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Baby Food Round 2: Homemade Style

Heya.

It’s been a while. I know.

My head is spinning about the speed with which time is flying.

How is it already JULY??? Didn’t it JUST get warm outside? (it’s the truth here in Colorado anyway). Will summer be over before I even know it or will we get a nice Looonnnnggg transition in to Fall?

Speaking of time – I did a round 2 of baby food making quite some time ago and never shared.

I even considered foregoing the sharing, but then figured that if this can encourage even one person who’s on the fence about tackling baby food homemade style, it’s worth my time in sharing.

I said it before and I will say it again – I have NOTHING against the store bought variety.

Heck, my little dude has devoured LOTS of the store bought stuff.

There’s a certain convenience with buying at the store and popping the top for feeding. And there’s a certain warmness of heart <for me anyway> with making food at home.

So I do both!

And making baby food at home really isn’t all that time consuming a process if you plan and prep and have the right equipment.

Round 2 of baby food making included avocado, peas, mango and quinoa.

That’s right! Quinoa!

I sought making Round 2 as easy as possible and purchased frozen, organic mango and peas. I struggle to get much for my effort when it comes time to cutting up a fresh mango (and I’ve watched countless YouTube tutorials – I’m mango cutting challenged regardless), and it would take a month of Sundays to pluck enough of those little green gems (i.e. peas) from their pods to make it worth my while.

The texture of both the peas and quinoa were a little for my dude to get used to, but once he did he couldn’t get enough. This is true of many homemade varieties compared to what you buy at the store.

I don’t know what sort of special magic goes into making ALL of the store bought varieties smooth as pudding but it’s unnecessary and impossible accomplish (in my experience) at home.

My suggestion: mix them in with something else your kiddo already likes and warm them up to the texture gradually.

I think this makes sense anyway for the transition to full-on table food.

Soooo….lets get to it!

Ready? Set. Baby Food!

Homemade Baby Food: Avocado, Peas, Mango & Quinoa

Four more easy homemade baby food recipes to help stock your freezer, and fill the little babe's belly.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Baby Food
Servings: 4 varieties

Ingredients

  • Organic Avocados
  • Frozen Organic Peas
  • Frozen Organic Mango
  • Organic Quinoa

Instructions

  • Avocados: Peel and remove pit from each avocado. Scoop insides into food processor and process until smooth. Add water, breast milk or formula to adjust thickness and consistency.
  • Mango: Thaw in fridge. Pour into food procesor and process until smooth. Water, breast milk or formula are not likely needed for this one, but can be added if you wish to thin out the final product.
  • Peas: Thaw in fridge. Pour into food procesor and process until smooth. Add water, breast milk or formula to adjust thickness and consistency.
  • Quinoa: cook desired amount according to package directions (after rinsing the dry product well). Allow to cool, then process in food processor until smooth. A good amount of water, breast milk or formula will be needed to ensure smoothness and to avoid the final product being sticky.

Notes

Amounts are not indicated in this recipe because it’s really up to you how much of each you want to make.
If it’s a first time you may opt for smaller amounts – just in case you can’t convince your little one of the yummy-ness. Then, in subsequent rounds of baby food making, fix a larger batch.
Each item is finished in the same way:
  • pack into your choice of freezer storage (I use small baby food containers)
  • tuck into freezer 
  • thaw in fridge prior to use
  • use within 3-5 days after thawing
 

Instapot Whole Chicken

Jump to Recipe

A couple of years ago a dear friend of mine gifted me an Instapot.

Unfortunately, I have to admit that I haven’t used it as much as I’d like. Truth is, while I LOVE everything that I’ve made in the pot, learning to use a new appliance takes some time, courage and creativity and I just haven’t embraced stepping out on that limb a whole lot.

The other truth is that every new recipe I’ve made has been super fast and simple and I just need to get out of my own way and plan more meals around the Instapot.

I’ll work on that.

One thing I have managed a couple of times is a whole chicken that’s as juicy and wonderful as a rotisserie chicken from the grocery deli department.

Whole chickens often go on sale at the store on the super cheap and I love to make a chicken, potatoes and veggie dinner for one night and then shred up the rest of the chicken for a different meal another night.

