Friday, August 27, 2010

Chef-ing for the Littlest Member of the Family 2: The Whys, the Whats, the Hows

Making your own baby food sounds incredibly easy, somewhat daunting, and totally unnecessary all at the same time, doesn’t it? A lot of you might wonder why in the world someone would even bother; after all, there are gazillions of products on the market prepared just for baby, under nice, sanitary conditions. So I thought I’d take some time today to run down reasons for doing it yourself when it’s not strictly necessary, to discuss the equipment that I use to make Jake’s food, and a little bit about how I actually do it in general.


I make food for Jake because I don’t feed the rest of my family out of jars and boxes. Jeremiah and I try, whenever possible, to prepare our meals from whole foods, and to use processed foods as little as possible. But when it came time to feed Elle, I happily reached for jars of fruits and veggies, pastas and puddings. It occurred to me, though, that the consistency of the food was very runny, and it tasted sour. Pears didn’t taste like pears, and I wasn’t even going to brave the green beans. Why would I accept processed food for these little guys? What was the manufacturer leaving out to get that nice, smooth consistency…or worse…what were they adding? Which leads me to the next point…

My food tastes better. Try this: peel a Gala apple, chop it up, then steam it until tender, puree it, then taste it. Now compare this with baby food. Yours is much better than theirs, isn’t it? Sweeter. Apple-ier. And now Jake knows what an apple tastes like. It took me about 4 years to get Elle to try an apple; once I did, she ate it. But I’d prefer not to go through that again, thank you very much. I also control what goes into my food. There’s a reason why baby food peas are so beautifully devoid of all the pea skins that mine stubbornly have: they’re strained out. And with them goes nutrients that will make my Sweetpea grow, and fiber that will help his little belly work right. In a few months, I plan to stop peeling apples and potatoes, which will make his food even more nutritious. I doubt Beechnut Stage 4 Applesauce does the same.

Money, Honey. To be fair, I haven’t done a cost analysis of my baby food. But I know that I can buy bananas for about sixty cents a pound, and five or six bananas will give me well over a week’s worth of bananas for Baby Boy’s cereal. Last time I checked, the Gerber food that I preferred was 10 two-packs for ten dollars. It would seem that I’m coming out ahead.

But, what about variety, you say? I know, that has concerned me a time or two as well. After all, I don’t have a deep freezer dedicated to making meals ahead of time. But then, I thought, Jake spent the first five months of his life drinking only milk, day in and day out, around the clock. It’s not like variety is a big issue for him. So, if he’s getting two or three different veggies in a week, and the same with fruits, in addition to some grains, then he should be perfectly happy…and indeed, he seems to be.


So, there’s your rationale for spending extra time preparing baby food. But it has to be difficult to do, right? Well, I haven’t found it to be. Sure, I spend a little extra time in the kitchen, but that’s not really so shocking, seeing as I have, you know, another child now.

As I mentioned yesterday, there are some wonderful products out there that will do everything for you except actually peel and chop the carrots (or sweet potatoes, or plums.) If that makes your life simpler, please have at it. For me, these are the basic tools that I find indispensable to baby food making and storage:

Steamer basket and a big enough saucepan to put it in
Stick (immersion) blender
Ice cube trays and silicone muffin cups
Freezer bags
Little glass bowls with lids

And…that’s pretty much it. I mean, of course you need a vegetable peeler, a knife, a cutting board, a bowl or two…this corer gizmo that I have from Pampered Chef comes in handy, and I love PC’s glass Prep Bowl set for storage once I thaw out the food. But I didn’t spend $200 outfitting my kitchen to manufacture baby food.


Primarily, I make food and store it in the freezer. Once I produce a batch of apples, for instance, I spoon them into ice cube trays, which I freeze on a sheet pan. I use the sheet pan for a couple of reasons. First, anything that is placed in my little freezer has to balance on top of something else; hot apple puree balances best on a flat surface. Second, when it comes time to pop the applesauce cubes out of their trays, better to twist and poke and prod onto a clean surface, like, say, the sheet pan. Jake’s food does take up a little space, but I think he’s worth it. I did find that, when I ran out of room in my ice cube trays, silicone muffin cups are great! I like them better than the trays, actually, because it’s very easy to get the food out of them.

Tomorrow, we’ll start talking about all the things you can make for Baby when you make your own food. Hopefully, I’ll give you some ideas that maybe you hadn’t considered before. Because you’ve got to feed the little punkins. It might as well be interesting.

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