I am a first-time Mom on a budget. In this ongoing blog series, I explore ways to create healthy, organic meals that appeal to both my baby and husband. I’m having fun sharing my trials and tribulations of trying to cook healthy and economically, while at the same time pleasing my family. I started out simple by turning mashed up baby foods into soups, like creating a vegetable soup out of a pea base and a carrot ginger soup from locally grown carrots. But now I am looking to step outside of my comfort zone with zucchini. My baby actually likes the taste of zucchini, but my husband is not the biggest fan. This could get interesting. When my baby turned six months of age, I started feeding him some solid foods. He really enjoyed the taste of yellow and butternut squash. In fact, he loved it! So one day I thought…what the heck, maybe he will like zucchini? I mixed up a batch of pureed zucchini and it was an instant hit. Then, I got the idea of making a zucchini pesto. Am I crazy to think that I can turn mushy zucchini into something edible? My husband was the guinea pig on this dish and it took three attempts to get the flavor and texture just right (I started with lemons and ended with limes and played around with various spices). So now, I will save you the guesswork and share my recipe. Ingredients for baby food and pesto:
4 medium sized organic zucchinis
½ cup pine nuts
2 limes, squeezed
1 large or 2 small jalapeños
1 large handful of fresh cilantro
4 or 5 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon of olive oil
First, wash and chop four-medium sized zucchinis into 2-inch pieces. Keep the skins on to get all of the nutrients (Vitamin A and C, calcium, iron, fiber and protein)! Boil a pot of water, drop the zucchini in, then turn down the heat to a simmer and let them soak for about 20 minutes until they are soft. (You can also steam them for the same effect). At this point, drain the vegetables and run them through the food processor or blender until pureed. Pour half of the mixture into a baby tray for your little one and leave the remaining zucchini puree in the blender (about 1 cup).
Now it’s time to make the pesto. Heat up a little bit of olive oil in a pan and toast the pine nuts, jalapeño and garlic for a couple of minutes (until browned). Add the nuts, jalapeño and garlic to your food processor or blender along with the cilantro and lime juice. My limes weren’t cooperating with me so I tossed them in the microwave for 10 seconds until they were nice and juicy. Click “blend” and in seconds you will have yourself a healthy zucchini pesto. Don’t be alarmed. The texture is somewhere in between a basil pesto and guacamole. It may look strange at first glance, but trust me – the flavor is out of this world! Now it’s dinner time and my baby is smiling away as I serve him his zucchini. It’s a very satisfying feeling as a mother to see your child enjoying vegetables. But now my pesto will face its toughest critic – my husband. I place the pesto atop whole wheat pasta, grilled chicken and diced tomatoes. Yum! My husband really likes it. The heat of the jalapeños pairs nicely with the creamy zucchini mix, turning what would normally be an Italian inspired dish into a Tex-Mex one.
Now I bet you are asking yourself, how can this dish be considered economical? Well, organic zucchinis are surprisingly cheap even though they have so many nutrients. Pine nuts are pricey, so I purchased only the amount I needed for my recipe from the bulk section of my grocery store. I have a little rule that I follow when I buy a bunch of fresh spices (like parsley or cilantro, in this case) that I have to use it for three meals. I think I’ll use the remaining cilantro in a stir-fry, on top of tacos…ohhhh…maybe I’ll even make a salsa. And in the end, I had leftover pesto to freeze for a future meal. There you have it – yummy and economical! I discovered a recipe that should satisfy not just your food table, but that of any foodie. Enjoy!