Ah, baby food. Whether you make and freeze your own purees in large quantities, or buy it commercially, chances are you're going to have a plethora of leftover fruits, veggies, and perhaps even meats once that tiny tot of yours decides that "real" food tastes SO much better and, lets just face it, its much more fun to feed himself and chew it up than to have mush in his mouth. This begs the question: What to do with all of that leftover baby food? I hope I can help answer that with a few ideas of my own, and a few links from around the web.
1. Give it to a friend. Know someone who has a little one just getting ready to start solid foods? Or perhaps their baby is already on solid food but not ready for table food yet. Many moms would be very appreciative to receive a gift of baby food for their tyke. Commercial baby food can eve be given to a mama who is pregnant or just had a baby as long as you do the math and the expiration date is more than 6 months from the due date/baby's birth day. If you have made the baby food yourself, it is probably best to give it to someone whose baby is already eating.
2. Food Bank or Pantry. Have some commercial baby food, but don't know anyone who could use it before it expires? Donate it to your local food bank or pantry. 'Tiz the season, and I know in my town the food bank donation barrels are everywhere right now. Take advantage if this is the case for you. If your baby decides to make the switch when it isn't the holidays, ask your local grocery store if they collect donations, or perhaps your neighborhood fire station does a collection. And don't forget that once a year the Boy Scouts of America come door to door to collect for local charities as well. So, if you know a boy scout, find out when they're doing it and you won't even have to make a trip! Just be aware that food banks and pantries don't generally take donations of home-made anything, and that anything beyond its expiration date will be tossed as well.
3. Fruit Leather or Fruit Snacks. By far my family's favorite choice. Fruit baby food makes awesome fruit leather. If you own a commercial dehydrator, fruit leather trays can be purchased to fit inside it. Fill it up and go, following your dehydrator's instructions. If not, fruit leather can also be made in the oven (try this method, just skip all the blending and pureeing, because it's already done!). Make sure that you use a thick layer of baby food, otherwise it'll get too crispy. You can also hide some veggies in there by mixing a little squash, carrots, or sweet potatoes with a lot of apples, pears, bananas, or whatever other fruit or fruit blend you have on hand to mask the veggie flavor. I wouldn't recommend trying peas or green beans, though, the color alone would probably throw most people off.
To make fruit snacks, place thick dollops of baby food on the trays or cookie sheet and dehydrate like you would fruit leather until they're no longer tacky to the touch.
4. Smoothies. Baby food, especially if it is frozen, makes a great smoothie additive. Fruits can be added in abundance to give flavor, while veggies can be added in moderation to give it a nutritional boost. Chances are your little one will even like eating his or her baby food this way, and so will you!
5. Hide Some Nutrition. Having trouble getting your little one to eat veggies now that he or she is on finger foods? Hide some pureed veggies in his food. Carrots and sweet potatoes go well in spaghetti sauce, as do some pureed "meals" such as carrots and chicken or spaghetti dinner. You can hide squash in scrambles eggs and macaroni and cheese (both commercially bought and home made...perhaps I should do a post on my "Squash-eroni and Cheese" recipe?). Have some home-made beets on hand? Recipes for chocolate beet cake, like this one, abound. Fruits go well in pancakes, and also go well on top of them!
6. Thickener for Soups, Stews, and Gravies. Got a plethora of pureed meats on hand? Add them to your gravies to give it a flavor boost and thicken it up a bit. Pureed meats and veggies also go well in stews and soups, as do pureed "meals" (chicken and rice, mixed veggies, etc.). Pureed chicken? Add it to your chicken broth. Pureed peas? Add some dried peas and make some split pea soup. Making butternut squash soup? Throw in some of your leftover squash in there. You get the idea.
7. Quick Breads. Use those bananas in banana bread, or try substituting the bananas with some pears, or even squash or carrots. You can also substitute applesauce or pear sauce for some of the oil in many baking recipes.
8. Spreads. Use the fruits as a spread on toast or a bagel. If you have quite a bit of the fruit variety left, buy some pectin and use the included recipe for apple butter, but feel free to experiment by using other pureed fruits in the place of the applesauce...or try a blend!
9. Teething Biscuits. Now, what to do with all of that baby cereal? Try turning it into teething biscuits with this yummy-looking recipe, or one like it. If you have older children, tell them they're cookies and they'll probably like eating them as well.
10. Eat It! Okay, so this might not work so well with most baby foods, but fruits and desserts are a must try. Weirded out by the fact that it is baby food? Put it in a bowl and start calling it "pear sauce" or "peach sauce." My four-year-old begs for "purple apple sauce," aka apples and berries.
Got any more brilliant ideas for how to use up that extra baby food? I'd love to hear them, feel free to share in the comments below!!