I know some of you were confused by my review of Dr. Sonali Ruder’s Natural Pregnancy Cookbook last year, and may be thinking the same thing as I review her new cookbook, Natural Baby Food– I’m not expecting, I promise! I love to review good cookbooks, and adore Sonali’s (aka the Foodie Physician) recipes. Plus, I worked as a Pediatric Dietitian for 4 years so this book was very interesting to review. If you are a parent with little ones, or know a parent-to-be, this book would be a fantastic purchase. I can vouch that Sonali’s recommendations are sound and up-to-date with the literature, plus her recipes are delicious and very nutritious. I opted to try a dish in the “12 Months and Up” category for Doug and I since we like a little texture in our meals 🙂 Guess what? We loved the dish and I would make it again.
Introducing solids can be one of the most confusing things for both parent and baby. The recommendations are constantly changing, and I often met plenty of parents who were feeding their babies incorrectly. For example, did you know that iron-rich solids should be the first complementary foods of babies, especially those that are exclusively breastfed? In the first half of her book, Sonali thoroughly reviews when to introduce each type of solid, and explains what cues to look for in your infant. The later half of Sonali’s book is a range of recipes that cater to the needs of specific age groups, up to 1 year and beyond.
In my experience, homemade baby food is the way to go. I find that my patients who were fed homemade baby food were much more likely to accept it (especially the iron-rich foods, such as meat and legumes). Additionally, homemade food is much more cost-effective than jarred varieties. Freezing purees in ice cube trays can help with batch cooking and portioning. Also, as the creator of your child’s food, you get to decide what goes into it. Exposing children and toddlers to a range of foods and flavors is so important in shaping their food habits later in life. Who wants a picky eater, right?
Doug is the opposite of a picky eater, but I thought I’d try out one of Sonali’s recipes for dinner on Sunday night. Her Chicken, Broccoli and Rice Skillet Bake reminded me of a dish my Mom used to make when we were kids. It was so yummy, but I’m pretty sure it involved canned cream soup and mayonnaise- I could be wrong, sorry Mom! Both of us adored Sonali’s dish, and I can see it becoming a regular on my weekly rotation. Plus, it is much lower in sodium than the version I ate as a child.
Chicken, Broccoli, and Rice Skillet Bake
Makes 6 servings
From Natural Baby Food by Sonali Ruder
- 3 cups broccoli florets, fresh or frozen
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon dried Italian seasoning or thyme
- 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
- ¾ cup milk
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1¼ cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided use
- 3 cups cooked brown rice
Preheat oven to 375ºF.
Steam the broccoli in a steamer basket for a few minutes, until crisp-tender.
Heat ½ tablespoon oil in a large oven-safe skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium-high heat and add the chicken. Season the chicken with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Cook for 3 minutes until browned, then flip and cook another 2-3 minutes. Remove chicken from skillet.
Heat the remaining 1½ tablespoons oil in the skillet and add the onion and garlic. Sauté a few minutes until softened. Add the flour and stir to combine. Whisk in the chicken broth, milk, and mustard. Simmer a few minutes until sauce thickens. Remove from heat and whisk in the yogurt and 1 cup of cheese.
Add the cooked rice, broccoli, and chicken (along with any juices) to the skillet and stir to combine. Sprinkle the remaining ¼ cup cheese on top and transfer the skillet to the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes until cheese is melted and casserole is bubbly. Let cool slightly and serve.