Getting kiddos to eat veggies can be damn near impossible. I’m speaking not only from the experience of having 2 kiddos but teaching thousands of kiddos in the kitchen over the years. I know it can be frustrating to fight with picky eaters and is often times easier to just give in so that they eat something. As parents we have to pick our battles but to me, the food battle is an important one because it is setting the course for eating habits for life. Not to mention fueling kiddos growing bodies at a crucial time in their development. Instead of preparing for battle, wave the white flag, and choose a day (or more) to work together with food by inviting the kiddos into the kitchen to work with veggies and help prepare dinner.
I know we are busy and time is of the essence but if you can carve out a special afternoon to work together uninterrupted in the kitchen not only will your kiddos learn life long skills and value the bonding time with you, you will be empowering them to have more of a connection with their food. They will understand that hard work, attention to detail, and love goes into making meals. They will have a sense of accomplishment and will be more inclined to try it because if they made it, their little egos are on the line.
This past Wednesday the girls helped make Minnestrone Soup. You can have kids of all ages help prepare this recipe. My 3 year old peeled the carrots, while my older daughter chopped them. I don’t usually peel carrots for soup recipes but giving her this extra step made her feel more connected to the recipe. When I have kids cut carrots, I usually cut them in half lengthwise to create a flat surface to make it easier for their little hands to chop without the food rocking around. Lady A used a small Shun utility knife for this task. For the zucchini I sliced lengthwise in quarters so that Little Miss could easily chop them with a safety knife. I gave her the goal of making them all the same thickness with each cut. For the celery, make sure to place them with the 2 edges facing down to again create a flat surface to prevent it from rocking as your kiddo cuts. Sometimes I have the kids cut the onions and they usually wear swimming goggles to prevent tears but yesterday I chopped the onions to contribute to my part of the team work activity.
Little Miss loves working at the stove while Lady A tends to shy away from all things fire (she even hates candles). I keep encouraging her to help stir and showing her that the fire is controlled, I know that with patience and time she will come around. Little Miss on the other hand will stand at the stove all afternoon stirring and tending the pots. She makes it her personal responsibility. We often talk about the heat and importance of using caution to stay safe. I don’t want them to have fear but to understand the boundaries in the kitchen.
Whether you are going to invite with your kiddos to help or enjoy cooking solo, this Minestrone soup is quite delicious, perfect for a cold winter day, and packed with lots of veggies. I first tried it out for Christmas dinner with my family. While I was making it, my husband declared that he’s never liked minestrone soup, so the pressure was on. This has now become a fast favorite and has been on rotation for family dinners this year. Don’t be afraid to use salt to add depth of flavor and taste as you go. When it comes to seasoning, I rarely measure it out. I often eye ball it and taste along the way. When I have the kiddos help, I have them measure it out to build their fine motor skill control and always encourage them to smell everything we add in.
2 TB olive oil
1/2 large onion, diced
2 celery, diced
2 large carrots, diced
1 can tomato sauce
2 zucchini, quarter lengthwise and sliced
2 cups green beans (I used frozen)
1-2 tsp salt
1 /2 tsp pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 can diced tomatoes
48 oz broth (I use chicken but use veggie for vegan/vegetarian version)
2 bay leaves
2 cups spinach
1 can cannellini bean (white beans)
1 cup macaroni noodles
Garnish: parmesan cheese, lemon juice, olive oil
In a large dutch oven or pot, warm olive oil over medium high heat. Stir in onion, carrots, and celery and sauté until translucent, around 7 minutes. Season with salt and stir in tomato sauce and cook to reduce.
Add zucchini and green beans and stir to coat. Season with oregano, thyme, salt and pepper. Stir in diced tomatoes, broth, bay leaves. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer, put lid on with a small gap to let steam escape, and let cook for minimum of 10 minutes or as long as you want. (I go longer if I have time).
Stir in spinach, beans, and macaroni noodles and cook for an additional 15 minutes until noodles are cooked.
Squeeze in fresh lemon juice and serve. Garnish with parmesan cheese and additional s&p if desired.