Friday, August 17, 2007

How I Make Baby Food - Part 2

As a follow-up to How I Make Baby Food - Part 1, here's a breakdown of tools and resources I've found essential, as well as a list of the successful foods I've prepared.

I thought making baby food was going to be an all-day production that was going to provide little payback. But it's worked out pretty well. I've found a groove where I shop for organic produce at the farmers' market and use it to make his food shortly after. However, I thought I'd be doing it every few days. In fact, I only cook for him once every 2 weeks. I do a few different things all at once, so it's a bit of an ordeal, but that's how I function best. You could also do a little bit over a few days and get the same effect. For example, I'll chop up a vegetable and put it in the steamer, chop up and saute some fruit, cook lentils in a large pot, and roast something like butternut squash. At the end, I prep each to freeze as needed (smooth vs chunky) by mashing, pureeing, blending, mixing, or sieving. Once they're frozen, we have plenty of food. I add to the frozen by incorporating mashed avocado, banana, or tofu throughout the week. And because I freeze most flavors individually (e.g., peas instead of peas mixed with something), I can create variety at a moment's notice.


First Meals - Annabel Karmel’s basic book on making and feeding your baby homemade food. It’s been my go-to book for information and recipe ideas.
Annabel Karmel - The author’s online presence where she has a few recipes, tips, and general info on feeding baby, though nowhere near as thorough as her books.
Bistro Brands - Although I never went this route, I was tempted. In the end, I was satisfied enough with the information I had that I didn’t feel I needed another resource, but if you’re starting out, it might be worth looking into. It’s essentially a recipe box that includes safety rules, shopping tips, numerous recipes, and prenatal suggestions.
Wholesome Baby Food - A website with vast information on making all kinds of baby food, proper foods by age, storage & heating concerns, allergies, and more. A great (and free) resource.

HARDWARE - special items you may already have that I found really helpful and/or indispensable in making baby food.
  • Steamer & Pot – You can use something fancy, but I just have a 2 quart pot and a cheap collapsible steamer.
  • Food Mill – When you’re trying to get food silky smooth, a blender just won’t do the job. I used the finest blade on the MIU food mill, and it produced great results. That said, when he moved on to slightly coarser food, I didn’t care for the output generated by the other two blades. It felt like more food was staying in the mill than being pushed through. So I only found the food mill useful for the first stage of food.
  • Hand blender – This has been really useful in pureeing food to a creamy texture without the mess caused by a blender. I put the food in a tall, non-plastic container like a pyrex measuring cup so that (1) the heat of the food won’t damage the plastic leaching plastic into food (ewww) and (2) to minimize food splashes, as with bowls.
  • Tall Pyrex Measuring Cup – As referenced above, I find this a perfect match to the hand blender.
  • The Best Spatula Ever - When I love something, I love it good. This spatula is excellent because it’s flexible, heat resistant (to 650 degrees), and doesn’t come apart. I’ve used other “good” silicone spatulas only to have the spatula piece come off into food while I was using it leaving a stick in my hand. A stick does not scrape the sides of a bowl well. No.
  • Covered Ice Cube Tray - When it comes to freezing baby food, there are few good options. Most ice cube trays are fine until you have to get the cubes out, which can be really hard. I found these ice cube trays at the Container Store, and I’ve been really pleased with their results. Because of the flexible pad at the bottom of the tray, each cube just pops out. And if it doesn’t, just give it a couple of minutes on the counter and it will. They also stack for easy storage in the freezer. The cubes are nice and small so you can mix various cubes for a tasty mixture of food (e.g., lentils, squash, and zucchini) when defrosting instead of only having the option of premixed food cubes.
  • Baby Cubes - I also have a set of these Baby Cubes to freeze baby food. I got them at the same time as I got the above ice cube trays, and I’ve used both equally often. The cubes are larger than the ice cube trays, so I tend to use it for things I won’t mix with other foods (e.g., a pre-mixed fruit puree) or for a food that I use in a larger quantity when defrosting (e.g., 2 small cubes of lentils or 1 large cube of lentils). Once frozen, I pop it out by turning it upside down over a bowl and squeezing two opposing corners. You can see the frozen cube slowly detach from the box, then it just falls out. Otherwise, keep the lid down a bit (so the cube doesn’t fly onto the floor) and just wedge a butter knife in at an edge; it should pop out.
  • Ice Cream Scooper - I've found this scooper particularly useful in filling the freezer cubes and trays with food. I like to get a nice full cube of food, so the scooper allows for added precision. Besides, it's less messy.
SOFTWARE - Food & Recipes

