Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff

beef-stroganoffWinter has officially arrived in Missouri. It’s during this season that I love to try new recipes for comfort foods like soups, stews, chilis and even things like beef stroganoff- which is what was on the menu recently.

I found this recipe right after having our son, Caston, while thumbing through a recent issue of Cooking with Paula Deen. I remember thinking to myself, “I don’t have time to cook anymore with my new baby,  I need all the quick recipes I can find to save myself some time around the house.”

This recipe comes from Carol Poppe, of Mandan, North Dakota and takes the hassle out of making your traditional beef stroganoff- which normally take much longer than this recipe.

This recipe is perfect for a cold night, paired with your favorite Missouri wine! Go even more local and use beef from a local farm, buy some local mushrooms and homemade noodles from the farmers market.

Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff
By Carol Poppe

2 lbs. beef tips
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 can golden mushroom soup
1 can cream of onion soup
1 (8oz) can sliced mushrooms, drained ** I use pre-sliced fresh mushrooms instead
1 tsp. pepper
1 (8oz) cream cheese
1 (8oz) carton sour cream
1 (16oz) package of egg noodles, cooked and hot

In a slow cooker combine beef tips, onion, onion soup, mushroom soup, mushrooms, and pepper. Cover and cook on high for 8 hours (it only took me 6 hours when I prepared this). When done cooking, stir in cream cheese and sour cream and mix until combined. Serve over hot cooked noodles.

Feeding Your Baby…Getting Started with Homemade Purees

Caston Ray at 8 months enjoying homemade spaghetti and meatballs.

I’ve been experimenting in my kitchen with homemade baby foods of all sorts since the birth of my son in 2009 and I’ve learned a lot since then.

I decided before Caston was born that I wanted to make his food, instead of just choosing the jarred varieties.  I knew it wouldn’t be easy, I knew it would take time and research, but I knew it was the very best food for him.  Moreover, I knew that I wanted it to be as local and fresh as possible, therefore I choose to purchase most everything from farmers I knew at the market or from my own parent’s farm.

Try to buy vegetables that are in season and local. Much of the produce we buy in stores is at least 14 days old by the time your purchase it in the stores and has traveled over 1,500 miles from farm to the store. If you can’t find it local and fresh- choose frozen.

What do you need to make your own baby food?
Well for starters, skip purchasing the WAY overpriced baby food cookbooks, the Baby Bullet and even forgo purchasing the specialty baby food storage containers that I now see on the market.  All you really need is a food processor or food mill, ice cube trays and a little bit of creativity!  If you don’t have a food processor, purchase one, because if you become a fan of my blog…you’re going to need it.  Plus, what kitchen isn’t complete with a fancy food processor anyways…

From my research…I read about how good salmon is for babies because of the natural DHA and Omega 3 fatty acids found in salmon, so I thought how could I incorporate it in a baby food? Sweet potatoes, olive oil and a few other ingredients and I stumbled onto an amazingly delicious food that my Caston went Ga-Ga for.

I always taste-test all of the homemade foods. If I wouldn’t eat it,  I wouldn’t feed it to my kiddos! I’ve tasted the prepared foods in the jars- NO Thank You- I’ll pass on that!  I will admit one thing though…I did not like the beet baby food I made when Caston was a wee one, but I do not like beets – PERIOD.  He, however, loved them and still does.

Kale Baby Food..It's in season now
Yummy Kale Baby Food!

Spice It Up
Don’t be afraid to put seasonings in your homemade baby foods as well. Just as long as you don’t include sugar or salt in the food, you are good to go.  Many of Caston’s foods as he got older included garlic, which a lot of folks were surprised at, but he never had any issues with it and loves it now as a 3-year-old.

Changing Up Stages
The older your baby gets the less finely pureed the food will become. Follow your babies reaction though- all babies are different and are ready for chunkier and more dense foods at different times. By the time most babies are 8 months old they can have some table food that the family eats, like potatoes, beans, carrots, cottage cheese (which Caston loves), yogurt (we buy YoBaby- it’s easier on their bellies), peas and many other items. See more here.

