How to Make Your Own Baby Food

19 Jul

So now that you’ve decided on your reasoning for making your own baby food, and have taken every little detail into consideration, it’s time to talk details.

THE TOP THREE TOOLS I COULDN’T LIVE WITHOUT

1. High-powered food processor
(Example found here)
Uses: pureeing fresh or cooked foods
I already had a heavy-duty food processor and use it often. With one of these, I never have to chop onions and bell peppers. Plus, if you want to make Oreo cookie truffles, this is a must. For baby food, it provides the most efficient way to get the finest consistency. Plus, it does its work quickly. If you don’t already have one, consider investing in this tool because you’ll use it for multiple projects.

Alternative #1 Mini food processor:
These tools will do the work, too, but they don’t process as much food at one time and are surely not as powerful. My cooking life was better when I ditched my mini for the real thing.

Alternative #2 Blender:
I never used a blender to make baby food, but I imagine if yours is powerful and heavy-duty, you’ll get the results you want.

2. Hand immersion blender
(Example found here)
Uses: quick, no-cook foods; touch-ups to cooked food
This tool was a wedding gift that I honestly only ever used to make homemade mashed potatoes (which is not often.) However, it’s an absolute must for making baby food. The times I wanted to quickly whip up a fresh banana or avocado for Jane Darby (these are no-freeze foods), I sure didn’t want to lug out the juicer or food processor. Instead, a few quick pulses with this thing and voila! Best part is the control: as she got older and needed to learn how to handle a little more chunks of banana, for example, I pulsed the banana just a little less. Also, anytime food didn’t get exactly where I wanted it with the processor or juicer, I touched up with my hand blender. This tool comes highly recommended.

Alternatives:
Using your other tools—but expect more time and cleanup required.

3. Industrial juicer
(Example found here)
Uses: pureeing still-frozen fruits and vegetables
Not many people have these fantastic machines lyying around, but thanks to my husband and his gift-giving goodness, I do. This machine is crazy powerful. By leaving on the homogenizing attachment, it turns rock-solid frozen fruits into instant sorbet, for example, and can make peanut butter, too. Cleanup is a breeze. For baby food, I honestly could have gotten away without using the juicer, as it didn’t always get my food as fine as I needed it. This is because unlike with the food processor, you don’t have the ability to add in milk for better processing. Still, I used it often for less stringy items—like butternut squash and carrots—that didn’t need as much tending. I can see myself using it more and more as she gets older for things like banana mush disguised as ice cream.

Alternatives:
I don’t know of another tool that can handle processing frozen fruits and vegetables quite like this one, therefore, the alternative is thawing and using a food processor.

**(Allow me a brief rant: I don’t know why companies make tools for making baby food. All the tools you need are out there and may be already in your own kitchen. Don’t go buying tools for making baby food.)

STEP-BY-STEP PROCESS FOR STOCKPILING (MAKING AND FREEZING) BABY FOOD

1a. Decide on the fruits and/or veggies you want to make your baby, and consult resources to make sure they are appropriate for stockpiling. Certain foods, like bananas and avocados, are only suitable served fresh.

1b. Or, follow your chosen food recipe and disregard steps below.

2. Carve out 30 minutes to an hour to make your baby food, and ensure you have at least one storage tray per item you plan to cook ready to go (I used ice cube trays, but you have the option to look for BPA-free offerings.) I never made more than two foods at once, but that was just a time preference.

3.  Consult resources to determine if cooking your selections before processing is necessary. For example, you could cut fresh mango, process it, and freeze it, but it’s recommended to first roast or steam pears and apples before processing. I’m sure there are rhymes and reasons to these rules, but they were too hard for me to memorize. I was always consulting my websites and books, and so should you.

4. If cooking, determine the best cooking method, and keep nutrients and flavor preservation top of mind. I only ever used one of three methods: steaming, roasting, and stewing. Steaming was easiest, as I just used a steamer attachment on one of my pots. And yes, I steamed fruits, too, and often. Steaming is healthiest as boiling fruits and veggies strips them of their goodness. I roasted apples and pears on occasion. The only time I stewed was when I cooked together, for example, chicken, sweet potatoes, and apples.

5. After cooking, let cool, but plan to process sooner than later. I suppose you could process the day after cooking, but I never did. Your goal should be to get your concoctions to the freezer as soon after cooking as possible.

6. Process! You may have to try your hand at this a few times, but play around and learn. You’ll want to use a spatula in this step. Look for stringiness and chunks and eliminate. Add milk or food juices to smooth out and help the processing.

7. Place food in storage trays, cover trays in saran wrap, and freeze over night.

8. Remove food from trays the next morning and place in appropriately labeled freezer-safe bags. (Consult your BPA-free options here.)

TO SERVE STOCKPILED FOOD

1. Choose the food you want to serve and the amount. One thawed cube is about one ounce. (If using conventional ice-cube trays.) If just starting your baby out on food, try only providing three cubes of the same food at a time. As time goes on, consider grabbing three different cubes (think apple, pear, and mango) to mix at the serving stage.

2. Place cubes in a bowl and microwave 30 seconds, and in five second increments after that, to thaw. Food should be lukewarm. Watch for hot spots. Add in rice cereal or oatmeal and more milk if needed.

3. Serve, or send off with baby to school!

(To serve extra-fresh food, like bananas and avocado, read above under “Hand immersion blender.” Milk and cereal can be added to these foods as well. These foods should be served fairly quickly after preparation.)

STEPS BEFORE SERVING (EXAMPLES BY FOOD)
TWO STEPS:
Cut, puree
Banana and avocado

THREE STEPS:
Puree, freeze, thaw
Frozen mangoes; frozen peaches

FOUR STEPS
Steam, puree, freeze, thaw
Frozen green beans; frozen peas; frozen carrots; frozen butternut squash

Soak, puree, freeze, thaw
Dried plums; dried apricots

SIX STEPS
Wash, cut, steam, puree, freeze, thaw
Fresh squash; fresh zucchini

SEVEN STEPS
Wash, peel, cut, steam, puree, freeze, thaw
Fresh carrots; fresh apples; fresh pears

FAVORITE RESOURCES
Wholesome Baby Food website
“Top 100 Baby Purees,” by Annabel Karmel

To wrap up this series, tomorrow in Part 4 I’ll shed light on why my baby now gets some homemade food and some store-bought food. Stay tuned!

Part 1: 9 Reasons to Make Your Own Baby Food

Part 2: 11 Things to Consider Before Making Your Own Baby Food

Part 4: A Case for Store-Bought Food: What It’s Like on the Other Side

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