Does anyone else out there have two boys close in age? If you do, please tell me your household gets competitive?
My boys race to see who can get ready for bed the fastest, who can kick their laundry down the stairs the farthest, who can hit the fence with the wiffle ball the most times, and who can build the biggest Lego creation ever known to man.
I decided to capitalize on this abundance of competition in our household, and thus the Soup Games were born.
Each week during winter, when our bodies crave warming food like soup, the boys pick out a recipe that appeals to them. They have the best time poring through cookbooks (I bought two just on soups). Then we make both of their chosen soups on Sunday and we judge them over dinner. The boys’ grandparents come over most Sundays, so we have a judging panel of six.
The boys created a master chart that we hung on the kitchen wall listing all of the soups and their ratings. Adding up the totals provided a little math practice, which certainly never hurt anyone! By the end of each winter we have quite a record.
The soups started out very basic. We were eating chicken noodle, chicken alphabet and tomato. But eventually the boys became more adventurous. The competition moved from whose soup would score the most points to who could find the most unusual yet delicious soup. The three outstanding winners from that first year were red lentil, black bean and peanut (find recipes for the latter two below).
I assure you, before our Soup Games began, my boys were not shoveling broccoli or chickpea soup into their mouths. But now they are, along with green cabbage, pumpkin and tortilla soups. And because boys will be boys, they still compete to see who can eat it the fastest or who can score the most pieces of bread with their soup, but at least they are finishing with a warm belly of healthy food.
The other upside of soup night is the leftovers, providing a week of delicious lunches and a freezer full of future dinners.
Casey Seidenberg is the co-founder of Nourish Schools, a D.C.-based nutrition education company.Black Bean Soup
Serves 6 (serving size is 1 cup)
Beans provide vegetarian protein. Onion, garlic and cumin are natural immune boosters. The cilantro and carrot provide important antioxidants.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 15- to 16-ounce cans black beans, undrained
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
1 1/2 cups homemade or low-sodium chicken stock
Chopped fresh cilantro
Chopped green onions
Crumbled cheddar or feta cheese
Heat oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot and garlic and saute until the vegetables begin to soften, about 8 minutes.
Mix in the cumin.
Add the beans, tomatoes with juice and stock. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, cover and cook until the carrots are tender, about 15 minutes.
Transfer half of the soup to a blender and puree until smooth. Return the puree to the pot. Simmer the soup until it is slightly thickened, about 15 minutes.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Ladle the soup into bowls. Top with cilantro, green onions and cheese as desired.
Makes 6-7 cups (serving size is 1 cup)
Peanut butter provides protein. Coconut milk has lauric acid, which is good for brain growth. The cayenne and curry powders are anti-inflammatory. Adapted from “Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen” (Clarkson Potter, 2006).
1 to 2 tablespoons roasted peanut oil
1 large onion, cut into ½-inch dice
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro stems
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne or hot red pepper flakes, to taste
2 tablespoons curry powder
One 29-ounce can crushed tomatoes
2/3 cup peanut butter, preferably organic and unsweetened
1 cup coconut milk, or more to taste
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish
Heat the oil in a soup pot, then add the onion, garlic and cilantro stems. Stir, then cook over high heat for a few minutes to warm the onion. Lower the heat to medium and cook until the onion has softened somewhat, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in the cayenne and curry powder.
Add 3 cups of water and the tomatoes, including all their juices. Stir well and bring to a boil. Drop in the peanut butter and simmer until the onions are soft and the peanut butter has dissolved, about 15 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk. Season the soup with salt. It will take less than most soups.
Just before serving, add the chopped cilantro. Serve with a dollop of yogurt in each bowl, a wedge of lime on the side and rice if desired.