From the January 2015 issue

Soup Ideas for Winter Meals Kids Will Love

When it's cold outside, nothing warms up your family – and makes for a quick, soothing dinner – like a big pot of soup.

As the temperatures begin to slide, bring the heat up in your house by making one of these soup recipes. Even better, soups are easy enough to make you can invite your kids to help, too.

"The cold times of year, like now, are the perfect time to introduce kids to cooking," says chef Shawn Loving, culinary arts department chair at Schoolcraft College in Livonia and the father of two, ages 12 and 7. "It's easier to capture kids' attention and get them interested in what's going on in the kitchen, especially when there's a blizzard outside."

1. DIY soup recipe to make with your kids

At its most basic, soup is just a hot liquid with chopped ingredients stirred into it. This recipe breaks soup down into steps your kids can follow to create their own unique version. A word to the wise: Less is more. Encourage your kids to keep their recipe simple until they become familiar with spices and what ingredients go well together. No one wants a big bowl of soup stuffed with over-seasoned vegetables and meat!

  1. Heat 1 Tbsp. oil at medium-high heat in a large soup pot. Add in your favorite flavor-producing vegetable ingredients like chopped onions, carrots, celery and bell peppers. Sauté until soft. (You can skip this step if you're short on time.)
  2. Pour in one 32-ounce carton chicken, beef or vegetable broth (4 cups).
  3. Check out your leftovers in the fridge – stir in cooked, cubed meat like chicken, sausage or beef. Don't forget to look for already-cooked vegetables like bite-sized broccoli, cauliflower and snow peas. Pasta is fair game, too! Just make sure to add it in the final minutes of cooking, so you don't overcook it.
  4. Bring your mixture to a boil and then simmer until mix-ins are tender and heated through.
  5. Adjust seasonings. Along with salt and pepper, consider adding in garlic powder, thyme, basil, oregano, paprika or other spices that pair nicely with your soup ingredients.

2. Simple chicken noodle soup

Serves four

Favorite soup for kids? Hands down it's the classic chicken noodle variety with lightly seasoned broth bathing thick noodles and the occasional chunk of chicken and diced vegetables.

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp. olive or vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 6 green onions, sliced
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped (see tips about removing the core in the sidebar below)
  • 2 cups cubed, cooked chicken (leftovers are fine)
  • 2 cups uncooked egg noodles
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 32-ounce cartons chicken broth

Directions

In a large saucepan, heat oil to medium-high heat and add in carrots and onions; cook until tender, about 4 minutes. Add in the rest of the ingredients and heat to boiling; reduce heat to a simmer and then cover. Cook for about 10 minutes and until the noodles are tender.

3. Tomato soup with grilled cheese croutons

Chef Loving uses cooked, blended rice to thicken tomato soup instead of the typical heavy cream – making the soup healthy, while still creamy. To tempt kids to give tomato soup a try, top with grilled cheese bites.

Ingredients (soup)

  • 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • I small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped (or ½ tsp. garlic powder)
  • 1 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato puree
  • 1 14-ounce can chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup uncooked white rice
  • 1 32-ounce carton chicken broth (4 cups)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Parmesan cheese to sprinkle on each serving

Directions

In a large saucepan, bring the oil to medium-high heat. Saute the onions and carrots until tender. Add in the sugar, vinegar and tomato puree. Then stir in the chopped tomatoes, half the chicken broth and rice.

Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat. Simmer until the rice is tender. In batches, Place the mixture in the blender; process until smooth. (You can also use an immersion blender, which is a stick-shaped blender device that you dip straight into the pot.) You may need to add more chicken broth to get your desired consistency.

Place the soup mixture back into the pot and bring to a gentle simmer. Adjust seasonings.

Ingredients (grilled cheese croutons)

  • 4 pieces good-quality bread
  • 8 slices American cheese
  • Olive oil

Directions

  • Lightly brush the outside of each slice of bread with olive oil. In a skillet over medium-high heat, place a piece of bread, add two slices cheese on top and then another piece of bread with the oil side up. Cook for about 2 minutes on each side or until browned.
  • Remove from heat and allow to cool. Cut the sandwiches into cubes. Serve the soup topped with croutons.

Quick ideas for more nutritious soups

Besides being quick and easy to make, soups are popular among parents for another reason: You can add in vegetables and usually entice even picky eaters to give them a try. To increase the nutritional value in your next soup pot, try these ideas:

Choose frozen vegetables. They have the same amount of nutrition as fresh vegetables and they happen to be very convenient to stir into a simmering soup!

Use pre-chopped ingredients. In the frozen aisle, look for chopped veggies like onions, carrots and more. This can slice prep time. You may be able to find some meat chopped in the meat department, too.

Trim the meat. Opt for less fattening cuts of meat like chicken and lean ground beef. You might also want to use less meat and more vegetables or beans in your soup to lighten it up while still making it filling.

Chef tip: make soup ingredients more kid-pleasing

Farmington dad and professional chef Shawn Loving understands it can be challenging to get kids to eat their vegetables. Here, he offers some tips on how to make your ingredients more appealing to kids.

Peel celery. The fibrous outer pieces of celery can be a turn off for kids – too chewy. Use a vegetable peeler to lightly remove the outer celery strings.

Remove the carrot core. After peeling the outside of the carrot, cut lengthwise in half and then halve lengthwise each piece. Again working lengthwise, cut the pointed portion off each long piece – this is the carrot's core, which tends to stay harder than the rest of the carrot when cooking.

Cook pasta separately. Putting uncooked pasta in with soup while it's simmering can lead to noodles lingering in the bottom of the pot – and, once you ladle it, the bottom of each bowl. Loving suggests cooking it separately and then stirring into the soup while still hot. Save some of t
he pasta cooking water and stir that in, too. Some starch remains in the pasta water – and helps thicken soups.

Chef tip: slow-cooker secret

Skip the salt to start, suggests chef Shawn Loving, Schoolcraft College's culinary arts department chair.

"(Salt) draws moisture out of the ingredients you're cooking," he says. "The meat will be really tender at the end, but just because it's tender doesn't mean it will have flavor – the salt will have drawn out all the flavor."

Instead, add a bit seasoning, like spices, in moderation at the beginning. Toward the end, adjust, adding in more seasoning and sprinkling with salt.

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