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.

Mother’s Love: Adjusting to Two

Mother's Love: Adjusting to Two

They are both pretty beautiful, aren’t they? My mother and Lil Miss (my nickname for Cora) are quite the pair. At Thanksgiving while my mother and I were rolling out pie crusts and preparing the 20 pound fresh turkey I purchased from a local grower I, confessed to her how I was really adjusting to having two little wee ones.

“Mom, it’s mentally and physically draining,” I said. She laughed and said, “Boy isn’t that true. But – enjoy them, they are only this little once.”

She’s right, they are only little for a little while, however, there are the days when the tantrums, the crying and the non-exsistent listening skills are all too much and I’m ready to throw my hands up. Then, there’s the times where Caston calls me his “cupcake”and gives me one of those great big toddler messy kisses or when Cora gets so excited she’s done something new like experienced the taste of blueberries…and then I know that being a mommy is God’s truest gift.

What I’ve Learned Since Becoming A Mommy:

  1. I have the most awesome husband in the world! He is patient, kind, loving and incredibly supportive. He is my rock, my best friend and my soulmate that God gave to me to live an amazingly blessed life.
  2.  I can still function (well kinda) on no sleep and mini power naps.
  3.  My house doesn’t have to be spotless clean all the time and it probably will never will again. And, I’m okay with that.
  4.  I can’t fix/cure all of the reasons why my kids cry or do the things they do at times. They are kids and just when you think you have them pegged – they will show you that you don’t.
  5.  I never imagined I would be so deeply in love with my babies. When they are in pain, I feel it. When they are sad, I am empathic with them. When I make them laugh, my heart fills with joy.
  6. You have to ask for help from others! This one I never learned with Caston, but when baby Cora came along I had no choice.
  7. Don’t feel bad about sleeping when the kids sleep. You deserve it! I take naps with my kiddos quite frequently and it makes me a better, well-rested mommy. Plus, when Caston wakes up and puts his arms around me and tells me what a great mommy I am and kisses me…makes it even more worth it.
  8. It’s ok to cry- hormones are wacky, crazy things!
  9.  Remember to take time to reconnect with the hubby each night. Very, very, very important. We can get so catch up into everyday life, we forget about each other. We try and have a date night once a month, even if that means going out to eat (without the kids) and having a glass of wine and just talking…uninterrupted.
  10. I should have enjoyed those sleepy Saturday mornings while I had them. Once the kiddos come, goodbye to “sleeping in.” Although, you can con the hubby into letting you sleep in every once in awhile.
  11. No matter how much I read about babies, pregnancy, breastfeeding, childcare, sickness remedies, discipline, milestones – I still won’t know everything! Books can’t teach you it all, sometimes you just have to dive in and either sink or swim!
  12. I am internally grateful for the scarifies and love that my parents have shown me through the years! I think about all the sassing and eye rolling I did as a young girl and now looking at my daughter I know its coming…
  13.  Some people think they know everything about raising babies- when really they don’t know squat. But, just smile when they give you advice and go on about your business. It’s just not worth it!
  14.  There’s a major difference in Pampers and Huggies diapers- I will never buy Huggies ever again.
  15. It never gets old watching your babies sleep so peacefully in your arms. And those little noises they make are priceless.
  16.  Spit-up happens…so does pee and poop. Thank goodness for great cleaning products and washers/dryers.
  17.  Dreft laundry detergent is my all-time favorite smell.
  18.  Babies won’t be babies forever- so enjoy the snuggle time while you can.
  19.  Always give yourself at least 15 minutes longer to get ready to go anywhere.
  20.  Little boys…let them be boys. Sword fighting, Light Sabers, pop guns, running (everywhere), fishing, frogs, snakes, dirt (lots of it), peeing outside and being proud they can aim (yep that’s right) and don’t forget to be the mom that gets dirty with them.
  21.  If you plan on having a girl, start saving now because Etsy will make you go broke if you don’t watch it. Little girls have to have all the accessories, they -just- HAVE- to.
  22.  Make your own baby food – forget that jarred stuff. Homemade baby food is so much better for your babies, as is the taste. Buy local products at the market when it’s in season. Your baby will thank you later on!
  23.  Get Silver Dollar City Season Passes (if you live in 417 land). Best family trips with the kids and our friends. It’s cheap entertainment and there is so much to do. Go through the week, you’ll have the entire park to yourself. Whatever you do…make sure you take your kids at Christmas. The lights, parade, good eats and HUGE tree on the square are always a must every time we go.
  24.  If you keep your patience, so will they. We’ve learned that no matter what Caston does wrong, if we keep it together, so does he. Which makes the discipline much easier- on all of us.
  25.  Be on the same team with your spouse. Whatever discipline method you use in your house- be consistent.
  26.  Pee…it happens. Potty training can be stressful, if you let it be. Follow your little ones cues and never push them.
  27.  Take tons of photos! I am that mom that is always taking photos, because I had a mom that did the same. You will be glad you did later on, and so will your kiddos.
  28.  Cook with your kids and give them chores. Caston loves cooking with me. It’s like his own classroom in the kitchen at times with the measurements, counting, colors and using utensils. And, don’t be afraid to have young children have chores. Caston is excellent at setting the tables, putting away plastic bowls, cleaning the table…make them involved.
  29.  Read. Read. Read. Story time is a very special time for you and your children. Make it part of your routine.
  30.  Give yourself a break! You won’t be perfect every day. You will cry, loose your temper, forget things, have moments where you simply don’t know what to even say…but remember your wee ones love you and in their eyes you are the most incredible person on earth.

