Today's Mama Monday is all about baby food. As most of y'all know, I make all of Jackson's baby food, and I've posted on it before, so bear with me, but this will be more detailed. The reason that I started doing this (and tons of people as why!) is simply because I thought it would be best for Jackson. I saw a few websites that encouraged it, and I thought fresh food sounded like what I wanted to do for our son. Yes, it takes more time that heating up food from a jar, but it's what we've decided to do, and we've stuck with it, which is good because he doesn't like some of the jar foods that we've fed him on vacation.
I try to cook Jackson's food when I'm cooking our supper, or sometimes on a Sunday afternoon, I'll stock up on several items. The great thing about making his food is that it can be stored in the freezer, so you can stock up for a while. I know a lot of people think that making baby food is hard, or that they don't have time for it, but I promise, it's really quick and easy. I also get questions about the cost - is it less expensive that buying jar baby food. I think in the long run it probably is, but it depends on the food that you buy. I look for fresh fruits and veggies when they are on sale. If you buy things on sale, and some things in bulk frozen, I think you save money.
Starting out - Like Erin, there's a book and a website that I really like. Feed Me I'm Yours is a book that was handed down to me from my mom. While a couple of things in it (from this version at least) are outdate (ex - DO NOT sweeten baby food with honey for a child under one - they can get botulism), it's a great starter. As for websites, http://www.wholesomebabyfood.com/ is my favorite. I still go there from time to time and see what stuff it has. The thing that I found most useful was the sample foods that you can introduce to a child and at what age. It also has some recipes for food.
After you decide when you want to introduce solid foods to your child (we waited until 6 months), start with easy things to make - squash and sweet potatoes are easy, and also palatable to your child when first starting food. We introduced yellow/orange veggies, then green veggies, then fruit, and finally meat/beans to Jackson.
Get cooking! Most things I buy fresh and steam: carrots, squash, zucchini, apples, pears, peaches, etc. Some foods are easy to roast: sweet potatoes, butternut or acorn squash. Some things I buy frozen: green beans, peas, broccoli - this is becuase it is much easier to blend these in the food processor or blender if they are frozen. Bananas can simply be mashed when you feed those to your child. Meats: I boil/steam chicken to keep moisture in it. I cook ham for us and just chop it for Jackson. The only think I haven't made for Jackson is his cereal - and that can be done, I just haven't tackled it...maybe with the next one....
Basically, just think how you would cook your food, and cook it the same way for your child.
Next, making the actual baby food. In the very beginning, everything will be to be pureed or mashed. I found it was easiest to just put everything in the blender or food processor and puree away. If I steamed things, I reserved the steam water to make the food the consistency I needed it. Some things, like squash and zucchini, don't need water. Some, like sweet potatoes, need a good bit to get the consistency young babies need. As your child grows, you can start to blend more and puree less. At 8-9 months is when we started mashing more things or just coarsely chopping in the blender. At this time, we also started letting Jackson pick up and eat some foods by himself. Carrots, apples, and pears are easy to cook or steam until soft enough to be eaten by baby, but hard enough to not get smushed when picked up.
After you make the food, it needs to be stored. We usually keep a couple of spoonfuls in a storage container in the fridge, but most of it gets put into ice cube trays and in the freezer. After the food has hardened, you can pop it out of the containers and store it in freezer bags. The great thing about this is that each ice cube is a serving size. Baby food keeps in the freezer for a couple of months, so you see how easy it can be to stock up one afternoon on a couple of foods (as long as you have enough ice cube trays).
Thawing baby food: After you decided what your little one will be eating for supper, place the frozen ice cubes on a plate and pop it in the microwave for about 30 seconds on 50% power. Check and then rezap for 10 seconds at 50% until the food is room temp (not hot!).
Travelling with homemade baby food...it's not as hard as you think, I promise. If you're going out to dinner, pack your baby's food in a plastic, portable container. If you have several hours, the food can simply be taken from the freezer into the container, and it will thaw on its own. If you have less time, just defrost the food either early in the day and keep it in the fridge or defrost until it's cool or just room temp (not hot) and throw it in the diaper bag - it will be ready when you sit down to eat. If you're going out of town for a couple of days to a week, you have a few options. If the destination is not too far away (think less than 3 hrs) you can safely pack your frozen baby food in the bottom of a cooler and it stays frozen. Much longer than 3 hrs and you run into half frozen baby food when you arrive at your vacation spot (been there, done that). Not that big a deal, just put it in the fridge and it completely thaws and you just scoop it out. The only bad thing is 1) it's messier and 2) whatever you don't use in the next few days, you have to throw out. If you're going to a place where there is a kitchen and you'll be there for a week or so (like the beach), just pack some easy to make baby food and make it when you get there - apples, bananas, squash, sweet potatoes are all super easy and don't take much time.
It is very easy, fun, and rewarding to make your own baby food! There's a few pics on this post from earlier (for some reason blogger won't upload my photos from today!?!?). For more info on Mama Monday and Baby Food, head on over to Princess Pigbear!