Thursday, July 15, 2010

Under Pressure

A pressure cooker with a simple regulator and ...Image via Wikipedia
In addition to my veggie steamer and food processor, another handy tool for making baby food is a pressure cooker. I have a small one that holds about 4 cups and it works great. I use it for cooking various types of beans, peas, and lentils. All are a great source of protein for your baby.

When using a pressure cooker you need to be careful when removing the cooker from the stove. Once it has "whistled," remove it from the heat and let it sit for about 30 minutes to cool. This way you know that the inside pressure has equalized and it is safe to open. Now, I always place the cooker in the sink, and run cold water over the lid before opening...this is just an extra precaution. At first I was kind of scared to use the pressure cooker, but to my surprise, it is really easy!

I try to plan ahead when cooking beans or peas in the pressure cooker so that in addition to food for Dylan, I can make a side dish or soup for me and my husband. One thing that I love to make is chickpeas (chana-Hindi word for chickpeas). Recipe below. I buy a big bag of dried chickpeas at the local Indian market (they only sell small, expensive bags at the grocery store) and I rinse them and soak them in water over night. In the morning they should be hydrated and resemble the chickpeas you find in the can...except they are not slimy or mushy. I drain them and pour them into the pressure cooker. I add just enough water to cover all the chickpeas. Secure the lid and cook on medium high heat until it "whistles." It generally takes about 10 minutes.  Retain the cooking liquid from the boiled chickpeas.

I puree half of the boiled chickpeas with breast milk (use whatever liquid is appropriate for your child).  I use the other half and make hummus or a traditional Indian snack food called Pani Puri.  When making the hummus I use the leftover cooking liquid and add it back to the chickpeas when pureeing.  It simply reduces the amount of olive oil that you need to get a smooth hummus. 

Use the same process with split peas and lentils.... or any dried bean of your choice.  I puree 1/2 of the peas and lentils for baby food and the other half for split pea and lentil soup.  I just add veggie soup stock and seasoning to the boiled split pea and lentil mixture.  Don't forget to "spice it up" with the seasoning ideas I gave in the last post.

Chickpea Mush
1 cup dried chickpeas (soak overnight)
Enough water to cover chickpeas in the pressure cooker
4-5 oz of breast milk or formula (whatever is age appropriate)
Pinch of seasoning (e.g. coriander or garlic powder)

Follow the directions stated above, add liquid and seasoning and puree until smooth.  Oh by the way...beans make babies gassy too:-)

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