Before cooking, start by reviewing the recipes, then get out the utensils, storage containers, and necessary ingredients. See what kind of food preparation needs to be done first or can be done in advance.
Wash and Soak Grains and Beans
Depending on your schedule, you can wash and soak dried foods up to 24–48 hours. Soaking whole grains and beans causes them to sprout, becoming more digestible and making the nutrients more bioavailable. Soaking also creates a slight fermentation or enzyme activity that aids in your baby’s digestion. You can buy dried grains that have been previously soaked and then dried again, and they have a shorter cooking time. A small amount of pickle juice, kefir, or whey from yogurt can be added to give an extra probiotic boost. Drain the soaking water and use fresh water for cooking. Soaking and cooking grains is not difficult, but it takes prior planning. Once you have the routine down, it can be the easiest part of cooking your baby’s food.
Wash and Prep Produce
Scrub fresh vegetables and fruits with a natural-bristle brush, instead of using one with plastic bristles, which can bruise the food. Clean off tough or rough spots and leave on the peel of organic vegetables or fruits if it is not too tough; for example: carrots, parsnips, yellow squash, zucchini, and cucumbers. Peel hard and fibrous skins, such as sweet potatoes, beets, turnips, winter squashes, pumpkins, apples, pears, avocados, bananas, and cantaloupes. Take off fibrous parts of the vegetable, such as the strings on beans and peas, and the hard stalks on broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, kale, and other greens. Cap strawberries, and take off the stems and seeds of grapes, berries, cherries, and other fruits.
Cut Vegetables and Fruits
The way food is cut affects its energy, taste, and balance. Thinly sliced slivers, matchsticks, or large chunks all have a different chi. I prefer the term “cutting” to “chopping.” Cutting at a consistent size in either single or mixed ingredients helps the pieces cook evenly together. For puree, small- to medium-sized chunks cook quickly; finger foods can be cut into pea-sized pieces at first, and then longer sticks as your baby’s eating skills develop. Toddlers can enjoy mouth-sized bites of simple, fun shapes such as stars or flowers.