Spiced Butternut Squash Soup

6 months+

No thanksgiving meal is complete without the quintessential autumn squash, sweetly named butternut <3. This spiced butternut squash soup, served as a starter, is sure to wake up your taste buds, revving them up for the feast that follows. Toddlers and kids will love it too for the generous sweetness and creaminess on offer. The crunch from the toasted pine nuts is a heavenly match to the luxurious, buttery quality of the soup. 

Science Corner
Butternut squash is not only delicious but alive with nutrients - carotenoids (that become vitamin A in the body), antioxidants, anti-inflammatory molecules, types of starches that aid in blood sugar regulation, B vitamins, including folate and surprisingly, a bit of omega-3 fats in the form of alpha linoleic acid, also a potent anti-inflammatory agent. Squash is abundant in winter and affordable so there really is every reason to make it part of your family table. Combined here with antioxidant-rich spices that regulate blood sugar, exhibit antibacterial effects  and boost digestion, to name a few of the benefits, this delicious and soul-warming soup is sheer health and deliciousness in a bowl. 

2 adult and 2 toddler servings

Note: Use the higher spice amounts if you like a more intensely flavourful version or the lower amounts for a more subtle taste
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 leek, white and light green parts, chopped
1/4 teaspoon finely chopped ginger
1 medium butternut squash peeled and chopped
1 sweet potato peeled and chopped
3-4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 to 11/2 teaspoons cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, preferably Ceylon
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon coriander powder
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons butter (optional)
1/8 cup pine nuts (optional)

In a pot for which you have a lid, heat the coconut oil on medium until shimmering. Add the leeks and sauté until translucent and softened, 3-5 minutes. Add the squash, sweet potato, ginger and stock and bring to a gentle boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low and cook for 10-15 minutes or until the potato and squash are soft.

If garnishing with pine nuts, while the soup is cooking, heat a skillet over medium and toast the pine nuts until golden for 1 minute, shaking often to prevent burning. Set aside to cool. 

Uncover the soup. Stir in the cumin, nutmeg, cinnamon, coriander and salt to taste. Cook for another 3 minutes covered. Take the pot off the heat and alllow the soup to cool some. Transfer to a food processor or blend well using an immersion, hand held blender. Stir in the butter for added creaminess and sheen, top with a sprinkling of the toasted pine nuts and serve. Pretend not to be disheartened when toddler asks you to pick out all the 'white things'. It means more deliciousness for you! ;) 

You can also skip the salt and pine nuts and offer it to babies for a delicious and nutritious baby meal. 

Khichdi (Rice & Lentil Porridge)

KHICHDI (Rice & Lentil Porridge)
6 months+

Science Corner
Khichdi, a rice and lentil porridge, often prepared with vegetables, is a revered food in the ancient Indian medical system known as Ayurveda (translated the Science of Life). The combination of rice and lentils provides all essential amino acids. When made with white rice (stay tuned for my post on my data-driven massive change of heart about brown rice for babies!), the dish is thought to be extremely energizing and healing for the digestive tract and is highly recommended for babies who are learning to flex their digestive muscle. Khichdi also presents itself as a canvas for various vegetables rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. The addition of spices like turmeric and cumin boosts the antioxidant content and augments the digestibility of the lentils, although one typically uses skinned yellow or red lentils for babies, which are easier to digest anyway. All of these factors make khichdi a great addition to baby's meal plan, elevating it with science and flavor. 

6 baby servings (can be frozen for later use)

1/2 cup white rice
1/4 cup red or yellow lentils
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 cup peeled and chopped carrots
1/4 cup peeled and chopped zucchini
1/4 teaspoon finely chopped ginger
2 black peppercorns
1 whole clove
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
3 cups water

Wash the lentils a few times and soak for 1-3 hours to reduce phytic acid (an anti-nutrient that inhibits absorption of certain minerals like zinc) and discard the water. Wash the rice a few times and drain. 

In a pot for which you have a lid, heat the oil on medium high flame until shimmering. Add the cumin seeds and wait for them to start crackling, 30-60 seconds. Add the rice, lentils, veggies (feel free to use whatever you like - cauliflower, eggplant, spinach, green beans are all fair game), ginger, peppercorns, clove and turmeric and sauté for 30 seconds until well mixed and coated with oil. Add the water and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and cook covered for 30 minutes, checking every 10 minutes to make sure the mixture hasn't dried out, adding a bit more water if so. At the end of 30 minutes, the lentils should have disintegrated and the dish should have the consistency of a liquid porridge. If using a pressure cooker, reduce cooking time to 10 minutes after 1-2 whistles on high heat. Once cooked, pick out the peppercorns and clove, mash lightly or blend and serve. Older kids can enjoy it with texture and some salt. It's also the perfect food for an upset stomach, even for adults!