When pureeing foods, reserve the water the vegetables or fruit was cooked in to add back a little in the food as your process it down. The water holds many of the nutrients your baby needs, this is a step many forget.  DON’T FORGET THIS!

Also, just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean your baby won’t. Be adventurous when making baby’s food- he/she will thank you later on.

Freezing/Storing Baby Food
Remember how I said forget the expensive food storage trays and containers that are on the market?  Here’s why.  All you need is about 4 ice cube trays and a box of freezer bags to store your baby food.  Plus, buy a couple small containers to use when you are away from home to take your homemade baby food in, that way your little one will always get everything homemade!

After pureeing the food to the proper texture (Stage 1- Fine, Stage 2- Slightly Chucky, Stage 3- Chuckiest), spoon the food into the ice cube trays, cover and pop them into the freezer.  Most purees are froze after 2 hours.  Label your freezer bags with the name of the food, the stage and the date.  Pop the cubes out and place in the appropriate freezer bag.

When you are ready to feed your baby, reach into the freezer and grab 1 to 2 cubes and thaw in the microwave.  Remember to always watch for any signs of an allergic reaction when feeding your baby foods.  Each new food should be introduced for at least 3 days straight to see if your little ones has any issues with the food.

Keep It Simple
Start with simple foods at first.  I always start mine on straight yellow squash, butternut squash, pumpkin…then move on to the greens, then fruits.  I make small amounts of these foods (with some seasonings like basil and olive oils) and then after baby accepts these I move on to mixtures.

Mixtures of Foods
When I say mixtures, I mean…A cube of butternut squash with a cube of applesauce.  You will have many bags of single foods, after baby has tried and accepted all the single foods, then you can mix and match your cubes together.  That’s when the real fun begins!

Here are some of the recipes that Caston loved  and Cora is just now starting (and they are mommy approved as well):

Fancy Salmon
2 (3 oz) salmon filets, poached and fully cooked
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 medium white potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp. onion powder

Cook salmon fully and set aside. Boil potatoes until soft. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and puree to desired texture.

Asparagus Delight
1 lb. of fresh asparagus, trimmed
1 head of fresh broccoli, cut
1 tsp. olive oil
1 clove of garlic
1/2 tsp. onion powder

After washing and trimming the vegetables- stem until tender. Add all ingredients in a processor and puree.

Spinach and Cauliflower Oh My
1 lb of spinach leaves (or use 1 bag of frozen spinach), cooked
1 head of cauliflower, steamed
1 clove of garlic
2 apples, peeled and cooked

Place all cooked items in a food processor and puree.

Red Cabbage Fun
(When baby is ready, add a cube of chicken to this one)
2 apples, peeled and sliced
1 1/2 cups of red cabbage
3 T. of golden raisins
1 tsp. olive oil
1/2 cup water

Place all ingredients in a pan and boil for 10 minutes and then puree.

Berry Bounty
1 cup of blueberries
1 cup of blackberries
1 cup of strawberries
2 bananas

Simmer the berries in water for 6 minutes, then strain. Place berries and bananas in food processor and puree. When you serve this, you might have to add some cereal to thicken it up. Cereal is great to thicken up fruit purees.

Here’s a great puree that is packed full of nutrients for your growing baby!

Spinach and Sweet Potato Puree
1 bag of spinach, cooked
1 sweet potato, cooked, peeled and cubed
1 clove of garlic
1 tsp of olive oil

Cook spinach and sweet potatoes. Place in a food processor along with garlic and olive oil and puree. Spoon into ice cube trays, cover with plastic wrap and freeze. After frozen place in freezer bag and use within 1 month.

Mama Mia, Pizza Ria…Homemade Pizza Crust

pizza-with-sauceAround our house just about everything is homemade- pie crusts and fillings, mac n’ cheese, baby food, lemonade- even the pizza!

I was on a recent visit in Dora for an upcoming cooking article when I tasted the very best homemade pizza crust from Marty Uhlmann.
Marty is a family friend who farms near my parent’s.  Our families would have club every Saturday with other farm families in the area.  Club was where the men would talk politics, the women would bring some of the best homemade country fixins’ and us kids would play in the hay barn or the creek. Good memories….

