Cook of the Week Shelbi Barnes' (right) first experience cooking was with her grandmother Carolyn Lambert (left) making crepes, a French dessert.
Cook of the Week Shelbi Barnes' (right) first experience cooking was with her grandmother Carolyn Lambert (left) making crepes, a French dessert.
Cook of the week Shelbi Barnes works to bring nourishing meals to dozens of children every day, following a strict schedule and menu to make sure each child gets the vitamins they need.

Barnes has two children of her own, Blakely, 7, and Maxton, 2. She grew up in a little town in north Mississippi called Booneville before moving to Neshoba County.

The first time Barnes ever cooked was with her grandmother, Carolyn Lambert, making crepes, a French dessert.

Barnes married the love of her life, Donovan Barnes, five years ago, around the same time she began her career working to care for children in local daycares. When they moved to Neshoba County two years ago, Barnes accepted a position at Ms. Regina’s Stepping Stones Learning Center on Range Avenue as chef for the children, and her cooking abilities blossomed with the new job.

“I took the job at first because it was the only one open,” Barnes said. “I never thought I would like it, but I really do enjoy it, now.”

Barnes creates food for children from the ages of 1 year old to 13 years old, and helps make sure the infant room is also well-stocked with formula for each child.

The menu for the children was specially-designed to meet State regulations and provide necessary vitamins to each child.

At 8 am, Barnes begins the children’s day with breakfast, which could include items from toast to omelets.

When lunch comes around at 11 am, she serves a full meal, complete with entre and sides.

One of the favorite lunches in the daycare across children and staff is the ‘Tater tot casserole’ with stewed tomatoes, rolls, and pineapple on the side.

In the afternoon, snack time comes at about 2 pm to 3:45 pm for children who stay after school. Barnes serves something simple like pretzels with yogurt and water. Another snack is provided by management for the children who stay later at 5 pm to hold them over until dinner at home.

State mandates the children are served certain vitamins a certain amount of times each week.

“They have to have vitamin A three times a week, which the state recommends you having Vitamin A on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday,” Barnes said. “Then, of course, they have to have C vitamin every day, which is found in juices. Broccoli and oranges have both A and C.”

Barnes said working at the daycare has expanded her abilities in cooking kid-friendly items. Her biggest challenge has been trying to please all the children with her food, working with picky eaters and encouraging the children to eat items they wouldn’t normally try.

When at home, Barnes enjoys a different side of creating in the kitchen – baking.

“I do like baking sweets,” Barnes said. “Of course, we can’t have a lot of sweets at daycare, but if I could bake sweets at home, I would do a peach cobbler, apple pie, or brownies. I do cook a pumpkin roll that’s really good.”

In her free time, Barnes spends time with her family. On the weekends, they go camping and motor riding. Her husband works many hours during the week and she and the children enjoys every moment spent with him when he’s home on the weekends.

Southern Style Mac and Cheese

16 ounce box elbow macaroni

4 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

2 cups milk

4 eggs, beaten

1/4 cup butter

4 ounces cream cheese

Salt and pepper

Prepare macaroni according to package instructions. Drain and return to the pot. Add milk, eggs, butter, cream cheese, and 3 cups of cheddar cheese. Combine. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour into greased 9x13-inch casserole dish. Top with remaining cheddar cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.

Mama’s Bacon Meatloaf

1 cup whole milk

6 slices white bread

2 pounds ground beef

1 cup parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon salt

Black pepper

1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, minced

4 eggs, beaten

12 slices thin bacon

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 1/2 cups ketchup

1/3  cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 teaspoon Tobasco Original Red Sauce

Preheat he oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of the broiler pan with foil for easy cleanup. Pour the milk over the bread, allowing it to soak in for several minutes. Place the ground beef, milk-soaked bread, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and parsley in a large mixing bowl. Pour in beaten eggs. With clean hands, mix the ingredients until combined. Form the mixture into a loaf shape on the broiler pan. Lay bacon slices over the top, tucking ends under the meatloaf. To make the sauce, combine ketchup, brown sugar, mustard, and Tobasco sauce in a mixing bowl. Spread 1/2 of the mixture over the top of the bacon. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and spread 1/2 of the sauce over the top. Return to the oven and bake for 15 additional minutes. Slice and serve with the remaining sauce.

One-Pan Beef Stroganoff

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

8 ounces mushrooms, sliced

Salt and pepper

1 small onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 pound lean ground beef

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

4 cups beef stock

8 ounces egg noodles

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1/2 cup sour cream

2 tablespoons parsley

Using a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, onions, and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the onions are translucent. Add the ground beef, cooking until browned. Stir in the smoked paprika. Add the beef stock and noodles. Stir and cover with a lid. Simmer for 15 minutes. Mix the cornstarch with enough water to make a slurry. Reduce the heat, add the slurry and stir constantly until thickened. Add the sour cream and stir. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with parsley.