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Homemade baby food serves up healthy eating habits and savings

(ARA) - When it comes to caring for your bundle of joy, you only want what's best. And these days, with early nutrition top-of-mind for many, it's no wonder that a growing number of parents are turning to homemade baby food to help instill healthy eating habits from the start.

Prepping and pureeing easy, everyday ingredients in the home also gives you the satisfaction of knowing exactly what is going into your baby's belly, from avocado and green beans to diced apples, sweet potatoes and peaches. Using fresh-from-the-market finds also lets you avoid preservatives and additives. And by introducing a variety of healthy foods at an early age, parents can help children develop a taste for similar flavors for the rest of their lives.

Another benefit to pureeing baby's meals at home is the savings. Ranging from 50 cents to $1.50 per jar, the cost of buying premade baby food can quickly add up. By preparing homemade meals for your little one, you're not only ensuring better control of his overall diet, you're also helping keep an eye on your household budget.

Follow these easy tips and tasty recipes to discover ways in which you can hop on this back-to-basics movement and be well on your way to puree perfection.

Preparing the baby food * Avoid costly specialty baby food mixers or gadgets and opt for an equally effective, easy-to-use food processor, like those from Black & Decker, that puree for baby but also stand up to other culinary tasks. * Steam, bake or broil the ingredients. Healthy tip: steaming maintains the most nutrients. * The liquid the vegetables and fruits were cooked in can be added to the puree to adjust consistency. Breast milk or formula can also be used to thin the puree.

Storing the baby food * Transfer the baby food puree into ice trays or a baby food container. If freezing in glass, use "safe to freeze" jars or containers. * Fill each cube with the puree. * Cover the tray with a lid or plastic wrap and place in the freezer. * Each cube is equal to about 1 ounce of food. * Once the cubes of puree have set and are frozen, you can transfer them to freezer bags. * Label the bag with the date of preparation as well as the type of food. The baby food cubes should be used within one month of freezing. * When it's time to feed the baby, remove the number of food cubes needed, thaw and reheat.

By following these simple, at-home recipes from Black & Decker, you'll help develop healthy eating habits for your tot, all while keeping your overall baby budget in check.

For infants 4 to 6 months

Green Dream 1/2 ripe avocado, peeled 1/2 cup water 1/3 cup fresh or frozen thawed peas 1/3 cup sliced fresh green beans

Place all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Place in food processor and process for 10 seconds or until smooth for 4- to 6-month-olds or leave slightly chunkier for 6- to 12-month-olds.

Makes about 1 cup.

Cinnamon Apples and Yams 3/4 cup peeled, cored and diced apples 3/4 cup peeled, diced yams or sweet potatoes 3/4 cup water 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Place all ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes or until apples and yams are soft. Let cool slightly, then place in food processor and process for five seconds for 4- to 6-month-olds or leave slightly chunkier for 9- to 12-month-olds.

Makes about 1 cup.

For babies 6 to 9 months and 9 to 12 months

Peachy Rice Pudding 3/4 cup soy milk 1/2 cup diced fresh or frozen peaches 2 tablespoons diced ripe banana 1/4 cup cooked brown rice 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

Bring all ingredients to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Let cool slightly, then place in food processor. Pulse on and off 10 times for 6- to 9-month-olds or leave slightly chunkier for 9- to 12-month-olds.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Lemon Chicken 1 teaspoon unsalted butter 1/2 cup diced uncooked chicken 1/4 cup whole wheat couscous 3/4 cup water 1 tablespoon snipped green onion tops 1 tablespoon minced red bell pepper 1/8 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Melt butter in a small saucepan. Add chicken; cook and stir for five minutes. Add couscous and cook for five minutes more then stir in remaining ingredients. Cover and remove from heat; let stand for five minutes. Let cool slightly then place in food processor. Process for 10 seconds. Scrape down sides and process five seconds more for 6- to 9-month-olds or leave slightly chunkier for 9- to 12-month-olds.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

For more information on food processors, visit www.blackanddeckerappliances.com.

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