Around six months, we began introducing Liv to solid foods via the Baby Led Weaning approach. I loved the idea of exposing her to a wide variety of flavors at a young age. With BLW, baby eats what you eat– ideally wholesome, nutritious foods in their natural form. If you are having steak and veggies for dinner, well then baby gets a chunk of meat and a spear of broccoli to gnaw on too. The method encourages the use of plenty of spices and dispels the myth that babies require bland foods. It makes sense when you think about all the babies in other cultures who regularly eat spicy foods at each meal. Some of our favorites to sprinkle on meats, rice and baked vegetables are garlic powder, rosemary, curry powder and sage.
Neither Keane nor I are picky eaters so it was really important to us that our children develop a well rounded palate. I also refuse to make a different meal for everyone in our household so out of necessity, our kids need to be able to enjoy foods other than chicken nuggets and mac and cheese.
Following this method and being liberal with what we offer Liv has really paid off. We get so many comments from family, friends and fellow restaurant goers about how well she eats. There really isn't a food she won't gobble up. Her favorites include kale, mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower, black beans, kiwi, blackberries, pomegranates, eggs, chicken, and beef.
The fact that she eats pretty much anything I do makes life so much easier, but I will admit, there are times when I'm feeling lazy and don't want to have to think about making a meal. Times when I decide to eat chips and salsa for dinner or hold off on making breakfast for myself until L's morning nap. That's when having a variety of frozen purées on hand for quick, healthy meal options for her is super convenient. I can simply reach into the freezer and quickly thaw a couple cubes of fruit and veggie blends without any thought or preparation.
The organic squeeze pouches of baby food are nice to keep in the diaper bag for when we are on the go but at $1.89 a pop, they add up quick. So when we're home, mama's blends are what she gets!
Every three weeks or so, I come up with some combinations I think sound good and stock up on produce. I use a food processor to make big batches which I then freeze in ice trays.
Here are a few tried and true recipes in our house:
Peel, core and slice apples. Place spears in 1 inch of boiling water for 10 minutes or until tender. Peel and steam carrots for approximately 20 minutes. Place both in food processor until smooth.
Apple Peach Corn Chia Seeds
I used organic frozen peaches since they aren't currently in season. I also used frozen organic corn because that's what I had on hand. Place all ingredients into food processor until smooth.
Tropical Fruit Spinach
(Steamed pears, fresh kiwi, mango, banana, and spinach)
Blend all ingredients until smooth.
Beets Kale Banana Pear
Clean and peel beets. Cut into small chunks and steam for 15-20 minutes or until tender. Add raw kale, banana, steamed pears and beets to food processor until smooth.
Blend organic canned pumpkin and banana
Butternut Squash Sweet Potato
This one is easy because you can pop both ingredients in the oven at the same time. Slice squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Place both halves face down in a baking dish with about 1 inch of water. Bake at 400 for 40 minutes to an hour. Let cool, then scoop out the "meat." Puncture sweet potatoes with a fork and place in the same oven for the same amount of time. Once cooled, scoop out potato from skin and process until smooth. Add a few dashes of cinnamon to taste.
Steam pears. Once cooked, blend in food processor and add vanilla extract and cinnamon to taste.
A few months ago I made a huge batch of beets and discovered they weren't Liv's favorite. So instead of wasting all those wonderful nutrients, I added a little frozen beets to other recipes to pack in more vitamins. The bright pink cube you see in the picture is Pear Sauce with some frozen beets thrown in. They don't change the flavor, and they make everything prettier! Win win.
If you are making purées with a single vegetable, try experimenting with some yummy spices. Add basil, thyme or tarragon to carrots. Sprinkle garlic powder, sage or pepper on green beans or peas. I don't use exact measurements of anything, I just do a lot of taste testing while I cook.
Some other combinations you could try are Broccoli Apple, Sweet Potato Corn Apple, Spinach Pumpkin Chickpea, or Blueberry Pear Carrot. The combinations are endless. Just use what you have on hand and taste as you go. Chances are if you think it's tasty, you're babe will too.
Try using organic ingredients when possible and make things in bulk. You'll save time if you steam a whole pot of apples or bake a few sweet potatoes at once, and use them in several different recipes.
Depending on your baby's texture preference, you can add vitamin rich water from the steamed fruits or veggies to the purées to make them more runny. Breast milk or formula is also a great option.
I really recommend getting some silicone ice trays. I've found they make larger cubes than traditional ice trays and it is much easier to get them out once frozen.
Making your own healthy baby food doesn't have to be a daunting task. With a little planning, you can create lots of fun flavors for your little one to enjoy!
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