We woke up this morning to two kids with sniffles, coughs, and sore throats. I considered dragging them both to school, but quickly threw in the towel when my son barely spoke above a whisper. We settled in for a multi-kid sick day and I set about doing everything I could to make sure we wouldn't have a repeat tomorrow. First task - create a menu for the day that was heavy on immune-boosting foods.
You've probably heard that chicken soup for colds may be more than an old wives tale; there is some scientific evidence that it actually does boost the immune system. Dr. Stephen Rennard at the University of Nebraska Medical Center published research to support this claim using an old family recipe. According to the New York Times, no one is yet sure what specific ingredients support immunity, but they suspect it is a combination of the known value of hot liquids and the possible interaction between the chicken and veggies.
In addition to basic chicken soup recipes, there area also optional ingredients that have some scientific connection to well-being. For example, barley, onions, garlic, and mushrooms have all been connected to supporting a healthy immune system.
With these scientific facts in mind, I set out to create a soup that would help my kids feel better without taking all day to make (I had sick kids to take care of, after all). The result was pleasing to me and the kids; they literally slurped their soup down in one sitting without putting down their spoons. Anyone who knows the eating habits of toddlers and six-year-olds knows how unusual it is to please both so easily at the same time.
The recipe is an easy go-to for winter cold season, whether you're already sick or just trying to avoid it!
The Recipe: Simple Tomato Barley Soup
1 carrot, diced
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
1 large container organic chicken broth (32 fl oz)
1/2 cup dried barley
1/4 cup dried lentils
Heat 1 T olive oil over medium heat in a large stock pot. Add carrots and onions and saute for about 5-6 minutes until slightly tender. Add mushrooms and saute for another 3-5 minutes until the mushrooms have released their liquid. Add garlic cloves and salt and pepper (to taste) and saute for another 1-2 minutes, being careful not to over-brown the garlic. Add the diced tomatoes, chicken broth, barley, and lentils. Bring the soup to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for about 45 minutes. Add additional salt and pepper to taste (though we didn't need much more).
Serve with a side of toasted garlic bread (cause everything is better with garlic bread!).