Dahlia Rae started eating purees at just over five months old and it’s been an awesome adventure. I’ve been making her food in large batches and freezing it, which is a great way to take advantage of seasonal summer produce like sweet corn, peaches, eggplant, and green beans. So far she seems to love everything, her favourites being sweet potato, strawberries and swiss chard. At eight months I’m slowly introducing more whole grains, whole milk yoghurt, and lean protein. I especially love her facial expressions when I give her something new or add a new flavor to something otherwise familiar. Here are three of her early favourites. (Note: These recipes are aimed at children 6 to 9 months. I’ve kept them all vegetarian. Ask you doctor before you introduce new foods to avoid allergies. I try to use organic produce whenever possible.)
Summer Squash with Fresh Mint
Summer squash is one of my favourite vegetables to roast and my daughter seems to love the texture. I add fresh mint to give it more flavor and because I want to expose her to as many tastes as possible. Using fresh herbs is a great way to punch up bland baby food as long as they’re pureed very finely.
4 medium green or yellow zucchini, or 8 pattypan squash
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh mint, coarsely chopped
Preheat oven to 400F. Wash and cut squash into 1-inch pieces and place on a sheet tray. Toss gently in extra virgin olive oil and arrange evenly on the sheet tray making sure not to crowd the pieces together. Roast in the oven until very soft and edges are slightly golden, about 20 minutes. Watch carefully to ensure squash does not take on too much colour. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
Transfer squash to a blender, baby food processor, or a cup for a handheld mixer. Add the fresh mint and puree together until very smooth. Add 1-2 teaspoons of water to adjust thickness if needed. Serve warm or at room temperature in 2-3 ounce portions.
Note: Finished squash mixture can be refrigerated for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 6 months. Makes approximately 2 cups.
Lentil Stew with Carrots and Garlic
I love lentil soup, it’s hearty and full of protein, and make it in big batches all winter long. This is a modified version perfect for baby.
1 cup organic dried green or brown lentils
2 cups water
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and sliced
3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch rounds
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
Rinse the lentils thoroughly in a fine mesh sieve and set aside. Heat the oil in a medium pot on medium heat, add shallots and cook to soften, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and carrots and cook until very soft, about 5 minutes. Watch carefully to ensure mixture does not take on too much colour.
Add lentils, thyme leaves, and water and bring to a boil on medium heat. Reduce to a low simmer and cook until lentils are very soft, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Lentils will plump and some water will evaporate. Turn off the heat and allow to cool.
Transfer to a blender, baby food processor, or a cup for a handheld mixer and puree until very smooth. Add 1-2 teaspoons of water to adjust thickness if needed. Serve warm or at room temperature in 2-3 ounce portions.
Note: Finished lentil stew can be refrigerated for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 6 months. Makes approximately 2 cups.
Nectarine Banana Smoothie
You can make this recipe using any fresh fruit on hand. I like to use whatever is in season, which means nectarines or peaches right now. Feel free to substitute pears or apples in colder months. Be careful giving your child too much banana as it can constipate her.
1 banana, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
Bring a large pot of water to a boil on the stovetop. Place a cup of ice and 2 cups of water in a medium bowl beside the stove. Using a small paring knife, make an x in the bottom of the nectarine, 1/4” deep. Place nectarines in boiling water and blanch for 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and place in ice bath to cool. Remove skin from nectarines starting at the cross. The skin should release easily. Cut nectarines into 1-inch pieces, removing the pit. Transfer to a blender, baby food processor, or a cup for a handheld mixer. Add banana and puree until very smooth. Serve at room temperature.
Note: Finished smoothie can be refrigerated for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 6 months. Makes approximately 1 cup.