Healing Winter Soups

By Bill Turner

We all know someone who is bound to come down with the flu or a bad cold this winter. This is the time of year for a good bowl of soup, especially one that can actually make you feel better. The fact is that some soups are extremely therapeutic and can make a difference. On top of that, they are really good tasting. Below, I’ll tell you how to make two healing soups — the classic chicken noodle soup and the surprisingly effective curried lentil soup. Both are quick and easy to make, and both will bring a smile to the face of someone who is under the weather.

THE IMMUNE BOOSTERS AND GERM FIGHTERS

So, what is the science behind all of this? These healing soups are a powerful mucus stimulant that helps clear nasal conges- tion as well as thin mucus. They also provide liquids which are fundamental in fighting flu and colds. Most importantly, they contain foods that have special healing powers.

Everyone has their favorite healing foods and here are my four favorites for soups. The recipes below incorporate these immune boosters and germ fighters.

  1. Garlic: A proven antioxidant, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, anticancer ingredient. Since ancient times, garlic has been a popular folk remedy for a vast range of ailments, including the common cold and flu. In 1858, Louis Pasteur discovered that bacteria died when exposed to garlic. More recent research has shown that garlic’s antibacterial and antiviral activity against infections comes from allicin, a compound found to be present when garlic is crushed or chopped. According to the website healthwithfood.org, it’s best to consume garlic when it’s crushed, raw or minimally cooked.
  2. Carrots: We’ve all heard about the beta carotene in carrots to fight cancer and prevent night blindness, but during flu season, “carrots are helpful in preventing upper respiratory infections and inflammatory lung problems,” states the blog “Make Time for Wellness.”
  3. Onions: According to a variety of researchers, onions aid in ridding the body of viruses. They are one of the best natural sources of quercetin, a bioflavonoid that has shown promising potential for suppressing the rhinoviruses, which are the underlying causes of the common cold.
  4. Turmeric: Either alone or in curry powder, this herbal root has numerous health benefits, including antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, anticancer compounds combined with plenty of antioxidants. Curcumin is the active ingredient.

THE PLACEBO EFFECT AS A SECRET WEAPON

If someone, perhaps mom, spouse or friend, prescribes soup when you are sick because they say it will make you feel better, this creates an expectation. For something as well-known as chicken noodle soup, the expectation has some credence. A 2016 Harvard University study indicated, “This expectation activates reward pathways in the brain, in turn stimulating the release of substances called endorphins, which are chemically similar to opiates like morphine. Like morphine, these endorphins bind to opioid receptors and cause pain relief. Therefore, in response to positive expectations of treatment, your brain becomes flooded with its own supply of natural painkillers. … In fact, placebos are so good at causing pain relief that the placebo effect is stealing the spotlight in recent clinical trials for new pain medications.”

CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP: THE AMERICAN CLASSIC

This recipe for classic Chicken Noodle Soup has some non-traditional twists and some heat, which will stimulate kidney function and make you sweat. It has tons of vitamins and minerals, plenty of protein and is guaranteed to produce some quick improvements in the patient.

The key to this soup is that it has enough red pepper, black pepper and garlic to make the ailing person sweat. It also is surprisingly soothing on the throat. If you are willing to get yourself in motion, you can have this wonderful potion on the table in a little over one hour.

Time Required: About 1 hour
Servings: 12-15 (Freeze what you don’t use.)

The Gear:

