Yum yum yum! That’s what my newly home six year old says when it’s time to eat, and it is in that spirit that I write to you today. I was so excited for the opportunity of making baby food at home. It might sound silly, but as a child-led weaning momma I feel like I got left out of one of the fun, crunchy pursuits of our day… homemade baby food. It was actually one thing I was really looking forward to… until I learned about how babies don’t really need baby food in the first place, sigh.
But now I have a daughter who does need it, and I was thrilled to give it a whirl (and thanking the Dear Lord for my Vitamix!) One of the first things I did when we got back from the hospital was Google “baby food recipes”, and I was seriously disappointed in finding nothing to spark inspiration. Hope needs baby food with no (or little) fruit, no dairy and no grains or legumes. Luckily our family completed a Whole 30 Challenge earlier in the year, and so I was accustomed to the ingredients I had to work with.
I found my inspiration from the homemade meals I know our family really enjoys, so I wanted to post a couple of my favorite recipes, some flavor combinations and other tips, in case crunchy mommas happen to come behind me and are looking for a little bit of a spark for their little one’s pureed diet or just aren’t sure where to start. Although, remember, a great place to begin is always your own comfort foods! If a flavor combination works on a plate, it will probably work in the blender too.
Things to Keep in Mind…
Before you start making baby or pureed foods, first take stock of what’s important to the person who will be eating it. Babies are not the only ones who need pureed diets, often times older children and even adults with special needs require specialized diets like this, and I think it is important to protect the dignity of the person (or baby!) you are feeding by keeping their preferences in mind. Are there certain textures they don’t seem to enjoy or can’t swallow as easily? Be sure to avoid those. Are there different flavor combinations they prefer? Do they like spicy or mild, sour or sweet food?
I knew our daughter, coming from the orphanage setting, was used to two basic flavors: bland and sweet. Lovingly spiced and aromatic foods are not to be seen in Ukranian laying rooms. However, an abudnance of fruit and sweet formula, or oatmeal flavored with milk and sugar? Yup, it’s cheap and easy, and children eat better if the food is sugary. The first week we had Hope she didn’t really want anything we had to give her unless it was full of processed sugar or fruit, but we knew this was not a long term solution, and had to cut it off cold turkey once we realized it was causing her so much digestive trouble.
It’s safe to say that sticking to meat, vegetables and healthy fats is the way to go. It is better for all of us! (Especially babies and young children should stay away from grains and processed dairy until their digestive systems are more developed.) Hope needed to learn to eat this way for her health, (as most of us probably do) and I wanted her to enjoy it, so I was determined to make those meat and veggies taste delicious.
Also note that our daughter is severely malnourished, she weighs 31 pounds now, at nine years old, and that is after having gained six pounds after we picked her up! Needless to say, the girl needs to gain some weight, so my recipes are based on that. They are heavy in good fats to boost calories. If the person or child you are feeding does not need weight gain help, you will want to tone down the fats in the recipe a bit. However, the recipes as written seem to be working great for someone who needs to gain!
One last aside before we get started, I’ve been using canned meat because it is less expensive and quick (something a mom with four little ones definitely needs!), but it’s certainly not ideal flavor or nutrition-wise. Fresh would definitely be better and I hope to add more of that as we go, if you have extra from meals, or want to take the time to make fresh, and you’d like to substitute – that’s awesome! Just use some basic math to convert the portions as needed.
The following two recipes are Whole 30 compliant.
Baby Food Recipe 1: Chicken & Tomato Basil
One of our families favorite meals is Tomato Basil Bisque with a side of shredded chicken. It’s warm and inviting, and the flavors mesh perfectly. I knew that chicken and tomatoes worked and that tomatoes and basil worked, so I made the final leap and it has been a smashing success, her favorite meal and umm… my toddler can’t stop himself from eating it either!
- 1/4 Cup Chicken Stock
- 1/3 Cup Coconut Milk
- 2 Large Cans of Shredded Chicken (or fresh equivalent)
- 1 Large Tomato
- Other Veggies (Optional)
- Sea Salt to taste
- Several leaves of Fresh Basil (or app. 1 Tbs dried)
- 2 Heaping Tbs Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
Pray that God would direct your hands and bless your work. Add ingredients to your blender in the order they are listed. Gradually increase blender speed to high (Variable 10 for a Vitamix) and puree until smooth. I often add another vegetable that I have on hand (not too many different kinds, sometimes less is more!), cucumber adds a nice fresh element, carrot boosts the sweetness while offering some added starch and zucchini made pretty green polka dots!
