Cookin' with the Kids
Simple Sides: Apple-Cheddar Winter Soup
By Dennis Linden
Competing schedules in the day-to-day lives of a busy modern family make it difficult to share a home-cooked meal together, but not impossible. In fact, with a little planning, cooking together can become a fun family event and learning opportunity. This feature will focus on providing a child or a group of children, working together under the supervision of an adult, with one uncomplicated, healthy, and delicious side dish recipe. The dishes will be centered on seasonal fresh produce items and tasks that will allow even the youngest kitchen helper to contribute to the family meal. Parents should always read through each recipe carefully to judge the division of labor based on age and ability as well as to identify where adult attention might be especially needed.
Many of the recipes presented here will seem very basic--this is by design. It is hoped that these simple preparations will provide the culinary foundation and confidence to inspire kids to try more challenging recipes as their experience in the kitchen develops. Melissa’s encourages parents to find the time to gather as a family unit at least once a week for a dinner that everyone pitches in to prepare. It’s a wonderful way to teach a child basic culinary skills and, more importantly, cooking with your children will build memories in all of your hearts forever. “No one is born a great cook, one learns by doing” – Julia Child.
Here’s an unusual recipe that will grab the attention of young kitchen helpers because it makes a warming, deeply flavorful soup using two of kids’ favorite snack foods: fresh apples and cheddar cheese! Blending in a log of Melissa’s Cooked Quinoa will add texture as well as provide the family with an excellent source of complete protein to combat January’s chilly weather.
This soup is a great example of fun and flexibility in the kitchen for beginner cooks! Combining these two very dissimilar foods into a soup, and by transforming them into a new dish entirely, proves an enlightening experience for the novice cook. This is also the perfect recipe for teaching the basics in soup construction as there are just enough supporting ingredients to introduce a novice to flavor additives without being tedious; plus, this soup does not require hours of simmering to meld those flavors.
While quinoa is relatively simple to cook from scratch, speed things along for your kitchen crew by eliminating the stovetop step using Melissa’s convenient Cooked Quinoa. Your assistants will get plenty of quinoa-cooking opportunities in the years to come, but for now it’s simply one ingredient among several, which cuts down prep time for young minds that can be distracted easily. Melissa’s Cooked Quinoa has the same slightly sweet-nutty taste as quinoa cooked from scratch, though the real flavors of this soup come from the other more dominant flavored ingredients. In fact, one of quinoa’s most useful characteristics is that the grain readily absorbs other components’ flavors in a dish.
Being January, produce sections across the country are brimming with fresh apple variety choices. The recipe suggests a Gala or Honeycrisp because both are sweet and relatively “soft” in texture, so they’ll break down quickly during the cooking process. A gold Delicious would work too, though it’s the least flavorful. Of course, there is an array of apple choices--let your sous chefs pick out their favorite variety! Peeling an apple is a fairly safe task with today’s kitchen tool designs, though the adult in the room still needs to oversee this job if your helper is particularly young. A few small apples might better suit small hands rather than one large apple.
A nice touch and a good culinary lesson can be found in the nifty garnish for this soup. I used a toaster oven to cook the doctored-up black rye, which seemed a little more kid-friendly to me that than using a big oven for this small task. There’s a bit of art-n-crafts to the making of these tasty crotons. Plus, the lesson of considering eye-appeal with this hearty little garnish and the sprinkling of the onion greens should be emphasized to your helpers as being just as important as the ingredients in the soup. Stay warm and enjoy!
Apple Cheddar Soup
3 TBS olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 large sweet apple, peeled and chopped [Gala or Honeycrisp]
1 log Melissa’s Cooked Quinoa [2 cups equivalent]
3½ cups chicken broth
1 cup unsweetened apple juice
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
8 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
2 slices dark rye bread
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 green onions, green tops only, chopped fine
What the kids can do:
Chop up the onion and apple. Coat a large soup pot with olive oil, add onion and apple, then cook until the apple is soft and onion begins to brown, 8 to 10 minutes.
Add quinoa, broth, apple juice, thyme, salt, and pepper and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 10 minutes.
Measure out ¼ cup (2 oz.) of the cheese, set aside, add remaining cheese to the pot, turn down heat to low, and cook until cheese is melted. Allow to cool just slightly then puree in a blender. Do in batches if necessary.
Meanwhile, preheat the broiler or a toaster oven. Spread mustard on bread and top with remaining cheese. Cook until cheese is melted and then cut into 1” squares.
What the supervising adult should do:
Oversee all knife work as well as stovetop cooking. The blender part of this recipe will have to be done in batches, so it might be a good idea to handle transfer of hot soup to blender. It might be necessary to heat the soup back up after blender process. Ladle the soup into bowls and then let your helpers dress with the garnishes.
Plating: Ladle soup into bowls and then top with croutons and sprinkle with green onion tops.