What To Feed The Baby

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Question, via email:

I’m the one with Lucky baby that had such a hard time with formula [after a forced wean from breastmilk]. So he’s eating pretty much everything under the sun, except I don’t do any dairy. I tried some goats milk on him and he didn’t really seem to like it so just havent again. I’m confused on how to eat myself let alone make sure I’m giving him what his body needs at 13 months. Some sites say low protein high healthy fats, some say paleo for babies is best, etc. So I really like how healthy you and your family are, love following your blog and wondering if you could tell my what type of foods you fed your babies? I don’t know if they should be having coconut pancakes, rice flour, barely those type of grains. It seems like since I don’t know I feed him a lot of fruit and veggies.

My Answer: (I am not a licensed health care professional, and this is not health advice. Just my opinion.)

Hi friend! It can be confusing with so many opinions out there on diet and nutrition. I think coconut pancakes and fruits and veggies sound great, although you want to make sure he gets enough of the animal proteins/fats too since they are super-foods! He may disdain goats milk, but if you offered him raw cheese he may just love it!

There’s a lot to say on this subject; here are some principles I’ve used as guides for feeding my babies 10 months and up.

What’s good for you, is good for baby.

If you are pursuing a whole food, nutrient dense diet, then the foods which you haul in from the farmer, cook up in your crockpot, ferment on your counters, or bake in your oven are going to be excellent, nutrient dense choices for your child.

I don’t subscribe to the idea that baby food is something to be bought in small containers, have no resemblance to adult food, and be fed to a child at a different time of day than adults eat (although of course this happens occasionally). Someday (soon!) this tiny person will sit at the table with us and eat what we are eating, so why not get them used to the routine and the food while they are still in their high chair? Plus, the idea of cooking two different menus makes me want to cry.

Breastmilk is Best, as long as you can

I like to wait as long as possible before introducing food at all, and even water unless the weather turns hot. My babies have waited for their first bite of any food until between 8 and 10 months. I look for their cues on hunger/lip smacking/saliva. My last baby, a girl, was quite interested at 8 months, but my largest boy was barely interested at 10 months. Their hunger for food usually arrives about the time their first teeth do. There is some thought that waiting until this time to give foods can reduce allergic responses to food.

The first foods I give my babies are: egg yolk from a soft boiled/over easy egg, butter, liver pate (it’s cooked), cod liver oil, banana, avocado, as these are all soft and nutrient dense. After a few weeks of these foods, they are usually ready to try more flavors, so I begin to offer what we are eating.

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Egg yolk!

Waiting for molars. . . think soft foods

Dinner is our main meal, and there is nearly always something that baby can eat, and often she can eat all of it. I invested in a small baby food grinder years ago, the hand crank kind (portable!), which can be used to blend up soft foods like spaghetti with meat marinara, roasted chicken and broccoli, anything made in a crockpot, the chunky parts of soup (add back to broth), beans, rice, and most cooked veggies. It only takes a minute, and the child gets to experience those flavors which he has been smelling while dinner was cooking. He’s eating what mom and dad eat. He’s eating it fresh, and not frozen or canned. He’s eating food that tastes good, and if he rejects it on first or fifth try, you can be pretty confident that at some point he will love it like you do.

Some foods are hard for a baby to eat: salad, anything really chewy or crunchy. However, these foods are innately difficult to digest as well, so your diet should be filled with lots of other foods he is able to eat. That said, I will sometimes give baby a teeny tiny piece of lettuce with a homemade dressing on it. . . or the cranberry in the salad. . . or a feta crumble. I stick it right in their mouth and wait for the face. These are strong flavors, and I want the baby to experience them, along with some psychological coaching: “yum, yum, yum!” They are shocked, they spit, we all laugh.

If we are eating steak, I try to cook it medium rare, and then shave off very small pieces (no need for chewing) and feed them to baby. Yes, steak! My babies have loved this. I have also heard that indigenous mothers chew food for their babies, which begins to break down the foods with mom’s saliva enzymes, before transferring it to baby’s mouth.

