Homemade Baby Food: A How-To Guide
By the time it gets to your baby's spoon, baby food has absorbed contaminants from its plastic container or the lining of the metal jar-top. It may be made with food containing pesticides and other toxic elements. You can control a great deal of what goes into your baby's food by making it at home.
Buy Organic Ingredients
The process of pureeing can concentrate any pesticides that might have been used in the growing process, so it's important to obtain organic ingredients for making baby food. Even non-organic baby food bought from brands like Gerber or Beech-Nut would be made with minimal pesticides compared with your baby food made with non-organic produce.
It is especially important to buy organic for foods in which the exterior or peel is eaten, such as berries, or foods that grow in the ground, such as root vegetables. Pesticide residues can remain on the exterior of berries and other thin-skinned produce, and even absorb into the pulp. Potatoes and sweet potatoes can also absorb large amounts of pesticides because of the ground water they absorb.
Mill, Blender, or Food Processor?
Your choice of pureeing equipment depends on your other culinary pursuits. If you love to cook and bake already, a food processor might be the right choice for you. If you just started noticing your kitchen when you used it to prepare bottles, a hand-turned food mill is a less expensive choice with low-commitment.
I would advise against using a blender for making baby food, unless it is a high-powered, expensive model that can also be used for grinding. I find that pulps tend to congregate at the bottom of my blender, catching in the mechanism and stalling it. I also find that the blender does not puree evenly, particularly not with thicker purees. I get lumps. I prefer my food processor, and personally, wouldn't use anything else.
Just about all baby food must first be cooked. Two exceptions to this rule are bananas and avocados.
Using one adult-sized serving of whatever food you choose (i.e. one sweet potato, a cup of berries, a nectarine), place the food, peeled, into a double boiler. A metal colander inside a boiling pot of water will also work. The idea is to steam the food, collecting the steaming liquid separately for addition to the puree. Steam the food until very tender. The food should be starting to wilt when you remove it.
In order to preserve color, you can blanche the food by quickly immersing it for a minute in cold water before transferring it to the food processor. Blanching has the added advantage of stopping the cooking process.
If you're using a food processor, you'll put in the pureeing blade (see your manual). Place the food inside and close the lid. You should have removed all peels, pits, seeds, etc. Pour a small amount of the cooking liquid into the processor using the chute.
Flip the switch on. Puree for about a minute until smooth. Stir and repeat if necessary.
I like to use ice cube trays. And not just any ice cube trays, either. I use the perfectly cubical silicone ice cube trays. They work like a charm. Pour the food into the tray, scrape the top with a spatula or knife in order to smooth out your "cubes", cover with plastic wrap, and freeze.
After 24 hours, you can remove the cubes from the tray, and place them inside a labeled freezer bag. Remove the air from the bag before returning the baby food to the freezer.
You can also use the cylindrical freezer containers with screw-on tops, which I have also used quite a bit. They actually lock onto their tray, which is very convenient. Plus, they are BPA-free, which gives you peace of mind.
Depending on your baby's appetite, remove one to three cubes of each food at a time, place them inside a bowl, and thaw. If you need to thaw quickly, place the baby's food bowl inside a large bowl of warm water and let it sit for a few minutes. You may also choose to microwave, but be cautioned that microwaving baby food can produce hot spots. If you do microwave, set it for 30 seconds only, and stir well. If the food is too hot, you can add cool breast milk or formula to the food in order to quickly cool it.
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