Sunday, May 31, 2015

How to Cook for Babies

Besides a mashed banana or steamed sweet potato, soft boiled rice porridge is a baby's first solid food.

When my children were babies, I had a "fun" time experimenting with various vegetable and meat combinations that would suit their fussy tastes. An open mouth and an empty bowl gave me the greatest joy and sense of achievement.

Surprisingly, my kids loved a steamed broccoli and potato and plain rice porridge combination (as seen in the empty bowl above).

Here's how I prepare plain rice porridge (with potato):
  1. Wash half a cup of rice or a handful of rice till the water runs clear. Set aside.
  2. Peel half a potato and cut in into cubes. Wash and place them in a claypot. Put the washed rice grains in a claypot and fill it up with water to a ratio of 1:3 (potato:water). 
  3. Set the claypot on medium heat to boil the water. Once the water is boiling, turn down the heat to a slow simmer. Add the washed rice grains. Cooking porridge takes about 30-45 minutes but it's worth the wait as you'll get soft, boiled porridge that is easily digested by your baby. The porridge is ready when the rice grains split and are soft and plump.
Here's how to steam the broccoli:
  1. Cut the broccoli into florets and steam them till you can stick a fork through the stem. Be careful not to over-steam the broccoli or you'll get yellow broccoli!
Here's how to make the rice porridge + steamed broccoli: Scoop up the amount of rice porridge you need (without broth) and blend it together with the steamed broccoli. Keep the broth to adjust the thickness of the rice porridge as you blend.

I used a hand blender for my children's porridge but nowadays, I see blenders that can steam and blend food! Ah, what a nice kitchen gadget to have :)

Plain rice porridge and the broth are also great for babies or kids when they are having diarrhea. Yup, rice porridge is a comfort food at our home on sick days. Rainy days too!

One of my friends informed me that short-grain rice (not sushi rice) makes great rice porridge. I've tried it a few times but I can't really tell the difference :P

In the first month of starting solids, most people start their babies on plain rice porridge + one vegetable (carrot/potato/sweet potato/pumpkin/amaranth) to see if their babies have any allergies. 

What have I tried? (6 months old baby)

Pureed red Gala apple – OK
Pureed banana – OK
Pureed papaya – OK
Pureed avocado – One child liked it, another didn't. Oh, well...

Once they are OK with one type of vegetable, you can then prepare combinations like:

i) carrot + potato
ii) amaranth/spinach (bayam) + potato / carrot
iii) steamed broccoli + sweet potato  

After my baby started doing well on solids at around 7-8 months old, I would focus on preparing stocks/soups that I can use to prepare the plain rice porridge. That way, I can cook for the whole family, including the baby.

For example, I would prepare a chicken soup with potato+carrot+onion (popularly known as "ABC soup") and then use the chicken stock (instead of water) to cook the baby's porridge. This way, the baby's porridge will be flavourful and nutritious. I'll add in tiny bits of chicken for protein.  

An interesting combination I've tried is the orange + purple sweet potato. You'd be surprised by how much babies/kids love the bright purple porridge!

Once, I prepared ABC soup using sweet potato instead of potato and threw in some pasta. The adults and older kids ate this:

The baby? I blended a small portion of the above and she got this bright orange puree :)

After months and months of trying and testing various recipes, my kids love:
  1. lightly-flavoured soft protein e.g. steamed fish, fish in sweet-and-sour-sauce, steamed or claypot tofu,
  2. noodles in chicken soup.
Since I'm more familiar with Chinese-style recipes, my kids cannot take spicy food! At the most they will take a mild dhall curry when they eat their roti telur breakfast.

Hmm...that's a bit tricky since we're living in Malaysia but I'm learning to add a bit of curry powder into my marinades to gently introduce them to spicy food. Let me share with you this delicious baked fish recipe I found on YouTube next.

Happy cooking! 

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