It’s time to introduce your baby to food outside the breast or the bottle - will it be from the supermarket shelf or homemade? Jarred baby food is convenient because it’s already prepared and needs no special storage or handling until it’s opened. Making homemade baby food, though, allows you to select the freshest ingredients and make your own food combinations. And it’s more nutritious because you won’t be cooking with the higher temperatures needed to prolong shelf life. Making your own is also easier than you might think.
Here’s an orange-y treat for your little one – and easy to prepare. Peel carrots and sweet potatoes and cut into slices – cut the sweet potatoes into smaller slices or chunks so they’ll cook in the same time as the carrots. Steam the veggies until they’re tender – about 8-10 minutes – then purée them. For a sweeter meal, bake them for about 40 minutes at 200 degrees – you can even keep the skin on the potatoes and scoop them out when done.
Ah, my little sweet pea! Peas are a snap to make and yummy to eat. Just rinse the pods before opening to remove the peas and steam them a bit longer than you would for bigger kids. For infants, it’s best to push them through a strainer after puréeing so that the skins are removed. Make a combination of puréed peas, carrots and a touch of fresh mint for a delicious and nutritious meal.
No cooking required! Avocados are a great starter food for infants and home cooks. Just wash this fruit before cutting into it – as you would other fruits and vegetables, remove the seed, and scoop out the buttery flesh. Mash with some banana and add some yoghurt. You’re done. You can store unused avocado by placing it immediately into the freezer; just remove the peel and use cling wrap or a freezer bag.
Perhaps a little grain to go with that avocado mash? You’ll find that cereals are super easy to make and there’s so much you can add to them. Start by milling organic brown rice in a blender or food processor, add the rice and twice its volume in liquid – use water, breast milk, baby formula, or a combination, and simmer over a low heat for 20 minutes. When the cereal has cooled, add the avocado and banana mash, and definitely some applesauce.
It’s important to mill grains before cooking them for younger infants. Oatmeal, whether rolled or steel-cut, is no exception. And like other cereals, it’s perfect by itself but even better with fruit added. Use mango, for its honey-sweetness, or some papaya, or both! It’s best to purée mango as the flesh close to the pit is fibrous, so you should also cut well away from the centre – you can save the rest of the flesh for yourself. With papaya you’ll need to scoop out the seeds and fibre at the centre before mashing. Then just swirl the fruit into the cereal.
Apples and blueberries go very well together. Whether for your baby, or for yourself, this fruit combination is a treat. You’ll need to peel and cut up the apples, then gently steam them along with the blueberries for about 4 minutes before puréeing. Think about adding mashed ripe pear – or steamed if not that ripe – to the mix, and even add it to cereals. Soon, other fruit combinations will come to mind.
Winter squash and broccoli for a lovely supper. When cooked – especially when baked – winter squash lends a nice sweetness to other veggies. This combination of broccoli and winter squash (this includes pumpkin!) works really well together and is rich vitamins and minerals. The squash may be steamed – peeled, seeds removed and cut up – or baked. For the broccoli, steam just the florets – the stems are still too fibrous for an infant. You can also use sweet potato instead of squash.
Chicken dinner. If you’re going to introduce meat into your baby’s diet, chicken is the way to go. You can boil, steam or bake the chicken, and when it’s thoroughly cooked purée it. Add the liquid left from steaming or boiling, or, if you’ve baked it, add water, breast milk or stock. Add a vegetable purée to the chicken – carrot or sweet potato work well for this – and you can also add a bit of fruit purée – blueberries, mango or applesauce are great!
Pasta, finally! Pastina, those tiny pasta bits, are a great way to introduce solid texture to your baby’s food - usually between 10 and 12 months of age. Cook the pastina in vegetable or chicken stock, or add it to vegetable soup. If you’re preparing vegetable soup, ensure that the carrots or potatoes are cut into small pieces, and that everything is cooked until soft and mashable. Your child will probably remove the pasta from his mouth to have a look, but that’s also part of his culinary education.