We love taco salad; baby can eat the ground beef, beans, avocado, sour cream (if no reaction), tomatoes (if no reaction), cilantro, and lime.

Soups are messy, but we eat a lot of them in the winter, and if they have a bone broth base it’s awesome nutrition. We have a plastic pocket type bib which really helps contain the mess when spoon feeding baby, or the IKEA toddler smock which is full coverage for when baby feeds herself.

Good Fats = Good Brain

Brains, especially growing brains, need fat. Healthy, saturated fats. Besides water, that is what the brain is mostly comprised of, so it only makes sense that babies need a healthy dose of saturated fats daily for the significant growth of their gray matter.

Butter (grassfed/naturally yellow is best), avocado, egg yolk (soft boiled or over easy), coconut oil, nut butters, animal fats found with the meat, liver (organic animals) olive oil (cold pressed and uncooked), and heavy cream with or without the milk (raw from grassfed cows is best) are all great ways to feed baby’s developing brain, and keep baby satisfied for longer between meals (or at night!). Some of these are a meal or snack by themselves: egg yolk, liver, nut butter, avocado, ground meat. Others can be toppings for other foods: butter, coconut oil, olive oil.

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Butter!

Balancing Food Groups

We all need protein, and carbohydrates, and fats. Babies are no exception. I try to give my baby foods from each food group during a day, with a special emphasis on protein/fat at each meal. I personally feel better when I limit my sugars/starches, so my children’s diet roughly mimics my own, but they do eat more grains and fruits than I do.

In the US, toddler fare is universally offered as grain and sweets based. Look at any kids menu and you will see breads, pastas, crackers, fruit cups, sweetened dairy products, and downright candy as the leading act. Most foods marketed to/for kids fall into this category as well. Rather than rant about the lack of protein and fat, and the sugars that push kids toward addiction, set them up for diabetes or worse (OK, I just ranted), I’ll just advise: do not copy this diet in your home.

Do you feel better, have more energy and fewer ailments, sleep and perform exercise better, and feel more satisfied on mostly protein, mostly carbs, or somewhere in between? If you have never given this any thought, The Metabolic Typing Diet may help you (gives self-test checklists) to determine this for yourself. And have your spouse take the test too, as your child will likely pattern after one or both of you. Adoptive parents will have to watch carefully for mood/behavior in their baby following different meal ratios.

Depending on your metabolic type, you may feel better on more carbohydrates than I do in your diet, and your child is likely to do well with this diet as well. In this case, your healthy diet would contain more whole grain breads and porridge (soaked grains are best), starchy veggies like potato, yam, and corn, and fruits than mine does. But you should still be fighting the “goldfish at every snack” mentality for your child, since these are just not whole foods.

Regardless of how much of each food your baby eats, it is difficult to get a child to eat much of anything if they start off a meal with fruits, since those sugars are absorbed into their bloodstream quickly and their hunger signal turns off. It usually works better for me to serve “courses” starting with the protein/fat portion of the meal, and finishing with a few fruit pieces.

Allergies and Introductions: Every One is Unique

My husband and I have few allergies, but the few things which I am sensitive to (chicken eggs, cow dairy as a toddler) I have been wary of introducing too early to my children. I am also gluten intolerant, and after two of my children have tested positive as well, we have assumed it is hereditary and have put all our children on a gluten free diet.

Since every one is unique, watch for reactions when introducing the “common allergens” and acidic foods like tomato and some fruits. I’ve found that a baby may need to avoid a food, but a few months later they will be able to eat it without reaction. The most common reactions are loose stools and rashes at mouth or bottom. Vomiting, constipation, eczema, or histamine responses (swollen eyes, sneezing, difficulty breathing) are more severe reactions to a food, in which case it may be much longer before a child can handle that food again, if ever. You should contact your child’s doctor with a severe reaction, as follow-up testing may be advised.

