I’m sure that others have seen the plethora of tools out there designed and marketed to parents who make food for their kids. Many of these are useful tools but very narrowly focused with little repurposing once the kiddo in question grows beyond needing specially prepared foods. Here’s some of the things I use to make noms for Nio with links for the less common items.
Food Processor: KitchenAid 3.5-Cup Food Chopper
I got mine at Costco on sale for half of the price Amazon asks for, so keep an eye out for sales. This little machine is a power house, making fine purees of anything I toss in it. So far I’ve done chicken dishes, turkey dishes, sweet potatoes, apples and pears and many more. Its got a single setting but can be used to chop items for salsa or marinades, puree soups, or anything else one might use a food processor for. It doesn’t take up a lot of counter or cabinet space, something that’s important if you have a small kitchen like I do.
Fine Mesh Strainer, a bowl it fits in & Pastry scraper
To make sure that I have a smooth puree, I run it through a fine mesh strainer. I move the puree around using a simple pastry scraper like the one shown in the link above. If you’re working with something that might have bits of peel, seeds or may leave lumps when pureed, this removes them to give you a smooth finished product. All three of these items are pretty standard kitchen gear and can be found at most super stores such as WalMart or Target.
If you have a steaming attachment for your pots and pans set, don’t worry about this part. Use what you’ve got. If you’re like me and your set isn’t that complete, read on. When I’m cooking for Nio, I use a collapsible steamer tray, like the link above, sitting on top of a 6”x2.5” cake ring inside of a large pot that I otherwise use for boiling pasta, chili and other mass-meal items. I use the metal cake ring to bring up the height of the steamer basket so I can do multiple batches of steamed items without having to refill it. Steam food gently cooks it while preserving much of the nutrients in it, so is a good method for most fruits and vegetables.
Freezing and storing
I’ve tried a couple of different ways of freezing Nio’s food but the most consistently simple one I’ve found is to use silicone ice cube/baking trays to freeze the food in easy-to-portion chunks. Once its solid, I put it into a sealable freezer back, clearly label it with what exactly it is, the date I made it and when it expires. I found this by trial and error using what I had on hand (culinary school leaves you with some of the most random kitchen tools). I’ve even found the silicon trays at dollar stores, so they’re not expensive, easy to use, clean up nicely and are dishwasher safe. So far, I’ve got hearts, starts, palm trees, flowers and chocolate silicon mold that all work great.
Other tools I use include a food thermometer, knives (I adore my Shun Ken Onion series blades), an assortment of cutting boards, some Pyrex baking dishes for things like squash and sweet potatoes, plus spoons to help portion things out. I like silicone spatulas as opposed to wooden ones because they’re less likely to break and most of them are good up to 450Fm, more than enough to make candy with.
What’s a Noms 4 Nio post without a recipe or two? I try to combine tasks, like making veggies for my husband’s lunches and Nio at the same time, or making a fruit puree to use in a cake with some for him too. Nio’s typical breakfast is plain yogurt with varying fruit purees mixed in, so I go through a lot.
Fruit Puree #1
- 1 pint strawberries, washed and rough chopped
- 1 banana, peeled and sliced
- 1 nectarine, peeled and rough chopped
Toss everything in the blender or food processor together and pulse until smooth. Run through a mesh sieve or strainer to remove the strawberry seeds if desired (recommended for under 8 months). Serve immediately, hold in the fridge for up to 2 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
Chicken and Steamed Veggies
An plethora of uses for cooked chicken are out there, from pasta dishes to tacos, stews to salads. This method makes it easy to make a large batch of chicken for the family’s meals for the week and have enough to make baby food too.
- 1 package of chicken breasts (3-5 pounds)
- 1 quart of chicken stock (either homemade or low sodium)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Oil to coat a pan (I use olive oil)
- Zucchini and summer squash, 1 each
Tools needed: knife, cutting board, frying pan, tongs, baking dish(es), steamer set up, food processor/blender, strainer, bowl and freezing trays
- Preheat your oven to 350F.
- Prep the chicken: trim any fat or skin away from the chicken breasts and season them with salt and pepper. In a hot frying pan coated with olive oil, sear off the chicken breasts, getting just a bit of color to each side before placing in a large baking dish. The chicken will not be fully cooked but searing it off helps hold in some of the natural juices. Do this with all the chicken.
- Pour the chicken stock over the chicken breasts, filling the baking pans half way full. This will keep the chicken moist while it cooks and the broth will be used later on. Bake for 30-45 minutes, being very careful when removing. Check the internal temperature of the thickest breast to make sure that it has reached a minimum of 165F in multiple places. If it hasn’t return it to the oven until it has. When done, set it aside to cook to handling temperatures.
- While the chicken is cooking, get your steamer set up with water boiling. Slice the zucchini and summer squash into 1” sized pieces. Having them same size is important, because it means they will take the same time to cook. Steam the zucchini and squash together until fork-tender. Some can be set aside for family meals, adding to sauces or other uses.
- Dice the chicken you’re using for the baby food into 1 inch chunks so the food processor can do its job easier. I use a 1.5 to 1 ratio of veggies to proteins for Nio’s food and puree the mix until smooth. If it needs some liquid added, I use the broth that the chicken cooked in, adding flavor and smoothing out the puree.
- Store it as appropriate for your uses.
The method I use for the chicken is one I learned in culinary school and produces constantly moist, tender, flavorful chicken without a huge amount of effort. I like keeping a bag of cooked, chopped chicken on hand for easy, quick meals during the week. It is simpler for me to do a batch of chicken cooked like this for the week in under an hour than spend far longer during the week repeating the same process. I’m all for keeping things simple and this helps do that.