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Find more tips and recipes for Making Food a Family Affair.

Taco night is great for parents and kids.

Warm up with these kid-friendly soup recipes.

 

Cooking with Kids

Swiss Family Soup
By Chef Mary Sue Milliken


In some families it's grandma's chicken noodle soup. In others, it's Uncle Mario's pasta e fagioli. But in my husband's hungry mid-western clan, the soup that cures the common cold and mends broken hearts is Tab's Swiss Onion Soup.

History in the Making

Tab, my husband's brother, came across it in fifth grade. While doing a report on Swiss culture, he visited the Swiss consulate, where they loaded him down with tons of data on agriculture, the economy and topography. Luckily, they also gave him a recipe for Swiss Onion Soup that he went on to cook for his classmates to great acclaim. In fact, Tab was so successful with it at school, that he came home and taught his mom, and eventually everyone else in the family, how to make this peasant version of French onion soup. The recipe has stuck with the Swiss-American Schweitzers for nearly 40 years— great track record for any recipe, as far as I'm concerned.

When I first learned it from my husband, Susan and I put it on the menu at our first restaurant, hoping to start a Swiss Onion trend in L.A. It didn't stick the way it did back in Ohio—perhaps because of the weather.

Penn, Declan and Dominic prepare to make the famous soup.

Hey Guys, Want to Make Soup?

What I love most about a rustic soup like this one is its sheer simplicity—all you need are staples like milk, cheese and bread. I'm always amazed at how rich and delicious it tastes with so little effort. It definitely makes a whole meal, with just a salad on the side.

To see if today's kids are as kitchen savvy as those Schweitzer kids back in the sixties, I asked my 11-year-old son Declan whether he and his friends would test the recipe as part of a Friday night sleepover. I turned the group of three boys, ages eight to 11, loose with the recipe and got out of their way. One of the keys to making cooking fun for kids is to give them the right degree of responsibility. Declan and his friends can problem solve without me breathing down their necks. For my 3-year-old, Kier, I'm more likely to cut everything up and have him stand alongside me, happily adding and stirring the big soup pot. It's a great way to keep him involved while I'm in the kitchen.

No need to fear—the boys have made a tasty pot of Swiss Onion Soup. (R to L: Dominic, Penn, Declan)

Souper Cool

Most kids like to eat soup and it's a natural for young cooks since it doesn't demand precision in cutting or timing. An added bonus is that parents can sneak chopped up vegetables (like parsnips or turnips) into a soup; making items that most kids wouldn't be caught dead eating into an enjoyable meal.

Declan and his two friends just divided the tasks naturally. One prepared the cheese, while another diced the bread, or measured or stirred. While the soup simmered they played Speed, a popular card game at school, and I made the salad—romaine lettuce with olive oil and lemon juice.

The boys had a grand old time. They even managed to make fun of the little guy, Kier. When everybody's eyes started tearing because of the onions, Declan innocently asked, "Do onions make you cry just by looking at them…or do they make you cry 'cause they're so ugly? Just like my brother." Some things never change.

Try making these delicious soup recipes with your kids:

Swiss Onion Soup
Children's Lentil Stew
Simple Pistou

 

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