Saturday, February 11, 2012

A baby food primer

Blueberries
Over the years I have very gradually converted to making baby food.  With my first baby, I never made any of her baby food.  I used instant cereals and all jarred foods.  It never even crossed my mind to do anything else - you know, dogs eat dog food, cats eat cat food, and babies eat baby food.  I even bought jarred mashed bananas.

Then, with my last several babes, I have had this slow-dawning idea of making more and more of their food.  Now, with Abby, I am to a point where I am making almost all her food from scratch, and it is just not the big deal I might have thought it would be.  I decided to throw together a primer for making homemade baby food from what I have learned over the years, by much trial and error.

Remember to start with very fine, thin purees and single ingredients, introducing new foods a few days apart.  Baby can work up to thicker, coarser textures and multiple-ingredient foods over time.

Grains

I already covered rice cereal in a previous post.  This same method can be used with pretty much any grain - although I have personally only tried rice and oats.  I plan to do barley and wheat soon.  A good rule of thumb for cooking time for the powder seems to be about 1/4 of the time it would take to cook the intact grains.  So, if you have oatmeal, and it says to cook it for 5 minutes, you can grind the oats and cook the powder (1/4 c powder to about a cup of water) for just over a minute.  Don't cook it for 10 minutes as if it were brown rice - unless you are trying to make glue.  Not that I had to learn that the hard way, of course.

Vegetables

Babies usually love yellow and orange veggies; I've had mixed reactions to the green ones.  As a general rule, bake or steam the veggie until very soft, and either fork-mash or run it thru the blender or food processor, depending on how fine your baby needs it to be.   Some veggies are easy to puree (squashes and sweet potatoes come to mind), while others are a bit more stubborn.  When you are pureeing vegetables, you will need to add water - I like to add the cooking water, if there is any, since it has some of the nutrients in it.  You may need to add more water than you would expect, and let the food processor run for a few minutes.  This will accomplish a fine puree even for peas and green beans.  Some ideas:
  • Sweet potatoes
  • White potatoes
  • Corn
  • Peas
  • Green beans
  • Pumpkin
  • Winter squashes
  • Carrots
  • Turnips
  • Parsnips
Avoid:  Cruciferous veggies (like broccoli or cauliflower), leafy greens (ew...I've seen salad in a blender, it's not pretty.)

Fruits

Lots of fruits need very little prep.  The ones that do will just need a little cook time and the blender treatment.  Ideas:
  • Bananas - fork mash or use an electric mixer
  • Apples - cook with a little water (no peels).  Or cheat and just use plain old bottled applesauce - no sugar!
  • Pears - same as apples.
  • Berries - no cooking needed, just blend with some water or juice.  Mind the seedy ones for a young baby, though.
  • Peaches and plums - haven't tried this yet.  I suspect that very ripe ones would blend up fine, or you could lightly cook them first to soften.
  • Prunes - Cook to soften
  • Grapes?  Maybe?
  • Avocado 
  • Cherries
Avoid:  Citrus.

 
Proteins:

  • Whole milk yogurt
  • Egg yolks - hard boiled and mashed.
  • I don't make meats by themselves for babies.  They do get meat in blends, though.
  • Beans.  We're not big bean-eaters, so I don't think of them much - but they are so cheap and healthy that a good bean or lentil puree would be a fantastic baby food.

Blends:

This is the fun part!  I love to mix together two or three different foods for different tastes!  I will also lightly season blends, with cinnamon, garlic, or other spices.  I don't use salt, though.  I'll list some ideas, but this is where the possibilities are really limitless.
  • cereal, any fruit, and cinnamon
  • blend several fruits for a fruit salad
  • cereal, yogurt, and sweet potato
  • veggie medley
  • If the family is eating a dish that could go in the blender - do so!  I have done this with pot roast, spaghetti, beef stroganoff, chicken soup...don't be afraid to add water, broth, or juice to get the right texture.
Storage:

I use ice cube trays to freeze the extra in little cubes, which I put in ziplocks.  A cube is easy to defrost and is a perfect serving size.  For cereal, I just make enough for a couple of days and keep it in the fridge.

Do you make baby foods?  Please share how you do it and what foods you prepare!



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