Disclaimer #2- Some of these are mind-numbingly simple instructions. Don't take them as an insult to your intelligence; when I started making baby food I literally had no idea what I was doing and I would have loved a post that told me how to prepare her food. If you're smarter than that (probably) I'm so happy for you.
Disclaimer #3- If you buy baby food and have never pureed a single vegetable, that's great. I make my baby food because it's cheaper for us and because I am home 90% of the time with nothing better to do. =) And, strangely enough, I find it kind of fun.
I've decided in the past ten months (since Alice was born) that parenting is basically working really hard to adapt to a certain phase and master it only to have it pass by while a new one begins (and the process starts again.) The newborn stage of sleepless nights and painful feedings seemed to be never-ending, but it did, in fact, end (much too quickly, I might add. Well, the tiny little baby part ended quickly. I was not sorry to see the sleepless nights go.)
Just when I felt like I had conquered nursing (which was incredibly difficult and painful for me for several weeks) and we had gotten in a great routine, it was time to start thinking about solid food. For some reason, I was extremely intimidated by the idea of introducing solids and very overwhelmed by all the information (the blessing/curse of the internet) that is available on the subject. I knew I wanted to do some version of baby-led weaning (this post was helpful and pretty much sold me on the idea) but beyond that I was fairly clueless about my plans.
We tried rice cereal like one time (she was not a fan) and even though the actual Baby-Led Weaning plan doesn't recommend spoon-feeding (because you delay solids until they're able to mostly feed themselves with their fingers), we only waited until about six months and I am just too OCD just to let her make a mess for 45 minutes every single meal-time. Therefore, my version of feeding her regular food that we eat (versus buying baby food) was just preparing my own baby food. (This isn't every food we prepare or that she's ever eaten, just the ones we have most often.)
Also, for reference, I started preparing most of these when she was about seven months old and she would have solids about twice a day- usually applesauce for breakfast and a vegetable around supper time. She was nursing five times a day at that point. Now that she's almost eleven months old (what?) she is nursing three times a day and eating solids (usually two at a time, sometimes three) about three times a day, and we are slowly phasing out into actual finger foods and fewer purees. However, we're not giving them up completely (and still only doing very, very soft foods) because Alice is still toothless and chewing without teeth, as you can imagine, is difficult. For a long time we thinned out thicker foods with a little water when we served them, but now she does fine with the thicker textures.
Green beans- I cook them until they're softened, then puree in the blender with about half the liquid. (I feel like I always end up with too much liquid, so use even less if you're inclined.)
Carrots- I cover them with water or low-sodium chicken broth (usually a mixture of both) and cook on high for a few minutes before simmering them until they're soft (about 30 minutes) then pureeing in the blender. Make sure to cook them for a good while because I have been dumb and tried to blend hard carrot chunks- no bueno.
Squash- peel, slice in half length-wise, scoop out the seeds, and cut into chunks. I've covered them with just water and also a mixture of water and low-sodium chicken broth. Then cook to soften (not too long, about ten minutes) and puree. These get really thin and watery so I've actually thrown in a can of green beans to thicken the mixture.
Avocado- mash with a fork. Ta-da, you're done! (Same with a banana. So easy.)
Black beans (canned)- heat to soften, puree. Nothing extra needed; their own liquid is just enough. Alice loves black beans!
Sweet potato- poke holes with a fork; bake at 400 for at least an hour (sometimes an hour and fifteen minutes.) Split it open and scoop out the insides. Mash them up. Done! (I've mixed applesauce in before too.)
Hard-boiled egg- boil the egg as usual; remove the yolks and mix into whatever food you choose (since you really can't taste them, I've mixed them into all kinds of things, but most often sweet potato and black beans. Protein!) You can save the yolks in the fridge for a few days to use as needed.
Grilled chicken- just add a few chunks to whatever vegetables you're pureeing. Another good protein source.
Any spices or anything are totally up to you; at her 9-month appointment her doctor said that she could have more spices and flavors so we've added garlic to her black beans, cinnamon to her sweet potato, and teensy bits of butter to a few vegetables. (If you think I'm a terrible person, I'm sorry. We are southern people and we eat butter on our vegetables. If my Mamaw were making her green beans they'd probably have bacon grease in them so these are practically grass in comparison.) And we've also blended some entire meals (chicken, rice and vegetables, for example) that she loved too.
We also love unsweetened applesauce (I buy the individual packs because I'm lazy but the big jars are great too) and also GoGo Squeez pouches for when we're out. (Why is purposely misspelling a marketing thing? Why?) They're organic with no crazy ingredients and super cheap in bulk (we buy them at Sam's.) When she's a little more coordinated and able to handle a pouch by herself without missing her mouth more often than not =) I'll probably invest in some reusable pouches. And even though lots of people freeze portions of their baby food, I've never made it that far in advance; I do about 5-6 days' worth at a time and store it in the fridge. (That sounds really time-consuming but it's not, especially now that I know what I'm doing. Last Saturday I did her food for the week in well under an hour. It would be even less time if I weren't such a spaz with a knife.)
Just a little black bean lipstick action going on. And this silicone bib is the best. They sell them at Walmart and Target. Go get one! (Also this picture belies her over-the-top enthusiasm for eating, usually displayed by wild clapping whenever I approach with her food. I'm not exaggerating. Ha!)
There you have it! Like I said, this is incredibly basic (even obvious) information, but if you're like me and feel overwhelmed by all the options out there, you may find it helpful. Of course, at the end of the day, what's important is that your baby is healthy and FED. But I do like knowing exactly what my baby's eating, and I enjoy preparing her food for her. It's what works for us right now! Anyway, may your baby eat everything you prepare and never blow a mouthful of black beans directly onto your white jeans. (Not that I would know anything about that. #troll)
Happy eating and feeding, everyone!