Sunday, January 27, 2013

Baby Food | Butternut Squash Puree

This past weekend we celebrated Max's 6-month birthday. In some ways I can't believe he's already half a year old. In other ways it feels like he's been part of our family forever. I'm fortunate that I've been able to honor my commitment to give Max homemade food, including exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of his life. He'll be starting solid foods for the first time within the next couple of weeks, so I did a little research and prepared a homemade puree.

Why make your own baby food? I've listened to more experienced parents and done some research and these are the advantages I see:

1. It's more cost-effective than store bought food. Baby food, particularly organic food (if you choose to go that route) isn't cheap. I just saw a 6-ounce package of frozen organic baby food for $6.29. I just made two pounds (32 ounces) of baby food for less than $5.

2. More creative combinations. I'm not limited by what's on the shelves at the stores. I can get creative and make purees from many non-traditional baby food ingredients. 

3. Promote healthy eating habits. I'm sure there are some wonderful, wholesome baby foods on the shelves and in the freezer department. I look forward to introducing Max to the same fruits, vegetables and proteins we enjoy and I think I'll have more control over the menu if I make the food myself.

Obviously I am not a pediatrician or a dietician, so you should talk to your health care provider if you have questions about what to feed your baby and when to introduce solids. But when you're ready, why not make your own food? Here's my first baby food recipe...

I decided to start with a butternut squash puree. Butternut squash became my favorite winter vegetable after I experimented with butternut squash soup, so what's better than introducing my baby to the bright orange goodness of this winter veggie?

I started with two pounds of cubed fresh butternut squash. You could also buy whole butternut squash and peel it yourself. I did that once. It was cost-effective (my husband picked up the squash at a roadside stand for 50 cents each), but it was very time-consuming. I opted to buy a two-pound package at Costco for less than $5. And of course you can do more or less than two pounds. Use whatever you have.

I put the clean squash in a pot and poured in just enough water to cover.

I brought the water to a boil and let it simmer for about 3 minutes. Once the squash was fork tender, it was time to blend.

I opted to blend my squash in my Vitamix blender, which deserves a post of its own. However, you don't need a high-powered gourmet blender to make baby food. You can use a food mill, an immersion blender, a food processor, or any other blender. Use what you have. You don't have to buy a fancy baby food making system. The goal is to whip the squash into a soft, smooth puree... like this:

I didn't need to add any water to make mine blend completely, but you may want to add a splash of water if necessary to get the puree to blend smoothly.

Now, you could serve the puree to your baby right away, but I'm pretty sure your little one doesn't need to eat two pounds of squash. Just freeze it in tiny portions in an ice cube tray.

The hardest part was finding a stinking ice cube tray. I guess everyone either buys ice or has an ice maker because I had to go to a specialty kitchen store just to buy an ice cube tray.

Once the cubes are frozen solid, pop out the food and store it in a freezer-safe bag. I normally try to eat my veggies within six months of freezing them.

When it's time to eat you can either defrost the cubes in the fridge overnight, or microwave them until they are thawed. Just be very, very careful never to give your baby steaming hot food.

Since the squash is in cubes you can mix it with other foods as your baby is ready to try new combinations. Maybe squash and apple or pear?

I think Max will be trying some butternut squash after his next doctor's appointment, so I'll be sure to post his reaction. In the meantime, try making food for your baby. It only took me 20 minutes start to finish and I can't wait to see the look on his face!

Baby Food | Butternut Squash Puree
a Keeley original

fresh, peeled, cubed butternut squash (I used a 2-pound package)

1. Put the squash in a pot and add just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 3-5 minutes, or until fork-tender.

2. Drain the squash.

3. Blend into a pourable puree using a blender, food processor, immersion (stick blender) or food mill.

4. Store in refrigerator for up to two days or (preferably for convenience) freeze in ice cube trays. Store frozen cubes in freezer-safe zip bags for up to six months.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! I hope 2013 is treating you well. 2012 was, without a doubt, the most transformative year of my life.

Since it seems that bloggers are into posting resolutions, here are mine:

1. Get electronically organized. I need help with everything from online bill payment to managing my work and social calendars. The blog could use some reorganization and a fresh design. I'm not going to promise to publish blog posts with a specific frequency, but I am going to promise myself that I'll get all of our electronic accounts in order (as in, not forgetting the passwords) and I'll make sure our electronic files are up-to-date and backed up this year.

2. Ask for help. Left to my own devices I can spend an entire day off work nursing the baby, cooking, cleaning and doing laundry. And in the end I'm still not "finished". I'm hesitant to ask for or accept help with household chores. This year I'm planning to hire out some of our housework and to allow people to help me. I also want to become more comfortable with imperfection. If I have to order pizza because I don't feel like cooking from scratch, I'm doing it. If I don't take down the Christmas tree until mid-January (ahem) I'm not going to feel ashamed and guilty. One step I've already taken is shopping online  for household items and baby stuff (mostly through Amazon Prime) and skipping the long lines, wasted gas, and mediocre selection in stores. I'm saving both time and money and I feel like I'm on the right track.

3. Relax. I admit that I spend so much time worrying about the future that I forget to enjoy today. Whether it's dreaming of a new house, a better job, or what life will be like once we accomplish XYZ, it's stressful always worrying about what's next. I'm here today and I'm with my family. That's going to have to be enough for me for now.

I feel that all of these resolutions are interconnected. I know that if I keep these things in mind I'll be a better wife and mom (and a better employee, too).

What are you working on for 2013?
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