Several months ago, I did one of my Daring Cook’s Challenges on Freezing, and I made homemade baby food. Several people expressed a lot of interest in this, so I thought I would share a little more. This first installment will be about beginning baby food, or Stage One. These foods are appropriate for starting your little sunshine off on food, from 4-6 months. Please consult your pediatrician before incorporating “solids” into your babies diet, and please please please make sure you follow the 4-day wait rule (give your baby ONE new food for 4 straight days to insure that there are no allergic reactions).
You might be thinking "Why spend the time and money doing this? Jarred is sooo much more convenient!" Well, think on this: I went to the a store in town that sells all organic foods. I bought two organic sweet potatoes for $1.29 a pound and a bundle of carrots for $2.25. I baked the sweet potatoes for 45 minutes and boiled the carrots for 20. I then pureed them (5 minutes each), strained them (5 minutes each), and put them in ice cube trays to freeze. I got two trays of baby food of each, totalling to 24 carrot cubes and 24 sweet potato cubes. That's a one ounce serving of carrots for roughly $0.09 and $0.06 for sweet potatoes. Babies R Us is currently selling Gerber Stage One baby foods for $1.29 for 5 ounces. That is $0.25 an ounce. And when you talk about going through several ounces a day, that can really add up!! Not only that, but the baby food currently sitting in my freezer is completely free of all chemicals, I know under exactly what conditions the food was made (no recalls for bug parts in my food!), and it tastes so much better! Not convinced? Do a taste test yourself.
Green Beans: You can use either fresh green beans, or frozen. If using fresh, snap off the ends and wash. Place into a steamer basket with just enough water to slightly show through the basket. Steam until tender. Puree smooth (sometimes using a blender works better, and you will never get as smooth a consistency as jarred baby food, but do the best you can). Strain to get rid of any lumps or skins that did not puree.
Squash: The squash varieties that are best for 4-6 months old are winter squash, namely butternut, acorn, and hubbard. You can either bake them as you would pumpkin, or steam them until soft. Puree and strain!
Sweet Potatoes: Wash and poke holes in your potatoes. Cover them with foil and bake until soft (400 degrees, 30 minutes or so). Puree and strain.
Apples: The varieties of apples that work best for baby food include Gala, Braeburn, Rome or Macintosh’s. You want something that can withstand the cooking, but not be too tart, either. Peel, core and chunk apples. Place apples into a pan with just enough water to slightly cover the apples. Boil or steam until tender. Mash with a potato masher or place into a food processor. Strain through a sieve to make sure you get rid of any chunks.
Avocados: Select a dark green avocado with bumpy skin that is firm but yields a little when pushed. These do not need to be cooked! Peel, remove pit, and smash. These do NOT freeze well.
Bananas: Take a nice ripe banana, peel, mash with fork, and serve. Couldn’t be easier! Why would you honestly waste your time with a jar? These do NOT freeze well.
Peaches: You can steam or bake peaches. To steam, peel, pit, and chunk. Steam until soft, puree and strain.
Pears: Pears are a great choice if you need to “loosen” things up a bit, if you know what I mean, hehe. Peel and cut pears into chunks. Steam gently until tender. Place in a blender/food processor until smooth and then strain out any remaining chunks. You may also bake them until soft.
Plums: Peel and pit the plums. Cut into chunks. Steam until tender. Puree smooth and strain. Sometimes plums can be a little tart, so check the taste. If it’s a little tart, just mix it with something sweeter, like apples.
Pumpkin: Pumpkin isn’t usually on the “first food” list your pediatrician gives you, but is actually a great first food! Cut sugar or pie pumpkin in half, scoop out seeds. Place an inch of water in a baking pan. Place the pumpkin halves face down in the pan. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 40 minutes, or until the shell/skin puckers and the halves feel soft. Scoop the “meat” out. Puree until smooth. You could steam these on the stovetop by cutting them into chunks, and steaming them until tender (like boiling potatoes).
Once you have mastered these bad boys individually, you can mix things up a bit! Literally! Here are some good combinations:
Cream of Something: Mix puree with baby cereal. I like to do veggies with brown rice cereal or barley cereal, fruit with oatmeal, but you can do whatever makes your little one happy!
Squashy Sweet Potato: Acorn or butternut squash and sweet potatoes
Squashy Apple Sweet Potato: Apples, butternut or acorn squash and sweet potatoes
Banana-Cado: Avocado and banana
Apple-Pear Sauce: Blend apples and pears
Pumpkin Bananas: blend pumpkin puree with mashed bananas
Pumpkin Banana Applesauce: Pumpkin puree mixed with applesauce and mashed bananas
Green Beans and Fruit: Mix green beans with apples and/or pears
Banana Applesauce Mush: Combine applesauce with a mashed banana
All baby foods can be thinned out using breastmilk, formula, or water just before serving. If you are going to make large batches of baby food to freeze, wait to thin them out until you are ready to serve it because freezing can change the consistency of the baby food.
A note on freezing baby food: The best method for freezing baby food is to use an ice cube tray. They are perfect 1 ounce portions, and they are easy to use and re-use. Any old ice cube tray will do, but I like these: Fresh Baby So Easy Baby Food Trays ,mainly, I think, because they have lids. I’m a sucker for them. I have just two, and once something has been frozen for a few days and are nice and rock solid, I pop them out and place them in a labeled freezer ziplock bag. You can use a regular ice cube tray, too, though, so don’t feel like you need to go buy anything fancy. Just use the ice cube trays you already have and wrap them in saran wrap to keep other things out. Use frozen baby food within three months.
All information was found at www.wholesomebabyfood.com, which I highly recommend to ANYONE who is even thinking about making baby food. There is a wealth of up to date information, recipes per age group and food, and all kinds of other goodies. The lady who runs this site is awesome... I could get lost of hours and hours there.