Greetings folks! If you don’t already know me my name is Dain Sandoval and I am the one in charge of the nerdery over at everydaypaleo.com. During the most recent recording session of the PaleoTalk Podcast, Chrissy asked if I would be able to post about my recent undertakings of baby food production. A little background:
I have a 9 month old, Baby Olive. Yes, her name is Baby Olive. She will always be Baby Olive, or at least I tell myself that. She was almost entirely breast-fed until 6 months at which time my wife’s milk waned and her work schedule made pumping difficult so we began supplementing iron-fortified formula (Gerber Good Start brand). We also introduced soft foods at this time such as avocado for Olive to “gum on.” She is a remarkably healthy and happy baby girl. I made a decision early on that I didn’t want to rely on premade baby foods since a lot of them are so lacking in the fat/protein department and many are just glorified desserts with the amount of sugar in them. My wife agreed and we decided to basically give Olive what we were eating.
Right off the bat let me say this is a super easy undertaking if you are eating Paleo as a family. Your baby will get a terrific assortment of protein and vegetable nutrients. What IS necessary though is the proper equipment. If you have one of those plastic baby food mills – toss it. You are going to need heavier artillery to really make this work. I suppose I should add the disclaimer that I am not a doctor and that you should check with your pediatrician and your own family history to make sure that there are no known food allergies. Common sense, folks. For what it’s worth, the American Academy of Pediatrics no longer recommends delaying feeding of high-allergy-risk foods. I share that bit of info so I don’t get hate mail for feeding my baby pork and fish.
Today’s ingredients are sweet potatoes, grass-fed beef, mixed veggies, pears and pork belly. You can use whatever you like, or whatever you have leftover from last night’s dinner. I make a large supply of sweet potatoes because Olive likes to eat them as-is and it makes a great additive for the other foods. It keeps better separate than mixed in with things like beef. In the beginning of this post I mentioned that the plastic food mills of yesteryear will not cut the mustard, or the beef, or much of anything for that matter. The other drawback is that they are single-purpose. Once your child grows out of eating mush, the device is pretty much useless. Enter the heavy artillery – a 550watt immersion blender.
They also go by the names of hand blender or stick blender. This tool will last you a good while and you can use it for your own smoothies or sauce-making. Pick one up at any restaurant supply store, department store, or online. KitchenAid, Braun, Cuisinart all make fine models. Check reviews and get what best suits you.
For the sweet potatoes – wash and place in glass dish with a quarter inch of water and microwave for about 7 minutes. You can also bake them in the oven at 350* forever. Same as when you used to make baked potatoes. Slice in half then scoop out the ‘meat’ with a spoon and place into your blending container along with the cooking water. Add about another cup of water, and blend until creamy. Spoon into clean jars.
I admit this next one is weird but it goes along with using last night’s dinner. Pork belly and pears. Pork belly is SUPER fatty (and delicious) but also has some meat tucked in there. I picked the meat out and warmed it in my cast iron pan to render most of the solid fat out and isolate the meat.
Then it was meat+cubed pears+steamed mixed veggies and a cup of water in the blending jar. I couldn’t help but sneak a spoonful and it was delicious. Rich, creamy and quite satisfying! (Note: Baby did NOT like this meal. Maybe in time)
My final meal of the day is grass-fed beef and veggies. I know Olive likes this one. In the cast iron pan I cook a pound of beef. At the same time I have a handful of baby carrots and broccoli steaming in the microwave. After 7 minutes, both are finished cooking. Combine in the magic blendy jar and liquefy!
I recommend tasting your creations. Yes, the consistency is strange – but the flavors are familiar. You will know that you are tasting whole ingredients with no added fillers or garbage. Really, there’s no new information in this post that I’m sure you don’t already know. My goal was to illustrate how easy and non time-consuming it is. I made all this (and some not pictured) in the span of an hour. You could take 30 minutes and still be able to make a day’s worth of food. If you were to process your dinner leftovers, even less time. Point is, your baby will eat what you eat and really enjoy it. (most of the time)
[UPDATED 6-10-11] Lots of folks mention practicing Baby-Led Weaning. I suppose I should have included in the post that in addition to these jarred blends, we offer soft bits of food on her tray to pick up and feed herself. Avocado, cooked carrots, beef, chicken – anything soft she is super excited to grip and place in her mouth. She only has the two teeth on the bottom at this time so her self-fed items have to be pretty basic and not tough. As she develops, the blends are getting chunkier and more challenging items are put on her tray. Playing with food is a huge learning experience! Definitely a great addition to feeding time.