Baby food. Easy, nutritous and super cheap.

I am an unrepentant foodie. Most of the television shows I watch are programs about food. I watch programs about how to cook the food, the people who cook the food, where they buy the food, how the food is different in other cities and countries, and the science that makes food do what it does. I buy cook books with compulsiveness of an addict, even going so far as to purchase instructive text books for culinary students. When we went to Europe, we visited the local food markets at every opportunity. I cook nearly all the meals in our house.

I like food.

If I like food so much, why should my son eat processed food pastes?

Logan started eating solid food recently, and while he seems more confused and curious about the experience than anything else, he dutifully eats his servings. I want my son to be healthy. I want him to have a fair chance of beating the odds against the diabetes epidemic that is sweeping our country. I want him to LIKE food.

So I make his baby food.

This is so much easier than it seems on the surface. About an hour of my time and $3 worth of produce can yield nearly 40 servings for the little fella. When I’ve completed the task, not only am I filled with the sense that I am having a positive impact on my son’s life during his most formative years, but I’m left wondering why anyone buys baby food.

First of all, it’s expensive. Even in bulk it can cost more than a dollar a jar for baby food, leaving me to believe that most of the purchase cost is subsidizing the miniature glass jar industry. The food in those jars has typically been processed to a high degree, and while it increasingly includes organic ingredients, the provenience of these fruits and vegetables is unclear. Where did that food come from? What shape was it in before being sent through a mass production process watched over by robots more interested in preserving profit than the health of the customers? And what of those preservatives? What is the long term impact of ingesting calcium benzoate or sodium metabisulphite?

So, I make my own baby food. Following is the recipe I used for sweet potatoes. You can use the same recipe and preparation method for virtually any vegetable, the only difference being the amount of time needed to steam the product. Some vegetables, like the delicious and nutritious avocado, don’t need to be steamed at all. If you don’t have a steam basket, buy one, they’re super cheap and it will last you decades.

  • 3 sweet potatoes
  • 1 1/4 cup of water

Peel the sweet potatoes and then cut into¬† 3/4″ to 1″ cubes.

Peel the sweet potatoes
Place in a steam basket, making sure the water doesn’t rise into the basket. Steam for 20 minutes.
Cube and steam
Add the water and steamed sweet potatoes to a blender, and blend until smooth. It won’t take long. I’m using a Blendtec blender, because I have one, and they are awesome. Realistically, once steamed the sweet potatoes are tender enough you could probably blend them with a fork.
Pop in the blender and puree
While you’re waiting for the mixture to cool a bit, scoop some out and make yourself a snack. Here I’ve added a little butter, some cinnamon and maple syrup. It’s delicious and the perfect reward for doing the right thing for your child.
Treat yourself!
Once you’ve had your snack, the mixture is probably cool enough to prep. Line a baking tray with waxed paper and scoop out little portions in neat rows. I’m aiming for 2 teaspoons, and so I’m using a #60 scoop because it’s easy to use. You could use teaspoons, serving spoons or a garden spade, it really depends on how big your baby is.

Measure out

I’m also using quarter sheet pans because they fit in my freezer just right. You can get either of these two important cookery tools at any commercial cooking supply store. Most sell to the public.

Bag and tag
Pop the trays in the freezer and in about 20-30 minutes, you’ll have frozen little pucks of nutritious baby food. Peel them off the wax paper and pop them into a freezer bag for cold storage. They’ll last in the freezer for months. Probably longer. The three sweet potatoes I used yielded 36 baby servings and 2 adult servings and it cost me about $2.60.

4 Comments

  1. Posted March 23, 2010 at 08:58 | Permalink

    We have a set of plastic tubs with lids for this purpose. I am excited for the arrival of CSA foods this summer. We weren’t ever able to get through a half share last summer. I except this summer to be different!

    Other good things:
    - peas
    - butternut squash
    - string beans
    - peaches
    - cauliflower

    Not so good:
    - spinach

  2. Beckie
    Posted March 24, 2010 at 13:28 | Permalink

    This takes me back to when my sister was little (she’s 10 years younger than me). We were really poor, so the only thing we ever spent money on was food – it’s still really important to my family and a major part of any gathering involving my parents.

    We used to fix the same thing for my sister that we would be eating, only we’d pull some aside prior to seasoning and/or cooking it. We’d either steam or pressure cook her portion [then blend it] while preparing the main dish for the family. In this way she grew to eat solid food with the family and never really rejected what was served to her.

    The amazing thing about this is that she never went through the picky eating period you see most children go through. She always preferred eating what everybody else had rather than ordering off the kid’s menu.

    It’s because of experiences like these that I’ll be going the cloth diaper and home-made baby food route. It really is cheaper and doesn’t take more time than the alternatives.

    I’ll probably use your tip on freezing food in advance though. I like the easy to thaw puck thing you’ve got going on.

  3. Shellie
    Posted March 26, 2010 at 14:20 | Permalink

    I’m totally with you on the pre-packaged foods. We got this book when James started eating solids. I think you might like it. http://tinyurl.com/yj2mta8 (you can borrow mine if you’d like)

    It has some really interesting recipes and even stages them for age appropriateness. Some of them sounded so good that I made some non-pureed version for us. I think it really expanded his palate. Most of the recipes can be adjusted for older kids too by not blending as much.

    While on vacation we and in an emergency we opted for some jarred foods and he refused to eat them. I tried some, they were so bland that I don’t fault him one bit (and it was somewhat of an ego boost to my cooking abilities).

  4. Grandma Deb
    Posted April 2, 2010 at 17:23 | Permalink

    Logan’s papa comes by his food/cooking interest naturally; or maybe even genetically. His pre-occupation with food started on day 3 of his life when he realized nourishment was no longer a free ride and required some effort on his part. By the end of his first month, he finally figured out that it was not necessary to nurse in excess to the point of regurgitating. About week 2 or 3, I started reading recipes aloud to him on nearly a daily basis. The baby books all said language development was very important from an early age and that these tiny human beings needed to hear the spoken word regularly; with, “clear enunciation and grammatically correct sentence structure. Heck, I lived alone & had a boring life so I cooked a lot. He shared an interest in wanting some of the ‘finished product’ by age 6 or 7 mos by grabbing my hand as the eating utensil went from my plate to my mouth. Or, reaping better results by just sticking his fist in my plate and then into his mouth. Although he continued to eagerly nurse, he began loudly demanding some of whatever I was partaking of. My diet was not necessarily one that I wanted to instill in my child. So, for the next 2-3yrs, I did my best to feed him a healthy, well-balanced diet; while eating my ‘goodies’ out of sight. Yes, Son, there were numerous occasions that while you ate “yummy, special ice cream”, i.e. custard, yogurt, or fruited-pudding, Mother was eating the “real deal”. And, so went the masquerade for many other foods. But it was all done in the name of love, Son. The mystery of fractions began in 2nd grade and that is when he starting cooking classes. Every Tues & Thurs, for many, many weeks, he and a couple of other mystified boys from his class appeared in our kitchen after school to learn math in a more practical way: and one that reaped tasty results ;) I think around 6th or 7th grade is when he started carving fruits & vegetables into images of other objects. That is when he wasn’t using said knife to carve himself or some other inappropriate object. As a boarding student in high school, he started a campaign for more edible & better choices for food. And, after the Army, when he needed to start feeding himself, he knew what he wanted and the rest is history. When a new neighbor asked me where my favorite place to eat in town? It took about to 2nd to answer, “Our son’s”!

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