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messy baby eating

Making your own baby food is a rite of passage for all new parents. While it may seem complicated to prepare baby food, it’s actually fairly easy, inexpensive and a great way to get your baby to used to eating fresh foods. Chef and mom Sara Salzinski of The Chopping Block, Chicago’s largest recreational cooking school, offers her tips on making your own baby food.

What would be some tips that moms (and dads) can use to prep their own baby food?

First and foremost, get yourself a food processor. It is a must-have item because it makes the baby food silky and smooth. When starting out, keep it simple and straight forward to give your baby’s body a chance to adjust to eating food. Pick out 3 or 4 seasonal vegetables and fruits such as sweet potatoes, butternut squash, cauliflower and apples. I like to roast the sweet potatoes and squash at 350° until they are knife tender. Allow them to cool, and then remove the skins and seeds. Place the meat in your food processor and puree until smooth. If the puree is too thick, add a splash of water to thin out. I prefer to steam the cauliflower and peeled apples in a saucepan with ½ cup water. Steam, covered, until tender and then puree until smooth.

Once you have your pureed food transfer it to ice cube trays. I find it’s easier to pipe the thicker purees into the trays using a piping bag. If you don’t have a piping bag cut a corner from a large sealable bag, and you’ll be good to go. Place the filled trays in the freezer, and once frozen pop the cubes out into a sealable bag. Don’t forget to date the bag. Baby food will last for about 3 months in the freezer.

When ready to serve place a couple of cubes in a small bowl and microwave until it’s lukewarm. If the mixture is still a little too thick for your baby, add a splash of breast milk or formula to thin out. Keep your fingers crossed that your baby likes your cooking! Any food that’s leftover should be discarded.

Which baby foods freeze better than others?

I think all baby food freezes well except for avocado and banana puree. It’s not that they will taste bad, but they will oxidize and look unappealing.

What other tips can you share about making and prepping baby food?

Don’t end up cooking two different meals, one for the baby and one for the rest of the family. I can’t stress how important it is to have everyone eating the same thing and the same flavors. This will make your life easier and hopefully in turn, make your baby a good, open-minded eater.

Which foods go best together, and at what stages?

This is when it gets fun! I say anything goes. Just have fun with it. I do, however, wait to mix together purees until I know the individual purees agree with my baby. During stage one is the time I usually just serve the straight-up puree. During stage two is when I start mixing, and stage three is when you can really be creative. My personal favorite combination is avocado and banana. Place them in a food processor together and puree until smooth. The tanginess of the banana cuts through the fattiness of the avocado. Try it–both you and baby will love it!

To make a stage-three food I take a stage one puree and mix in cooked grains such as brown rice, couscous, little pasta stars and bulgur. You can even fold in soft cooked vegetable such as peas, little carrot pieces, green beans and potatoes. Before you know it your baby will be eating everything that you’re eating, just cut into much smaller pieces.

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