Sunday, November 24, 2013

Kid-Friendly Tuscan Vegetable Soup.

It was a chilly Autumn day.  Orange leaves popped against the gray, overcast sky.  And I sat alone, inside my silent house, foolishly reading a spooky story.  Not that I like reading such stories.  Because they really scare me. 

Just as a found myself, paralyzed with fear from the chilling words, a SQUIRREL leaped onto my window, and hung on the outside screen.  My heart stopped.

Soon the possessed squirrel was gone, and I, still considerably spooked, decided to get an early start on dinner to put it all out of my mind.  And then something even more disturbing happened.  I couldn't find the recipe for the delicious soup I'd planned to make.  I'd discovered the recipe just last year, on Panera Bread's site.  But they'd taken it down!!  "Why, Panera Bread, WHY?," I cried. It took me a while to piece the recipe together.  Thankfully, some bloggers had posted part of the recipe, and then required that you click to go to Panera's page, (which no longer lists the recipe) and another had posted the whole thing with typos and stuff.  But after much trouble and comparison, I had the recipe, in it's entirety.  I decided to put it on my blog so that would never happen to me again.

Soon I was in the kitchen, chopping onions, donning my sexy onion goggles because my eyes were already inflamed from some camping we'd done, days earlier.  Campfires aren't good for me, but I love them.  You can get your own onion goggles here.  (Affiliate link) Your eyes will thank you, and your family say you look like an alien.  But you won't care, because your days of onion slicing suffering will be over. 

There's a good bit of chopping involved in this recipe, but as long as you have a good, sharp knife, the chopping can be very therapeutic. I probably enjoy it too much.  You could use a food processor or chopper to help you out, if you're not a knife-wielding weirdo like me.

 This soup is gluten-free, and can be vegan if you'd like.  I've used vegetable broth instead of chicken broth a few times, and that tastes just as good, but I always grate a pile of parmesan cheese on top, because I am not vegan. 

I use rainbow chard in this nutrient-dense soup.  The stems and veins of the deep, rich greens, are colorful, and really pretty!  Each one of those colors contains different nutrients and phytonutrients.  We're supposed to eat as many colors as we can in a day, so rainbow chard is awesome.  And full of vitamins A, C, K, and magnesium, potassium, and iron.  Your family should be eating it!

But, if your kids are afraid of vegetables, I've got you covered.  After the soup is done, use either an immersion blender, like this (affiliate link) or in batches, put it in a blender.  Be very careful to not burn yourself because it can shoot out the top and get your hands.  (There's a reason I know this.) Give it a few whirls in the blender, but don't liquefy the whole thing.  You should have very small chunks that are not quite identifiable or frightening to picky eaters.  Serve it with a grilled cheese or thick, crusty bread, and you're secretly, and successfully cramming tons of healthy veggies into the kids. 

Tuscan Vegetable Soup

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrots
4 large garlic cloves
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
28 oz diced tomatoes, with juice
16 oz Swiss chard and/or kale
2 cups cooked or canned cannellini beans, rinsed and drained 
7 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
1/4 cup chopped, fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon of salt, or to taste
Grated parmesan, optional

Heat the oil in a large pot, over medium heat.  Add the onions, celery, and carrots, and let cook for 6-8 minutes.  Add garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook another minute.  Add tomatoes and greens.  Cook until the greens have wilted down, about 10 minutes.  Puree one cup of the beans with one cup of the chicken broth.  Add mixture to the soup, and the remaining chicken broth, and beans.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.  Stir in basil and salt, and simmer about 10 more minutes.  To make a "kid-friendly" version, use a blender to break down the veggies into smaller pieces. Ladle into bowls, and top with parmesan cheese, if desired.  A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil is nice as well. :)

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