Homemade Baby Food: How to Make 13 Fruit Purees

It’s so easy and economical to make your own baby food, and fruit purees are particularly fun to fix because babies usually love them. I adored whipping up fruit purees for Mason. I’d spend hours preparing the fruit after he went to bed–the washing, chopping, cooking, and pureeing was my way of de-stressing and showing my baby love. It made me feel good to know exactly what he was eating, and wonderful memories are associated with many of those purees. Organic avocado puree was Mason’s first introduction to solids. A swirl of pear puree magically turned green beans into a veggie he loved to eat. The best: strawberry puree sweetened Mason’s oatmeal the morning he said “mama,” his first word, for the first time.  I could go on and on. Now that my boy is 16-months-old, I don’t get to puree fruit very often, and I miss it.

If you haven’t made your own homemade fruit puree yet, try it out. We’ve taken the guesswork out of preparing 13 of the most popular fruit purees by creating step-by-step guides with photos and mix-in suggestions (links below). Best of luck, and be sure to let us know how it goes! (NOTE: We are working on guides to making vegetable purees for baby. Stay tuned!)

How to Make:

Baby Applesauce
Best for babies 4+ months

Banana Puree
Best for babies 4+ months

Peach Puree
Best for babies 4+ months

Avocado Puree
Best for babies 4+ months

Plum Puree
Best for babies 6+ months

Apricot Puree
Best for babies 6+ months

Blueberry Puree
Best for babies 6+ months

Cherry Puree
Best for babies 8+ months

Strawberry Puree
Best for babies 8+ months

Mango Puree
Best for babies 10+ months

Papaya Puree
Best for babies 10+ months

Putting the Kabosh on Teething Pain with Chilled Fruits & Veggies

We had the Saturday from h-ll. Poor Mason’s cutting three new teeth and he has a brutal cold so he just clung to us and screamed most of the day. His little gums were horribly swollen and red, his nose was running nonstop, and his chest was rattling when he breathed. I’ve never felt so helpless as a Mom. He’s always been a good baby so we don’t have much experience with crying/screaming jags (yes, there’s an excellent chance we’ll get hit hard with #2). I kept wishing there was something I could do to make his misery go away, but I could only try to minimize his painful symptoms. At one point, I started to cry, too, out of sympathy and exhaustion and worry. I became Worse Case Scenario Mom and was convinced something was seriously wrong with him. Luckily Chris is an excellent voice of reason or I probably would have taken my baby to the ER…for teething and a cold.

To treat his cold, we turned on the shower and had him breathe in steam from hot water for 10-minute intervals (Chris and I took turns holding him and distracting him from the discomfort of the hot, wet air with his toy cars). He also slept with a humidifier running and a thick coating of Vicks on his chest. To help the teething pain, which seems to be the greater of the two evils, I gave him baby Motrin and frozen pacifiers. At mealtime, I coaxed him to eat a few different soft, squishy foods. He didn’t want to eat much (he even rejected mac ‘n’ cheese!), but here are the things that he would eat. We’d go through the list, try a few other things, and then repeat. (Other moms have recommended frozen bagels and waffles to us in the past, but unfortunately Bug wouldn’t go for either.) Any other suggestions to add to the list?

1. Homemade applesauce, chilled in the freezer for 20 minutes before serving

2. Beets, diced, cooked, and chilled

3. Banana, sliced and partially frozen

4. Full-fat Greek yogurt mixed with icy smashed pear; try one spoonful of yogurt for every two spoonfuls of fruit.

5. Ripe melon, diced and chilled– not the easiest thing to find this time of year but we lucked out.

6. Ice cold milk — a drink, I know, but Bug consumed more milk than anything else.

Other foods that Mason was willing to eat included chunks of Swiss cheese, toast with melted cheddar cheese, corn, and peas. He rejected eggs, pasta, turkey meatballs, blueberries, and grapes.

Tonight I’m making a chicken-ginger soup (recipe to come soon!). Now that both Bug and I both have his cold we need a little TLC and hot bowls of homemade soup just sound good!

