Flu season is upon us. Many of my friends have already been sick and we are just at the beginning. Since people around us probably don’t want us to munch on raw garlic all day to ward off viruses, we need to eat nutrient-rich foods that have strong immune-boosting powers. Chicken soup has long been touted as one of the best foods for a cold or flu. The main reason is that it nourishes and repairs a mucous lining of our gut that is directly connected to our immune system.
The following are my favorite immune system boosters. These foods are packed full of nutrients and are warm and comforting. I have included ginger, garlic, red pepper flakes, lemon, coconut milk and shitake mushrooms. Shitake mushrooms have an active compound called lentinan. Lentinans have a ton of healing benefits and are fabulous at kick-starting the immune system and strengthening its ability to fight infection and disease. Studies have shown lentinans to be even more effective than prescription drugs in fighting cold and flu viruses. Shitakes contain selenium, iron, protein, dietary fiber and vitamin C.
First, I am going to show you how to make your own stock. You may decide to skip this step for the coconut chicken soup recipe that follows, but I highly recommend that you make your own broth. Store bought broths simply cannot stand up to the nutrients in home-made stock. For this recipe, you can use a store-bought chicken, however using leftover chicken (including bones) from an earlier chicken dinner works just as well.
Step 1: Chicken Stock
- 1 whole free-range or organic chicken (cut into pieces) or chicken bones as mentioned above
- 4 quarts water
- 2 tablespoons vinegar
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 5 garlic cloves, mashed
- 1 cup shitake mushroom stems (the tops will be used for the soup below)
- optional dried sea vegetables (such as kombu)
Place all items in a pot. Bring to a boil and skim off any foam that rises to the top. Turn the heat down to simmer and cook, covered, for 6-24 hours. The longer it cooks, the healthier and tastier it is. Strain the stock and store in a large jar in the fridge. Fat may rise to the top and you can just scoop that off. It is great to take some stock and freeze it in ice cube trays and then remove the stock “ice cubes” and store them in the freezer. Then you will have nutritious stock on hand for making soups, cooking grains, etc.
Step 2: Coconut Chicken Soup
- 1 quart chicken stock
- 1 ½ cups coconut milk
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon grated ginger
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
- 1 cup sliced shitake mushrooms
- sea salt to taste
Bring the stock to a boil and add the coconut milk, red pepper, ginger and lemon. Let simmer for 10 minutes.
Add shitake mushrooms and sea salt to taste. Cook 5 minutes longer. Eat, enjoy and be well!
*Please note that this is a mild healing soup and not a robust “dinner party” soup.