Fruit mixes & uses

In the past week, I’ve been remiss about documenting the various fruit purees that I’ve made and popped into the freezer for Nio.  Tiny palm tree, heart, star, bon bon, and flower shaped cubes of frozen goodness await him, sealed away in plastic bags.  I’ve found its far easier to keep and rotate food stocks in the freezer like that than in little plastic containers.  That takes up a lot more space some how.  Additionally, I have what looks like a pacifier with a mesh bag on it like these: http://amzn.com/B000GK5XY2 and when Nio’s teeth are being feisty, I pop one of the star or flower shapes inside it for him to naw on.  The chill helps numb the area a bit and he likes the taste of the fruit puree, even if its frozen.

Some the combinations were steamed first, like the apple/nectarine/blueberry mixture where everything but the berries were diced and steamed for ten minutes.

Others, like the strawberry, nectarine, banana one were not, since he does pretty well with freshly mashed versions.  I did run both through the mesh seive to remove any seeds or large chunks though.  He’s sprouting two front teeth right now on the bottom but I figure its a good idea to keep things simple.

The third mix I made for him is more blueberries, mango, prunes and apples.  The prunes are basically dried plums with a rebranded name to make them more approachable to the masses.  I found ones without sulfides, so used those since they’re cheaper and easier to keep on hand than fresh plums.  They have the same effect on his digestive system and make things easier on him.

Fruit is the start of Nio’s day, often mixed with plain yogurt and a scoop or two of oatmeal powder to thicken it up if its too runny to stay on a spoon.  I buy normal-fat yogurt in the 32 oz tub because it lasts a few weeks and at $2.49 a tub is far more cost effective than any “baby” yogurt while being essentially the same thing.

I realize, there are some doctors out there firmly opposed to the idea of giving a child dairy.  I believe the primary reasoning behind this is to prevent parents from replacing breast milk or formula with cows milk.  That would harm your child’s development, since they still need the nutrients in it.  However, as long as you introduce yogurt and cheese with the same caution shown to any other new food group, it shouldn’t be an issue.  If mom or dad has a dairy problem, be it allergy or intolerance, I would wait until the child is at least 9 months if not a year before giving them dairy.  But neither Sparky nor I have any food issues other than a sensitivity to pork (gives him migraines).

In other news, I have learned something else in the last week.  While I do have a baby food recipe for mac & cheese, it is far too much of a pain to make for Nio at this stage.  His foods need to be a fine puree and my machine just isn’t capable of turning a batch of cheesy goodness into that.  So, he’ll be getting the Gerber version for now mixed with veggies that I’ve prepared for him at home.  It always brings a smile to his face when I get that first spoonful into him, so its worth it.

Tomorrow night’s dinner will be beef udon with veggies and I will probably puree some of that up for him as a taste test.  I tend to make my own broths for udon noodles mainly because the commercial ones are very high in sodium, something no one needs.  If he likes it and it turns out well, then I’ll toss up a post on the recipe.

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Tools of the trade, Fruit Puree #1 and Chicken with veggies

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

 http://amzn.com/B00005LA9H

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

http://amzn.com/B002UFXUTG

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. 

 

Steaming

http://amzn.com/B000Q4N2LO

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

http://amzn.com/B007RPMD1U

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

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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. 
  6. 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.