Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Homemade Baby Food - Butternut Squash and Sweet Potatoes

That's right, I tackled TWO different foods at the same time. I am Mother, hear me roar!

But seriously, things went much more smoothly this time around. Perhaps it's because I had better equipment. Maybe I was simply more careful (make that much more.) It could have been luck. Regardless, my second foray into making homemade baby food was a complete and utter success! And I did most of the work while Wyatt took his afternoon nap. Crazy.

Let's start with the squash.

I wound up buying a decent sized organic butternut squash instead of a regular butternut for a couple of reasons. One, organic is better. Two, when I got to the register at Kroger, the regular squash (which was only slightly bigger than the organic) rang up at $5.35. The organic rang up at $1.95. Yeah, confused the hell out of me, too. Apparently, the regular ol' squash is charged by the pound. The organic isn't. So, while the regular butternut squash might have been on sale for $1.70 a pound, it definitely wasn't the better deal! Add in the fact that my Kroger card shaved off 20 cents from the organic's price, and you can clearly see why I put the regular squash back.

Isn't she beautiful?

By the way, almost all of these pictures will show me doing prep work, etc on top of my stove. My kitchen has no counter space whatsoever, and the counter space we do have is completely taken up by our microwave, toaster oven, bottle drying rack, espresso machine, and dish drying rack. I have all the cabinet space a woman could ever need (and then some) but no counter space. So, until we invest in a kitchen island, on top of the stove it is!

Before I did anything else, I preheated the oven to 400 degrees. I made a huge mental note to do this beforehand because otherwise, I would absolutely forget until it was time to bake the damn thing. Then, I removed the stickers and cut the squash in half lengthwise using a really big knife whilst sustaining no injuries. Thumbs up for me. It took about ten minutes. Squash skin is tough, and my right arm is a total wimp. Need to find a better way for next time...

You guys are going to think I'm crazy, but I think that if a watermelon and a pumpkin had a baby, it would be a butternut squash. All I could think about while I cut the squash was, "Wow! It smells like a watermelon!" And the seeds on the inside resemble what my dad refers to as "pumpkin guts." Call me crazy, I don't care.

Anyway, I scooped out the squash "guts" and made sure no little stringy bits were left. Then I took my biggest glass baking dish and poured in about an inch and a half of water. I put the squash halves into the dish, face down.

My baking dish was almost not big enough. I lucked out. Note to self, big squash need not apply.

After coercing the squash halves into coexistence (it was kind of like doing a jigsaw puzzle with two really awkward pieces), I put them into the oven for 40 minutes. While they baked, I moved on to the sweet potatoes.

I am not a fan of sweet potatoes. Never have been. But, my child likes them, so there you go. Don't really need another reason to make them, right?

Kroger didn't have any organic sweet potatoes when I went, but that's okay as sweet potatoes are one of the EWG's Cleanest 15 fruits and veggies with the lowest amount of pesticides. So, I don't feel so bad for not buying organic this time.

I had two sweet potatoes handy, so I decided to use both of them. (I considered only using one, but I knew the other would just sit in the fridge.) I scrubbed them both very well and started peeling them.

Remember when I had issues peeling the organic carrots? Well, the sweet potatoes were even worse. Pretty sure I wanted to throw the peeler out the window a couple of times. I finally gave up and use a paring knife to finish the job. Way easier.

When the potatoes were completely peeled, I chopped them both into little chunks. (Have you ever tried to "cube" a sweet potato? You can't do it. There is nothing remotely cube-like about the pieces you wind up with. They are asymmetrical chunks.) I then placed them into my NEW STEAMER BASKET THAT A WONDERFUL CO-WORKER GAVE ME.

That's right, no more ghetto steamer!

My co-worker, Sarah, was nice enough to give me her steamer basket. It helped a lot, since I'm pretty sure the Tupperware lid trick would not have worked with two good-sized sweet potatoes.

After I added the sweet potato, I poured in just enough water to cover the pieces. Once the water started to boil, I turned the heat down a bit and put the lid on.

Wanna know how I know I'm good at this? The squash and the potatoes finished at the same time. Yeah, I've got this down to an art. (I'm completely not serious.)

I took the butternut squash out of the oven at about the same time the sweet potatoes had been "cooked until tender." (Which I still think is just a way of saying, "I was too lazy to time this, but they're done now!") The squash skin looked puckered and had sunken in where I had scooped out the squash guts, and had started to turn a darker tan color. (Both signs of "done-ness" according to WholesomeBabyFood.com.) I took the pot with the sweet potatoes off the heat and let them cool along with the squash.

Just a side note, but when I opened the oven door to check on the squash a couple of times towards the end, the water in the bottom of the baking dish had created this really strange whirlpool effect. It would bubble up from under the hollows in the squash halves and rotate around the dish until it created a whirlpool. REALLY WEIRD.

I waited about an hour before I blended both the squash and sweet potatoes, and they were still a bit warm. The great thing about my new food processor/blender is that I can blend two different things without having to wash anything in between. So that's exactly what I did. (And when I did wash them, I managed to not cut myself. Hooray!) I forgot to do this with the sweet potatoes, but to thin out the squash, I used the water that the squash had been baked in to get back a few of those nutrients. I used a little nursery water with the sweet potatoes. (Side note - I didn't do this with the carrots because they're very high in nitrates! Never use the same water to thin out carrots that you used to cook them in!)

I wound up with one cube short of two full trays of sweet potatoes. I probably could have managed to fill that last cube, as some of them turned out to be quite full and the puree was a bit on the "chunky" side.

Unfortunately, I tossed the receipt that had the price for the sweet potatoes, so I don't know exactly how much I saved. My expert guesstimation would be that making the sweet potatoes at home cost between 5-7 cents per ounce, depending if they were on sale or not. I can't remember.

One organic butternut squash yielded three full trays! (It was almost one and a half trays. When the squash finished baking, it smelled and tasted so delicious -and not like watermelon - that I almost saved half to make into soup. Oh well, guess I'll have the buy another squash for myself!)

Math time! One organic squash was $1.75 and yielded 42 oz/cubes. So how much per ounce, my mathematically inclined friends? 4 cents! I would have spent $10.50 for 42 oz of Gerber squash.

Lessons Learned:
- Since sweet potatoes have a shelf life of 2 weeks in the freezer, I'll only use one next time. I guess my intuition was right!
- Butternut squash is great to make in bulk! (And considering the size of one squash, you pretty much have to make it in bulk.) But that's okay, because while sweet potatoes have a relatively short freezer life, butternut squash (and any type of winter squash) will keep for up to 4 months in the freezer!
- The sweet potatoes came out kind of thick, while the squash came out much thinner. I think I might have added too much water to the squash and not enough to the sweet potatoes. This is easily fixed, though. When thawed, if a puree is too runny, add a little rice cereal or oatmeal. Too thick? Stir in formula or breast milk. (By the way, when I took out a couple of cubes of squash for Wyatt's lunch today, the consistency was just right when it thawed. No biggie!)

Of course, it's always important to label and date your baby food when placed in the freezer. From left to right - squash, sweet potatoes, and (*?$@!) carrots.

Maybe next time I'll make something not quite so... orange. =)

- Mother Nature Mom

1 comment:

  1. Excellent! But does Wyatt like anything green? He's gonna turn orange at this rate....


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