Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Soups for Cold & Flu Season, Part I: Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup

It's cold outside and cold and flu season is wreaking havoc across the country. There couldn't be a better time for soup!

Wild Rice & Mushroom Soup

There is not a lot of research out there about whether or not soup can help you get better faster, but that doesn't mean that you should give up on soup during cold and flu season.

There’s nothing like being sick to make you want to seek out comforting, nostalgic things. For many of us, soup fits into both of these categories. I say, anything that brings some amount of comfort when you’re sick is worth having—placebo effect or not.

There are a real ways that soup theoretically could help to ward off colds or treat the symptoms. The following are some tips for selecting soups during cold and flu season:

Choose broth-based soups:
  • Warm liquid helps to thin mucus and clear your sinuses.
  • Clearing your sinuses can limit the amount of time that viruses and bacteria spend in contact with your mucus membranes.
  • Soups are often salty. While this isn’t usually a good thing, when you’re dehydrated, you need salt and carbohydrate along with your liquid to help rehydrate. This is one of the few times where plain water or ginger ale won’t do the trick.

Bulk up on vegetable soups:
  • Sometimes it’s difficult to work up an appetite when we’re sick. This makes it even more important to choose foods with high nutrient values. If there’s any time to eat well and skip the junk, it is when you’re sick.
  • Choose vegetables soups with a broth base.
  • Choose soups with a variety of vegetables to get a range of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
  • If you’re a chicken noodle soup person, try adding extra veggies: carrots, celery, cauliflower, cabbage and other greens are delicious in chicken noodle soup.

Spice things up:
  • Capsaicin, the compound that makes peppers spicy, is a natural anti-inflammatory and mild pain reliever.
  • Eating spicy food also helps to clear the sinuses.
  • Since tastes are often dulled during colds or illnesses affecting the sinuses, choosing a variety of flavors and spices also helps food to taste more lively and interesting.
  • A note of caution: if you have asthma or very irritated throat that is causing you to cough, you may want to skip the spicy foods which can trigger more coughing in some people.

Skip the dairy:
  • Dairy products tend to thicken mucus, even if you have no issues with dairy normally.
  • If you do have lactose intolerance, then when you are already feeling sick is not time to add gas pain and diarrhea to the symptom list. Skip it.

In the next few posts, I’ll share some recipes for soups that I find comforting when it’s cold outside or I’m feeling under the weather.

First up:

Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup

¾ ounce dried wild mushrooms, any type
2 cups boiling water
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 stalk celery, sliced ¼-inch thick
1 large white or yellow onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1-1/2 Tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
A couple pinches of salt, optional
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces cremini or white button mushrooms, sliced thinly
2 Tablespoons dry sherry or water
1 cup wild rice, uncooked
1 cup water
1 carrot, peeled and grated
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

1. Place dried mushrooms and boiling water in a bowl just large enough to hold them and cover with a plate; let sit while you start working on the rest of the soup.

2. In a stockpot set over medium-high heat, add oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Once hot, add celery and onions; cook about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic, thyme, a couple pinches of salt and black pepper. Cook approximately 10 minutes in covered pot, stirring frequently. Vegetables should just be starting to brown slightly.

3. Add sliced mushrooms and cook uncovered for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, remove dried mushrooms from soaking liquid and squeeze gently to remove excess liquid. Keep soaking liquid off to the side for later use. Slice rehydrated mushrooms thinly and add to the pot.

4. Deglaze pot with sherry (or water), stirring to scrape up any bits sticking to the bottom of the pot. Add mushroom soaking liquid, pouring slowly and stopping just before the last bit of liquid and grit from the mushrooms goes in. Discard this last bit of liquid. Add wild rice and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook covered for 45 minutes or until rice is cooked.

5. Add 1 cup of water, grated carrot and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If you use homemade stock, you’ll need about 1 teaspoon of salt. If you use store-bought stock, you may not need any salt. Remove from heat and serve. Great with artisan bread for dipping.

Makes 6 servings

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