I think I might have crashed and burned after few weeks of being a little manic — and completely swamped at work. Around two weeks ago, I went on a totally overboard baking spree, got the winter garden going, made a giant crock of turkey chili, reignited my sewing adventures, started a new morning routine, and committed to a new fitness goal (more on that in a follow-up post!). I was on fire! Then after a huge two weeks at work of being exposed to all sorts of people who work with all sorts of other people during cold and flu season, I finally succumbed. I’m sick. Yuck.
When I’m sick like this (stuffy nose, rattling chest cough, sneezing), all I want is hot liquid — tea, soup, a hot bath, anything hot and liquid. I woke up at 3am on Saturday morning unable to stop coughing, so I decided to start a soup in the slow cooker, knowing I’d be happy to wake up to a nourishing hot liquid in the morning. (I also made herbal tea to drink right then, gargled some warm salt water, took some ibuprofen, and made an onion-honey concoction for my throat.)
Luckily, I had everything I needed for the soup and could basically just throw it all into the pot with little effort (at 3am, easy is the name of the game). All the ingredients in this soup are chosen with healing purpose and intention, so bookmark this post for the next time you get sick. You’ll be happy you did.
Cook time should be a minimum of 6 hours on the low setting, but you can let it go longer to make it work with your sleep or work schedule.
Organic Pasture Chicken, bone-in:
Chicken broth made from boiling bones has been a home remedy for centuries, but today we know that it’s more than folklore and wives’ tales. The nutrients that are leached out of the bones and into the broth have active healing properties that aid in gut repair and therefore immune system health. 80% of our immune system lives in our gut walls, and the cartilage and collagen (gelatin) from the chicken bones aid in keeping that system healthy and vital. They also provide amino acids and minerals to help nourish the body and encourage healing. (source) I started my broth with a bag of bones from the freezer (we collect our bones every time we eat chicken), two whole chicken legs (which I browned on the stove first, mostly for flavor enhancement in the soup), a tablespoon or so of raw apple cider vinegar*, and pure water.
*It’s important to include the vinegar or some other form of acid, because it aids in extracting all the good stuff from the bones. Lemon juice works too.
From a culinary perspective, nearly everything you cook in a pot should start with a soffritto (onions, carrots, celery, sautéed in an oil — I use ghee) or some variation upon this theme. It makes for multi-dimensional flavor, but in this case, we’re packing a healthy punch as well. Onion acts as an expectorant that helps mucus flow. Carrots are a powerful antiseptic and great for respiratory infections. Celery works to relax muscle and promote restful sleep (and we all know that good, restful sleep is the fastest way to heal from just about anything). (source 1, source 2, source 3) I had some prepared soffritto in the refrigerator so I threw that into to the soup, but the next morning, I also chopped up an additional 1/2 onion, 3 carrots, and 4 or 5 stalks of celery and threw them in to make the soup more substantial. It works just fine to start with the loose chop for a soup like this without doing all the work to prepare a proper soffritto.
Also important for flavor in a huge number of pot dishes, garlic is among the most well-studied natural remedies. In the case of a cold, it’s a great antiseptic and stimulates the immune system to help fight invaders. (source) I coarsely chopped 4 cloves for this pot.
Capsaicin is the chemical that makes chilis hot. I chose jalapeno because I don’t like too much spice, but I wanted the health effects of capsaicin — thinning mucus and pain relief. Peppers are also rich in vitamin C. (source) I used 2 peppers — de-seeded 1 and left the seeds in the other (personal preference for not making it too spicy)
Also a bit of a spicy ingredient, ginger acts as an antiseptic, an expectorant, and a fever reducer (source 1, source 2). I coarsely chopped a piece of ginger about 3 inches long and then fished it out after the soup was finished cooking.
Savory, Bay Leaf, and Thyme: All three of these herbs are great for thinning mucus and ridding it from the lungs. Thyme specifically also helps fight infection. (source) I put about a tablespoon of savory and thyme and 3 bay leaves.
Rich in trace minerals, a good quality salt like REAL salt helps replenish electrolytes, which is especially important if a cold or flu is causing a fever with sweating or vomiting. About a tablespoon for a pot this big, but better to err on the side of too little so you can add more later.
Eventually I went back to sleep and woke up on Sunday morning to the wonderful aroma of slow-cooked chicken soup. My throat was very thankful, and I’m on my way to recovery!
** I am not a doctor. This post is not intended to treat or diagnose illness.