Technicalogical Difficulties
Official Post-Valentine's Day Recap ExtravaganzSQUIRREL!

Cooking With the Mighty Zah

Happy Valentine's Day, everybody! And good news! Thanks to the money-grubbing powers that be (AKA MY OWN SELF), I accidentally scheduled a sponsored post for today so y'all are spared having to read something goopy about my husband. Instead, we're going to talk about vegetables, thanks to Hidden Valley Ranch.

Vegetables are romantic, right?


(I know where your mind is going right now and I do not like it. I LOVE IT.)

Specifically, I'm supposed to talk about getting kids to eat their vegetables. LIKE I HAVE ANY IDEA. The only kid in my house who is currently not a jerk about consistently eating his vegetables is the baby. Because vegetables are pretty much the only food group he is aware of. 

I make all of Ike's food, and I...well, I make his food because I think it's fun. It's very easy and satisfying and it makes me happy to see my baby's face light up when he tastes something fresh and delicious and baby-birds his mouth for more, more, more. Plus, it's cool to have a baby who eats vegetables beyond the jarred green beans and carrots. There's only a short window before the Great Beige Food Phase, so I like making the most of it, while I can.

The variety in Ike's diet, however, is also owed to a certain older brother's tendency to grab random things in the supermarket and sneak them into our cart. So then it's like playing a game of Chopped at home, as I try to figure out what to do with celery root, kale, a pomegranate and two tomatillos. 


The good news is I can put that same big brother to work in the kitchen. My homemade baby food insanity is contagious, I guess, because Ezra absolutely LOVES helping me cook Baby Ike's Veggietabuls. 

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First up, baby veggie stock (to cook stuff like rice, grains, lentils, etc.), adapted slightly from this cookbook. Peel a shallot (or leek, or some spring onions...something mild) and cut into pieces. 


Crack open a sweet potato like an egg. (Then, you know, peel and chop it like a sweet potato.) Use two for a more intense flavor, or if they're small. 


Add about six lightsabers' worth of asparagus.


Four cups of water. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer until the vegetables are soft. Mash and strain them. Refrigerate or freeze the stock; use the leftover veggies in a puree. The broth makes a nice drink option in a sippy cup, and will add extra flavor to bland baby cereals. Ezra also recommends adding pasta noodles or crackers to it for a big-kid lunch. 


Next up, roasted parsnips. Apologies for the blurry photo but OMG PLEASE DON'T PEEL YOUR THUMB OFF IN THE TWO SECONDS IT TAKES TO SNAP A PICTURE OMG.


Preheat oven to 400, arrange in baking dish.


Drizzle with olive oil and add some thyme or rosemary, if you want. Bake for 20 minutes, then puree in a food processor -- thinning with water or baby stock until it's the right consistency for your baby.

Don't forget to save some of the tiny extra-roasted end bits for your super-helpful assistant. They're the best part.

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Finally, some old-fashioned basic steamed zucchini. All those springs and summers where I had more zucchini in my garden than I could ever possibly use? I just needed a Baby Ike, because that kid will eat a bushel a week, if I let him. 

But alas, it is winter, so I have no bumper crop out back. 


Luckily I have a REALLY good supermarket-sticker-remover at my disposal. The best place for the peeled-off stickers is your belly button, BTW.


Bring an inch of water to a boil, put (unpeeled) zucchini slices in steamer basket, allow your child to work at the stove because you are not a paranoid helicopter parent and he needs to learn to respect the heat and OMG IF YOU TOUCH THAT BURNER I WILL GROUND YOU FOR A MONTH OMG.


Steam for a few minutes until super-tender, then puree. Don't add any liquid to this one, but DEFINITELY let your preschooler man the food processor controls, because that's like, flying-a-rocket-ship-into-space level AWESOME.


Since we had all three batches going at once -- stock pot, steamer basket, oven -- we made everything here in a little over an hour. (After the zucchini steamed I added the rest of the asparagus to the pot and whipped that up, too.) Not too shabby.

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I was going to make a mango puree for Ike as well, but decided Ezra deserved a little snack break. He ate the whole thing. This veggietabul business is no joke. 

