4.14.2011

How to get started making your own baby food

Warning: I am currently only feeding mushy, stage 1 foods - so this is my experience SO FAR.  Additionally, Donovan is never going to get to have yogurt, cheese, or tofu PERIOD for the first year, which is going to cut down my real life experience to only grains, meats, eggs, fruits, and vegetables.  I am sure cooking for baby is going to get quite a bit more interesting as his palette expands to include chunky textures and various foods - but don't forget that you can always feed your baby tofu, yogurt, and cheeses per your pediatrician's recommendation and at the appropriate stage in your baby's development.  Okay, that being said..

Please sir, may I have some more?
For those of you looking to get started on homemade baby food, the first thing I would do is invest in a good stick blender, regular blender, or food processor.  If you already have these things - which I guess you probably do - great!  It's so much easier.

My frugal husband and I have this little baby - an Oster 3-1 Hand Blender, Chopper, and Slicer  - and we got it for just under $40.  Oh yeah, I'm a big fan.  This thing can stick blend OR process small amounts of food with either the blender or chopper attachment.  Daniel loves to use the slicer for roasts and things, but I generally don't use it.  My mom has this stick blender with a whisk attachment, but mine was so much cheaper and came with three attachments already.

If you want, you can purchase things like the Baby Bullet or Baby Brezza, which will often steam AND puree your food in one bowl.  One step, DONE.  But since I'm a cheapwad, I just stuck to what I had: ice cube trays, stick blender, food processor, and pots and pans.  I did make one very cheap baby food storage purchase, the little containers with the green lids.  Fresh 'N Freeze 2 oz Reusable Baby Food Containers - for ten bucks.  Woot.  What an expensive investment, right?

Most babies start eating solids between 4-6 months.  We started introducing Donovan to solids a little early - at the very tail end of 4 months - because our pediatric gastroentologist recommended it.  At 5 1/2 months, he was moved up to three solid meals a day.  Whatever you decide, make sure you ask for pediatrician first!  The American Pediatric Association recommends babies be exclusively breastfed or formula fed for six months, so I think the longer the better, unless your doctor says otherwise.

Much more information and many more pictures after the jump!





Carrot/apple mash and barley sitting
in the refrigerator - ready for eating
within the next 24-48 hours!
Grains
This is the most complicated homemade baby food, and it still wasn't that much different from making yourself some oatmeal.  You'll likely want to first introduce your baby to grains.  You absolutely don't have to do this.  Avocados and bananas and sweet potatoes also make EXCELLENT first foods.  We had trouble introducing grains to Donovan, as he did not like the mushy texture.  If you find a food your baby doesn't like, try reintroducing it over the next few months.  Babies don't really form a true preference until 15-21 times of trying a food!

We have had the most success with barley.  We purchased a box of Quaker Medium Pearled Barley for $3 at Wal-Mart.  I poured half the box into my food processor (um, I recommend doing it in smaller amounts than this) and ran my food processor for about ten minutes.  It wasn't perfectly processed, but that's okay - one of the best reasons for making your own baby food is so they can experience more realistic textures, like what YOU would eat!  It's just as safe and healthy.  Then I cooked it in water - 1 cup of water per every 1/4 cup of ground barley.  Then I moved the mixture to my biggest bowl - THEN I added a can of Similac Alimentum RTF formula for added nutrition and to help thin it out.* Then I took my stick blender and blended it into oblivion even further.  It made SO much barley - I filled two ice cube trays and about seven 2-ounce containers full of barley.  And so cheap!

Donovan much preferred the chunkier texture of barley to the thin flakes of rice or powdery oatmeal.  And it's so easy to mix in with other foods - if I've made up some green beans for the family, I just blend up a 1/2 cup or so for Donovan, throw a barley ice cube in with the green beans, and it melts perfectly for barley-green bean mix.

Stage 1 grains are oatmeal, rice, and barley.
*I almost exclusively breastfeed, but I keep formula around the house in both powder and liquid form just in case.  I also hate pumping, so I don't have a huge stash of milk - so when I need to thin baby food, I add formula instead of breast milk.  You can add breast milk or formula or water to thin your baby food - it doesn't matter!

