Using a steamer blender can save you time (up to 40 minutes) but do you really need one or is it all about keeping up with the joneses?
We actually bought one and here’s our conclusion. It is a convenient appliance to have but it is not something you absolutely can’t do without. Thus, if you are on a budget, there is no need to worry over this. However, if money is not an issue, a steamer blender does add variety to the food stuffs you can prepare and saves you quite a fair bit of time as well. For busy parents, this will be a handy addition to your kitchen.
I will go through the basics of baby feeding and then bring in the steamer blender at a later point, so that you can understand what you can do with it, and how it can save you up to 40 minutes per day.
Baby Diet 101
When should Babies start Weaning?
The first six months of your baby’s diet is going to be either breast milk or formula. Some babies seem to develop quickly and we have parents weaning their babies from the 4th month. Most professional advice points to the 6th month as the ideal time for weaning.
For us, we started somewhere in the 5th month.
The Start of Weaning – What do Babies Eat?
The start of weaning can pose a BIG question mark to new parents. Every baby is different and what seems to work very well for one may not have the same positive result for another.
To help you, we have some free baby recipes (purée) on this site and these are tried and tested by us (our baby!), so do give it a try and don’t be too worried. Feel free to experiment a bit and adjust according to your baby’s palate. A purée is simply cut fruits or vegetables mixed and blended into a mush that makes it easy for your baby to swallow and digest.
Mainly, it involves blending cut fruits with milk or water into a purée. The process is simple, takes less than 5 minutes and you just need a basic blender that is about 500 ml or even less in capacity. It is for baby food, so you don’t really need a big one. 1 litre is an overkill to me, unless you want to prepare more in advance.
The purée is usually the first phase of weaning and probably lasts for 2 months. Once your baby gets older (7-8 months onwards), it is advisable to introduce them to other solid foods such as congee, leafy vegetables, carrots, fish. Blended of course!
Boiling versus Steaming
However, the thing with congee, vegetables, carrots, fish (our baby loves salmon) is that you can’t just blend them straight out of their packaging.
You got to boil rice to get congee and this is a process that takes anywhere from 30 to 40 minutes.
Vegetables, carrots and fish have to be boiled in water before they can be eaten. Especially for carrots, since in its natural state, it is hard and you can’t blend it into fine mush. You would be lucky if the blades did not snap.
The alternative to boiling is steaming and this is best achieved using a steamer blender that retains the vitamins of the foods and also save you time.
What is a Steamer Blender?
A steamer blender is basically a steamer and a blender mixed into one appliance. Sorry for the boring description but this is exactly what it is.
The steamer is a common kitchen appliance, especially for the health conscious who wants their food to retain the nutrients instead of being destroyed by boiling.
In fact, there is quite a market for steamer and most steamers these days come with multiple layers so that you can steam different layers/varieties of food at one go which is really an efficient use of electricity and time. Tefal is a good brand if you are looking for one. However, it is too big for baby food where the quantity is usually much lesser.
Steamed Food: The Benefits
There are many benefits associated with steamed food.
At the very forefront is the fact that steamed food preserves the vitamins and nutrients of the foods. Boiling or microwaving will destroy part of the nutritional value of the foods and according to research, veggies that are boiled or microwaved lose their cancer-fighting properties. Ouch!
Steaming cooks faster than boiling. Surprising yea? I thought so until my memory was jolted by that long forgotten physics lesson that steam contains more heat than boiling water because of its latent heat of vaporisation. Alright, I’m not going further than this but Google it for details if you want to refresh your memory on this.
No oil is required and this is always a healthier option.
Steamed food does not alter in appearance. This is a lesser factor for me personally as I don’t really worry how my food look as long as the nutritional value is intact.
Steamed foods are more easily digestible. This is a plus for babies as their digestive systems are still young.
With steaming, less kitchen utensils are required, saving you time on the aftermath cleaning. Busy parents will appreciate this and that means every parent.
As opposed to rumors that steaming removes the taste from the foods, steamed foods do retain their taste and textures turn out just as good, if not better. I know this because I always make it a point to try a mouthful before feeding it to baby.
