Make Your Own Baby Food

The first four to six months with baby are pretty simple food-wise. You’re either nursing or formula feeding, or maybe both. Whatever the choice, baby basically gets one food source that doesn’t take a rocket scientist to prepare.

Then comes the day, for me it was at six months, when it is time to add to the food repertoire. Rice cereal is the usual first choice. No problem there. But, then it’s time to add vegetables and maybe fruit. What about yogurt? Or other cereal grains? I don’t spend much time cooking for myself, and now I have to clean, cook and puree for the little guy?

When I was preparing to start feeding my son solid foods I read Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron. At first, it was a bit overwhelming. When I got to the part about making your own yogurt I had to put the book down. Is she serious? How does she have all this free time? Sure, if I didn’t have a baby or a job or two dogs and a husband, I’d love to spend the day making yogurt. But, then I went back and picked out the foods I could handle and decided that yogurt and cereal were things I was willing to purchase.

Fortunately, making baby food at home is pretty easy and a lot less expensive than buying jarred food. With a few evenings a month dedicated to creating palatable delights you can have a freezer stocked with healthy grub.

I started out with vegetables growing in our garden (our doctor suggested holding off on fruit for a bit so baby wouldn’t fall in love with sugar and forego his veggies). Swiss chard, beets and carrots were his first foods (with a four day waiting period between introducing new foods). The process is easy.

• Steam, microwave or otherwise cook the vegetable of your choice until it is very soft.
• Once it cools, run it through a food mill or food processor until it is pureed.
• Fill ice cube trays with your vegetable puree and cover with plastic wrap
• Freeze
• When the cubes are frozen, pop them out of the tray and into a zippered plastic bag.
• Label the bag with the date and vegetable (you think you are going to be able to tell spinach from broccoli from kale, but once pureed, these things look remarkably similar).
• Return the bag to the freezer.

I’d cook and puree three or four different vegetables in an evening and be ready to go for several weeks. Each night, I’d pull out a few cubes for the next day and put them in a covered container in the fridge. When morning arrived, I’d mix a now-defrosted cube with cereal and start spooning it into baby’s mouth.

The ice cube tray method works great for little ones, because each cube is about a tablespoon, or one serving for a six-month-old. Later I switched to empty baby food jars (we used store bought food when traveling or visiting friends) because they held more food.

If the ice cube tray method isn’t your thing, you can also freeze globs of food on a cookie tray and then transfer them into a plastic bag once frozen. Styrofoam egg cartons and muffin tins work well, too.

A note about defrosting: If you think about it, get your food into the refrigerator the night before you need it. Otherwise, you can defrost cubes in the microwave, just be sure they are cool before serving. Do not defrost the food by letting it sit out—this is an open invitation to bacteria and other things that make you sick.

As my son got older I stopped mashing the food in a food mill and started chopping it in a food processor. Then I just cut everything into small pieces before cooking it. Another change I made as he got older was mixing a couple vegetables into one container so he’d get as many different nutrients as possible with each meal. You can also grind sunflower, pumpkin or flax seeds in a coffee grinder (that isn’t used for coffee) and mix it in with the vegetables. It sounds and looks kind of gross, but babies don’t know the difference—might as well feed them super healthy foods while you still can!

Even though he is now fourteen months, and eating most of the same things as we eat, I keep several containers of cooked, chopped vegetables in the freezer to pull out when there isn’t time to cook. I send him to daycare with some whole grain cereal and a jar of sweet potato/kale/kelp/pumpkin seed mix. And he always chows it right down.

Cooking times for some common veggies from Super Baby Foods

Beans
Prep: Snap or trim ends, cut large beans in two.
Microwave: With 3-4 tablespoons of water, cover and heat for 8 minutes on high. Stir a couple times during cooking. Let stand, covered for 5 minutes.
Steam: 9-12 minutes.

Beets
Prep: Scrub well under cold, running water. Prick with a fork.
Microwave: For 1 pound (about 6 medium-sized) add 1-1/2 cup water. Cover and cook 16 minutes on high. Let stand, covered for 5 minutes.
Bake: Wrap all beets in aluminum foil and bake for 1.5-2 hours at 400∞.

Broccoli
Prep: Wash and cut off tough parts. If cooking the stems, cut them into small chunks so they cook as quickly as the florets.
Microwave: Add 1-2 tablespoons of water and cover and heat on high for 6-8 minutes. Let stand, covered for 4 minutes.
Steam: Place stalk down and steam for 10-15 minutes.

Carrots
Prep: Scrub young carrots. Peel older (bigger) and non-organic carrots. Slice into 1 inch pieces.
Microwave: For 1 pound (6-8 medium carrots) add 3 tablespoons of water. Cover and heat on high for 10 minutes. Stir halfway through. Let stand, covered for 3 minutes.
Steam: 10 minutes

Winter Squash
Prep: Cut in half lengthwise. Remove seeds and fibers.
Microwave: Add 3 tablespoons of water to each pound. Heat 1 pound for 8 minutes (15 minutes for 2 pounds). Stir or rearrange halfway through. Let stand, covered for 4 minutes.
Bake: Place cut side up on a baking pan or cookie sheet. Bake in a pre-heated, 350∞ oven for 30-45 minutes. Peel or scoop out flesh when cooled.

Montana Parent
April 01, 2008

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