I interviewed Marty for the article and she had prepared three recipes- pizza, Lemon Meringue Pie and a Custard Pie. (Which I had a piece of each- you know me- I never turn down good food!)

The pizza crust taste like homemade rolls-it’s amazing and fairly easy.

During the interview I recall Marty stating: “Back then we didn’t go to the store to get a pizza- we made it!” I laughed, it’s funny how things change. But, around our house we still do it the old-fashioned way I guess. Wouldn’t have it any other way either.

Enjoy this pizza and let me know how you like it. This recipe will make two pizzas- we freeze the other one, so there is always one on hand, then there’s no need to go to the store.

by Marty Uhlmann
Makes two crusts and two toppings


1 pkg. yeast
2 Cups lukewarm water
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
7 Cups flour
1/4 Cup salad oil

Dissolve yeast in water and mix. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix. Dough will be dry. Set in a warm spot and cover with a towel. Let the dough double in size. Meanwhile- make the topping.

Pan fry the following ingredients:
1 lb. hamburger
1 lb. sausage
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 cups tomato paste
2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. oregano
1 lb. grated cheese (1/2 mozzarella, 1/2 cheddar)

Place ingredients in large skillet (we use a cast iron skillet) and cook.

Punch dough down, split into two doughs and turn out on floured counter and roll the dough thin. (Remember this dough and topping will make two large pizzas.)

After rolling dough out, place in pizza pan and fold crust over and pinch to seal. Cover with towel and let it rest for 10 minutes. Add skillet mixture then add any of the following ingredients: olives, mushrooms, green peppers, pepperoni, smoked wieners and cover with cheese.

Bake at 425 degrees until crust is brown, approximately 25 min.

Holiday Meat Trio

Ever family has its own holiday traditions, from cherished desserts, icing cookies, homemade presents, to even the main dish that is served on the family table.  A tradition at my husband’s family Christmas includes a massive main dish that my mother-in-law has mastered.  My husband’s mother, Josefa, is from Madrid, Spain and is an excellent cook and every Christmas her kitchen comes alive with the smells from this Spanish dish that I call the Holiday Meat Trio.

This dish includes typically a beef roast, a chicken and either a ham or pork roast, all the similar size.  Beware- You will need a big pan for this dish.  You will cook all the meats together at low temperature.  The smells that will develop throughout your house are amazing and will have your family breaking down the door come Christmas Day.

Holiday Meat Trio
1 beef roast, about 2 lbs.
1 chicken, about 2-3 lbs.
1 ham or pork roast, about 2 lbs.
2 cups of dry white wine
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup of fresh parsley, chopped very coarse
2 cups of carrots, chopped rustic
2 cups of celery, chopped rustic, plus all the leaves
4 bay leaves
2 small onions, chopped coarsely
Garlic powder, lots of it
1 tsp. dried basil
½ tsp. pepper

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large roasting pan place half the celery, onions, carrots and parsley. Lay all three meats side by side on top of the freshly cut veggies. Add your liquids (chicken broth and wine). Place the rest of the veggies in the dish around and on top of the meats. Sprinkle the pepper, dried basil and bay leaves all around the dish. Then, take about 4 T. of garlic powder and sprinkle all over the meat.

Cover the entire dish tightly with alumni foil. When I say tight, I mean tight! You don’t want any steam to get out.

For the pounds of meat that I have listed in this recipe your cook time will be about 4 ½ hours to 5 hours. This will all depend up on the pounds of meat you are cooking though! The meat is done when you can stick a fork in it and the meat falls apart! Cooking this dish slow on low heat is very important.

* You can also add potatoes to the dish as well.
* All three meats need to be around the same size, except the chicken can be a little larger.
* Depending on how many you will be serving will depend on the size of your meats.

HOT Wassail, Get It Here

DSC_0101Christmas time is upon us. Yes, it’s that time of the year already, it amazes me how quickly it comes each year.

Time for shopping for our loved ones, holiday baking for our co-workers and neighbors, trimming the tree, plugging in all the lights to see which ones work and which don’t, Christmas cards, table centerpieces made of holly, greenery and cranberries, choosing the perfect wine to accompany the perfectly planned out Christmas dinner and all the laughter and joy around the Christmas tree opening gifts and treasures. What isn’t there to love about Christmas!

