Saturday, July 3, 2010

Cherries Galore

Right now it's cherry season, so they are fresh and readily available and at a decent price. When you buy cherries I encourage you to get organic. Cherries are one of a few fruits often VERY coated with herbicides and other nasty stuff, so organic is much safer, especially if you're making it for your baby. Cherries have fiber and vitamin C and potassium, among other good things.

Berries can be tricky when it comes to allergies, so you don't want to introduce them too early. But cherries are low on the allergy scale, so it's worth giving them a try. Like any new food, watch your child for any negative reactions and don't introduce more than one new food at a time.

Another good thing to note - the darker the cherries the sweeter they are. And remember nutrients slowly decrease in fruits and vegetables as they sit, so the sooner you eat them the better they are.

Washing the cherries is important, even more-so if you don't buy organic, but wash them anyway.

Next take off the stems and remove the pits. You could try a fancy pit remover or vegetable peeler, but I use my two hands - it's quicker. It is a little messy on the hands, but if you wash up your hands as often as I do and give your baby a bath you'll get the bit of cherry stain out in no time.

I added a teaspoon of water into the casserole dish, even though it really isn't necessary but I wanted the extra liquid. Then I microwaved them for 3 minutes.

Let the cherries cool down for 5 minutes or so. Keep them in the casserole dish with the lid on. Then they can continue to cook a bit more - which I think helps to soften and sweeten them.

Then puree the fruit and the juices - just dump it all in. I like to use my blender for more juicy items like fruits. When it comes to these more liquid foods I find it works quicker and cleans easier than my food processor. Just my opinion - do what you want. The cherries were pretty soft so I didn't have to blend them for more than about 30 seconds.

Once it's the texture and consistency you want it's time to freeze. I have these nice ice cube trays with covers from Fresh Baby. Just pour the puree in and freeze. I usually keep them overnight and then put the cubes into a labeled freezer bag the next day.

Cherries are great in a variety of things. They can be mixed with a variety of other fruit purees, into cereal, into pureed legumes, into yogurt... use your imagination.

Hudson tried the cherry puree with yogurt and a tablespoon of whole wheat cereal. He loved it. Tomorrow we're going to try them in the pureed legumes. He hasn't been really excited about the beans so I am hoping that the cherries will win him over


Cooking Polenta

Polenta is basically a noodle like food made from ground cornmeal. I used the organic yellow polenta and made it from scratch for Hudson. It is VERY inexpensive so it's nice to have, and the texture can be varied depending upon what you are using it for. I wanted to make it more like a large noodle so I could cube it up for Hudson to eat. It doesn't have a ton of nutritional value, but isn't filled with bad stuff either. It's a good, simple food.

The first time I made it I added too much water as I went and it turned out to fall apart when Hudson tried to grab it, so this time I did not add as much water and it worked much better.

I used 1/4 cup of polenta and a cup of water. This made a batch good enough for 4 servings. I added a tablespoon of butter, but could also use olive oil - but we're out.

First get the water boiling. Then add the polenta into the water VERY slowly, stirring as you pour it in.

Stir it at boiling for 2 minutes. I slowly reduce the heat during that 2 minutes too, keeping it boiling but not crazy burning hot. Then turn the heat down after 2 minutes to low and cover.

Set the timer for 10 minutes and stir. It will slowly start to thicken.

Continue stirring every 10 minutes for about 50 minutes. The polenta will start to have a texture like a dough by the time it's done.

I would add about half a teaspoon of water every other time, just to keep it from getting too dry. One could also mix in fruit or vegetable juice or probably even a puree in place of some of the water, if you wanted to give it flavor and other nutrients. The first time I made mine I added shredded cheddar cheese, which Hudson loved.

I poured it out onto a heat-safe greased plate and cooled it in my refrigerator for a couple of hours.

Then I took it off of the plate and cubed it up for Hudson, dividing it up into what I thought were good serving sizes. I refrigerated some, froze one, and he ate one right away. Polenta keeps in the fridge well for a few days. Not sure how it will hold up to freezing - I'll get back to you on that.

Hudson checked it out and ate just about every morsel, except for what fell onto the floor and was enjoyed by our dog.