Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Monkey Minestrone with Polenta Croutons

If I could give one piece of advice to other parents of toddlers, I would say this: soup is your friend. My son will be 3 next month, and my boy has been eating soup since he started eating solid foods. Soup is perfect toddler food, and for so many reasons: you can use tons of different veggies, beans, grains; you can vary the flavor profiles to expose your child to different cuisines (Italian, Mexican, French, Moroccan, Thai, etc.); the components are soft and easy to chew; and it's a simple, one-utensil meal, perfect for little hands learning to self-feed. It's also perfect for me, as I can prep all the ingredients and throw them in a pot to simmer, giving me more time with my family and less time chained to the stove.

One of my favorite cookbook authors, Dreena Burton, is a busy mama herself. Like me, she also enjoys feeding her family delicious meals that pack a lot of nutrition into each bite. Many of my favorite soup recipes are in Dreena's Eat, Drink & Be Vegan, including Monkey Minestrone.

This soup is loaded with good stuff - celery, carrots, garlic, tomatoes, chickpeas, kidney beans, corn, green beans, and a bit of pasta (I used some Trader Joe's brown rice rotini). Dreena suggests topping the soup with some Polenta Croutons, also from EDBV. This a super-simple recipe made with a tube of prepared polenta (like this), olive oil, salt, and pepper. All you have to do is cut the polenta into cubes, season them, and bake for 30 minutes - that's it! They come out soft at first, but then get crunchy as they cool.
One of my favorite tricks for cooling down soup fast is to put a bunch of frozen veggies in the bottom of my son's soup bowl, then adding the hot soup on top. It works like a charm and adds even more veggies to his meal!

We all loved the texture and crunch the croutons added to the soup, and it sure beats Campbell's Soup any day!

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