One largely overlooked component to allergies is imbalance of intestinal flora. Babies usually have flora similar to mom’s, since they acquired their first dose from her in the birth canal and received daily probiotics in her milk. If you question your own gut health, or you/baby have a history of yeast or antibiotics, your baby may need some supplemental probiotics. I have used the Klaire Labs brand of Infant Formula probiotics. Homemade sauerkraut juice or yogurt are other ways to support baby’s intestinal flora.

Quality is Key

Eating an organic diet is expensive . . . but so is illness. Avoiding unnecessary chemicals on our foods is always a good idea, but even more crucial for the developing bodies of our children. Choose organic and grassfed whenever you find it and can budget it. Here is my prioritized list of foods to source organically, starting with oils and fats, and all animal products. Fruits and veggies are further down the list; you can download a free guide to the “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen” on Enviromental Working Group’s site, or download a free app to your smart phone which will allow you to look up produce item by item while at the market.

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Roasted Veggies!

Meal Ideas: These are all foods my babies and toddlers actually eat.

Breakfast

  • Scrambled eggs with butter (can season with homemade sauerkraut juice), blueberries (this is a meal they can feed themselves)
  • Unsweetened goat yogurt (or drizzled with honey after 12 months), or kefir smoothie, whole grain bread with almond butter
  • Soaked oatmeal/honey/butter/raisins with finely sliced natural breakfast sausage on the side
  • Sweet Oven Souffle, cut into squares, grapefruit wedges
  • Protein waffles, butter (syrup is just too messy for babies!)

Lunch

  • Veggie soup made with bone broth, avocado and/or Creme Fraiche (whipping cream cultured with yogurt starter for 24 hours) on top, can add sauerkraut juice after it has cooled a little in the bowl (home fermented or Bubbies brand are alive with probiotics)
  • Grassfed hot dog link, finely sliced, small pear pieces, cooked carrot medalions (another self-feed meal)
  • Hummus with olive oil, dabs of liver pate or avocado, applesauce or pumpkin souflee
  • Canned tuna/salmon/chicken with homemade mayo and raisins, thawed or cooked peas on the side
  • Dinner leftovers

Add a large salad to any of the above, and you’ve answered what to feed yourself for lunch as well.

Snack

  • Slices of raw cheese and a few raisins or apple slices (portable)
  • Goat yogurt with honey drizzle
  • Glass of raw milk (goat best for many babies) and a homemade muffin with butter (whole grain or almond/coconut flour, can have carrots, zucchini, or fruit in it) (also somewhat portable)
  • Banana and almond butter (peanut butter if no reaction)

Dinner

  • What you are eating!

Homemade Mayo [Basic Sauce]

I love mayonnaise, but I no longer use the store-bought kind because I haven’t found a tasty one with organic oils, no soy and no chicken eggs. So I make it instead. Here is a basic sauce I use for chicken salad, mayo, casseroles, or to top steamed broccoli.

Mock Mayonnaise
Melt over medium heat:
1 stick butter

Meanwhile combine in blender:
1 very large egg (duck) at room temperature (or 2 small chicken?)
2 tsp Dijon mustard (TJs)
1/2 tsp salt
Juice of one lime or half lemon (2tsp)
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1/4 tsp paprika powder, if desired

When butter is melted, and while the blender is running with the lid on and center piece removed, pour the butter oil in a small stream into the egg mixture until it emulsifies into a creamy sauce.

Yields enough to use with 3 cups chopped chicken, not counting the chopped apples, celery, or raisins.

Refrigerate for firm mayo.

For Curry Sauce (for broccoli, or in Chicken Divan casserole), add 1/2 tsp curry and omit paprika.

Awesome Almond Flour Muffin

I’m going out on a limb here and naming this the “Awesome Almond Flour Muffin” because it’s so yummy and versatile. This has become my go-to breakfast and mid morning snack for the kids and myself on Friday mornings as we rush off to Friday School (homeschool co-op).

