Thursday, December 30, 2010

Summing Up Suppers

Christmas has come and passed with much busyness, joy, and unfortunately, sickness. Thankfully though, the latter only affected me and not my husband or daughter. Sadly, it has been more than a week since my last post, and sadly, I am not able to post exactly what I wanted to at the close of this baby food month. What I am able to post is a basic summary of how fast and easy it can be to make your own baby food, equipment you might need and methods you may want to use.
I know making your own baby food can sound intimidating. My mother made baby food for me and my siblings and I was still unsure of what to do or where to start. But it doesn't have to be a big deal. Here are some quick tips for getting started:
1. begin with green vegetables, then orange vegetables, then fruits
2. only introduce one new food at a time so that you can watch for any allergic reactions and how your baby handles the new food (pay attention to gas, constipation, fussiness, etc.)
3. keep in mind the texture of foods. Even when blended, certain foods are grainy, slimy, etc. Textures won't harm you baby of course, but generally it is best to use the smoothest foods first.
Have fun in the produce aisle. Experiment with lots of colour and variety. If you find your baby has a reaction to a certain food that's okay. Just eliminate it, talk with you doctor and perhaps you can reintroduce it later.
Now, here's the part that I was hoping to be able to do a little differently. Equipment. I have found you don't need much, and it doesn't have to be hi-tech. I use a normal blender, a soup pot with a steaming basket, and a few large ice cube trays. There is a lot of baby food making equipment on the market, and while most of it looks great, and sounds fun, if you're worried about cost, I'm living proof that you can manage without it. I myself was taken with Scandinavian Child's line of baby food gear (sold by William Sonoma) and was close to purchasing some of it, but after having questions about the materials used to make their products and contacting the company about it, and receiving a promise from one of their representatives to answer my questions, I have yet to hear back from them. Because of this, I don't feel comfortable recommending their products, and can state here that I certainly won't be. I didn't think it would take a month to find out what kind of plastic is used to make a certain product (even though their website states two different things on two different pages).
As for methods, there are several to choose from. First, there is the single food method, in which you cook or steam one type of food at a time and freeze it separately. When you want to make a supper, you simply grab the individual foods needed and mix them together ie: one cube each of chicken, peas, carrots and two cubes of rice would make a "chicken casserole".
There is also the meal method, in which you cook and blend all the ingredients for a meal together, and then when you want to prepare a meal, you just have to grab however many cubes of that meal ie: blending together and freezing ground beef, tomato, spinach and whole wheat pasta creates "cheeseless lasagna".
The third method is the fresh method, and the name speaks for itself. You prepare meals as needed, keeping them in the fridge for up to three days, or simply blend a small portion of whatever you are having for supper.
There is no right or wrong way to go about making baby food. Any of these methods may work for you. I myself use a combination of the meal and the fresh methods. The meal method works well for me because I can stockpile a fair bit of baby food on the freezer (it keeps for 5-8 months in a deep freezer) and use it as needed, and when I'm in a hurry. The fresh method also works well for me now partly because freezer space has become precious, and also because my daughter is now eating a lot of finger foods and is more tolerant of seasonings (although I still try to be extremely careful of sodium content).
Lastly, there is the issue of cost. I don't have time to go into great detail, but I will give you a basic break down. I know costs vary from place to place, but a large jar of baby food around here costs between $0.70 - $0.80 each. My daughter eats one large jar of baby food per meal, plus a small amount of some type of finger food of filler. After making a variety of food cubes using the meal method, I found that a meal for my 10 month old costs between $0.40 - $0.55, depending on what I make.
All in all, I have learned that the benefits of making my daughter's baby food far outweigh any extra effort on my part to make it possible, and I have even found it to be fun and certainly rewarding as I see my daughter enjoying such a wide variety of foods and getting excited about meal time.... even learning to say "yumyum", although it comes out as "mummum"

