Wednesday, July 23, 2008

An Easy Guide to Homemade Baby Food

If you prefer to feed your baby fresh food but are concerned it will be a lot of work, here are a few tips to make it easy.

1. Get yourself a few silicone ice cube trays and silicone muffin pans. The silicone makes the food very easy to remove. The ice cube tray is a good portion size early on (and makes it easy to mix – ie. 5 cubes of sweet potatoes with 3 cubes of green beans to sneak in the greens) and then the muffin size becomes a better portion later. The muffin pans are also great when blending up entrees. You’ll have a bunch of complete meals on hand for baby. You can get these on ebay, in local kitchen stores, or in department stores, Target, etc.

2. Get yourself a small food processor or blender

3. Have a box of large zip-locs on hand.

If you have the three things above, you are ready.

Start out with individual vegetables or fruits. We always added a spice (carrots with ginger, sweet potatoes with cinnamon, green beans with basil, broccoli with lemon pepper etc.) so that baby would get used to a variety of flavors.

To make your first batch, peel the vegetable, boil until it’s soft, blend or puree and add spice (if desired). Fill the silicone tray and put the tray into a Ziploc bag. Close tightly. When the cubes are frozen, press them out into the Zip-loc. Remove air from Zip-loc and close tightly. The cubes don’t take up much space in the freezer and you can remove as needed. This method avoids the problem of freezer burn.

It’s easiest to do this in quantity. It takes the same amount of work to boil and blend five sweet potatoes as it does to do one, but five will last a lot longer. We found that making food 2-3 times a week (a different vegetable each time) was sufficient in the first month or two.

Blending the cubes as the baby is ready is a good way to introduce mixtures. They are also helpful in getting baby accustomed to tastes that aren’t a hit right off the bat. For us, green beans didn’t go over so well. So our babysitter found that River liked them if she mixed 5 sweet potato cubes to three green beans cubes. Each day she reduced it, 4 to 3, 3 to 3, until he was able to eat green beans.

Just over a month into solids, we realized our baby was eating everything with gusto and we stopped being so methodical about introducing one thing per day. We began to give him whatever we were eating, though we avoid giving him sugars and white carbohydrates.

I made a soup with turkey, black-eyed peas and collard greens. Before adding the salt, I blended up a portion, put it into bottles in the freezer, and we had several meals on hand. If the soups needs thickening, we add baby cereal. We’ve given him a kale, chicken, tomato and corn tortilla casserole blended into muffin-size portions, wheat pasta with pesto, a squash and corn soup, a rustic cabbage soup. We blend fresh fruit with tofu for dessert.

I don’t know whether it’s genetics or early encouragement to try a wide variety of foods, but River will eat anything – including lemons and spring onions. Since daddy is a very picky eater we’ve been especially diligent about trying to help him develop a taste for healthy foods.

The combination of preparing staples to freeze 2-3 times a week and blending up whatever I’m eating as additional meals during the week hasn’t been too onerous. It probably would be a bit easier to feed him organic baby food from jars. But he wouldn’t get the spices, the variety, and the exposure to the typical foods that I eat on a daily basis and that I’d expect him to eat eventually. It’s been easy to get him used to those foods early on so that we eat together from the beginning (I’m hoping to avoid making separate kid meals). And since my husband usually isn’t interested in the healthy things I prepare, it’s been wonderful to be able to share them with a baby!

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