Thanks so much to Hidden Valley Ranch for sponsoring this post, and to Ezra (who, despite SOME vegetable jerkiness, would admittedly eat a car tire if it was dipped in ranch dressing) for being so much fun to cook with. You're awesome, little chef-dude.  

This post is sponsored by Hidden Valley® Ranch. Discover how you can make vegetables delectable!



The Hidden Valley ranch packet with dill in it? Amazing. I never buy bottled ranch. I think it tastes gross. But HV ranch packets are the best thing ever.

Also, Ezra is adorable.


Oh, The Zah! Still puny but so much more himself. Glad things are back to normal.
The Beige Food train is a-coming for my 2yo. It's not quite here, but the Big Pickster of a Sister is fully on board and waving an extra ticket. Sigh.
(Plus a combo of Valentine's and children's TV has apparently eaten my brain causing me to beat metaphors to the death.)

Kim The Avid Reader

I don't even have kids yet and this post made me want to make my own baby food! It looks so damn satisfying.


You are such a good mama for cooking up all that wonderful goodness. I can't wait to have my own babeh's and do the same.
Question: does the asparagus make Ike have funny smelling peepee? I'd assume the answer is YUP.
I love that any long object can turn into a light saber. Magic!

Life of a Doctor's Wife

What an adorable helper!


Awesome post! HVRanch should pay you double, because your assistant is so stinkin' cute!


What a great assistant! Super cool that he likes to help you.

Also...parsnips? Don't think I have ever eaten them.


Every time you post these delicious food posts I get super pumped to try it out one day.


My husband does our grocery shopping. I asked him to get celery and ranch. GOOD LAWD that man came back with generic ranch. The hell? He was floored when he realized I was serious about him turning around and exchanging it for Hidden Valley Ranch. I DON'T GIVE A GOOD GODDAMN IF YOU'RE TIRED OF DRIVING THERE IS NO WAY I CAN EAT THIS NON-HIDDEN VALLEY ARE YOU HIGH?

I've never had an issue w/my kids eating veggies (knock all the wood in all the world to keep it a goin' this way). Seriously, the 2 yr old will eat anything you give him (even better with ketchup or Hidden Valley ranch NOT SOME DAMN GENERIC CRAP YOU GET JUST BECAUSE OF A SALE SIGN. Granted my oldest won't eat cabbage and the middling won't eat cauliflower, I'm good with that b/c those are the only two veggies they won't eat and it leaves more for me. Squash/zucchini with onions is a favorite. And why does asparagus make your pee smell funny? Just me? Oh. I'll withdraw the question.


This is adorable. Strangely, my browser has no intention of telling me who sponsored this post. Can't see it. Weird!


I've always been a forehead sticker girl, but next time we'll be trying the belly button. I love the baby food ideas, thank you!

janeen castillo

Never been more proud that my husband works for Clorox than today! Totally texted him all giddy about your sponsored post. I so very much enjoy all your writing, but especially - you rock! I am sure the hubby thinks i am even more nuts now. ;)

Sarah @

I love this so much! My daughter is 2.5 years old and my husband and I cook with her everyday and it is totally! Except that it's our blender that's super rocket ship awesome =)

But also, every time I allow her a snack break, she eats up everything in sight. I actually pre-prepare dinner-making snacks now and keep them in the fridge because, yeah, that helping Momma cook business is hard work =P


I absolutely cannot wait until my son is old enough to help me in the kitchen. (16 months is too young right? I mean, of course it is...right?)

He's already chomping at the bit now, craning his neck and pulling at my legs to see just what the heck I'm up to at the stove. His high chair is attached to our island, so if I'm feeding him and prepping at the same time he can follow along, but there just arent good seats for the stove in this place.


You and the universe seem to be in tune with my pregnancy paranoia, since my latest freak out has been "How am I going to be sure that there will be enough baby food when Rett starts solids if I'm working 40 hours a week and..." whatever else I can come up with in an hour or two.

If I may ask, what prep/storage do you use for Ike-food?


