The Iron Baby

Strong willed she is, especially when it comes to resisting a nose wipe, preventing a toy from being pried from her grip, or chasing after the tiniest piece of dirt on the floor.

But Keira is an Iron Baby in the dietary sense as well these days, and not a moment too soon.  According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), iron deficiency is a concern even in healthy, term infants, as their fetal iron stores only last up to 4-6 months of age (for more information, see the AAP article on Diagnosis and Prevention of Iron Deficiency and Iron-Deficiency Anemia in Infants and Young Children).

There are a number of iron fortified, commercial baby foods on the market (particularly in North America, somewhat less so in the UK).  However, there are also plenty of ways to enrich your baby’s diet using good old-fashioned home cooking.

Keira enjoying her latest iron fix

Lean red meat is a great, natural source of iron, and it is even better when combined with leafy greens or foods rich in vitamin c.  Making sure Keira’s diet is full of that pesky iron is why I, a former vegetarian, tried and adapted Annabel Karmel’s recipe for Beef Casserole.  To my surprise, this is one of the few meals we have made for Keira that she actually gets excited about, pumping her little fists in quick succession after the first bite as if to say ‘more, more!’

Despite its appearance in a baby food cookbook, I wouldn’t in any way consider this a ‘baby food’ recipe – it is a meal that the whole family can, and our whole family does, enjoy.   It’s great for BLW too, as after 2.5 hrs of cooking, the meat is tender enough for baby to gum and the veggies still hold together against that developing pincer grip.

Little hands take on the stewed meat and vegetables

If you’re doing a combination feeding approach (i.e., some finger foods and some purees or mashes), just dish up a few tender pieces of the meat and veggies directly onto baby’s tray so she can practice feeding herself.  Then roughly mash (or puree, depending on your preference) the remainder of the serving so you can feed it from the spoon.

Beef Stew
(Adapted from Annabel Karmel)

1 ½ tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled, crushed, and chopped
1 ½ tbsp flour (I use gluten-free flour, but plain flour would work just fine)
1 tsp paprika
300g (11oz) lean stewing steak
350ml unsalted chicken stock or water
200g (7 oz) carrots, peeled and chopped
300g (11 oz) sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 stick of celery, trimmed and chopped
sprig of parsley, roughly chopped
sprig of thyme
110g (4oz) button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

Preheat your oven to 150 C/300 F.

In a medium bowl, mix the flour and paprika together.  Add the meat and toss until fully coated.  Set aside.

Heat the oil in an oven-safe pot or casserole dish, and sauté the onion and garlic for about 3 minutes.  Add the flavoured meat to the pan and sauté until it is brown on all sides.

Pour in the stock or water and stir for a minute.  Add all of the vegetables, the parsley, and the leaves from the thyme sprig, and stir.

Cover the pot and transfer to the pre-heated oven for 2 hours.  Add the mushrooms, and continue to cook for another 30-60 minutes, or until the meat and vegetables reach the desired level of tenderness.

It is really handy to freeze a few portions of this meal so you can pull them out if you’re ever in a rush for a meal (not that any of us are ever in a rush, right?), or if you want to make a separate, non-baby-friendly meal for the adults one night and still need something to nourish the munchkin.

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