Large stockpot

Ingredients:
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts – cut into 1⁄2” cubes 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 cups onions – diced
  • 6 cloves garlic – minced or chopped fine
  • 1 jalapeño pepper – seeded and chopped fine (For a strong cold, try 2 jalapeño peppers.)
  • 3 cups carrots – coarsely diced or chunked
  • 3 cups celery – coarsely diced or chunked
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 1, 8 oz. bag spinach.
  • 1, 8 oz. pkg. of frozen sweet corn
  • 1⁄2 lb. egg noodles – and no more – too many noodles ruin the soup
Spices:
  • 1⁄2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1⁄2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. crushed red pepper (Feel free to add more.)
  • 2 Tbsp. of fresh rosemary – chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. each oregano, parsley, dill or anything else that sounds good
Directions:
  • Turn the heat to medium high. Add the olive oil to an 8 qt. stockpot and sauté the onions for about three minutes.
  • Add the garlic, salt, black pepper, crushed red peppers and the jalapeño; mix well and cook for one minute.
  • Pat the chicken with paper towel until dry and add to the pot. Brown the chicken for about four minutes, stirring continually.
  • Add the carrots and celery and cook for about 5 minutes until the vegetables soften a little.
  • Add the chicken stock, spinach, corn and herbs. Stir well and bring to a boil; turn the heat down and simmer for 20 minutes, covered. (At this point, the soup can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a week until you are ready to serve. Alternately, you can freeze in quart containers and be ready for the onslaught of the flu season. Don’t add the noodles until you are ready to serve – they become mushy otherwise.)
  • When ready to serve, add the egg noodles, and cook on a simmer for another 10 minutes, covered.
  • Add water as needed if the noodles absorb too much liquid.

You can serve the soup with some crusty bread or, my favorite, homemade cornbread. This soup definitely increases body temperature and sweats out the toxins attacking the body – and you can prepare it in only one hour.

CURRIED LENTIL SOUP: THE INDIAN HEALER

This curried lentil soup recipe introduces the patient to the healing powers of curry powder with its blend of cumin and turmeric. Curry powder also includes a hot element such as paprika or chili powder to stimulate sweating and kidney function, all of which we need to purge the body of toxins.

Lentil soup is one of my favorites. You don’t have to soak the lentils, plus you can exper- iment with ingredients and almost never make a bad batch. And you can prepare the soupinunderonehour–just20minutes for prep and 40 minutes for cooking.

You can make the soup with any kind of stock: chicken, vegetable, beef or veal. Buy a good quality brand at the supermarket or really have some fun and make your own.

Lentils can be a little bland, which is the major reason to add curry powder — this gives just the right amount of personality. Here’s how to make this great soup:

Time Required: Prep 20 minutes, cooking 40 minutes
Servings: 10-12 (Freeze what you don’t use.)

The Gear:

Large stockpot

Ingredients:
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 Tbsp. curry powder (Penzey’s is a great choice.)
  • 1 cup celery diced
  • 1 cup carrot diced
  • 1 cup onion diced
  • 1 cup leeks diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1⁄4 cup parsley, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. salt
  • 1⁄2 tsp. pepper
  • 1 cup tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 lb. lentils
  • 8 cups stock – chicken, beef, veal or vegetable
Directions:
  • Dissolve the curry powder in 1⁄4 cup of water and cook in a large pot until it starts to become fragrant and slightly thicker.
  • Add the olive oil and butter and stir while the mixture is heating over medium heat.
  • Add the onions, leeks, garlic, salt and pepper, stir well to coat with the curry oil mixture and cook for about 4 minutes.
  • Add the carrots, celery and parsley; stir well and cook for another 4 minutes.
  • Add tomatoes, lentils and stock. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Test for doneness and add more cooking time if necessary.
  • Test for salt and pepper (you usually need more) and serve.

You can serve the soup with a dollop of crème fraiche. If you can’t find crème fraiche, make your own. Buy a six-ounce package of cream cheese and add 3-4 Tbsp. of heavy cream. Stir until you get a nice consistency. Add a little fresh dill, finely chopped, if you really want to get sassy.

You can make an interesting breakfast or even a lunch or dinner by putting the lentil soup, which is really quite thick, over a bed of rice. Top with one or two eggs, made any way and you have an extremely healthy meal.

One of my favorites is to serve it with cornbread on a chilly fall or winter day. I like to break up the cornbread into the soup. This is a great choice for the grandchildren. They generally love this soup if you serve the cornbread with it. Add some hot sauce to really get your day going.

For more soup ideas, visit the Cuisine archive for “Chili 101,” featuring a variety of recipes for this cold weather staple. Check them out, I bet you’ll find another chapter in your winter soup adventures.

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