Baby Food Recipe 2: Southern Inspired Tuna
Let me preface by saying, I am not a tuna fan… at all. But our cupboards were overflowing with the stuff and Hope needed to eat… so reluctantly I took the plunge. SO glad I did. My first attempt was less than happy, but adding the avocado and lemon was just what it needed… inspiration from my guacamole-loving days. I open the cans and can’t stand the smell of it, but by the time I’m done blending it’s actually quite pleasant. Hope definitely seems to enjoy it more than her green beans
- 1/4 Cup Chicken Stock
- 1/3 Cup Coconut Milk
- 4 Cans of Tuna in Water (or fresh equivalent)
- 2 Medium Tomatoes
- 1 Avocado
- Sea Salt to taste
- Juice of One Lemon
Pray that God would direct your hands and bless your work. Add ingredients to your blender in the order they are listed. Gradually increase blender speed to high (Variable 10 for a Vitamix) and puree until smooth. Feel free to add anything else you have on hand that seems appropriate, garlic might be great depending on the palette, but this is not as flexible as the chicken recipe, in my opinion.
Other Fun Combinations
Now these are just two of the many different courses I’ve made, and it is worthwhile to note that these are the “main” dishes. I give her one serving (about half a cup) of one of those protein-filled dishes and two servings (about two cups) of a vegetable based puree. I think vegetables are much easier to figure out, and I follow about the same method with those, so below I’ll list some fun extra flavor combos I’ve used without the specific recipes. I do add less liquid to the veggies, because vegetables naturally have more water/juice content than meat does. So here are a few Hope has enjoyed so far and a few that I intend on trying in the near future:
- Zuchinni, Summer Squash and Okra (Pictured on the right)
- Peas and Fresh Mint
- Carrots and Sweet Potatoes
- Green Beans, Tomatoes & Basil
- Roast Beef, Sweet Potatoes, Onions & Carrots (Try the meat ratios for this one.)
- Ham Apple and Carrots (Meat ratios again)
- Butternut Squash and Tomatoes
- Bacon Drippings with… Anything (Not as healthy as coconut oil… but definitely a delicious treat!)
Now it’s Your Turn!
Use some of the delicious ingredients below to make up your own healthy, taste bud-approved, pureed meals. Have some great ideas? Leave them in the comments so we can give them a try too! There are obviously a lot more options for add-ins, but I have tried to include the highest quality, most nutrient dense ones here. It’s obviously not an exhaustive list, just a jumping off point. Tailor your meals to your loved one’s needs!
Liquids: Liquids are essential for processing pureed meals, but never use just plain water! Make the most out of every ingredient by finding liquids that pack a nutritional and flavorful punch. Remember, homemade stocks are always best! And if you use coconut milk be sure to get the canned, full fat milk for good nutritional value.
- Beef Stock
- Chicken Stock
- Coconut Milk
- Raw Milk
- Vegetable Stock
Proteins: Protein is essential for a healthy diet and should be included in every meal.
- Roast Beef
High Carb Vegetables: Just eating meat and veggies doesn’t mean you’re on a low carb diet! Include plenty of these, ideally a little at each meal, for little ones, pregnant and nursing mothers or anyone else who is in need of a healthy intake of carbohydrates.)
- Sweet Potatoes
- Taro Root
- Winter Squash
Other Vegetables: Getting a good variety of vegetables is not only great for the palette, but essential to a well-balanced diet. Aim for two or three different colors of vegetables per day, as different colors provide different nutrients to your body.
- Bell Peppers
- Brussels Sprouts
- Green Beans
- Tomato (Yes, yes, I know… it’s actually a fruit.)
Healthy Fats: Not only do good fats add good taste, they have great nutritional value as well. Many vitamins are fat soluble, and so it’s good to have a little fat at every meal. Not all fat is created equal, so try these delicious options for a healthier dose of good fat!
- Coconut (Butter, Flakes or Fresh)
- Coconut Oil
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Flax Seed
- Grass-Fed Butter
Well, now that I’ve written a book about baby food and pureeing healthy meals, I am going to stop and go to bed! I hope this is helpful to someone, or at least enjoyable to a few. I warned you that I was feeling enthusiastic about this new crunchy territory I’ve entered! Which is probably good, because it can be time consuming and has definitely taken over the kitchen, so I’m glad I’m enjoying the experiments! If this has blessed you or if you have some recipes to bless us with, be sure to share in the comments.