Friday, April 20, 2012

Nom, Nom, Nom for Baby

I make the majority of A's food and have found it to be much easier than I expected. Recently, several people have inquired about this with the impression that it's difficult. If you're considering it, please be reassured that it is easy! I'd contend that no one should ever buy some foods for their baby as virtually no extra work is required for feeding baby at all. Bananas and avocado are two of those foods which anyone can make - just peel and mash it up! For these foods, I really love our Mash and Serve bowls by Annabel Karmel. They're a simple product but get used multiple times each week in our home, especially now that A's eating more textures.  Also, I recently saw them at Walmart for much cheaper than the Amazon link, if you're interested in finding one to try.

Many other foods are easy to make as well, but a time and energy are required (two things that are tough for mamas to find).  Last weekend, I had a little baby food-a-polooza and made pears, squash, sweet potatoes, chicken and apples for A. Yes, it was a couple hours worth of work, but this will also cover many meals for him in the coming weeks.

I put the chicken in a baking dish with a little water and covered it in foil. Into the oven it went. Sweet potatoes just got scrubbed, then baked. And I split a squash down the middle, scooped out the seeds and goo, then placed it "meat" side down in a shallow baking dish with a little water and foil over the top. Peeled pears (and later, peeled apples) just got cooked in my steamer basket on the stove until they were soft. 

Once cooked, I just scooped the sweet potatoes out of the skin and mashed them up. Yum!
I then either serve it right away, store in the fridge for up to 3 days, or freeze the food for later feedings.

Squash is a baby food staple and is so easy to make! I baked the squash as described above. It should be baked until the skin is lightly browned and the squash is soft.
Then, scoop out the "meat" of the squash, discarding the skins. The squash is usually still a little thick/chunky, so I run it through my food processor with a little water.
Process until the squash is smooth and creamy (or the desired consistency for feeding your baby).  A blender or immersion blender can also be used for squash or similarly textured foods. Once your food is smooth, prepare it for the freezer.  There are lots of fancy trays out there, but I just use basic, plain ice cube trays and they work well (note: do NOT buy the really cheap, lightweight plastic trays as they do NOT work well at all). My trays are a hard plastic and are made by Rubbermaid. I spoon the food into the tray, shake it a bit to get it to settle and pop it in the freezer for several hours. This is the exact same process I later used for apples and pears as well.

Sometimes, I also freeze food in jars if that will be easier. I bought a couple dozen 4-ounce quilted canning jars from Ball and their plastic lids (not shown). These are old fashioned but work very well as baby food jars. They're also great for feeding on the road as the lids screw on and can't pop off in the diaper bag - a very important feature in baby food transport. The plastic lids with the jars are great for food on-the-go.
Meats, in particular are scary to many mamas but I have found them to be easy! Just cook the meat however you'd like (I baked my chicken, as previously discussed), then process it, adding water as necessary.  Here's my processed chicken, before I added water:

It was chunky, as you can see.  A isn't ready for this much texture yet, so I added a little water to it and processed a bit more (below). (It looks yummy, doesn't it? That's the only downside of making meats for your baby...they look less than appetizing.  But canned baby food meats also aren't terribly appealing and at least you know what's going into this, right?
I then freeze the chicken into cubes as well. Once my cubes are frozen, I dump them into large Ziploc freezer bags and put them in my deep freeze.

Then, each feeding, I thaw a cube or two for A's meal. Fruit cubes are great with oatmeal and a little formula or breastmilk. The meats are good with rice and a little formula or breastmilk.  I tend to serve the veggies on their own or mixed together, although I occasionally mix them with meat too (this is just personal preference).  One observation I recently made was that many commercial baby foods use squash as a base with "meat" foods so that's an idea too, even though I've never tried this personally.

I have found that the time and energy required for baby food-making is well worth the satisfaction of knowing what my baby eats and the monetary savings (baby food is expensive!). Hopefully you will find it equally satisfying and easy!