Monday, May 21, 2007

Baby Food 101

I have been thinking about writing on baby food recipes for a while. I like talking about it but it just too lazy to get my camera and taking pictures of every single puree that I made for my daughter. I know that if I put them all together they will make a very good picture. It will have the color of the rainbow.

When I had my first baby I was too overwhelm to make home made baby food for him. I barely can survive with breastfeeding him at that time.

But now I am older, more experience, a little bit wiser, or maybe just a little bit more stingy to spent money on those Gerber and Heinz. So I bought several books about baby food and I found out that they are not that hard to make at all ( hey! those writers are not lying when they said it's going to be easy, cheap, and healthy ! ). I learn to freeze them. Later I enjoy more and more on experimenting making new batch after batch of baby food for my daughter. I even get smarter now that I can make for both children in one shot. The only different is my son will eat the chunky one and my daughter will eat the one that I processed into smoother texture ( she still refuse to eat chunky food ! ).

So here are the things that you may need to have in your kitchen to make baby food:

  • Strainer
  • Ziplock bags ( for keeping the already frozen baby food cubes so that you can use the tray for the new batch )
  • Handheld blender ( faster to clean because you can use it on your saucepan ) or blender or food processor.

  • Ice cube trays that has lids on them like this

  • When the baby grows bigger you can switch to bigger container like these

  • Pressure cooker for making home-made stock.
  • Reusing those baby food jars, but make sure you sterilize them first by boiling or dishwasher.

Some Ingredients that can be handy to have in your kitchen:

  • Quick cooked plain oatmeal
  • Any small pasta or you can even break spaghetti into smaller pieces too
  • Cooked rice
  • Any starchy vegetables such as potato, pumpkin, yam, etc.
  • Can chicken stock or beef stock
  • Baby cereals
  • baby formula / regular milk
Why do I suggest them? Because sometimes when you make the baby food you might make it too watery and it is going to be hard to feed your baby who keep turning her head left and right a soupy consistency food. It's going to get messy! So you need to thicken it up a bit and to do this, you can use those things I mention above. To make it tasty, you can always use home-made chicken/beef broth ( preferably ) or if you don't have it, you can always use can broth. This is also good to add if the food is too thick. You can use milk too for this purpose and baby formula is also very good for adding more nutrition in your batch.

Based on a lot of books that I read on when is the best time to give your baby solid food, on average they will tell you to give them when your baby can sit or 6 months old. You can even wait 1 -3 months longer, but some baby seems to be impatient to grow big and they can show you that they are already interested on trying to eat solid by the age of 5 months. Always ask your pediatrician first on when your baby is ready to eat solid.

Don't give your baby honey, strawberry, orange, egg white and maybe diary produce until they turn at least 1 year old. Those acidic fruits can cause your baby a lot of pain from diaper rash. Apple, pears, banana, peaches, are safer for them because they are less acidic.

Don't give your baby any nuts and shellfish, clams until they are a lot older, like at least 2 years old. I would wait until they are closer to 3 years old.

Try to give your baby all organic food if you can.

Don't be discourage if your baby face looks like mine when I gave her her first taste of solid food that I made. If you see her face on the pictures below you will think I must have fed her with something very awful but in fact I gave her a very sweet organic white peaches!

Pic: "Mommy...please stop feeding me that sweet-delicious-ripe-from-the-vine-white-peaches!!!"

Don't force them to eat solid if they are not ready. Keep on trying little by little. I know... I know... it does feel bad when you have to throw away those food because your baby still doesn't want to eat them. That is why I like using the hand held blender because I can do small batch like a trial size.

Start feeding your baby with white or yellow fruit or vegetables such as potato, yam, carrot, pumpkin ( baby love the sweet taste ), pears, apple, banana etc. Start with one flavour at a time for 3 days, that way if your baby has an allergic reaction to it you know exactly what cause that allergy reaction.

This is fairly easy to do. You can steam those white and yellow food, or boiled them in a little water. You don't even have to use recipe for this.

From white and yellow, you can graduate to green food that has stronger flavour like spinach and broccoli.

If you want to introduce meat to her/his diet, wait until she/he is at least 9 months old.

Don't add salt and sugar to the food yet. Let the baby learn to taste the real taste. Beside sugar and salt is too overwhelming or too harsh for the baby newly develop taste buds. This is why adults always think it is amazing how baby can like bland food. Well.. for them they are NOT bland at all!!

When you ran out of single food to introduce to your baby ( make sure you don't introduce the more complicated food before the right age to do it! ), you can start making combination food. Remember when you prepare the single food batch, you can keep them in the ice cube tray even when your baby is ready for more complicated food. You can just mix 2 different flavour of cubes like potato with with spinach, apple with pears, carrot with pumpkin, etc.

From 2 or 3 food batch, you can graduate to be even more complicated. Now .... this is the time when it is good if you invest your money on buying those baby food recipes or you can always do a little bit of research on Internet to get free recipes.

Before you know it, you will be an expert in making baby food! Your baby will be healthier, and you won't go bankrupt from buying those baby food jars. And you will be rewarded with this kind of face ....

Pic: My son enjoying his food. Notice that at that time I don't know how to make baby food yet so he is eating from the commercial baby food! My bad...

Here are some more complicated baby food recipes that I invented ...

Chicken With Leek, Potato, and Zucchini

1Tbs butter
1 Leek
2 Zucchinis
1 Medium size potato
150g ground chicken
3 cups of chicken broth ( preferably home made )
1/4 tsp of salt (optional)

To clean the leek, cut off the green part, then the root part. Then cut it into half lengthwise. While you clean it under running water, open the leek layer by layer because the dirt like to stay in between that layer. Clean it well!!!!

