Thursday, April 8, 2010

Stage 1 Food Making Tips

A handy list of appropriate Stage 1 baby foods (and any baby food, really) can be found at Wholesome Baby Food. With this list, the list our pediatrician gave us, and common sense, I have made determinations of what I personally feel comfortable feeding the Test Nommer.

The common sense I'm using is: 1. Is it acidic 2. Is it something people seem to be allergic to a lot 3. Do we have any issues with it

If the answer to any of these is yes, I'm holding off on it.

We also follow the 3 day guideline, where we give a new food, and only one new food, for 3 days in a row to check for reactions. We could go to 5, but we usually don't. I'm impatient.

Tip #1: Mashing slick stuff

For banana and avocado, I had a rough time mashing these really smooth by fork or spoon since they don't need to be cooked. Since I mix the fruit with cereal anyway, I pour the dry cereal onto the partially mashed fruit and then mash to a very smooth puree and add water (or formula) to thin it out to the proper consistency. It's a similar method to adding kosher salt to minced garlic to make garlic paste. Only baby appropriate. It's culinary sandpaper. But I digress.

I haven't tried this method with regular gerber rice cereal, which dissolves very easily, but it should work the same. I have been using Earth's Best Organic Brown Rice cereal, and it takes a bit longer to absorb liquid so it works well.

Tip #2: Freezing cubes and storage

As mentioned before, I use regular old ice cube trays for freezing the food. The plastic ones you sometimes have to beat on the counter to release ice cubes, the ones that you have but have no idea where they came from.

The key to releasing the food from the trays is to only leave the trays in the freezer a few hours to JUST freeze the food. It'll take less time than water. As you release them, put them in a ziplock freezer bag and date and label. And there you have it! Convenient 1oz portions of delicious puree to be mixed and matched with other delicious cubes.

Tip #3: Reheating Frozen Cubes

This is not the most environmentally friendly way to reheat, but, it works. I boil some water in the microwave, then I put the cubes in a sandwich bag and put that bag into the hot water, and in about 5 mins its defrosted and ready to go. If I'm in a hurry, I'll put the bag into the water before it goes in the microwave. I don't straight up microwave the food in a bowl because it's such a small amount, half of it bubbles and gets gross before the rest of it is even defrosted and it bugs me. It probably doesn't help out the taste or nutritional content, either.

The Equipment

Being a chef, or at least one by training if not by current employment, I have a bunch of gadgets and appliances that can accomplish the task of cooking and grinding up food.

I have a pan and basket steamer, which is cheap and effective for steaming food. I also have an oven, so, that works, too. A fork is also handy.

I have a food processor, a blender, and the grinding and straining attachments for my KitchenAid stand mixer.

But what I use is the Beaba Babycook that I received as a shower gift from my beloved father-in-law.

I was really really reluctant to like this thing. A student of the Alton Brown School of Gadgetry, I try to avoid the unitaskers. I have a million other things that can do the job! Scoff! Patooie!

The husband dug the idea because he does the dishes and it looked easy to clean.

Guys, I love this thing. It really is ridiculously easy, even if it is French and unfortunately named once translated to English. You pour the water into the water part, put the veggies/fruit in the steamer, and turn it to steam. When it's done, put the liquid in another dish, dump the veg into the bowl, and blend away, adding the reserved steaming liquid as needed. Scoop out et voila, babyfood! And it's super easy to clean. And small.

I also use the oven for roasting (as I did for butternut squash, as I am far too lazy to peel a butternut squash, those suckers are hard).

For storage? Plain old ice cube trays. Ice cubes are 1oz each, or 2 tablespoons, or 6 teaspoons. Beaba makes fancy dancy storage trays, but I don't have room for them in my freezer. I wanted to use silicone trays, but I haven't been able to find any but I haven't needed them anyway.

Using a basket steamer and a small food processor, like one that's commonly used for chopping nuts, will accomplish the same thing with the same negligible mess, and for a much cheaper cost.

I've always wanted a food blog

I made the decision before my daughter was born to make as much of her food as I could. I am a chef, after all, and I'm surprising myself with how fun I'm finding it.

My little Test Nommer is only 5 and a half months old, but she started solid foods at around 4 months old.

I know, I know. It's young. We decided to start her on solids at that time because, well, she seemed ready. She was following our hands and mouths with her eyes as we ate, she was mimicing chewing actions, and we felt guilty eating in front of her. Additionally, she had a bit of a stomach bug and the pediatrician suggested that a little rice cereal might stop her up a bit.

Let's get one thing straight: I'm not particularly crunchy.

Yes, I feed the Test Nommer mostly organic food. Yes, I make her food. The former is mostly because of my own health issues and in my paranoia I want to keep her from anything I can that might cause her problems down the line, like pesticides. I have no data to back this up. This is blind, ignorant, first-time mom neurotic behavior. And the organic stuff usually looks tastier. The latter is because I find it fun and I don't want to give her anything I wouldn't eat myself and the jarred stuff grosses me out.

I also do not breastfeed. This was a function of medical necessity and not choice, though I don't see an issue with people choosing not to breastfeed, either. As long as the kid is fed, I don't particularly care and I don't think anyone else should either. Good? Good.

So, gentlemen, start your food processors!