Juicy Strawberries, Peaches & Blueberries — Even in Fall

Mason was a champion eater this weekend. It was awesome. I forgot how fun it is to watch him enjoy eating different foods. He’s been so picky lately that I’ve gotten used to coaxing him to eat even a few bites with a few of my go-to tricks and then picking up the rest of the food from the floor. (Muffins and mac ‘n’ cheese have been the rare exceptions, but baby can’t live on carbs alone.) Mason especially enjoyed the organic, fresh Fuji apple Anjou pear that we picked up at our local market. Both fruits are in-season right now and they were juicy and delish. Bug also enjoyed organic strawberries, peaches, corn, asparagus, and blueberries — all summer faves that I purchased frozen and steamed for him.

I frequently used frozen organic  fruits and veggies for my purees, and I’ve been thrilled to discover that frozen produce works wonderfully for finger foods, too. The challenge is getting the texture just right. The first time I steamed strawberries, I steamed them for too long and they became mushy. Mason wouldn’t touch them. The next time I was careful to steam the berries for about a minute — just enough to beat the freeze but still keep the texture firm. Mason gobbled them up. Then we tried blueberries, peaches, asparagus, and corn and he kept eating and eating…

There are several advantages to buying frozen produce, especially if it’s out of season. The quality is fabulous. I can steam small amounts of the fruits and veggies at a time, and I don’t have to worry about the rest spoiling.  It’s more affordable to purchase out-of-season fruits or veggies frozen than to purchase imported fruits and veggies. And the nutritional value of frozen produce is as good as fresh. As a rule of thumb, I avoid canned fruits and veggies; the veggies are generally filled with sodium and the fruits are often packed in sugary syrup.

Did your babe eat anything exciting this weekend?

Easy Apple & Blueberry Pockets


Best for Babies 10+ Months

I love the Union Square Greenmarket in New York City. Farmers, bakers, and cheesemakers set up stands in the center of the bustling square to sell fresh fruits and veggies, artisan cheese, meats, baked goods, wine, and flowers. Hundreds of people mill around, and it’s as fun to people watch as it is to shop. My favorite part is the fresh produce, and right now that produce includes many different varieties of juicy, crisp apples. From applesauce to chicken-apple soup, Mason seems to enjoy apples as much as I do — so I decided to make a variation of this recipe from Better Homes and Gardens so that he could enjoy apples in a new way.

To make this fruit-filled deliciousness, I used frozen blueberries, smashed apples, and whole-wheat bread. I skipped the sugar but kept the cinnamon. The fruit was enough sweetness for Mason, and the cinnamon gave the fruit pockets just the slightest hint of spice. The combo is a great make-ahead breakfast for Mason — a tasty alternative to fruity oatmeal or cheese-and-veggie omelet.

Enjoy!

Easy Apple & Blueberry Pockets

Ingredients

3/4 cup frozen blueberries
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
6 Tbsp. smashed apples
12 slices soft whole wheat bread
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Wash berries and spread to dry on paper towels.

2. For each pie, spoon 1 tablespoon of smashed apples (recipe below) in the center of a bread slice. Top with 3 to 4 berries and another slice of bread. Gently press the top slice around the fruit. Trim crusts from bread using a serrated knife.

3. Using a fork, press the edges of the bread together to seal in the filling. Lightly brush the top slice of bread with some of the oil. Pick up each fruit pocket and, while holding in your hand, lightly brush the opposite side with oil. Place fruit pockets on an ungreased baking sheet. Sprinkle tops with cinnamon.

4. Bake pies for 18 to 20 minutes or until bread is lightly toasted and bottoms are browned. Transfer to a cooling rack. Cool at least 30 minutes before serving. Makes 6 servings.

Smashed apples: Wash, peel, and core apples. Slice into small chunks. Set aside. Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Turn heat down until bubbles are soft and add apples to the water. Cook for about 10 minutes or until tender. Drain and rinse apples with cold water for 3 minutes to stop the cooking process. Mash with a potato masher.

