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For busy, sleep-deprived moms, making baby food from scratch may seem like a recipe for insanity. But going the homemade route is actually quite simple, plus it saves money and the food can be more nutritious and tastier than store-bought varieties, says Lisa Barnes, the San Francisco-based author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook (Penguin, 2005). Offer your 6-month-old puréed foods one at a time (to watch for allergic reactions), and eventually work up to chunkier, more varied meals by his first birthday. Here's how to make your own meals:
Step one: Assemble your ingredients. For the healthiest variety, select fresh, in-season foods--organic if available and affordable. Frozen veggies and fruits are also good options. Avoid common allergens like shellfish, nuts, egg whites and cow's milk. Also skip honey, salt and sugar, but feel free to add flavor with spices such as a bit of cinnamon, curry, garlic or thyme.
Step two: Start cooking. Plan to make a big batch. Begin with clean produce and clean hands. Be sure to follow safe food-handling practices such as not using the same knife or cutting board for raw chicken and produce. Once they're prepared, many vegetables and meats can simply be steamed or baked, then pureed in a blender or food processor.
Step three: Store the food properly. Freeze the puree in ice cube trays. Pop the cubes into freezer bags that are labeled with the contents and the date. Cubes can be safely frozen for two months. Heat a few in the microwave or a saucepan until bubbling to kill bacteria, then let cool.