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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Baby Food

If you haven't noticed, I've been having a little trouble getting around to posting lately. Interestingly, it isn't because I don't have anything to post about; I do. I actually have quite a few things I could post about. I've been cooking... some. My little boy has finally decided that naps are good things and I now get a few hours most days to do stuff. Of course, after months of not having any time to do stuff, I spent the first month or two of his new napping prowess to simply vegetate and enjoy having some time to myself. I read! I ate uninterruptedly (what a concept!). But, now he's been a pretty good napper for a while and I find myself starting to catch up on housework, cooking, and projects that have been on the back burner for a really long time.

While I do have a little time now to play and experiment in the kitchen, I am mostly utilitarian in there these days. Take the baby, for instance. From his first day on solids at six months, he's been a very enthusiastic eater. I try to provide him with a lot of appropriate finger foods that he can eat all by himself (sticks of soft fruit or vegetable, toast, etc.), but the mainstay of his solid food diet is chunky purees. I do feed him some store bought baby food, but not very much. There are two main reasons for this: 1) I was surprised at how little selection there really is when it came to the store bought stuff, and 2) it's all canned (meaning it's been cooked to death). I'm not a fan of overcooked vegetables (think peas, carrots, etc.) because it changes their flavor so much. I want my boy to grow up enjoying the lovely freshness of produce, so I have taken to preparing most of what he eats.

I have some plain items, like acorn squash (one of his favorites). I simply bake it until it's soft and then mush it with a fork (I do the same thing with sweet potatoes). Other items, I take a little more effort with. Here are some of my boy's favorite foods and how I prepare them:
  • Spinach -  I cook the spinach in boiling water for a few minutes, drain, and then puree in the food processor. I then add a little bit of Parmesan cheese (I don't add too much since you really want to watch an infant's salt intake) and a bit of plain bread crumbs. He loves this stuff!
  • Dahl - That's right, dahl, the Indian lentil dish. I try hard to get a lot of iron in my boy and lentils are a good source. How could I know how much he'd enjoy the Indian spice flavors? He's always up for dahl. I just found a recipe I liked in an Indian cookbook and left out any salt or "hot" spices.
  • Black Beans - I buy unsalted, canned black beans and "refry" them in a saute pan with a little olive oil. I then gently puree them with a little sour cream and a little cheddar cheese. I add in a good dash of garlic powder for good measure. He always enjoyed this dish, but now he seems to like it even better when I mix it in with a little infant corn cereal. 
  • Couscous and Pesto - I freeze the pesto (without pine nuts or extra salt) in little bitty containers for him. Then I make the couscous fresh (it only takes a few minutes) and mix in the pesto. The first time I offered him this dish, his eyes were bright and he was practically smiling the whole time he ate it.
  • Broccoli - I steam the tops (I find the stems more than an inch down from the florets are a bit to fibrous for him at this point) and then puree them with unsalted chicken stock and a little bit of cheddar cheese. 

Other, simpler standbys you see in this drawer of my freezer include: pureed mango (I stocked up while they were 4/$5), pureed carrots, mashed potatoes, applesauce, and pureed beef (the leftovers from a pot roast).

The good news is that it really hasn't been very time consuming to prepare his food this way. Each "batch" of food I make him takes only a few minutes of active time (it may take a while to cook on the stove or roast in the oven), and then I put them in these little plastic take out ramekins. I got mine at GFS and reuse them over and over again. I've been using the 2 oz cups, but may have to move up to the larger 3 1/4 oz cups as his appetite grows with him!

Well, I guess I'd better get a few things done before he wakes up from his nap!

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