It's been taking me a while between posts lately because I've managed to be sick for the better part of the last two months. Cold and flu season can be pretty rough on your diet for a number of reasons - you may become so congested that you can't smell and thus can't really taste, or your throat might become raw and then swallowing becomes a pain. Or worse, you may lose your appetite entirely (which is when a foodie knows whatever bug he/she got is pretty serious).
If you're really lucky, you've got someone awesome in your life who's able to take care of you and cook some of your favorite comfort foods. But more likely than not, there are days when you have to fend for yourself, and then obtaining good nutritious food can feel like a herculean task. The lowest effort foods, which are those you can order for delivery/take-out or heat up out of the box/can, are often loaded with sodium or fat. At first they taste great, but eventually they leave you craving a good home-cooked meal. Luckily there are some really easy and nourishing meals you can whip up even when you're sick (I managed to pull it off even while groggy from flu meds). With the help of some half-cooking principles, each of these dishes took around 20 min or less of active prep/cooking time and had minimal chopping.
When I'm sick with the cold or flu, I gravitate towards soups. The heat helps with congestion, and the liquids help you purge your system. I used low sodium chicken broth as the base for most of the soups, but you can easily substitute vegetable broth. Soups are also great because they are easy to scale up to a big batch that can last a few meals.
Ginger-Miso Udon Soup
This soup uses a light Japanese miso soup as a base, but adds some ginger for extra heat and udon noodles to make it more filling. If you frequently cook Japanese food, then it's easy to stock up on most of these ingredients ahead of time (the dried goods and miso paste have long shelf lives). Otherwise, these items are easily obtained at an Asian grocery and are even at a number of local supermarkets in the international food aisle. This recipe is definitely on the light side (I got sick of eating salty canned soup), so if you prefer a saltier broth, you can add a extra 1/2 tsp of dashi and extra tbsp or two of miso paste).
- 1 quart water
- 2" piece of ginger, sliced into 1/4" disks (this is for the broth)
- 1 tsp instant dashi granules (Dashi is a Japanese seafood stock made from bonito. If you don't have this you can substitute the dashi and water with a vegetable broth )
- 3 tbsp miso paste (I prefer white miso which is lighter and sweeter than red, but any kind will do)
- 1/4 cup dried wakame, soaked/rehydrated in warm water (this is the dark dried seaweed - you can, substitute some baby spinach if you can't find this)
- 1 cup cubed silken tofu
- 1 pack of fresh udon noodles (you can buy vacuum sealed packs from an asian grocery and even some Costcos, if you can't find it you can easily substitute some other quick-cooking noodle or omit this if you just want some miso soup)
- furikake or 2 tbsp chopped scallion for garnish
- Boil the water in a pot, add the ginger, and stir in the dashi until it disolves. Turn down to medium heat and let this simmer for a few minutes to draw out some of the ginger flavor.
- While the soup simmers, spoon out the miso paste into a small bowl and use some of the hot broth to dissolve the paste into a liquidy mixture.
- Stir the miso liquid back into the soup and add the tofu, wakame and udon noodles. Let this simmer for 3 more minutes (until noodles are tender).
- Spoon out noodles and top with soup and other ingredients (avoiding the large chunks of ginger). Garnish with a sprinkle of scallion or furikake and serve.
This is my take on the traditional Greek egg and lemon soup. The citrus feels great when you're sick and the egg-lemon mixture gives the soup a rich, creamy consistency. I've taken a few shortcuts here like using pre-cooked rice and not bothering to separate the eggs in order to make it even easier to make.
- 1 1/2 quarts chicken broth (low sodium if you prefer)
- 1 1/2 cups cooked rice (This soup is typically made with orzo or arborio rice, but I just used leftover brown rice)
- 3 eggs (if you have any questions about eggs, check out my visual guide)
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 3 tbsp parsley
- freshly ground pepper and salt to taste
- Put the chicken broth in a pot and add the rice. Bring it to a boil.
- While the broth is heating up, in a heat-safe bowl, beat the 3 eggs and lemon juice until smooth. Spoon in around 1/2 cup of the hot broth into the egg mixture and beat until thoroughly mixed. (this helps keep the eggs from scrambling in the next step).
- Turn the pot of broth down to a simmer and add the egg mixture back into the pot while stirring well to incorporate. This should turn the soup into a smooth creamy consistency. If your soup starts looking more like egg-drop soup (chunks of egg floating around), you probably didn't mix enough in the previous step ;).
- Stir in the the parsley and garnish with freshly ground black pepper. Serve hot.
Stay tuned for more easy soup recipes to come in part 2 of this post. In the meantime, stay warm and healthy!
Update: you can now find part 2 of this post here: Easy soups for cold and flu season - part 2