Adventures in Homemade Baby Food – Spaghetti Bolognese

Now that we have reached the one year mark and Andrew has gotten the hang of chewing and is tolerating more textures in his food, I have started feeding him just about anything he is able to manage with only two teeth.  If at all possible I let him try the foods that we are eating, but in the case of long, thin pastas at least some adaptations need to be made.  This is a simple version of a meat sauce that takes little time to prepare, and is a great way to incorporate red meat and veggies into your little one’s diet.  I transferred the cooked spaghetti to a cutting board and used a chef’s knife to cut up the noodles to ensure that there were no pieces too long mixed in to his food.  This seemed to work well.

As you can see, he LOVED this meal!  This was very popular and I have a feeling I’ll be making it often for him. 

Baby’s First Spaghetti Bolognese
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Ingredients:
1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and grated
3/4 cup sliced button mushrooms
5 oz. lean ground sirloin
1/2 cup canned crushed tomatoes
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
A few drops of Worcestershire sauce
Pinch of brown sugar
1 bay leaf
2 oz. spaghetti

Directions:
Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a saucepan and saute the garlic and onion for 2 minutes.  Add the grated carrot and cook for 2 minutes more.  Add in the remaining oil and saute the mushrooms for about 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the ground sirloin in a separate skillet until browned.  Add in the cooked vegetables along with the tomatoes, chicken broth, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar and bay leaf.  Cover the pan and simmer for about 15 minutes; remove the bay leaf.  Cook the spaghetti in unsalted water according to the package directions.

Puree the meat sauce using an immersion blender for a smoother texture.  Chop up the spaghetti into short lengths and stir into the sauce.

Source: adapted from Top 100 Baby Purees by Annabel Karmel

Adventures in Homemade Baby Food – Pasta with Very Veggie Sauce

Okay, I have to be honest – a lot of the baby food I’ve made for Andrew, I’ve never even tasted.  I’m fine with the fruit purees, but a lot of the veggie purees make my stomach churn.  Ben has tried everything we’ve ever fed him, and approves of it all, but a lot of it just does not look appetizing to me – it’s baby food after all!  Well, here is a major exception.  This smelled so incredible while I was making it that I just couldn’t resist a small taste, and WOW!  I would gladly eat this for my own dinner.  What’s more, Andrew loves it.  This is a great dish because it helps introduce baby to foods with a bit more texture than a straight puree, and it has five different veggies in the sauce.  Awesome!  I used pasta stars for this, but any small pasta shape would be suitable.  Also, the original recipe calls for mascarpone but that’s a pricey ingredient to buy just for baby food making.  I had cream cheese on hand so I just stirred in a few tablespoons of that and it made the sauce pleasantly creamy.  It’s a winner!

He was a bit apprehensive at first because of the texture...

He was a bit apprehensive at first because of the texture...

...but soon he was literally clapping for more :)

...but soon he was literally clapping for more!

 

 

Pasta with Very Veggie Sauce
Ingredients:
2 tbsp. light olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 small carrots, peeled and chopped
1 medium zucchini, trimmed and chopped
3/4 cup cleaned and chopped button mushrooms
3 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 (15-oz.) can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup vegetable stock
1 tbsp. torn fresh basil leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
6 oz. pasta shapes
3-4 tbsp. cream or mascarpone cheese (optional)

Directions: 
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic, and saute for about 3 minutes.  Add the carrots and saute for 4-5 minutes.  Add the zucchini and saute for 2 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and saute for 2 minutes more.

Add in the fresh tomatoes and the butter and cook for 2 minutes.  Pour in the can of tomatoes with about half of the juice.  Finally, add the vegetable stock, basil, and season with pepper to taste.  Cover and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes.  Check to be sure all the vegetables are tender, then blend to a puree.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the package instructions (with no added salt) until tender.  Toss the cooked pasta with the vegetable sauce and stir in cream cheese or mascarpone, if using.

(Note: This recipe makes a fairly large quantity of food, and is suitable for freezing.) 

Source: adapted from Top 100 Baby Purees by Annabel Karmel

Adventures in Homemade Baby Food – Tomato, Cauliflower & Carrot with Basil

Who knew baby food could be so fancy?

Who knew baby food could be so fancy?

