Thursday, September 1, 2011

Super Porridge

Starting solids was one part of parenting that I was the most excited/nervous about. Food is such a central part of our lives that I wanted give the boys an introduction that would make them love mealtimes as much as S and I do. Plus I had all this guilt about my low milk supply/milk drying up at 5 months/blah, blah, blah that I wanted to start G and Q off with as diverse a diet as possible to help make up for the nutrition (I felt) they weren't getting from me.

Enter Super Baby Food. My bff M recommended I check it out, and since her word is always gospel for me, I immediately ran out to buy it. The concept behind the book is feeding your baby whole, natural, homemade foods from the start to help maximize their nutritional intake and use food to build a robust immune system. The basis of the diet is a whole grain cereal, dubbed 'super porridge'. (By the way, I love the phrase 'super porridge'. It takes something so mundane--hot cereal--and elevates it. It's not just 'oatmeal' or 'Cream of Wheat' any longer; it's SUPER PORRIDGE. Who doesn't want to eat something that sounds like the breakfast of a superhero?)

But I'll admit it: I was a bit apprehensive about embarking on milling and mixing my own grains. I kept putting it off, opting instead to feed the boys a mix of Earth's Best rice and Happy Baby oatmeal cereals until they were 7 months old. And then one day I intrepidly entered the bulk foods at Wegmans and starting scooping organic grains and seeds into bags.

I brought them home convinced that my pathetic little blender would never be able to grind them up; but to my amazement, it whizzed them up with aplomb. "Take that!" the blender seemed to growl as it dug into the steel cut oats.

Less then 10 minutes later, I had a 1/2 gallon jar full of gorgeous, nutritious baby cereal. But the question remained: would G and Q actually eat it...?

The next morning I nervously cooked up my first batch, mixing in some nutritional yeast and a little pureed sweet potato as the book suggested. I apprehensively sat before G (he always eats reason why) and very warily approached his lips with the porridge. He opened his sweet little mouth, closed his lips around the spoon, and his eyes widened. "MMMMMmmmmmmm! MMMMMMMMMMMMmmmmmmmmmm!!!" He liked it! He really liked it! And Q liked it, too!

In fact, S and I even liked it. We're now a family of super porridge devotees. The boys eat it (almost) every morning, while S and I have it a few days a week. It's incredibly versatile, filling, and easy. I love that I can cook a big batch and just reheat individual portions*, which means each family member can customize their cereal with the toppings they like best. Probably the most super thing about it? It's ridiculously cheap. I fill that enormous 1/2 gallon jar for approximately the same cost as one 7 oz. can of Happy Baby cereal (I've included some cost information below based on what I pay for organic bulk grains at Wegmans), and it lasts almost twice as long as store-bought cereal.

G/Q's Favorite Super Porridge**
1/2 lb ground steel cut oats, $1.00
1/2 lb pearled barley, $1.25
1/2 lb mulled millet, $1.21
1/3 lb oat bran, $.66
Total: $4.12

1/2 lb nutritional yeast, $3.03
1/4 lb pumpkin seeds, $1.20
1/4 lb flax seeds, $.57

1. Using a blender, grind each grain separately using the 'Grind' or 'Mill' setting. For babies just beginning cereal, grind grain(s) until they are a soft, powdery texture; for more advanced babies, grind just until grains reach a coarse, sandy texture (as seen in the photo above).
2. After each grain is ground, pour into a mixing bowl. Once all grains have been added, add the oat bran and stir until well mixed. Pour the mixture into an air-tight container (preferably glass) and store in a cool, dark location since bugs love organic grains (I keep mine in the fridge).
3. Bring 1 cup of water to boil in a medium saucepan. Slowly whisk in 1/3 cup of porridge mixture. Reduce heat to medium low, stirring often and cooking porridge for 10 minutes.***
4. For beginning eaters, serve cereal plain or with one food serving and a 1/4 teaspoon of nutritional yeast. For advanced eaters, combine one fruit serving and one vegetable serving along with a 1/2 teaspoon of nutritional yeast and some ground seeds. Every other day, serve super porridge with a hard-boiled egg yolk.

*I reheat the porridge in the microwave for about 45 seconds.
**Once you have the grinding/cooking technique down, it's really easy to vary your porridge. For example, I've also made one with brown rice, lentils and quinoa. For beginning eaters, you'll want to stick with just one grain, most likely brown rice or oatmeal.
***This was the quantity I made when the boys were 7 months old and were eating a tablespoon or two of cereal per morning. This batch lasted 3 or 4 days in the fridge. I now double this amount, since they each eat 1/4 cup per morning and it still lasts 3 or 4 days.

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