As autumn swirls in with wild winds and soft, woolly fogs, various ill natured bugs arise and spread like gossip. Cold season cruds sweep through families and communities, all too often lingering long past the initial illness. Cover our coughs and wash our hands as we may, we still end up sharing nasty germs that can lay vulnerable people low. Youngsters and oldsters are frequent sufferers, as are those with wonky immune systems. Fortunately, a few solid defenses can help and protect us when illness gets us down.
The first lines of defense are so simple that many people forget about them or don’t think they really help, but two strategies definitely do. For one, stay warm; rhinoviruses flourish in low temperatures and chilled bodies are most susceptible. Next, gargling daily with warm salty water demonstrably reduces the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections. Gargling reduces the discomfort of sore throats and toothaches and can speed healing in both cases. Stir 1/4 teaspoon of flaked sea salt into 2/3 cup of hot tap water, swish some in your mouth, then gargle again and again until the cup is empty, repeating up to four times a day.
Healing Soups & Broths
Centuries of old wives’ folk remedies suggest that chicken soup can help cure a cold and in the past few decades, serious research has proved the wise women right. Turns out that inhaling the steam from a bowl of hot chicken soup can improve our nasal mucus velocity; thinner, faster draining mucus helps flush the system of the rhinovirus that’s making you sick. As well, chicken contains carnosine, a potent anti-inflammatory that slows down growth in viruses and other infections. Other common soup ingredients are also anti-inflammatory, notably onions, garlic, and ginger, all of which can make vegan soups effective flu fighters as well.
The best broths make for the best soups, so I always make my own. It’s not a difficult or time consuming process (simmering time doesn’t really count) and the result is light and fresh, full bodied without tasting greasy, clear instead of murky. Most of the time my broths are made with the scraps and trimmings of whatever I’m making, as in the chicken soup recipe below. If I’m not making soup, I bag up and freeze vegetable trimmings and scraps or make and freeze broth by the quart. I date and label the containers with permanent marker on blue painters’ tape to prevent awkward surprises (thawing chicken broth for vegans, f’rinstance).
Granny’s Super Soups
My favorite broth packs a nutritional wallop and you can feel your body gratefully taking in the powerful healing agents. I drink it by the cupful, but if it’s stronger than you like, add a little hot water or use it in soup, where bold broth is a bonus.
Garlic Ginger Broth
1 large head garlic, chopped (peel and all)
1/2 cup chopped ginger root (peel and all)
1 large white onion, coarsely chopped, plus skins
2 cups coarsely chopped celery with greens
1 cup finely chopped carrot
1 teaspoon sea salt
Combine all ingredients with 6 cups water, bring to a boil, reduce heat to very low and simmer for 30 minutes. Cover pan, remove from heat and let stand for 30 minutes. Strain into a bowl, pressing gently on vegetables to release fluid but not hard enough to make broth murky. Makes 4-5 cups. Drink warm, use in soup, or freeze.
Mellow with sweet potatoes and bright with cranberries, this snappy vegan soup is powered by four members of the onion clan, all effective antioxidants. Extra oomph comes from fresh ginger and the garlic-infused broth, though you can always substitute your favorite broth if you prefer.
Vegan Garlic Soup
1 tablespoon avocado or olive oil
1 large white onion, peeled and thinly sliced
4 large cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 inches ginger root, peeled and finely chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 leeks, thinly sliced (white and palest green parts only)
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced, with any greens
1 quart Garlic Ginger Broth (or any you like)
1 large sweet potato, coarsely grated
1 cup raw cranberries
2 green onions, thinly sliced
In a soup pot, combine oil, onion, garlic, ginger and salt over medium high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, to the fragrance point (about 1 minute). Add leeks and celery and cook, stirring for 5 minutes. Add broth, bring to a simmer, add sweet potato and cranberries and simmer for 10-15 minutes. minutes. Serve hot, garnished with green onions. Makes 5-6 cups.
Granny’s Chicken Soup
How can something so good for you it’s practically medicinal taste so good? This stout hearted chicken soup is both soothing and satisfying any time, but especially when something ails you. I make it for myself and friends when we’re sick or stressed out, tired or ill or grieving. You can swap short grain brown rice or noodles for the potatoes (though they give this soup a pleasantly earthy, comforting quality). For a speedy version, use cooked chicken and ready-made broth (your own or not) and eat in minutes.
Chicken & Garlic Soup
1 organic chicken, rinsed inside and out
1 large lemon
1 large head garlic
1 large white onion
4 stalks celery
2-3 inches ginger root
2 large yellow skin potatoes
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 tablespoon avocado or olive oil
1 inch turmeric root
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon smoked hot paprika
In a stock pot, cover chicken with cold water. As you peel and trim vegetables, add all trimmings to the stock pot, including outer skins of garlic, onion, carrots and potatoes. Add half the salt, bring to a boil, cover pan, reduce heat to low and simmer until thermometer inserted in chicken registers 165 degrees F (40-60 minutes; lift chicken breast above simmering broth with a long fork before taking its temp). Meanwhile, finely grate lemon rind, set aside. Chop peeled garlic cloves, onion, celery and ginger root, set aside. Coarsely grate carrot, set aside. Dice potato in 1/2 inch pieces, set aside. Finely grate turmeric, set aside. In a soup pot, combine oil with lemon zest, chopped garlic, onion, celery and ginger over medium high heat, sprinkle with remaining salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft. Add carrots, potatoes, and turmeric and stir to coat. Cover pan, reduce heat to medium and sweat vegetables for 5-10 minutes, shaking pan to prevent sticking. Add water to barely cover, bring to a simmer and simmer until chicken is done. Strain broth from chicken into a bowl, set aside. When chicken is cool enough to handle, shred the meat and add to the soup pot, along with a quart of the strained stock (freeze or refrigerate the rest). Juice lemon and add to taste, along with pepper and paprika. Makes about 2 quarts.
May you and yours be well!