Mean Girl to the Rescue!

How'm I gonna save the world when the world ain't ready?

Monday, December 31, 2007

Set your blenders to stun. I mean, puree.

Because I am one of those not-trusting-in-big-corporations types of people, when it came time to start feeding my kid solids, I knew I would, at the very least, attempt to make his food. Izzy is the one who pointed out the stupidity of Gerber manufacturing organic baby food and then packaging it in polycarbonate plastic (and I wrote them an aggrieved email asking them why, and they swear that the plastic they use is not polycarbonate. But isn't that what #7 plastic IS? I welcome your enlightenment, dear readers). There is always Earth's Best organic baby food - I trust them far more than, say, Beech Nut - but mah gawd, the expense! So I had to try to make my own. And it was a lot easier than you'd think.

Basically, if you want to do it without a book of recipes, you can just peel (you can leave summer squash, figs and other thin-skinned items unpeeled, if organic) whatever fruits and/or veggies you have around, cut them into a 1/2" dice, plop them in a pot and cover them with water. Then bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 20 minutes. Transfer the whole contents of the pot to the blender (being careful not to splash hot food on yourself), and puree, pushing the solid pieces to the bottom to ensure even texture. Then pour into sterilized, empty baby food jars (the dishwasher is hot enough to sterilize, or use your baby's bottle sterilizer), or use whatever sterilized glass jars you have, from jam, or salsa, or whatever. Leave to cool for maybe half an hour (so the glass doesn't break from the temp change of the fridge), pop into the refrigerator, and you're done. Seriously. That's it. If you can cook for yourself, you can cook for your baby.

If you want to get fancier, or need ideas for what foods go together best, there are two excellent books I recommend. The first is nice and simple, has a number of great recipes, and is available on Amazon (I got it through interlibrary loan, though, and so could you): Blender Baby Food by Nicole Young, who seems to be a blender aficionado (her other books are blender recipe books). Her measurements are precise and all the recipes I tried worked, quickly and easily.

The second one, I liked so much I bought it new: Cathe Olson's Simply Natural Baby Food.
The recipes are simple, yet unusual enough for a jaded toddler's interest, and she has wonderful information about making sure your baby gets the best nutrition possible, using ingredients like nutritional yeast and seaweed (although I had a hell of a time finding the many varieties of seaweed she suggests, even at my beloved H-Mart), and suggesting alternatives to salt, like Bragg's amino acids. I got the sense that Cather really knows her shit, and I really love her sidebars filled with tips and tricks. She gives equal time to vegetarian options, but doesn't make you feel like a villain if you choose to feed your baby protein in meat form. Cathe even has a blog, which is right up my alley with its information on BPA-lined formula cans and Monsanto-engineered GMO sugar (coming soon to a Kellogg's cereal near you!).

There are many, many other baby food cookbooks out there, and each has its own spin, usually written by a professional baby food cook who has her own business (who knew there was such a thing?). It's worth noting that virtually all of these promote the importance of organic produce for babies, since their little systems are tiny enough to be easily overloaded by the chemicals found on conventional produce. If you're interested in making your own food, why not get whatever cookbook is available at your local library and take the recipes for a test drive first? Making your own baby food might not be the right choice for you, but if it is, the sense of accomplishment is surprisingly great. Plus, you get to smile beatifically as you say, "Why, yes, I do make little Junior's food!" while you enjoy an inner smug moment. Or maybe that's just me ...

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