Sunday, March 15, 2009

Fresh Foods for Baby

Just about everyone loves biting into a nice fresh piece of juicy fruit, perfectly ripe and hand chosen from the produce section (or even better, right off the tree) just for them, or a nice medly of fresh veggies cooked to perfection. Personally, I love fruits and veggies, and I love to cook them. I decided a long time ago, before Jonah was ever a twinkle in my eye, that I would put that love into preparing my infant's first foods rather than dishing them out from a jar.

Although I had made that decision, I had no idea how many benefits making baby food in the home really has. This is one of the few times in my child's life that I will have complete control over what he eats. I can make sure that during this time, he is getting foods that are wholesome, chemical free, and cooked for the optimal retention of nutrients. When I go to the store to buy foods to prepare for him, I can hand select which peaches, green beans, or carrots he will consume. I don't have to take it from the word of an advertisement that only the best fruits and veggies went into that little jar.

Cost is another major benefit to preparing your own baby food. My grandmother lovingly purchased eight jars of stage one baby food for $0.35 a jar. That seems like a good price when you have just one jar of stage one food. However, enough stage one jars to feed Jonah for two weeks is equal to the cost of feeding him homemade baby food for a month. Produce seems expensive, because you are buying larger quantities of it. When you take into account that homemade baby food freezes extremely well, you can begin thinking of it as buying your child's food in wholesale.

While it may not be as easy as opening a jar, preparing baby food is much simpler than most people think. It is no more difficult or time consuming to prepare baby food than it is to prepare meals for the rest of the family. To help with time-saving, I do two things. Sometimes I will prepare Jonah's food along with the rest of the family's food. This encourages the rest of my family to eat a variety of veggies such as squash and asparagus, that they might not usually have, because I prepare the same fruits or veggies for them that I am preparing for the baby. The other method I use is quite characteristic of my cooking habits. I will take a day to prepare several varieties of baby food and then freeze it for later use. I do this often with crock pot meals and soups for the rest of my family, and is one of my favorite past times. Here is how I would prepare a veggie such as squash, broken down into ten simple steps:

Step 1: Select the kind of squash you would like to use. Jonah and I both prefer butternut squash and acorn squash, but you can make a variety if you wish. Particularly in the fall, there is a large variety of squash to try!

Step 2: Cut the squash into large sections

Step 3. Place with the cut side down (so the skin is facing up) in a pan with 1/2 and inch of water.

Step 4: Bake at 350 degrees for about thirty minutes. Cooking time will vary depending on how big your squash is, how dense it is etc. Check with a fork and cook until tender.

Step 5: Remove from pan and allow to cool.

Step 6: Scoop the flesh from the skins using a spoon, and mash the squash in a bowl until smooth. You may need to use a blender, food processor, or strainer to get your desired consistency. If the consistency is very thick, add the cooking water or FRESH breastmilk (never add frozen breastmilk to food that you are going to freeze, as you should never re-freeze breastmilk) I usually wait until after thawing my purees to add any liquid, as they usually thaw with a more watery consistency.

Step 7: Spoon into an ice cube trays and cover with tin foil. Freeze. The cubes will allow you to thaw the proper amount of food. One cube is one ounce of food on most standard ice cube trays.

Step 8: When the cubes are frozen, pop them out of the tray and put them in air tight freezer bags, being sure to clearly label what kind of food it is as well as the date that it was prepared.

Step 9: At the beginning of each day, remove the food cubes that you plan on using from the freezer and place in the fridge. By mealtime, the food will be thawed! You can also use the microwave to thaw the food, but be sure that the food is only warm, and not hot, when serving it to your baby. ALWAYS CHECK THE TEMPERATURE OF THE FOOD before giving it to baby.

Step 10: Feed the baby and see his face light up as he experiences the wonderful tastes of fresh, homemade baby food.

Other veggies and fruits can be "oven steamed" in this same manner.

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