Friday, June 7, 2013

Baby Food Fridays Series - Cooking Methods

            Many people have the same question when it comes to making homemade baby food: How do I cook it? The answer is so simple you’ll probably think, “Duh! That makes sense!” once you see it. The truth is, there is nothing special about how you cook food to make baby food. You can cook baby food in many of the same ways you cook your own. You’ll obviously want to avoid deep frying and grilling methods, but other than that you can use just about any method you want! There are 4 main ways that people choose to cook their children’s food.
            One of the best methods you can use is steaming. Why is it one of the best? The longer and more water food is sitting it and being exposed to higher temperatures results in greater loss of nutrients. Therefore, since it takes relatively little time to steam food and it is not being submerged in water, it is best to steam food for baby. If you’re worried about the little amount of nutrients that ARE lost to the steam, you can always add a little bit of the water back in when you go to puree your fruits and veggies.

            Steaming is super easy! (I’m not a big fan of cooking so, sadly, I had never steamed anything before. Don’t let it intimidate you!) All you need is a medium to large sized pot, a steamer basket, or metal colander. Fill the pot with water to just below where the fruits or veggies will be sitting in the colander or steamer basket. You can either place your food items in the steamer basket and then place all of it in the pot, or you can put your steamer basket in first, then add your food. Once everything is in place, put a well fitting lid on your pot and turn your heat up to medium to high. You will want your food to be soft and tender, but don’t overcook it as this can lead to loss of nutrients and make your food soggy.
You’ll obviously want to make sure your food is diced up so that it cooks more evenly and quickly. Some people like to leave skins on fruits for added nutrient value, but that is solely up to you. I would suggest taking them off for younger babies since they won’t be able to digest them completely anyways.
Baking is also a great option for cooking baby’s food. I like this method because most fruits and veggies you can just cut in half and lay face down on a baking sheet, stick it in the oven for roughly 20 minutes to an hour (everything varies), and get something else accomplished while they’re roasting! Baking is said to be the best method for keep food flavorful and that it can actually enhance to flavor in some produce. Baking times and preparation will vary for different fruits and veggies, not to mention everyone’s oven behaves differently! My best suggestion is to play with times and temperatures. 350 degrees Fahrenheit is always a good starting off point. Keep in mind, fruits that are already on the soft side, such as bananas and pears, are not going to take as much time. Again, leaving the skins on is your choice. Don’t forget you can always add spices to baby’s food too! Tell me baked cinnamon bananas don’t sound good to you!

Boiling fruits and veggies is one of the less desirable methods to cook with. Why? Much of the nutrient content can be leached out into the water while being heated. So, if you do want/have to boil, be sure to do it with as little water as possible. While this isn’t a great method, remember you can always add a little bit of water back for pureeing, which will add some of the nutrients back. You will definitely want to slice and dice fruits and veggies before boiling for the same reasons as steaming: the pieces cook more evenly and quicker. Cook times will vary according to produce and volume, but make sure you cook it until it’s nice and soft so it blends easily!

Last, and my least favorite method, is the microwave. I suppose if you just want to make something small and quick, this would be an ok option. There are some major drawbacks, though. Some produce loses its nutrient content faster than others if cooked in the microwave. Be cautious of food cooking unevenly too if you use this method. It’s very important safety-wise that food be cooked thoroughly for babies! The biggest advantage of using the microwave is that it is quick. You will still need to slice, dice, and peel your produce along with possibly having a little water for it to cook in. Again, you can always use some of the leftover water to puree with.

Regardless of what method you choose, cooking and making baby food is not as daunting and time consuming as it may seem. Remember, you can make as much or as little as you like, simple or fancy, or quick or prolonged. You cook for the rest of your family, so why not your baby? It’s a very rewarding experience knowing exactly what is going into your child’s tummy!


1 comment:

  1. When I maid baby food for my first I always steamed it.