Preparing your own food for babies and toddlers is a great way to set up a pattern of healthy eating, say chef Jordan Wagman and holistic nutritionist Jill Hillhouse in their book The Best Baby Food.
The cookbook features recipes that are full of flavour and colour to tempt children and help prevent them from becoming picky eaters.
Hillhouse grew up eating whole foods and when she had her two children “the idea of just cooking the carrots and squash and roasting the potatoes, or whatever it was, wasn’t a foreign concept to me. So my kids grew up eating whole foods that I had prepared and frozen,” she says.
“So when it came along to doing the book it was like I was revisiting what I had done with my children, but with the extra-special stuff that Jordan throws in with a lot of herbs and that sort of thing.”
Recipes include nutrition information and are organized in sections by age – Starting Solids (six to nine months), Establishing Preferences (nine to 12 months) and Food for Toddlers (12 months and older). There are also snacks and desserts.
Here are some recipes from the book to try:
GREEN BEAN PUREE WITH FRESH BASIL
This recipe is suitable for children aged six to nine months who are starting to eat solid food.
Introducing your baby to the fresh flavours of herbs as early as possible will help him or her acquire a taste for these nutrient-dense foods.
To keep vegetables green without using salt, Wagman advises keeping the water at a rolling boil. When cooking larger quantities, cook in batches, being careful not to overload the water, which will lower the temperature.
Hillhouse says basil has long been used to help relieve stomach cramps, vomiting and constipation. It is packed with nutrients such as antioxidants, acts as an immune system stimulant and also has antibacterial properties.
Wagman suggests using fresh basil because he thinks it’s one herb that doesn’t maintain its flavour when dried.
- 250 ml (1 cup) filtered water
- 375 ml (1 1/2 cups) green beans, trimmed
- 5 ml (1 tsp) chopped fresh basil leaves
- Ice cubes
In a saucepan, bring water to a rolling boil over high heat. Add green beans. Cover, maintaining a rolling boil, and boil until beans are soft, about 10 minutes.
Add basil. Transfer to a blender or use an immersion blender in the saucepan. Puree until smooth. Pour mixture into a bowl and place over top of another bowl filled with ice. Stir often to stop cooking process and ensure beans maintain green colour. Serve when warm to the touch or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month.
Makes about 250 ml (1 cup).
You can use seasonal fruit in this recipe, which is suitable for toddlers and up.
This recipe works for virtually any fruit and can be served with breakfast (try it on pancakes or toast), lunch or dinner. Roasting fruit takes patience, but the caramelization of natural sugars is worth the wait.
The authors advise always buying organic plums, peaches, raspberries and blueberries, unless they are wild.
In winter substitute apples for the peaches or cranberries or frozen berries for the berries.
- 2 organic peaches, pitted
- 375 ml (1 1/2 cups) raspberries
- 375 ml (1 1/2 cups) organic or wild blueberries
- 375 ml (1 1/2 cups) whole organic strawberries, stems removed
- 2 organic plums, pitted
- 30 ml (2 tbsp) evaporated cane juice sugar or coconut sugar
Preheat oven to 150 C 300 F.
In lightly greased baking dish, combine peaches, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, plums and sugar, stirring until fruit is evenly coated with sugar.
Roast in preheated oven until fruit is soft and nicely caramelized, about 1 hour. Mash or cut to desired consistency. Let cool until warm to the touch before serving or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month.
Makes about 1 l (4 cups).
ROASTED FRUIT SMOOTHIE
Smoothies are a great way to incorporate a variety of fruits and vegetables into a glass for a snack or drink with a meal. The items can be frozen or fresh.
To make this smoothie more nutritious, substitute an equal quantity of frozen fruit, such as berries, for the ice.
- 500 ml (2 cups) Roasted Fruit (recipe above)
- 125 ml (1/2 cup) organic plain full-fat yogurt
- 125 ml (1/2 cup) ice
- 15 ml (1 tbsp) chopped fresh mint
In a blender, combine fruit, yogurt, ice and mint. Puree until smooth. Serve immediately.
Makes about 625 ml (2 1/2 cups).
CHIVE PARSLEY PESTO
This recipe is geared toward children aged nine to 12 months who are at the stage of expanding their palate.
This spin on a classic Italian basil pesto, which would normally include pine nuts, contains only the clean flavours of parsley, chives, garlic and olive oil. It’s another way of introducing the robust flavours of fresh herbs to children at a young age.
The condiment/sauce can be used in a variety of ways, says Hillhouse. It is delicious over cooked grains or, as your baby gets older (past 12 months), with noodles or pasta and Parmesan cheese.
All green plants contain some amount of chlorophyll, but the greener the vegetable, the more chlorophyll it contains, Hillhouse says. Parsley’s rich green colour indicates it is loaded with this nutrient. Chlorophyll fights infections and stimulates new cell growth, two functions that are important for a growing baby.
You can freeze leftovers for future use.
- 175 ml (3/4 cup) chopped fresh flat-leaf (Italian) or curly parsley
- 125 ml (1/2 cup) extra-virgin olive oil
- 50 ml (1/4 cup) fresh chives, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
In a blender, combine parsley, oil, chives and garlic. Puree until smooth. Use immediately or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
Makes about 125 ml (1/2 cup).
Source: “The Best Baby Food: 125 Healthy & Delicious Recipes for Babies & Toddlers” by Jordan Wagman and Jill Hillhouse (Robert Rose Inc., www.robertrose.ca, 2015).