We’ve started a new Christmas tradition with the Elf on the Shelf this year.  Jerry is our elf and he is sometimes nice and sometimes a little naughty.  He’s been seen fishing in the bathtub, having a snowball fight, on a sugar high, toilet papering the bathroom, on top of the Christmas tree, handing out early Christmas gifts and even pinned up by Jake and the Neverland Pirates for stealing Caston’s candy loot.  If you have no idea what Elf on the Shelf is- check this out and for great ideas head on over to Pinterest!

Jerry’s up to no good…again!

Not only did we adopt Jerry the Elf this year, but we also added another tree to the mix of my expansive collection.  NOTE: Do not judge.  I have a Christmas tree problem…I can’t get enough of them! I have admitted to my problem and I’ve went in for help, but the problem revisits me every Thanksgiving.  So….I gave up!

We’ve got a tree for about every room in the house and each has it’s own theme.  Caston loves our house at Christmas and was a total help decorating everything this year, even baby sissy’s new tree.  I go all out at Christmas, just as my mother did when I as a youngster (and happy to do so to see the joy and excitement in my children’s eyes).  Something magical about a homey-feeling house during the holidays.  Even Charlie got into the spirit and hung lights on the house this year and the shrubs (he is a pretty amazing daddy.)  Caston told him, “This is so cool dad.  You’re the best!”

I always think how pretty our house looks with all the trees, stockings, lights and other décor – until I go to Silver Dollar City (SDC). Then I see real work at its best during the holidays. If you haven’t made the journey down to Branson to walk through the park, do so. The hot cocoa, wassail, and even the deep-friend goodies are splendid and the lights are beautiful.

So, in honor of  “Steal Your Dollar Holler,” as my husband likes to call it – I’m posting a Hot Wassail recipe I know you will all love!

Wassail is a mulled cider type drink that is a holiday tradition in many countries. This hot, spiced punch is most popular at Christmas. It usually contains fruit juices, cinnamon, cloves and other spices.

McConnell Holiday Wassail
1 qt. apple juice
1 qt. orange juice
2 c. cranberry juice
2 tsp. lemon juice
3 T. honey
1 cup sugar
4 cloves
3-4 cinnamon sticks
8 whole allspice
Navel Orange Slices

Combine all ingredients in listed order to your crockpot, at least a 4 quart crock. Cook on low setting for about 4 hours or until heated to desired temperature. You may also cook it on high initially for an hour and reduce the heat to save time. This reheats well for 3 days, plus your entire house will smell like Christmas – what gets better than that!

She Crab Soup

Dining-Rivah-Fare-She-Crab-SoupHave you ever thought about how you have made the friends and relationships in your life? I have.

As I was making a pot of crab soup this morning for the upcoming Soup-Off Contest at my local farmers market,  I thought about the people I have met throughout my life and how they have made footprints in my life. For instance, the soup recipe is from a couple in Maryland my family are friends with.

About 5 years ago I met Cecil and Michelle. My parent’s had decided that they were going to sell our family farm and purchase another one closer to Springfield, Mo. As soon as they put the farm up for sale, people were visiting from all over the county to look over the farm. There were people from California, Florida, Colorado, New York…I was amazed by the response.

But while all this was happening my parents were having their doubts about their choice to sell. I was unhappy about the decision from the get go. The family farm meant the world to me. Every childhood memory I had steamed from those hills, trees, creeks, barns, cattle, the swimming hole, dirt roads, fences and the “love tree.”

The “love tree” you ask? This is a very special place on my parent’s farm. My niece named this tree. The love tree is on the largest hilltop on my parent’s farm. It overlooks the entire farm, stock and barns. On this very special hilltop my husband proposed to me in 2002. We engraved our initials in this tree, and that is why my niece calls it the “love tree.”

Every memory of mine is wrapped into our family farm. So, when a couple from Maryland came for a visit (Cecil and Michelle) and decided to make an offer on my parents farm that matched my father’s asking price…..I became very worried!

This was the first buyer that asked the full asking price. Would my parent’s sell? Would I loose my hill country? Would I ever see our love tree again? Would I never be able to take my kids to the farm?

