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Guide: Cooking with millet, quinoa, amaranth (with meal samples)

A big part of motherhood is being your kids' nutritionist. Agree? :)

It started with breastfeeding, followed by vegetables and fruit purees at 6 months, grains at 8 months, and lots of other foods after 1 year old. I really enjoy being my boy's personal chef and baker. At 17 months of age now, he's a great eater albeit occasional food strikes. That's normal. :)

After embarking on almost a year of solid food journey with my boy, I finally manage to compile a little guide about cooking baby meals with these nutritious grains/seeds: millet, quinoa, amaranth.

Read this post for oats, lentils, brown rice.


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Millet

Before (top) and after cooking (bottom)

Why millet? When to introduce millet to babies?

Millet is a very versatile grain and a great source of B vitamins, iron, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and protein.

Most online sources recommend introducing quinoa to baby from 6 to 8 months of age. Some also commented that millet is one of the best first grains for babies, not rice and definitely not commercial baby cereals. 

How to cook millet?


Cooking time: 20-30 minutes
Liquid per cup of grain: 2 1/2 cups

Combine millet with water in a covered pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn down the heat, cover and simmer for about 25 minutes. Fluffed with a fork when done, millet prepared this way will have a light texture similar to rice.

For a creamier, mashed potato-like alternative, stir frequently while cooking, occasionally adding water, until desired consistency is reached.

Note: I soak millet in water in room temperature overnight. Next day, I discard the water and rinse the grains before cooking.

It's important to soak grains to get rid of phytic acid. Phytic acid is an anti-nutrient that binds to nutrients and minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc, and copper in your body, thus inhibits absorption. This will lead to deficiencies in the long run. Soaking also makes grains easier to cook and nutrients to be more readily digestible and absorbed by your body.

Where can I buy millet?


Meal samples:

Note: I introduced millet to my baby when he was about 8 months or so. He's 17 months now.


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Quinoa

Before (top) and after cooking (bottom)

Why quinoa? When to introduce quinoa to babies?

Quinoa (pronounced as keen-wah) provides 9 essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. It's high in calcium, gluten-free, cholesterol-free, and is almost always organic. Quinoa is available in light brown (or white), red, and black varieties.

Most online sources recommend introducing quinoa to baby from 8 to 10 months of age.

How to cook quinoa?

[Reference]

Cooking time: 15-20 minutes
Liquid per cup of grain: 2 cups

While it's best to rinse all grains before cooking, pre-washing is especially advisable for quinoa in order to remove the bitter saponin coating on its outer hull that sometimes remains after processing. To do so, run cold water over quinoa in fine-meshed strainer, rubbing the seeds with your fingers.

Note: There are sources that don't recommend soaking quinoa. For those who are soaking, here's the way: Wash the quinoa for about 10 minutes to remove saponin before soaking. Soaking causes sprouting, and sprouting increases the nutrients and benefits of quinoa.

Place quinoa and water in a covered pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the grains become translucent and the germ appears as a thin white ring around each grain. Fluff with a fork.

Where can I buy quinoa?


Meal sample: Pumpkin, Peas & Chicken Quinoa Stew with Pasta

Note: I introduced quinoa to my baby when he was about 12 months or so. He's 17 months now.


Ingredients:
(Serves 2 meals)

1/2 cup pumpkin cubes
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup fresh white button mushrooms, sliced
1 small chicken breast, sliced
4 tablespoons quinoa, rinsed
A handful animal pasta

How to:

As usual, I toss everything into my electric lunch box, add some water to cover, and steam-cook for about 50-60 minutes. Then, I add a tablespoon of virgin coconut oil before serving.


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Amaranth

Before (top) and after cooking (bottom)

Why amaranth? When to introduce amaranth to babies?

Amaranth is related to quinoa. It's high in protein, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. It's also gluten-free.

Same as quinoa, amaranth can be introduced to baby from 8 to 10 months of age.

How to cook amaranth? 

[Reference]

Cooking time: 20-25 minutes
Liquid per cup of grain: 2 1/2 - 3 cups

Combine seeds with two and a half cups water in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for up to 20 minutes, until grains are fluffy and water is absorbed. For a porridge-like consistency, use slightly more water (three cups for one cup of grain) and cook a little longer.

Note: I soak amaranth in water in room temperature overnight. Next day, I discard the water and rinse the seeds before cooking.

Where can I buy amaranth?

  • Online store such as iHerb

Meal sample: Carrot, Potato & Onion Amaranth Stew

Note: I introduced amaranth to my baby when he was about 14 months or so. He's 17 months now.


Ingredients:
(Serves 2 meals)

1/2 medium carrot, coarsely chopped
1 small potato, cut into cubes
1 medium onion, cut into quarters
1 stick celery, coarsely chopped
A handful fresh white button mushrooms, sliced
A handful goji berries, soaked and rinsed
1 small chicken breast, sliced
4 tablespoons amaranth, rinsed

How to:

As usual, I toss everything into my electric lunch box, add some water to cover, and steam-cook for about 50-60 minutes. Then, I add a tablespoon of virgin coconut oil before serving.

Other amaranth menu ideas:

Popped Amaranth Crunch 
Amaranth Polenta with Wild Mushrooms 
Blueberry Amaranth Porridge
Creamy Cannellini Bean and Amaranth Soup
Oat and Amaranth-Crusted Ham and Cheese Quiche
Amaranth Banana Walnut Bread
Amaranth-Ginger Muffins

I'd love to try them soon!


Note: The information given here is meant as a guide and does not replace professional medical advice. You should always consult a doctor before introducing any new foods to your child.


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