I have a confession to make. Promise you won’t turn me in to the mommy police? I starting feeding one of my twins solid food at 5 months – GASP! In my defense though, the little dude was hungry. At 4 months he was reaching for food as we were eating it. By 4.5 months he would watch every morsel we put in to our mouths and then work his little jaw furiously like he was chewing. So at 5 months I said “Ok fine, lets eat some sweet potatoes” and let me tell you, you have never seen anything as joyful as that little guy eating sweet potatoes. He gobbled them up and then crowed for more! So the next day we gave him avocado. He crushed it. He was ecstatic! Feed me, feed me!!
So how did I know what to give him? How did I know how to prepare it? The short answer is that I didn’t. I had read a bunch of stuff on baby led weaning, and we did some of that. And I read some stuff about making homemade baby food and I utilized some of the things that I learned from that. I talked with my mom and my aunts and my friends and listened to what worked for them. But in general, I just followed my gut. What’s healthy? What’s nutritious? What skills does my baby have (or not have) that affects their ability to safely eat certain foods?
Second confession – I desperately want to be one of those crunchy granola moms who makes everything from scratch and only uses organic fruits and vegetables from farmers markets and CSA’s, but the reality is that I’m too broke, too lazy and too busy for all of that. So all of these recipes are either quick, I found a short cut to make it quick, or I did everything in batches so that I only had to do it once in a while. When possible I try to buy organic fresh fruits and veggies, but often frozen is cheaper and pretty close to nutritionally equivalent. It also stores better, obviously. I also stop at all the little produce stands on my way home from work to try and get fresh, seasonal, local stuff. That assuages my “granola mom wannabe” side quite a bit. But I digress.
Here is a quick breakdown of some of the things that I fed my boys and how I prepared it. In most instances I don’t give you any measured amount so that you can use however much you think you’ll need, depending on the number of babies you have and their appetites.
Preheat oven to 350. Wash sweet potato/s, puncture with a fork, wrap in aluminum foil and place on a baking tray (they drip when they cook). Cook for about 40 minutes or until potato is soft when you squeeze it. You can also cook these in the microwave, just use moist paper towels instead of aluminum foil. Cook for 4 minutes and then rotate and cook for another 2-3 minutes or until potato is soft when you squeeze it.
Scoop out the center and mash it up with a little bit of formula or breast milk (just an ounce or two, depending on the size of the potato). Season with a little salt (or cinnamon) and allow to cool. Storage: I just put the leftovers in a Tupperware in the fridge. I made a fresh batch every few days.
Butternut squash (or sweet potato chunks)
The best thing since sliced bread is pre-cut butternut squash. I’ve almost sacrificed fingers trying to cut up whole butternut squash! So this recipe calls for the slightly more expensive but pre-cut squash, either frozen or fresh.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil (or spray) an oven safe dish. Toss the squash in 2 tbs of oil (olive or coconut), lightly sprinkle with salt or cinnamon and place in a single layer in the baking dish. Cook the squash for 10 minutes, then remove from oven and stir. Put back in oven, stirring occasionally for about 25 minutes or until squash is soft. Allow to cool. You can either smoosh this with a fork or put it in the blender. I usually smoosh – see discussion below about blender hatred.
You can do this with any frozen or fresh fruit, depending on the season. I often used the frozen mixed berries from Trader Joe’s. Put the fruit in the blender with a few ounces of formula or breast milk. I would also usually add half a banana for thickening – pretend like you’re making a breastmilk smoothie. Puree until smooth – about 1.5 minutes. Spoon the mixture into clean ice cube trays (I got mine at the dollar store) and put in the freezer. To thaw, take out a cube of puree and either let it thaw naturally or put it in the microwave for 10-15 seconds. Always check the temperature to be sure it isn’t hot before you give it to your baby!! Also, I would sometimes mix this with rice cereal to make it a little bit more substantial. *I would usually make 4 or 5 different purees at a time so that I didn’t have to clean the blender often. I hate cleaning the blender. Some good combos are mango and banana, strawberry/blueberry, peach/mango/banana and strawberry/peach.
Apples and pears
I cooked apples and pears the same way so I’ll just lump them together. You can either boil these or bake them. If the pear is very ripe you can often just mash it up or puree it without cooking. Whenever possible I try to avoid cooking.
