Thursday, April 21, 2011

Nut-free "pesto" for pasta

I am a huge fan of pesto, but when my daughter was very young, I was wary about using 'real' (pine-nut) pesto on her pasta. I also wasn't sure about the consistency (as it can be grainy).

There are many things that you can substitute in the place of pine nuts, but I just got rid of the pine nuts entirely.

"Real" pesto consists of basil, oil, Parmesan cheese, and pine nuts. What I do is use a small amount of basil (remove the stems), puree with a tiny bit of olive oil, and then add sour cream and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. I don't have an exact recipe, because I often make just enough for a single serving of pasta, or just enough to store maybe an extra "ice cube" size portion of it. It basically looks like a light green alfredo sauce and it tastes amazing! You can adjust the recipe to whatever consistency is good for your child, and pour right over pasta!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Hummus! (Or "Hundus", as my little girl calls it)

Have you tried making your own hummus? It's quick and easy, healthy, and my toddler loves it!

  • 1 16 oz can of chickpeas/garbanzo beans
  • 1/4 cup liquid from can of chickpeas
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3-5 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Drain chickpeas (saving 1/4 cup liquid from the can).
Combine remaining ingredients in blender or food processor (I have a mini processor that works great!)
Add the 1/4 cup of liquid from the chickpeas.
Blend for 3-5 minutes on low until thoroughly mixed and smooth.

You can do variations on this recipe - the last 3 ingredients are really your choice. I don't like my hummus with too much lemon, and sometimes I don't want garlic in it at all. So be creative! You can do some quick searches on the internet - there are many variations on hummus out there!

To serve, again, be creative! I used to toast bread and put the hummus on strips, but my toddler eventually learned how to make a big mess. Then I tried sitting her on my lap and dipping pieces of crackers in the hummus and feeding her by hand. Fortunately she learned from me and will now dip oyster crackers in hummus... or, her fingers.. (and yes, that is store-bought hummus she is eating!)

This is one of those recipes that is good to keep on hand along with a jar of garbanzos and a jar of tahini, just in case you ever need it. My daughter must have said "hundus" 300 times one morning so I whipped up a quick batch!

Easy Zucchini & Summer Squash

This is a very easy meal to prepare. I generally will give my toddler a small bowl of this zucchini and then something else (like grain, pasta, etc.), for a nice, balanced meal.

I buy organic zucchinis so I feel comfortable using the skins in the recipe. I slice up a few zucchini, mixing yellow squash ("summer squash") in there as well. I usually slice them not too thin, and then quarter the slices to make good bite size pieces.

I then toss the zucchini in a small steamer that I have. I add some spices just to season a little. You can use whatever you think might taste good! Just be careful that the spices are fine enough so that they don't pose a choking hazard (something like pieces of rosemary might be too big). Also, if you use a seasoning blend (like an Italian herb grinder as shown in my photo), it might have a lot of salt in it, so just check the ingredients. And of course be sure it doesn't have too much pepper (black pepper or hot red pepper!).

I basically steam the zucchini until soggy. When my toddler was just starting on solids, I more or less minced the zucchini, but at this point I can make it a little firmer and she will eat it with a fork.

I freeze this in baby food jars or small glass bowls, and it reheats fine, although it does tend to release some more liquid from the zucchini, but I just drain the extra liquid so it isn't messy.

Ingredients required:
Summer Squash

Friday, November 28, 2008

Breakfast cereal for babies who need prunes!

Ever since my daughter was an infant, we have battled issues of constipation. There is always something that is bound to stop her up, so we quickly integrated prunes into her daily diet.
I grew tired of buying baby food (especially when much of it came in plastic containers instead of glass). I read that you could cook prunes and make your own cereal, and that's exactly what I started doing


- large bottle of prune juice (I get Knudsen organic)
- prunes (I buy Newman's Own organic on
- cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg
- frozen berries (I buy Cascadian Farms berry mixes)
- flaxseed meal

I basically start the recipe by boiling several packs of prunes in prune juice. You can alternately use another type of juice or just water. I add some cinnamon and either ginger or nutmeg - I guarantee your kitchen will smell fantastic while cooking this cereal!

The prunes are done cooking when they are soft and have absorbed some liquid. I allow the mix to cool on the stove, and then mix with about 2 bags of frozen berries (usually strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries). Because I am making a large batch to store, I don't need the mix to stay hot, and it's also been bad news to put hot foods in the blender (read, large mess - the lid doesn't stay on!). I puree everything together and it's set to go.

