Okay, I know, so I probably shouldn't call these posts "Recipes and Kitchen Gadget of the Week" anymore since I haven't been doing them EVERY week. Pay no attention to the technicalities and read on if you've never tried making your own baby food. It really is easier than you think and very much worth it (at least in my mind)!
At the ripe young age of 5 month, my little guy already sprouted a tooth and is scarfing down "solid" foods. So, since I am now in the process of stocking up on baby food, I thought I'd share what I do. I'm going to start with the easiest foods, because these photos also include another one of my favorite kitchen gadgets...oxo ice trays.
I'll tell you why I love them as I go.
You don't need any fancy, expensive baby food making machines. Just your good ol' blender or food processor and a steam basket will do everything. I like to do a couple foods in one night, so I only have to clean the food processor once, and once you do it the food lasts a long time. I have 4 or 5 of these ice cube trays which enables me to do a couple foods at a time. It's also a huge plus to be able to give your baby fresh food. I tried getting the jarred baby food and the "no refrigeration required" Gerber Graduates meals for Sammy for their convenience on our trip to Paris. Keep in mind that this kid eats ANYTHING, and loves all kinds of weird exotic foods that most kids won't touch, and he wouldn't eat them. I don't blame him...they looked and smelled pretty gross!
First, Obtain Food...
One word of caution...you may want to look into purchasing organic foods for your babies, or at least the organic versions of certain types of foods, even if you're not one to buy organic for yourself. Recent studies have enlightened us to the fact that certain foods, especially those with soft skins, absorb more pesticides than others. Here is a very eye opening article that will help you decipher which foods are most worth your baby's while to buy organic, if you don't do ALL organic:
"The Dirty Dozen" and "The Clean 15"
Now on to the preparation...
Let's start with A for Avocado!
This was one of both boys' first foods because, along with pears, it was among the least allergenic. Directions: Cut open, scoop out the green flesh, discard the pit and smash with a fork. I made Toby's avocado the same night I was making guacamole so I just smashed everything together and took some out for we folk who are blessed with teeth to enjoy with our chips and bbq.
Once smashed, I just literally slop it on the top of the ice cube trays:
The OXO ice cube trays have nice covers that slide on top. This is great for two reasons...
1) The cubes don't fall into the sink when you're turning it upside down under water to loosen them from the tray.
2) You can stack them in the freezer without them sticking together or spilling out.
Stick 'em in the freezer. Once they are frozen, pop them out of the tray. Another reason I like these trays...the shape of the "cubes" (I put in quotations because they are not cube shaped) makes them pop out very easily by putting pressure on one side, because they are curved on the bottom. Many people pick a cube or two out of their tray at a time, and this makes that easy!
So, you'll repeat this freezing and storing process with each food to stock up...
See "Avocado"...substitute ripe bananas. Just mash 'em with a fork and freeze them.
Plums, Peaches, Nectarines, etc
These soft, fleshy fruits are great for getting things moving, if you know what I mean. They come after bananas and avocados on the "easy scale" just because they require a little more than a fork...a blender or food processor. I just wash them, cut out the pits, and puree. (then slop into ice trays and freeze of course). If your baby likes rice cereal, that's a good way to thicken these up when you serve them. They are such juicy fruits, they tend to be pretty liquid-y. I also like to mix them with some applesauce too.
I just buy frozen peas. Cook them in the microwave or pot as directed, then toss them in the food processor or blender and puree! Frozen veggies go on sale for $1 per bag all the time at my local grocery store, and they stretch WAY WAY farther than a jar of Gerber peas. (and look, smell, and taste a whole lot more appetizing.)
You can do the same with apples. Wash and chop them up...
For the easiest way to do broccoli, cauliflower, etc, see "peas." You can pick up endless frozen veggies and do the same thing. Otherwise, I also have done fresh broccoli...just steam it and puree.
Like above, for the quickest route, do some frozen carrots. I tend to buy the big bags of carrots in the produce section and steam them. But, it's not really a whole lot more work to just steam fresh carrots. No, you don't have to peel them...just wash well, steam and puree!
Same as carrots...scrub clean, chop, steam and puree!
Okay, maybe this should go above Avocados because the easiest is to just buy a gigantic jar of applesauce and open it. I tried making it myself once and found I'd rather just buy a big jar of applesauce. I just make sure it doesn't have any sugar added, and it's cheaper per ounce than the tiny jars of Gerber. If you want to make it yourself, it'll be the same as pears above. You just don't find big jars of "pear sauce."
See...it may seem hard, but it really is easy...especially if you've already got some of these foods and/or tools out to make your own food already. Here are a couple more tips...
Mix it up!
Once you go through the whole one-food-at-a-time thing to make sure your kid isn't allergic to anything, you can have some fun mixing flavors too. I like to mix other things with applesauce, such as peaches or plums, because on it's own applesauce tends to stop babies up. (see next tip...)
Keep Things Moving!
Some foods tend to contribute to constipation more than others, including:
- rice cereal (Sammy threw this up every time so we don't even use it)
- unripe bananas
- dairy (cheese, yogurt)
What helps me keep things regular for my boys is to make sure to have at least one food item offered at each meal (along with 1 of the culprits above) which helps keep the digestive system moving. To make it easier to remember, I keep foods that do this which start with "P" (for "poop" of course) on hand: Pears, Peaches, Plums and Peas.
So give it a try...your baby will thank you for it! Okay, maybe by flinging the peas back in your face, but deep down inside, he or she will thank you!
Here's another nice site full of homemade baby food recipes, along with charts to help you decipher which foods you can food at what ages:
Wholesome Baby Food