Below is the recipe for Carrot Spice Muffins, but you can use the basic recipe for zucchini muffins, blueberry muffins, apple spice muffins, or banana muffins. And it’s a kissin’ cousin to my Chocolate Cupcakes. See below for variations.

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Carrot Spice Muffins

Heat oven to 350, and prepare 2 muffin tins (24 count) with greased paper liners (yes, greased).
Place in food processor with S blade:

5 large carrots, chunked

Process until mostly fine, then add:

3.5 cups almond flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill; almond meal from Trader Joe’s works too, but is just a little more crumbly)
2 tsp. soda
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt (Real Salt)
1TBS. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cloves

Pulse to incorporate dry ingredients into carrots. Add:

1 tsp. vanilla
1 TBS. apple cider vinegar
4 large eggs
1 cup honey (can go down to 3/4 cup if you prefer)

Blend all ingredients until smooth. Don’t over-blend.

Ladle into greased muffin papers. Bake for about 25 minutes in 350 degree oven, or until beginning to brown, but firm in middle. Remove to wire racks. Allow to cool (ha, ha) before serving with butter. Yum!

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Variations:

Zucchini Spice Muffins
Replace carrots with 2 medium zucchini, processed with S blade until fine at outset of recipe. Omit ginger. Add 2 TBS coconut flour with dry ingredients to help absorb additional moisture from zucchini.

Apple Spice MuffinsOmit carrots and ginger. Add 2 TBS coconut flour with dry ingredients to help absorb additional moisture from apples. Add 2 cups chopped apple at the end, after blending all ingredients smooth. I like to fold it in with a spoon after removing bowl from food processor. Add an additional 3/4 cup raisins if desired.

Blueberry Muffins
Omit carrots, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and vanilla. Add 2 TBS coconut flour with dry ingredients to help absorb additional moisture from blueberries. Add 2 tsp almond flavoring. Add 2 cups blueberries (frozen is fine) at the end, after blending all ingredients smooth. I like to fold them in with a spoon after removing bowl from food processor.

Banana Muffins here.

Chocolate Cupcakes here.

Chocolate Coconut Ganach

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In celebration of our completed Whole30, we are using this as a chocolate syrup over Black Cherry Ice Cream in banana splits. Hurray for us!

Chocolate Coconut Ganach
Melt over low heat:
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup honey
3/4 cup cocoa powder (TJs)
1 tsp vanilla
Whisk until smooth. Use warm as a syrup, or pour into a pan or moulds and cool for Ganach dessert (serve plated with a dollop of Creme Fraiche).

Here the Ganach is served in our banana splits.

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Black Cherry Ice Cream

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Oh, this ice cream is so good!

Whir in food processor until almost puréed:
2 cups frozen organic black cherries (Costco)
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp almond flavoring

In a large glass mixing bowl, whisk together:
2 cups SCD yogurt or kefir (24 hour=lactose free)
1/2 cup honey
1 cup coconut cream (or heavy whipping cream if you aren’t concerned about lactose)
1/4 cup flaxseed oil

Add cherry mixture, whisk until combined and pour into an ice cream maker.

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The flaxseed oil may be omitted if you will be serving the ice cream immediately, but if you will be freezing it for later, the oil helps for scoop-ability; without it your ice cream will be hard as a rock!

Clean Eating Day 8 [SCD, GAPS, Whole30]

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Last night I stuck these two halves of pumpkin in my oven with a half cup water in each pan, and set the oven on time delay bake at 400. When I arrived in the kitchen this morning, I had squash ready to purée! I didn’t get a picture of this morning’s purée, but it looked exactly like applesauce. Which added to the disappointment when tasting it. It wasn’t bad…but it wasn’t nearly as good as the acorn squash. Not much flavor or sweetness without the cider.

