There were two things that I struggled with the most when I was making the girls’ baby food. The first was finding my groove in regards to making the time to make food at all – and the second was coming up with fresh ideas/recipes to make so that they had a good variety of food.
So, first – TIPS TO MAKE TIME TO MAKE FOOD:
- Choose a cooking method that doesn’t require constant attention - I prepped almost everything by steaming or baking it. I did that partially because baking preserves mineral content of vegetables and is pretty easy on vitamins too; steaming is another gentle cooking method that maximizes nutrient content because there’s no water loss. I also did it because I think that baked vegetables have a better/fuller taste. But perhaps most importantly to this tip - I chose these methods because you can put food in the oven, set a timer, and walk away to do other things.
- Multitask – I know multitasking isn’t great because in theory you can’t give anything your full attention. That said, any mother knows it’s sometimes a necessary evil, and, as I mentioned in tip one, not all cooking methods require 100% of your attention. A lot of the resources that I referenced suggested taking a portion (usually a large portion) of one day to make a bunch of food, package it, and get ready for the week/month. I found that to be unrealistic for our lifestyle since most of our weekends were first of all accounted for, but also, we didn’t have childcare on the weekends and I found it really hard to balance infant twins and their napping and eating schedules, with taking half a day or an entire day to cook food. BUT once I got started making baking food, I could easily overlap the time it took to steam or baking foods with other longer tasks like dinner or bath time. I was always cooking or baking something during dinner, or even after dinner at night after the kids had gone to bed and we were watching TV. Which brings me to my 3rd and 4th tip!
- SET A TIMER – Let’s be real, once you have kids your brain kind of melts for a while and remembering anything other than kid essentials (feeding, changing, napping, etc) is really difficult. But let’s also be real and acknowledge that most of us always have our phone on us – and phones conveniently come with timers. So seriously - make sure to set a timer when you are cooking your food – then you really don’t have to think about it and you won’t have to worry about ruining your food either.
- Pop it in the fridge until you can blend it up – When you are baking food late at night, it’s not always the best time to fire up the blender. Which is why I regularly would bake/steam food and then just pop it in the fridge for a day or two until I had 15 free minutes to pop it in the blender and freeze it into cubes.
- Store extra food cubes in the freezer so in case you have a bad week you don’t have to worry about your mom guilt – We all have those weeks, you know the ones when despite your best intentions everything just falls apart and you don’t have time to do anything. If you store extra food cubes in bags/containers in your freezer, you can just grab those and not have to worry about adding mom guilt to your list of 99 problems
RECIPE/FOOD MAKING TIPS :
• The basics – For all the reasons outlined above, as well as in my last post, I think the easiest way to make your own baby food is to bake or steam your veges first, puree them in a blender, and then store what you need fresh and freeze the rest in small cubes that you can use as needed.
** Misc note** – I actually cooked all my fruits as well because raw fruits and nuts make my husband’s mouth itch and we were worried that if the kids had a negative experience with them, they wouldn’t want to eat them. Fun fact – there is an actual condition called oral allergy syndrome (that’s definitely not made up by one’s husband in collusion with his brother to convince their mother their whole childhood that they couldn’t eat fruits – not that I ever thought that in the early years of our marriage…JUST KIDDING and I will NEVER live it down – anyway – oral allergy syndrome causes an allergic reaction to proteins in certain fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Because the allergy is to the proteins, we find that if I cook the fruits (bake or just heat on the stove top), it changes the structure of the proteins so J’s body doesn’t get mad and make J’s mouth itchy. We eventually moved the kids to raw fruits, vegetables, and nuts in the toddler years and haven’t had any problems.
• If you need to speed up your cooking time, cut your vegetables into smaller pieces – Not only will they cook quicker, but they will be easier on the blender.
• If your purees are chunky – add more fluid! It took me FOREVER to learn this, but 9 times out of 10, if my purees weren’t as smooth as I wanted them, I needed to add more fluid (breast milk, water, regular milk, almond milk, coconut milk, chicken broth, vegetable broth, etc). The 10th time btw was when I didn’t cook my food enough before I put it in the blender
** Misc note** – If you are feeling frisky, you can actually make your own vege broth too. As you cut up veges during the week, you store the parts you don’t eat in a Ziploc bag. Then at the end of the week, you boil them in some water, strain them out, and you have your very own homemade vegetable broth. It’s kind of cool too because the flavor fully depends on what veges you collected during the week! It's also a great way to get your $$ worth out of those organic vegetables That’s a tip from my mom btw – so shout out to her
• Freeze single foods in cubes if you want to experiment with food combinations. If you have just apples in cubes – you can see if your little likes them with bananas, strawberries, greenbeans, etc – the possibilities are endless! If you have a magic combo that is tried and true for your little, then freeze cubes of the mix – it will save you time at mealtime!
• Go to the Pros! There are a lot of really talented chefs out there with nutritional know how and great recipe ideas for baby food. Here are two of my favs and why:
1. Weelicious - My sister actually started me on this site, but Catherine McCord recipes are all about starting your kids on a variety of healthy foods. She has really fun recipes for little ones from babies to toddlers to kids. One of my favorite take aways from her I read in the opening of one of her cookbooks – she basically said that just because you don’t like a food doesn’t mean that your kids won’t like it. So you should give them a variety of foods (even ones you don’t like!) a variety of ways and do it multiple times before you decide that they don’t like it. As a side note, I’m currently obsessed with her Smoothie Project, which you should totally check out too (it’s a great way to get fruits and veges in toddlers).
2. Baby Foode - I loooooove this site and blog for soooo many reasons, the first might be because I really wanted my kids to be baby foodies so the name really spoke to me But she is a big believer in using spices in baby food – I liked that idea and more importantly, my kids LOVED it. Except for curry – they were not huge fans of curry. But Michele, who started the site, has really cool food combos and recipes. Also her site breaks down recipes by age group so easily, its brilliant. She’s also added some really great resources (cookbooks, supplies, etc) so now it’s kind of a one stop shop too!
Most of all – HAVE FUN! Play around with different food combinations and cooking styles because it is truly SO rewarding when you find something that your baby LOVES! And you might be surprised what that food is! Stay tuned next week for some free downloads on what foods you should really try and don’t have to buy organic!