This particular round included a thin pan sauce (i.e. the juices from the chicken slightly thickened) to incorporate those flavors for meal #1 and then I saved the pan sauce and turned it into a gravy for a meal later in the week.

Plus the shredded leftover chicken means that this dish went the distance in three different ways!

Stay tuned and I’ll share recipes that included the leftover shredded chicken AND pan sauce turned gravy at a later time…

Instapot Whole Chicken

A whole chicken cooks quickly in the instapot and comes out as tender and juicy as its' rotisserie cousins in the grocery deli dept.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Pressurize/Depressurize/Pan Sauce20 mins
Total Time1 hr
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: chicken main course

Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken thawed
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive or avocado oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • cup milk
  • 1 tbsp corn starch

Instructions

  • rinse and pat dry whole chicken after removing any 'extras' from the inside cavity
  • combine salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and black pepper in a small dish to create a seasoning rub (or use another chicken seasoning rub of your choice)
  • turn instapot to saute function and melt butter
  • rub chicken with olive or avocado oil
  • rub seasoning all over outside of chicken and pour any leftover into the inside cavity (you may also wish to stuff the inside of the bird with onion, fresh herbs and other veggies…I don't for simplicity sake but it's certainly an option)
  • once butter is melted and bubbling, add chicken breast side down for 3 minutes to brown outside. Flip over and brown other side for 3 min
  • pull chicken out once more, add rack to bottom of pot and pour in chicken broth. Return chicken to pot
  • close lid and set to high pressure for 30 minutes (coming up to pressure takes about 5 min in my pot after things are already hot from the saute function)
  • when cooking time ends, allow pot to depressurize on its own (mine takes 10-15'ish min)
  • wisk corn starch into milk
  • remove chicken from pot, turn saute function back on. When liquid in pot comes up to a boil, wisk in corn starch/milk slurry. Stir and cook for 5'ish minutes until liquid slightly thickens, creating your pan sauce.
  • Add salt and pepper to pan sauce to adjust taste to your liking and pour over cut up chicken just prior to serving.

Notes

Prep Ahead Option:
  • if chicken is frozen, ensure sufficient thawing time in the fridge prior to cooking.
  • combine spices ahead of time to make seasoning rub for chicken. Store in airtight container or zip-top bag.
 
Cooking Time Note: because I live at higher altitude, 5 minutes has been added to the cooking time. If you live below 6000 ft, 25 minutes should be sufficient.

Pointers for Weekly Food Prepping

This has become somewhat a series, going through weekly meal planning, meal planning on a budget, budgeting for groceries, and today some tips/tricks for meal prepping that can help you stay on track to at-home cooking instead of eating out or opting for convenience foods at the store (which also helps staying on track with the grocery budget).

Meal prepping has become essential for our smooth(ish) functioning during the week.

Let’s get real: the time of day that you are most depleted of energy (and maybe motivation) is the time of day you really have to rally because it’s just so darn busy.

Getting dinner on the table, eating, baths, and bedtime routines for a crew of littles, kitchen clean up and dragging your own exhausted self to bed (hopefully after a shower to remove the days worth of vomit compliments of the littlest who struggles with reflux and is a barfing machine)…

It’s a lot.

And it’s easy to look at the clock and think “ughhh….uber eats tonight?”.

BUT, if you have food already bought and prepped in the fridge that can come together more quickly and simply than starting from scratch you’re most definitely more likely to choose that route versus Uber Eats.

If you are like me, there is a fine line between prepping ingredients for a quicker come-together during the week, and having everything fully made for re-heating during the week (leaving you feeling a little like you’re just eating a bunch of leftovers night in and night out).

Some recipes lend themselves well to a complete assembly prior and a simple re-heat. In fact, some recipes are BETTER this way. Soups and casseroles tend to be good examples.

It will take some time for you to determine where this line is with your recipe line-up (and I will try to do better to give the prep-ahead tips I use on my recipes going forward) and prep accordingly.

Here are some things I take the time to knock out on the weekends to ensure meals can meet that “quicker and easier” standard through the week:

Cook all Pastas and Rice

Rice, in particular, takes a long time to cook. This can be a deal breaker for assembling a meal on a week night when you’re already fried. I’ve found that rice is often times actually better after it’s been cooked and had time to chill in the fridge.

