Did you ever cringe when you go to feed your baby something from a jar of processed baby food?
I mean, have you ever actually TASTED that Gerber Chicken and Noodles, Turkey and Rice, or Ravioli Dinner that you're feeding to your babe? I have. They are...bland at best, and, dare I say, almost inedible at worst? Oh, the fruits from the jars are never a problem for my babies when it comes to taste, but some of the veggies, and the mixed dinners? Just ew. Gross, gross, gross.
Baby's face tells the truth, people.
I sorta feel guilty feeding my kids things that I personally would never think of eating. (and that's coming from a veggie-loving vegetarian mama).
Oh, I still TRY to push it in their mouths sometimes, because I am a busy mama who can't always whip up a batch of homemade baby food any old time I feel like it, but what a difference it makes when I do!
I have made my own baby food for all 4 of our kids, as well as purchasing store-bought. I do use both, but I feel so much better when I can make my own little tasty & nutritious dinners for my wee ones, and see them gobble them up with joy.
With my second child, someone gave me this wonderful baby food cookbook, and it has become my most favorite resource for cookin' up gourmet meals for my babies.
Yes, that's right: gourmet. And healthy to boot.
Each of my kids went ga-ga for any recipe I would cook from this book, and their toddler-aged siblings always wanted what the baby was eating. This is real food, with real flavor, and is a great way to introduce babies to all the savory dishes that they'll be expected to eat in a few months, and to do it without resistance!
Recipes call for onions and garlic, fresh herbs, cheeses, and spices, yet they aren't difficult to make.
Hallelujah, there is something beyond pureed sweet potatoes and carrots.
This book tells you what purees are good for each stage, and the recipes become more flavor-complex as they get older, like this dish I've made with tilapia:
Fillet of Flounder with Carrot, Cheese and Tomato
To be honest, I breastfeed exclusively for 7-8 months, and at that point, we do sort of a fast track to table foods, so I have mostly used this book for the savory dinners that call for more ingredients and have more textures (for babies 8 mos-1 year and beyond). Also because fruit purees are just so easy to make day to day.
But of course you could use this book from as early as 4 months to learn how to make and when to introduce each type of food. For new mamas, there are many simple fruit AND veggie purees provided as well.
This week my little 9 1/2 month old buddy is enjoying one of our favorite recipes of the book: Mini Minestrone. Lots of real veggies in this, perfect for little fingers to pick up on their own, and it calls for Pastini-those itty bitty star shaped pastas which is a great "first pasta".
This recipe is seriously so great. Make it for your munchkin once you notice all he/she wants to do is pick up little bits of this and that and put the in their mouth (or perhaps when you feel you've been overloading them on finger snacks like rice puffs and yogurt meltaways).
I like to put a bit of the Minestrone on my little guy's tray for him to pick up, and mix the rest of it (with the liquid and pasta stars) into another puree so he gets used to having chunkier textures in his food. I'm telling you. This is THE way to introduce them to veggie finger foods. I give it to my boy along with a piece of wheat toast (great for teething too).
Gotta love the little pasta stars all over the chin.
Here's your recipe for the Mini Minestrone:
Once you get going, it's fun to make 2 or 3 recipes at once (like one Sat. morning a month).
I also made a meal of Chicken with Squash and Onion that is seriously so yummy, and works great for mixing with the veggies from the Minestrone. I adapted it from this other favorite recipe from the book, Chicken with Sweet Potato and Apple...(notice the note on the side from my past baby--I wrote in "double at least" because it this stuff used to get inhaled by my Josiah when he was this age.
And finally, while I was at it last weekend, I also made up a batch of Vegetables with Cheese Sauce--cauliflower, broccoli, carrots and peas are all steamed and combined with a simple cheese sauce that you whip up while the veggies cook. I could seriously serve up the veggies with cheese sauce to my whole family, it's so good, but it gets blended to desired consistency for my little man. He loves this stuff, and, again, I feel great that he is eating so many vegetables with such enthusiasm.
Other tried-and-true favorites:
Chicken with Leek, Carrot and Peas
And oh my, this one is delish too.
Tomato, Cauliflower and Carrot with Basil
Here is a batch of yummy stuff ready for freezing and/ or refrigerating.
About the Egg Cartons:
I don't use ice cube trays because we have an ice maker in our fridge and so we don't use those ice trays for anything else, and I got tired of storing them over the years. So I just fill an empty egg carton or two, then pop them out when they're frozen just like you would with the ice cube tray (works best if you wait about 5 minutes or run hot water on the back of the carton). Then I can just pitch the used carton, and pop the cubes into a plastic ziplock.
I also save my jars and plastic containers from store-bought baby foods. The plastic ones freeze great, and while the jars do not, I still use them to refrigerate my baby's meals for the next day or two.
If you've never made your own baby foods, I promise, it's really not as overwhelming as you may think.
I only make baby food for about 3 months total with each child. It seems like they always move so quickly onto table food, that it's really just this short period of time where I have to puree special batches for them.
It only takes a couple hours of my time, and then baby is good to go for the month.
The best part--I love knowing my baby is easting healthy, tasty food that I've prepared with fresh, unprocessed ingredients.
You just can't beat that.
Give this book a try; it's filled with full-color pictures and lots of great, adaptable recipes.
Happy Baby Food Making!
*If you have a favorite tried-and-true baby food recipe, please share it with us in the comments!*