January 19, 2011

Soup to Nuts: Chicken soup
and other cures for what ails

Help keep those nasties at bay with these food-borne germ fighters.

By Meredith Goad mgoad@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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Homemade chicken soup – with or without the dumplings – really does soothe your throat and clear your airways when you have a cold.


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Staff Illustration/Michel Fisher

Additional Photos Below


THIS VEGETARIAN VERSION of cold-fighting chicken soup comes from Meg Wolff's new book, "A Life in Balance: Delicious Plant-Based Recipes for Optimal Health" (Down East, $19.95).


3 cups red lentils

8 cups water

1 or 2 teaspoons olive oil or sesame oil

1 onion, diced

1/2 to 1 teaspoon sea salt or 1 tablespoon good-quality 1- to 3-year-aged miso

3 ribs of celery, diced

2 large carrots, diced

10 white button mushrooms, quartered

1/2 cup dried maitake mushrooms, soaked in water for 30 minutes to reconstitute

8 more cups of water

1 pound of tofu, cut into cubes

Organic penne pasta (rice pasta can be substituted)

1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Optional: 1 teaspoon of The Blend, a combination of dried parsley, basil, marjoram, chervil, garlic and spices from The Maine Accent in Hallowell.

Pour the red lentils into a bowl with water and wash them by rubbing between your hands. This will release the saponins, a bitter-tasting natural coating.

Drain the lentils and add to a soup pot with 8 cups of water. Bring to a boil on high heat, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. In a separate skillet, saute the onion in oil on medium-high heat.

Add sea salt or miso and optional herbs, and saute for 1 to 2 minutes. Add celery and carrots, and saute for 2 more minutes. Add mushrooms and saute for 2 to 3 more minutes. Add the sauteed vegetables and maitakes to the soup pot with the lentils.

Add the additional 8 cups of water, and return to a boil on high heat, then reduce heat to medium low and keep simmering. Add tofu cubes and pasta. Return to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer and continue cooking for 10 more minutes.

Garnish with fresh parsley. Serve with steamed greens or other vegetables as a meal.

Serves 6 to 8.

WOLFF SWEARS BY this green tea and pickled plum concoction called ume-sho-bancha. She gave it to her daughter to relieve a sore throat.


1/2 to 1 umeboshi plum

Several drops of good-quality soy sauce (tamari wheat-free can be used) 1 cup hot kukicha twig tea (a type of green tea with less caffeine)

Place umeboshi and soy sauce in the bottom of a tea cup (take out the pit). Pour in hot tea. Stir gently and drink immediately. Eat the plum. (Both the plum, which is a pickle, and the soy sauce contain probiotics.)

Have you been getting sick a lot this winter?

You're not the only one.

I rarely get sick, and when I do it's usually just a cold during winter. This year, I went through a string of three nasty colds that lasted from early November well into the New Year.

Occasionally I'd start feeling better, but it didn't last long, thanks to crowded airplanes crawling with viruses at the holidays and the fact that newsrooms are, by their very nature, as germy as daycare centers.

These colds made me feel like I was channeling Michael Corleone: Just when I thought I was out they pulled me back in.

After a while, I forgot what it felt like to be well. I tried taking Nyquil at night, but started having weird dreams about James Taylor. Eventually I got so desperate for relief that I stopped changing the channel when those disgusting commercials with the green mucous men came on.

A Facebook friend suggested I eat some oysters because they contain a lot of cold-fighting zinc. Normally I love oysters, so my first reaction was "Yum!" But then, as I actually thought about slurping the slick bivalves down my throat, my gag reflex kicked in like I was watching Paula Abdul's new dance show.

All of this got me to thinking about food's role in fighting wintertime colds and flu. So I went in search of the best foods to add to your diet to boost your immune system and ward off the sniffles – without making you gag.

Here's a sampling of other cold and flu fighters I found:


GINGER – I am a huge fan of fresh ginger, mostly because it tastes good. I use it mostly in homemade chai, but have also been known to steep a chunk of it in other kinds of tea. And I use ginger liberally when cooking. Ginger is great ammunition against colds and sore throats because it contains more than a dozen anti-viral compounds. It also eases nausea if you're already sick.


GARLIC – Garlic contains allicin, a compound that's believed to have a wide range of health benefits. A 2001 study found that participants who took a garlic supplement every day for 12 weeks developed fewer colds and recovered faster than participants who were given a placebo.

Crush it and use it in salads and salad dressings. Add it to pasta sauces, or smear a crushed clove on bread or toast. Or add it to some


CHICKEN SOUP – Yes, your grandma's remedy really does work. A study at the University of Nebraska Medical Center about 10 years ago found that the ingredients typically used in chicken soup have anti-inflammatory properties that make you feel better when you're sick. Chicken soup really does soothe your throat, clears your airways and, of course, provides nourishment in a form you feel like taking.

But what if you don't eat meat? The study showed that the chicken provided anti-inflammatory properties, but so did the other ingredients in the soup. Meg Wolff of Cape Elizabeth, author of "A Life in Balance: Delicious Plant-Based Recipes for Optimal Health" (Down East $19.95), offered to share her vegetarian version, "Hold-the-Chicken Chicken Soup." You can find it elsewhere on this page.

And if that doesn't appeal to you, Wolff also recommends

MISO SOUP – A cup a day when you're sick. Miso soup contains beta glucans, which some researchers think may improve cholesterol and boost the immune system.

Barley and oatmeal are other sources of beta glucans.


ELDERBERRIES – Edie Johnston, president of Maine Medicinals in Dresden, is not allowed to make a direct claim that her locally grown organic elderberry syrup, sold under the name Anthoimmune, can fight colds and flu.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Meg Wolff's A Life in Balance contains plant-based recipes for optimal health, including a cold-soothing green-tea concoction and her Hold-the-Chicken Chicken Soup.

Courtesy photo

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Anthoimmune elderberry syrup has been getting positive feedback from satisfied customers, says Edie Johnston, president of Maine Medicinals in Dresden, which produces the organic syrup.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

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Everyone knows oranges are high in Vitamin C. Did you know broccoli and many other vegetables are, too? When you get your C from fruits and veggies instead of a pill, you get the added benefit of that fiber.

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