Monday, December 5, 2016

Beet Puree - For Baby or Toddler

I started feeding my son beet puree at around nine months. My son loves beets! I utilized them at snack time, mixed with an apple or pear cube - 1 cube/1 oz of each. I no longer make my own apple/pear sauce. I must confess, I'm not sure I will ever make it for baby #2. Peeling and dicing apples or pears is something I do not enjoy. Luckily, I can find organic apple sauce everywhere - even my Super Target carries it. Some brands have ascorbic acid added as a preservative, but Trader Joes brand only has one ingredient - Organic Apples. After he turned a year old, my son was always requesting apple sauce at snack time. Since he is just as happy with beet and apple, peas and apple, or carrots and apple as he is with plain applesauce, I still make my own veggie/apple mix most days for snack time. This is a great way to still incorporate the convenience of purees and get in some extra vegetables...because no matter how much he loves his "pea sauce," it depends on the day if my son will eat up peas off his dinner plate!

The Good...
This brightly colored vegetable is a powerhouse food!  Beets are high in Vitamin C, Fiber, Potassium, Manganese, Iron, and the B Vitamin Folate (which also makes them great for pregnancy or women trying to conceive). Research regarding the health benefits of beets has focused on the prevention of cancer and age-related diseases, probably not things you are worried about in your baby or toddler, but it's widely accepted that beets are high in antioxidants and have natural immune boosting properties.

The Bad...
Beets are messy! That gorgeous red color which shouts out the high antioxidant content also gets everywhere. Your hands, your cutting board, the counter looks horrible, but I have had no issues with beet juice staining if promptly cleaned up! Wash your hands and prep tools right after preparing your beets. You do want to avoid getting beet juice on your clothes.

I do not consider beets appropriate finger food for my toddler! I don't doubt that he would eat them up easily, but oh the mess!

The Easiest Way to Prepare Beets for Purees...

Hands down the simplest, least fuss, least mess method is to use peeled and diced frozen beets! I can find organic frozen beets at my local Whole Foods store. Unfortunately, that is not somewhere I shop often. I love Whole Foods, but the prices and the 30-40 minute drive make it an infrequent stop for me. When I do go, I always stock up on frozen beets!

To prepare to puree: Pour the beets into a heavy bottomed pot, add around 1/2 inch of filtered water, and simmer covered for approximately 15 minutes until tender. You need the water to puree the beets anyway, so it is not the same as boiling in a large pot of water which can leach vitamins from a vegetable. Once tender, cool the beets and remaining liquid and puree in a blender.

Second Best...

My second choice, which is what I did this weekend, is to buy fresh, organic beets from the produce department. Both Trader Joes and my local grocery store carry them (as does Whole Foods).

To prepare the puree: Trim off the stems and greens with a paring knife and then peel the beets with a vegetable peeler. Cut into medium dice and add with around 1/2 inch of filtered water to a heavy bottomed pot. Simmer covered approximately 20 minutes until tender. Once tender, cool the beets and remaining liquid and puree in a blender.

A benefit of this method is that if you buy untrimmed beets, you can eat the beet greens which are delicious! Just wilt in a saute pan or wok like you would spinach or kale, or add to a soup!

Other Options...

Steam: Add frozen or prepared fresh beets to a steamer basket over a boiling pot and steam approximately 20 minutes until tender. Blend, adding filtered water as needed, to get a smooth puree.

Roast in the Oven: Fresh beets can be roasted either diced or whole in a 425 degree oven. You can peel and dice as above or you can roast whole and then peel off the skins (they will pull off with your fingers but will make a mess) once cooked and cooled. If peeling and dicing - add a splash of olive oil and roast in a baking dish approximately 45 minutes. If roasting whole, drizzle with olive oil, wrap in aluminum foil (I don't like this method because I have concerns about aluminum leaching into food during roasting), and roast approximately 1-1.25 hours. Once beets are tender, cool and blend, adding filtered water as needed, to get a smooth puree.

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