In light of our food values, you probably weren't surprised to read the title of this post. When I made baby food for Sam six and a half years ago, though, we didn't even have a garden. In fact, I'm not even sure I had thought about making my first baby's food before I was given a very thoughtful baby gift.
A family from our small group at church gave us baby food making "tools" as a shower gift. I remember thinking how creative a gift it was. And, if I had chosen to go the bottled-baby food route, I still could have used the tools in other ways. Included was a set of two plastic ice cube trays, a sieve and a potato masher (I know there were other things included, too, but I can't for the life of me think now what they were).
This gift planted the idea in my head. When Sam turned 6 months, the decision to make his baby food was not so foreign an idea. In fact, it went so well and was so easy (not to mention cheap) that I made Sadie's baby food as well. Over the years, I've used a couple different baby food cookbooks- yes, there are such books out there- and they are extremely helpful. It's not the actual making of the food the requires much thought, it's the thinking-up which foods to use at what stages that I find helpful.
Miriam is 7 and a half months old. Just before she turned 7 months, we started her on rice cereal (in the typical recommended fashion). In the meantime, I picked up the book Top 100 Baby Purees by Annabel Karmel at the shop where I take consignment items.
This book has a helpful introduction, gorgeous photos and very simple recipes for your baby's baby food divided into four stages. The first stage is called "First Stage Weaning" and this is the stage Miriam is currently in (I am not weaning her from breast milk yet, just adding solids to her diet).
Karmel lists three signs that your baby may be ready to start solid foods.
"- still hungry after a full milk feeding
- demands feedings more frequently
- wakes at night for a feeding previously slept through"
Miriam always seemed satisfied after nursing, but the second and third signs described her perfectly. Karmel also mentions the importance of starting babies out on real, freshly made vegetables and food. These tastes will resemble what we hope our children will learn to love to eat in the coming years. In her book, she notes that "most commercial baby foods have been heated to a very high temperature and then cooled, in order to sterilize them. This gives them a very long shelf life (usually two years) but destroys a lot of the flavor and some of the nutrients in the process." Feeding them what we ultimately want them to eat from the start, helps ensure a smooth transition.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is expecting a baby or will soon be starting their baby on solids. It would be perfect tucked into a basket with some baby food making tools and given as a shower gift as well.
Ok, on to the food! For the First Stage, the recipes include one or two ingredients. Here is a list of what Miriam has been eating so far:
- pureed carrots with a pat of butter (fat enables the beta-carotene in carrots to be more readily absorbed)
- pureed butternut squash
- pureed sweet potatoes
Exciting, no? The method is simple. Wash and peel the vegetable. Cook it in water or steam or bake it until very soft. Puree it in your blender or using an immersion blender. Spoon the puree into ice cube trays. Freeze over night and then pop the cubes out and transfer them into zip-lock bags for easier storage. When it's time for dinner, pull a cube or two from the freezer, thaw and warm. Rice cereal can be mixed in prior to freezing or after you've thawed the cubes. A little makes quite a bit. One small butternut squash made about 25 cubes.
Combining the cubes works as well. Once Miriam was used to each flavor, I started thawing a sweet potato cube and a carrot cube together and combined them. A butternut squash cube with some applesauce. This will get her used to flavor blends as well.
This really is simple to do- waaaaay easier than making dinner, I promise. In about an hour, you can have several different vegetables cooked, pureed and into the freezer. And the measure of your labor? A few WEEKS of baby food tucked away at the ready.