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!

Mom’s Apple Crisp

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It’s 4th of July! And nothing says ‘Merica like an apple crisp recipe from a mom who taught you to cook and spends her days playing jazz and volunteering at her church. My mom is the reason I cook. When we were young, every night for dinner we had a choice between doing dishes or helping mom cook. My siblings chose cleaning for the lower time commitment aspect, and I chose cooking because it was more fun. My siblings are smart, but no one in the family can boil water better than I can.

This recipe is one of my mom’s favorites. It’s delicious, crowd-pleasing, easy, and can be made ahead and frozen for later. I’m pretty sure my mom always has a rotating frozen apple crisp in her freezer. The only thing you really need to know about this recipe before we get started is that it’s really addicting. Really. And you will, somehow, justify eating this with each meal including as your morning breakfast (it’s apples!). You’ve been warned, now let’s get cooking!

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Moms are the BEST cooking buddies! And yes, you do need this Apple Peeler – Corer from Williams – Sonoma to make this recipe much easier to make

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Apples galore!

Ingredients
1 1/2c flour
1 1/2c sugar
1tsp salt
1tsp cinnamon
2tsp nutmeg
2 sticks COLD butter
3-4lbs apples (fuji or gala)

Instructions

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees

In a large bowl, sift or fork-mix together flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Cut butter into small squares. Crumbling the butter in your fingers into the dry ingredients  until it resembles a crumbly texture (see photo below).

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Yup, you actually do need to measure

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Make sure to mix your dry ingredients before adding your butter

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Here’s the right consistency for your crumble top

Use apple peeler-corer (I like this one from Williams Sonoma) to peel and core apples. Cut up apple into 1/3 or 1/4 pieces and place them into a large, 16 3/4″ x 10 1/2 glass rectangular bake, piling the apples in until rounded (see photo below).  Smoosh the crumble topping on top of apples (see photo below). Place the glass baker on a cookie sheet. This helps catch any drippings when you put it in the oven.

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Make sure your apples are nice and piled up – they cook down about 1/3 in the oven

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Smoosh the toppings down on your apples so it’s nice and compact before baking

At this point, you can wrap in aluminum foil and freeze for an easy make-ahead meal. I swear, my mom always has this in her freezer for a last-minute dessert!

Bake in 375 degree oven for 50-60 minutes, letting cool before serving. I serve this with vanilla ice cream and (shhhh) I also eat this as breakfast!

Ta-Da! ‘Merican apple crisp!