This recipe combines the best of all strategies to help kids eat healthy foods – even straws!
You can make the soup with truly any green veggie and watch them devour it, but only if you follow the parent rules about not only what to put in the recipe, but HOW to serve it.
This post has been updated with a lovely zucchini version of the soup, but it was originally posted with asparagus, like this:
The Original Soup
It seems kind of silly to post an asparagus soup recipe just as all the fresh asparagus is disappearing from even the northern states (waving while shivering). I almost saved this one for next spring, but I decided to present it as an experiment to share.
Although this soup started out as a blended asparagus soup with the intent of cajoling my sons to eat asparagus before the season was over, you’ll notice it’s “blended green soup” in the title. I feel fairly confident that this soup base could be used with many green vegetables that usually don’t pass your children’s lips.
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.
In the new version of 2015, I chose zucchini as the green vegetable, since it too is something my younger kids attempt to leave on the plate whenever possible:
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. 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 green soup, which did, incredibly, meet the goal I set out to accomplish. I love it when a plan comes together…
Introduce your family to vegetables the French way, by starting with a pureed soup featuring the new veggie.
- 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 or zucchini
- 1/2-1 tsp. dried dill weed
- to serve: butter, Parmesan cheese, optional sour cream
- 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).
- (If using zucchini, add cubes at this time.)
- 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 base of this soup can be made ahead then finished when ready to serve to maintain a bright green color. Leave the dill and asparagus out and cook and add them when it’s serving time.
* If you’d like to save a pan, you can cook the asparagus right in the soup, but don’t add it until the last few minutes. You know me and dishes – I wouldn’t tell you to use a separate pan if it wouldn’t make things taste better. I think boiled asparagus loses a lot of the charm of the vegetable.
* Inspired by this recipe.
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.
Here’s our new fun thing once they already like the soup – I let them pipe on their own smiley faces with sour cream in a baggie with the corner snipped off:
We also use straws to drink blended soups from time to time, and I must say: That is a really effective strategy to get kids to drink their soup! Mine will beg for more soup when I hand out straws…
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.
UPDATE two years later? All the kids ate all the soup, both with asparagus and zucchini. Woot!
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…
Looking for more soup recipes? You won’t want to miss the eBook Winter Soups, a compilation from over 50 real food bloggers. I truly enjoy having this book in my collection for all the great new ideas. Check it out here.
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.
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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