Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Pass the Peas... Please

The girls are 5.5 months old now... that magical time when I get to start introducing them to one of my favorite parts of life: food.  Solid, real, delicious, caloric, crave-worthy food.  It's such a huge part of our family, food.  The preparation, discussion, consumption of food... meals together and rewards and mood picker-uppers.  So naturally I get super excited about moving beyond breastmilk and crappy cereal into the real foods that will put them on track to join the rest of us in our happy fat-kid-dom. 

That, among many, many other reasons, is why I make my own baby food at home.  Like nursing, I can spend hours justifying my decision - our decision - to put the extra effort into it.  But not least of all is the taste; homemade baby food tastes great. 

I even enjoy the process.  Absurd, but when Justin asked me last night, "Are you excited to be making baby food again?" I honestly answered that I am.  I don't know why - maybe it's like nursing in that I know that I'm doing something really good for the kids.  Or maybe it's just that I delight in making neon green mush or that it appeals to my sense of order and accomplishment to see a freezer stocked with neatly frozen cubes of brightly colored yum.  I don't really know, nor do I think it matters. 

So, that all being said, I'm going to take you, if you'd like, on a journey through my children's first foods with me.  I will post step-by-step instructions on how to make the foods I'm giving them and when I introduce a new food to them, I'll post the instructions so if you'd like to learn along, feel free.  If you'd rather not worry about pureeing peaches, you are welcome, of course, to skip.  So, today, I give you... Peas!

Before I begin, I assemble my tools and utensils and put them all in the dishwasher on "sanitize" and use a bleach solution to sanitize everything else, such as counter tops, etc.  I also make sure to wash my hands often in hot, soapy water and I avoid touching prepared food and the surfaces with which the food comes in contact as much as possible.

Also important to note is that I cook foods minimally (except meat, which I cook the everliving snot out of) to retain the highest nutritional content possible and I similarly avoid microwaving food as heat saps food of essential vitamins and minerals.  I use the smallest amount of water possible and whenever I can, I retain the cooking water for use in thinning the puree because it has nutrients in it that have leached out of the food.

Step 1: Fill the bottom of a pan with a scant amount of water for steaming.  If you don't have a steaming pot, blanche the peas by chucking them in a pot of boiling water for a minute or two and removing from the heat.  In that case, drain the water into a separate container.  But for the rest of this post, assume the use of a steaming pot....

...like this one!

Step 2: I do two bags of Baby Sweet Peas at once - pour both bags of frozen peas into the upper part of the steamer pot.  I always always always use frozen instead of canned veggies. 

Step 3: Steam until the peas are gently cooked... and basically just thawed.  They should remain a lovely, vibrant green color and have lots of "pop" to them when you bite into one.

Step 4: Put the peas - yes, all of them! - into a blender... remember, keep that leftover water for use later!

Step 5: Start by pulsing the blender a few times, and add a little cooking water as you go...

...so that the bottom starts to look like this:

Step 6: Add a little more water and crank up the speed of the blender until you're looking at something like this:

Step 7: Pour a cup or two of the puree into a strainer.  This step is going to be absolutely crucial for the lil' ones: you HAVE to strain peas to separate the hulls from the uh... no idea... pea "meat" I guess?  Yes.  Pea hulls from pea meat.  The hulls make the puree lumpy and worst of all, cause lots of gas because they're extremely difficult to digest.  What baby is fun with gas?  Exactly.  So, we strain. 

Step 8: I like to use a silicone spoonula for this since it's sturdier than a spatula and gives just enough that it conforms to the curves of the strainer really well.  But I mush the crap out of the puree and force it through the strainer, leaving the hulls inside the strainer. 

Step 9: As you start forcing the puree through the strainer, you might have to scrape the mush off the outside with a regular spoon or spatula or whatever you'd like and put it into the bowl...

When you've forced about a cup and a half of mush through, this is what the inside of your strainer should look like...

...see the hulls?  I scrapped these off the inside of the strainer so you'd know what I was talking about.  Eeeew, babies don't want that!

Step 10: After you've rinsed the strainer and strained the rest of the puree, it should look like this: smooth and creamy. 

You should now be ready to store it.  I keep a couple days worth out and in the fridge, but only about 2 days out since I freak out about groody leftovers... I don't have fancy food-storage systems or anything, just good, old-fashioned ice trays...

Step 11: Using a teaspoon just spoon the puree into the trays, tap to level...

...and, if you want (and I do!) cover with Press 'n Seal or plastic wrap to keep them clean and stuff and freeze!  Ta da!

Delish.  If you like peas, that is.

I freeze and then pop 'em into a Ziploc baggie with the date and contents written on the outside.  I thaw them in a plastic bowl in a bath of hot water or take them out at breakfast for lunch or at lunch for dinner... viola! Peas.


The (Un)Experienced Mom said...

Even though Little Man just turned 4 months and is 1.5 months behind your girls, we are probably going to start solids in the next week or so. After all, he is 16-17 pds already (think solid, long baby instead of roly poly baby).

You are encouraging me to make my own food, which I started doing in the beginning with our oldest, but soon stopped. But with your step by step instructions, I think even the worst cook (hi, me!) could do this.

Here's the Q: realistically, how many feedings are you getting out of each batch? And how much do your girls eat each time? B/c if Little Man is anything like his big bro (and his dad), I'll have to clean the store out of peas!

Oh, and I love your backsplash!

Shannon K. said...

This is exactly what I do too. I actually purchased these trays called "Fres Baby." They are ice trays with lids. Convenient. I too, love making the baby food for them. I know what's in it, it tastes good, and they love it. When you get a chance, come see this.


Tanya said...

Hotness...tell Justin to buy you a Vita-miz after the weekend you just had with him going to ND and you scratching the crap outta your cornea. ;o) VITA-MIX...to know it is to love it....I mean L-O-V-E it!!! You will never have to use your strainer again!! ;o) It IS Military Family Appreciation Month..tee hee hee.

Nicole @MTDLBlog said...

Did I see some kind of Liquor near your blender? Did you add that for taste in the the puree? hehe.

I might have to do this when the girls are old enough, doesn't look to frustrating...:))

Candice said...

I also made (and still make some thing's) all Graham food. I do it exactly the same way too. A lot of work, but worth it. :)

Blogs said...

Damn girl. I would never have that much patience.

Thumbs Up Buttercup:)

Sheri said...

Wow! Thank you. I had no idea how to do this and I have 2 kids. You have inspired me to make my own if we have anymore.

Christine:) said...

I love it! Great idea and wonderful step-by-steps for me to use in the next few months;)
BTW, I haven't thanked you recently but the clothes are FABULOUS. What size do you need for the girls- I am finished going through boxes of clothes and ready to send some your way!

Melis said...

I am so glad everyone liked this post! I'm going to do another one soon - I'll keep you guys motivated! Seriously, it's like one afternoon of work and you're good to go for awhile!

And Nicole, yes, there is liquor in the background... that's for teething. Kidding! Totally Mommy's :-)

Candice said...

Finally accepted the award you gave me AND left an award for you on my blog. :)

Shandal said...

Sweet post! I like the nice and clear step by step directions!


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