Hello finger foods!
We've been working on finger foods for awhile but have now gotten to the point where the quads are eating them with much more success. Thus we're slowly building our food repertoire and they are beginning to munch on more and more of the same foods as the husband and I eat. I'll soon have a post on what they're eating and some new recipes I've come up with for easy foods I can also stockpile in the freezer.
But for the time being, our freezer is pretty spacious! I just recently handed off what was left of the frozen veggie purees I'd made to a friend's friend who has a baby just starting solids. I'm glad they'll go to good use! We kept our frozen pureed fruits to mix into oatmeal, yogurt and applesauce—just about the only things we still spoon feed to the babies for now.
However, since the crew began eating solids at just over four months old, I've been baking, steaming and pureeing like crazy. I'm not really sure when I decided to make all my own baby food, but I knew in the end it would be easier than trying to buy it all. Plus, once I started looking at the labels on the backs of the baby food jars and pouches and realized how many preservatives were in them, I knew it'd be the healthiest way for me to go. In the beginning, I did stock up on some Plum Organics pouches and Earth's Best jars of food to help me get started until I'd stockpiled enough supply in the freezer. And thanks to our nanny at the time, my husband, our moms and any other helping hands, we kept the food-making process going frequently and always had enough!
At first, I was overwhelmed with the thought of everything. I didn't know where to start, what to feed first. I ask some fellow quad moms for advice then just dove in. The majority of the food I made was done in my Cuisineart Baby Food Maker that my mother-in-law graciously gifted us early on. (Right now, they're cheapest on Amazon.) I loved that thing so much. It made my life easier. Even though I had to do several bowls of food to get a large ziploc bag full of frozen cubes (which would last around two weeks at most), it took out the guess work and helped me keep food going on the side. All you had to do was pour the water in the back, fill the bowl up with your food, close it up and switch the knob to "steam." When it was done, the light went off and I'd flip the knob to "chop" and have a smooth puree in about 30 seconds.
I started off buying all organic fruits and veggies and the first foods the quads ate were bananas then sweet potatoes, applesauce, avocado and then it spanned from there. I was cutting, chopping and steaming everything. Even apples. After a couple weeks, though, I realized I could just buy organic applesauce, I could bake squashes whole in the oven before cutting them up and I could also find organic frozen veggies in microwave bags that saved me a step in the prep and steaming part of the process.
Once the food was ready, I'd pour it into my Mumi & Bubi trays I purchased on Amazon. These were another great necessity for me. I'd actually researched food trays because I wanted something that held the most food portions and was easy to empty and clean. No wrestling with old-fashioned ice trays, no time for that! These worked wonderfully and held 22 one-ounce portions. I bought two sets for a total of four trays and it was perfect. Once the food was frozen, I'd run warm water over the back of the tray, push down on one end of the frozen cube and it slides right out. Then I stored everything in large freezer ziploc bags labeled with the food and the date it was made. This also freed up my trays for more food, and we were always making more with four babies!
For any kind of potatoes, I peeled and chopped them then steamed and pureed. For zucchini and yellow squash, I washed thoroughly then chopped (no peeling, those are nutrients!) and steamed. When it came to larger squash, like acorn and butternut, I figured out I could bake them whole at 425 degrees for about 60-90 minutes then simply slice in half, spoon out the flesh and puree. Done!
Kale and spinach were the most troublesome items to make because you had to steam A LOT of it to get a tray full. But they're packed with protein and vitamins so it was important to me. I'd buy fresh organic kale at the grocery, wash the leaves and strip the greens off the stems then I'd pack the bowl on the Cuisineart baby food maker chock full. Once you steam and puree it, it shrinks drastically, so you can really stuff it in there to get the most out of each batch.
Other items, like green beans, peas and corn, I started out making fresh but then quickly realized I could find them in organic frozen bags in the frozen foods section. I steamed them in the microwave and then pureed. Anything you pre-steam or bake first you can simply puree in a food processor, especially if you don't have a baby food maker. I would use my food processor often while I had the Cuisineart baby food maker going with something else so I could double-up on foods and save time.
When it came to fruits, those were often easy as most of them don't require steaming. You just peel, core, chop and puree. Bananas were great to stockpile as well as fresh pears, pineapple, strawberries and blueberries. You could also buy frozen bags of fruit, like peaches, for a short-cut. I'd pour the frozen food into a bowl in the morning and let it thaw, then puree and pour into my food trays to create the portion cubes. Using the freezer trays was handy because each frozen cube was one ounce of food, making it easy to monitor how much feed the quads were eating when we started out.
Whenever we traveled somewhere and needed to take baby food with us, I prepackaged their meals into ziploc freezer bags so all I had to do was microwave and serve! We used organic oatmeal and/or rice cereal to thicken any of the foods that might be watery once thawed. Sometimes it was hard to get the consistency just perfect, but there's always a fix. Add water to it if too thick or mix in some cereal if it's too thin!
One of the most frequent questions I get is about the food combos I served the quads. For breakfast foods, we did baby organic oatmeal cereal mixed with fruit and, eventually, Greek yogurt. Below is a list of some of the combos we served frequently for lunch and dinner. Feel free to copy and paste this into a printable document for your own fridge! It helped our grandparents and other volunteers who were assisting us often in those early days to know what foods mixed well together.
Squash + apple
Peas + pear
Sweet potato + apple
Carrots + apple
Carrots + sweet potato + apple
Zucchini + banana
Zucchini + pear + apple
Corn + apple
Corn + sweet potato + apple
Corn + squash
Kale + peas + pear
Kale + spinach + pear
Kale + apple
Spinach + pear
Spinach + apple
Butternut squash w/ cinnamon
Broccoli + apple
Avocado + apple
Mango + apple + kale
Green beans + pear
Zucchini + pear + rice
Sweet potato + carrots + peas + green beans + rice
Spinach or kale + zucchini + carrot + pear
Carrots + kale + sweet potato
Cherries + corn + Greek yogurt
Strawberries + spinach or kale + applesauce
Squash + banana + sweet potato
So there you have it! Any questions? Leave 'em for me in the comments section and I can shed any other details I may have up my sleeve. Making all that baby food was a very proud accomplishment for me, I knew exactly what my babies were eating and they really seemed to enjoy it all.