As a prelude to making this recipe with your kids, read Marcia Brown's STONE SOUP. It tells the story of three hungry soldiers who come into a village and cleverly trick the peasants into sharing their food--by making a lavish soup out of seemingly nothing but stones. Like the soldiers' soup, this recipe turns basically whatever vegetables you have on hand into a hearty meal. My kids loved plopping a real stone into the broth, as we've described below, but if your pantry's low on stones, you can let the potatoes fill that role.
1 stone, big enough that it won't get lost in the soup (quartz is a good choice because it won't break down in cooking)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, trimmed and chopped fine
1 large carrot, cut into coins
3 medium red-skinned potatoes (unpeeled, and cut into halves)
1/2 sweet red pepper, chopped
1 large garlic clove, pressed
6 cups chicken broth (or a combination of broth and water)
1 medium zucchini, diced large
1 medium yellow squash, diced large
1/2 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
2 cups cooked elbow macaroni, or other soup pasta (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
The first step is for your child to scrub and wash the stone thoroughly. Then, for an extra cleaning, she can drop it in a pot of water to boil while you prepare the rest of the soup together.
In another large pot, heat the oil, then sauté the onion on medium-high for 2 to 4 minutes. Stir in the celery, carrot, potatoes and red pepper, sautéing for 6 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for about 30 seconds, and then add in the broth. Using a spoon, fish the stone out of the other pot, add it to the soup and bring to a boil. Add the zucchini, squash, corn and pasta, cooking another 8 minutes or until the zucchini is the desired softness. Season to taste with the salt and pepper. Before serving, sprinkle on the croutons, then ladle--minus the stone--into individual bowls.
Serves 6 to 8.