Baby Food!

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It’s baby food time! I’ve been slaving over making food, remaking food, spoiling food, wasting food, and defrosting/re-freezing food until my husband asked me if I was spending too much time on food. Which is his polite way of saying I’m spending too much time on food. Since I’ve learned a bit from my own mistakes, I thought I’d share what I know so far and the foods I’ve been making.

Let me just lay out a big disclaimer: I am not a doctor. I am not your doctor. I don’t have your baby, I only have my baby. Before you commence with baby food, please check with your doctor and do your own research.

Now let’s go make baby food!

Baby food makers: I researched quite a few, perhaps all since there aren’t that many. Lord knows I love a new kitchen toy, but I couldn’t justify a baby food maker. Most of them either blended (like my immersion blender), or steamed (like a steamer on a stove) or did steaming + blending (like I myself can do). Also, none of them have a one-touch button to steam and blend. The best ones require you to steam, then take it a part and add a new piece, then blend, and then clean all the parts. Sounds a whole lot like using a pot and a blender and cleaning those up. Hence, no new toy.

Meals made same as family meals: By far, the easiest way to make baby food is to feed him whatever you’re cooking and eating. I just make his with less butter and salt and blend it up for a delicious meal. If you like it – your baby will like it. For a finger food option, I break off small pieces, mush them up a bit, and give them to my son. His favorite is pizza (so bad, but so good!).

Baby led vs Spoon fed: Again, I’m not your doctor, so please check with them and do your own research. I found that babies are going to do whatever they are going to do. You can work with them to train them into one kind of feeding or the other, but eventually they’ll do both. My favorite article on starting solids is on Lucie’s List, which is a great overall resource for guidance and product reviews. My son started with spoon-fed baby cereal (available at most grocery stores in the baby isle) mixed with formula and then avocado by me finger feeding. And don’t worry if they hate it for the first time (or 10 times) that your baby tries the food. In fact, I’m pretty sure that the only reason my son ate the avocado is because he accidentally inhaled it and then decided he liked the taste.

Single servings for blended food & storage: another disclaimer – this is just what I follow based on my experience, so please do your own research and make your decisions accordingly.

    • Have beef or chicken broth on hand in the freezer as all meats need a liquid to blend well. My son doesn’t like non-blended meat because it tickles his throat and he’ll immediately cough it up
    • Steam if needed to soften food
    • Blend using whatever blender you have on hand. I use my immersion blender.
    • Make 2-3 cups of each kind of food at a time
    • Make multiple kinds of food at a time as this is a time saver and you can mix items together for a full meal (yams & chicken are my son’s favorite!)
    • In small containers, spoon in a 1-2 serving size meal. Small servings are easier to defrost and you can take them to go as needed
    • Put one of the small containers in the fridge, the rest in the freezer
    • For the remaining food, store in a larger container in the freezer
    • Most food stays about three days in the fridge and three months in the freezer. But your kiddo will probably eat it fast enough that you don’t have to worry about storage time
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Choose a variety of foods to introduce your baby to all different flavors
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Have all your tools ready to go!

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Gently steam veggies before blending. I use a steamer on the stove

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Peas – always a baby favorite!

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Single serving size makes it easier to defrost and take your baby food to go

Here is a list of items I’ve made and notes I have on each. I’ve organized these by spoon fed and finger food options, but they are interchangeable. Spoon fed can be cut into small, thin chunks instead of blending, and finger food can be blended. Babies should be eating a mixture of foods from all categories for a well-balanced meal

Spoon fed options

  • Yogurt: Use full-fat yogurt with very little sugar. Many grocery stores even have baby yogurt, which is great since it already is full-fat with low sugar and the servings are very small (won’t spoil as quickly as a large container). Plain, Greek yogurt mixed with blended fruit is a great option, but make sure to get a small size unless you’re also going to eat it yourself
  • Yams, carrots, apples, squash, pears: Chop, steam for about 10-15 minutes, then blend. These can be mixed with lots of different proteins and spices such as cinnamon
  • Corn, green beans, squash, peas: No chopping needed, just steam until fork-soft then blend
  • Stone fruit: Steam for 15 minutes, then chop small or blend. Note that some of these fruits will just dissolve when you try to chop or blend them, like nectarines, but these are still a great flavor add to cottage cheese or ricotta
  • Berries: Steam gently first, but only for a minute or two. Berries will quickly get too soft and dissolve into the steamer. Blend, but just a little bit otherwise you have jam on your hands. Which isn’t terrible either, but may not be your intention
  • Eggs: Either hard boiled or scrambled. No blender necessary as these are easily smashed by a fork
  • Smashed avocado & banana: Smash and feed!
  • Ricotta: Mix with blended fruits and also enjoy it as dessert yourself
  • Melons: No steaming needed, just blend. However, these pulverize into juice quickly. I end up just spoon-feeding him this “juice” for a morning smoothie
  • Cottage cheese: use full-fat. Can be mixed with berries
  • Spices and herbs: Mix these into foods to expose your baby to lots of different flavors
  • Mushrooms, quinoa and leafy greens: Steam gently then blend. Great additions to proteins, but I’ve never been able to convince my son to eat them by themselves. Have you tried blended mushrooms? YUCK