My Big Cantaloupe Scare


Mason and I were enjoying some fresh cantaloupe last night when a report came on the news about the listeria outbreak caused by tainted cantaloupe from Colorado. I had heard about the outbreak earlier this month, but I thought it had been contained and was nothing to worry about at this point. Apparently I was dead wrong. I turned the TV up and heard Brian Williams report that the Centers for Disease Control had just announced that the contaminated cantaloupe has killed 13 people and sickened 72 others in 18 different states so far and there could be more since the symptoms of listeria (muscle aches, gastrointestinal distress, and fever) don’t appear right away. I dropped the piece of melon I was eating and looked over at Mason’s tray. The cantaloupe I had cut up for him was all gone. I looked on the floor and in his seat, hoping he had thrown it on the floor like most everything else we feed him these days. A few pieces were scattered around him but clearly he had eaten some of it. Of course. He picked this moment to eat what I had wanted him to eat.

Panicked, but trying not to seem panicked since Mason was sitting next to me, I grabbed the container of fresh-cut cantaloupe I had just purchased. I looked for the source of the fruit on the label but it wasn’t listed. My heart started to beat a little faster. What if Mason and I had just eaten listeria-laced fruit? How could I have missed that this outbreak was still raging on? I grabbed my cell phone and Googled the number for our grocery delivery service. The call connected and then I was put on hold. I sat there watching my giggling baby and praying the melon wasn’t from Jensen Farm, the source of the outbreak. When a customer service rep finally came on the line she was extremely nice and assured me the fruit had come from California, not Colorado. She also assured me that the company would of called us immediately if had we purchased tainted food. What a relief! Mason and I enjoyed the rest of the cantaloupe this morning but I don’t think I’ll be buying any more for a while, just in case. Am I overreacting by avoiding cantaloupe for the next month or so?

The Best Fall Fruits & Veggies for Your Babe & How to Prepare Them

Rich in fiber and packed with vitamin C, fresh apples make wholesome applesauce that’s an ideal first first. Diced apples are a delicious and popular finger food for toddlers, who can dip the fruit in hummus or peanut butter.

Dazzle your babe with the season’s freshest fruits and veggies. They’re colorful, filled with vitamins and minerals, and fun to eat. Here’s what to buy and serve right now — plus directions for pureeing, mashing, or serving as finger food.

APPLES

Puree: Wash, peel, and dice apples. Cook for 12 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. Puree for a smooth texture. Add a dash of cinnamon, if you wish. Freeze in 2-ounce portions for up to three months.

Mash: Follow cooking and freezing steps above but instead of pureeing, mash the fruit with a potato masher. Or dice and serve as finger food. Add a dash of cinnamon, if you wish. Freeze in 2-ounce portions for up to three months.

Mix with: Sweet potato, red cabbage, butternut squash, pumpkin, pear, peach, plum, banana, beef, chicken

PUMPKINS

Puree: Cut pumpkin in half. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon and save for roasting or discard.  Brush each half with olive oil and place skin-side down in a baking dish. To keep the flesh of the pumpkin moist, add a half-inch of water before baking. Bake at 450 degrees F until pumpkin is tender (about 45 minutes). Puree in a food processor or blender until you reach desire texture. Add a dash of nutmeg or cinnamon, if you wish.

Mash: Follow cooking and freezing steps above but instead of pureeing, mash the veggie with a potato masher. Or dice and serve as finger food. Add a dash of nutmeg or cinnamon, if you wish. Freeze in 2-ounce portions for up to three months.

Mix it with: Apple, chicken, pear, chicken, beef, lentils

BUTTERNUT SQUASH

Puree: Scoop flesh out of a roasted squash. Discard the skin. Puree squash flesh in a food processor. Add water until you reach a smooth consistency. For extra creaminess add a splash of pre-mixed formula, breast milk, milk, or plain yogurt. Add a dash of nutmeg, if you wish. Freeze in 2-ounce portions for up to three months.

Mash: Follow cooking and freezing steps above but instead of pureeing, mash the veggie with a potato masher. Or dice and serve as finger food. Add a dash of nutmeg, if you wish. Freeze in 2-ounce portions for up to three months.

Mix with: Apple, chicken, beef, peach, pear, carrot, lentils

SWEET POTATOES

Puree: Wash, peel, and dice sweet potato/potato. Cook until tender (about 15 minutes). Puree and add cooking liquid as needed until you reach desired consistency. Add a dash of cinnamon, if you wish. Freeze in 2-ounce portions for up to three months.