And, as my mother said, “Enjoy them while they’re young.”

Baldwin Pecan Pie

Baldwin Pecan PieWe are getting close to Christmas and the one pie that HAS to be on my family’s Christmas table is Great Grandma’s Pecan Pie.

Nothing fancy about this recipe, it’s simple and easy – BUT classic.  I’ve tasted the Chocolate Pecan Pies before and they are good, but sometimes it’s just best to keep it simple and go back to the basics.

That’s what the recipe is, basic and scrumptious!  And you will notice I use pancake syrup, instead of the dark Karo syrup that most pecan pies consists of.  That makes the pie not so sugary sweet.

 

Texas Pecan
3 eggs
2/3 cups sugar
1/3 teaspoon salt
1/3 C butter
1 C. syrup (1/2 pancake syrup and 1/2 white Karo syrup)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup of whole Missouri Pecans

Beat the eggs well, add sugar gradually, salt, melted butter, syrups and vanilla. Do not mix hard for a long time or mixture will become foamy. Pour onto unbaked pie crust. Sprinkle with whole pecans (about 1 C.) Bake at 375 degrees until nicely set and browned on top. Normally 40 minutes.  The pie will be a little jiggly in the middle when you take it out, not to worry though…it will set up.

Pie Crust
I use this pie crust recipe from Julia Child (which I will say I do believe is the best cook ever.) Here are some of her pie crust tips that I live by in my kitchen.

Perfect Pie Crust
(makes 4 single crusts)
5 1/4 C. of flour
1 tablespoon of kosher salt
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter
1 3/4 C. shortening, chilled (Crisco)
1 C. ice water

Place flour and salt in large deep bowl and stir. Cut cold butter up and then with your fingers or a pastry cutter crumble the butter and flour together. There should be no lumps in the mixture and it should resemble coarse crumbs. Next, cut up the cold shortening and cut it into the mixture as your did with the butter. The dough will come together and you’ll be able to form a ball. Take the ice water and pour into the mixture. You will be worried that it’s too much water, but keep mixing with a spoon or your hands, and eventually the water will absorb into the dough. Roll dough into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap and place in refrigerator. Keep in the frig for at least 2 hours.

Rolling The Dough Out
The dough can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 6 days. When you are ready to roll out a pie, cut dough ball into four quarters. Take one quarter out at a time and place the rest back into to he frig. This dough needs to stay cold. Roll out dough on a well floured surface and when dough is the correct size for the pie plate, roll it up around your rolling pin (see link for images of this). The link I’ve included gives great images on how to roll out dough and putting it into your pie plate.

How to Give Your Crust the Perfect Final Touch
Ever wonder why some people’s pie crust are perfectly golden and shiny? Well listen closely, I’m going to let out the secret: 1 egg and 1 teaspoon of water or heavy cream. Whisk together and you have a perfect baste for your crust. Baste just the tops of the pie crust with the mixture before placing your filling into the pie and place in the oven. I guarantee you’ll have a beautifully golden crust when it comes out. And, for your fruit pies, I like to sprinkle the tops of the crusts with raw sugar for an added crunch.

Merry Christmas, hope this pie brings smiles to your family’s faces.

Truly Local Pumpkin Pie

Caston was 10 months old here, hard to believe his 3 years old now.  This was his first pumpkin patch trip in 2010.
Caston was 10 months old here, hard to believe his 3 years old now. This was his first pumpkin patch trip in 2010.

