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New Soup Hag needs soup ideas for 200 kids - Help, Hounds!

I'm officially a Soup Hag: I volunteered at my daughter's elementary school to help prepare soup for the kids for lunch. I was unaware that this meant that I would be prepping, cooking and serving soup to 200 elementary school students in three different lunch seatings, on my own.

Here are the specifics:

I have use of the school cafeteria from 9:15 am on on the day I will be preparing soup. The first lunch is served at 11:40 am.

There are a number of parents participating. Each will have one soup/ stew/ chili that he/she will prepare for his/ her rotation. The recipes have to be fairly simple, as we're dependent on the district to provide the food. All ingredients not provided by the district will be provided by moi.

Ideally, the soup I choose will (a) be kid-friendly - this is elementary school aged kids; (b) not be crazy prep heavy - I make great beef and barley, but something like two dozen fresh veggies go into it - not gonna happen here, not with this kind of volume; (c) not require a ton of time to simmer as I've got full use of the kitchen for not quite 2.5 hours, including all prep time. Please no simmer-all-day recipes or make-the-day-before-and-reheat recipes; (d) not be very expensive, as I have no idea how much the school district will provide and how much will come out of my pocket and I'll be doing this all too regularly; (e) use pretty basic ingredients - one mom has said that she brings her own stock as the school district stuff is cheap MSG-laden stuff. I know I'll be bringing my own stock already, I'd rather not be doing wind sprints between my car and the cafeteria with bags and boxes of stuff; (f) be somewhat healthy/ wholesome (nothing with half-and-half as a base, for example) and nourishing enough that the kids'll be satisfied with soup for lunch; (g) not be delicate or temperamental - no bases prone to breakage, please; (h) contain no pork; and (i) did I mention kid friendly?

Here are the soups some of the other Hags are making:
-corn chowder
-turkey chili
-butternut squash
-chicken, leek and potato chowder

I considered doing albondigas (what kid doesn't love meatballs?) but not sure if I want to be making hundreds of meatballs by my lonesome. I feed large crowds frequently, so the idea of cooking in volume doesn't bother me. I'm fairly proficient in a kitchen and am quick with prep work... I'm just stuck for ideas. My 5-year old's favorite food is uni - most of her friends won't touch a vegetable.

TIA, Hounds!

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  1. Chicken with Rice would be good; and simple. Here is the recipe my kids love:

    (serves 6; so you'll have to do the math)

    1 tbsp olive oil
    1 onion, chopped
    2 stalks celery, chopped
    2 carrots, chopped
    2 tbsp flour
    2 cups chicken stock (homemade or canned low-sodium)
    2 cups milk
    pinch each dried thyme, savory and sage OR couple pinches of poultry seasoning
    1 tsp Worcestershire sause
    1 cup diced cooked chicken
    1 cup cooked rice (white or brown)

    Saute onions, celery and carrot in oil until tender. Sprinkle flour over vegetables and cook gently 3 - 4 minutes. Whisk in stock and milk. Bring to a boil.

    Add seasonings. Simmer 10 minutes. Add chicken and rice; simmer 10 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

    1. Cream of tomato soup, with or without roasted & pureed red bell pepper. A choice of toppings: popcorn, croutons, goldfish crackers, shredded cheese, etc.

      1 Reply
      1. re: greygarious

        We sometimes get kids at our (free) soup cafe and tomato soup is always a big hit. As is anything they helped prepare, though this does not sound like an option in your situation.

        Another naming tip--I haven't tried the funny naming mentioned below, but the kids generally reject things with "fancy" names. Tortilla soup was not sampled. Same soup called chicken and vegetable was devoured. (We always have several flavors, so it wasn't a case of the kids going hungry--perhaps if they had no simply-named choice they would have tried the "weird" ones.)

        With your experience cooking for groups, I'm sure you've got a stick blender lined up. That has been my single biggest time saver preparing gallons of soup at a time -- well, along with #10 cans. :-)

        Oh yeah, one other thing you're probably already on top of--when I'm pressed for time before lunch, I boil any water that's going into the soup and I also use at least two (very big) pots for each soup. Also, and this may be obvious to others, but wasn't to me... If you start to saute your onions as they get chopped, things go much faster than if you dump them all in at once.

        Good luck!

      2. Hmm. This is pretty tricky!

        My daughter's clear favorite soup is matzo ball. that could be fun!

        My son's favorites are split pea, lentil with veggies, and barley veggie.

        Good luck!

        1. Is miso soup too weird for kids?
          What about Tortellini with simple veggies in a basic stock?
          Pasta e fagioli?
          Pho or Udon?
          *All tailored to a younger pallate

          1. i second something simple... i know it may not sound that enthralling to you, but i might consider a Minestrone or Navy Bean or Mushroom Barley or Split Pea or Tomato (as suggested above). This may also sound silly, but I might call it something exciting or funny like "Make You Toot Toot Soup" or "Mine is Trone" or "Blood and Bones" (serve tomato soup with white croutons)...

            1. A tomato and chicken stock based Alphabet Soup?

              1. What about minestrone or a broccoli cheddar soup. You can get the USDA school cafeteria recipes in the link below. Even if you don't follow zn exact recipe, they are useful to guage amounts of ingredients as the recipes serve 100. They have a minestrone recipe and some other soups (the Thick Vegetable Soup looks good too).

                1. On monday, made a simple version of pasta fajoli (sp?). Navy beans, onion, garlic, kale, salt, pepper, elbow mac, parm cheese, ilalian seasoning, EVOO. My kids ate it up with a peice of crusty bread.

                  1. I've made hundreds of meatballs for parties. The trick is to use the smallest ice cream scoop you can find, and that will at least simply the sizing issue. Kids do love these, but you'll end up sitting on a stool in your kitchen for a long time.

                    I'd be inclined to do some version of a chicken or beef noodle/meatballs thing. You can use smaller pasta, such as alphabets or Ditalini or even Orzo, and then add carrots, celery and meatballs. I'd be inclined to strain out the celery leaves, parsley or other green things that many children regard suspiciously when the find it floating in their bowl. Sometimes adding a little tomato to tint the soup orange has a nice effect visually, and it will add some body to the stock. If you do meatballs, it will not be necessary to add back chunks of whatever meat is used for making the stock.

                    1. Chicken Alphabet soup - with carrots, celery, onion, and alphabet letters.
                      Chicken Noodle - same
                      Chicken with Dumpling soup
                      Use only boneless breast or boneless thigh meat however.
                      I'd thicken any of the above so it was a thick soup, but not stew.
                      Do you have time to make small drop dumplings ala Bisquick or even canned biscuits cut into quarters?
                      I agree stick with what kids are familiar with otherwise you're wasting your time and money

                      1. I bet those kids would pick chicken noodle over anything else. Especially if you use big, fat egg noodles and no (or small amounts of veggies).

                        1. I remember making egg drop soup in elementary school, and it was a lot of fun.

                          1. I would recommend a carrot curry soup (just call it carrot soup-or Halloween soup). It is a recipe from Martha Stewart everyday food and is v. simple to prepare and takes a minimal amount of time to cook (until the carrots are tender). My 5 year olds love it. Good luck. Sounds like a chowhounds dream!!