So tonight is my presentation and demo on making your own baby food, and I'm getting excited, kinda. I woke up with a bit of a sore throat and not feeling super well, so hopefully I can make it through tonight. I haven't had a lot of time to do as much research as I wanted, but there seems to be quite a bit of information out there! It turns out that jarred food is just as pricey as I thought it would be! Whattya know? I don't want to innnundate everyone with a lot of information, lest I offend, but, it IS my blog, so I'll just post a few bullets:
*jarred baby food is shelf stable for anwhere between 1 and 3 years. ??
*fresh food (for anyone) is always healthier.
*making your own baby food is sooo much cheaper, for example: a jar of banana baby food, the cheapest, costs 17 cents per ounce, making your own food with bananas (at 47C per #) costs 0.01 cents per ounce.
*based on research, stage 2 and stage 3 baby foods frquently contain starchy fillers and thickening agents.
*companies boast "added DHA" and other brain developement goodies. This nutritional need is filled by breastmilk or formula, and more doesn't mean better. What your body doesn't need, it excretes.
Ok, done! Now that the hard stuff is out there, I can move on to the fun stuff. . . actually making your own stuff!
Stage 1: This is probably the more time consuming of the three stages, just because the consistency needs to be pretty smooth and that takes another 30 seconds to a minute in the food processor. Prettymuch anything can be ground up. Typically, I will either boil or roast the food. I buy fresh frozen peas and boil them, then grind them up. If you are worried about the waxy shell, you can mash them through a strainer, but after a while, you won't need to do this as baby is able to take on chunkier stuff. For yams, I put them whole on a baking sheet and roast for 45" to and hour or more, depending on the size. I actually do this in the evening, so when I take them out, I let them cool overnight (they take a bit to cool). In the morning, they are nice and cool, and the skins are loose and peel right off. Then I pop them in the cuisinart (I have a mini one the cost about 30 bucks) and puree until smooth. You may need to add a bit of water to thin it out because yams can be pretty thick!
Stage 2: The in-between stage. Baby is able to take in chunkier foods, but not quite ready for mashed up table foods yet. Baby should be about 7 or 8 months at this stage. This is pretty much the same routine, but this time, you don't grind up for as long, leaving the food just bit chunkier. Depending on what your pediatrician says, you my be able to start meats at this time. I started with the ever chipper chicken, and just made sure that it was ground up pretty well. Don't get scared, because baby does have some experience with eating now, so you don't need a "puree" of chicken, but you DO need a very fine crumble to start, almost like the consistency of parmesean cheese. When you feed meats, keep in mind that it does take longer to chew, so don't rush. To make the chicken, I place frozen breasts on a baking sheet and drizzle with just a bit of olive oil (remember, it's a good fat!) and roast at 375 degrees for 45" to an hour, depending on how many you're roasting. Let cool and cube, then into the cuisinart!
Stage 3: Baby is almost ready for table foods, and at this stage, should be at least 9-10 months. Foods can have chunks and some foods you can put on the tray for baby to pick up and eat herself. This stage is fun, because you can make different food combos. There are tons of recipes online for baby food. One that I make at home for Marin is chicken fajitas. I roast chicken and grind that up (throw it into a bowl), then I sautee some onions and peppers, grind it up too (throw it into the same bowl as the chicken) and then I take some corn tortillas and grind them up. Everything gets tossed in the same bowl, and I may add some water to make it more of a wet mixture. Then I put it into ice cube trays and freeze. Voila! Now you have chicken fajitas to last baby for almost a month!
*If you don't have a cuisinart, I have a friend that uses her blender, or you can get a baby food grinder for pretty cheap.
*You don't need fancy freezing trays (I only have 2), you can use ice cube trays instead. After the food is frozen and ready to come out, just tip the tray sideways and run hot tap water along the backside to loosen the food. Then twist the tray and dump into a labeled freezer bag.
*Once baby is eating stage 3, this is a good time to introduce herbs and spices (not spicy spices) to her pallett. Adding a bit of oregano or basil to chicken and maybe cinnamon to apples. Just don't overdo it. Our taste buds are pretty jaded, so what we may think isn't a lot, may be overload for baby. Just a pinch to a batch will do.
*It IS okay for baby to have milk products (referring to stage 3) before the age of one! The reason pediaticians say babies should not have cows milk until after the age of one is so that parents do not replace breastmilk or formula with cows milk. I had to confirm this one with my pediatrician though! So, making a modified chicken tetrazzini for baby (which DOES have cows milk) it ok. Just no replacing anything! :)
*Make sure all food is fresh or COOKED! You don't want botulism spores getting into your baby food (not common at all, but you do need to be careful).
*Just remember. Your baby will not be eating baby food forever, so when it seems like it's a daunting task that takes way too much time (it doesn't though), just know that your baby will only need baby food for around 6 months or so before she can eat table food.
*Pre-packaged toddler meals are SUCH a waste of money. You can make your own food, and you don't even have to grind it!
There are some great websites out there that offer tips and hints on making your own stuff. It really is sooooo easy, and I know that Kris and I have saved a bunch of money making our own stuff. Media advetisements make a lot of people believe that jarred baby food is the only stuff to feed your baby, and that it is healthier. The truth is that you CAN make your own, and BETTER stuff, for WAAAAYY cheaper. Why pay someone else to do it?