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December, 2008

A Purple Lunch

By Dennis Linden

While the competing schedules of today’s busy modern family make it difficult to share a home-cooked meal together, it is not impossible with a little planning, and can even be fun
.

Cookin with the Kids
Melissa’s encourages parents to find the time to gather as a family once a week for a dinner that everyone pitches in to prepare. It’s a great way to teach your children some basic cooking skills and, more importantly, cooking with your children will build memories that will remain in your hearts forever.

Each COOKIN’ with the KIDS feature will offer a simple, healthy and delicious recipe that can be prepared by a child or a group of children working together, under the supervision of an adult. Parents should always read through each recipe carefully to decide the division of labor based on age and ability as well as where help will be especially needed. Since the recipes are the kids’ contribution to a family meal, each article will include suggested complimenting dishes from Melissa’s recipe archives for the adults
.

It seems like summer just ended and already the kids are out of school for the holidays. So here’s a fun and very healthy lunch idea that your young sous chefs can help to prepare that looks like it came out of Dr. Seuss’s kitchen, a Purple Soup!

Normally, putting fresh beets in a kitchen with kids would be very messy and a great way to permanently change the color scheme of said kitchen as well as all the clothes of every child in the room. However, Melissa’s Peeled Baby Red Beets eliminates this collateral damage with a fully cooked, vacuum-packed bag of the sweet root that keeps its fresh-from-the-field qualities but with no muss, no fuss and almost no touch convenience!

This recipe has very few parts to it and only takes about 30 minutes to prepare, including cooking time. The adult in the kitchen may want to chop up the red cabbage and onion just to ensure safety, if you have only young kitchen helpers, otherwise, an older child can handle these jobs easily. The smashing of the garlic cloves can be done with a solid spatula or almost any broad, flat kitchen tool by a child of any age; besides, all children should be introduced to the attributes of garlic early in life as one of nature’s gifts to health in the form of a truly great culinary ingredient.

PURPLE SOUP

Supervise your helpers with the sautéing of the veggies in the recipe. Since the beets are already peeled and precooked, another 15 minutes of simmering time with the sautéed vegetables should be enough to soften them up nicely before the whole mixture heads to the food processor or blender. Point of interest along the way: Watch the color change and deepen when the small amount of vinegar is added. A trick from Dr. Seuss’s cookbook, perhaps? The last step is a quick purée to produce a hot purple soup in minutes; the perfect lunch dish on a cold winter’s day. We suggest that a sugar free grape soda or organic grape juice accompany the soup, with maybe a pile of organic blue corn chips on the side and a bunch of fresh red grapes for dessert to complete the color motif.

This is more than just a fun-colored dish. Fresh produce with purple or red pigmentation is a sign that powerful antioxidants are present. Antioxidants help the body’s immune system to combat chronic disease; your six-year- old might not care about this, but your future sixty-year-old child will! Plus beets will quench a child’s sweet tooth, as they have the highest sugar content of all vegetables, yet are very low in calories. Warming, sweet, healthy and, most importantly, it’s purple!

PURPLE SOUP
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 medium red onion, chopped
1½ cups red cabbage, chopped
1 tsp. caraway seed
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 Tbsp. butter
1 package Melissa’s Peeled and Steamed Baby Red Beets, beets halved
2 ½ cups water
1¼ cups vegetable stock
1¼ Tbsp. red wine vinegar
½ cup sour cream

What Kids Can Do:

1. In a soup pot, sauté the onion, cabbage, caraway seed and garlic in the butter for about 5 minutes.
2. Add the beets, water and stock, then cover and cook until the beets are tender, about 15 minutes.
3. Add vinegar (watch the color deepen!)
4. Ask an adult to add a little salt and pepper to taste
5. Ask an adult to purée the soup in a food processor or blender
6. Add a dollop of sour cream to each bowl of soup.

Note for supervising adult:

• Oversee or simply do the chopping of the vegetables, depending on the age of your child.
• Purée the soup in a food processor or blender.
• Take over the serving of the hot soup once it has run been through the food processor, hot soup is not child’s play.

Serving suggestion:
Accompany with organic grape juice, organic blue corn chips and a bunch of red grapes for dessert, for a totally purple lunch!