From Farm to Baby

baby-food-21Even our youngest locavores deserve the fresh taste from the farm and all the rich nutrients local food provides, don’t you agree?

Making homemade baby food is a simple process that both you and baby will enjoy!  All you really need is a food processor or food mill, ice cube trays and a little bit of creativity!

From salmon to sweet potatoes, to cabbage and cauliflower – all items are found from your friends at Farmers Market of the Ozarks.  Salmon provides baby with natural DHA and Omega 3 fatty acids, so it’s an excellent choice for a baby food puree and Chris Perkins with Express Foods provide delicious salmon to market. Or check out produce from a variety of our local farmers in the region for the freshest picks from the farm.

Don’t be afraid to put in some seasonings in your homemade baby foods as well. Just as long as you don’t include sugar or salt in the food. Fresh garlic or herbs can help your little ones develop an early palate for good foods.

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, yogurt, and many other items. See more here.

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.

When pureeing foods, reserve the water the vegetables or fruit was cooked in to add back a little in the puree to mix easier. The water holds many of the nutrients your baby needs.

After you have made your fresh baby food, simply spoon the food into ice cube trays, cover and freeze.  When froze, pop-out the 1 ounce food portions and place in freezer bags.  Label the freezer bags with the type of food and date.  When ready to use, simply thaw in the refrigerator or the microwave in a safe glass bowl.

Remember, just because you don’t like a certain food, doesn’t mean your baby won’t. My little ones ate beets, turnips and a mountain of other vegetables that most kids wouldn’t even touch. Be adventurous when making baby’s food- he/she will thank you.

Here are some baby approved recipes that my kiddos devoured when they were still tots!

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. Add back the cooking liquid to reach the proper texture.

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. Add back the cooking liquid to reach the proper texture for baby.

Red Cabbage Fun
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. Add the cooking liquid back to the mixture to reach proper texture.

* As baby gets older, add pureed chicken breast into this mixture to make a complete meal!

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.

 Pure Peas
1 lb frozen or fresh peas
Olive oil
onion powder

Steam peas for 6 minutes, reserving your cooking liquid.  Puree the peas, oil and onion powder.  Add reserved liquid to reach the proper texture you wish.

Charleston, A Great Family Vacation Spot

We recently embarked on a 17-hour road trip with two littles under the age of 5 years…what were we thinking you ask?  My husband and I asked ourselves that very same question a few times (I think it was hour 5, 9, 10, 12, 13, 14, 16).  However, we all had quite the bonding experience that made for a great family vacation to Charleston, S.C., and isn’t that family vacations are supposed to be about “family bonding?”

On the way to Charleston we stopped in Gatlinburg, TN and took in the Smokey Mountains at The Lodge at Buckberry Creek.  The lodge was beautiful and was halfway up the mountains and the perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle, not to mention the amazing food and staff.

Once we arrived in Charleston we checked-in at Belmond Charleston Place– another amazing hotel with all the bells and whistles.  And I do mean whistles…  There were a few times I didn’t know how I felt about staying here with two rowdy littles.  While the ladies were enjoying the large rooftop pool for practicing their breast-stroke one morning, Caston was practicing his cannon ball technique he learned over the summer at camp.  I got a few giggles watching the interaction at the pool between the two.

While we were in Charleston we visited the Boone Hall Plantation, Angel Tree, South Carolina Aquarium, USS Yorktown Aircraft Carrier and Battleship, shopping on King Street, carriage ride in the historical district, Isle of Palms beaches and Sullivan’s Island, Charleston City Farmers Market, and Fort Sumter.  Charleston is a town of history and good eats, not to mention friendly southerners wherever you go.  Here are some of our favorite moments from our week in Charleston!

Lemon Shrimp Spaghetti

lemon-infused-shrimp-scampi-pasta-008aMy two favorite foods are pasta and seafood, so I am always looking for ways to combine the two.  My family loves shrimp scampi and finding new ways to reinvent this meal can be a bit daunting.

One way that my family loves to enjoy scampi is with lemon spaghetti.  This spaghetti is like an Alfredo sauce, infused with lemon. It’s very fresh and tasty. I started adding some bell peppers to the dish also, mainly for added color.

This is one of my absolute favorite meals I make and can be prepared quickly for a weeknight meal.

