Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Soups On!

I find that one of the most difficult parts of cooking for a family is meeting the nutritional needs of everyone. One is a runner, one doesn't like slimy foods, one is eating low-carb....you get the picture. Well, cooking in a house with a allergic child is no different. It takes creativity and thought to manage a kitchen for everyone.

In our house, while I am a firm believer in not cooking individual meals, I do believe that as resident "chef" I need to make mealtime nutritional and desirable for everyone. One way that I accomplish this is by "morphing" meals. "Morphing" is when I take a basic item like soup stock or sauteed ground beef and I add other ingredients and side dishes to meet everyone's needs. The end result is that we each might have a different soup from the same stock or we might have pasta tossed with meatballs and veggies but some of us will add sauce.

Tonight's menu was a good example of this: Tortilla Chicken Soup or Veggie Soup

I had leftover chicken soup that I made during last week's rain storm. I also had leftover mexican food from my lunch out. Put these together with all the leftover veggies from the week and there is quite a choice of vegetables perfect for a hearty soup. So, while my little angel can't eat tortillas, she had just as much fun putting "safe" toppings on her soup as we did ours! Here is how it worked:

Soups on! What'll you have?

leftover chicken broth

1 C pica de gallo, leftover from lunch (or 1 can ROTEL)

1/4 C hot salsa, leftover from lunch (chopped jalapenos)

2 C shredded cheddar, or cotija or jack, whatever you have leftover that sounds Mexican

3 C tortilla chips, also leftover from lunch and slighty stale

chopped cilantro, optional, also leftover

1/2 bag frozen corn

1 can black beans, rinsed

1 T dried oregano

2 t dried cumin

1 T chili powder

1 lime, sliced

1 avocado, chopped

shredded chicken

"safe" leftover vegetables: carrots, greens, brocolli, cauliflower, radish, chopped onion, herbs from the garden, croutons

  1. Warm up chicken broth then place 6 C of broth into a medium stock pot. If needed, you may dilute either of these to increase the quantity but be sure to adjust the spices, as well.
  2. Leave the basic broth pot just that way, adjusting the salt to taste for those who would like to build their own veggie soup.
  3. To the new pot, add pica de gallo, beans, corn, oregano, cumin, and chili powder. Simmer to heat ingredients through.
  4. Set up a buffet. Make one buffet a "safe" buffet with your safe veggies, the chicken, anything that shouldn't be cross contaminated. In another location, place the other toppings. In our case, most of the toppings for the tortilla soup are not safe so they go in one place while the chicken, lime and other ingredients go in the "safe" buffet.
  5. Each person receives a bowl of broth. For those who want a veggie soup, they may add their safe veggies to either broth. For those who want a tortilla soup, they should scoop the tomato base broth and top with chicken, avocado, cheese, cilantro, crushed tortillas, a squeeze of lime and salsa/jalapenos for added kick.
So, while my angel can't eat tortillas, she had just as much fun putting safe toppings on her soup as we did ours! We each "morphed" our soups into a soup to meet our individual needs and tastes. Although some of our soups were more Mexican than others, in the end, we all had soups that we enjoyed.

Our family frequently eats this way, although not always buffet style. It really isn't as much work as it appears. I make a main dish that is safe for all and a variety of side dishes to meet everyone's needs. People eat what they want and I usually have just enough leftovers for lunches the next day. So, go ahead and "morph" your next meal into anything you want! You might be surprised how much time you save and how much joy you bring to the family meal.

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