Thursday, November 15, 2012

Adventures from a Baby Food Making Mama ~ Stage One, First Foods

I am super excited to share this post with you!  When my first daughter was nearing six months of age, I decided that I was going to try and make her baby food.  I had several reasons: 1. I thought it would be much cheaper  2. I liked the idea of knowing exactly what was going into her food and  3.  Well, I just like making things!  Luckily one of my awesome aunties had read my mind and had sent me Annabel Karmel's book Top 100 Baby Purees.  When I first began making the baby foods, I followed her recipes e.x.a.c.t.l.y. as written but somewhere along the way my common sense chimed in and I realized there are a few key techniques I used and they could be applied to almost any food.  If you are new to baby food making, I am hoping my insights can help guide you along your baby food making adventures!!

There are three main cooking techniques I use when making baby food.

1. Roasting in the Oven- this is great for those winter squashes and various types of potatoes
2.  Steaming- It seems almost anything can be steamed!  Most vegtables and even potatoes can be steamed!
3.  Cooking in a Sauce Pan- More delicate fruits and veggies are great with a little water in a saucepan.  Things like spinach and most fruits do well with this method.
* There is also a fourth preparation style- the No-Cook foods like banana and avocado which can just be mushed up!

Stage One, First Foods

My baby girl is just hitting that 6 month mark, and even though I wish I could freeze time and make it NOT time for her to start eating, I haven't found that power yet so it IS time for her first foods.  This is my menu that I chose based on what is in season {fall} and what I could get for a good price.  When things are in season, it is easier to find organic produce for a similar price as the the non-organic produce, which I love!

My Menu & Shopping List:
apples {about 4 medium}
pears  {5-6 medium}
carrots  {one small bag of regular}
sweet potato  {4 medium}
sweet potato with broccoli  {use sweet potatoes from above + one crown of broccoli}
acorn squash {1 medium}
butternut squash {1 medium}
butternut squash with spinach  {use butternut squash from above + one large handful of raw spinach}
Other things you may need: 8 ice cube trays, a steam basket, a tiny bit of unsalted butter, gallon or half gallon sized freezer bags

Time Needed:
About 3 hours the first day; about 15 minutes to bag up the second day

Fruits of Your Labor:
About 8 pounds of baby food.  Each food above will produce about 1 pound of baby food and will be split into 16 one ounce servings that can be frozen and ready to use when needed.

Day One

Prep Work:
The two roasted squashes take the longest, so I sliced them in half, brushed them with a dab of unsalted butter, and threw them in a 350 degree oven, cut side down, covered with foil, first thing (give them about an hour... when a toothpick easily goes through the rind, they are ready to use).

Next I prepped the steamed veggies.  I chose to steam my carrots, sweet potatoes, and broccoli.  The carrots and broccoli can be washed good and cut into smaller chunks, but the sweet potato needs to be peeled prior to cubing up.  I had a special helper with me the day I did this {3 1/2 year old big sis} and she worked on getting my apples and pears peeled at the same time I was doing the sweet potato peeling.  I used a large sauce pan for steaming so all of my veggies would fit at the same time AND because you need a decent amount of water in your steaming pan to use later when making your purees!

Once my steamed veggies were set to go, I started working on peeling the rest of the apples and pears, chopped them into chunks, and cut the stems off of my spinach.  The apples, pears, and spinach all cook down fairly easily in a covered, medium sauce pan with a little bit of water.  While waiting for the roasted veggies and steamed veggies, you really do have time to finish your apples and pears and have your spinach ready to go, and that is just what I did!  The appleas took about 6 minutes simmering in a covered pan to get that "mushy" soft, the pears took about 4 minutes, and the spinach was just a few minutes.

Time to Puree!!!

{For our wedding, we received a Cuisinart Mini "chopper" that works just perfectly to puree baby food.  It holds the perfect amount to fill up one ice cube tray which is about 16 1 ounce servings.}

Once the apples cooked down, I put them straight into the chopper along with the bit of water I had cooked them in and threw the pears in the same pan and got them going.  Once the apples were a nice smooth puree, I transferred them into one of my eight ice cube trays.  I used a heaping tablespoon to fill the ice cube slots, and it seems to come out to almost a perfect 1 ounce almost every time.  By the time I filled the ice cube tray, the pears were ready to go into the chopper.  I pureed the pears and filled their tray while the spinach was cooking down.

At this point both the squashes roasting and the veggies steaming were both getting to a place of mushness (perfect for baby food making!).  The carrots took a little longer than the broccoli and sweet potatoes, so I let them continue to cook a bit longer.  Since the spinach was done, I pureed the spinach with one of my butternut squash halves, which I just scooped directly into the chopper. 

{If your puree is too thick, use the water from the steamed veggie pan to thin it out!  You will probably have to do this with almost all of your veggies.  I just grabbed a 1/4 cup measuring cup to scoop out of the bottom of the steamer pan.}

I continued on working through pureeing all of the cooked veggies.  The carrots were by themselves while the sweet potatoes were shared, one tray by themselves and the other mixed with the broccoli crown.  Every couple of trays that got filled I made a little deposit into the freezer to get the fruits and veggies frozen as soon as possible.  I stack my trays as you can see below to get the most use out of my freezer space.  I let the purees freeze over night.

Day Two

Pull out 8 freezer bags and label each bag with the fruit or veggie and I always like to put a date on anything going into the freezer, just to help my poor memory out!  Once all your bags are laid out, pull one tray out at a time and pop out the veggie or fruit cubes into the freezer bags.  (You may need some muscles here!) Each veggie or fruit cube should be about 1 ounce, about 16 ounces total, or 1 pound total. Put the freezer bag of veggie or fruit cubes back into the freezer as soon as you are done with them!

{Why I love the 1 ounce portions!!!  The jars of baby food you buy in the store come in 2.5 ounce or larger sizes.  This can be frustrating when you are first feeding a baby who has never had food before.  Often they will not eat much at all at first and you end up throwing much of the jars away.  Once they do start eating a bit more at a time, I love that you can heat them up a variety of foods just like an adult plate; one apple, a sweet potato, and some carrots for example.}

Feeding Time!!!

When you are ready to feed baby, pull out one cube of food and place it in a microwave safe container.  Always heat the food through so that it is steaming hot to kill any possible lurking bacteria (this should be done with store bought baby food too!).  Let cool till you can touch it to your own lip safely.  I sometimes use mama's milk to cool it down a bit quicker and to add a little creamy flavor that baby recognizes.  Once you get to this point, pat yourself on the back... it really isn't that hard and it's rewarding knowing that you can save some money while at the same time feeding your little one fresh and natural foods!
These will be little sister's first foods: apple, pear, carrot, sweet potato, sweet potato broccoli (this was big sister's favorite!), acorn squash, butternut squash, and butternut squash spinach.  We also include raw and mushed bananas and avocado.  This little one LOVES her avocado.  I dice it up small and throw it on her tray.  She mushes it thoroughly then sucks it off the tray with her mouth!  So fun!  If you need other ideas for flavor combinations, just take a stroll down the baby food isle; the combinations are endless (just resist the urge to buy, lol!). 

Please feel free to share this with any moms you know that may be interested!!!  I love to be able to share with other moms that may be new to baby food making!

Do you make your own baby food??  I would love to hear some of your great combinations or stories, so please share!  And thanks for stopping in!

{I am neither a dietician nor pediatrician, just a mom sharing what I do.  Please always consult a doctor before starting your precious one on new foods!}

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