Thursday, June 7, 2012

Homemade Baby Food

For some reason we've come to expect that once our babies reach the 6 month mark, we must begin buying little jars (or tubs or pouches) of ready made baby food. 

Canned baby food is a relatively recent invention, something our mothers surely used but our grandmothers probably did not. The convenience of ready made food is very, very attractive. However, I have found the price (especially for organic labels) to be a bit steep and the choices to be very limited. Apple, pears, peaches & bananas (and a few other combos) are the available fruits. Green beans, peas, squash & carrots are the available vegetables. Personally, I grew tired feeding J. the same few flavors over and over again. After purchasing a few baby food "cookbooks",  I was ready to begin.

The basics of homemade baby food:

Anything you can puree in a blender, food processor or food mill can become baby food.

Young eaters should have single item purees: just apple, just peaches, just peas, etc. (try not to introduce more than 1 new food at a time and wait a few days before trying something else new)

Some simple foods that don't require any cooking at all:
  • bananas- mash well with a fork (wait until meal time to avoid brown mush!)
  • avocado- mash well with a fork (also a very low allergen food item)
  • yogurt - choose whole milk, unflavored, unsweetened varieties

You control the texture: blend longer & add more liquids for thinner, smoother textures, pulse briefly and add less liquids for thicker, chunkier textures for more experienced eaters.

Basic icecube trays make great inexpensive baby food savers. Make food ahead of time, pour into an icecube tray and freeze. Pop out frozen cubes and keep in a freezer ziptop baggie for up to 3 months.  Thaw individual cube servings in refrigerator overnight or in microwave (always check for hot spots!)
  • You can also reuse empty baby food tubs & jars but be careful about reheating- take lids off jars and do not microwave plastic tubs unless you are sure of their material.

The wider the variety of foods you expose them to early, the higher the chance they'll be more adventurous eaters later!

Sample Menus:

Young eaters 6-7 months-- simple single purees.
  • peel, core & chop roughly 2 apples. Add to a sauce pan with 1/4 cup water. Simmer on low until apples are soft. Add to food processor or blender and puree until smooth.
  • repeat above with pears, peaches, apricots, plums, blueberries (reduce liquid), peas, green beans, butternut squash, carrots, pumpkin,sweet potato etc.
  • freeze extras
  • EASY CHEAT: when I'm just not up to all the peeling, coring, etc, I often buy bagged frozen organic fruits and veggies. They cook up the same and have all the same nutrients (or sometimes even more depending on how far your produce is transported!)
  • EVEN EASIER CHEAT: when I don't even have time/energy for cooking up a small batch of food or open the freezer to find I'm out, I might substitute canned foods. Canned fruits and veggies don't even require cooking. Watch out for added sugars and salt!! My favorites: unsweetened applesauce, canned pumpkin (NOT pie filling), canned carrots, peaches, pears. These will all puree up very quickly for a hungry baby!

Experienced eaters 7-9 months -- simple combos.
  • After your child has tried the individual ingredients with no problems, its okay to combine them together.
  • Favorites: apple/blueberry, pear/blueberry, apple/pumpkin, apple/squash, apple/carrot, pears/carrots/squash (*see below for recipe), chicken/pumpkin*, peach/pear/blueberry*, potato/summer squash/peas, potato/carrot/corn*
  • Experiment with texture-- try making purees slightly thicker, adding cooked oatmeal before pureeing or adding cooked rice cereal* to finished puree.

Mature eaters 9-12 months -- adapting table foods.
  • Begin experimenting with light spices-- onion, garlic, oregano, cinnamon, basil
  • Go easy on sugar/salt
  • Offer coarser textures-- rice, pasta, lentils all can add texture-- be attentive to your baby and what he can effectively chew and swallow.


Peach, pear & blueberry
  • 1 peach, peeled, pitted and chopped
  • 1 pear, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 1/2 blueberries

  • Add fruit to a small saucepan, cover and cook over low heat 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Puree in a blender.
Potato, carrot & corn
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 medium potatoes (8oz), peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup vegetable stock or water
  • 1/3 cup corn kernels (fresh, frozen or canned)

  • Melt butter in a pan and saute the onion for 1 minute. Add the carrots and saute for 5 minutes, Add the potatoes, cover with stock/water, and cook over medium for 15 minutes. Add the corn and continue to cook for 5 minutes. Puree.

Pears, Carrots & Squash
  • 1 cup diced peeled butternut squash
  • 1 cup sliced peeled pear
  • 1/2 cup sliced peeled carrot
  • 1/4 cup water

  • Add all ingredients to a medium saucepan. Simmer over a medium heat, covered until all are very tender, about 20 minutes. Let cool, puree.
Chicken with Pumpkin
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 6 oz boneless skinless chicken breast (left overs work well here, just skip oil and step 1)
  • 1 cup cubed peeled pie pumpkin (canned pumpkin puree can be sub. here, don't add during step 2)
  • 1/2 cup low sodium chicken stock
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger (can substitute apple or pumpkin pie spice for all of the above, use1 tsp TOTAL)

  • Step 1: In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium heat, add chicken, turning to brown evenly.
  • Step 2: Stir in pumpkin, stock, & spices, bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer until chicken is no longer pink inside and pumpkin is very tender, about 20 minutes. Let cool & puree
  • NOTE: if you use left over cooked, boneless, skinless chicken (like from a rotisserie) AND canned pumpkin, omit the stock and the cooking!! Just dump chicken & pumpkin puree and spices into the blender until pureed!

Project Analysis (out of 4)

Cost: $$
  • It can be a bit of a splurge to get the best, top quality, organic ingredients we all want for our babies.
Satisfaction: :):):):)
  • Making healthy food for your children-- it doesn't get any better than that!
Quality: ****
  • Its very easy to make food equal to or better than commercially prepared baby foods
Green factor: ^^^
  • Controlling the ingredients allows you to buy local, organic, fair trade products that improve the health of our children AND the planet. It also reduces packaging waste.

What I like about this project: Super easy to do! Can do alot at once so I don't have to do it often!

What I don't like: Homemade baby foods do not travel well. Beware the leaky baggie or tupperware!!

1 comment:

  1. Update from author: I just completed a big batch of baby food. I used a mix of fresh, frozen and canned items. My materials cost $17.10. I produced approximately 28 4oz servings. I've been paying on average $1.29 per pouch at the store. That would have cost $36.12. So a savings of over 50%!