Unboxing of a Steamer Blender
For this unboxing, I am just going to show the steamer blender we are using right now for our baby. It is from Tommee Tippee and you can find details of this product from Amazon.
The package came with 2 small food containers and a stirrer which is used to mix the blended food.
Then, we have the steamer blender itself which comes with a 500 ml steaming/blending container. We have never filled it to the brim with food but if you do, 500 ml is enough for a few days. You would need more food containers to keep them refrigerated. So far, we have never gone beyond 2 days. In other words, whatever food that is prepared has to be consumed no later by the following day. We think this is healthier.
Using the Steamer Blender
To use the steamer blender, just pour 450 ml of water into the water container on the top left hand side. This water will be used for steaming the food.
No idea how much is 450 ml? No problem, just pour sufficient water into it. You will be able to see the water level and as long as it is not too low or overflowing, that is fine.
Next, cut the foods into smaller pieces and put them into the steaming/blending container.
Yes, you can use it as a blender and start blending right away. For fruits which are generally soft, there is no problem but if you are preparing carrots, you definitely want to steam first to soften them before blending it.
Tip: Make sure you put the steaming/blending container in the right direction (with handle pointing towards you). You can actually put it in the opposite direction and if so, it won’t work and will produce a beeping sound when you try to operate it. The other thing is to ensure you lock the container in place by turning the dial to lock position. If you forget this step, it will not start too.
With the steaming/blending container in place, just set the function (either steam or blend or both) by pressing the steam or/and blend button and setting the time for each.
We suggest for steaming, you go with 7-8 minutes per session and do it again if you feel the food is not soft enough. The maximum time is 30 minutes per steaming session.
One thing we notice with steaming is that it randomly dispenses a lot of water into the container, making the steaming less efficient since foods that are submerged in the water do not experience the effects of steaming. That’s why we suggest 7-8 minutes per session. If there is too much water in the container, you can at least empty the water and run the next steaming session. So far, 2 sessions of 8 minutes work very well for us and we are using it to steam fish, beef, carrots, vegetables.
We have researched online and unfortunately no one seems to have a clue on why water is randomly dispensed into the container, submerging the foods. In fact, we returned the first steamer blender thinking that it was faulty but the replacement set has the same issue, so we conclude this is a flaw in the design. Other than that, the Tommee Tippee steamer blender works like a charm and really saves us precious time.
Rice to Congee
We prepare congee for our baby and prior to the steamer blender, this is a process that will take anytime from 30 to 40 minutes to boil the rice until it becomes congee. During boiling, our feet are glued to the kitchen for fear that it will be over-cooked and charred, which actually happened before not once but twice.
Thus, it is quite an ordeal to prepare congee and we painstakingly take turns to do it for two months until we conclude that our time can be better used elsewhere. A food processor maybe? The decision was quick this time round.
So here’s the big revelation. It was mainly because of congee that we decided to get the steamer blender.
So, can it really steam rice until it becomes congee?
Yes it could but the end result cannot be compared to boiling which produces a nice gluely texture. As such, we have to say it didn’t really meet our expectation fully.
Do You Really Need a Steamer Blender?
It really depends on your needs. The steamer blender is a great time saver and while it did not achieve the congee effect we were looking for, it is helpful for steaming other combination of foodstuffs including fish, beef and especially carrots. Carrots are by nature quite hard and the conventional way is to boil them in water for a good 15-20 minutes before they soften. With a steamer blender, it takes roughly the same time (16 mins or two sessions of 8 minutes) and best of all, I don’t have to stand and watch over the boling pot.
So here’s the recommendation. Tommee Tippee is a great brand and we are using it on a daily basis. It operates very easily and maintenance is just as fuss-free. If you like, you can check out the latest price and availability on Amazon. We got ours’ on Amazon UK and believe it or not, it was 50% off the usual retail price. Perfect timing, I say.
Last but not least, are you worried about your kitchen real estate being taken up by another appliance? Here is a picture so that you can see how compact it is. That’s my 11 inch Macbook Air.