There was a time when I wondered if my son would ever happily eat a vegetable. Then, I made him a fruit smoothie that had spinach in it. I didn’t get around to telling him until after he had already consumed a couple. He wasn’t upset, more like impressed. For awhile, I made sure that the color of the smoothie did not reveal the added greens, sticking to berry bases. When he requested mango, I let him know it would be a brilliant green, and he just shrugged it off. ! Now, when his friends come over, he exclaims, “My mom makes the best smoothies! The tropical ones are green, but they are so good!”
So I've learned that picky eaters can surprise you!
In fact, then this happened:
I made his quesadilla, which he likes with just black beans and some cheese between two tortillas. This time, I added finely chopped cabbage. Cabbage has a subtle flavor, especially when finely chopped. I sprinkled a thin layer over the beans and cheese, and when he asked what it was, I told him it was just a vegetable called cabbage that doesn’t add much flavor but adds a nice crunch. He ate it up. Yes!
And then this happened:
I made potato leek soup. My son can’t stand the sight of onion in anything he eats, so I knew for any chance of him trying it, I’d have to go stealth and have no visible sign of the onion in the soup. And this time, I pureed all the vegetables. Because maybe it’s the texture, or the strong flavor by itself, or just the idea of the onion that he had an issue with. I considered all this, but I didn’t consider the possibility of this reaction: “Mom, I really love That Soup you made! It’s the best! You should really bring That Soup to Thanksgiving…can we have That Soup again?” I definitely know which soup That Soup is. I think it helps that the flavors are mild in this soup. Just cozy and good.
(click the title for the print version)
1 large onion, chopped
1 large leek
1 small chopped celeriac (celery root) or 1 cup chopped celery
1 1/2 cups chopped carrots
1 red, yellow or orange pepper
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 cups potatoes, preferably Yellow Finn
9 cups vegetable broth*
Salt to taste at the end
1/4 cup chopped chives or nutritional yeast
*I often use 3 Tablespoons Better Than Bouillon vegetable broth stirred into 2 cups hot water, then add it to the pot with the other 7 cups of water.
Wash all the vegetables, then chop them in order. For the leek, slice it in half lengthwise, then rinse all the layers, since dirt can get between them. Slice each half to get half moon-shaped pieces.
The Water Drop Test
Heat a large soup pot (4 quart) over medium-high heat. Once it begins to get hot, add cooking spray if desired. For an oil-free soup, do the water test: Have a small bowl of water at the ready near your cooktop, along with an 1/8 teaspoon. If you don’t have one, use half of a 1/4 teaspoon to scoop water and drop it into the heated pot. If the water dispurses, it’s not hot enough. If it forms one ball, as pictured, it is hot enough!
Add the onions and stir frequently until they start to caramelize, a few minutes. Turn the heat down a bit and add the leeks and celery or celeriac, carrots, and peppers. After a few more minutes, add the garlic. Once the vegetables have all softened, add the chopped potatoes.
My local farmer's market happened to have rainbow carrots. Not quite as sweet as the standard orange, but they did the trick! My soup's color may look a bit different than your finished product because of this.
Add the broth. I like Better Than Bouillon; please check the note above. Turn the heat up to high and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Once boiling, turn down to medium-low heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, until potatoes are softened.
If using bouillon, stir it into a small amount of hot water, such as 2 cups, so that it gets well incorporated. Add the remaining water after it's well blended.
Break out the immersion blender! If you don’t have one, I highly recommend getting one. I find it’s well worth the $25-50 investment. It used to drive me crazy when I would read recipes that required me to transfer hot soup into a blender to puree. This is so easy: Plug in, immerse in pot, turn on and let it do it’s thing. Make sure liquid covers the metal part of the blender so it doesn’t end up splattering. I find if I keep the blender in one place in the pot, the soup contents get pulled in and rotate through it until the whole pot is blended.
The broth may be salty enough on its own. Taste, and add salt as needed.
To serve, ladle into soup bowls and top each with a large pinch of chives. Some prefer cheddar cheese or nutritional yeast.
Eat up! Try to save some for lunch tomorrow. At least try. If you eat it all at once, I won't blame you. Neither will my son, thankfully.
If you, like me, are struggling to feed someone with a “particular palate,” know that there is hope! Pureeing the soup in this case really made a difference for my guy, blending the flavors and textures so nothing stood out. I use this trick often now, it really helps.
I could devote a whole post to this topic, and probably will, but it does seem (in hindsight, after much trial and error) that it all tends to go better when I relax about it, hold to a (very) few base standards without drawing a line in the sand that creates a battlefield, continue to serve good, real food, and trust that he will learn to make good choices for himself.