Every time you make a puree, you're essentially making baby food -- both can be used interchangeably. Baby food contains only 40 milligrams of sodium per 70 grams, or 2 1/2 ounces -- not enough for a conditioned, adult palate to detect -- and no spices, so it's about as neutral a food as you can get, which is a good thing when incorporating it into regular meals.
You can supplement purees with a complementary baby food in most recipes, but not all varieties of baby food are suited to adult meals. Fruit- and vegetable-based baby foods work well as main ingredients in recipes, whereas meat-based baby foods are capable thickeners and flavor enhancers for sauces, soups and gravies.
How Much to Add
It's best to use baby food as a supplementary ingredient and add it to taste, as opposed to substituting it entirely for a recipe ingredient. Making a soup out of baby food isn't cost effective or efficient. Instead, make the dish according to the recipe and add baby food as needed. Baby food is sold in three sizes: 2 1/2 ounces, 4 ounces and 6 ounces. Add baby food 2 to 3 tablespoons at a time, taste and determine if the preparation needs more before continuing.
Vegetable-Based Soups and Sauces
Add baby foods to vegetable soups and vegetable-based towards the end of cooking, before you adjust the seasoning for the last time and before you add finishing ingredients, such as cream and fresh herbs.
For a boost in the soup or sauce's base flavor, add baby food of the same main ingredient. For example, if making broccoli cream soup, cook the soup just until you add the cream. Stir in a few tablespoons of baby puree (baby foods are commonly blended) and wait until the soup returns to a gentle simmer. Taste the soup, add more baby food if needed and adjust the seasoning to taste. You can apply the above technique to all pureed soups.
Sauces and Gravies
The same method used to incorporate baby food into soups applies to sauces and gravies. If you're making a tomato sauce, for example, add a tomato-based baby food, such as tomato, penne and zucchini -- it will thicken the sauce and enhance its flavor and aroma.
Add protein-based baby foods to thicken and bolster chicken and beef gravies. LIke sauces, add the purees toward the end of cooking. For chicken gravy, try chicken and chicken gravy or chicken and rice -- the rice and vegetables act as a natural thickener.
To incorporate baby food into fresh pasta, add 10 to 12 ounces of vegetable-based baby food to the standard fresh pasta recipe, without altering the measures for eggs and flour unless the mixture sticks to the work surface; then incorporate more flour. Mix the puree in with the eggs.
You can add just about any fruit- or vegetable-based baby food to cakes and baked goods, such as muffins and cupcakes. Use your own tastes to determine which puree pairs best with the baked good. For example, a banana and carrot puree would work in a spiced carrot cake, and banana and apple puree would complement an apple spice cake.
- Substitute baby food for up to half the fat called for in the cake or baked good recipe.
- You can also add purees to bread. Substitute puree for up to half the water called for in the recipe. A few examples include cinnamon spice squash bread, pumpkin bread (replace canned pumpkin for pumpkin baby food) and banana bread.
Freeze baby food in in ice cube trays and pack them in freezer bags. Whenever you need an extra punch of flavor in a soup or sauce, simply pop a couple of cubes of baby food in the pot.