Friday, February 18, 2011

Squash Panache *stage 1*

Acorn Squash used in following recipe.
Squash is another favorite “first food” for many parents. What cracks me up is that the pre-made baby foods just simply say “squash,” and no other explanation!  What kind of squash??  I can rule out a few like spaghetti squash, yellow squash, or zucchini.  Are they butternut, acorn, or what??  I have no idea!  Well there are a lot of varieties but the most common for baby foods are squash of the winter variety, not summer.  What’s the difference?  Thankfully the differences are pretty substantial, so there’s not a lot of confusion as to what to buy!  Winter squashes have a hard outer “shell.”  The most popular winter squash is of course the pumpkin, but other varieties include acorn squash, butternut, & hubbard squash.  Summer squashes include the most easily-recognizable squash: the yellow squash.  That’s the easiest squash to find in stores & what most of us remember from childhood in gramma’s garden.  Summer squash also includes zucchini.  Winter squashes are better as “first foods” because their texture when cooked is less stringy than the summer squashes.  BIG HOWEVER: Spaghetti squash, as its name suggests, is very stringy when cooked.  It’s still pretty fibrous when pureed. 

So which ones would I recommend?  Acorn & butternut.  They’re the easiest to turn into mush & easiest on the tummy.  They have enough natural sweetness to suit a picky baby, but aren’t as sweet as fruit.  They’re also very nutritious!  As with all dense fruits & vegetables, they pack a good fiber punch.  High in potassium, calcium, & beta carotene, which, once metabolized in our bodies, is converted to vitamin A.

Vitamin A
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, so it can be found in fish oils, liver, egg yolk, & dairy products.  Beta carotone can be found in many fruits & vegetables including spinach, peaches, most notably carrots, and of course squash!  So if you see “high in beta carotene,” you’ll know it’s high in vitamin A.  Seems a little complicated, so try not to over think it like I have!  Vitamin A is absolutely necessary for normal growth, bone development, reproduction, and vision.  It is also used to maintain healthy skin & mucous membranes.  You may have heard of “retinoids” in popular cosmetics to prevent wrinkles, acne, & promote cell turnover, & that’s because vitamin A & closely-related molecules are “retinoids.”  The more you know!  
Vitamin A deficiency can cause lower resistance to infections, diarrhea, poor night vision or even blindness, weak bones & teeth, poor development in children, and eye inflammation.  It is rare in developed countries like the United States.
There is a chance of toxicity in vitamin A, but that’s in ridiculously high amounts (like in the popular acne medication isotrenoin, aka “Accutane.”  More information on vitamin overdose coming soon!) Vitamin A is stored in the liver, so it is not necessary to have it every single day to maintain a healthy body.  If you eat a varied, healthy diet you will surely have the correct amount :) 

So the squash I’ve used is acorn squash because it is very easy to find & with its compact size you aren’t obligated to make an enormous batch of squash that your child may not want!  I’ve never had a problem with Elias & squash, but I will never guarantee your baby will like the same things because all babies are different :)  Nevertheless, it’s a very mild-flavored vegetable & that appeals to most infants. There are several different ways to cook them, but this recipe will call for roasting.

One acorn squash, pureed with water added, yields about 2 cups baby food
1 acorn squash, free of blemishes, heavy for its size
Sheet pan with raised sides

1.  Cut acorn squash in half, removing all seeds with a spoon.
2.  Place halves face down on pan with about an inch of water in the pan.
3.  Bake at 375F for about an hour or until flesh is easily-pierced with a knife.
4.  Cool until you are able to handle the squash, and then scoop out “meat” with a spoon into food processor or food mill.  If there is any water left in the pan, don’t throw it out!  Use that water to thin the puree to desired consistency.  Any water used to cook vegetables will retain some of the nutrients of the vegetable it cooked.

End result after cooking & pureeing with water.
The most time-consuming part of making this squash is waiting for it to cook in the oven, but that’s an hour to set it & forget it!  If you’re 10 minutes late getting it out you won’t be punished with a burnt mass of squash stinking up your kitchen.  It’s not a temperamental vegetable!  Note: If you feed your baby too much squash or anything orange, your baby might turn orange.  No need to be alarmed!  If it does bother you, just try not to feed your baby orange foods repeatedly :)

-Elias’s mommy

A very satisfied little man!  Ate it all up!

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