Hope you’re enjoying the frenetic Back to School season and adjusting to all the crazy changes that come with it.
How’s it going in the food category, making healthy breakfast, snacks, lunches and dinners? I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re juggling multiple kids who happen to be attending different schools. I’ve got one at each stage — elementary, middle and high school – and am getting pulled in three very different directions. The youngest doesn’t like his food to touch anything on the plate, the middle one refuses multi-grain breads and the latter is a typical teen craving all things junk food.
So what’s a parent to do?
Get ‘em while they’re hungry. That’s part of my philosophy to get kids to eat nutritiously. It works at home with my kids and it works at school, with classroom snacks and other food initiatives I’ve helped with, like “pesto fest” and the Healthy Breakfast program.
I’ve discovered that kids will eat almost anything if they are famished, especially if they don’t have a less healthy option available. And when they walk in the door from school, they’re prime targets. (I know it’s a bit devious but it’s no worse than the tried and true Sneaky Chef approach!) And since caregivers are always seeking new ideas to get our kids to eat well, I thought I’d share one of my most successful.
So hold off on letting the kids eat that afterschool bowl of Goldfish or Oreo cookies. Have a pot of soup simmering on the stove when they walk in the door. The aroma will lead them directly to the kitchen wondering what’s cooking. Who can resist slurping down a hearty bowl of yum, especially as the days turn nippy? It’s “souper” snacking!
And what better place to shop than the farmers’ market, a cornucopia of ingredients you can use to create soul soothing soups? My family favorites are Golden Potato Leek, Creamy Carrot, Corn Chowder, Hearty Vegetable, Roasted Tomato, Old Fashioned Chicken (you can get the birds there too!), Butternut Squash and Thai Pumpkin. Don’t forget you can make and freeze large quantities of soup, which makes the soup snack idea that much easier. And one more thing – it sure is nice to be able to check off a number of their daily nutritional requirements after school. It takes a bit of the pressure off dinner, which can be a challenge!
Here’s one of my favorite soup recipes:
Creamy Carrot Ginger & Lemon Grass Soup
Makes 2 ½ quarts
The lemongrass and ginger meld beautifully with sweet organic carrots to create this velvety smooth soup. Some crispy shallots and chopped cilantro add the finishing touch. Make and freeze big batches to enjoy for weeks or months to come. When processed in a high powered blender such as a Vitamix this soup is taken to the next level of decadence. No cream required! If you’d like, you can also add a peeled and sliced potato or two to thicken the soup.
- 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons salted butter
- 6 cups carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
- 4 stalks lemon grass, white parts washed and cut into 2 inch pieces
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 cup shallots, peeled and sliced
- 2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
- 8 cups stock (chicken or vegetable)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 3 tablespoons cilantro, washed and chopped
In a stock pot, heat the olive oil and butter on medium heat until butter is melted. Add the shallots, garlic, ginger and lemon grass. Cook for about 10 minutes or so. Add the carrots and stock and bring to a rapid boil. Cook until the carrots are just fork tender for about 15-20 minutes. Turn the heat off.
Remove the tough lemon grass stalks and puree in batches until silky smooth. (A high power blender such as the Vitamix works wonders on a soup like this with a creamy result for a no dairy soup. If you have a blender such as this you can leave in the lemon grass.) You can also use an immersion blender.
Season the soup with salt and pepper. Garnish with chopped cilantro and crispy shallots.
Quick Crispy Shallots
- 4 shallots, peeled and sliced thinly
- 6 tablespoons canola oil
Place the shallots in a small bowl and cover with oil. Microwave on high for 2 ½ minutes. Continue to cook the shallots in short intervals until golden. They can go from golden to overcooked in a very few seconds so keep a close watch! Remove the shallots quickly from the oil and drain on a paper towel lined plate.