We’re talkin’ baby food production, yo! Before I even get started today, I should tell you that this post will not be a laugh riot. Baby food making is serious business. It’s also not going to be any sort of political debate. Our family eats local and organic as much as possible, but it isn’t like we’re going to yank Townes and Daisy away from a neighbor’s picnic if the hamburger meat didn't come from grass fed cows. I know we live in California and the rest of the country thinks we’re all a little cuckoo over here, but I haven’t really seen anyone exhibit that sort of rude behavior in a social setting – we save that nonsense for ordering in restaurants (the collective we, I mean.)
Tim and I try to be reasonable – yes, we realize that the debate over whether organic foods are actually better for you (or less dangerous for you) is ongoing and backed by compelling studies on both sides. I think we’re just trying to do a bit of CYA with our family – why expose the kids to pesticides if we have an alternative when the jury is still out on long-term effects? Also, I’m kind of a food network obsessive and if there’s one thing I’ve learned from watching Ina Garten, it’s that you don’t need to do much to food to dress it up. Farm fresh ingredients prepared simply will often give you the most delicious outcome. So in an effort to raise kids healthfully and not disgusted by vegetables, we buy local and organic when it makes sense. We’re lucky in that there’s pretty much a farmer’s market every day of the week in L.A. so we can stock up on locally grown produce selections for the family. And because there are so many farmers' markets, they really aren’t more expensive than the grocery store offerings much of the time.
Daisy is our little eater. She likes just about everything that is put in front of her. We’ve become pretty adventurous as a result. No hard sell here, but if you’re thinking that the time-suck factor might keep you from making your own baby food, I'm here to tell you it’s not that bad. In fact, I think it's kind of fun! I have it down to a pretty straightforward system – I can knock out a week or two’s worth of meals in one evening. It takes about two to three hours in all. I mentioned before that we invested in a Beaba Babycook Baby Food Maker, and it has been invaluable to me. The Beaba helps streamline the whole process and keeps the kitchen mess to a minimum. It's is an all-in-one steamer, blender, defroster and reheater. Yay! Here’s most of this week’s produce selection (a mix between Trader Joe’s and the farmers' market), and what everything looks like before I get started:
When you start out with feeding your little one solid food, there is a generally standard progression your pediatrician will share with you. Long story short, you start with cereals for a few days each and then once your baby demonstrates that he or she can tolerate those, you will move your little bundle of joy on to fruits and vegetables. You can certainly mix it up, but we decided to start with veggies so that the kiddos wouldn’t get a taste for sweets before they experienced all that delicious vegetables can be.
If you're thinking about taking the DIY leap, it’s probably a good time to mention that there is still a bit of stigma surrounding making your own baby food. Be prepared for some people to think you and your partner are a couple of hippies, expect others to treat you a bit like you’re part of an oddball religious sect or a kinder, gentler coven. You should have some fun with the ones you suspect are judging you in this way. It’s a hoot to pretend to put hexes on people – ask that nosy Pentacostal neighbor if she knows where you can purchase some eye of newt.
Our nanny tries a bit of reverse psychology from time to time, remarking that Daisy doesn’t really like the baby food I make. She used to say the same thing about Townes quite a bit. I just took these remarks at face value with him since Townes, while a good eater in general, definitely had moody food moments. But I know she’s up to something with the “Daisy doesn’t like this” nonsense. Daisy likes EVERYTHING. She is an indiscriminate little glutton and she most certainly does not dislike the beets with blueberries.
I’m not sure why making your own baby food seems like such a weird thing to so many. But the cool thing is that this is America. You have 20 different brands of processed baby food available at the local grocery store. Have at it! More groovy homemade vegetables for me and my kids. Peace and love, man, peace and love.
The next step in making your own baby food is to chop it all up and purée, purée, purée. Commit to trying some adventurous combinations. Remember I said that your pediatrician will recommend you start your baby foods on a schedule? Well, once junior has proven to not be allergic to anything on the list, you can start mixing it up and making little tiny yummy one bowl meals. For example, Daisy loves cored, baked apples stuffed with reconstituted prunes (that’s just a fancy way of saying boil the dried prunes for eight to ten minutes to rehydrate them before stuffing the apples). You lightly dust the apples with cinnamon, bake at 350 degrees for thirty minutes with the skins on, purée the whole deal, and then mix with cereal in the morning. You can also add yogurt if your baby is a bit older. Daisy is also a devotee of the parsnip, apple, carrot and squash purée. You use two parsnips, two apples, one carrot and a bit of squash. Chop, steam, blend and go! This one is a big hit with the grown-ups too. Tim thinks it tastes like pumpkin pie, and the last time my mom was here I swear she had one or two of Daisy’s little purée bowls for dinner herself.
Here is the finished product. I make a variety of meals to last a couple of weeks and freeze most of it. They reheat in a snap. Yum!