Finger food options:

  • Cheerios: Baby favorite!
  • Mum-Mums: Available in most grocery stores, Mum-Mums look like long crackers, are soft for baby digestion and are easy to hold. These were the first items that my son would self-feed and they’re great for grab-and-go
  • Avocado & berries: Good for baby’s dexterity because it’s slippery! It is very important that these are cut down to bite-sized pieces ESPECIALLY the banana, as its one of the highest for choking hazards given it’s cylindrical shape
  • Cheese: Cut into small, skinny slices. Mild flavors that are not soft (like brie) are a good start. Think cheddar, Swiss, Colby
  • Scrambled eggs: Break into small pieces first
  • Spaghetti: Limit sauce to reduce mess and cut noodles into 1-2 inch lengths
  • Ravioli: Buy small ravioli, overcook it, cool, and cut into 4ths
  • Spiral Noodles: Cut in small pieces and mix with protein, herbs, and a little sauce
  • Citrus fruits, watermelon, raspberries: Cut up in bite-size pieces. Note that the fruit has to be soft, otherwise your baby will likely scarf it down whole.
  • Anything you’re eating!

Hopefully these ideas will get your brains a’churnin and, at least encourage you that baby food making can be fun, creative, easy, and more than just squash and peas!

BBQ Pork Sliders- TWO ways!

‘Tis the season, y’all! BBQ, pool, rose’, sunburns and more BBQ! This year, for the 4th of July, we headed up to a friend’s house in Napa mid-day, child in tow, and offered to do the first night’s dinner. We knew it had to be easy and something we could cook ahead.

Enter crockpot BBQ pork sliders. TWO WAYS! Both sliders are made with Williams Sonoma pulled pork braising sauce and their delicious Black Garlic BBQ sauce. The first version is a classic: store-bought coleslaw and extra crunchy pickles. The second version is a California twist: kale and avocado (because, why not?). The pork can be made two days ahead and is actually better if you do as the flavors will blend even more.

Side note: if you want to know how obsessed Simon and I are with easy to cook roasts, check out these recipes: Osso Buco, Zinfandel Short Ribs, and Pork Shoulder.

Let’s start with the Pulled Pork…

PULLED PORK

Ingredients:
3lb pork shoulder or pork butt (PS, they’re actually the same thing)
2tbs vegetable oil
1 Williams Sonoma Chipotle & Honey pork braising sauce

Directions:
Note: although William’s Sonoma provides instructions for pulled pork with their braising liquids, it wasn’t quite right with our Cuisinart slow cooker. Below is what worked for us.

Heat a cast iron pan on medium-high and add vegetable oil until shimmering. Cut pork shoulder down to thin strips, about 3 inches long by 1 inch wide. Lightly salt and sear until all sides are browned and a little crusty.

Add pork, 1 jar of Williams Sonoma pulled pork braising liquid and 1/2 c water to a crockpot. Set on high heat and cook for 5-6 hours until pork is very tender. Fork tear the pork apart for serving.

Pulled pork is best if made 1-2 days ahead and kept in the refrigerator as this allows flavors to blend.

And now…on to the versions…

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Classic Pulled Pork recipe

CLASSIC PULLED PORK

Pulled Pork from from above
Coleslaw kit (I bought mine from Safeway in the produce section)
Vlassic pickles (they really are the crunchiest)
Williams Sonoma black garlic BBQ sauce
Slider buns or small burger buns, lightly toasted (I bought mine at Safeway)

The perfect classic pork sliders should be made in this order:
Slider buns
Pulled pork
Coleslaw
Williams Sonoma BBQ sauce
Vlassic Pickles
Smoosh down before eating 🙂

That’s it! Easy-peasy pork sliders for your pool, sun and family festivities this summer!

PS the salad on the side from the picture above is this recipe from Epicurious.

California Pulled Pork recipe

CALIFORNIA VERSION

Pulled Pork from above
Kale
Olive oil
Avocado
Williams Sonoma black garlic BBQ sauce
Slider buns or small burger buns, lightly toasted (I bought mine at Safeway)

Massage the kale with about 2tbs of olive oil (use enough so the kale doesn’t look slimy) for 2 minutes. Alternatively, and what we did, was made this recipe from Epicurious as it added a zing from dijon mustard and crunch from almonds. Also, it’s the same salad we served on the side, so double bonus for easy!

The perfect California pork sliders should be made in this order:
Slider buns
Pulled pork
Kale
Avocado
Williams Sonoma BBQ sauce

These sliders are the perfect match for your outdoor lunches, dinner, pools, kiddos, and rose’ during summer breaks and delicious for leftovers as well.