I believe in feeding organic in as much as possible and reasonable, so I start with all organic produce. Its much easier these days than when Carter was little, as organic is much more popular and in demand now. When I do have to buy prepared baby food, I buy Earth's Best or Gerber Organic (I confirmed that the plastic containers Gerber uses are BPA free!).
You really don't need many fancy tools to make baby food. Most of the foods are either steamed or baked, and you probably already have a steaming pan and an oven ;) That said, I seriously lust after the Beaba Babycook - it steams and purees all in one! But I can't justify the price for the short period of time you would use it!
Instead, I use the Kidco Electric Food Mill. Its pretty efficient and very easy to clean and set up! A small spatula is helpful for scooping the pureed food out.
Stage 1 foods are SUPER easy! Anything that comes in a skin, I bake until the skin is soft and gives when you press it. Everything else, I steam. When you steam, you can use the water to add in to make it more liquidy, and that adds back in some of the nutrients that are steamed out! My standard Stage 1 foods include - summer squash, zuccini, butternut squash, green beans, sweet potatoes, pears, apple sauce, peaches. I cannot seem to make peas, so I buy those jarred. And I read somewhere that you should not make your own pureed carrots because regular carrots contain a high leel of nitrates, so I buy those jarred as well.
When your baby is tolerating Stage 1 foods well and can handle foods with a little more thickness and texture, you can move on to Stage 2 and 3 - and this is where the fun begins! You can get really creative with what you make for your baby. I believe in exposing baby to many different flavors early on. Here are a few of my favorite combinations:
Pears and berries: Bake the pear in the oven until soft to the touch. In a sauce pan, heat berries of your choice, or mixed even! I really like using raspberries. Raspberries and blackberries tend to have seeds in them, so you should puree separate and strain them through cheese cloth first for a younger baby; older babies probably can handle it. Simply puree the pear and add berries in when done. You can do the same thing with apple instead of pear if you'd like.
Banana Cream Pie: Puree banana with Stonyfield whole milk vanilla yogurt and baby oatmeal.
Broccoli and Cheese: My kids LOVE broccoli and its a super food, so I love feeding it to them! Steam up some broccoli, then puree with shredded cheese (mild cheddar or American) - and wah lah! When baby gets older, adding in some steamed brown rice and organic vegetable stock will round this out to a complete meal!
Asparagus and Rice: Steam asparagus and brown rice separately. When tender, puree with a small amount of vegetable stock to make it more liquid.
Baby Stew: Puree baked red bliss potatoes with skins (they are nutritious!) together with celery, a small amount of sweet onion, and mix in pureed carrots. When baby begins to eat meats, you can add in some beef or chicken to the puree too!
Chicken Noodle "Soup": You can make up chicken noodle soup for the whole family and puree some for baby! I make mine with chicken stock (low sodium), chicken thighs, sweet onions, celery, carrots, bay leaf and egg noodles.
As baby bets older, the more adventerous you can get. I move more and more toward taking what I make for the rest of the family and adapt that for baby. Just remember that there are certain things baby should not eat until at least age 1: strawberries, pineapple, egg whites, nuts or nut product, tomatoes, citrus.
When baby begins to eat table foods and self-feed, try giving them beans, pieces of deli meat, shredded cheese, pieces of steamed veggies and fruit, small pieces of bread, crackers, etc.
Anyone else have any recipes to share???