You can also add a dash of flaxseed meal in there if you feel comfortable enough for it to have little bits of flax in it (I would probably wait until your baby is more toddler age, so that they are comfortable swallowing the little bits). Flax adds a little bit more fiber and health benefit, but keep in mind you aren't supposed to cook/heat it, or it loses it's benefit.

I pour the mix into baby food jars, put in a tray in the freezer, and I am set for a few weeks.

As for consistency, I go for a thinner consistency. In the morning, I heat a frozen jar in my microwave, pour into a bowl, and mix with Happy Bellies cereal (I get from, as well as Rainbow brand Nutristart vitamin powder. The thinner consistency allows me to add the cereal and the powder. And we're ready for our day! My daughter enjoys the cereal and there is a lot of nutrition in it from each and every ingredient.

Sweet Potatoes or Squash (variations)

Sweet potatoes are an easy dish to prepare, make variations of, and freeze/store. It is also one of the less messy ones to feed, especially for toddlers learning to self feed.

You can bake sweet potatoes in the oven, but I generally just punch a few holes in them with a fork and pop in the microwave (on a plate). I use the potato setting which usually senses when the potato is done, although it is usually a few minutes short of being truly done.

The sweet potatoes stay pretty hot for a while, so it is best to let them cool for a little bit before trying to remove the skin. Usually I can just peel off the skin, but you can also scoop out the sweet potato with a spoon.

I mash the sweet potato with any of the following -
- ginger powder (fantastic for digestion, and it tastes great), cinnamon, nutmeg, etc.
- butter
- oranges (you can use mandarin oranges if that is easier)
- apples (cooked, or applesauce)
My most popular recipe is to add organic butter and some ginger - and that includes for myself and my husband, not just the little one!

I generally always just mash with a fork and I'm set to go, although if you use cooked apples you may want to mince or mash, depending on what your child can chew. If you feel the potatoes need to be watered down, you can add water, but I prefer fruit juice. Then it's right into small jars or bowls for storing in the freezer.

You can also use squashes instead of sweet potatoes - such as acorn squash, butternut, etc. Cascadian Farms makes a box of frozen winter squash that is great for a quick meal - I simply thaw/heat (I take it out of the plastic and put it in a glass bowl), and add some spices, and my little girl loves it!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Palak Paneer (spinach) for babies and toddlers

One of my favorite Indian dishes is Palak Paneer, or spinach curry. It is a creamy spinach dish that has cubes of paneer in it (almost like farmer cheese). It was my inspiration for this dish.

Frozen chopped spinach (I usually use a 10 oz bag)
Cottage cheese (16 oz)
Turmeric (if desired)

Preparation is really easy. I thaw out the spinach in the microwave until it is warm, and mix the bag in a bowl with the cottage cheese, sprinking with the cumin to taste. You may want to do less cottage cheese (like 8 oz), or you can try some sour cream instead. I use what is on hand, what is convenient - and with cottage cheese, my toddler will gladly eat the leftover cottage cheese.

Turmeric does not have a lot of flavor, and adds color - something you may or may not want to do when you have an infant or toddler that gets food on themselves. It stains! I add it out of habit from making Indian dishes for ourselves, but it has fantastic health benefits as well. An "authentic" palak paneer dish has more Indian spices and is often spicy, but for now I like to keep it simple.

After mixing the ingredients, I simply puree in a blender. You can puree to different consistencies, making the spinach pieces as small as you like depending on the age of your toddler or baby.

I haven't tried adding "paneer", but for a toddler you could easily chop tofu into small cubes and sprinkle in.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Every so often I cook some beets to get some different colors into my daughter's diet - like greens, reds, yellows, etc! Just remember that eating beets can definitely have an affect on what colors you see in your baby's diaper, so don't panic!

You can either steam or boil beets. I peel and rinse them, and cut them into slices first.

I used to do just plain beets, but I have also mixed them with oranges and turnips. I actually like the idea of turnips, because when I freeze the beets as meals, they tend to be very dark, and it's tough to distinguish the beets from other dark meals (like prunes or berries), so adding some lighter vegetables helps make them a little "pinker".

After cooking, I simply puree in a blender. You can add a little water if you need a thinner consistency, but I try to keep the beets as thick as possible so as they are the least messy - beets stain very easily and especially with toddlers (like my 20 month old that refuses to let me feed her). If you don't want to "water down" the beets you can use fruit juice, although the beets are generally pretty sweet on their own.

The beet puree freezes very nicely and heats up well in the microwave. I generally do a small side of beets with some other dinner foods (like grains or pasta).