I’m so excited for Jenna and Adam, and for Alice who has now joined their family! I wish I could be there to give her a big congratulatory hug, or help her cook and clean after Alice is born, or be there to cry with her when life gets tough in those first few weeks, but I’m far away, so I will be praying and hope to meet Alice in person someday.
This virtual baby shower idea is awesome! I’m glad I get to participate from far away. I’m not the greatest chef, but I like good food and I like feeding my baby good food, and I know that Jenna wants her baby to learn to appreciate good food and not stick with just mac and cheese and chicken nuggets, so I decided to talk about something that I really enjoyed doing this year for my baby, for the same reason: making good baby food.
The phrase baby food conjures up all kinds of feelings of grossness in people’s minds, because store bought baby food really is just that…gross. But homemade baby food is entirely different and even fun to make. Homemade baby food is really just delicious adult food in easily edible form.
I started with purees exclusively when my baby was 6-7 months and then built up to small chunks around 9-10 months and finally able to feed him directly off my plate at almost every meal by 14 months. However, at 17 months my baby still does not have all of his teeth (currently just one set of molars), so I still give him certain foods in pureed form, because he’s not able to eat them otherwise.
Some Moms don’t give their babies any purees because they somehow feel like it’s not real food and that they won’t be able to self regulate their appetites, but this doesn’t bother me because I eat foods all the time that are at least partially pureed: green smoothies, yogurt smoothies, applesauce, squash casserole, mashed potatoes, curries, etc. And babies that are spoon-fed are still able to self regulate, you just have to listen to their cues, give them more if they indicate so, and resist the temptation to give them the last few bites, if they tell you they’re all done.
Ok now on to the recipes:
I started with making one food at a time and then would mix them later. In order to have a good stash of food ready, I would buy 5 ingredients and make them in shifts and puree and then freeze in ice cube trays that I have designated for food (we have separate ones for just water), so that I had small amounts that I could defrost quickly. After they froze I would transfer them to ziploc bags and mark them with the date I made them.
Above you see peas, green beans, carrots, sweet potatoes and pears. Here’s how I made them:
Sweet potatoes: Preheat oven to 400F. Scrub 2-3 sweet potatoes and pat dry. Pierce all over with a knife and roast in the oven for 45-60 minutes on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet, until easily pierced through. You can also peel and simmer them as with the other vegetables, but they taste better roasted, and they can be roasting while you make the rest.
Peas: Put a little water in a small pot and put in about a cup or so of frozen peas. Bring to a boil and simmer for just a couple minutes (just enough to heat them up because they’re already cooked) and transfer to a metal bowl to cool off while you make the next one.
Green Beans: You can use frozen or fresh for these, fresh will be better, but frozen is also adequate and still takes better than jarred baby food. If you use fresh you might need a little bit more water and they’ll need to cook a little longer. If you use frozen you want to follow the same steps as with peas and just heat them up for a couple minutes, because they’re already cooked. If you’re using fresh you want to heat them up until they’re soft enough to be stuck with a fork easily, but they don’t need to be too soft or you’ll overcook them. When the green beans are done, put the cooled peas in the blender with all the cooking water so you get all the nutrients and puree. Then transfer the pureed peas back into the metal bowl to cool off more, rinse out the blender and put the green beans in another bowl to cool off while you make the next one.
I think you get the idea now and just do the same with the carrots and pears, cooking just until done and only using as much water as the food needs to make a smooth puree.
That was kinda wordy, but, as you see, you can be making multiple kinds of baby food at the same time in stages and it really doesn’t take that long. It probably takes about a half hour total, including chopping time, to cook and puree the four on the stove top and then they can be cooling off while you wait for the sweet potatoes to finish roasting.
When the sweet potatoes are finished, set them aside.When they are cool enough to handle peel the skin off and transfer the flesh to the blender and add a generous amount of water. Sweet potatoes are very stringy so they can use more water than other things. Depending on how long the sweet potatoes roast, it shouldn’t take more than an hour to make everything and this much baby food at around 6-7 months lasts for about 3-4 weeks. You just defrost a few cubes at a time as you need them.
I made a lot of different vegetables and fruits this way. I usually steamed or simmered apples, broccoli, leafy greens, etc.
I would usually roast veggies like squash, eggplant, zucchini, etc.
After I introduced a few different foods, I started to mix them together. So I would sometimes defrost broccoli and sweet potatoes together, or broccoli and squash, apples and pears, or apples and sweet potatoes. He loved it.
Bananas, papaya and avocado are awesome foods because you don’t even need to cook them. You just peel and mash with a fork: Instant baby food.
