Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Recipes :: Sloppy Joe and Macaroni and Cheese

So I've never really considered myself much of a cook. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy making food for my delicious meals, baking yummy sweets - but I've never been one to create something on my own. Having a large family, we tend to find comfort in foods that we know we love and that people will be excited about - rather than working to convince our children how good the next meal is going to be. Over time, I've been making a Word document/cookbook to hold all of our tried and true recipes..Note that not all of the recipes are mine...they are versions of ones that I find online or old family recipes...but I thought I'd share some here with you.

One of our family FAVORITES are the combination of Sloppy Joe and Macaroni and Cheese. Sometimes the kids eat the Sloppy Joe mix on a bun and other times they just mix a scoop right into the Mac and Cheese.

Sloppy Joe

1 pound lean ground beef
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon prepared yellow mustard
3/4 cup ketchup
3 teaspoons brown sugar
salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste
In a medium skillet over medium heat, brown the ground beef, onion, and green pepper; drain off liquids. Stir in the garlic powder, mustard, ketchup, and brown sugar; mix thoroughly. Reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
**All of these are "to taste" - if you like more green pepper, add it. If you don't like mustard, remove it...SO EASY.

Macaroni and Cheese

1 (16 ounce) package macaroni
1 stick of butter
½ cup flour
2 cup milk (we've used goat milk in this and it's amazing)
2 cup cream
1 teaspoon salt
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
4 cups shredded cheddar cheese, good quality (or if you like other cheese, go for it)
In a separate bowl, beat two eggs together
Small squirt of mustard
Sprinkle with Italian style breadcrumbs
(**For cheese, you can switch the 4 C. cheddar to 2 C. cheddar, 2 C gruyere (shredded), and ¼ C. Parmesan Reggiano)
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Cook and drain macaroni according to package directions; set aside.
In a large saucepan melt butter.
Add flour mixed with salt and pepper, using a whisk to stir until well blended.
Pour milk and cream in gradually; stirring constantly.
Bring to boiling point and boil 2 minutes (stirring constantly).
Reduce heat and cook (stirring constantly) 10 minutes.
Add shredded cheddar little by little and simmer an additional 5 minutes, or until cheese melts.
Turn off flame.
Add macaroni to the saucepan and toss to coat with the cheese sauce. Add two eggs and small squirt of mustard – continue to stir until mixed well.
Transfer macaroni to a buttered baking dish.
Sprinkle with breadcrumbs.
Bake 20 minutes until the top is golden brown.
(You can also freeze this recipe in zip-lock bags for later use - once you have mixed the macaroni along with the cheese sauce allow to cool to room temperature before adding to your freezer - I generally pull it out the night before and allow macaroni and cheese to reach room temperature; I then add the macaroni and cheese to a buttered baking dish, sprinkle with bread crumbs and then bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until golden brown on top and bubbling.)

SO SO SO delicious and very easy and feeds a crowd. We actually triple or quadruple the Sloppy Joe recipe. Try it out!
**Our children will actually request this for their birthday dinners.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Hoping...Planning and Dreaming

I feel like we are doing a lot of hoping, planning and dreaming and not so much on the doing. Doing takes time and money, both things that are hard to come by when I work full time, Mark substitute teaches full time and we are just a few weeks past Christmas...meaning the after Christmas catch up has begun. Not to mention, we've been struggling to keep our heads above water for a bit. I'm hoping that we'll be getting a decent income tax return (it won't be as much as last year, nor am I getting my bonus this year *ahem, another story) - if so, it will likely be enough that we'll be able to breathe a little bit. That, along with Mark's long term teaching job should allow us to start getting some of our simpler projects. So we've transitioned into actual planning. we went through our catalog from Dadant (a beekeeping supplier) and put together a wish list (set into different phases of ordering) - below represents the first round of ordering. I'll print out this form and bring it, along with the catalog to our next beekeeping meeting. We'll walk through it, together with the group leader - to make sure we have all the necessities. What is amazing, is that the beekeeping association that we belong to supplies everything necessary for the extraction of honey (for free) - we'll need to sign up to use it, but totally worth it. Since our beekeeping school is scheduled for March 23rd and our bees our scheduled to arrive April 17th, we'll put the order in for our supplies and request that they bring the order to the school and we'll save a bit in shipping. WOOT!
The baby chicks are scheduled to arrive between April 9th and 11th - so next I will make a supplies list and make sure that we have everything necessary to keep them safe and warm. I'm hoping that our income taxes will help get these two things prepared - if the coop isn't quite ready for the chicks, we'll be able to keep them in the basement for a bit until it is ready. I'm not too worried.

I look so forward to getting the barn completely done - we need to put up some additional siding and then paint it. We have the paint, just need to get the siding pieces, get them installed, make the doors and windows and it's done. Slap on some paint and WaaaLaaa.

This weekend, we fixed the plastic that we put up on the barn to shield the insides from the snow. It's been pretty windy here and it pulled up one full side. So, yesterday we put a 2X4 up that would hold a good portion of the plastic down and put tons of staples in the rest. I'm hoping this will keep our flock nice and dry...well dryish :-)

Drake's English Angora rabbit should be delivering her babies some time between Feb. 1 and Feb. 8th - I'm hoping for a nice, calm, happy delivery (for Luna and for Drake to experience). He's really hoping to make a business out of this and I hope he can make it happen.

