Cooking outdoors brings on a spirit of adventure. And, kids love to re-enact folk tales. Come to think of it, so do many older people.
wonderful family of 13 (yes, 13!) mostly adopted kids from toddler to
older teens approached their mom one day announcing they wanted to make
stone soup. Period. She obliged and they had a wonderful time.
Though it can be done inside or out, the Stone Soup Adventure makes a particularly fun outdoor group activity with kids.
1. Find an illustrated version of the Stone Soup folk tale at your library, used bookstore, independent new book store, or online.
2. Set up and test a space for cooking outdoors
Cooking outdoors can be simple, such as a square of bricks on top of foil on the ground, filled with bbq charcoal and topped with a recycyled, cleaned firepit grill. You can also start cooking outdoors with a camping cookstove, a firepit with a cooking grill, or your own custom outdoor kitchen. If you can buy, borrow or even rent a large black cauldron, all the better. Just use the cauldron or a large soup cooking pot of water and a pinch of salt to first test how long it will take to boil liquid in your outdoor cooking area.
3. Find the perfect stone
Find a tennis-ball sized stone, the prettier the better. Scrub it with dish soap, rinse well. Then sterilize it by boiling it for 10 minutes. Make sure you have a real stone, not a broken piece of concrete that looks like a rock but can be toxic.
4. Gather the ingredients for the soup you’ll be cooking outdoors
Hamburger soup, or a vegetarian alternative, is usually a surefire soup kids love to make and eat. Recipes vary, and you probably have several in your own cookbook. So adapt according to the number of kids involved. But basic simple ingredients are:
- (Hopefully organic and grass-finished) ground beef/turkey/chicken or a ground vegetarian substitute.
- Enough organic beef or vegetarian soup broth to fill the pot two thirds full
- A medium jar of organic mild tomato salsa
- Pearl barley
- Fresh or frozen corn kernels
- Fresh green beans
- Dried herbs and sea salt mixed to taste (celery salt, organic herb salt substitute, dried basil, Redmonds Sea Salt, onion powder, for example. Onion powder is easier for kids to handle than chopping fresh onions.)
Even better if any or all of these have come from your own garden, farm, neighbor's farm, nearby u-pick or farmers market.
5. Read the story the night before to set the kids up for the next day's project
evening before the day of outdoor cooking with the kids, read the Stone
Soup story. Tell them that the next day, a magic stone will appear (you
decide where and when… believe me, they will ask) and you’re going to
all be making stone soup together, cooking it outside, for supper. The
magic stone can suddenly appear, for example, inside a specified
cupboard at 3 o’clock, or it could be found treasure hunt style). But they can’t hunt for it until allowed, or its magic may go away.
(Once kids are in bed, or early the next day, you brown the burger and refrigerate it.)
6. The stone appears... prepare the Stone Soup
the stone has been found, set in a place of honor and put out bowls to hold each of the ingredients to be added to the soup. Supervise kids in chopping
vegetables, mixing spices and salts, then pouring the right amount of frozen corn kernels, other veggies, cooked
burger, and barley into each bowl. It's
tempting to do this pre-step yourself, but they'll love the adventure and
flavor even more if they take part in this step. For your contribution
or an older child's, pour the desired amount of broth into a pitcher. The salsa can be added to the broth pitcher, or it can be its own ingredient to be poured in on its own.
7. The Stone Soup procession begins
One by one, start the procession:
One child starts it off by setting the magic stone into the pot which already has about a quart of cold water. Then each child walks up to the pot and pours his or her contribution into the pot. You or an older child completes it by pouring in the broth. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover until veggies and barley are tender, possibly about 25 minutes. Depending on the kids’ ages and the type of situation you have for cooking outdoors. About half way through, and/or while checking on progress, allow kids to stir and sniff.
Then enjoy your creation inside or out.
- Add peasant dress up clothes for the kids (second hand stores can be a treasure trove for this).
- Make the party a longer more elaborate harvest party in fall.