I met Cecil and Michelle and they were a wonderful couple. They had decied to move from Maryland to the Ozarks to escape the big city life and move their family to the country. They always wanted to have a farm and timber and they loved my parent’s farm.

For about four months the couple made frequent visits to our farm, as they were trying to sell their business in Maryland. During that time my parents and the couple became very good friends.Then one day my father called me and asked me, “Lane how would you feel is we didn’t sell the farm?” Although my father knew the answer to this question I gave him an answer. “That would be the best news in the world, dad.”

My parents after many months of “to sell or not to sell” had decided to remain on our Ozarks farm. But the friends they had made, Cecil and Michelle, did purchase a farm about 20 minutes from my parents and the couple remains close family friends of ours.

It’s experiences like these that bring all different types of people into our lives. My friends stem from Charolais cattle breeders, former FFA’ers, college friends, overseas experiences, co-workers, local Mid-Mo friends, local fishermen, many ag-related groups I serve on….all these experiences and relationships shape our lives and the individuals we become. I am thankful to have met so many wonderful people throughout my life like Cecil and Michelle an others.

Here is a crab soup recipe that Michelle passed on to my mother and me. It is way too easy to be as good as it is! Today I made the soup with fresh blue crab meat that my friend, Larry Burt, the owner of Big Pop’s Louisiana Seafood hooked me up with.  Let’s hope the soup fetches me a prize at the Soup-Off tomorrow.

Cream of Crab Soup
By Michelle
(This makes a very large batch. I usually cut it in half, unless I’m serving it for a party.)
6 cans of cream of celery soup
2 quarts half and half
1 stick of butter
1 lb. of crabmeat (if using canned crab meat 4-5 (6 oz) cans)
A bag of steamed broccoli florets
1 ½ tsps. of Old Bay seasonings (found in the spice area in your local grocery store)
2 T. garlic powder
3T. dry mustard powder

Put everything except the crabmeat and broccoli into a large pot. Bring ingredients to a slow simmer for 25 minutes. Be sure to stir quite often. Meanwhile, steam your broccoli florets and when steamed chop coarsely.

After the soup mixture has simmered for 25 minutes, place crabmeat and broccoli in pot and simmer till the mixture is thick enough for your own taste. Garnish with any white cheese and oyster crackers.* After I add the crabmeat and broccoli I usually only simmer the soup for another 10 minutes and then remove it from the heat.

Know Your Roots

Know Your Roots

My husband’s mother, Josefa, is from Madrid, Spain. Charlie’s family all still resides in Spain and we were lucky enough to go and visit them some years ago (that is why Charlie and I look so young…this was BEFORE we had wee ones).

We spent three weeks touring across Spain and I’m looking forward to a visit again soon. I was thankful to be apart of the real culture there, as we stayed outside of Madrid with Charlie’s family and no one spoke English (which was interesting at times). We had our own tour guides, as Charlie’s Uncle Andres drove us all over and we enjoyed the family environment found at the local bars.

Three foodie teachings I picked up in Spain that are now incorporated in my food “Must Haves” include: Anchovy Stuffed Olives, Prosciutto and Paella. The olives are a MUST HAVE in your pantry.  Perfect light meal option with some cheeses, crackers and sliced apples…and of coarse a local wine pairing for one of Missouri’s great wineries.

Find these items and more at the Global Market on S. Grant Street in Springfield, Mo., or order online through Latienda.

Chewbeads…A Must for Any Mommy

Chewbeads...A Must for Any Mommy

There are always new gizmos and baby gadgets to choose from, and for the most part, I stick to the basics. I mean they’ve worked for years and for many mommies before me, why not?

Teething…it’s hard stuff. On mommy, daddy, baby and siblings. All you want to do is take away the pain and help the little one through it quickly and painlessly. With my son frozen washcloths were the ticker. I would have at least 4 frozen in the freezer and we would switch off when one would loose it’s icy cold effect. But, with Cora – she hates frozen washcloths.

I tried everything for her to naw on, but nothing seem to pleased her…until the Chewbeads I ordered online (from the suggestion of my friend Lindsay) arrived in the mail.

