Yes I am a grandmother (Sito in Arabic), but I still make baby food. When my own children were small, I used to be able to buy kosher meat baby food in those tiny jars. It was totally yucky, but it served the purpose for a few months until I figured out I could just use my food processor and get the same pureed effect.
A few years ago, when shopping for my grandbabies, I found that they were no longer on the market. I went from store to store, nothing. Practically all baby foods out there that are either a fruit or vegetable are kosher and have a kashrut symbol, most of them from OU. But nothing that has meat or poultry in it is certified kosher.
I was appalled. I wanted my grandbabies to have those delicious flavors and balanced nutrition. They needed a protein source. As babies, there are certain items you can’t give them – like peanut butter or beans. And there is a limit on the amount of yogurt you can give them. Even babies deserve variety! Anyway, I did what I did with my own babies. I made my own.
Actually, you really need to read this article on the OU website. Called "It's Not Child's Play - Understanding the Complexities of Kosher Baby Food" - the article goes into all the considerations OU must consider to certify baby food. This is a multibillion dollar business.
I should mention that there is no end of do it yourself baby food products on the market. These products offered ways to label, mini containers to put the food in, etc. But my handy food processor did the same job, so why bother? And containers? Come on! You can buy any size container you want these days in any range of shapes. Remember Tupperware? To make your own, no special equipment is needed. I say this as I have a kitchen full of more gadgets than you can imagine.
Back to preparing your own baby food. There are so many things you can give a baby right off the dinner table, it’s unreal. My favorite is chicken soups, especially chicken soup. It has everything you want to give your baby in a perfectly balanced meal – vegetables chicken, add some egg noodles. Typically I make a VERY LARGE pot of soup on Friday. Besides the fact that every person will have at least two bowls on Shabbat, I like the leftover stock and use it for other meals during the week.
For the babies, I put the veggies, some carrots and potatoes, a matzah ball (yes we Sephardim make matzah balls) chicken pieces, some egg noodles, and broth into the food processor to puree it. My soup also has leek, onion and celery. Then I pour it one cup containers and freeze. Usually I can get three of four at least and that is a meal for a 6-12 month old. As the child gets older and has more teeth to chew, it doesn’t have to be pureed so much and you can even mash it up with a fork. Actually you can do this with any soup. I make soup three times a week on average, so there is always plenty for the babies. Typically I will vary between minestrone, tomato rice with chicken (Shurba Riz) and lentil soups. This week I made a sweet potato broccoli soup. I also make cream soups – cream of broccoli, cream of mushroom, etc. The babies like cream of broccoli, actually they all love it, especially as an after school snack.
As for the meat, you can take any meat and puree it in the food processor and save for 3-4 days in the frig, or longer in the freezer. You only need a food processor, no other special equipment. Then you can mix it with a veggie of your choice. No, do not put it in with cream of blah blah soups! That wouldn’t be kosher!
I was at KosherFest last week looking for new ideas and products. There was no end to Mediterranean foods – humus in every flavor imaginable! I saw a baby food product that sought to meet the need for kosher baby foods that are not vegetables. But then I read their information more carefully. The web site says “Under construction” and the product is not on the market! Oops!
Other ideas. Every heard of Pastina. It’s these teeny tiny molecules of pasta that you can prepare in less than 5 minutes. Perfect for babies, nothing to chew and nutritious. I typically add some butter and maybe melted cheese, or mix it with fine cottage cheese. Delish! My 14 month old grandson loves it!
I typically will keep a few containers of boiled veggies in the frig for the toddlers. Sliced carrots and sweet potatoes are excellent and soooo easy. How about mashed potatoes. These can be mixed with a meat or pastina, or served ala carte. As the child can chew more, switch out the pastina for rice or acini de pepe (small balls of pasta) or anellini (tiny pasta ring). The food can be a little more chunky, but be careful as you don’t want the food so chunky they can’t eat it.
Back to the “Cream of” soup. Soooo easy it’s laughable. Choose your veggie and boil it. If using mushrooms, sauté it with garlic and some parsley. Drain and set aside. You need about 2 Cups, finely chopped. In a 3 quart pot, melt 6 TBS butter with a tsp olive oil on medium heat. Add in 1 medium chopped onion and sauté until soft. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Depending on the vegetable, you can add other spices at this stage. Add 3 TBS flour and mix well to make a roux. Cook for 3-5 minutes. This is the thickener for the soup. Pour in 3 C of cold water and 3 C vegetable stock (make sure it is parve). Mix well and let come to a slow simmer, uncovered. Then add your veggie and cook 10 minutes. Watch the pot so it doesn’t boil over, you may need to lower the heat. With broccoli and mushrooms, you are ok with finely chopped. If using butternut squash or sweet potatoes, you may want to puree it in the food processor before adding to the soup. The base stays the same, no matter what vegetable you add.
The “Cream of” soups are good for babies and toddlers, I’d say from about 9 months or older. But if you are a young mom, use your judgment. There is nothing like mother’s intuition. Just don’t be afraid of making your own. It’s going to be more nutritious and better than anything bought and jarred with preservatives.