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Baby Foodie Friday: Homemade baby food basics (and a recipe)

Back when Jack was a baby, I made all his food out of necessity (Cost. We were broke), and because his food issues with dairy and gluten. It was just simpler to be able to control what he eating and therefore not eating.

And let’s be clear, it saved us a crap ton of money.

Looking back, I wasn’t all that creative with his meals, and generally stuck to the basics. I was also incredibly sick while pregnant with him, and vegetables were my enemy, so between that, and simple purees, I fear Jack is not the most adventurous eater. He is getting better, but I could have done a lot more in the beginning to make that happen earlier.

This time around, I wasn’t as sick for as long while pregnant with Bennett, and I forced myself to do better with vegetables and other flavors. My friend Kristina has a beautiful little girl, Poppy, who is two months older than Bennett. She has been very creative and adventurous with Poppy’s meals, and it kicked my baby food cooking in to high gear.

At the core, baby food is super simple to make. You take food, generally steam or bake it, and then blend the beejesus out of it. A few resources I have used are wholesomebabyfood.com and Cooking for Baby. The library also has a ton of helpful books.

When to start solids generally is dependent on a few things, and should be discussed with your pediatrician. I am not an official resource, and please do chat with a medical professional before randomly giving your baby food! In 2009, when we started Jack on solids, the rule was basic foods at first, and high-allergen foods were delayed until much later. Peanut butter wasn’t recommended until after two years of age. Now, all the resources I have seen, including a conversation with our pediatrician, say there is no point in delaying foods. The exception of course is honey, which should never be given to a child until they are a year or older. Always test new foods individually, not as blends. Test each food for three to four days to check for reaction. I prefer to give Bennett new foods in the mornings, so that I can observe any issues that might pop up during the day, rather than at night when they aren’t as apparent.

Keys for starting our kiddos on solids were: they were able to sit up in a high chair without assistance, could support their big wobbly bowling ball heads, and showed interest in others around them eating. Jack was obsessed with watching us eat starting around five months, but Bennett didn’t give a darn until a few days before turning six months. I knew Bennett was ready when I was wearing him in the Ergo at Costco, and while chomping on a sample, I looked down and he opened his mouth wide like a hungry baby bird.

No, I did NOT spit my Costco sample in to his mouth. Gross.

I’m not a fan of starting with grains – rice, oatmeal, or baby cereal – simply because it can be super binding for little tummies. If you went from a six month liquid diet, and then added rice to it, you’d probably get bound up fairly quickly. Not to mention there is very little nutritional value in these foods. Some parents use them as “practice food”. If your baby needs to practice eating, they just may simply not be ready for solids.

Equipment
We had a very fancy baby food maker that steamed and pureed foods for Jack. It was a gift and is not something I would have purchased for myself, simply because the amount of food it produced didn’t fit our needs. What worked best for us was a simple metal steamer insert, an immersion blender, and/or a food processor. This time around, we have fancy blender that I saved up to buy for over a year, but we use it for so much more than baby food. It definitely makes the food smoother (and makes bigger portions) than the food processor ever did, but Jack survived with “just” food processor purees. 🙂

Storage
There are so many options for storing your homemade baby food, and most of them are free to almost free. The simplest method is using ice cube trays, and transferring the cubes to freezer bags once frozen through. We never went this route, because I needed to make a ton of food at once and my entire freezer wouldn’t fit all those trays. Or, talk with a friend who purchases baby food, and ask for empty jars. We have a small stash of glass jars from a friend, and a huge stash of 4 oz canning jars. We had the canning jars already, and they are my preferred storage method because they hold a lot, are super easy to serve food in directly, can be tossed in your diaper bag without leaking (I find the baby food jar lids are not very secure), and here is the best part – they are totally dry when they come out of the dishwasher, unlike plastic storage containers. #priorities. If you use canning jars, it’s easy to label the lids with a dry erase marker. We have a small store of Baby Cubes leftover from Jack. We had a ton of them, but they were lent out to people, and mostly never returned.

Benefits
Any time you’re buying premade food (baby and adult), there generally have been multiple hands/machines working on the item. More ingredients mean multiple supply channels, and likely, there is some form of a preservative in the dish. Making your own means you control the ingredients, the quality, and the texture. And um, it is cheap as hell, even if you are going mostly to 100% organic. For a few weeks, Bennett’s favorite food was sweet potatoes. I could make a week’s supply for $3 worth of organic sweet potatoes. I found a jar at Target for $1.49, and would have needed three of those for just one meal.

We had to travel in September, so I purchased some premade pouches that not only were organic, had cool flavor combos. Sinsce they are so proud of their purees, they list the ratio of ingredients on the back of each pouch. They make it so easy for you! We used those pouches to figure out Bennett’s favorite flavors (turns out he loves food. Just food. All kinds), and then I straight up stole the recipe and made them myself. Thanks Happy Baby for making it pretty damn foolproof. Also? So expensive and I am so thankful I don’t have to buy it on the weekly.

