Monday, January 10, 2011

MYO baby food

We're having a snow day today. We got 6-9 inches last night and the entire city (and probably the northern half of our state) has shut down. I didn't even have to go to work today -  it's been awesome. I've spent the day baking and picking up around the house, working on some sewing projects, reading. JB and I showed Mr. W what snow is - that was fun for a while (until he'd had enough and started yelling his head off).

But I'm writing today because a few of you have asked about my experience making baby food. So here it is, for what it's worth. Mr. W's pediatrician had told us we could start him on baby food on Christmas. So I decided to start making baby food as part of my New Year's Resolution to help my family be healthier, cleaner and greener. Plus I love to cook, so it seemed like fun...and it is!

You can find baby food recipes tons of places on the internet, including this one, but my awesome mother-in-law gave me Healthy Meals for Babies & Toddlers by Valerie Barrett and I love it.

There's just something about having an actual cookbook in front of you, with big color pictures, that is so much better than cooking with my laptop or a print-out from the internet.

And there are tons of other baby food cookbooks. I inherited several from a coworker - including the famous one by Annabel Karmel - but the Valerie Barrett book has been my favorite. I have a feeling, though, they're all basically the same when it comes to baby's first foods. The toddler recipes are another ballgame and I can't wait to try them.

But back to the baby food. Bascially all you're doing is steaming a veggie, fruit, (or mix of veggies or fruits), then pureeing to a smooth consistency. Then you can serve as is, or freeze in little cubes for use throughout the month. This is what I do. It's super easy just to grab a cube or two from the freezer, defrost on the counter or in the microwave, stir, test the temp and feed.

And while there are a bunch of different ways to do this, I'll tell you what works for me. First my supplies, and then my methods. My methods...mwah ha ha ha, just kidding.

My supplies:

1. A steamer basket like this one (and a pot of water).
2. A food processor. I completely - and I mean completely - lucked out in this department because my coworker who gave me the books also gave me her Beaba Babycook baby food maker.

It. is. AWESOME. I'd seen them (and drooled over them) at Williams Sonoma, but just couldn't justify the $150 price tag. But if you can get one of these used, or a relative offers to buy you one, DO IT. The veggies and fruits that come out of this thing are like velvet. Otherwise, I think a regular food processor works fine. That's what I had been planning to use. You could also try an immersion blender, or even a regular blender - just watch the consistency. You might need to press the puree through a strainer to make sure there aren't any pulpy pieces, depending on what you're pureeing.

3. Something in which to freeze the baby food, preferably in 1-oz. servings. I got three of the Green Sprouts Silicone Freezer Trays for Christmas and love them.
I did some research on this and chose these because they have 15 1-oz compartments (most of the other ones I found have 8-12 compartments), are a reasonable price, and the biggie: they're free of BPA, PVC, phthalates and other grody stuff.

4. a spatula

5. zip-top freezer bags

6. a freezer.

Ok. So I buy fresh produce (organic usually), then follow the directions in the recipes to cook the veggies or fruits. Usually it calls for steaming with the steamer basket, but I bake butternut squash in the oven in a pan of water, and a few of the fruits get simmered in a pot on the stove.

Then I put the soft, cooked fruit/veggies in the Babycook and usually add a little of the cooking liquid to thin it out. After it's pureed, I use a little spatula to transfer it into the silicone freezer trays and put those in the freezer. Once they're frozen, I pop them out and put the cubes in a zip-top freezer bag, labeling the bag with whatever the food is and the date.

Most of the books say the frozen baby food is good into the freezer up to a month, although I think Annabel Karmel says it's OK for six weeks.

But you wouldn't believe the gorgeous color from these veggies and fruits. It's technicolor compared to the store-bought versions. Making it was so fun that I got kind of carried away over a couple of weekends and now an entire drawer in our freezer is dedicated to bags of baby food cubes and looks like this:

Mr. W. is not a huge fan of most of the green veggie purees. I've done a broccoli-cauliflower and a peas-green beans-zucchini, and he won't eat more than a couple of bites of either of those. The one green veggie success has been spinach-and-butternut squash. It's green because of the lovely dark spinach, but the butternut squash - which I've also made by itself, and which he loves - hides the spinach taste.

Here is spinach-butternut squash, and apple-pear, prior to defrosting.

I just feed Mr. W out of ramekins...for some reason I can't find cute baby food bowls at Target that are microwave-safe, and I figure these work just as well. And of course we use baby spoons.

Mr. W. also likes plain butternut squash (which was his first food), carrots and all fruits. We have had fresh mashed banana, apple-pear (which is so delicious I want to make some for myself), apricot-prune (looks awful but he loves the sweetness) and apple-walnut. I made the apple-walnut from a recipe in the December issue of Parents magazine, which accompanied an article about why babies should be given nuts earlier than previously thought. Mr. W. hasn't had any problems with it and walnuts are super-nutritious.

So that's it. This is what works for us right now, and I feel good knowing exactly what Mr. W. is eating. Plus it makes me feel kind of super-mom-ish.


Lizzy said...

This does make you super mom! My parents really got into MYO baby food so Carson ate their creations until she finally started table food (which was only recently and at 18 months, she still supplements with homemade baby food to make sure she gets veggies). I loved your combos, BTW! Spinich/squash and apple/pear -- YUMM!! I will have to try! xooxox

Carrie said...

You are totally super-mom-ish! Thanks for all the detail. The food looks amazing and Mr. W is obviously loving it!

J said...

What a stellar thing you're doing for Mr. W!! Even though I am child-free, I loved this post. I've always thought that, when I have kids in 38.3 years, I'd like to make my own baby food. That freezer tray is perfect and, OH, the colors of your little food cubes! Keep it up, SuperMom :)

Shannon said...

I'm super impressed! This is something I always thought I'd like to at least try. Please keep me posted on how it works out for you. I'm getting ready to register this week and I'm definitely going to put that baby food processor on my list - who knows. ;) You'll have to let me know if there are any other must-haves, too!

Lee Wind said...

awwww... super cute. and yes, very impressive that you're making your own baby food!