Smash: Follow cooking and freezing steps above but instead of pureeing, mash the veggie with a potato masher. Or dice and serve as finger food. Add a dash of cinnamon, if you wish. Freeze in 2-ounce portions for up to three months.

Mix with: Peach, apricot, apple, raisins, peas, carrot, lentils, chicken, beef

BROCCOLI

Puree: Wash broccoli and remove stems. Cook until tender (about 15 minutes). Puree broccoli in a food processor or blender, adding cooking liquid as needed until you reach desired consistency.

Dice: To serve as finger food, follow the cooking instructions above and then chop into tiny pieces.

Serve with: Sweet potato, raisins, apple, asparagus

CAULIFLOWER

Puree: Wash cauliflower and remove stems. Cook until tender (about 15 minutes). Puree cauliflower in a food processor or blender, adding cooking liquid as needed until you reach desired consistency. For extra creaminess add a splash of pre-mixed formula, breast milk, milk, or plain yogurt. Freeze in 2-ounce portions for up to three months.

Smash: Follow cooking and freezing steps above but instead of pureeing, mash the veggie with a potato masher. Or dice and serve as finger food. Freeze in 2-ounce portions for up to three months.

Mix with: Butternut squash, peas, carrot, green beans, apple

GRAPES

Dice: Skip this fruit for babies — it’s best for kids over age 1 because of the skin. Dice into fourths before serving. Freeze in 2-ounce portions for up to three months.

Serve with: Banana, apple, chicken, beef

What’s your babe’s fave summer fruit? How do you like to prepare it?

NOTE: Pediatricians have different opinions about when babies should try specific fruits and vegetables. Consult your pediatrician before starting your babe on a new fruit or veggie.

 

11 Things I Can’t Believe Mason Enjoys Eating


His smile was cute but Mason’s behavior was not at dinner on Tuesday. He rejected most of his meal, played with his sippy cup instead of drinking from it, and put his feet up on his high chair tray (gross!).

I’m thrilled that my 12-month-old has such an eclectic palate, but that doesn’t mean mealtime is always easy for us. In fact we’ve had several finicky and frustrating mealtimes at our house lately (see exhibit A above). Take Tuesday. I picked Bug up from daycare and his teacher told me had been a champion eater all day — oatmeal, various fresh fruits, lasagna, whole-grain muffin. I was psyched, I get so excited when he eats well. Then we got home and I offered him six different finger foods he’s loved in the past, in the spirit of Dr. Sears’ advice, and he spit every option out. He even rejected yogurt with fresh peach puree, one of his faves. What did he finally eat? Plain macaroni noodles by the fistful. So. Annoying. All of this is normal, according to Sears, since kids tend to get picky once they turn a year old. But it’s still frustrating.

When things get tough —  like dinnertime every night so far this week  — I can take comfort in all the times that he’s eaten things we swore he’d never like. Here are the foods that I’m amazed he enjoys so much. What about you? Is there anything that your babe likes that you can’t believe he/she enjoys so much?

1. Lobster Ravioli. This one made me nervous (What if he has a shellfish allergy?!), but Chris gave Bug his first taste of shellfish with winning results.

2. Gazpacho. We let him try this bold summer soup because he kept sticking his fingers in Chris’ bowl. Mason has enjoyed it ever since, including at his birthday dinner.

3. Garam Masala. My friend Jeanne convinced me that my then-nine-month-old would probably like her curried lentils, which feature a tiny pinch of this strong Indian spice. She was right.

4. Broccoli. My first experience with babies and broccoli was traumatic, but fortunately my kid likes his “trees.”

5. Vanilla milkshake. Only a dad would dare give a shake to a one-year-old, but Bug tried a few drops of this rich and creamy treat at a Washington, DC, diner and loved it.

6. Green beans. Mix this healthy veggie with Greek yogurt and fresh pear puree and you have Bug at the first spoonful.

7. Feta cheese. It was love at first bite and now Mason enjoys this tangy cheese tossed with orzo and spinach.

8. Edamame. I didn’t even know what it was until I was until college, but Bug eats the protein-rich bean several times a week.