I know it’s been a really long time since I have done a baby food post.  No, I haven’t given up on making my own baby food – on the contrary, it’s actually been going wonderfully!  With the exception of Gerber Puffs and Yo-Baby yogurt, I have made all of Andrew’s food thus far.  It has been great!  We made our way through most of the single fruit or vegetable purees, and I decided since Andrew is now almost 11 months old (!) it was time to branch out in flavors, textures, etc.  One great way to incorporate more flavors into his foods is with cheese and herbs.  This was a quick and simple dish to whip up for him, made even easier with my immersion blender.  I have been using this more and more for baby food lately, since I am making smaller batches of food more frequently for the sake for variety and freshness.  Andrew really enjoyed this combination and it made four nice sized portions for him.  It’s a keeper!

He wasnt quite so sure about it after the first bite...

He wasn't quite so sure about it after the first bite...

...but he quickly warmed up to it and was cheering for more!

...but he quickly warmed up to it and was cheering for more!

Tomato, Cauliflower and Carrot with Basil
Ingredients:
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
1 cup chopped cauliflower florets
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and roughly chopped
2-3 fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup grated Cheddar cheese

Directions:
Place the carrots in a small saucepan.  Cover with water and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, covered, for 10 minutes.  Add the cauliflower and cook, covered, for 7-8 minutes more.  Meanwhile, melt the butter in another pan over medium heat.  Add the tomatoes to the butter and sauté until mushy.  Remove from the heat and stir in the basil and cheese until melted.  Puree the carrots and cauliflower with the tomato sauce and about 3 tablespoons of the cooking liquid.

Source: adapted from Top 100 Baby Purees

Adventures in Homemade Baby Food – Mangoes

I will admit I was both very excited and very nervous to introduce mangoes into Andrew’s diet. Mangoes are a tropical fruit (obviously), and therefore more acidic than many others. This causes them to be slightly more allergenic than most other fruits. Since he turned eight months old last week, I thought it would probably okay to give them a try (recommendations are for eight months or older) and it was! And not only did he not have any sort of reaction, he LOVED them!! I’d say they are up in his top three favorites with peaches and pears. So make your baby something a bit more unique – mango puree!

Mangoes have one large, flat seed on the inside.  You can tell the orientation of the seed just by looking at the fruit.  To cut a mango, cut lengthwise down just off of the center so that you are cutting parallel to the seed.  Don’t worry if you cut too close – your knife will let you know and you can cut a bit farther out.
 
Repeat the same cut on the other side of the seed so that you end up with two outside sections, and one thin middle section containing the seed.  You can discard the middle section.

Score the remaining pieces with a grid of cuts so that you end up with cubes of fruit still attached to the peel.  Invert the peel so that the cubes are sticking outward.

Peel the cubes of mango from the peel…

…and toss them into the food processor.  (Man, one of my mangoes was really not ripe!)  If you toss a few cubes into your own mouth, that’s okay too 🙂

Puree until the mango has reached the consistency your baby prefers.  Add water if necessary to help thin it out (I didn’t need any).  If the puree is too thin, thicken with rice cereal just before serving.

Yum!!!  I love mangoes!

Adventures in Homemade Baby Food – Peas

I have been very, very excited to try peas with Andrew because they are one of the few foods that Ben really doesn’t like.  I was hoping I could get a positive response from my little guy.  And of course, just as he has liked every other food we have tried, he liked peas too.  They definitely aren’t his favorite (peaches or pears) but he eats them and that makes me happy!

These were great for me because using frozen peas made the whole process so quick and easy.  Not only that, but frozen veggies are picked and packaged at the height of their ripeness, so they retain more nutrients than most fresh produce.  Plus, there is just no way I am shelling enough peas to make a full batch of baby food.   This time I prepared one 16-oz. bag of peas and I got five servings (15 cubes) out of it.  Next time I think I’ll make a double batch for our little piggy 🙂

peas-1Take a package of frozen peas and cook them according to the package directions.  (Don’t cook the package!  This was just for show.)

peas-2Frozen peas starting to boil.

peas-3That’s better – nice and soft!

peas-4Once the peas are all cooked, put them in the food processor or blender and puree.

peas-5Puree until they reach the desired consistency.  Mine were a bit thick, so I added a small amount of water.

peas-6Freeze in cubes.  Thaw as needed and feed your baby some healthy food!

peas-7

peas-8I like peas!

