THE BLOG

The Main Ingredients Challenge #3: Soup's On (Challenger Meal)

09/30/2013 04:30 EDT | Updated 12/18/2013 06:13 EST

Confession: I typically balk at buying bok choy.

I never really understood what family it belongs to in the produce section. Was it a lettuce, a garnish, an herb, something you stir fry, puree, mash? (Turns out it is known as 'Chinese cabbage' -- who knew?)

But when it comes to my limited cooking skills, bok choy seemed best left in the hands of a professional chef at our favourite Chinese takeout place. In the interest of exposing our children (aged six and eight) to some additional greens in their diet and expanding their culinary repertoire, this week we bulked up on bok choy while grocery shopping.

Our mission: make a soup with a list of healthy ingredients and see if my picky eaters might prefer bok choy to their usual green vegetable of choice, -- which is broccoli -- on occasion.

My plan was for a vegetable-broth-based turkey soup, also including lentils, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, and squash with whole wheat pitas for dipping.

Hungry kids, a new vegetable, a relatively inexperienced cook and a small window of opportunity (soccer practice was in about an hour).

What could possibly go wrong?

Well, for starters, my sous chef (the eight-year-old) couldn't find the bok choy in the refrigerator. While I rechecked the car and every cupboard thinking I had accidentally left it at the store or put it away absentmindedly, there sat the package of bok choy in the crisper. Good to know: to the average third grader, bok choy and romaine lettuce look very similar.

Vegetable Turkey Soup with Lentils and Bok Choy

The Main Ingredients II: Challenger Meal #3

Main Ingredients Used:

• Bok choy

• Turkey

• Lentils

• Squash

• Cauliflower

• Sweet potatoes

• Whole wheat pitas

Ingredients List:

• 2 L (8 cups) low-sodium chicken broth

• 500 mL (2 cups) turkey meat (we used leftovers)

• 375 mL (1 1/2 cups) brown lentils, rinsed

• 570 g (1 1/4 lb.) orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch (1.25 cm) cubes

• 1 squash, peeled and cut into 1.25 cm (½ inch) cubes

• ½ cauliflower head, chopped

• 1/2 bunch bok choy, stems and leaves chopped

• 2 whole wheat pitas, toasted and cut

• Freshly ground pepper, to taste

• 20 mL (4 tsp.) low-fat sour cream, optional

Serve in a bowl, with toasted pitas and perhaps a dollop of sour cream for some added flavor.

Makes about 6 servings (4 adults and 2 kids)

Preparation: Now we were cooking -- except not really, because we had to rinse the lentils first before we cooked them to soften the skins. Which may have been a mistake as uncooked lentils (actually cooked ones too) look less than appealing to those who are quite picky (the eight-year-old) and/or those easily influenced by older siblings (the six-year-old). I now had two kids refusing to even taste the lentils, let alone a new leafy green substitute.

But, we mothers are made of tough stuff, so I soldiered on. After cooking and then pureeing the lentils, I added their now liquefied state to the (store-bought) organic vegetable broth in our large pot, cut up the sweet potatoes into cubes and then added those in.

After simmering the sweet potato for about five minutes, I added in the cauliflower and finally the squash. In the last couple of minutes I added in the stalk of the bok choy and then the leaves, and then leftover turkey from the night before. Garnished with a dash of sour cream, dinner was served.

The Verdict: I'll preface the results by saying that from the adult perspective, it was a homerun. Since we can be convinced that health matters more than taste, knowing this was chock full of goodness made it even more appealing. The soup was actually appealing and the addition of toasted pita breads added to the overall enjoyment.

As for the kids... well, admittedly, the bok choy wasn't a success. It probably has more to do with the fact I put the leaves in too early and in my attempt to multi-task and prepare a soccer snack for the team while making our meal, I may have simmered the soup too long, so the bok choy's consistency wasn't as choice as a more experienced cook would probably have prepared.

Reactions ranged from "ew!" "slimy", "are you feeding us an electric eel?!" to "I will never ask for dessert again if you take this out of my bowl." (The child who uttered that last statement honoured it for exactly seven minutes.)

Once we removed the offending green from their bowls however, there weren't that many complaints. The lentils we used were still a bit gritty, but the kids ate the majority of their soup. According to my infallible-on-all-things-domestic neighbour, red or orange lentils already have the skin removed so they have a much smoother consistency when pureed. Note to self for next time.

Bottom line: the soup was healthy, hearty, wholesome and a hit with the adults.

They say it can take kids up to a dozen or more times to accept a new food. It appears I'll be looking for a dozen more bok choy recipes this fall -- I'll keep you posted on my success on getting the kids to ingest!