Breakfast
Hot tea, scrambled eggs, turkey sausage patties, half a white pumpkin roasted then puréed with cinnamon, nutmeg, and pear cider
Lunch
French onion soup, apple slices, grassfed hot dog or chicken apple sausage, leftover chili with some pumpkin stirred in for adults
Snack
Almonds, fried pork skins (I’m not recommending this…see below)
Dinner
Plum-mustard bbqed chicken drumsticks (it was so yummy!), roasted carrots, steamed frozen green beans, kale salad with dressing and raisins, salted almonds

So last night while I was hallowing out my pumpkins and seasoning my turkey sausage, Mr. Wonderful dashed off to the store to pick up a bag of fried pork skins. This was after a major craving for chips of any kind, and a revelation that pork skins are made from approved ingredients (sort of). I tried to explain to him that one of the goals of Whole30 is to break habits and addictions, and he said he wasn’t one bit worried about that as he only wants to lose a few pounds and then go back to eating Kettle potato chips in our otherwise exemplary diet. No plans to break this habit. So, we tasted the pork skins…and…we both thought they were gross. The kids polished off the entire (small) bag during the afternoon. Whatever.

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Here’s dinner…it was finger-licking’ good! The carrots were so easy: used a whole bag of precut baby carrots and roasted them in their own pan alongside the drumsticks. Frozen green beans and bagged baby kale finished off this easy meal.

Plum-Mustard BBQ Chicken Drumsticks
10 prunes, simmered in 1/4 water for 2 minutes or until soft, with cooking water (TJs)
2 Tb Dijon Mustard (TJs)
1/2 cup pear cider (TJs)
Himalayan Pink Salt, in grinder (TJs)
8 chicken drumsticks (free range, from New Seasons market)
Purée softened prunes with their cooking water, add to Dijon and pear cider, mixing until nearly smooth. Baste over drumsticks in a glass roasting pan. Season with salt. Bake at 400 for 45 minutes, or until browning and meat easily pulls from bones.

Clean Eating Day 7 [SCD, GAPS, Whole30]

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Breakfast
Hot tea, egg scramble skillets (one with turkey breakfast sausage and one with leftover chopped Italian sausage link and kale…we liked the turkey sausage one better), grapefruit, banana
Lunch
Veggie soup, grassfed hot dog or chicken apple sausage, apples
Dinner
French onion soup with leftover shredded T-bone steak, leftover brusselsprouts, salad with green apple, avocado, soaked and dried walnuts, and dressing.

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I like to make French Onion Soup the day after having a roast or steaks…some leftover beef to mince and add for a heartier main course than just broth and onions. But, a soup with so few ingredients requires each part be the best. I used beef bone broth which I made from gelatin rich knuckle bones (they come no extra charge when we buy 1/4 cow), and simmered them for 2 days in the crockpot. I did this a few weeks ago, so all I had to do was remember to defrost a couple quarts this morning.

Below is the steak shredded and ready for the soup and the leftover brusselsprouts awaiting the oven. I have been successfully broiling brusselsprouts all autumn long, but when cooking them yesterday they did not get tender. I rebroiled them today thinking I hadn’t done them long enough, but barely better. These were in a bag from Costco…perhaps this is end of season and they aren’t fresh anymore.

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French Onion Soup
2 large sweet yellow onions
2 Tb ghee
2 qts beef stock
1/2 tsp thyme
Celtic sea salt to taste (about 2 Tb)
Fresh ground pepper (Flower Pepper-TJs)
1/4 allspice
2-3 cups shredded cooked beef
Melt ghee in large heavy enameled pot. Slice onions into 1/4 inch thick quarter moons, then break into single strands while coating in the heated ghee. Caramelize over medium heat, stirring every 5 minutes until a rich golden brown, about 30 minutes. Add beef stock and spices. Add half of salt and allow to simmer, then taste and adjust seasoning.

Of course, this is best with toasted bread and cheese melted on top, but we enjoyed it plain. It’s only 30 days!