When it is already clean you can slice them thinly and saute it with butter on medium-low heat in a saucepan. Now you can add the ground chicken too, stir them so that you break apart the ground chicken into very small pieces.

Peel the zucchinis and cut them into small cubes. Then add the zucchinis into the leek and the ground chicken. Again stir them occasionally, and while you wait, you can start peeling the potatoes and cube them too. Add the potato to the saucepan.

Now add the broth and cook them on low heat while covered until the meat is cook and the potato is tender.

If you have 2 kids with different ages like mine, spoon some of this food into a bowl for the older kid first. You can season it with salt and pepper. Then you can put the rest of the food into blender or in my case I use my hand-held blender right on the stove and blend the food into a smooth consistency. If you are not sure if everything is truly smooth, this is when you can use a strainer to strain the food before you feed the food to the baby or before you pour this batch into the ice cube tray.

NOTE: If for some reason you think the food is too soupy, you can add more or less 2 Tbs of instant oatmeal into the soup and reheat the food few minutes longer to cook the oatmeal. This is after you remove some of the food for your older kid off course. If it is too thick, you can add more broth to thin it out a bit.

Spinach, Potato, and Onion

2 Tbs butter
1 small bag of frozen spinach
2 medium size potatoes, cube
1/4 onion, cut thinly
4 cups of broth
1/4 tsp of salt ( optional )
2 tsp of grated Parmesan cheese ( optional )

Saute the onion first, then add the spinach and the potato into the saucepan. Now you can add the broth and cook everything with low heat while covered until they are done.

Again, take out some of this food out for your older child first. Add salt and pepper and you can sprinkle some Parmesan on top. You can even add few slices of sausages on top of the soup. Use more soup for your older child.

With less soup, you put the rest of the food into your blender and blend everything into a smooth consistency for your baby. You can add some Parmesan too if he/she is older than 1 year old.

Pumpkin And Carrot

2 Tbs of butter
4 cups of pumpkin , cube
1 large carrot, cube
3 Cups of chicken broth (and more for later)
2 Tbs of heavy cream
a dash of cinnamon
1 tsp of sugar ( optional )
1/4 tsp of salt ( optional )

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add pumpkin and carrot to the butter. Add the broth and a dash of cinnamon . Cover the saucepan. Let it cook until they are tender. Add the cream.

Now this is the tricky part. I put the food into my blender or I use my hand held blender then I blend it until smooth. This time I transfer them to the ice cube tray first before I can proceed to make the rest into pumpkin soup for my older child.

After transfer a part of the food for the baby now I can begin to season the pumpkin-carrot puree to transform it into a soup for my son. I start adding a little sugar ,salt, and pepper. Maybe more of the chicken broth ( heat it up first in the microwave ) so that it resemble more like creamy soup. I can add a bit more of cream too.

Good Breakfast

2 Fuji Apples, cube
2 Cups of milk or you can mix the formula with water to make 2 cups of liquid
1/4 tsp of cinnamon
2 Tbs of oatmeal

Cook everything together and blend it in your blender until smooth. You can substitute the apple with pears, peaches, plum, mango, or even banana.

Chicken Soup My Way

2 Chicken thighs
4 Cups of water
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1/4 onion, chopped
1 medium size carrot, chopped
1/4 cup of chopped celery
a dash of dried thyme
1/4 tsp of salt ( optional )
2 medium potato, cube

This time is a good idea to take out your pressure cooker from your cabinet. I happen to have 2 different size. Small and large. I use my smaller one.

Blanch the chicken first in boiling water and then place the chicken in the pressure cooker pot with the water. Cook it first for an hour until the meat is falling off the bones. Take the bone out but leave the meat in the soup.

Add everything else into the soup and cook it without cover until they are tender and the liquid reduced until only 2 cups left.

Put the soup into blender and process it until smooth. Strain it first before you transfer it into the ice cube trays or before you serve it to your baby.

So yes... be creative but make sure be safe too for the sake of your love ones...

For bonus, I will added here 2 recipes from my favorite baby food recipe. This book is called: Blender Baby Food: Over 125 Recipes for Healthy Homemade Meals (Paperback)
by Nicole Young (Author), Nadine Day (Author)

Spinach and Tomatoes With Ricotta

1 tbs olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup canned diced tomatoes, with juice
2 cups trimmed spinach
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
2 tsp freshly squeeze lemon juice

  1. In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic and tomatoes with juice; cook until garlic is fragrant but not browned, about 2 minutes. Stir in spinach and cook until completely wilted, about 3 minutes. Let cool.
  2. Transfer to blender and add ricotta and lemon juice; puree on high speed until smooth.

Fisherman's Pie

1 small Yukon gold potato, peeled and cubed
1/4 cup chopped onion
4 oz trout fillet ( skin removed )
1/2 cup frozen corn
1/2 cup broccoli florets
1/4 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

  1. Place potato in a small saucepan of salted water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until potato is tender, about 15 minutes. Drain.
  2. Meanwhile, in a skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add trout, browning on both sides. Stir in corn and broccoli; cover and cook until fish flakes easily when pierced with a fork and broccoli is tender, about 5 minutes. Let cool.
  3. Transfer to blender and add potatoes and cheese; puree on high speed to desired consistency.
NOTE: Substitute salmon for the trout.

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