So! Solid food! We fed Tucker solids a couple times before the Oregon trip, and have made it part of the evening routine since I’ve been back. He caught on quickly—he rejected butternut squash the first time I gave it to him, but I can’t blame him. Have you ever tasted plain, unsalted, steamed, pureed squash with no herbs or spices? Blech. Totally boring and kind of gross. I tried again, adding a bit of his oatmeal and some ground cloves and cinnamon, and he wolfed it down. He’s extremely, extremely enthused about pears, and tonight we’ll try applesauce.
I’ve been making most of the food, but we also tried out a couple flavors of Sprout baby food, which is single-ingredient organic stuff from a company owned by celebrity chef Tyler Florence. It’s a nice way to try out a new food without making a huge batch at home, and I love that the pears, for example, contain....organic pears. Nothing else. No water, no citric acid, just pears, same as if I made them at home. They come in resealable pouches instead of jars, which makes them awesome for travel because they’re lighter weight and flat. I got them at Whole Foods; the pouches are $0.99-1.09, which I think is a bit more than jarred food but doesn’t seem crazy.
I’ve decided that my rule of thumb is going to be to feed Tucker things I would eat. As in, if it tastes nasty to me (plain squash), he probably won’t enjoy it much, either. My pediatrician said it’s fine to use herbs and spices, so I’m going ahead and doctoring up the purees to make them tastier. So far, so good. Messy, though. Tucker sits in the Bumbo and we feed him right before his bath. Bumkins sent me some of their Superbibs, which I really like. They are lightweight and waterproof, and after washing them off they dry really quickly. Like, instantly. They have some fun patterns--I like the black and white Keith Haring print!
So let’s talk making baby food. I have tried a few methods so far. A friend loaned me her Beaba Babycook, which steams and then purees food in what looks like a tiny food processor. Honestly I wasn’t a huge fan; it made a small batch and it tasted funny, though I think I might need to descale the water tank and try again. It would work well if you wanted to chuck in the ingredients from your dinner before cooking your own food (to avoid salt or oil or whatever), and just make two or three servings for the baby. But if you want to make a larger amount of a puree, I’ve found it easier to just steam the vegetables in a steamer basket on the stove, then puree them with my trusty stick blender. (Baby food aside, that is perhaps the best $40 you can spend. It comes with a mini-chopper that you can use to make salsa or salad dressing or, say, baby food. It comes with a whisk that makes whipped cream in about 15 seconds. And the main immersion blender part purees soups or things like turnips or celery root in the pot where you cooked them. I adore mine and use it all the time. Easy to clean, too!) That said, several of my friends have sworn by the Babycook!
Starchy foods like potatoes would get really gummy if I used the stick blender, and for stuff like applesauce it’s nice not to peel and core the fruit before cooking it. For that a food mill is perfect, and again, a basic food mill isn’t expensive and can be used for a lot more than the couple months when you’re pureeing your baby’s food!
Annabel Karmel is a cookbook author from the UK who has published a bunch of baby/kid food cookbooks. She also makes a line of food prep and storage tools, and I got a box of them from the company to try out. (Her products are distributed in the US by Infantino.) The Freeze Cube Tray is a silicon ice cube tray with a cover, similar to several on the market but fairly priced at $9.99. It works great--the purees, in one-ounce portions, pop right out after they’re frozen. I also really like the Stackable Food Pots, which come in a set of six, two each of three sizes. They’re handy for storing the stuff I don’t want to freeze. I got a set of popsicle molds, which I’ll try out in a couple months, and a cookbook full of finger food recipes, which we also aren’t ready for, but I’ll report back.
Finally, I got the Food Mill. Unfortunately it came with a broken handle, which made it a bit hard to use, but even if the handle had been intact I think you’re better off with a regular food mill that fits over a bowl unless you want something self-contained to use on-the-go, maybe? It doesn’t hold much (to make applesauce from three small apples I think I filled it about six times), and you have to press down really hard to get the food to pass through. That made apple juice run out the bottom and all over the counter, despite the silicone seal. I think it’s much better suited for pureeing a bit of your already-cooked dinner vs. making batches of fruit or vegetable purees.
On my own, I ordered a masher and bowl from the same line. I won’t use it until Tucker is easting chunkier food, but it seems like a cheap, easy and portable tool, especially for travel. (Who knows, though; maybe a fork would do the same thing? I don’t think so but experiments will follow!) It looks perfect for mashing up avocado, etc.
On a totally separate note, a quick mention of a crazy sale I stumbled upon this week. I had a 25% off coupon for Gymboree, and when I went to the store they had winter clothes on clearance: 30% off clothes that were already marked down 60%! I scored a bunch of stuff for next fall, all at insane prices once all the sales were combined. I literally paid $12.58 for this adorable outfit (jeans, panda t-shirt, fleece-lined hoodie), originally $68.25. Definitely worth checking out, even without the extra coupon, but it seemed like stuff wouldn’t last too much longer.
Now I can’t wait to dress Tucker in this stuff! I also can’t believe he’ll be...like...a little boy, running around in jeans and hoodies. Oof, time flies.
Kate Flaim is a freelance journalist and food blogger based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.