Shrimp Scampi & Lemon Spaghetti
1 pound spaghetti
4 T. butter
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or just use garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 lemons, juiced and zested or 4 T. lemon juice
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Parsley and basil flakes, ½ tsp of each

Bring your pasta to a boil and be sure to salt it. Cook according to directions.

In another pot melt butter, garlic and red pepper flakes. After the pasta has boil for about 8 minutes add a cup of the water from the pasta water to the butter mixture. Add cream and lemon juice and season with all seasonings (to suit your own taste). Remove from heat and add cheese and toss mixture with the drained pasta. Let the pasta and sauce rest.

While sauce is setting….cook your shrimp.

Shrimp Scampi
1 pound raw shrimp, shells and tails removed.
1 T. parsley
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. garlic powder
3 T. butter
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced

Heat large skillet and belt the butter. Add shrimp, peppers and season with seasonings. Cook and toss shrimp around to coat with butter. Cook until shrimp are pink. DO NOT OVERCOOK SHRIMP.

Remove and drain excess butter from shrimp. Give pasta one more last toss and plate some and top it with some shrimp.

Serve with crusty French bread and salad. Makes great leftovers!

Princess Cora Turns T-H-R-E-E

I am a little behind on posting photo’s from Cora’s Princess  & Brave Knights Party..boy the summer is just flying by!

Our little Cora talked about her birthday for months!  For being a three-year-old, she was very specific on what she wanted- A Princess Party and Everything PINK!

We hosted family, schoolmates and neighbors at our house for Cora’s birthday earlier this July and fun was had by all.  From Pink Princess Cupcakes and homemade pink ice cream, to pink snacks and cookies…even homemade pink lemonade- it was a party fit for a princess…and all her brave knights.

I found these paper princess doll cutouts, garland, plates and utensils- even the castle on Amazon.  (I think I may have to keep all the decorations because it was so fitting for a princess party…and I foresee many other princess parties in our future!)

A local business that has a huge array of princess actors was a highlight, as we even had a visit and story reading from Tinker Bell, which is Cora’s new favorite princess.

Our littlest guests went home with a thank you gift of fairy wands, crowns, knight swords, knight hats and some special treats.  Enjoy these special photos from Cora’s special day!

When Life Gives You Basil, Make Pesto

Learn to make this delicious pesto with easy steps!
Learn to make this delicious pesto with easy steps!

My family’s garden is busting with produce and herbs this season, as we have been fortunate in the Ozarks with plenty of rain. Cantaloupes, heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, beets, Swiss Chard, pumpkins and a wide array of herbs are just some of the fresh products found in our backyard garden.

Our herb plants have gone a little wild this season, especially our basil. We decided it was time to cut the plants back heavily and make some delicious pesto.

Pesto can dress up any pasta dish, baked potato or even make a simple pizza a special treat for the entire family for a weeknight meal. I like to make extra and freeze the pesto to use all year and savor the season!

Everyday Pesto
4 cups fresh basil leaves, packed (or for a milder flavor pesto use half basil leaves and half spinach)
1/3 cup pine nuts (or use walnuts)
3 garlic cloves, mined
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Combine first 3 ingredients in blender or food processor. Pulse until a paste forms. Stop a few times and scrape the mixture down with a spoon. Next add the olive while the processor is on, add slowly. Finally, add cheese, salt and pepper; blend until smooth.

*If you will be freezing the pesto to savor the season- omit the cheese and place mixture in glass jars. When ready to use the frozen mixture, defrost and add the cheese.

Lipstick Lessons

I remember as a child I would watch in awe my mother get ready in the bathroom before leaving with my father for a client dinner.  I loved watching her curl her hair, figure out which small box of powder or shadow make-up she would choose, then to the jewelry box to find a special occasion item my father had given to her for her birthday or Christmas previously, next a spritz of Chanel No. 5 and finally…the lipstick.

My mother wasn’t fancy, she was classy.  She never wore red lipstick, usually beige with a touch of pink.  Her make-up wasn’t layered, it was timeless.  Her dresses were never flashy, they were ageless.  And, she was just…my mom.  But, she was BEAUTIFUL!

I guess all young girls grow-up watching and learning from their mothers.  Sons typically flock to their fathers once they hit about 4 years of age (at least that is what is happening in our house).  Boys want to be men and girls want to be ladies.

