By Herb Gardener –
The toughest food critic we will ever face — and the one whose taste goes unquestioned — wears a bib and a diaper. But there is help, friends, for avoiding consignment to the splat mat. Cook it with love and make it yourself.
The reasons to eschew store-bought, pre-packaged baby-food products in favor of wholesome homemade baby and toddler meals — expense, nutrition, flavor, food additive control, etc.— are compelling. All-in-one preparation and storage systems like the Baby Bullet® can turn any kitchen and novice stovesmith into a kiddy-kibble factory. The question, then, becomes not whether, but what, to cook.
The title of The Best Homemade Baby Food on the Planet establishes a high performance standard. My interpretation for the choice was that the authors feel as much pride in their cookbook offspring as other parents do. After all, no one wants to characterize his or her child’s diet as just “decent.”
What do I expect from a baby food primer? Nutritional and dietary information and instruction, age-appropriate ingredient lists, tips on storage and refrigeration/freezing, portion control and feeding technique advice, winning recipes, etc. Best Homemade gets two spoons up for addressing the right content, but also anticipating needs that I had not considered. For example, a recipe feedback chart allows tracking every preparation with a baby star rating system and space for notes.
Surprises in Best Homemade included frequent use of the microwave, which in our house did little more than reheat leftovers and cold coffee. The raisin puree below is delicious on its own; however, it is also the foundation for other treats that will delight both baby and chef. Add vanilla extract, peeled pear, and agave nectar to the blender for an all-purpose syrup or fruit spread.
The beauty of Best Homemade is that it promotes playfulness, discovery, and high times in the high chair while delivering a healthy dose of nutritional, behavioral, and developmental science. Parents will find reassurance and confidence in Knight and Ruggeiro’s thoughtful and complete approach to raising a healthy, happy eater.
Our 17-month old, Fauna, has enjoyed Best Homemade recipes, and Flora and I have learned a great deal about her preferences thanks to experimenting with a wide range of tastes and textures. We have begun making our own concoctions for her precocious tastebuds, such as homemade hummus cut with avocado. Fauna loves it spread on whole wheat bread.
¼ cup dark, seedless organic raisins
¼ cup water
Microwave method. Place the raisins and water in a microwave-safe dish. Microwave on high for 40 seconds until hot. Allow to cool slightly and then transfer to a blender and puree 30 to 60 seconds until smooth.
Toddler’s Shepherd’s Pie
¼ cup cooked ground turkey
¼ cup cooked mashed potatoes
2 tablespoons grated cheddar cheese
Oven method. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil an oven-safe 6-ounce custard cup. Place the turkey in the cup, cover with the potatoes, and sprinkle with cheese. Bake 10 to 15 minutes until the cheese is melted.
Try this dressing with avocado, shredded carrots, and parsley or cilantro.
Luscious Lime Dressing
Juice of one lime
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon peeled and finely chopped ginger (optional)
Place lime juice, vinegar, olive oil, and ginger (if desired) in a small clean, lidded jar and mix well.
(The Best Homemade Baby Food on the Planet by Karin Knight and Tina Ruggiero. Beverly, MA: Fair Winds Press. 2010. $19.99)
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