At around 10 months I was still giving him some purees, but they were less watery and they were mostly no longer one ingredient. For example, pureed carrots, kale and brown rice; red lentils, cabbage and carrots, etc. I also gave him small bits of food that he could pick up with his hands, cooked pasta and bread.
At around 11 months I started introducing cheese and egg yolks. I would mix a hard boiled egg yolk with cottage cheese: a really big hit. Yogurt was also a big hit; sometimes I’d mix it with pureed fruit or even cooked oatmeal.
I did use that instant baby food cereal stuff with him sometimes, just because I was given a ton of it for free, but I didn’t like it too much and neither did he. He would really only tolerate it mixed with yogurt. So I wouldn’t use any of those cereals if you don’t have to. It’s a lot better to just cook some grains yourself and puree them with vegetables for your baby.
A good way to tell if you’re making good food for your baby is to try it. I always tried everything that I gave my baby, because if I thought it was disgusting, chances are he would too, so why would I want to give it to him? I also think that if your baby sees you eating the same foods you give him, he’s more likely to want to eat the foods you eat once he can eat table foods, rather than being picky and wanting special foods for himself, but that’s just a hypothesis.
Finally, a good category of foods that can be enjoyed at any age is green smoothies.
Doesn’t that look delicious? Actually, it was, and very simple to make too. It was just a couple large handfuls of spinach, a cup of water, and 2 red pears, unpeeled, cored and chopped. You can combine almost any leafy greens with certain fruits or vegetables and you’ll have a delicious green smoothie. My baby loves them and we drink them about 2-3 times a week, sometimes more. They’re a great way for babies (and adults) to consume healthy leafy greens in a super easy way. You don’t have to cook anything, you just chop and blend with water. Here are a few guidelines I’ve learned in making smoothies more delicious:
1. Each smoothie needs a smoothifying agent to make it qualify as a smoothie, otherwise it will just be a pureed mess and have a gross texture. Good smoothifiers: bananas, pears, avocados, strawberries, papayas, and plums. I’m sure there are more, but those are what I’ve used so far.
2. Use less of tougher greens per cup of water and a little more fruit to balance out the bitterness. If you have a regular blender they won’t be as tough as the fancy pants expensive ones with lawn mower engines in them. Ok, they don’t have lawn mower engines, but that’s what they sound like. Anyway, you’ll need to cut out the center rib of the tougher greens like kale, collards, chard, etc and chop them up slightly.
3. You can use a little more greens per cup of water with lighter greens like lettuces, celery leaves, fennel fronds and herbs. These aren’t as bitter usually so you can also use a little less fruit too.
4. I don’t put any sugar in these smoothies, the fruit makes them sweet enough, and they are really good. Whenever my baby sees me getting out green stuff and the blender, he starts squealing for joy and puts his hands out to grab them. He really really likes them.
5. Lastly, stay away from starchy or stringy vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and celery stalks. They will give the smoothie a gross texture.
Here are just a couple recipes that I’ve tried that I liked:
Fronds of one fennel bulb, 4-5 plums, 1 cup water.
1 1/2 cups water, 6-7 medium leaves kale, 1 small avocado, 1 tangerine, 1/2 cup raspberries, 1-2 small apples. (This one was not very sweet, but a little sour from the tangerine and raspberries, but I thought it complimented the kale very well and reminded me of the fresh sour tropical juices I used to get in South America.)
2 cups water, 3-4 handfuls spinach, 1 small avocado, 1 medium gala apple, 2 small fuji apples.
1 cup water, a few leaves lettuce, some fennel fronds, leaves of one celery bunch, 1 banana and 1-2 pear(s). (depending on the ripeness and sweetness of the fruits you might need the 2 pears)
There is actually so much more I could say about baby food, but I better stop here.
Enjoy cooking for your baby!
Here are the links to the others participating in the virtual baby shower:
4 Little Fergusons (Midwest USA): 11 Lessons To Determine If You Are Ready For Parenthood
A Little Lunch (Eufaula, OK): Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice Scones
City Songbird (Greensboro, NC): Merry Christmas, Alice!
Eats Well With Others (New York, NY): Peanut Butter and Honey Ice Cream
Hunting for Bliss (Bozeman, MT): Garam Masala Deviled Eggs
Sydney Shares (Eugene, OR): Baby BLTs
That’s Some Good Cookin’ (Salt Lake City, UT): Cheesecake Cookie Bars
The Pajama Chef (Bloomington, IN): Iced Tea with Ginger-Mint Simple Syrup
Two Dogs In The Kitchen (Sterling, MI): Spicy Asian Meatballs
Veronica’s Cornucopia (Wichita, KS): Raspberry Almond Fudge Cookies
Very Culinary (Sacramento, CA): Toasted Orzo and Chickpea Salad
Words on Wendhurst: A Gift For Jenna and Alice