Early in your baby’s life is full of learning—for both them and you. They’re learning their likes and dislikes, and you’re doing the same. Food becomes a big part of this. If you love food, you definitely want your baby to be the same way! There’s nothing wrong with jarred baby food you can buy at the grocery store, but you can make baby food at home that costs less and packs even more flavor. Here’s a list of tips and equipment you’ll need to get started.
The Complete Baby and Toddler CookbookFrom purees to smoothies to family meals that everyone can enjoy, this cookbook includes the very best (kitchen-tested!) recipes to get you through the early years.
Tip 1: Make Enough to Freeze
When making purees, we recommend making enough to last several meals and freezing the leftovers. To freeze, divide the puree evenly into an ice cube tray. Once frozen, pop the cubes out of the tray and transfer them to a heavy-duty zipper-lock bag. To serve, defrost the cubes in the refrigerator overnight or microwave one cube for 30 to 45 seconds and stir to recombine.
OXO No-Spill Ice Cube TrayThis tray has a flexible silicone cover that fits snugly, creating a seal that kept water from spilling from the indentations and blocked out freezer smells. The ice cubes released effortlessly from its rounded indentations. The lid can be removed for cleaning.
Tip 2: Steam—Don’t Roast—Carrots
Steaming is essential for harder vegetables to make them puree-able. This is especially true with carrots, which need a good 10-minute steam before you throw them into your blender or baby food maker. While roasting seems like the best option, steaming is prefereable because we get a more "carroty" flavor. Because carrots contain very little starch, steaming makes them softer than roasting could. Carrots also get sweeter as you cook them, making this puree even more enjoyable for your baby. Another great aspect of carrots is that they are packed with beta-carotene, a bright orange pigment that the body converts to vitamin A.
OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Steamer with Extendable HandleOur old favorite fits a good amount of food, and we love its new telescoping handle: it’s easy to grip to move the steamer in and out of the pot.
Tip 3: Roast—Don’t Steam—Sweet Potatoes
While other vegetable purees, such as carrot, call for steaming, sweet potatoes are different. By roasting these orange spuds, you are able to achieve a sweeter flavor that your baby will love. They get sweeter during cooking due to the action of an enzyme that breaks down starch into sugar between 135 and 170 degrees. Baking for a full hour gives the enzymes more time to work. Oh and did we mention roasting increases their vitamin C content as well?
Nordic Ware Baker’s Half SheetEverything prepared in this sturdy, warp-resistant sheet cooked appropriately and evenly. Best of all, our new favorite is a few bucks cheaper than our old winner.
Tip 4: Use Frozen Peas for Pea Puree
If your baby is a big fan of peas, it’s a good idea to grab some frozen peas—they’re convenient and they make a more appealing pea puree. Individually frozen soon after shucking from the pod, frozen peas are often sweeter and fresher tasting than the “fresh” peas you have to shuck yourself, which have spent days in storage. This is because the sugars in just-picked peas convert to starches over time. Frozen peas have already been blanched, which stops the process of sugar-to-starch conversion, sets the color of the peas, and cooks them so that they are tender enough to eat. And make sure you run this puree through a fine-mesh strainer to remove any leftover solids, which can add a weird texture.
Rösle Fine Mesh Strainer, Round Handle, 7.9 inches, 20 cmWith a roomy, medium-depth basket of very fine, tight, stiff mesh, this strainer produces perfectly silky purees.
Tip 5: Use an Additional Cooking Liquid
When making a baby food puree, make sure you use an additional cooking liquid to adjust the consistency to your and your baby’s preference, otherwise the puree will be too dense. You could just use water, but you can also use formula or breast milk to add creaminess and additional nutrition to your baby’s food.
Tip 6: Spice it Up
When you and your baby feel ready, you can add some spices to your purees. Doing this will help expand your baby’s palate and introduce them to new flavors. Research has shown, in short-term studies, that if you expose a child to a novel food or flavor at least 8 to 12 times, in many cases you can induce them to accept it, and perhaps even come to like it. Use the spices conservatively to make sure they aren’t overpowering, but doing this could be beneficial in the long run. For fruits and veggies like apples, sweet potatoes, and carrots, ground cinnamon is an option that complements these purees well.