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  • Apricot Puree for Babies

    I used to make this when the boys were babies, and wanted to post it before I forget all about it. It’s a somewhat time-consuming recipe and requires a decent amount of dishwashing because of the food mill and food processor, but it makes a large batch and is worth the effort. For older babies ready for more texture, you can skip the last skip (with the food processor). You can also make this recipe with prunes. I tried to use organic, unsulfured fruit, which I found at Whole Foods and sometimes at Trader Joe’s.

    Apricot Puree for Babies

    1 pound dried apricots (preferably organic and unsulfured)
    6 cups water

    1. Combine apricots and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for one hour or until apricots are falling apart (you may need to add more water, depending on how much is absorbed). Remove from heat and let stand 20 minutes.

    2. Transfer the apricots and boiling liquid to a food mill resting on top of a large bowl. Process the apricots through the food mill and let cool to room temperature.

    3. Transfer the apricot puree to a food processor fitted with a blade and pulse five times. Scrape down the sides and process until the puree is smooth. Freeze in ice cube trays for convenience (don’t forget to date and label!).

    Baby Food Recipe: Pureed Chicken (slow cooker method)

    I know, it sounds gross. And yet, if you’re making your own baby food and you don’t plan on raising a vegetarian, you’re probably going to need to make Pureed Chicken. Here’s my method:

    Pureed Chicken

    1. Add 1/2 to 2 pounds of chicken tenders or boneless skinless chicken breast to a crockpot appropriate to the amount of chicken you are cooking. (Personally, I prefer to cook 1/2 pound chicken tenders in my 1.5 quart slow cooker, but I’m sure many people have a 4 quart or larger slow cooker, which will work just fine with a larger amount of chicken.) Add enough water to completely cover the chicken and cook on high for 4 to 6 hours or on low for 6 to 8 hours, until chicken is completely cooked and tender.

    2. If you want the smoothest puree possible, remove the chicken from the crock to a food processor. Puree until smooth, adding as much of the cooking liquid as necessary to achieve the desired consistency. Let the puree cool completely, then transfer to ice cube trays and freeze.

    3. For a textured puree (which is great for getting baby used to chewing), remove the crock from the cooker and let cool for an hour. Transfer to the refrigerator until the chicken is cold. Transfer the chicken to a food processor and puree, adding cooking liquid to achieve the desired consistency. Freeze in ice cube trays or in a large plastic container (if you didn’t add much of the cooking liquid, you’ll be able to “chip” the frozen chicken and put the desired amount into a bowl for serving).

    Note: Tyler switched to finger foods before I started letting him have seasoned food, but you could add seasoning when cooking as long as it isn’t too spicy.

    Baby Food Combinations

    One of the best things about making your own baby food is preparing foods that don’t come in jars (like red bell pepper) and coming up with combinations you can’t buy at the store. The following food combinations are from Annabel Karmel‘s book, The Healthy Baby Meal Planner:

    • avocado & banana
    • zucchini & sweet potato
    • red bell pepper & cauliflower or potato
    • peach & banana
    • butternut squash & pear

    Making Your Own Baby Food: Hardware

    I really enjoy making baby food, in large part because I can introduce my child to foods that just don’t come in jars, like cauliflower and red pepper, both of which he’s liked. Making your own baby food doesn’t require a lot of hardware, but it usually does require a fair amount of time, since it takes a while to soften the food enough for pureeing, milling or processing. Here are the items I think are helpful to have on hand:

    • Steamer: I like my Black & Decker food steamer, but you really don’t need a separate appliance. Inexpensive alternatives include a traditional expandable steamer or a metal colander resting in a pot with a couple inches of simmering water.
    • Slow cooker: I love making dinner in my slow cooker, but it’s also great for making baby food because I can leave food cooking for a long time – and sometimes foods take a long time to get soft enough for baby (like apples, peas, and prunes).
    • Food mill and/or Food processor and/or Blender: I actually have a large food mill, a 7-cup food processor, a 2-cup electric food mill, a 3-cup mini-chopper, a regular blender, and a hand blender. You definitely don’t need all of them to make baby food. I use my food mill for applesauce, corn, peas, green beans, and anything that might have a component that should be removed before being served to baby. I use my large food processor for big batches of squash, carrots, peaches, etc. And I use my electric food mill for things I want to serve fresh, like avocados and bananas. I never reach for my mini-chopper or blenders when I’m making baby food. I would recommend the large food mill over a food processor since foods that can go in the food processor can also go through a food mill. But if you already have a food processor, you may want to consider Kidco’s manual food mill. I’ve never used it myself but I’ve heard some good things about it.
    • Ice cube trays: Any ice cube trays will do, and they don’t have to be specially made for baby food. Trays with covers are convenient if you want to leave the cubes in the tray, but I usually dump them into a labeled zip top freezer bag so I can use the tray for another batch. (I’ve reviewed Kidco and Fresh Baby trays here and trays from the Container Store here.)
    • Masking tape and a permanent marker: I’ve included these items in the list to emphasize how important it is to label the food before you freeze it. Trust me, it can be surprisingly difficult to tell peaches and pears apart, not to mention carrots and butternut squash, peas and green beans, and so on. Don’t forget to write the date down too, since it’s best to use the food up within 30 days or so, and always within 3 months (per I also keep a list on the freezer door of foods that are inside along with the date that I made them so I know what needs to be used up.

    Baby Food: Slow Cooker Prunes

    Sometimes baby needs a little help in the pooping department. This should do the trick.

    Slow Cooker Prunes
    Makes approximately 3 cups or 28 1-oz. cubes

    1 lb. (organic) pitted prunes
    6 cups water

    1. Combine prunes and water in slow cooker. Cook for 8 to 10 hours on low or 4 to 5 hours on high. Turn off heat and let cool completely (I transfer the crock to the fridge for maximum food safety).

    2. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the prunes to a food mill and run the prunes through the mill. Alternatively, transfer the prunes to a food processor and process until smooth (if you use this method, make sure there are no pit remnants before you cook the prunes).

    3. Optional: for younger babies or if you want the smoothest puree, process the prune puree in a blender.

    4. Divide the puree into ice cube trays and freeze. Don’t forget to label with date and contents.

    Note: Prune puree will not completely harden but will keep for 1 to 3 months in the freezer. Try serving with pureed pears, peaches, or bananas.