When Erika Moldovan and her husband, both trained chefs, found themselves up to their necks in baby-food prep for their first son, an idea popped: "If we're having a hard time managing this process, then how about all of those non-chef parents out there?" This led to the duo recently launching Organic Babies, a prepared food service for infants (6 months plus) and beyond in Newport Beach, California. Brilliant!
For those busy mamas who don't have the funds or access to a service like Organic Babies or NURTURE LIFE and are determined not to buy baby food from the store (for purity, organic, freshness and nutritional reasons!), Moldovan breaks down the easiest way to DIY healthy baby bites at home. I've also included A helpful shopping list of the handful of items you need in your baby-food-cooking arsenal!
Here's how to cook vegetable and fruit purees as fast as humanly possible:
The essential baby-food-making kitchen appliances and products:
- Vitamix (or another high-powered blender...although nothing trumps the Vitamix, in my opinion!)
- Stainless steel pot with steam basket (I'm partial to an All-Clad)
- Cookie sheet
- Alternative to Vitamix, pot and cookie sheet: Beaba Babycook (4.5 cups or 9.4 cups)
- Peeler (cute, bright ones like these always make peeling better)
- Sharp knife
- Silicone spatula
The Beaba Babycook, an appliance specifically for making baby food, essentially does everything a pot, cookie sheet and Vitamix would do—and eliminates the need to wash multiple things. "If you already have a quality blender and don't feel like shelling out more money and kitchen cabinet space for a baby-food maker, though, then it isn't necessary," Moldovan says. Just make sure you have a high-powered blender (it's an investment) because cheap one = food-prep headaches.
It's great to have two freezer-safe options. "Allow the freezer to be your friend," says Moldovan. The Ball jars are a 4-oz. size that's perfect for meal storage. Plus, they are glass and eliminate any plastic concerns (more about that here). Big silicone ice cube trays are also key to have in your baby-food kit—you freeze both food and breastmilk in them! This eco-friendly "Love Me, Feed Me" one has nine, 2.6-oz. compartments (just pop out a meal) and is BPA, PVC, lead and phthalate free. Here's another petroleum-free silicone ice cube tray from a brand Moldovan recommends, Green Sprouts, that has 1-oz. compartments. All of these products are dishwasher safe.
Tip: "The best way to defrost a frozen meal would be to do it in the fridge overnight or run the jar under cold, running water," Moldovan says. Remember: never microwave, as it not only zaps the nutrition right out of the beautiful baby food you've worked so hard to prepare, but it also can create hot pockets that could burn baby's mouth.
"Cleaning up is always the worst part!" Modovan admits. But anything going into baby's mouth should be cleaned and sterilized with safe cleaning products. (Read more about detoxing your home cleaning products here.)
How much organic produce to buy:
Choose organic produce to eliminate nasty chemical pesticides (the ones you are trying to avoid by DIYing this whole baby food thing!). Here are a few examples of how your grocery shop pans out:
- 1 lb. of sweet potatoes will fill four, 4-oz. jars or 16, 1-oz. cube trays.
- 1 lb. of carrots will fill four, 4-oz. jars or 16, 1-oz. cube trays.
- 1/2 cup of dried chickpeas will fill four, 4-oz. jars or 16, 1-oz. cube trays.
*The above figures include the addition of water to create each purée.
How to prep for the week:
- Set aside a few hours in one day to knock this out. (Meaning: Tell dad he's on kid duty while you work.) "I would always recommend, especially for a new mom, to try to prep for the week in one day. Whatever day is best, like a Sunday. That way, you have fresh baby food for the first half of the week and can freeze some for later in the week or even into the second week," Moldovan advises.
- "Choose three flavors, like peas, carrots and sweet potatoes, to focus on," suggests Moldovan, so that the process is not completely overwhelming.
- Steam veggies. "We suggest steaming veggies, not boiling, to maintain as many nutrients as possible," Moldovan says. Here's how:
- Add a small amount of water to the bottom of your pot and place vegetables in your steamer basket.
- When the water starts to boil, cover with a lid and turn the heat down to medium low. Steam until the vegetables are fork-tender.
- Cook time will vary for each vegetable.
- Use the oven to roast sweet potatoes. It's hands-free, creates great flavor and offers less cleanup. "Roasting really only applies to the sweet potato since you can roast in its skin without the use of oil. Other veggies require peeling and tossing in oil to prevent sticking during the roasting process," Moldovan explains. Here's how Moldovan makes sweet potato purée:
- Rinse potatoes.
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- Place two sweet potatoes on a baking sheet and roast them whole for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the size.
- Take them out, let them cool to where you can handle them while they're still warm.
- Next, peel the skin off and put the whole sweet potato in the blender with about a cup of water for two potatoes (add water for thinner texture, reduce water for thicker texture).
- Just peel, core and purée most fruits. Several fruits, such as pears and berries, don't need any cooking time. Apples, however, require cooking. "I’d suggest using a variety such as gala because you don’t have to peel them. The skins are thin and will cook down with the apples," Moldovan says. Here's how:
- Wash and core apples, then cut them into thin slices and place into your pot.
- Add enough water to cover the apples.
- Cook on medium high until the apples are soft, then purée!
As for Organic Babies' menu items, Moldovan says, "Our foods are not just for babies. You can use our products in other different ways and forms for any age!" Agreed—I've been eyeing that zucchini mango purée!
Of course, there is also the "smash" technique that doesn't require any cooking at all (lol) ... smashed avocado, smashed bananas ... When you've got zero time to prep anything, make sure your grocery shop or Instacart order includes these healthy baby food essentials.
Have a question about baby food prep? Holla in the comments below! And find out about why you might want to switch to a glass baby bottle here.