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Favourite Finger Foods

If you're want to give your baby finger foods, but don't know what to use or try, here's a little list of things my daughter seems to find incredibly appetizing. Finger foods are great for developing your baby's fine motor and self feeding skills... just be sure to have a good bib on hand :)

Elysia's Favourites

Scrambled eggs
Peeled seedless grapes, cut in quarters
Cooked peas
Cooked black beans
Cooked whole wheat elbow noodles
Meijer brand little puffs
Banana slices
Home canned pears
Graham crackers (for a special treat)
Steamed carrots

I try to use finger foods at least once or twice a day as an "appetizer" before a meal, or a quick snack between. I try not to use Cheerios, crackers, and other snack foods because of their high sodium and sugar content. Have fun, and experiment with new things. I hope that by giving my daughter a large variety of tastes and textures, I am establishing healthy and adventurous eating habits. What are your baby's favourite foods?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Very Merry Breakfast

Christmas is almost here and the hustle and bustle is reaching a crescendo. Getting ready for Christmas this year is far more challenging, but far more fun as well. We finally put up our tree this weekend, and enjoyed watching our daughter, who is now nine months old, explore this strange new thing in our living room. Lights, ornaments and fake pine needles all have one thing in common. They are all removeable with varying degrees of effort, and my daughter has decided that shiny, jingling balls and bright colourful lights are worth the effort. She spends a great deal of time poking, pulling, rolling, throwing, and yes, trying to eat out holiday decorations, so I decided to give her a more ballanced and appetizing taste of Christmas.
3 Tablespoons rice or wheat cereal
2 Tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
2 Tablespoons organic plain yogurt
2 Tablespoons hot water
pinch cinnamon
Mix together cereal and hot water, add aplesauce and yogut, then stir in cinnamon and serve.
 You could also use oatmeal cereal, but it gives a different texture, and my daughter tends to favour the smoother cereals, which is why I used rice and wheat. Also, homemade applesauce (which is what I used) tends to be a bit more watery, so if you're using store bought, you may have to add more water.
My daughter's feet went wild when I gave her this treat, which usually indicates a 10 on the love-o-meter, and it smelled like a heavenly slice of hot cinnamon toast.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Tropical Tango

Today, as I am pressed for time this morning, but determined to share, I am giving you my recipe for my daughter's favourite homemade babyfood treat. This has been a great "dessert" that still boasts a TON of nutritional value. Best of all, it is incredibly simple to make, and versatile to serve.
1 ripe banana
1/2 avocado
1/2 cantaloupe, cubed
1/2 mango
Simply place everything in a blender with a little water, and puree! This recipe filled two ice cube trays for me. Because of the nature of the fruits in this recipe, you will need to allow a good day or so for freezing before transferring to a sealable container.
I give this to my daughter as is after supper, mix it into her cereal in the morning, or add a little organic plain yogurt for a snack. Possibilities galore!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Month Of Babyfood

I wonder if I am the only mom out there who is frustrated by the selection (or lack thereof) in the babyfood aisle at the grocery store. Aren't babies able to eat more than peas, carrots, green beans and yams?  When my daughter began solids a few months ago, I very quickly began feeling that I was feeding her the same thing over and over... where's the variety? After mulling that question over in my head for a few hours, I realized the answer: it's in the produce aisle!
Making your own babyfood certainly is a bit more work, but I would argue that it is more than worth it. Certainly there are some foods that you should be careful of, and certainly you should only introduce one new food at a time, and be aware of any reaction your baby may have to a new food (I recently discovered that my daughter is allergic to strawberries). As long as you follow these guidelines and your own common sense, creating your own babyfood should be a fun adventure!
In order to encourage you, whoever may be reading this, I am dedicating this month to homemade babyfood. I will share what I am making, what new recipes I am inventing and trying, what I end up spending on homemade babyfood, and of course, what my daughter thinks of her food.
So raise a jar, or an ice cube tray, and let's begin!