In the scheme of things, making homemade baby food is simple business (and totally worth it!). Roast or steam, puree and freeze. No big deal, right? Well, as any busy parent knows, even the simplest tasks become arduous when you’re under slept and have few precious personal moments. Sometimes even just three easy steps feels like too much to bear. The best motivation to get back on track? Make purees that you—and the rest of the family—love, too! The effort feels more worthwhile when you can feed more than just one member of the family with the fruits of your labor.
Serving purees feels strange when you think of them only as baby food. But, just like good old-fashioned applesauce, a tasty puree is great to have on hand for eaters of all ages. They make a prefect snack, mix-in for yogurt or oatmeal, smoothie base or even ice cream topping.
To make purees that everyone will love, start by thinking outside the produce. You don’t have to stick with just plain fruits and vegetables.
* Add grains and nuts (for children already safely eating tree nuts; read more on safely introducing high allergen foods to beginner eaters). Whiz nuts like walnuts and almonds in your food processor to make a flour-like meal that can be blended into your puree (be careful not to over blend or you’ll end up with nut butter). You can do the same with raw grains like oats and quinoa. Add hot water to the resulting “flour” to “cook” the grains and make a paste—of whatever consistency makes most sense—that can be stirred into your puree.
* Play with combinations of vegetables and fresh and dried fruits. There are infinite ways to combine ingredients. Poke around here and look to your other favorite baby food resources for inspiration. Then cook a bunch of ingredients and mix and match to see what works well. Steam apples, roast pears and squash and soak prunes—then go crazy! Apples and squash. Pears and prunes. Apples and pears. You get the picture.
* Don’t be afraid to use herbs and spices. They’re often what separate bland baby food from purees that even grownups love. Remember those puree combos from above? Now turn them into apples and squash with toasted curry powder; pears, prunes and cardamom; apples and pears with cinnamon and nutmeg. Now we’re cooking!
* For kids over 12+ months, puree with liquids other than water, formula and/or breast milk. Whole cow or goat milk add creaminess, as does coconut milk (with a tropical flare!). Try unsweetened almond milk for kids already safely eating tree nuts. Though I don’t recommend serving cups of juice to beginner eaters (lots of sugar without most of the benefits that come from whole fruit), a touch of OJ, pineapple juice or cider can add a whole lot of flavor to already nutrient-packed fruit and veggie purees.
Here’s some inspiration to get you started:
What baby food puree have you made that the rest of the family loves, too? Share your ideas with us!