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Doing more with: baby food

A lot of my kitchen time these days has been spent cooking various fruits and vegetables into an almost beverage-like consistency–in other words, I’m making baby food. So I was excited to read Jim Hall’s story last week about local pediatrician Nimali Fernando’s “Doctor Yum” website, which shares information on how to get kids of all ages eating well.

I was drawn to a recipe she shared for roasted sweet potatoes and bananas.

Bananas are a staple of baby-food-making. They are cheap, portable and, once ripe, really easy to mash up with some oatmeal for breakfast.

Some of the expensive, trendy new packaged baby food brands out there include roasted bananas, and I thought that sounded like an idea worth trying, but I hadn’t gotten around to it until I came across this recipe.

I whipped up the mixture in my food processor and found myself unable to resist taking a few bites. It looked like pumpkin pie filling and tasted almost as good, without any added sugar or spices.

After I’d packed away enough for my daughter in freezer cube trays, I started to think about how I could incorporate it into the non-baby cuisine in our household.

There are a lot of directions you could take this. Adding some eggs and milk for a souffle, turning it into pie filling, You could probably even manage to work it into ice cream (Pho Saigon in Spotsylvania makes a purple sweet potato ice cream that is delicious.).

I went a more traditional route and made muffins. The recipe is at the bottom of this post and makes a muffin that is not super-sweet. These work for breakfast, but wouldn’t be out of place in a dinner-table bread basket, either.

Good baby food is just pure cooked fruits or vegetables, processed to a consistency that can be handled with no teeth and minimal tongue coordination. So it can be used in adult dishes, as well.

My mother and grandmother both make a quick cake using jarred baby fruit puree (a lot like this one).

Here are some other ways to use baby food:

  • Stir fruit purees into plain yogurt to add flavor (This works for adults, but can also be a good alternative to those baby packaged yogurts, which include a lot of added sugar.).
  • Add vegetable purees to meatloaf or meatballs to add moisture. Use vegetable purees to add body to soups.
  • Replace oil or butter in a baked good, savory or sweet, with baby food to lower fat content.

Please share your favorite alternative uses for jarred or homemade baby food (I’ll need them!).

And here’s the muffin recipe:

Roasted sweet potato and banana muffins

Makes one dozen muffins

1 medium sweet potato

1 banana

1 ¾ cup flour (I have made these with up to 3/4 cup whole wheat flour)

¼ cup ground flaxseed (or just more flour if you don’t have it)

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons cinnamon

2 eggs

¼ cup canola oil

¾ cup milk

2 tablespoons maple syrup

½ cup toasted chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Roast the sweet potato, whole, for an hour or more, until well-done. Wrap the banana, peel and all, in foil and place in the oven with the potato for the last 25 minutes of roasting.

Scoop out the flesh of the potato and banana and puree in a food processor until smooth and fluffy. You want to have around 1 cup of this mixture.

Combine flour, flaxseed, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl. In a medium bowl, combine eggs, potato-banana mixture, oil, milk and maple syrup.

Pour wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Stir in pecans.

Divide among greased or paper-lined muffin cups. Bake for 20 minuntes, or until a cake tester comes out dry.

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