Fruits & Vegetables
Fruits - every baby's favorite!  Donovan has yet to meet a fruit or vegetable he doesn't like, but bananas are by far his favorite.  Until your baby is about 8 months old, every food needs to be cooked except for two: bananas and avocado.  Those you can just mash up and feed it to your baby as is!  One of my favorites is avocados, which, for demonstration purposes, I made today the hard way.  Normally I just mash it with a fork and probably wouldn't even add water, but today I got out the stick blender and water.


Stick blender, bowl for blending,
purified water for thinning, knife for
cutting avocado, and ripe avocado.

Yellow, buttery avocado meat with plenty
of green - a few brown spots are okay!
Avocados oxidize quickly.  Add in a
tablespoon of water - more or less
depending on your baby's preferences -
and blend away!

This avocado yielded 4 oz of baby food.
I added a touch of lemon juice to keep it
from turning brown, but this is optional.
Brown avocado will not hurt baby!
















The way I cook almost every other fruit and vegetable is by steaming it the cheap way.  Of all the kitchen gadgets my husband and I possess, a steamer is not one of them!  We simply fill a pot with a scant amount of water, wash, cut up, skin, and de-seed/de-pit the fruit, and cook until tender.   Then we use the spare cooking liquid, in the same bowl it was cooked in, and blend up the food with our stick blender.  That's it!  We often have a pot of baby food cooking at the same time we're cooking our own food - so it saves time and effort that way.

From back to front: carrots, nectarine,
and sweet potato.  So fresh, so much
color - frozen overnight in 1oz cubes!
Let's talk about another way you can cook some fruits and vegetables - baking!  Baking is nice because there is the least amount of nutrient loss.  I have baked nectarines and sweet potatoes so far.  I stick a washed sweet potato wrapped in tin foil in a 450-degree oven for 45 minutes, take it out, let it cool, and then peel away the skin.  I mash up the sweet potato with some water.

Nectarines?  De-pitted, peeled, diced up, and placed in a brownie pan filled with a scant amount of water - then placed it in the same oven as the sweet potato for 15 minutes instead of 45.  Then I tossed the water and blended it up with some breast milk for an extra flavor and calorie boost.  Nectarines and breast milk are the closest Donovan's gonna get to peaches and cream for a while.

Stage 1 fruits are apples, avocados, pumpkins (yes you can just used canned pumpkin, just make sure it's not pie filling!), plums, pears, bananas, mangoes, apricots, nectarines, peaches, prunes, and papaya.

Stage 1 vegetables are green beans, carrots, any type of squash, sweet potato, and peas.

Storing
My stash of homemade, fresh, nutrient-packed baby food!
Barley, sweet potato, plum, apple, carrot, and nectarine!
Frozen to-go containers - perfect thawing time for on
the way to visit grandparents!
This is the easiest part!  I keep about 2-3 jars of baby food in the refrigerator at a time, for consumption within the next 24-48 hours.  Most of the things I make in bulk I turn into ice cubes, then put that all in a plastic bag - doesn't take up much room at all.

But... honestly, most of this homemade baby food stuff is just common sense - intuitive, even!

And, it's so easy too - and I only make baby food when I'd also be making my own food.

For the record, sometimes I do make my baby food purees too thin.  I keep a commercial box of rice flakes around for this very purpose.  It's not too hard and it's the only way Donovan will even touch the commercial grain cereals - he hates them otherwise.

3 comments:

  1. <3 you for taking on these endeavours, and describing them! We're planning on doing the BIG cook off tomorrow with apples, butternut squash, and sweet potatoes.

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  2. I hope it goes well! I hate peeling butternut squash so I haven't done it yet, but let me know how it goes!

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  3. i loved this!! :) you're such a good writer and "meticulous" is a good word to describe your mommy-ing. also, when i do butternut squash i scoop it out of the skin....it's messy but it gets the job done pretty well. :)

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