Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Homemade Baby Food - A Step-by-Step Guide Week 1: Green Beans, Squash & Sweet Potato

**Please note: This post will be longer than future ones because I will be explaining in detail the financial and heath benefits for you and your family by making your baby's food at home. I will not be doing this in every post, but want to make sure it's in the initial one.**

This will be the first of many posts on homemade baby food. My goal is to give step-by-step instructions and pictures on how to make organic, homemade food for your sweet baby. My goal is to post once a week with at least one fruit and one veggie, until I've run out of ones to make!

Since Caleb is still a stage 1 eater (only a few more weeks though), my recipes will be for stage 1 eaters until I say otherwise. The only difference this will make in my posts is the amount of water added for consistency, and some foods that are not recommended until 7, 8 or 9 months of age will not be added to the post until Caleb is ready for them.

Let me start off by saying that I shop for ALL of our fruits and veggies from our local Farmer's Market. For those of you local to me, it's at 75 and 15th street in Plano. If you are not local, try "Googling" to see if there is one in your area. You might be surprised at what you find!

There are several reasons I shop at the local Farmer's Market. One, you are supporting your local farmers which in turn keeps the local economy going. Second, you receive food that is much younger and fresher than what you would buy at the grocery store. And third, you are saving a TON of money!!

From a financial standpoint, buying from your local Farmer's Market could save you hundreds of dollars a year. I'm still doing a little research, but what I've personally experienced so far is this. At the Farmer's Market a couple weeks ago, I purchased 1/2 lbs. of green beans for around $.35 total. I also purchased 1 squash for $0.50 and 1 sweet potato for $.99. The total for these three items was $1.84. This $1.84 shopping trip turned out to be 17 meals. Shopping the sales for the Gerber Organic Stage 1 foods, the least expensive I found this week was Kroger for $.88 each (inc. 2 containers = 2 meals). So, I can spend approximately $2 at the Farmer's Market (no tax) and get roughly 15-20 meals depending on the fruit/veggie and the size, or can shop the sale ads for the grocery stores and spend roughly $1 (taxed) for 2 meals. Remember, this is based solely off of the three veggies I have made this week, no fruits included. Although I think we'll save even more once we get to fruits!

Another thing to take in to account and ask yourself is, "how much is my time worth?". Here's an example, on the green beans, from start to finish, it took me 20 minutes to cook, puree and put in the freezer. On the other hand it took longer on the squash and sweet potato because they had to cook. The good thing about that is that while they wee cooking, I could go about my business and complete other tasks. Total time start to finish, NOT including time in the oven for the squash and sweet potato was about 30 minutes.

I haven't even mentioned the health benefits of this for your child. Now, I will start by saying that Gerber Organic, truly is organic. If you look at the ingredients, all you will see is, "Organic Green Beans, Water." That's great because that's all that you will be using when making your food at home, all you are basically paying for is someone else's time. The health benefits of anything organic is plain and simple, the ingredients have no artifical additives, are not altered chemically or synthesized in any form and the product has been produced, manufactured and handled using organic means. On top of this, if a product is labeled Organic, you know that it has been certified and approved by the USDA under its Organic Food Products Act.

Know that I will be making as much organic food as possible for Caleb, and wil make a note for each recipe if I used organic or not. I will also be posting what the cost per serving is for each recipe, based upon what I paid for the fruit/veggie from my local Farmer's Market. Know that this number will vary depeding on the price you pay for your fruits/veggies.

So, now that I've shared a little bit of info concering reasons why we are making all of Caleb's food at home, let's get to the good part.

I'm starting off a little behind and I don't have pictures for this first one, but it's super easy and anyone can do it in 15 minutes or less.

Green Beans:
Introduction Age: 6-8 months
Cost per serving: $0.06 (6 servings with 1 lb.)
Organic: No
What you will need:
1 lb. fresh green beans
skillet/frying pan
1" of water

1. Clean & Snap Ends of Green Beans
2. Add 1" of water to large skillet and bring to a boil
3. Add green beans to boiling water
4. Cook green beans UNcovered for 3 minutes then cover for additional 10 minutes. If you overcook your green beans the color will change. Try not to overcook them, but if you do the first time (like I did!) it's ok.
5. Place in to your choice of appliance for pureeing. Add water as necessary to achieve a smooth, thin consistency.