Single food purees - The first foods we fed our son
  • Butternut squash, sweet peas, zucchini, potato, brussels sprouts – dice (if applicable), steam until soft, puree, and freeze.
  • Sweet apples, pears – dice, sauté in a tablespoon of water (or more as needed) until soft, puree, and freeze.
  • Avocado, banana – mash as needed. Do not freeze.
  • Mango, Cantaloupe – chopped and fed through a mesh food strainer
  • Carrots, parsnips - I would have liked to make these, but I found conflicting information regarding the nitrate levels in homemade carrot and parsnip purees. While I'm inclined to think it would have been OK since I'm sure babies around the world have carrots without a second thought, I chose to omit them from his diet for a while just in case. Besides, his diet has never lacked variety, so I didn't feel I needed these.

Follow-Up Foods - These are the subsequent foods I’ve made for him. I still make the other foods, I just do the following as well to vary it up a bit. This means we have a nice overlapping of single food cubes (e.g., peas, zucchini) and mixed foods (e.g., fruit, potato & broccoli). As he gets older, I mash the food instead of pureeing to make sure that he’s developing his chewing skills.
  • Broccoli & Potato Puree – Steam the broccoli florets until soft. Boil some potatoes (don't bother peeling if you're using a food mill). Puree both in the food mill until you get a creamy mix. Add a little of the steaming water as needed to loosen up the puree. Freeze.
  • Potato & Leek Puree – Dice a few potatoes along with the cleaned and diced white part of a leek. Cook in just enough water to cover for about 30 minutes or until tender soft. Puree food in food mill; add some of the cooking water as needed to loosen up the puree. Freeze.
  • Blueberry Soup – Was a huge mistake, so I won't bore you with the "how to." It was messy, and rather bland to be honest. I made it once, and kept most of the cubes for future smoothies.
  • Pear & Kiwi Puree - Dice up 2 apples, 2 pears, and about 3 good sized kiwis (i.e., not the tiny ones). Cook the apples and pears in a saucepan with a couple of tablespoons of water (or apple juice) until tender (10-15 minutes). If the pear is ripe, add it with the kiwi. Once tender, put the kiwi (and pear if ripe) in to cook for a couple of minutes. Blend the whole thing. Sieve to remove the black seeds, if you like. Freeze.
  • Red Lentils - When you make lentils, two things will improve your results. Spread them out on a flat surface to check for tiny stones (they look like lentils so they occasionally make it into the bag), then rinse them before cooking. There's nothing worse than breaking a tooth on lentils as an adult. Imagine a baby!! Red lentils are especially good easy in my opinion because they break down very easily and make for a creamy end result. If you use other lentils, you might have to cook them a bit longer and puree a bit more.
    Heat some olive oil in a pot. Add a diced onion, carrot, and celery stalk and sauté for 8 minutes. Add a minced clove of garlic and cook for another minute. Add 1/2 pound of red lentils and 1 1/2-2 cups of water so that everything's well covered. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes. Puree and freeze.
  • Quinoa & Butternut Squash – To make the quinoa, add 1 cup of rinsed quinoa to 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and cook for about 15 minutes. I usually steam pre-chopped squash (from Trader Joes) until soft, but you can also roast it in the oven. I just seed it, chop it up into 6-8 segments, drizzle some olive oil on top, and cook for about 40-50 minutes at 400 degrees or until tender. Then I scrape the cooked squash from the skin into a bowl.
    Mix the cooked quinoa with the squash for a protein rich dish. Freeze.
  • Fruit Mix – Peel and dice 1 apple and 2 pears and sauté in a couple of tablespoons of water or apple juice for about 10 minutes, or until they start to get tender. I then add a mix of peeled and diced nectarines, plums, apricots, peaches, mango, kiwi, etc. depending on what’s available. I have a stash of chemical-free dried apricots and plums that I chop up and add in the event that I don’t have the fresh version. Cook until everything’s nice and soft, puree, freeze.


Anonymous said...

Hi Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Take care.