During cold and flu season, chicken noodle soup sounds anything but comforting to stuffy-nosed herbivores. Try one of these soothing stews instead, to comfort body and soul when germs attack. The flavors are surprisingly reminiscent of what granny used to bring on your ‘home from school’ sick days– but without chicken bits to yuck their yum!
The two versions of brothy comfort below are equally medicinal; their flavor profiles are very similar, but one uses a slow cooker and the other cooks on the stove-top. The slow cooker method needs minimal chef participation, a crucial factor for under-the-weather cooks. But the stove-top method doesn’t require any advance planning, and comes together quickly enough that it’s not really much more trouble. Both make a sick cook feel tremendously less wretched (at least until the bowl is empty).
Hopefully you’ll come through cold and flu season unscathed, but put these recipes in your medicine cabinet just in case!
Slow Cooker Comfort Soup
- 7 cups unchicken broth (‘Better than Bouillion No-Chicken Base‘ works beautifully, or use 7 cups vegetable broth plus 1/4 tsp poultry seasoning)
- 1/2 cup red lentils
- 1/2 cup uncooked brown rice
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 6 large or 8 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce, such as Tobasco (more or less to taste)
- scant 1/4 teaspoon ground sage
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 a medium-large sweet yellow or white onion, chopped
- 2 (12 ounce) bags frozen Italian-style veggies (or any kind of frozen mixed veg you like)
- juice from 1/2 to 1 lemon
1. Combine all ingredients in slow cooker, except frozen mixed veggies and lemon juice. Turn crock pot to high heat, and go take a nap for about 4 hours (until rice is very done).
2. Steam/microwave frozen veggies according to package directions. Chop into bite-sized pieces, if needed. Add to slow cooker.
3. When you’re ready to eat, add lemon juice a little at a time until it’s just the right amount of yum. Adjust pepper and hot sauce, if needed.
4. Enjoy a steaming bowl of soup while watching old Steve Martin or Monty Python movies; repeat as needed, until symptoms resolve.
Stove-top Comfort Soup
- 5-1/2 cups unchicken broth (or 5-1/2 cups vegetable broth plus 1/4 tsp poultry seasoning)
- 1-1/2 cups tomato juice, marinara sauce, or cooked peeled tomatoes (chopped or pureed)
- 6-8 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne (or to taste)
- juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon
- 1 12-oz bag frozen mixed veggies: carrots, celery, and onion (or other frozen mixed veggies, chopped fairly small)
- 3/4 cup dry orzo pasta (or small-shell pasta)
- 1-1/2 teaspoons dried parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- 1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1. In a large stew pot, saute veggies in 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat, until mostly thawed (about 5 minutes). Add chopped garlic; saute another 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently.
2. Add broth, cayenne, basil, oregano, and black pepper to the pot; bring to a boil, then add uncooked orzo pasta. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes (or to within 1-2 minutes of total cooking time per package directions).
3. Stir in tomatoes, parsley, nutritional yeast, and the rest of the olive oil (1/2 tbsp). Continue to simmer 1-5 more minutes, until pasta is done.
4. Stir in lemon juice, taste to adjust seasonings (read: add cayenne!) as needed; serve and enjoy. Point out that you MIGHT share with other hungry people in the house, but since you’re sick you don’t HAVE to share. Make them bring you juice and hot tea while you consider it.
- Depending on the broth you use, a pinch of salt may also be appropriate. Most bouillon-type soup bases don’t need additional salt, in my opinion, but if you’re using homemade or boxed vegetable broth it just varies. Taste-sprinkle-taste as needed, in the last step of either recipe.
- Canned vegetables or tomatoes can be substituted, but read about BPA when considering canned rather than fresh or frozen produce. If canned veggies are substituted, no change is needed for the slow cooker soup; for the stove-top soup, to use canned veggies just omit sauteing them– saute the garlic only, for 1-2 minutes, then add the canned vegetables along with the tomatoes, parsley, and olive oil in step 3.
- In desperate circumstances — say, someone broke into your house while you were zonked on Nyquil and stole all your fresh garlic — you can, in theory, substitute garlic powder. But. Don’t.
- There is no substitute for fresh lemon juice in these recipes. I am very sorry, but that’s the reality of the situation. Tell your spouse/ partner/ roommate/ mother-in-law/ neighbor/ mail delivery person/ dog/ SOMEONE to go to the store and get you some **** lemons — and they can squeeze the juice for you too, while they’re at it: your SICK, dangit, it’s the least they can do!
Serve these soups with crusty garlic-nooch toast, if desired. Mmmmmmm: comfort guaranteed!
If you do have to deal with cold or flu germs this season, at least now you have a plan. Just take two (bowls), and comment in the morning!
[Disclaimer: these recipes are submitted for personal study, exploration, and deliciousness only; not intended as a substitute for medical consultation, advice, or treatment; the FDA has not approved therapeutic use of these soups for treating cold or flu; author is not responsible for soup addiction resulting from experimentation with these recipes.]
Image credit: Creative Commons photo by olga666flickr.