Monday, May 3, 2010

Baby Food - Mix n' Match Meals!

I love freezing my homemade baby food in ice cube trays for several reasons:

  1. It makes it easy to try out one ingredient at a time on your baby to introduce them to new flavors and make sure they don't have an allergy.

  2. Portion control is so easy!  When first starting out, your baby might only eat one or two cubes at a meal.  You can gradually bump them up, one cube at a time, so you don't overfeed or end up throwing food out if they didn't eat the entire portion.

  3. The cubes make it so simple to create unique meals and flavors by mixing and matching.
So, that's what I'm going to talk about today - Mix n' Match Meals for your baby!

Broccoli, Sweet Potatoes

Step One - Single Indredient Cubes
The first step is to make and store several kinds of single-ingredient purees.  My favorite veggies for mixing and matching are sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, squash, peas, spinach.  All of these are simple to prepare, especially if you do a double or triple batch right away to make sure you've got plenty of cubes on hand.  For broccoli and carrots, I recommend steaming them (if you have a steamer) to lock in as many nutrients as possible while still getting 'em nice and mushy.  Sweet potatoes and squash seem to be easiest for me to do on the stovetop with a pot of water.  Basically, just peel and chop them and dump them into a saucepan.  Cover with water, bring to a boil.  Continue to cook at a low boil for 12-15 minutes or until they are soft enough to puree.  For peas, I prefer to use frozen for convenience sake and they're just as nutritious as other varieties.  Just follow the stovetop instructions on your package before you puree.  Same thing for spinach.

Here's the key to your veggie purees.  Ready?  This is going to rock your world.  ADD BUTTER!!  I know, in today's world butter is considered evil, but your baby actually needs a little dose of fat in their food at this stage.  Don't be afraid to toss a tablespoon of unsalted butter in that food processor to mix with your puree.  In fact, it is encouraged!  (At least it is in the books I have read.)

Step Two - Mix n' Match!
There really is no wrong way to mix your baby food, but I do have some suggestions for how to go about it that will probably be more pallatable for your baby.

  • Mix a green with an orange: Trying to feed your baby a combo of broccoli and spinach before they've been introduced to either of them, just might backfire on you in a messy way.  Instead, try mixing 2 sweet potato with 1 broccoli.  Once they dig that, make it 1 sweet potato with 2 broccoli.  Next, try the broccoli mixed with squash.  Then maybe throw in another green!  How about 2 squash, 1 broccoli, 1 peas?  Or perhaps 2 sweet potato, 1 pea, 1 spinach?  In my experience, a green is usually accepted better when paired with an least at first.

  • Get crazy!  Try a fruit!:  When you're really feeling wild, mix a veggie and a fruit!  Try 2 squash or sweet potato with 1 apple.  I bet carrots would be pretty good mixed in with a mashed banana!  There's no rule that says you can't mix veggies with fruits, so give it a shot.

  • Think outside the box, but mix what's ON it:  Odds are, your baby is going to like your homemade food WAY better than the stuff in the plastic containers on the shelf at Walmart.  I know my kids do.  Micah looks at me like I'm trying to feed him cardboard when I pull that plastic box out of my diaper bag if we're in a pinch.  However, you can use those prepackaged morsels as inpiration for your own mixes.  The "Mixed Vegetables" food from Gerber says it contains carrots, green beans, and peas.  Sounds good to me.  Give it a try!  How about the "Banana and Blueberries?"  Yup, that could be a winner.  Stew some frozen blueberries in a saucepan to soften them, puree 'em up, and mixed with mashed banana.  Easy peasy.  The next time you're in the baby food aisle, grab a piece of paper and write down some of the combos you see.  There's probably nothing there that you can't create yourself via Mix n' Match.  Just wait until we move up to the equivalent of the Gerber "3rd Foods."  A whole new world opens up.  Stay tuned. 
Another bonus of having these single-ingredient cubes on becomes super easy to be a Sneaky Chef!  If we're having spaghetti for dinner and I didn't get time to make some Orange Puree to combine with it, I'll just grab a cube or two of broccoli and a couple sweet potato cubes and mix 'em into my sauce.  Voila!  Veggie Boost!

What are your favorite baby food recipes?  Any specific combinations you keep coming back to?  Is there a particular pre-packaged recipe you'd love to try out at home?

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