9. Kalamata olives.  Tangy and delish, Bug can’t get enough of the stuff.

10. Peas. Green veggies are usually a tougher sell than yellow ones — they’re not as sweet  — but if you mix peas with Greek yogurt and curry powder, Mason can’t resist them.

11. Pesto. It looks years for me to acquire a taste for this pungent sauce but Bug loved it when he tried it on chicken and pasta at daycare last week.

Picky Eater Solution #1: A Yummy Finger Food Spread

crankys2Mason and Zann, at Cranky’s in Long Island City, NY, playing with toys and spoons while they wait for their lunch.

Mason and I had a pool and lunch date today with my friend Diane and her 15-month-old son Zann. The pool was gorgeous — it’s situated outdoors, on the ninth floor of Diane’s apartment building, and it offers a panoramic view of the Manhattan skyline. Most of our neighbors are out of town for the holiday weekend so the place was virtually empty. Mason usually cries when I take him into the pool but today there were no tears. He loved being in the water and he giggled his way through “Humpty Dumpty Sat on a Wall” (baby sits on the wall, we sing, and then baby “falls” into mommy’s arms in the waters). Today was Zann’s first time in the pool and he seemed to enjoy it, too, once he got used to the water. Before long, the boys were sitting in the shallow end together, splashing each other and us. After an hour or so we dried them off and headed out for lunch.

At Cranky’s, a cozy local coffee shop, we situated the boys next to each other in high chairs and gave them each their own disposable place mat (best invention ever). They snacked on organic apple puffs while we looked at the menu. Diane was part of the email chain last week, in which a group of local moms and I discussed our 1-year-olds’ annoying eating habits, so we decided to try out Dr. Sear’s advice and create a well-rounded buffet of finger foods for them. They drank whole milk and split an omelet filled with tomatoes, spinach, turkey sausage, and cheddar cheese with a side of whole wheat toast. They also shared a bowl of sliced fresh bananas, oranges, red grapes, blueberries, and cantaloupe. When the food arrived, we cut everything up into small pieces, gave them each a little bit of everything, and then let them pick and choose what they wanted to eat.

pool2Mason, drying off at the pool. His skull-and-crossbones rash guard kept him from getting a sunburn on his tummy.

Turns out, serving 1-year-olds an assortment of finger foods (rather than two or three at a time) really works. Mason binged on the toast a bit, which Dr. Sears says is normal, but overall the boys ate well and were well-occupied. Both Diane and I  felt good knowing they were getting such a nutritious lunch. We also enjoyed our meals and we had a blast watching the boys enjoy all the different flavors and textures (we got so caught up in how cute they were that I forgot to take a photo of their buffet to share with you! Apologies, next time for sure….) This finger food strategy worked so well for us that it’s going to be a model for how Mason eats in the months to come. Stay tuned as we report back on the combos of finger foods that work for us — and please share your babe’s faves with us!

Tuesday Timesaver: Strawberry-Banana Waffles in 10 Minutes

waffle

Thursday marks a major transition for us:  Mason will begin daycare. Chris stayed home with him for the first six months of his life — I had to go back to work after three months — and then we found a nurturing nanny who stepped in when it was time for Chris to go back to work. Now that Mason is a year-old, he’s ready for more stimulation and socialization than a few play dates a week in our tiny apartment, so we’ve decided to enroll him in a daycare where he’ll enjoy art and music lessons, daily Spanish lessons, trips to the playground, and so much more. He’ll make friends with other kids his age, and he’ll be on a solid schedule. I won’t have to worry about being late for work because my nanny is late once again, and I can get to Mason in 10 minutes if he needs me during the day.

Despite all the positives, I’m super nervous about this transition.  I’ve lost sleep over the logistics of just getting to daycare in the morning. Come Thursday my commute will go from a leisurely 10 minutes to a harried hour. Mason and I will need to stick to a strict routine instead of the looser one we generally follow in the morning. I’ll haul him in our borrowed Ergo up five flights of stairs to the subway platform, we’ll ride into the city, and then we’ll walk the remaining five blocks to daycare. If there were an elevator in my subway station then I’d bring the stroller, but the stroller I currently have is 25 pounds (the lighter one I ordered hasn’t arrived yet),  and I’m not buff enough to carry that stroller with 18 pounds of toddler in it up all those steps. Then there’s the trauma of leaving Mason with someone new. I’ve met both of his caregivers, I like them very much, and the daycare has an excellent reputation, but I’m still going to worry until I actually see that Mason is happy and thriving in his new environment.

