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Baby food recipes and make-and-freeze tips

©iStockphoto.com/Chuck Collier Photography Author: Credits: ©iStockphoto.com/Chuck Collier Photography

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Baby food recipes and make-and-freeze tips

As a new parent, there are so many things to think about. Is my baby safe? Is my baby healthy? How do I get her to sleep? When do I get to sleep?

So many of these things are a little bit out of your control, riding mainly on the innate character traits of the little one who just entered your life. Thankfully, there are a few things that are totally within your control. And one of these is what goes into that precious little tummy.

When it's time to begin the process of introducing solid foods into your baby's diet, there are lots of fun and nutritious recipes out there. While opting to make your own baby food might seem like more work than you are up for, you'll be surprised by both the benefits and the simplicity.

Benefits of making your own baby food

It's cost-effective: Buy foods, especially fruits and vegetables, in season and from a local source for the best money savings. Look for sales on items such as beans, grains and lean meats, and time your baby food preparation around these. A couple of carrots and a pear can make up to four days worth of meals, depending on your baby's age and appetite, while costing only a few dollars at most.

One bit of time makes for heaps of baby food: Make your baby's food in batches of about 2 to 3 cups each, and freeze them in serving size portions. One of the best ways to do this is to use a clean ice-cube tray. There are also fancy baby food feezer kits on the market, if you prefer. A few minutes of cooking yields up to a dozen servings of food at a time, and in portions that you control, which leads to less wasted food.

You'll gain knowledge: Making your own baby food gives you the supreme satisfaction of knowing exactly what goes into the food your baby is ingesting. If you make your own baby food, there's no need to read labels in an effort to decipher what preservatives or strange-sounding additives are actually in it.

You'll encourage good long-term health: Introducing babies to healthy, tasty, fresh foods from the beginning of their lives will help set them off on the right foot for a solid, natural and healthy relationship with food through to adulthood. Don't be afraid to add small amounts of herbs or spices to the food. This is a great chance to introduce your family's favourite flavours to your baby.

It's another chance to bond: Mealtimes are an incredible opportunity to bond with your baby. Why not involve him or her right from the start? The sight of colourful fruit and vegetables, and the smells and sounds of the kitchen are stimulating for all of your baby's senses. Talk your baby through the entire process as you go to completely engage him or her – and perhaps create a master chef along the way!

And finally, it's simple: No fancy equipment or loads of time are required. A pot, a fork, a blender or food processor and some ice cube trays are all you need to get started.

Here are some steps you should remember when making your own baby food:

1. Clean, clean clean: Before you begin cooking anything, wash your hands, your cooking pots and cooking utensils and the work surface with warm, soapy water. Wash fruits and vegetables before using them, even if you will be peeling them.

2. Keep meat separate: When you begin introducing meat into your baby's diet, use separate cutting boards for your meat products and your produce to eliminate any chance of cross-contamination.

3. Use proper storage: Chill and freeze prepared foods immediately after preparation. Do not refreeze any food that has been thawed or only half eaten.

4. Cooking: Steaming, boiling or microwaving are the best options for cooking your baby's food.

5. Puréeing: Depending on the age and eating stage of your baby, you should purée the food to the appropriate consistency or mash it with a fork. If the food is too thin, add more of the cooked fruit or vegetable, or a spoon or two of ground cereal. If the food is too thick, stir in water or some homemade broth.

6. Freezing: Spoon the puréed food into a clean ice cube tray then freeze until solid. When it is frozen, transfer the food to resealable freezer bags. Label the bags with what is inside and include the date. Most foods are fine for up to three months in the freezer, but you'll likely go through them much quicker than that.

7. Feeding: To serve frozen baby food, remove one or two cubes from the freezer, heat through (using the microwave is fine), then cool the food and let baby go to town!

Before you begin, be sure to consult your baby's pediatrician regarding introducing solid foods. Discuss the details of when and how to introduce foods, and specifically discuss any foods that may pose allergy threats to your baby.

Baby food ideas
Here are some quick recipes to help get you started.

Peachy Quinoa: Heat together cooked quinoa; chopped, pitted and peeled peaches; chopped bananas; and a pinch of cinnamon; until heated through. Purée, mash gently with a fork or serve as is depending on your baby's age.

Curried Squash and Lentils: Cook cubed, peeled squash (such as, butternut squash); dried red lentils; and a pinch of curry powder or garam masala in water or homemade vegetable or chicken broth until very tender. Purée, mash gently with a fork or serve as is over cooked rice depending on your baby's age.

Sweet Potato and Apple Soup: Cook chopped, peeled sweet potato; chopped, peeled apple; and a pinch each of cinnamon and cumin in water or homemade vegetable or chicken broth until very tender. Purée until smooth.

Salmon "Chowder": Cook diced onion, diced celery, diced carrots and diced, peeled potatoes in butter until onions are tender. Stir in water or homemade vegetable broth; simmer until potatoes are tender. Stir in cubed pieces of salmon; simmer until fish is cooked through. Purée, mash gently with a fork or serve as is depending on your baby's age.

Carrot Pear and Ginger Soup: Cook chopped, peeled carrot, pear and a tiny bit of fresh ginger in water or homemade vegetable or chicken broth until very tender. Purée until smooth.

Minty and Lemony Peas and Rice: Cook brown rice and fresh or frozen peas in water or homemade vegetable or chicken broth until very tender. Stir in a pinch each of lemon rind and fresh or dried mint. Purée, mash gently a fork or serve as is depending on your baby's age.

Cheesy Chicken and Broccoli Pasta: Stir together cooked small pasta, cubed cooked chicken, steamed bite-size pieces of broccoli and cottage cheese. Purée, mash gently with a fork or serve as is depending on your baby's age.

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