Homemade Manicotti

3_FullSizeRenderHere’s my disclaimer.  I did not learn this from my Italian mom who learned it from her’s and so on.  I just am in love with Italian food. This is easy enough that my preteen daughters can do it and even the pickiest of eaters loves it.  I use my own sauce but store bought will do.  Its also a great place to hide shredded vegetables.

Homemade Manicotti

Noodles (Really, they’re like making crepes):

3 c. flour
2 c. milk
6 eggs
1 tsp. salt

FullSizeRender Whisk until smooth. Put 2 T. at a time on a hot greased skillet and spread into a 5 inch circle. Cook low to medium heat until set. Try not to brown. You technically shouldn’t turn them but sometimes they start to brown on the bottom but the top is not set so I quick flip them and then take them right out of the pan. Stack on waxed paper. I used to layer them between waxed paper but I realized that they stick more to the waxed paper than they do to each other.



2 lbs. ricotta cheese
½ c. grated romano, parmesan, or asiago (my personal favorite) or any blend of these
2 eggs
1 ½ tsp. dry parsley or 1 ½ T. of fresh parsley

1_FullSizeRenderYou also need 2 jars of spaghetti sauce and the equivalent of two 8X11 casserole dishes

Spread ½ of the spaghetti sauce in the bottom of the dishes. Fill noodles with approximately 1/8 cup of ricotta filling. (This is approximate because, if you’re like me, you’ll make noodles of varying sizes.) Lie them up in the bottom of the pan. (I turn them over so the weight of them holds the top shut.)

1_FullSizeRenderWhen you’ve filled all of the noodles, pour the other half of the spaghetti sauce over the top of the manicotti. I like to add a sprinkling of asiago on top but it’s not necessary. Cover and Bake at 350o for 20 minutes then uncover and bake 20 more minutes.

Usually there are no leftovers in our house but it does freeze well. Happy eating!

Homemade Laundry Detergent

2_FullSizeRender I’ve been trying to slowly switch to more natural products in my home. Since I’m a single mom with 4 eternally hungry preteens and teens and who just so happens to be in grad school, I’m not exactly rolling in the dough. So, while I would love to switch to all organic products, I have had to be selective in my endeavors. I started with cleaning and personal products. I have had a few victories in personal products but have really hit it out of the park in cleaning products. But my favorite, by far, is my laundry detergent recipe. I no longer buy laundry detergent, even when it’s a totally awesome sale (because great sale prices do not make the chemicals in the commercial detergent go away). Instead, I use this recipe:


Homemade Organic (at times) Laundry Detergent

16 cups Baking Soda (not quite one of the giant bags from Sam’s Club)
12 cups Washing Soda (2 boxes)
8 cups grated Castile Soap or a combo of Castile and Fels Naptha (4 bars total)

The original recipe calls for lavender essential oil but I skipped this due to our allergy problem.  I use my food processor with the grating blade to grate the soap.  The added bonus is that my food processor is sparkling clean after I wash it up.  4_FullSizeRender

Mix it up and store it in a sealed container. The powder can be a little irritating to breathe so go hog wild mixing it up. I usually mix it a bit then close the lid and give it a few shakes. Depending on how dirty your laundry is, use 1/8 to ¼ cup per load.

We live on a farm which means that directly following winter is Mud Season. During the muddy spring, I use 3 bars of Dr. Bronners and 1 bar of Fels Naptha.

I bought my ingredients bulk through Wal-Mart and Amazon or at Wegman’s. The final cost was $22.59 and it lasted us approximately 3 ½ months.

Many thanks to Evelyn at Delightful Creations for the original recipe. You can check out her blog here.

Of sickness, Saturdays, and soup

I spent my Saturday alternating homework and housework. I was feeling pretty proud of myself for not crawling back in bed (I really didn’t have a choice since I put my sheets and blankets in the laundry while my coffee was steeping). But, hey, I might as well pat myself on the back for something.

I then spent the morning feverishly cleaning my post-plague house. When my kids are sick, the nurse in me imagines freshly sneezed germs swarming around me and landing on every surface in the house. I try not to breathe as they snuggle their feverish bodies next to me in my bed coughing directly at me as if my nose is a giant homing beacon. Since there are many of them, they kindly take turns being sick thus extending the experience. At long last, it’s time for the purging. I always feel better despite scrubbing the paint off the walls.

Today, I decided to throw dinner in the crockpot. I know myself well enough to know that, at the end of a day of cleaning, I don’t want to cook or even get dressed to go out for dinner. So, lest we all starve, I head for the crockpot. I have a chronic disorder that makes me unable to follow a recipe fully. I usually look at some recipes for inspiration then end up cooking whatever I wanted in the first place. Today was no different. I knew I wanted to use the leftover ham in my freezer and I had been in the mood for lentils so that lovely combo became my inspiration.

Splicing a few recipes together, I tossed it all in the crockpot and hoped for the best. Julia was tasked with making bread but unfortunately, her brother decided to have a meltdown while she was putting the ingredients in the bread machine and she forgot a few. Luckily, the ham and lentil soup ended up tasting fabulous so I didn’t miss the bread too much. “Yay for the soup win,” I thought!!

But once again, along came my children to burst my bubble. “What are we having for dinner?” they always ask. Ham and lentil soup. “What in it?” someone inevitably says. Really? Flamingo gizzards and coconuts, I’m tempted to say. Instead, I talk really slowly because it is the weekend and I presume their brains only function on school days. Ham and lentils, I drawl. Just then, Danny walks in quoting the movie, Spy Kids: All the Time in the World, “Did you drop your transmission? It smells like lentils and desperation in here.” My shoulders sag as I realize that my lovely soup now can never be known as anything other than Lentils and Desperation.

And so, without further ado, I give you…


Lentils and Desperation


Lentils & Desperation Soup

2 cups dried lentils
2 cups carrots
1 cup celery (because that’s all I had)
2 cups onions (I used red because that’s what I had. I know this seems like a ton of onions but it tasted great.)
4 cloves minced garlic
2 cups diced cooked ham
1 tsp dried basil
¾ tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp black pepper (This really was a generous ½ tsp because I love pepper)
½ cup tomato sauce (I used my homemade sauce that’s more like a marinara.)
64 oz chicken broth (or stock, whatever you want to call it)

Toss it all in the crockpot and cook for at least 5 hours on high (I’ll try 10 hours on low next time.)

(This fed 7 of us as a main dish with 1 bowl leftover, that I already claimed for tomorrow.)


I used this recipe of Slow Cooker and Ham Soup for my inspiration.