I personally use the Magic Bullet and absolutely love it! You can get it at Bed, Bath and Beyond with a retail price of $30 before any coupons. Be sure to not go and buy it without a coupon though, you will save $6-$10 on that one item alone!

Cooked Green Beans will last up to 5 days in the FRIDGE and up to a couple weeks in the freezer, although I don't think they will last that long in there if you have an eater like I do!

Once pureed, you can hold aside 1-2 days worth in in the fridge for quicker access, and freeze the rest in ice cube trays (see pics below), or individual containers, as seen here:
I just ordered these tonight to replace the ones in the pictures below. They are less time consuming and save you the hassle of dirtying tupperware when defrosting baby's food for that meal. Plus they are half the cost as the ones below and are "all-in-ones". They go from the freezer, to the microwave, to the dishwasher. And they are stackable and will fit into most freezer doors! Ok, I don't want to sound like too much of a salesperson, so I'll move on.

Next is the Summer Squash:
Introduction Age: 6-8 months
Cost per serving: around $0.50 (I only got one serving from my teeny tiny squash)
Organic: Don't remember

Now with this veggie in particular you have two choices, you can serve it to your baby starting at 6 months of age, if you SKIN it before cooking/pureeing, OR you can wait until 8 months of age, and serve the entire squash without skinning before pureeing. In this case, I just skinned the squash once it had been cooked, before I pureed it.

What you will need:
As many small squashes as can fit into your oven/banking pan, or for example here we'll use 1.
Steaming Drop-In (I use the kind that looks like a half moon when closed and a plate when opened, if that makes any sense!)

*Note that the way I cooked the squash below was only done because I was already baking a sweet potato. Normally I would have done it following these directions:

1. Choose yellow squash that are somewhat small in diameter, as these are the most tender.
2. Wash squash thoroughly and skin (if baby is under 8 months old - if older than 8 months no need to skin first)
3. Once skinned, cut into chunks
4. Add water to saucepan and place steaming dish inside. Bring water to a boil.
5. One boiling, add cubed Squash and steam until tender
6. Once tender, add to pureeing appliance. Add water as necessary for consistency. Note that summer squahs becomes VERY watery when cooked, in this case, I only needed to add 1 tbsp. of water for pureeing to stage 1 consistency.

Once pureed, you can hold aside 1-2 days worth in in the fridge for quicker access, and freeze the rest in ice cube trays (see pics below), or individual containers.

Our last recipe for the week is Sweet Potatoes:
Introducton Age: 6 months
Price per serving: $0.08
Organic: Don't remember

Here are a few shopping tips for purchasing sweet potatoes. When selecting sweet potatoes, make sure to choose ones that don't have blemishes, bruises or soft spots. You will also want to find ones that have more of an orange color than white or light colored. The orange ones have much better flavor. Also, do not refrigerate sweet potatoes before cooking(I'm just now reading this for the first time, AFTER I've already refrigerated and cooked mine). Be sure to keep them in a cool, dark, dry area (I'm guessing a corner of the kitchen counter, maybe in a fruit basket. If already done, I don't think it will harm anyone, but just for future reference.

Note: They can be kept before cooking for up to two weeks. After cooking, you can keep them refrigerated for 2-3 days, which is the general consensus for most foods. Sweet Potatoes also freeze well once cooked.

So, the best way to cook Sweet Potatoes for pureeing is to bake them at 400 degrees for about 60 minutes. You may also peel and cube them and then steam or boil if that is your preference. That way is definitely shorter as far as overall time, but baking will keep the most nutrients and flavor for this particular veggie.