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Clean Eating Day 6 [SCD, GAPS, Whole30]

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Breakfast
Hot tea, scrambled eggs, turkey sausage patties, acorn squash: baked inverted halves at 400 for 1 hour, scooped out and mashed with a sprinkle of nutmeg and cinnamon and salt, 2Tb ghee, 3Tb pear cider.

Lunch
Leftover chili over shredded cabbage with avocados

Dinner
T bone steaks marinated with coconut aminos and a spice rub, roasted Brussel sprouts with blueberry/balsamic glaze, sautéed crimini mushrooms (ghee)

I used the delay bake mode on my oven, leaving the acorn squash halves in the oven over night. Came down to the kitchen to find them baked and ready for mashing.

We broiled the dinner steaks in the oven: 7 minutes on the first side, 3 on the second, for a tender medium rare. There was some leftover, which I sliced and shredded finely and will add to French Onion Soup tomorrow. (Did I mention we are studying France?)

I find its very important with grassfed steak to trim the fat off to avoid gamey flavor in the steak, and to allow them to come to room temperature before grilling/broiling for tenderness.

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Clean Eating Day 5 [SCD, GAPS, Whole30]

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Breakfast
Hot tea, Banana crepes, grapefruit, berry compote, turkey sausage, fried eggs
Lunch Snack
Salted almonds, bananas, applesauce crushers
Dinner
Crock Pot Squash Chili garnished with avocado and olives, green apple slices

We have been “visiting” France in our Homeschool cultural studies, so I wanted to make a crepe-like meal for the kids. I think Whole30 technically calls for no baked goods even from approved ingredients, but…oh well! 🙂 And they were delicious. (I tripled this recipe.)

Banana Crepes
1 ripe banana
2 eggs
Dash salt
Blend till frothy, pour into crepe pan heated with ghee. Add ghee before making each crepe. Fill with sliced bananas, wrap, and top with blueberry compote.
Makes about 3 crepes.

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Turkey Sausage
1 lb ground turkey (not breast only)
1tsp salt
1.5 Tb Frontier Herbs Poultry Seasoning (it’s sage, thyme, onion, marjoram, black pepper, cayenne pepper)
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
Knead until incorporated evenly. Best to make at least 8 hours ahead to let flavors combine in the fridge before frying.

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Crock Pot Squash Chili
Layer in the crock pot:
2 cups fresh Pico de gallo (Costco)
2 12oz cans diced tomatoes (TJs organic)
1 tsp garlic
1 tsp cumin
2 lbs ground beef, fried with legal taco seasoning (grassfed from my freezer, Oregon Spice Co. Taco Seasoning from Azure Standard)
3 cups diced butternut squash (Costco)
Heat on high for 1 hour, then cook on low for 4-6 hours.

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We are trying to schedule non-food treats for our children this month. Today we took them to OMSI, a children’s science museum. We ate the snack lunch while there, but were pretty hungry when we arrived home. Great to walk in the door to a hot crock pot meal all ready (and smelling wonderful)! Makes me feel like supermom.

And squash is a surprisingly good substitute for beans in chili.

Clean Eating Day 4 [SCD, GAPS, Whole30]

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Breakfast
Hot tea, Soft boiled eggs, grapefruit, turkey sausage patties
Lunch
Veggie Soup, hot dogs or leftover turky sausage, leftover grilled pineapple and guac and bells from night before, mandarins
Dinner
Oven roasted butternut squash, onion wedges, and Italian sausages, Romaine salad with green apple, avocado, and dressing.

The Italian sausage links are a pork sausage made with naturally raised pork and herbs and spices but no other additives from New Seasons Market. I found precut butternut squash at Costco (whew, that was easy!) and roasted it with wedges of sweet onion and the sausage links, all in the same pan!

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Line pan with parchment, toss squash and onion pieces in a couple Tbs olive oil, coarse salt and pepper to taste, add sausages, roast at 475 for 20 minutes, then stir, flip sausages, and broil another 10 minutes at 550.