With our mornings becoming so crazy, I’ve been looking for some new fast and healthy breakfast ideas. I brought up the issue at my regular Sunday workouts with a group of other moms in my neighborhood. My friend Diane mentioned that her son Zann loves frozen multigrain waffles in a pinch. Worth a shot, I thought. I purchased a box of 7-Grain Kashi waffles on the way home. I’ve never tried them since I’m gluten-free, but I liked how healthful the ingredients were. The next morning I toasted a waffle, topped it with homemade strawberry-banana puree, and cut it in tiny pieces that Mason could feed himself. I’ve never seen anything disappear from his plate so quickly. He loved it. I served chunks of fresh cantaloupe and pieces of organic cheddar on the side, and breakfast was complete. So easy. Thanks for the great idea, Diane!

What are your fave breakfast shortcuts?

Strawberry-Banana Puree

Ingredients

Fresh or frozen strawberries
Banana

Directions

Wash and slice strawberries. If berries are underripe, fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat until bubbles are soft. Add strawberries and cook 3 minutes. Drain and rinse berries with cold water. Combine in a food processor or blender with banana (use 1 banana per every 6 strawberries). Puree until smooth. Freeze leftover strawberry-banana puree in airtight containers for up to three months.

Photo courtesy of Kashi.com

Feeding Mason During Hurricane Madness

Mason’s Hurricane Irene eats: A mix of homemade food, crackers, puffs, and formula

Hurricane Irene is expected to hit New York City tonight. We’re not in a mandatory evacuation zone, we don’t live by the water, and our apartment building isn’t a highrise, so we’ve decided to ride out the storm at home instead of leaving town. Hopefully we don’t regret that decision. Chris taped up all the windows and brought our furniture in from our balcony. But before we hunkered down, I insisted on one last run to the grocery store. Although we stocked up on essentials yesterday, I needed to pick up a few extras — and I was desperate for one last excursion before hurricane-imposed house arrest in our 800-square-foot apartment. God help us if we have to stay indoors beyond Sunday. Mason will be crawling up the walls, and I’ll be ready to pull my hair out.

The store was packed. It’s in the part of our ‘hood that is a mandatory evacuation zone, but everyone there looked totally relaxed. “It’s like a block party in here,” a guy next to me in the pasta aisle remarked. He was right and I felt like staying there as long as possible. Mason and I cruised slowly up and down the aisles and picked up hummus, cut up veggies, crackers, jam, whatever caught my eye since I was suddenly starving. Chris rolled his eyes at my collection of “necessities,” he was on to my game. He tried to hustle me along, I stalled for as long as possible. While Chris stood in line to pay for the groceries, Mason and I hung outside. The sky was gray and angry-looking clouds were already gathering overhead but the air was warm and there was a lovely breeze. Mason giggled as a Doberman Pinscher named Max circled his owner’s legs and a few people stopped to chat with us. Babies are a great conversation starter.

Back home, I took in our stockpile of food. Mason’s set for days. Our freezer is stocked with two different kinds of homemade applesauce (regular and blueberry), as well as banana, strawberry, and peach purees for yogurt and oatmeal. I also have frozen portions of veggie lentils, chicken with brown rice and homemade tomato sauce, and cheesy veggies, not to mention five kinds of cut up frozen veggies.  Some of the food is thawing in the fridge; if the power goes out Mason can eat the thawed food right away and then the frozen stuff later. If there’s a lengthy power outage, Chris and I will resort to a diet of canned tuna, pickles, dried Italian sausage, beef jerky, bread, tortilla chips, bottled water, red wine, and dark chocolate. And we have lots and lots of candles, which could be romantic  — unless the storm turns into a rager.

Here’s to hoping Irene stays a category 1 storm and doesn’t pick up any more steam as she makes her way up the coast. Are you on the East Coast as well? If so, what foods did you stock up on for your family?

What Chris and I will eat if we lose power for a long time