As I mentioned in my post about grown-up, real food tastebuds this week, I’ve recently finished reading French Kids Eat Everything, by Karen le Billon. The book is inspiring in many ways, not the least of which is the success the French have with teaching their children to not only tolerate but enjoy a variety of vegetables. One of the helpful strategies the author shares is to introduce new foods deliberately, with purpose, with a plan. The French often put a vegetable in a pureed soup first to allow children to get used to the flavor before having to worry about the texture or visually what it looks like. Then later in the same week, the same veggie will show up in a more “whole” form, often both raw and cooked, to keep exposure up. I took a page from the book and decided I would find/create a blended asparagus soup a few weeks ago, since asparagus was in-season, beloved my me, and disliked by 2 1/2 of my three kids. (The 5yo girl changes her mind from day to day…) It’s even one of the foods my husband used to dislike but now will tolerate, so I knew I would even be continuing to help his tastebuds appreciate it. I also made certain to follow a few of the other French “food rules” that day to ensure success of the newly introduced soup:
- We had no snacking or munching anywhere close to dinner. In fact, we might have even missed afternoon snack entirely that day, which was brilliant. Hungry children eat more vegetables.
- I served the soup first, before the rest of the meal even showed up on the table.
- I made it fun with buttery faces and worked VERY hard to serve it in a relaxed manner (even after I realized I had made a huge mistake). The French believe food should be above all enjoyable, and that is the overriding tone of every meal, which are also slow and relaxed. Let’s just say “slow and relaxed” doesn’t exactly describe the pace or tone of a normal meal at the Kimballs (we actually do eat slowly, much to my husband’s chagrin, but the part about “getting everyone served up” is always super hectic).
To find the soup recipe, I followed the strategy that I outline in Better Than a Box for creating one’s own dish, and I used a few recipes online plus recipes the author of French Kids Eat Everything listed in the back of her book, and I cobbled together something I thought my family would like. I present to you the magic asparagus soup, which did, incredibly, meet the goal I set out to accomplish. I love it when a plan comes together…
|Recipe Connection: Blended Asparagus (or any green) Soup|
- 2 Tbs. olive oil or butter
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 small leek, white parts only, sliced in half moons
- 1 small potato, peeled and diced
- 1/4-1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 c. water
- 1-2 c. homemade chicken stock
- 1/2-1 Tbs. fat (bacon grease, lard, tallow, butter)
- about 3/4 lb. fresh asparagus
- 1/2-1 tsp. dried dill weed
- to serve: butter, Parmesan cheese
- Over medium heat, saute the onion and leek in oil/butter for 3-5 minutes until softening. Add the potato cubes and salt and cook and stir a few minutes more.
- Pour in the stock and water (or use all stock or vegetable broth) and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, covered, for 10-20 minutes until potatoes are soft. Smaller pieces will cook faster if you’re under a time crunch.
- Meanwhile, prepare the asparagus. Wash it well, remove the ends by snapping them off, then cut the stalks into 1-inch pieces. Optionally, save the tips for a pretty garnish or silly faces. In a separate skillet, saute the asparagus until crisp tender in the additional fat (or cook slightly longer if necessary for blending).
- When the potatoes are soft and you’re ready to serve the soup, add the asparagus and dill to the soup base. Puree, either with a hand blender (this is difficult if the asparagus is only crisp tender) or in a full-sized blender. Just be careful with the hot liquid either way.
- Serve to children with little pats of butter making a happy face and grate Parmesan cheese and/or use a dash of dried dill for the hair and beard.
- It’s a beautiful green soup with a light flavor, perfect for a first course when the children are very hungry.
The first time I made this soup, I forgot to add the dill until I had already impressed my children with my butter face making skills…I nearly got cranky about it, but then I remembered that the French enjoy food and make it fun…so out came the dill in a shaker to make hair and a beard! Later we added some Parmesan for the same fun effect.
Just so you remember, here’s where my children began in their relationship with asparagus that night:
- Paul, 8: Turns up his nose in disgust every time it’s served. I make him take one bite, and he hates it.
- Leah, 5: Sometimes says she loves asparagus, but not the tops. We joke that we’ll sit by each other and I’ll eat her tops, my favorite part, and share the stems from my plate with her. Every few times we eat it, she claims she absolutely does not like asparagus. ???
- John, 22 months: Ignores the asparagus on his plate every time it’s been served as a sauteed veggie. Generally loves meat and fruit and the occasional vegetable.
When we had asparagus soup a la butter face, it went quite well, although everyone was surprised to have soup as a “starter” and the real meal coming afterward. Leah adored the faces, John stirred them in before I even finished (but proceeded to lap up almost 3 bowls!) and Paul really enjoyed watching the butter melt into puddles in his soup and marveled that they stayed where they were even after completely melting. He also ate two bowls, slightly grudgingly, but far more asparagus than the one lonely bite he’ll usually allow past his lips. All in all, it was a very good experiment and highly enjoyable. If only I could have kept up the good attitude for the rest of the meal…
Your Turn: The Experiment
What green vegetable do your kids turn up their noses at? With the mild base of potatoes and leek, I feel pretty certain that this soup – with or without the dilly hair – would do just great with many other veggies: zucchini, spinach, broccoli, green beans, peas, etc. What do you think? Will it taste good? Will it work on your kids? Be sure to get them to the table hungry, and try the butter faces – that worked far, far more effectively than I ever expected. My kids even ate leftovers for lunch later in the same week, so it wasn’t a total fluke. Please let us know in the comments what veggies you try in place of the asparagus and how much you use (and if you swap the dill for something else, omit it, or leave it in). Of course, you can try it with asparagus too – it’s delectable.
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