Mark's birthday is coming up on Feb. 2nd - YAY! Time to celebrate the birth of one of my favorite people in the universe. Hmmmmm....what cake should I make him!?!?!?

We've been working to keep up with oil this winter...but boy, I cannot wait for the wood burner - just to have that extra warm space in the house to warm your soul by.

We're needing another delivery of hay - hopefully we can get that ASAP. 

In addition to everything else we have going on, we've decided to start tracking farm costs and keeping notes about what we do when. We think this will help us track the highs and lows of small scale farming.

On that note - I will leave you with photos from the farm...

Moo says - hey! what's going on in there?
Nom nom nom says Jester
Mabel wondering why I keep pointing the camera in everyone's face.
Mabel and Jester sharing a bite.

I love Lockhart.
Snuggles for Jester
I love that although he is really just trying to eat my zipper, Jester looks like he's smiling.
Steve getting in on the action.
Winchester - my new bunny. LOVE him
Another view at Mr. Handsome
Aww - look at Steve's handsome face
Jester has very sincere eyes. Cutie!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Is it the weekend yet?

Over the weekend, we had a few nice days of 60+ degrees. It is days like that that make winter nearly bearable...nearly. We sat on the front porch and dreamed about what our spring would look like...and how different our winter looks like this year, than last. It really is amazing. Last year, at almost exactly this time, we had just brought Blossom and Josie home. Isn't that crazy? Since then, we've added all the others, we've moved them from an oversized shed to a mostly done barn, that we have built with our own hands.

I'm so excited to see where this next year takes us.

We've had some other, very recent, changes here at the homestead. Our daughter, Kait, and her boyfriend, David, have moved in with us. It was their intention to move back in when their apartment lease was up; to save money for a wedding/house/children etc.; however, David unexpectedly lost his job and they were pushed to move in with us, sooner than expected. We love having them here, but it also means a busy last few days of cleaning out the kids' bedrooms and swapping rooms around. Kait and David still have their apartment and need to finish packing and moving - Did I mention that their apartment is an hour+ away from us? So there is a lot of back and forth for them over the next few weeks. Did I also mention that with Kait and David comes a dog (a rambunctious border collie) and two cats (oh boy!)? So now, this house holds four adults, three kids, two dogs, six cats, three rabbits and fish, inside. Did I also mention that I'm allergic to cats and dust mites - which means now that I've been kicking up dust for the past three days and housing two additional cats, my allergies are through the roof. Nothing a little Allegra-D can't help.

In other news, the company that I work for is really booming. We are in the process of bidding for yet another program (we've already done a pilot program and are working to transition it to a full blown program) if the client signs on, then I've been tapped to manage that program, as well as my existing program. I'm really excited - it is a HUGE opportunity. I really hope that we can move this forward. It does mean some additional travel for me and that means time away from the farm; however, I'm willing to do that from time to time to help get us to where we need to be, financially. Additionally, I can use this as an opportunity to build up some frequent flyer miles and hotel points and potentially let it be a big benefit to our family. Now that Kait and David are living here - perhaps Mark and I can take that vacation we've always wanted to take (you know, the non-children, non-family, romantic vacation...maybe a cruise or just a flight to some place warm and beautiful?!) Hmmm...Wish me luck.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Bee School and Beautiful Sky

The view off our front porch, when you step out of our bedroom door and look to the right. This is without photoshop - it was just a gorgeous sky and give me a really positive outlook for the night.

Same sky, in landscape - I love the way the silhouettes of the trees look against the pink,orange and reds of the sky.

Bee School Registration form and payment - how cool is that?!?!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Beekeepers This Way --->

Beekeepers? Is that us? Oh, I guess it is...I mean, technically, we are not currently keeping bees. Bees do not live in simple white boxes at the end of our pasture. We don't reap the benefits of warm, fresh honey in our back yard. But we will...soon.
Last night we attended the first session, of the new year, for the Butler County Beekeeping Association. We put in our request for two nucs...this will be the start of our hives. We still need to purchase the hive bodies and equipment; however, we are one giant leap in the right direction. Our bees should arrive around the middle of April (approximately the same time the chicks should get here). Starting Jan. 15th, registration opens for the OSU Warren County Extension Office Bee School ( - this is an all-day-long bee school with break out sessions featuring leaders in the beekeeping world. The cost is only $35/person and includes lunch...Awesome!
Mark and Shelby Roberts...shepherd/shepherdess, goatherder/goatherdess, alpaca/dog/cat/rabbit/fish owners...and soon to be chicken egg collectors and...beekeepers...LOVE.

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Life of a Christmas Tree

I thought I would take a moment to share, with you, the story of the rise and fall of our first real Christmas tree in 17 years. Join me, if you will...

This is where we first met, the Roberts Family and our tree.

Our beautiful tree made its way into our parlor and fit perfectly in the space we had hoped.

Oh Christmas Tree...filled with all of our memories. Cherished throughout the holiday season.

Then we decided to take down the tree and toss it out to the pasture, as a Christmas treat, for the animal crew. I think it's fair to say that they LOVE pine.

Ollie wants to get into the action of ripping apart the tree and eating that delicious pine.

And within 24 hours, our beautiful Christmas tree had made its way first circle, devoured by our beasts and made into goat poo compost LOL.