Soon my daughter, Daniela, will be six-months old. This will not only mark the half-way point in her first year, but it will also be the start of her venture into the world of solid foods. This means I’ll be spending more time with my blender and filling little 2-ounce containers with all sorts of things for her to try.
Don’t get me wrong. There are some really good baby foods on the shelves these days. It’s just that when my son, Luca, started eating solid foods I was a stay-at-home dad and I a lot of time on my hands so I decided that I would make all his food and I quickly discovered how fun it was. Some things were delicious; some were not. Some things, like mashed banana, were easy and others were not. But everything, everything was fun. Thinking of things to make, making them, feeding Luca, seeing his reaction, looking for more ideas, all of it was fun. It also, was not as time consuming as some would think.
Most fruit and vegetable purees are simple and quick. You could actually make them while you are preparing your own dinner and let them rest while you eat, feed the baby, bathe the baby, read the baby a story, say your prayers, read another story, and put the baby to bed. When you return to the kitchen zip your fruit and/or vegetables in a blender, portion it out, label, date and freeze what you don’t need right away.
Before I tell you my favorite recipes I’m going to give you a couple tips and or things to think about if you are going to make your own baby food.
- Make enough for multiple meals. Don’t puree one carrot. Cook four or five so you end up with six or seven portions. Keep two in the fridge and freeze the others.
- I use the small clear plastic storage containers with the blue lids so I can wash and reuse them. You can use ice cube trays but Luca was at four ounces right away so the trays were too small for me.
- Use salt. Now I’m not a doctor or a nutritionist but I do know that when you cook things in water that has not been salted they have no flavor. Why? Because by not putting salt in the water there is nothing to hold the flavor, minerals, vitamins, etc. in whatever you are cooking. All the good, natural things you want your children to have will be leeched out of those nice, fresh, organic vegetables you spent time choosing and go down the sink with the cooking water you don’t use.
- Most importantly – Have fun.
3 medium beets, peeled and quartered
1 green onion
3 sprigs of thyme
2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup orange juice
Put all ingredients into a tall 2-quart saucepot. Add enough water so the beets are covered. Bring the liquid to a simmer and cook until the beets are tender. Remove the onion and thyme stems. Leaves will have fallen off but don’t worry about them; just be sure to remove the stems. Drain the beets reserving the liquid. Place the beets in a blender and pulse to break up the beets. Slowly add a little liquid. This will help puree the beets. Continue to add the liquid in small quantities until the beets are smooth. Portion into 2 ounce cups and cool. If you are not going to use it with a few days then freeze them up to 2 months.
Butternut Squash Puree
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into large cubes
1 small onion, peeled and halved
3 celery stalks, cut in half
3 sprigs parsley
3 sprigs thyme
2 star anise
1 tsp salt
Place all the ingredients in a pot that is large enough to hold everything with 3 to 4 inches of space from the top. Add enough water to cover and simmer until squash is tender but not mush.
Remove and discard celery, parsley, thyme and star anise. Strain and reserve liquid. With a hand blender (if you don’t have a hand blender you may need to blend in batches) puree the squash and onions until smooth. As the squash thickens add some of the reserved liquid. When squash is smooth add more liquid until you reach the desired consistency. If you need more liquid use hot water. Portion into 2 ounce cups and cool. If you are not going to use it with a few days then freeze them up to 2 months.
6 apples, peeled, cored and diced
1 stick of cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
Place all ingredients in a pot and cover with water. Bring the water to a simmer and cook the apples until tender, about 8-10 minutes. Remove the cinnamon and strain the liquid and reserve. Add the apples to a blender with a little of the liquid. Blend the apples until smooth. Add some of the liquid slowly as you need it to help achieve the consistency you want.
Note: Some apples are sweeter; Fuji, and some are not, Granny Smiths. If you have concerns about sugar in your babies diet choose less sweet apples or use a mix of sweet and tart. My favorite is Gala they are on the sweeter side but they are the best for making applesauce.
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