Eating Well When Unwell
After years of caring for my mother and having her in my bedroom for the past few months, I am feeling a great rush of relief and relaxation since her gentle death last week. Indeed, the relaxation part is involuntary; it’s as if some inner spring has unwound or my energy supply has softly, slowly deflated. I am finding myself unable to push and strive as I’ve simply had to do for so long. It’s quite common for caregivers to wear themselves into illness and I’m grateful that all I’m suffering is a mild cold, coupled with an all-but-irresistible lethargy.
Despite the laziness, I am enjoying some mild puttering in my new garden, which still holds a few scrappy remnants of glory; Cotinus Grace with its last, lingering leaves gorgeous and glowing like medallions of copper and bronze and red gold; some Orange Rocket barberries that are still alight; fragrant, lemon yellow floral spears of Mahonia x media Underway; an incredible six foot high hedge of golden pineapple sage that’s still blooming and still alive with hungry hummingbirds despite several deep frosts.
When In Doubt, Make Soup
Years ago, a very successful author told me that when she got stumped, she had her current character make soup. I too find soup making both useful and comforting, especially on chilly days when the wind cuts like a knife and it’s hard to get warm.
In general, a key to great soup is to make it ahead and reheat it. Another is to cook soup slowly, for long, patient hours. Happily, some soups taste great the minute you make them. Even better are soups that take very little energy to assemble yet deliver fully satisfying flavor and fragrance. Best of all are simple yet wholesome soups that nourish the wholeness in us, comforting, warming, and healing as we listlessly sip. Like what? So glad you asked…
All Hail The Onion Family
Winter colds and flu are disheartening so it’s lovely to have some easy recipes that put the heart back into our aching bodies. The noble onion family is especially good at helping those who suffer from stuffy noses and sore throats. Indeed, when researchers learned that chicken soup actually does help help a cold, the benefit turned out to be largely due to the soothing combination of steam and onions. The entire onion family contains compounds that boost the immune system and help fight infection naturally even as they add savor and warmth to almost anything.
Even without chicken, this silky, rich-tasting Italian soup tastes fabulous, is a snap to make, and is lively with garlic and onions, both famous cold and flu chasers. The last minute addition of raw garlic oil makes this soup especially zippy but you can leave it out if it’s too intense.
Italian Onion & Garlic Soup
3 large onions, halved and sliced (1/4 inch thick)
2 medium potatoes, halved and sliced (1/4 inch thick)
1 large carrot, coarsely grated
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon dried hot pepper flakes
2 whole heads garlic, cloves peeled and lightly crushed
1 bunch spinach (about 8 ounces), stemmed
1 cup flat Italian parsley, stemmed
2 tablespoons virgin olive oil
In a soup pot, combine onions, carrot, salt, hot pepper flakes, and all but 2 cloves of garlic with water to cover (4-6 cups) and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium, cover pan and simmer for 15 minutes. Add spinach and cook until barely limp (2-3 minutes). With an immersion blender, puree parsley, olive oil and remaining raw garlic, set aside, but don’t wash the immersion blender, use it to puree the hot soup. Adjust seasoning to taste and serve with a little garlic oil drizzled on each portion. Serves 4.
A Curry of Seasonal Greens
A seasonal assortment of winter greens, whether Black Tuscan kale, Swiss chard, collard greens or spinach, gives this simple, flavorful soup pleasingly fresh flavors and splendid nutritional value.
Curry Soup With Winter Greens
1 tablespoon avocado or safflower oil
1 large onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 medium potatoes, diced
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2-3 teaspoons curry powder (mild or hot)
2 tablespoons golden raisins
2 tablespoons jasmine or basmati rice
1/4 cup flaked nutritional yeast
6 cups greens (kale, chard, and spinach), chopped
1/4 cup stemmed cilantro
In a soup pot, combine oil, onion, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon salt over medium high heat and cook to the fragrance point (1-2 minutes). Add celery, potatoes, and sweet potato with 6 cups water, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low and simmer until vegetables are barely soft (12-15 minutes). Add curry powder and remaining salt to taste, then add raisins and rice. Return to a simmer and cook, covered, until rice is tender (18-20 minutes). Stir in nutritional yeast and greens, cover pan and cook until wilted (3-5 minutes). Adjust seasoning to taste and serve, garnished with cilantro. Serves four.
To our health!