Of all the pies around I will say that pumpkin is my all-time favorite. Now, I’m not talking about a pumpkin pie made from canned pumpkin either. Better be fresh or out with the rest!

Nothing beats a fresh pumpkin pie, NOTHING.  I’ve had many friends doubt this, but after they try this pie, they always change their tune.  The texture and flavor is unbeatable.  I recall many late nights in my mother’s kitchen working on batches of pumpkin puree with my mother.  The entire kitchen would be covered with puree, pots, pans, freezer bags, spoons…it was quite the sight. I never really knew the difference until I had a pie at a friend’s house that wasn’t the REAL thing.  As I say now, “Think outside of the can.”

Some years dad grows his own French pumpkins, but the years he doesn’t, I always purchase local pumpkins at the farmers market from growers I know.  Talk to your farmers and learn the different varieties they are growing and ask them what would be best for processing for puree.  Cinderellas, sugars “also called pie pumpkins” and the French pumpkins have the best flavor.

My mother’s recipe is very easy to follow and was whipped up years ago when my parents first married.  I have provided the recipe along with the steps of “How to Process a Pumpkin.” It may seem like a lot of work to process your own fresh pumpkin, but it’s really not that difficult and worth the mess. Give it a try, I know you will be suprized how simple it really is.

Just think, you will have your own fresh pumpkin to cook with for pumpkin muffins, soups, pies and my favorite – pumpkin bread!  Plus, pumpkin is very nutritional.  It’s low in saturated fat, and  in cholesterol and sodium. And, if you have wee ones in your house, don’t forget that pumpkin puree makes an excellent baby food puree.  My baby Cora enjoys it for breakfast with a dash of cinnamon and a little oatmeal.

Mom’s Pumpkin Pie
Mix Together:
2 Eggs
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Ginger
1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg
1 1/2 C. Sugar
1 1/2 C. Fresh Pumpkin (key to making this pie the best it can be)
2 C. milk (1, 5 oz can of evaporated milk fill rest with milk)

Mix well. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then turn oven down to 350 degrees. It will be done when you can insert a knife into the pie and the knife comes out clean.

How to Process Pumpkins
Split the pumpkin in half, remove all seeds and strings. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Take the pumpkin halves and place in a large cake pan. Place pumpkin pulp-side down into the pan. Add 2 cups of water to pan. Bake the pumpkin for about 1 hour in the oven. You will know when the pumpkin is ready by pushing on the skin and it feels soft to the touch. If the pumpkin is still hard, let it remain in the oven for another 20 minutes.

After you have your pumpkin cooked, remove all the pulp and place in large bowl. With a blender add 1 cup at a time, along with 1/4 cup of water. Puree into a smooth mixture.

Let the pumpkin cool, add to freezer bags and freeze flat. I like to place 2 cups or 1 1/2 cups of pumpkin in each bag.

Happy processing!

Sugared Pecans

Sugared PecansEver sampled Missouri pecans before?  If not, you don’t know what your missing out on.  Missouri pecans are smaller than the traditional Southern Pecans that most of us are used to.  Smaller yes, but BIG on taste.

Missouri pecans are typically sweeter than most.  I like to say it’s because of the blessed soil and loving hands that tend to the soil that make the nuts tasty.  But in fact, Missouri pecans are extra special because of the cooler climate and shorter growing season.

You can find Missouri pecans at a few of the local farmers markets, local food stores such as Homegrown Food and Mama Jean’s and even on the shelves at Hy-Vee and a few of the other grocery stores in and about 417 land.

If you really want to learn more about Missouri pecans and meet some of your own local growers, check out the Missouri Northern Pecan Growers site.  The Kimmell family are growers up by Nevada that help to harvest and distribute the product throughout the state and nation.  Give Drew a call, he will hook you up for the holidays.

Here is a special pecan recipe that is always part of my Christmas basket that I prepare for neighbors, friends and business associates.  Check that the water is very cold and the egg white is room temperature to ensure the mixture becomes frothy. This is a great sampler for any upcoming New Year’s Eve parties you might be throwing this year too.

But, don’t forget to Buy Local when it comes to your ingredients!

Sugared Pecans
1 egg white
1 teaspoon cold water
4 C. (1 lb.) pecans
½ C. sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon

Beat egg white and cold water until frothy. Mix with pecans until coated well. Mix sugar, salt, cinnamon in a paper in a paper bag. Shake pecans until all the sugar is used.

Bake at 225 degrees on a baking sheet for 1 hour. Turn pecans every 15 minutes. Cool and store.

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