Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Baby food

Well, since yesterday was sort of a big disaster (okay, it really wasn't, but I was really stressed out and anxious all day), I will skip the long explanation. Here's a quick rundown: got up, got myself and Kimmy dressed, left at 10:30am after discovering a gigantic dent on my car, drove to Cincinnati, went to the pediatrician for her ear re-check. Kimmy's right ear is still infected, and her doctor ordered a blood food-allergy test because we think she is allergic to wheat and eggs. Plus, my sister was severely allergic to so many foods, had asthma, and had skin issues. Kimmy's already got the skin issues (eczema). So, after her appointment, I went to Kroger to have pharmacy wars (there are always issues with my insurance and birth date from a mistake at a Rite-Aid long ago). Got Kimmy's antibiotic, Claritin, and Zantac, but had to go to a different pharmacy for my Flonase. UGH! After that ordeal, it was off to the hospital lab for the blood test, then finally home to Indiana.

But, that's enough of that. I owe a friend a list of baby-food recipes, and I thought I'd share them publicly, as well. I absolutely love making Kimmy's food myself from fresh, organic ingredients. It's such a joy to watch her reaction to brand-new flavors and combinations. And when home-making baby food, it's actually way cheaper to buy the ingredients (yes, even organic) and make it yourself than it is to buy pre-made stuff. We also feed Kimmy store-bought organic food at times for convenience's sake, but I make it myself whenever possible.

Baby food purees are really quite forgiving. If the texture is wrong, you can add and adjust pretty easily, blend it longer, or you can leave it a funky, chunky texture and combine it with infant cereal or yogurt (from 8 months on) to smooth it out. It's been a learning process, but I've created some really fantastic combinations. So far, Kimmy's favorite single foods are bananas (#1), carrots, squash, beets, yogurt, peaches, and sweet potatoes. Anyway, here goes.

For starters, baby foods need to be soft. Kimmy doesn't have any teeth yet, and although she is great at chewing and swallowing, it's especially important for her foods to be smush-able to prevent choking. Almost every fruit and vegetable needs to be washed (try a 5-minute soak in a large bowl of water with 1c. white vinegar, followed by a rinse and pat dry with a paper towel), peeled, diced, and boiled, baked, steamed, or sauteed before pureeing. Exceptions off the top of my head are avocado, bananas, and berries, which are smushy on their own. As a general rule, the smaller the dice, the quicker the cooking time. I actually purposely overcook (2-5 minutes extra) most things to make them extra soft. That being said, you don't want to overcook to the point of disintegration. Always save your cooking water, so you'll have some nice, clean, flavorful, vitamin-rich water to add to your puree if you need to thin the texture.

Whenever possible, organic is best. Babies' digestive systems are just learning to process solid foods, and the less interference with whole, natural ingredients, the better. It's especially important to buy organic for produce that you can eat the skin/peeling on. This is because pesticides can be absorbed through such fruits and vegetables more quickly, and, really, who wants to feed her baby a bunch of unnecessary chemicals? Baby foods are good for up to 6 months in the freezer and up to 1 week in the refrigerator. Single-food purees are sort of self-explanatory, so I'm going to move on to some combinations that have been big hits. I only wish I had pictures! I'll have to take some the next time I have a baby food-making day.

2-3 cups organic, unsweetened applesauce
1 large ripe organic avocado

Half and shell the avocado and toss it in a food processor or blender with the applesauce. Puree until you achieve a really smooth texture. Avocados tend to brown easily in the fridge, even with the acidity of the apple, so I like to freeze this mixture in 2oz. containers and thaw overnight before serving.

2 ripe organic bananas
1 pint organic blueberries

Break the bananas into smaller chunks, pop it all into a food processor or blender, and puree away! Try to puree for at least 2 minutes to break down the seeds and skins of the blueberries as much as possible. You can also push the finished product through a strainer, but Kimmy doesn't really seem to mind the texture of the skins/seeds. I store mine in 2oz. containers in the freezer to prevent the bananas from browning, and I thaw it overnight before feeding. Because of the texture of bananas, they tend to make the mixture a congealed, Jello-like texture. This is fine. Just smash/stir it up before feeding your little one!

Butternut squash, yogurt, and cinnamon
3 oz. butternut squash puree (that you've already made by peeling the squash, scooping out the seeds, dicing it, and boiling for 15-20 minutes until fork tender, then pureeing)
1/8c. Fage 2% plain Greek yogurt (or other organic, plain 2% or whole-milk yogurt)
1/4tsp. ground cinnamon

Mix it all together and voila! Kimmy LOVES this combination. Sometimes it can be a little sour depending on the sweetness of the squash, so I sometimes add a tbsp. of smashed banana. If you choose to sweeten it, do NOT add honey. Babies shouldn't eat honey until age 1 because it can cause botulism. Honey is also full of environmental pollens--great for adults, but maybe not so great for babies who might have seasonal allergies.

Butternut squash-banana
2 c. squash puree
1 ripe organic banana

Pop it in the blender and puree until it's a smooth texture. Same thing with the browning bananas, so it's best to freeze/thaw in small portions, either 2 or 4 oz.

Beets, spinach, and pears
1 bunch organic beets (usually 2-3 in a bunch)
4 c. organic baby spinach (non-baby spinach is fine, just make sure to remove the stems before cooking if you purchase the bigger-leaf version)
1 large pear

Preheat oven to 375. Cut leaves from beets (These are edible and actually taste really good, so I used them as greens with my dinner. They're not as mild as spinach, so I don't recommend them as a substitution in this recipe), scrub the dirt off the roots, and bake them for 1 hour or until you can easily stick a fork through them. Roasting them covered may speed cooking time, but you won't get a nice caramelization on the peeling that way. Beets actually don't have to be peeled, but some people prefer to peel them before or after roasting. I just left the peels alone. Steam your spinach and set aside when done, but save your cooking water. Boil the pear for 5 minutes, or until skin comes off easily. Dice up your cooked, peeled pear, dice the beets when roasted and cooled, and pop all the ingredients in a food processor. If the mixture is too thick, add some of your cooking water to thin it out. Kimmy gobbles this up, so we refrigerate or freeze is larger containers.

We still have a few more months of puree-eating, so I'm sure I'll come up with some new combinations after Kimmy eats through her current stockpile. If you have a lot of single foods on hand, don't be afraid to experiment with different combinations of those, too! Kimmy likes squash-carrot, sweet potato-squash, sweet potato-regular potato, peach-pear, squash-banana, etc. If you try any of these recipes, let me know what your little ones thought! I'm also always looking for more combinations if anyone has suggestions for me.

Happy pureeing!