Pesto ~ How I Get My Picky Eater To Try New Things
Continuing on my thoughts after writing this post; Picky Eater or Sensory Processing Dysfunction, I want to share some more of my personal experience of having a hyposensitive son with autism. Owen, who is now 10, has always struggled with eating. Not only is he picky, he also has poor motor planning skills. Coordinating the act of eating in general was difficult for him and sometimes still is.
Although I think a lot of what I share here could be helpful to any picky eater (even someone without the issues my son has), I want to talk a bit about what he was like as a child for any parents out there who can relate.
From the time Owen was able to eat finger foods until about the age 5, he would “stuff his cheeks” with food. It freaked me out at first until I got a better understanding as to why he was doing it. During any meal until the age five, we could only set a few small pieces of food on his plate at a time. If we gave him more, he would stuff his cheeks like a chipmunk and choke on his food. Owen needed to be supervised at all times when eating. No handing him a snack in the car while driving, or sitting him at a snack table and getting something done while he was occupied. We soon learned from his occupational therapist that he was doing this because of lack of sensation in his mouth. His brain didn’t tell him there was food in his mouth until it could feel it (which was when it was VERY full) and then he would get the cue to swallow; of course there would be so much food in his mouth that he would choke on it. So we started to take some steps to *Wake up his Mouth* before meals;
2. Brushing Teeth: We would use a vibrating tooth brush to brush his teeth before meals.
3. Sensory toys: We purchased toys like these, and others that vibrated for him to chew on.
4. Zipped up his food: We added more flavour, spice and texture to his food, which brings me to the recipe I am sharing with you today for Pesto.
Learning to make my own pesto (which is ridiculously easy) and adding it to Owens’s food was like a miracle for us! Pesto is flavour packed, with garlic and herbs. I always, always have a batch in my fridge and add it to a lot of his foods. We started stirring it into scrambled eggs, quiche and frittata (where I can also hide a number of other vegetables) He would eat Gluten Free pasta with pesto (he stopped eating pasta when we removed dairy from his diet). He will also eat Zucchini Noodles and even Kelp Noodles as pictured above. The kelp noodles have a really nice crunch. We also put pesto on pizza as his sauce and he started to enjoy pizza again even without the cheese. We put it in everything from roast potatoes to rice to quinoa. The kid ate it!
I encourage you to give it a try and add it to some of the foods your child typically doesn’t eat to see what happens. I served this pasta with shrimp. Seafood is something Own has always loved, with its strong fishy taste (and he was born on the Alabama Gulf Coast.) HA! my sweet editing husband added this Alabama, he says, “it’s in his blood”
Pesto is super easy to make. You can make it with a number of things, and I am always changing it up depending on what I have in the house. You can use any seed or nut as your base, any herb and green. Some of my favorite combinations are kale and oregano or savory, basil and spinach.
- 1 large package of kelp noodles.
- 15 shrimp peeled and tail removed
- 6 cremini mushrooms sliced
- ½ cup of thinly sliced onion
- The juice of one lemon
- 2 tablespoons oil (coconut or ghee)
- For The Pesto
- ⅓ cup raw sunflower seeds (or pumpkin or hemp)
- 2-3 cloves of garlic
- ¼ cup slightly packed basil leaves
- A large handful of spinach
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- the juice of one lemon
- sea salt and pepper to taste
- (water to reach your desired consistency)
- To make the pesto:
- place the seeds, garlic, basil, spinach,salt and pepper into your food processor and blend for a moment or two (about 30 seconds to chop things up and combine)
- add the lemon juice
- While the processor is on and spinning slowly add the olive oil and blend until well combined and creamy.
- Add water 1 tablespoon at a time until your desired consistency is reached. I usually had 2 tablespoon.
- Set the pesto aside in the fridge
- In a large pot, cover the kelp noodles with water, add the juice of one lemon (this helps soften the noodles) boil and cook for about 20 minutes to try to soften them a bit (they will still be crunchy)
- Heat a large skillet to med-high temp and add 2 tablespoons of coconut oil. Add the onions and sauté for a few minutes. Add the mushroom and sautee for another few minutes. Add the shrimp and sauté for about 2 minutes per side.
- To serve, drain the kelp noodles and toss with your desired amount of pesto. Top with shrimp sauté.