Better baby food: zucchini with nut-free pesto (plus a bonus family recipe of pesto chicken risotto!)


One of the most common questions I get from parents who are making their own baby food is "What's next?"Once their baby has moved beyond single-ingredient purees, they're ready to introduce more flavors, but aren't quite sure where to start. The baby phase when your little one is happily gobbling up everything is THE best time to introduce a whole variety of foods. In fact, studies show that babies who are exposed to a variety of flavors before age 1 eat a wider variety of foods at age 6. Talk about a victory for pickiness!

My philosophy has always been to cook once for everyone in our family--and with three kids 5 and under, it's a true sanity saver. For this recipe, I used both the zucchini and one batch of nut-free pesto to create meals for everyone from my 10-month old baby to my 40-year-old husband and everyone in between. My kids love pesto--they call it their favorite green sauce, and we put it on everything: as a spread on a sandwich, stirred into risottos, and tossed with pasta. I used a nut-free version here since I'm not quite ready to introduce nuts to the baby, and so that I dont have to worry about sending the kids to school with it on a sandwich. I also gave it an extra health boost by adding in a heaping handful of baby spinach, which has such a mild flavor that no one can tell the difference!

I started by shredded a combination of zucchini and summer squash and sauteeing it in olive oil in a deep lidded skillet until it was completely soft. While that was wilting down, I made the pesto in a food processor, and scraped all by about 1 teaspoon out into a bowl (it seriously takes less than 2 minutes to make!). For the baby, I removed 1 1/2 cups of sauteed zucchini and summer squash, and added it to the food processor and blended it all together. Her meal was done! I serve it in these Sage Squeezie Double Zipper Reusable Food Pouches

The rest of the squash I left in the saute pan and continued with the pesto chicken risotto (the full recipe is below). It's an easy, veggie-packed, 1 pot meal that my family loves. I hope yours does too!

NUT-FREE PESTO In a food processor, combine 1 bunch of fresh basil (discard the thick stems), a handful of fresh baby spinach, 1 garlic clove, juice of 1 lemon, 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, and a half cup of olive oil. Process until smooth, pausing to scrape down the sides of the bowl to incorporate all the ingredients.

PESTO CHICKEN RISOTTO Ingredients: 2 tablespoons olive oil 3 pounds of zucchini and summer squash, shredded 2 cups organic brown rice 1.5 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs 5 1/2 cups organic low sodium chicken stock 1/4 cup pesto or more to taste* extra parmesan cheese for serving

Directions: In a deep lidded skillet over medium heat, saute squash in olive oil until wilted. Remove 1.5 cups for baby food if using. Add rice, chicken, and stock to the skillet. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer until rice is cooked through, around 30 minutes. Stir in pesto, adding more to taste. Serve with extra grated cheese.

*store leftover pesto in the freezer in a covered airtight container