Mmm, pureed unseasoned vegetables.
Making babyfood is the easiest culinary pursuit ever. Cook, puree, don’t salt. That’s pretty much the gist of it. And then you can feel so good about yourself.
It’s a particularly convenient way to use up crop share ingredients that are perhaps unpopular in your household. Overrun with rutabagas? Babyfood. Turnips taking over? Babyfood. No one likes the weird Asian greens you’ve gotten for the third week in a row? Babyfood. It’s okay to take advantage of babies before they know better. It’ll make them better eaters in the long run. Y’know, maybe.
There are a few tips though, and I’m here to give them to you. Helping me tackle this subject is new mom, friend and chef Mary Goetz.
We’re making microwave-steamed carrots, roasted beets and roasted squash. Any type of cooking changes the chemical composition of food. Often, cooking reduces the nutrient content of foods. But most people don’t just love the idea of a raw food diet. And hey, sometimes (as in the case of cooking vitamin K-rich greens), the act of cooking with a fat makes the veggies more nutritious, since the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) only become available for our bodies to process when cooked with a fat. So there, raw foods folks!
Unlike boiling, steaming and roasting cook vegetables without leeching nutrients out. If you boiled these veggies and discarded the water, you’d be discarding all the nutrients that ended up in the water during the cooking process. And don’t believe people who think microwaves are evil. Microwaves do a wonderful job of cooking vegetables while maintaining a tremendous portion of their nutrients. Okay, enough nutrition class. Let’s get to work.
Mary starts working on the beets by preheating the oven to 400 degrees and wrapping cleaned (not peeled) beets, drizzled in a touch of olive oil, in foil.
Roast at least an hour, until a knife inserted in center of the largest beet meets no resistance. When in doubt, roast a little longer. Beets peel much more easily when slightly overcooked. Also, we’ll be pureeing this, so it’s important to have completely soft veggies.
Peel the beets by rubbing off the skin with a towel that you don’t care about. Even the yellow guys love to stain everything from hands and towels to countertops … and more!
Cut peeled beets into 1″ chunks.
Add to blender or food processor, add water a little at a time and puree until smooth. You might want to leave some of the veggies slightly more textured (not chunky but not bisque-smooth either) so that your little eater will get used to the apparently amazing idea that food often has different textures. I failed on this point with the first kid. I over-pureed. Every spoonful I crammed into Red’s tiny baby mouth was silky perfection. He’s four and still prefers a puree over a little crunch. Oh well.
Transfer puree to clean ice cube trays, spread evenly.
Then cover with plastic wrap.
If you live in Minnesota, transfer these to the outdoor “freezer” (we’ve already hit the negatives here so it’s literally colder outside than in my deep freezer). People who live in reasonable climates can put these in their normal-people freezers.
After cubes are frozen, transfer to freezer bags labeled with the contents and date. These purees last 3 months in a refrigerator freezer or 6 months in a deep freezer. One cube is about an ounce of puree. For greens and other watery veggies, add cereal to the cube after heating. Oh yeah, and you don’t have to thaw them, just place in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave until steaming. Stir and allow to cool to room temp, then add cereal if desired to thicken the puree.
Next up, carrots. Peel them.
Cut into 1-1 1/2″ pieces and place in a microwavable steamer. I like this one, made of silicon.
Add a half inch of water, cover and steam in microwave in 5-minute intervals, until completely tender. These carrots took 2 rounds (10 minutes total).
Puree with the cooking liquid, adding more water as needed. Freeze in ice cube trays, yada yada yada.
And then there’s squash! Line a sheet pan with parchment. Halve squash and remove seeds. Coat with olive oil. Roast about an hour, until completely tender when pierced with a knife. Scoop out the flesh with a spoon and press into ice cube trays. No blender necessary!
I’d recommend combining the cubes and playing around with spices after your kiddo gets the hang of the basic purees. Add pie spice to the squash, maybe cumin and coriander to the carrots. Just remember to hold off on the salt til your baby is one year old.
Baby Lucy approves! And Mary can bask in the glory of being that mom (that the other moms hate) who makes her own baby food. Congratulations, Mary!