I've written about this before, but I wanted a fresh perspective. So I asked an expert. I asked a mommy. I asked Noel Boehm.
And this is what she had to say (complete with kid tested recipe!).
The almost vegetarian meal for the almost vegetarian toddler
by Noel Boehm from Pretty by Nature
Before I had my son, one of the things we knew we really wanted to do was to make his baby food when the time came. It was initially my husband's suggestion and it didn't take much to convince me. It is so much easier than you think and such a great way to expose your baby to a wide range of fresh fruits and vegetables and different tastes and textures. You know, besides shoes and mommy's hair. His favorite at 9 months old was cauliflower and yellow squash. We used whatever was in season and organic when possible. Now that he's a toddler, he eats a variety of foods with spices and ingredients that most of the two and under set will never see. I honestly believe it's because we introduced it right off the bat. He does have his picky toddler moments but for the most part I can get him to eat just about anything if I incorporate it into a one pot meal.
One of his favorite is Spanish rice with vegetables. It changes almost every time I make and is a good "clean out the fridge" meal. Basically whatever veggies I have left over go into the dish which makes it a great quick Friday night or weekend dinner. My most recent masterpiece (I'm judging by his "yums" and yelps for more).
Almost vegetarian recipe for kid tested (and approved!) Spanish rice with vegetables 2 cups brown Basmati rice
1 red pepper
1 medium yellow or red onion
1 cup shredded carrots
3 Roma tomatoes
1 can organic red beans(drained and rinsed)
2 cups homemade or store bought low -sodium vegetable broth
2 cups water
1 can organic tomato or marinara sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Garlic powder, cumin and fresh thyme
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
I start by dicing all of the vegetables into 1/2" pieces. Add them one at a time to a heated pot( I use a dutch over) with the olive oil. Cook until veggies are softened( about 3-5 minutes), adding spices and herbs along the way to make sure that the flavors are layered. I then add the rice and let it cook for about 3 minutes so it can get a nice toasted flavor.
Add the tomato sauce and stir until it has all be incorporated and the rice is coated. At this point add the beans, seeded and diced tomatoes and the water and broth mixture and bring to a boil. Once it has come to a boil, cover and lower to a simmer.
Cook for 25 minutes or until most of the liquid has been absorbed and let stand uncovered for about 10 minutes. You can tweak the amount of liquid, we like our rice ever so slightly al dente so this comes out perfect. You can serve it with diced avocado on top and voila.
I can't speak for all kids but mine can't get enough of this. I have made it with mushrooms and (a big hit with the bug) once with chilies and plantains. The sky's the limit. I hope it will be a hit at your table!