January 1st we decided to try our first batch of homemade baby food: I'm a huge fan of doing the most cost-effective and sustainable thing, and since I got a handy food mill for Christmas, I thought we'd try it out. So I spent a good two or three hours in the kitchen peeling, coring, roasting, steaming, pureeing, sterilizing, filling and freezing. We did peas, organic carrots, squash, pear-apple-blackberry, mixed veggie with organic potato, and "pasta dinner," which the kids loved, the recipe is below. Almost twenty little jars (reused, of course) full, and it lasted....a week. I cannot deny the letdown when I realized how very little the payoff was. The jarred organic food is 15¢ an ounce and readily available..pretty doable. I had been so committed to this! Not to be daunted, I decided to try again. This week, we made a list and a special trip to the store, and yesterday was another puree-fest. We got broccoli, plums, organic blueberries, pears, apples, beets, sweet potatoes and delicious little delicata squash. Also, sweet peas, lima beans, and black-eyed peas, a little greek yogurt, bananas and avocados, and some baby oatmeal and wheat. After doing the work and the math, I might have a different opinion, but for now the fresh stuff beats the jarred in taste hands-down! The first thing we tried for breakfast was a half a mashed banana with a handful of blueberries, about a tablespoon of oatmeal and a blop of yogurt...it was so good I kept stealing bites! Also, it was quite easy to roast a whole tray of veggies at once - oven at 350º, I scrubbed (but didn't peel) the beets, carrots, sweet potatoes, cut the squash in half, and threw an onion and a few cloves of garlic with a touch of olive oil on the skins, and left them in for a good 30 or 45 minutes, turning once. All the natural sugars rose to the surface and began to caramelize - by the time they were soft enough to puree, everything was really sweet and my kitchen smelled delicious!
"Pasta Dinner" Baby Food:
Half an onion
Half a green pepper
one stalk organic celery
one carrot, scrubbed or peeled
two tomatoes, quartered
one clove of garlic (if your babies like it..my Italian babies seem to)
one big handful whole wheat pasta (doesn't matter what shape; I used rotini)
a tablespoon of squash puree if you have it - optional.
Fresh or dried basil, parsley & oregano (we still had some frozen from the summer crop!)
organic, low-sodium chicken stock or filtered water
throw all the veggies in the steamer, or in a basket over boiling water with a tight-fitting lid. Check them in about 5 minutes, and grab the tomatoes with tongs - they need to be peeled, and the skins should come right off after having been steamed. Put the peeled tomatoes right in your blender, food mill, or food processor. Let the rest of the veggies steam for another 7 or 8 minutes - stick them with a fork to make sure they are soft. If you have enough boiling water left under the steamer basket, throw in the pasta. If not, boil some water for the pasta. Throw it all in the blender and puree with enough liquid to make it your desired consistency. Since there are herbs and spices, and my kids are 8 months, we made the consistency fairly thick - like sour cream.
A note about organics: we are VERY budget-conscious, but some fruits and veggies are so full of pesticides that it's worth the extra money ten times over... Matt has an app on his phone, but for the low-tech, just print out (or *gasp* hand-write) a list of the "dirty dozen" and the "clean 15" to keep ON YOUR PERSON so that when you are at the grocery store, you can reference it. Namely, potatoes, apples, greens, and thin-skinned fruits and berries we try to always buy organic. Also, animal products such as meat, milk, butter and eggs are a good switch from conventional if you can afford. We can't buy the same quantity of meat if we go organic, so we end up eating less meat - which is healthier for us in general. Win!