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Is it wildly unrealistic to make your own baby food? After all, you've just stumbled through the wilderness of the newborn days. Now is hardly the time to embark upon an ambitious DIY project like making your own purées when you could just pick up some pouches from the store, right?
The idea of following nutritious, delicious, super-easy baby food recipes might sound like a mission that no sleep-deprived, overextended parent should ever attempt, but the truth is, it's the easiest cooking you'll ever do.
Even if you're the kind of person who would never, ever prep and freeze a month's worth of dinners at a time, this approach is brilliant for baby food, and it will help preserve your sanity. Simple purées are easy to make in bulk, pop into adorable ice cube trays, and freeze until you're ready to nudge them into your little one's mouth.
Ready to get started? First, make sure that baby is, too (usually when she is between four and six months old, but — as is true of all these suggestions — check with your pediatrician). Then identify a free hour or two to devote to the project. The reward? A rainbow of neatly labeled homemade purées that will make you feel like a superhero.
Choose your ingredients
First, start by selecting eight to 10 ingredients to transform into individual purées. (If that seems like overkill, scale back to what works for you.) Sweet, non-acidic fruits such as apples, pears, strawberries, avocados, bananas, cherries, and mangoes are ideal. As for veggies, you can choose a mix of mild-tasting ones such as butternut squash, corn, carrot, sweet potato, and zucchini, along with more robust options like spinach and broccoli. In general, 1/2 pound of a fruit or vegetable will yield 1 1/2 to 2 cups of purée. Younger babies will generally eat just 1 to 2 tablespoons per serving, since they will still be getting most of their nutrition from breast milk or formula.
One at a time!
Keep each purée focused on just one main ingredient so you can introduce each food to the baby one by one — and mix and match them later (see below). Keep your prep and cooking areas and tools scrupulously clean to avoid any risk of cross-contamination: Most pediatricians recommendoffering just one new type of food for several days to rule out intolerances and allergies before proceeding with the next. After a few weeks, many parents choose to speed up the process by waiting just a day or two. (Again, discuss this with your child's doctor.)
Time-saver alert! Bananas and avocados are so soft and yielding that they don't need to be cooked. Simply peel, pit, and mash them in a bowl to the desired consistency, thinning with breast milk, formula, or filtered water as desired. New eaters may appreciate a thinner texture, while babies and toddlers with more eating experience might be able to wrap their little heads around thicker, rustic-textured purées. (To freeze, stir a bit of lemon juice into the purée to prevent browning.)
Aim for 1/2 pound to 2/3 pound of fruit per batch. (Alternatively, you can use a 10-ounce bag of frozen fruit.) If using fresh produce, wash, peel, and prep as needed, then cut into 1-inch chunks. Bring 1/2 cup of filtered water to a simmer in a medium saucepan, add the fruit, and simmer until fork-tender, 5 to 10 minutes. Let cool in the pan, then transfer the fruit and liquid to a blender or food processor and purée until smooth, adding more water (or breast milk or formula) as needed to adjust the consistency. You can add a pinch of ground cinnamon for flavor, too.
For most vegetables, the easiest all-purpose method to ensure vibrant purées is steaming. Aim for 1/2 pound to 2/3 pound of vegetables per batch. (Or use a 10-ounce bag of frozen vegetables). If using fresh produce, peel, stem, and prep as needed, then cut into 1-inch chunks or pieces. Steam over an inch of water until soft when poked with a fork. (Cook times will vary with the ingredient. Since frozen foods are usually just par-cooked, they definitely need some cooking time, too.)
To save chopping time when making sweet potatoes or butternut squash, you can roast them instead of steaming. Sweet potatoes can be wrapped in foil and baked, whereas butternut squash (and other winter squash) can be halved, seeded, and baked cut side down. When tender, simply scoop out the flesh and purée.
To purée, transfer your cooked fruit or vegetable to a blender or food processor, and add ⅓ to ½ cup of filtered water, breast milk, or formula. Purée to the desired consistency, adding more liquid to thin as needed. And don't be afraid to taste the purée; it should taste good to you, too!
How to freeze and thaw baby food
To freeze your homemade baby food, simply spoon or pour the purée into a clean ice cube tray or dedicated baby food tray (we particularly like the Weesprout Baby Food Freezer Tray), and freeze until solid. Transfer cubes to a freezer bag, label and date them — purées will stay good in the freezer for up to 3 months — and stash in the freezer. Thaw purées overnight in the refrigerator or in the microwave (this set of microwave-safe bowls is particularly handy for thawing — and for saving leftovers!).
Mix and match purées to make these delicious combos
Once your baby is happily eating all of the single-variety purées you've made, and you've watched out for potential allergens like the good parent you are, you can get to the fun part: mixing and matching for fantastic combinations. To combine, simply thaw one cube of each variety, then stir together before gently reheating. Some favorite combinations include:
- Butternut + apple + spinach
- Kale + apple + carrot
- Cherry + pear + cauliflower + cinnamon
- Sweet potato + apple + blueberry
- Banana + peach + avocado
And congratulate yourself on your hard — but not so hard? — work. This is your baby's first step on the road to being a curious, happy eater.
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