What you will need:
1 large sweet potato
Aluminum Foil (enough to wrap all the way around the potato)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
2. Rinse Sweet Potato Thoroughly
3. Fork holes into the potato. In the pic below you can semi-see that I forked 5 times in one row and I ended up doing five rows around the potato
4. After "forking" rinse thoroughly again and allow a little bit of time for some of the water to seep into the holes. The deeper the holes, the better.
5. Once rinsed, wrap in aluminum foil and place on baking sheet.
6. Bake at 400 degrees for 60 minutes (during this time you can go about your day and not worry about the food)
7. You will be able to tell baking is complete by how easily the skin comes off as well as how soft the most interior part of the potato is. In my case, I undercooked my potato by probably 10 minutes, but I only cooked mine for 35-45 minutes. You would be safer off just cooking it for the full 60 minutes.
8. Once baking is complete, cut the sweet potato in half, lengthwise, and proceed to either scoop out the "meat" or you can just cut off the skins and then cube the potato for pureeing.
9. Cube the potato for pureeing
10. Add to your choice of pureeing appliance.
11. Add water to bring to a consistency best for your baby's stage. For my cooking experience below I add a total of 26 tbsp. for my sweet potato. Note that I had to puree in two separate servings because the potato was to big to fit in the largest Magic Bullet container I had. The 1st serving took 10 tbsp. of water and the 2nd serving took 16 tbsp. water, and might could have used a tiny bit more.

Once pureed, you can hold aside 1-2 days worth in in the fridge for quicker access, and freeze the rest in ice cube trays (see pics below), or individual containers.

Now on to the pictures!

Small Summer Squash

Squash cut in half

Squash after seeds have been spooned out

Squash ready for the baking dish
Squash - sitting in 1-1 1/2 inces of water in baking dish ready for the oven

Squash POST baking - with the goods cleaned out and ready for the Magic Bullet

Squash before pureeing - I added 1 tbsp. water for my small squash

Squash after pureeing - ready for the freezer

Sweet Potato rinsed and ready to be forked for baking

Sweet Potato with fork holes. Be sure to fork as deep into the potato as possible.
After forking rise again under cold water.

Ready for the oven!

Cooking Away

The Magic Bullet - for pureeing baby food, you will need to use this particular "head" and the largest "body" available. It will not only hold the most food, but purree it down to 1st food level.

Don't forget to add your water. Each fruit/veggie is different and requires different amounts of water. You just want to add enough to get it to the correct consistency for your baby. The younger the baby, the more water you'll add for a smoother consistency. The older the baby, the less water you will add for a thicker consistency.
Our cooked tater!

whole baked sweet potato, cut in half for skinning and cubing for pureeing

1/2 sweet potato skinned and ready for cubing

1st batch of sweet potato + 10 tbsp. water, cut the pieces too big though

pureeing the sweet potato (I actually took a video of this but it was too hilarious to show. I was shaking the Magic Bullet to make sure everything was getting pureed and as I was sking the Magic Bullet, the camera was shaking too, silly me!)
1st tray complete! squash - 1 meal (2 cubes = 1 meal)
sweet potato - 2 1/2 meals (the other 1/2 meal is in the other full frozen tray seen below)

2nd half of the sweet potato, smaller squares + 16 tbsp. of water

13 meals here ready to be frozen + 1 below ready for the next day

One meal ready for the fridge

All stacked up and ready to be frozen

All stacked up in the freezer

So, all in all, I spent a total of maybe 30 minutes in the kichen tonight, made two weeks worth of solid food for my baby, and saved about $8! Pretty good, if you ask me! Until next time...

Be Blessed and Encouraged!


chrys said...

good for you, momma!

Sheila said...

I made the green beans...They where so easy and I thought they tasted great. Cade tried them for the 1st time today, and well he didn't agree. :)

classiestkid said...

where did you buy those storage containers?

Jill Garcia (Smith) said...

classiestkid - I got them here:

but ended up returning them. Honestly I just didn't think they were worth the money. I froze all of my food in ice cube trays and then used labeled freezer ziplock bags to hold the cubes and would take out as many as I needed at a time. One Cube of frozen food - 1 serving.

Hope this helps!