Adventures in Homemade Baby Food – Peaches

Oooh, the peaches.  I have loved making Andrew’s baby food and providing him with such a variety of fruits and vegetables.  However, because it is January, finding fantastically ripe produce to introduce to him is not always an option.  I’m certainly not going to wait until July to give him peaches though, so I just make do with what I can find.  Thankfully the peaches I found were actually fairly decent.

This was by far the most labor-intensive of any of the baby foods I have made so far.  If you have ever made a peach pie, peach cobbler, etc. then you probably know that peaches can be difficult to peel.  My usual trick for peeling them easily is scoring an “X” in the skin, then boiling for a short time and then removing the skins.  This was not the optimal method for baby food however, as I am trying to retain as many nutrients and as much flavor as possible while still cooking the fruit enough to soften it for pureeing.  I read that baked peaches have the most flavor so I knew that was the route I wanted to go, and I know boiling can cause many of the nutrients to leach out.

It is recommended that fruits and veggies have peels removed for infants younger than 8 months (Andrew is nearing 7 months), because the peels can be rough on their tummies.  If it weren’t for this fact, I would never have worried so much and simply left the peels on.   Read on to hear my methods, and the fact that in the end, Andrew ate peels with no problems at all.

peaches-1Start with ripe peaches.  So pretty!

peaches-2Make sure you wash them well.

peaches-3Halve and pit all the peaches.

peaches-4Place in a baking dish in an inch or so of water.

peaches-5Bake at 400 degrees F until the fruit is tender and the skin begins to pucker.  (Doesn’t it look like tie-dye?)

peaches-6Reserve some of the cooking water for thinning out the puree later, if desired.  This helps retain some of the nutrients that may have been lost during cooking.

peaches-7Initally, I had such a hard time peeling the peaches that I threw a few of them into the food processor, peels and all.  I pureed them and then attempted to force them through a mesh sieve to remove any large pieces of peel in the mix.

peaches-8This was quite a pain and look at all the good fruit I was wasting!

peaches-9This is what the strained puree looked like.  Very thin, and we actually thickened it with rice cereal.

I decided that this wasn’t the best tactic, so with all my remaining peaches, I simply peeled as best I could using a peeler and my fingers, and left on any problematic peels.  I pureed them in the food processor until blended very finely and left it at that.  (If you have a food mill, this whole task would be much easier, but I do not so I just used what I had on hand.)  I served Andrew both the carefully strained peaches and the peaches with some peel, and you know what?  He did not notice a difference and the peaches with peels did not seem to bother his tummy at all.  In fact, these peaches are by far his favorite food so far which made all the effort totally and completely worth it.  Next time I won’t worry so much about the peels since he seems to have my stomach of steel 🙂

eating-peachesEating his new favorite food.  So cute!

Adventures in Homemade Baby Food – Avocado

avocado-feeding

This certainly doesn’t qualify as a recipe, but I still feel the need to share it with my readers.  Originally I had not planned on posting about it, but in multiple conversations with friends and family when I mention that I have been feeding Andrew avocado, people say, “What a great idea!  I never would have thought to feed that to a baby.”  So just in case you might not have thought of it yourself, here you go.  This is by far the simplest of the baby foods I have prepared so far.  I simply halve and pit an avocado, scoop the flesh out of one half into a bowl, mash it up with a spoon or fork, and thin it slightly with a bit of water to achieve a consistency similar to other baby foods.  I stick the other half in the refrigerator to feed Andrew the next day.  It’s that simple!

Because it is so quick and easy to prepare, I haven’t bothered freezing the mashed up avocado, although it is certainly possible.  Just know that if you do it will become quite discolored, but that doesn’t make it less nutritious.  Avocado is a great source of “healthy” or unsaturated fats and are also high in fiber.  It’s a great option for another fruit to feed your baby, and as you can see, it has been a HUGE hit with Andrew 🙂

Best of 2008 – Main Dish
Orange Chicken
Spicy Shredded Pork
Perfect Pizza Crust
Shrimp Enchiladas
Penne a la Betsy
Chicken and Spinach Quesadillas