One of B’s favorite combos is squash, pears, and blackberries. The following recipe was stolen inspired from that over-priced bag o’food.

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Note: If you’re smart, you’ll combine this recipe with others using pumpkin and squash (you’ll see multiple things roasting in the picture below. I’m a huge fan of roasting/cooking once, and using for multiple recipes.

Squash, Pear, and Blackberry Puree
1/4 of a roasted acorn squash
1/4 of a roasted pie pumpkin (like sugar pie)
1 cup frozen blackberries*
1 pear, chopped in to 1 inch chunks

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Pull out your biggest roasting pan possible. The one that is super annoying to get out of your cupboard because it has alllllll the other roasting pans stacked on top of it.
  2. Microwave your pumpkin for 90 seconds. Set aside to cool for five minutes. Repeat with the acorn squash.
  3. Cut the squash/pumpkin in half around the middle (not stem to butt), and scoop out the seeds. Place the squash facedown in the pan, and add a bit of water until it comes up about 1/2 inch on the bottom of squash/pumpkin. Roast for 25 minutes.
  4. After 25 minutes, add the pear, and roast for another 15 minutes.
  5. Let the squash/pumpkin cool for 10 minutes, and then scoop the “meat” out and transfer to a blender, or food processor. Add the pear, and frozen blackberries. Add some of the roasting water, or fresh water, a little at a time while blending until it has reached your desired consistency.
  6. Store in your preferred containers. Will keep in the fridge for up to three days, and up to threeish months in the freezer.

*Frozen fruit added to purees make for a smoother overall puree…and I had a bunch frozen from picking this summer. 🙂

The pumpkin was $1.25 at Trader Joes (most years I accidentally grow my own because the seeds show up in chicken compost, but not this year), and the acorn squash was $.99. Blackberries were free from all my “urban harvesting” this summer, and the pear was under $1. Depending on how much water you add to blend the puree, you can yield 2-4 cups, which if you consider 4 oz is a serving, makes this meal a bargain.

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Kiddos can take a few times before they really know if they like or dislike a flavor. Bottom line, at the end of the day, make your baby stuff you wouldn’t feel gross about eating yourself, and remember that babies are developing their palettes and you basically have a blank canvas to play with.

 

Squash, Pear, and Blackberry Baby Puree
Recipe Type: Baby Food
Author: Sarah at Frugal by Choice, Cheap by Necessity
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 2-4 cups depending on water added
A delicious early fall blend for baby.
Ingredients
  • 1/4 of a roasted acorn squash
  • 1/4 of a roasted pie pumpkin (like sugar pie)
  • 1 cup frozen blackberries*
  • 1 pear, chopped in to 1 inch chunks
Instructions
  1. <span class=”mceItemHidden” data-mce-bogus=”1″><span></span><span class=”mceItemHidden” data-mce-bogus=”1″><span class=”hiddenSpellError” pre=”” data-mce-bogus=”1″>Preheat</span></span> your oven to 400 degrees. Pull out your biggest roasting pan possible. The one that is super annoying to get out of your cupboard because it has <span class=”hiddenSpellError” pre=”has ” data-mce-bogus=”1″>alllllll</span> the other roasting pans stacked on top of it.</span>
  2. Microwave your pumpkin for 90 seconds. Set aside to cool for five minutes. Repeat with the acorn squash.
  3. Cut the squash/pumpkin in half around the middle (not stem to butt), and scoop out the seeds. Place the squash facedown in the pan, and add a bit of water until it comes up about 1/2 inch on the bottom of squash/pumpkin. Roast for 25 minutes.
  4. After 25 minutes, add the pear, and roast for another 15 minutes.
  5. Let the squash/pumpkin cool for 10 minutes, and then scoop the “meat” out and transfer to a blender, or food processor. Add the pear, and frozen blackberries. Add some of the roasting water, or fresh water, a little at a time while blending until it has reached your desired consistency.
  6. <span class=”mceItemHidden” data-mce-bogus=”1″><span></span>Store in your preferred containers. Will keep in the fridge for up to three days, and up to <span class=”mceItemHidden” data-mce-bogus=”1″><span class=”hiddenSpellError” pre=”to ” data-mce-bogus=”1″>threeish</span></span> months in the freezer.</span>
  7. *Frozen fruit added makes for a smoother overall puree…and I had a bunch frozen from picking this summer.

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One comment on “Baby Foodie Friday: Homemade baby food basics (and a recipe)”

  1. Sounds delicious. I wonder if adults would like it! Maybe with more water, as a soup…