Dragons and tall tales make soup taste better!
It all started when broccoli was on sale at the supermarket. I bought a big bag - enough for two meals. That night I steamed it and sprinkled it with pepper and Parmesan cheese. Having lovingly prepared it, I then placed the broccoli on the dining room table.
My 4-year-old immediately said, "I'm not eating that." My 1-year-old began to cry. It wasn't exactly a Rockwellian moment.
The next day, there was the matter of that other pound of broccoli left in the fridge. I cooked it with some onion, garlic, red pepper, and chicken broth. I cooked it so long it began to fall apart. And then I ran it through the blender.
"What's for dinner?" my 4-year-old asked, suspiciously.
"Green fizzle soup," I cheerfully responded.
The green fizzle soup was a huge hit. When my husband asked what was in it, I concocted a fanciful story about the elusive green fizzle plant that grows only on the highest mountains, guarded by dragons.
Not that I was expecting anyone to believe my tale, but my husband and kids gulped down the renamed broccoli soup.
That's when it hit me: I'd become one of those mothers who rename everything. We don't eat spaghetti sauce in our house, but we love ketchup sauce.
Trucker cheese is our name for Swiss cheese. We eat not black bean soup, but "ferryboat captain's" soup. Not borscht, but pink soup. And not oatmeal, but "oatmealwithbrownsugar" - one long word, with an emphasis on the "sugar."
I don't often give my kids sugary cereal for breakfast, but I'll call it a cookie and give them a handful as a snack. Oranges? We call them orange candies. Spinach is "greenies." Asparagus is "green French fries."
These names can cause trouble. I sometimes confuse trucker cheese with racecar cheese. The kids once asked a baby sitter for ketchup sauce, and she obliged by dumping ketchup on their spaghetti.
Then there was that memorable visit to the doctor's office when she asked my son what he'd had for breakfast that morning.
"Orange candy and breakfast cookies," he told her as I cringed.
Sometimes I spend more time thinking of names for my mysterious concoctions than I actually do preparing them.
But for the most part, the kids think it's fun - and funny. They like listening to the story about how the secret recipe for one soup came from a ferryboat captain. And they're willing to try something new if I'm willing to invent a name and story to go with it.
The other day, as we were eating green fizzle soup for the 10th time, my son said, "You know what's funny, Mom? I don't like broccoli, but I love this green fizzle soup."
Here I thought I'd fooled him. No matter. I don't dare change the name back to broccoli soup. It just won't taste as good to any of us.
1 tablespoon oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped (about 1 cup)
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
3 medium garlic cloves, chopped
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
6 cups broccoli crowns, very coarsely chopped (about 1-1/2 pounds broccoli; may use stems if peeled and chopped)
2 cans (14-1/2-ounces each) chicken broth
2-1/2 cups water
2 cups shredded cheese (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
In medium saucepan, heat oil over medium-low heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes, or until soft. Crush basil between your fingers; add to pot. Add garlic and, if desired, pepper flakes; cook 1 minute more. Stir in broccoli, broth, and water - liquid should almost cover broccoli. Bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes. Let cool slightly. Place one-fourth to one-third of the soup in a blender and blend until smooth. Return blended mixture to the saucepan and continue blending rest of soup in batches.
Stir shredded cheese, if using (any cheese blend will work) into soup and heat on low, stirring until melted. Taste and see if you need to add salt and pepper.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.