Neither of my kids have ever tasted jarred baby food. Too much fun to make, too easy, and save a boatload of money and waste. But, I have not tried roasted parsnips! Will throw that into the grocery cart the next time I'm shopping (or, not take it out when my 3 year old throws it in the cart.). Have you tried roasted cauliflower? Sounds kind of weird but. OMG good!

I actually have to double up the batches I make (so, quadruple the "recipe") because my oldest son loves to eat his brothers food. Not a bad way to get some veggies in his little body either!

I love your sappy, tear-jerky posts, I always cry...but I LOVE this one. Seriously, thanks for the new baby food inspirations.


The Mighty Zah needs his own cooking show for REAL! :)

Erika Mitchell

These look tasty! I made all of Aidan's baby food too, but once he mastered plain veggies I just started pureeing whatever we were eating for dinner and feeding that to him.

Lasagne puree is delicious, for the record.


Yes! What are your preferred methods for freezing? I am gearing up with my first attempt for my baby who is almost 4 months. I need to stock up on supplies and would love to know what works for you!


Very glad this followed the Advice Smackdown on feeding. Thanks for sharing! (Especially the baby-approved veggie stock recipe!)


I love the Cooking for Baby book! The few months where Jacob would eat pretty much anything I put in front of him were the best for my cooking self-esteem.


I suppose the Other Preschooler Approved Location For Fruit Stickers is not sponsored-post-approved? Not even a linkback to that post? One of my faves. :)

We just discovered parsnips recently and love them (for big kids) oven roasted with honey on them. :)


I loved making baby food for my boys, and I'm always amazed by the people who say "Oh, you are just Supermom! I could never make my own baby food!" um, it's not hard to puree a sweet potato when you are already cooking them for yourself...

I was gifted a ton of baby food jars from a friend, so I just froze the food in there. You can buy all manner of fancy pants baby food containers at BRU or on Amazon, but 99c ice cube trays from Walmart get the job done just as well.


YAY Montessori life skillzz IN ACTION!!!! Love it!


Parsnips. I can't even conjure up a taste-picture of what those are supposed to be like, or a picture-picture of what they are supposed to look like, and I have DECADES on that kid.



I wish I had the might Zah to help me cook. He would up the cuteness so much. Definitely more than my apron does.


Well done mama.

We're in the Great Beige Food Phase. Bleh. I miss al this business!


Roasted parsnips are one of my most FAVOURITE FOODS ON THE PLANET, so this gets the seal of approval from me.

Sue C

I made all my oldest daughter's baby food, veggies, meats, you name it! Not difficult at all. At 27 she eats a very wide variety of veggies and loves them. I used good old ice trays and put the frozen cubes in labeled freezer bags.

Love Ezra! Such a cutie!!


I was really lucky and got to skip the Beige Food Train for the first 3 kids but my 4th one more than made up for it. I love your flavor combinations here so I might be trying to sneak some of this in. Nothing like a great minion to make it all go that much more speedy in the kitchen!


I can't for the life of me understand the purpose of the baby stock. What's wrong with (homemade, unsalted) regular stock that you have around anyway? Or cooking vegetables in water? And then using that water to cook other vegetables and grains? Because that's pretty much what it seems like. Is there some level that I just don't get?


I love little helpers in the kitchen. Does this post make anyone besides me think we will be seeing a twenty-something Zah on Top Chef (Season 354) telling us how he grew up cooking baby food beside his mama and here is the photo evidence?


Would LOVE if you wrote a cookbook with recipes for infants/toddlers/children! Pretty, pretty please? You have such great ideas! I never would have thought to make a homemade vegetable stock. Let alone with onions in it.


All I could think of when you mentioned the stickers in the belly button was the post about Noah - I think it's a fruit sticker! That one still makes me crack up just thinking about it.


99% sure I now need to grill some asparagus tonight because OMFG it is so good.


I have (surprise!) baby #3 coming so I'll be back into this business before too long...good thing I kept all of my baby food making stuff!

I've used these cube trays with lids through 2 kids and I love them (BPA free too). I got them online at Target:

I still use them when I make a puree of roasted veggies that I freeze into cubes then defrost and mix with Pomi tomato sauce for pasta "sauce." It's a great way for me to get some extra veggies into my kids.

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