In fact, I’ve been known to cook a whole large batch of rice at once and then freeze it in smaller portions. It thaws and re-warms wonderfully (side note: rice in the freezer has come in handy when I’ve had sick kiddos who need a bland bit of something for their tummies and waiting around for rice to cook simply wouldn’t be an option).

Ever been working on a recipe only to discover that you didn’t get the water for your pasta set to boil…and now you’re standing around literally waiting for a pot to boil?

Pasta also cooks and re-warms well.

Cook your rice and pasta (cook pasta to al dente) then store in air-tight containers in the fridge until ready to use.

Rice will need a simple stir and re-warm in the microwave if your recipe can’t do the re-warming and pasta can use a quick rinse under warm water and you’re all set!

Wash and Chop All Fruits and Veggies

Once fruits and veggies are washed and cut into their recipe appropriate size and shape, store in the fridge in airtight containers by recipe and timing of addition for cooking.

Example: if I have a stir-fry on the menu that calls for garlic and onions to be added to the wok before the peppers, I will store the garlic and onions in one container and the peppers in another. Then, if I also have a roasted veggies side dish planned for another night, I will prep all those veggies and store them together in yet another container.

You get the idea…

It can add up to a lot of containers, yes. I have a dishwasher so I don’t get too worried about that (and honestly, from night to night it really isn’t a stack of dishes). If you worry about the abundence of dishes, zip-top bags are an option as well (they’re just an added expense).

A note about potatoes: If prepping potatoes (chopping, cutting into wedges, etc.) prior to cooking, be sure to store completely submerged in water otherwise they will turn black. Added bonus of soaking in water before cooking? Water will pull some starch out of the potatoes and they will crisp up nicely when it comes time to cook.
Fully cooked potatoes can be prepped ahead of time, start to finish, and stored in the fridge until ready to re-warm. See this example for mashed potatoes made in large quantity and kept in the freezer

Cut Meats According to Recipe Specification & Start Marinades

Having meats already cut, and stored in containers per recipe, is a time and mess saver on a busy night.

Added bonus? If a recipe calls for a marinade and you prep this detail on the weekend you 1) won’t forget and run out of time for the marinade to work its magic and 2) your meat will have time to absorb LOTS of flavor, which is the whole point of the marinade to begin with.

Brown Hamburger and Sausage

Cooking meats ahead of time isn’t typically a recommendation of mine but hamburger and sausage is the exception. You won’t notice a bit of difference re-warming either of these when it’s time for your recipe to come together.

Cook with appropriate seasonings and store in air-tight containers in the fridge until time to use.

Added bonus tip: I tend to use the same pan for browning these meats. Hamburger first, drain and quick wipe with a paper towel, then brown sausage. ONE pan to wash when it’s all said and done!

Assemble Soups, Sauces, Casseroles & Dressings

Soups, sauces, casseroles and dressings tend to get better after the ingredients have time to mingle. Assembling them on the weekend and allowing a few days before eating will add an extra element of YUM when it comes time to eat.

Note: if you are preparing a sauce that will go over pasta later in the week, I’d recommend storing each separate, then re-warming and adding sauce to pasta the night you serve that dish. Otherwise your pasta may over-absorb the sauce and get mushy.

Assemble Crock-pot Meals

Any crock-pot meals you have on the agenda during the week can likely be assembled in large containers or zip-top bags for an easy dump-and-go (or do yourself one better if you have the fridge space and assemble in the crock of the crock-pot, pop the lid on and the day of simply pop the crock in the cooker and turn on).

See? So much can be done on the weekend, saving you precious minutes during the week and helping keep you on track to at-home cooking/eating.

I promise the day you food prep your kitchen will be a HUGE disaster! My husband always just shakes his head. BUT, remember that mess would happen eventually anyway and clean up really doesn’t take all that long in the grand scheme of things. I know I’d rather tackle that task along with the bulk of the cooking when I have more hands on deck for entertaining the littles.

Wouldn’t you?

Photo Credit: Photo by Katie Smith on Unsplash