To boil – Boiling is faster but you lose some nutrients this way. Peel the fruit and cut into small chunks. Place the chunks in boiling water until soft, usually about 10-15 minutes (less for pears).
To bake – Preheat oven. Cut peeled fruit into small pieces and place in greased casserole dish in oven for 15-20 minutes or until tender.
Remove and puree in blender until smooth, adding water, formula or breastmilk until fruit reaches desired consistency. Spoon into ice cube trays and freeze.
Cut the avocado in half and remove the seed. Scope out the green flesh with a tablespoon and discard the skin. Smash up the avocado flesh with a fork and season with a little salt and pepper. Avocado does not store well so only make what you need. Hint*-if you only plan to use half of the avocado leave the seed in the other half – it helps to keep it from browning.
Humocado or Avohummus
Prepare avocado as described above. Now mix the smooshed up avocado with a few tablespoons of hummus, either pre-made or homemade (If you’re feeling crunchy and have some extra time the recipe for homemade is below). This is super tasty (try some!) and very healthy. Lots of protein and good fats.
Hummus (without tahini)
- 1 15 oz can of chickpeas, rinsed
- 1 clove of garlic
- 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
- Juice from ½ of a lemon
- ½ c of water
- a pinch of salt, cumin and paprika (to taste)
Put in the blender and puree until creamy. If it’s too thick add a little bit more water until it reaches the desired consistency.
Carrots – you can roast them, boil them or steam them. I recommend roasting.
To roast – Preheat oven to 350. Put carrots in the oven for ~30 minutes or until they are tender.
To boil – Put carrots in a saucepan of boiling water. Simmer for 15-20 minutes or until tender.
To steam – Place in a steamer over a simmering pot of water and allow to steam until soft.
After the carrots are cooked mashed them up or puree them in the blender with some water, formula or breast milk. Spoon in to ice cube trays for freezing.
Wash thoroughly. Steam or boil the broccoli until it’s soft, remove from liquid and puree until mostly smooth. I found that the broccoli didn’t stay together well so I would usually add it to other things, like mashed potatoes or carrot puree. Don’t make too much – a little goes a long way. You can freeze this in ice cube trays just like a fruit puree.
Wash potatoes well, or peel ahead of time. (I hate peeling and cutting potatoes so I always just cook them with the skin on and then slip the skins off when they’ve cooked). Take your potatoes (let’s say you have 3) and place them in boiling water until they’re soft. Remove the skins and start adding breast milk or formula as you mash the potatoes with a potato masher or a fork. Keep mashing and adding milk until the potatoes are smooth and creamy. Add some salt. *I would often add stuff to the mashed potatoes before I gave it to them, like pureed broccoli or roasted mashed carrots. If you have extra it will keep in the fridge for a few days. I would sometimes freeze the it in single sized lunched bags but the texture can sometimes can strange when it thaws. Never freeze it more than once, or it gets a really weird texture.
Some other things you can try –
- My foodie friend made her girls lamb and mint jelly. Just take your favorite recipe (in this case lamb – blergh!), cook it as usual and then puree. Mint jelly on the side.
- Do you love Indian food? So do my boys! I would puree the chicken from chicken tika masala along with the sauce and they would gobble it up. Mix it with rice cereal, or puree some chickpeas or lentils to mix in. They were also wild about peas paneer.
*Tip – if your baby doesn’t like a particular type of food try combining it with something they do like. Baby doesn’t like peas? Mix some peas with some carrots. Won’t eat pears? Mix with apples. You get it.
**Be creative – let them explore taste and texture. Think of how amazing it must be to taste all of these wonderful flavors after having nothing but milk! Just be mindful of possible allergens (peanuts, shrimp, strawberries, etc), be aware that their stomachs may be a little sensitive, and be mindful of their ability to chew and swallow effectively.
My babies did a lot of coughing and sputtering (with occasional gagging) while they were getting the hang of food. Be watchful but don’t be paranoid.
Good things to mash without cooking – bananas, avocado
Good things to mash after cooking – butternut squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, potatoes, peas
Good things to puree without cooking – mango, kiwi, strawberries, blueberries, peaches
Good things to puree after cooking – chickpeas, peas, lentils, green beans, carrots, broccoli, chicken, pork, apples, pears
Do you have any favorite baby food recipes? Share them in the comments!