Did your mother used to make you homemade chicken soup when you were little, to feed you when you were sick? No, mine neither.
Fortunately, it turns out to be pretty easy to learn how to do, even if Mom didn’t teach you. Start with the key ingredient: soup stock you make in your very own kitchen. As a bonus, it’s almost free, since you’re using ingredients that you’d otherwise be throwing away (or hopefully, composting). Here’s how:
1. Put some chicken bones in a 5-6 quart pot of filtered water with 2 teaspoons of salt (don’t leave this out – by osmosis it helps pull nutrients into the water), and 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. (Acidifying the water helps dissolve calcium out of the bones and into your stock.) Cover, and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer anywhere from 2-12 hours, or even more. You can easily accomplish the long hours by doing this in a slow-cooker overnight; the longer it goes, the more nutrients you get out of the bones. This is wonderful nourishment for bone and joint health!
1.1. Tip: The ideal scenario is to use bones from a chicken you’ve roasted, rather than raw bones. This is truly the secret key to yummy stock. I cook a chicken for dinner, and save the bones in the fridge or freezer until ready to make the stock.
1.2. Tip: For an added nutritional bonus, throw some vegetables in. Another “almost-free” technique is to hang onto all the odds and ends of vegetables (ends of carrots, parsley stems, etc.) from whenever you’re cooking, and store them in the freezer until you’re ready to make stock. Then add a couple large handfuls to the above pot of water. [And you may want to avoid adding large quantities of broccoli/cabbage if the smell bothers you while boiling.]
1.3. Tip: ideally, start from an organic chicken. If you’re aiming to pull out every last molecule of goodness into your soup, you don’t want to bring along unhealthy items such as pesticide residue.
2. Turn off the heat and let it cool until warm.
3. Then scoop out the bones and vegetable bits with a slotted spoon, or strain.
4. If you’re making soup now, proceed with your recipe. If not, here’s a great way to store that stock:
4.1. When cool, pour some stock into ice-cube trays and freeze. When frozen, remove and store the cubes in a container in the freezer. Now you have homemade stock made from real bones, to add to anything you want.
This chicken and vegetable broth makes a great base for chicken and vegetable soup (with or without noodles), lentil soup, or most any soup. If you’re making soup for a sick one in your household, here are some further tips:
· Avoid putting any wheat into the soup (e.g. wheat-based noodles), which many of us need to avoid while sick.
· Add plenty of non-starchy vegetables (leeks, celery, parsley, greens, shiitake mushrooms are particularly great for the immune system, green beans, and carrots), for revved-up vitamin content.
· Add plenty of thyme and garlic, both of which are immune stimulants; thyme is particularly potent against upper respiratory infections.
There you have it: Yummy and very nutritious chicken and veggie stock. While it’s very easy from a work perspective, it does take a fair amount of time start to finish, simmering on its own, so I try to keep a couple bowls’ worth of soup ready to go in my freezer.
As a last note, if you’re one of those under the impression that when you’re sick you need to force yourself to eat in order to “keep your strength up,” now’s a good time to release yourself from that notion. Follow your body’s innate wisdom: if you’re hungry, eat (nourishing food); if you’re not, don’t. With a fever, if you don’t have an appetite, it’s generally for a reason; generally if you have a fever, your body’s busy fighting an infection, and if you’re not hungry, there’s no reason to direct energy toward digestion that could be going toward your immune system. However, when not eating, do keep hydrated! Water, and even plain broth, are excellent choices.
Remember, too, that the #1 remedy for a cold is sleep! Get plenty of rest, wash your hands, cough/sneeze into the crook of your elbow (keeps it off the hands in the first place), and stay home from work or school to get the rest you need to recover.
As always, if you need additional help to get over a tough case of the cold or flu, or if you’ve been sick for a while, have a cough you’re concerned may be settling into your lungs, or have a particularly high fever, reach for the telephone rather than the Tylenol, and make an appointment! I have lots of tricks up my sleeve, and I’m here to help.
Many blessings for a happy and joyous holiday season, and may you enjoy luminous good health,
Dr. Deborah Epstein