"Start to finish it takes me 15 to 20 minutes to prepare a big bulk batch of fruits," says Hood. "Two pounds of fruit makes about 40 ice cube servings." She reminds parents not to forget to strain out seeds in fruits for beginning eaters.
You may also want to freeze larger portions of savory foods, such as meats and chopped-up pastas. For this, Hood uses muffin trays, pouring the baby food into the tins, freezing, and then storing. A few minutes in microwave and her toddler's meal is ready.
Using Baby Food to Add Flavor
Once you have plenty of baby food on hand, it's time to start cooking!
Start with mixing in baby food to add flavor. For savory dishes, try using meat-based food to thicken sauces or create richer casseroles, stews, and soups. For example, if you're preparing beef stroganoff, add a beef or tomato-based baby food to create a more complex flavor. Enliven your vegetable soup with pureed zucchini, tomatoes, or another hearty vegetable.
During snack time, mix fruit baby food into plain yogurt or a veggie baby food into plain cream cheese to spread on crackers (with either, simply thaw a food cube or two for seconds in the microwave and you're ready to go). Use fruit puree as jam on bread or crackers.
When it comes to desserts, fruity baby foods make the perfect accompaniment. Stir pureed strawberries, peaches, or cherries into whipped cream to top cakes. Create simple sauces to drizzle on whole fruit or chocolate creations. My favorite: chocolate cheesecake with dollops of tangy mango puree. Barnes says she serves cherry puree to her baby and cherry sorbet to her husband—both love it.
Using Baby Food for a Nutritional Punch
You want to be careful about what you feed your baby. Yet the same quality ingredients and care that you put into your baby's dishes can make yours healthier, too. Tossing some of your baby's food into your own meals can make it easier to get your full servings of vegetables and fruits.
For breakfast, Hood suggests adding a cube or two of fruit to pancake or waffle batter. Her children rave about her strawberry pancakes.
In baked goods, such as coffee cakes and muffins, try substituting pureed fruit for part of the butter or oil called for in the recipe. For instance, my favorite recipe for pound cake muffins that calls for eight tablespoons of butter, I use six instead and use pureed baby food peaches for the other two tablespoons.