With the holidays approaching, I've been trying to plan out menus that include a handful of foods that everyone at the table can enjoy. I know that my older daughter will have plenty of options at Thanksgiving, but I thought I'd add something specifically for the littler one.
Related to that, a friend recently asked me for advice about transitioning her brand new one-year-old to more table foods, and away from purees. Purees are so easy for little ones to eat and as parents, they don't bring near as many concerns about choking. But it's important for older babies and toddlers to learn to eat foods with a variety of textures since they need a chance to practice developing all of their motor skills—including the ones in their mouths. Plus, research has found that introducing lumpier textures by the time babies hit about 9 months can lead to a wider range of accepted foods for years to come.
All of that said, the choking concern can be paralyzing for many parents—and it's possible to simply feel like your toddler is stuck on purees. Today's recipe for Roasted Butternut Squash with Quinoa is one of my favorite transition foods. Actually, this basic method is a go-to of mine for all sorts of baby and early toddler meals: Combine a pureed fruit or veggie with a grain and boom, a nutritious meal is served! It's smooth, but still textured, so a little one can practice moving more complicated mixture in their mouth (without parental concerns about choking).
Plus, it has the benefit of being super delicious for the whole family, and a seasonally appropriate side dish for Thanksgiving. Try the puree on it's own (it's seriously delicious) or mix in some quinoa or another whole grain that you like. (Millet, rice, couscous, or even orzo would be great.) Serve it right away or make it ahead and pull it out for a quick meal.
Nutritionally, the puree with a grain has vitamins A and C from the squash, vegetarian protein from the quinoa, fiber, and fat from the coconut milk—which is good for providing balanced energy and fueling proper brain development.
Creamy Butternut Squash and Quinoa
As a transition food for little ones moving from purees to more complex textures, or as a side dish or vegetarian main for the whole family, this creamy quinoa is a winner. (The puree is also really yummy on its own!)
Serves about 4
1 tablespoon olive oil or canola oil
4 cups peeled and chopped butternut squash (about 1 medium)
1/4-1/3 cup light coconut milk
1 cup cooked quinoa*
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Toss the oil and the squash together and spread onto a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 26-28 minutes or until very soft.
2. Remove from oven and transfer squash to a blender with 1/4-cup coconut milk, adding more as needed to make a thick puree.
3. Stir squash mixture together with the quinoa, taste and add salt if desired, and serve warm.
*Prepare quinoa according to package directions, rinsing in a fine-mesh strainer to remove possible bitter flavor.