As a food writer and cookbook author, I've had to develop hundreds of recipes over the years, and my husband and children have been my primary guinea pigs. I think my family would agree that, for the most part, the job of recipe tasting is a pretty good one. They'd also say it has its challenges. Like the year I had to create hundreds of soups for my book "300 Sensational Soups."
For 12 months my family rarely saw anything on the table other than bowls and spoons, so naturally, trying to raise any level of enthusiasm for another sippable supper was no easy task. And making sure we were eating right in the process became an important priority.
As a result I became creative and learned the art of introducing new foods and flavors, mostly in the form of vegetables, with old familiar favorites. I slipped cubes of butternut squash into black bean chili. Threw handfuls of broccoli into my kids' favorite chowder. And took old standbys such as canned tomato soup and made it from scratch, puréeing a combination of sweet roasted cherry tomatoes, canned tomatoes and just a splash of cream into a smooth satisfying soup. Of course, topping it with grilled cheese croutons definitely helped to seal the deal with my boys.
What I learned during that time is that soup is the perfect vehicle for incorporating healthy foods into my family's diet. Somehow, new foods become less intimidating when they're combined with lots of other things together in a bowl. I've noticed that there's even a carryover effect and now my kids will eat some of those previously dreaded veggies outside the soup bowl.
It could be that soup helped change the way my kids thought about vegetables, or maybe they were just happy to finally see a fork on the table again.
Meredith Deeds of Edina is the author of "Everyday to Entertaining" and "The Big Book of Appetizers." Reach her at meredith@ meredithdeeds.com. Follow her on Twitter @meredithdeeds.