by Nicole Clark, RD
It’s hard not to feel a little paranoid about the flu this year. Between the news reports and articles, and half a dozen people coughing and sneezing around you every time you leave the house, one starts to feel as though they are swimming in a sea of germs! Truth is, we are. It really is a wonder that we aren’t sick 90% of the time! If you want to be thankful for something today, give your immune system a pat on the back for a job well done!
However, no system is flawless. Your immune system is no exception, it too falls prey to infection. At worst, you may have already spent a few lousy days laid up in bed with fever and body aches. At best, you’re still chipper and healthy, feeling sorry for your friends who look and feel like death just slapped them in the face.
Being the good friend or family member that you are, you encourage your ill fated friend to rest and relax while you make then something to eat. This simple act may be one of the most important things you can do for someone when they are sick, LET THEM REST! Lack of adequate sleep significantly reduces the production of white blood cells. These particular cells are but one component of the immune system, but they are vitally important when it comes to destroying bacteria, or virally infected cells in the body. An ally you certainly do not want to risk loosing for the sake of staying awake in oder to “get things done”!
So, while the sick slumber, your thoughts turn to the most healing food imaginable. If chicken noodle soup doesn’t scream out at you, then I don’t know what does. A classic pairing you might say! While Cambell’s may offer the convenient choice, it just doesn’t quite compare to the homemade stuff. Grandma was on to something when she made soup from scratch. That homemade soup is loaded with nutrition from the herb, vegetable, and bone marrow stock. The task may sound daunting, but a homemade chicken stock is really quite simple, and a thousand times healthier and tastier!
If you can fill a stock pot with cold water, roughly chop 3 carrots, 3 stalks of celery, and toss in a few herbs (garlic, whole pepper corn, bay leaf, thyme, and rosemary), and have a little patience while the stock slowly cooks you can make magic! There is the chicken to break down of course, and this is what scares most people away from making their own stock. What I want you to remember when you read the instructions to “cut into 8 pieces”, is that it doesn’t really matter if your butchering job looks professional. If your looking at the bird and cannot decipher top from bottom, and head from tail, well, join the club. The point is to break the bird into smaller components so that it will fit into the stock pot. All of the meat is going to be cooked to the point of falling off the bones anyway. Also, by breaking some of the bones in the butchering of the bird, you expose the magic. The bone marrow, the source of white blood cell production! As your stock slowly simmers, this bone marrow will infuse into your stock making a broth that is delectable and nutritious!
Admittedly, I searched high and low for scientific evidence that would explain if and how eating bone marrow would improve your immune system. I came up with a big goose egg. Nothing. Not one study. However, I am perfectly content with accepting some of the traditional knowledge that is passed down from generation to generation. And homemade stock is one that grandmothers the world over will swear to. I am inclined to believe them. Frankly, even if stock made from nutritious foods does not give my immune system the edge over a cold, I still win ‘cause the soup will be divine!.
Never mind the plethora of websites claiming they know the 10 best foods for improving your immune system. And question the magical powers of a rare berry found halfway around the world (OK, so I claimed homemade stock was magic, but it really is, even if only to the palate). In all honesty, what your immune system needs to work its best, is a varied diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, protein, healthy fats, and carbohydrates. Add in adequate sleep and you have a recipe for a healthy batch of life! So make your homemade stock, be liberal with the garlic, there are studies that have shown it is beneficial to your immune system, and serve up a steaming bowl of deliciousness with a fresh salad. My Mexican friends have introduced me to a the addition of Sriracha (an Asian hot sauce, though any will do) and a squeeze of lime (vitamin C!) into your bowl of soup, add before serving. Extra delicious!
Chicken Noodle Soup
- 1 Whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces (www.youtube.com/watch?v=om35LkkwS2w)
- 2-3 celery ribs, roughly cut into 2 inch pieces
- 2 carrots, also cut into roughly 2 inch pieces
- 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 2-3 cloves of garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon of whole black peppercorns
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 4 qt COLD water
- optional- add a rosemary twig, 6 parsley stems, or other herb of choice
Slowly bring all ingredients to a simmer (preferably not a boil) in an 8-10 qt stock pot. Starting with cold water and a slow simmer will create a clear stock. Froth may accumulate at the top, skim off and discard if it does. Continue to simmer for about 3 hours, uncovered.
Remove chicken from stock and set aside. Pour stock through a fine mesh sieve into a large bowl. Discard solids (used vegetables). Return stock to pot if using right away. Can be frozen for up to one month. (For food safety reasons, allow stock to cool at room temperature for an hour before putting into freezer).
Chicken Noodle Soup
- 12 oz package of slightly thawed (do not microwave, allow to sit at room temp), frozen egg noodles. Can substitute 8 oz. dry egg noodles.
- 2 medium carrots, diced
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 1 medium oinion, chopped
- Meat from chicken used in stock, removed from bones and roughly chopped/shredded.
- optional- sliced mushrooms, saute in a little butter for added flavor (high in vitamin D and beta-glucans, improves the immune system)
Add onion, celery, carrot, mushrooms, and chicken to broth. Simmer until carrots are tender, about 8-10 minutes, separate frozen noodles (smaller clumps is fine) and add to broth. Cook until noodles are tender. Add salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!