My little lady has hit a new stage in her young life of 2 years old (six days shy of turning 3)…dress-up time!  Each morning when I tell her it’s time to get her clothes on, she runs to her room with excitement, waiting to see what outfit she can pick out.  Then comes her shoes…she really LOVES shoes.  And finally, with a brush in my hand I ask her how she wants her hair fixed.  But wait…we aren’t complete.  She asks me for make-up.  What? My little girl wants to put make-up on?

I can’t be that surprised by this statement.  She has watched me most mornings get ready in my bathroom, while sitting on the countertop finishing her milk.  Many times I recall finishing my make-up or hair and her telling me that I was pretty with a big ‘ole toddler grin.  But now, she wants make-up on.

I didn’t realize how much my little girl watches every move I make and every word I say until recently.  Over the July 4th weekend, we rounded out our festivities with a Sunday trip to see my husband’s mother.  While everyone was talking and laughing, my little girl was on her own adventure.  I hear my husband ask her what was all over her face, when I turn to see what he means, her pouty face comes towards me.  She says, “I want to be pretty, like you mommy.”  In her hand is a lipstick and all over her mouth is Lancome “Curtain Call” color.  I had to chuckle.  What mother hasn’t had this same exact experience.  I told her she was WAY prettier without the lipstick, we rubbed noses, and I gently removed the lip stain with a baby wipe.

Lipstick Lesson: Our little girls will only be little for a little while, make sure we are excellent role models to them and show them that true beauty lies inside their hearts.  Teach them to be confident. Teach them to be leaders.  

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Summertime Fun In Snapshots

Our family’s summer has been filled full of backyard gardening, farm to table dinners, trips to my favorite place in 417 Land (Farmers Market of the Ozarks), lake trips and much more…and July and August are still left.

We made a McConnell Summer Bucket List together and we’ve checked off a majority of the items so far and plan to have the rest of the list complete by the start of the school year!  Here is our list, what was on your bucket list?

McConnell Summer Bucket List

  1. Skip rocks
  2. Enjoy an outdoor concert
  3. Spend all day at Ozark Empire Fair
  4. Plant something and watch it grow
  5. Catch fireflies
  6. See a drive-in movie
  7. Visit a local farm
  8. Play capture-the-flag
  9. Spot shapes in the clouds
  10. Go fishing at Taneycomo
  11. Tell stories and sign songs around a camp fire
  12. Pick out a Henna tattoo for each family member
  13. Have an “off the grid” day (no electronic devices allowed)
  14. Visit Crystal Bridges
  15. Canoe trip and have a picnic on the gravel bar
  16. Hike along the Buffalo River
  17. Host a neighborhood bbq
  18. Try Hula-Hooping
  19. Take a friend to the farmers market
  20. Put our initials on a tree in our backyard


Mushroom Risotto- Quick and Easy

mushroom-risottoRisotto is one of my favorite foods.  I don’t know if it’s the creamy texture or the variety of flavors you can add, either way risotto is always a winner in my book.  Not sure if my risotto would win over Chef Gordon Ramsey,  but it’s a winner among my own family and friends.

It’s important to start with good, quality ingredients. That means don’t skip on the broth, wine, rice, mushrooms or the Parmesan cheese.  I always have homemade stock on hand and nothing beats homemade stock.  As for the wine and mushrooms- I turn to local ingredients, typically a Vidal from Stone Hill Winery and mushrooms from the farmers market.  I sometimes use just one variety of mushroom, or I will mix together a couple varieties for a richer flavor.

Mushroom Risotto

6 cups of chicken broth
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 pound portobello mushrooms, sliced thin
2 shallots, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 1/2 cups white rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
Sea salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons finely chopped chives
4 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a saucepan, warm the broth over low heat.  Warm 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in the mushrooms, and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Remove mushrooms and their liquid, and set aside.

Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to skillet, and stir in the shallots and garlic. Cook 1 minute. Add rice, stirring to coat with oil, about 2 minutes. When the rice has taken on a pale, golden color, pour in wine, stirring constantly until the wine is fully absorbed. Add 1/2 cup broth to the rice, and stir until the broth is absorbed. Continue adding broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring continuously, until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove from heat, and stir in mushrooms with their liquid, butter, chives, and parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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