During these winter months I find myself craving soup, and I often end up making one soup or another at least once a week for dinner. A mixed vegetable soup is a great way of introducing your kids to veggies that they don’t usually eat. While I encourage my kids to try something new, the rule at our dinner table is eat only what you do like. So if a soup has mushrooms, carrots and potatoes, and you happen not to like mushrooms, pick them out and eat the rest of the soup – at least that way they get used to the mushroom flavor without eating the mushrooms themselves (which do have a weird texture).
The soup I decided to share with you is not one that you can pick and choose from; it is smooth and creamy (actual cream is optional), and is a super fast to prepare with kids, if you just plan a few hours in advance.
The actual cooking time can be between 15-20 minutes, in which you can keep them busy by painting some stale bread with olive oil and making delicious garlic toasts to dip in their soup.
For the Soup
1 large onion
3 celery stalks
3 large carrots
¼ cup olive oil
1 medium to large butternut squash
1 acorn squash
2-3 sweet potatoes
32 ounces vegetable broth
2 cups water
A few fresh sage leaves or 1/8 spoon dried sage (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup heavy cream for serving (optional)
For the Garlic Toasts
15-20 small pieces of bread
¼ cup olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
1 garlic clove
Large sheet pan
Mezzaluna or crinkle cutter, if letting the kids help with chopping
Immersion blender, regular blender or food processor
Silicone pastry brush
Small bowl for olive oil
Large sheet pan
Before kids arrive in kitchen
Place whole butternut squash, acorn squash and the sweet potatoes on a lined sheet pan. Roast in a 400-degree oven for 1.5 or until veggies are very soft. Let cool. You can do that up to a day in advance.
Chop the onion
Slice some bread into 3x3 (roughly) pieces, and place on large sheet pan.
Pour the olive oil into a bowl (better to add a half of the quantity and then when they need more add the rest).
Slice the garlic clove to two or three.
Chop the celery and carrots. If you let your child help, have a look at these tips and tools to let them chop the celery and the carrots (the mezzaluna is a good choice for the celery and the crinkle cutter is easier to use with carrots).
In a large pot over medium-high heat sautee the onions, celery and carrots in the olive oil. Add salt and cover the pot. Lower the heat to medium-low and let cook for 7-10 minutes.
After the roasted vegetables have cooled enough to handle, let your children peel them with their hands. Cut the squash open and remove all the seeds.
Roughly chop the roasted veggies. This is a good opportunity to let the kids use a real knife, as the vegetables are very soft. At this point, if they’re up to it have the children do a little taste test to see if they can tell the difference between the different squash and sweet potato - with their eyes closed!
Add the roasted vegetables to the pot as well as the broth, water and sage.
Cover the pot and let cook for 10 minutes, until it comes to a boil. Lower heat let cook for a few more minutes then remove from heat and remove the sage, if using fresh leaves.
Using an immersion blender, blend the soup so that is totally smooth and does not have any visible pieces of any vegetables. Alternatively, transfer the soup to a standing blender or food processor and blend, then transfer back to the pot.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
While the soup is cooking, or while you are blending it, have the children paint the bread pieces with olive oil, then sprinkle some salt. You can show them how to pinch salt and sprinkle all over the piece of bread.
Give each child a piece of garlic clove and let then “draw” on the bread, pretending the garlic is a crayon. This way, you will get some garlic flavor without being too overwhelming.
Toast the bread for 5-7 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven.