from our own hens.  However, we have read that once you get chickens it is like owning Pokemon: You have to collect them all!

We bought a bunny! – Originally published by Joshua 4/25/15

Yesterday, we bought a bunny.  She is a mini-rex that is about 8 weeks old.  As a mini-rex she will end up being only about 4 pounds when she is fully grown. She is going to be a pet for our children, but more importantly she is going to be a manure machine for our yard.  Rabbit manure is supposed to be among the best available, and my yard needs a ton of manure so she cannot poop enough.tofubunny1 tofubunny2 tofubunny3

Cement Block Raised Garden Bed (04/03/15)

Today I built a raised garden bed.  I had planned to build one out of redwood until I saw the prices.  Creating a decent sized bed would have been well over $100 just for the wood alone.  At the same visit to Home Depot, I saw that concrete block was only $1.05 per block.  I ended up buying 36 blocks to create my bed.  Each layer is made from 18 blocks.

I had to dig out my yard some for the back section of blocks.  I then laid out my first layer of blocks using a 3 foot long level to make sure they were at least mostly level.  After that I used construction adhesive to attach the second layer of blocks to the first.  I have used the adhesive to hold together some other small walls I made before, and it worked out well.  Once the wall was built I laid 1/2 inch hardware cloth  on the ground to keep gophers out of the bed.

Once I get the dirt in, I plan to plant some Jalapenos, Habeneros, and Bell Peppers in the bed.  With the low price of the block, I should be able to build another bed for this year.

While working on my project, I even got to see a sun halo.  That isn’t something I have seen often here in San Diego.

Ricotta Cheese – from scratch?

I’ve always wanted to try making cheese but just was not inspired to do so until I borrowed this book from the library:

Click the picture of the book to take a look at it on Amazon.
Click the picture of the book to take a look at it on Amazon.
What is interesting about this book is that it is a cookbook without any pictures!  Somehow this has not deterred me from wanting to try most of the recipes in it. It also has so many fun stories in it that I didn’t even miss the pictures.

So, let’s get to the cheesemaking part! Ricotta cheese in the grocery store right now is usually a special buy for me because it is so expensive! Today’s batch of ricotta cost around 3 dollars for at least 2 and a 1/2 cups. I used a gallon of whole milk, 6 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice (lemons came from our trees), and 1 tablespoon of white vinegar. Mixed it all together in my largest nonstick pot and brought it up to 200 degrees (I LOVE my candy thermometer). The milk definitely looked curdled at that point. I turned off the heat, let it sit for 20 minutes, then ladled the curds into a cheescloth-lined colander. I let it drain for 20 minutes (I did have to use two bowls for this part because there was so much whey!). Then, the cheese went into a container in the fridge, and the whey went back into the gallon milk jug and also in the fridge to be used for breadmaking (or any baking really).  My hubby is the breadmaker so I had him use the whey today to make a loaf of bread in the bread machine.

I did take pictures of some of the process, mostly to remind myself that I actually did this!

The ricotta draining in the colander into the 2nd bowl I had to use
The ricotta draining in the colander into the 2nd bowl I had to use

The whey in the 1st bowl I used. Behind it is the pot I used to cook the milk and vinegar/lemon juice. Some of the milk cooked onto the bottom of the pot so I had to keep that from getting into the ricotta.
The whey in the 1st bowl I used. Behind it is the pot I used to cook the milk and vinegar/lemon juice. Some of the milk cooked onto the bottom of the pot so I had to keep that from getting into the ricotta.

The ricotta is ready to go into the fridge! I am hoping to use some of it to make stuffed shells tomorrow for lunch.
The ricotta is ready to go into the fridge! I am hoping to use some of it to make stuffed shells tomorrow for lunch.

I labeled the milk jug I used to store the whey, just in case someone tries to drink it. It can be used as a drink; I just don't think my kids would like it very much.
I labeled the milk jug I used to store the whey, just in case someone tries to drink it. It can be used as a drink; I just don’t think my kids would like it very much.
I think my next cheesemaking attempt will be mascarpone!  I just ordered the tartaric acid I need to make it.