I will always give credit, when credit is due…and these Chewbeads have been not only a lifesaver for the teething trials, but a fun toy to also help Cora with her grasp and reach.

Chewbeads are trendy jewelry that mommy can wear and baby can enjoy! I highly suggest putting it on your gift registry if you are expecting or if you are looking for a great mommy-to-be gift.

The Ins and Outs of Homemade Baby Food

Baby food pureeWhen I told folks I was going to make my own homemade baby food..they laughed. “Yeah, we will see how much time you have for that after the baby comes…” Mind over matter people! This was back in 2010, when my now 3-year-old son, Caston, was ready to begin solids.  He NEVER ate any jarred baby food and now I’m on my second little bundle of joy, Cora, and she’s just started on solids.

Well, come on over to my house and see the bags of baby food I’ve made over the past couple weeks – in a very short amount of time I might add. Only the best for Cora!

I choose fresh vegetables mostly (again another reason I love my job).  Foods that I can’t find locally, I choose the frozen counterparts.  I started buying a lot of products at the farmers market in August and started making Cora’s food and just placed the prepared food in the deep freeze.
Why local food for my baby?  I look at it this way…why wouldn’t I want my baby to have the freshest most nutritious food? Plus, have you smelled some of that jarred baby food- YUCK! I wouldn’t eat it, now will I make my kids.

I made sweet pea puree the other day and looked at how brightly colored the peas were. The jarred stuff looks like a brown-green color and I’ve never known a baby to like peas. Well, mine does! It’s hher favorite thus far.

I’m also making sure Cora has an adventurous palate by incorporating things like avocado, salmon, pumpkin, butternut squash and even kale. I think kids are picky eaters bc they aren’t shown how fun food is!  Caston is an incredible eater and love fruits and vegetables…I think in part to all tasty and diverse foods he was introduced to at an early age.

Plus, making your baby’s homemade food is not only healthier and tastier-you save money! Trust me on this and read this.

If you are interested in making your own baby food check out these resources.  These were sources that I have used in the past and still look back at from time to time.
Cookbook: So Fresh
Once a week I take about an hour and make a couple batches of baby food and freeze the food in ice cube trays and some freezer cups. At lunch and dinner I just pull out different bags of food and thaw it in the microwave.  Simple as that.  And when I’m on the go, I place a couple cubes in travel cups and put them in a insulated lunch box.

I whole-heartily believe this is the best food for your baby….no preservatives and additives- just fresh and healthy food!  Give it a shot, you will be so happy you did this for your baby!  Recipes to come…

When Life Throws You Jalapeños, Make Jelly

2825087645_e2bba05dd6One special homemade gift my mother and I enjoy making together is Jalapeno Jelly. We always have plenty of Jalapenos from the garden and it seems like we always have to find something to do with them.  Plus, I have this amazing job that gives me quite the hook-up on local produce at the Farmers Market of the Ozarks.

Making jelly isn’t as difficult as most believe- it’s actually quite simple. Just be sure and wear gloves when preparing the peppers so your hands aren’t burning for a week.  And yes…they will burn for a week – trust me on this! And whatever you do, don’t touch your eyes without throughly washing your hands, or-you-will-be-sorry.

This jelly makes a perfect holiday gift for neighbors and friends. Serve this jelly with a cream cheese topped cracker for your holiday gatherings! Simple and easy appetizer.

Jalapeno Jelly
Yields: about 5 half pints
from mom

¾ lb jalapeno peppers (or more if you want more heat)
2 pouches liquid pectin
2 c. cider vinegar (divided)
6 c. sugar
Green or red food coloring

Wash peppers; drain. Remove stems and seeds. Puree peppers and 1 c. vinegar and sugar in a large pot. Bring to a boil and boil for 10 minutes. Stir constantly.

Stir in liquid pectin and return to a rolling boil. Boil hard for 1 minute, while continuing to stir.

Remove from heat and skim foam if necessary. Stir in a few drops of food coloring of choice. Ladle hot jelly into jars in a boiling water canner.

NOTE: When cutting and seeding the peppers, wear rubber gloves to prevent hands from being burned.

Don’t know how to can? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered! Check out the University fo Missouri Extension website for info on how to can.

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