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Soup sends flu packing

Judith Dunbar Hines' flu-fighting soup ingredients. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

Judith Dunbar Hines' flu-fighting soup and the ingredients. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

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Updated: March 17, 2013 7:50PM



Just as we try to relax and enjoy the calm of January, a new set of stress-inducing signs pop up:

Get your flu shot — now. Wash those hands with soap and water — a lot. Don’t forget to take your vitamins.

It’s flu season, and it’s hit the area hard. So many are suffering with the symptom that hospitals were forced to turn away patients from their emergency rooms, according to news stories.

There are certainly as many cures as there are variations on the illness. Old grandmother cures, dismissed for years, seem to be coming back in updated forms. Maybe the garlic clove tied around the neck won’t work, but plenty of garlic in our food seems to have some sway against the bug.

Asian-style pharmacology divides foods into warm and cool attributes and this is the time to focus on the warm list: hot and spicy ingredients such as ginger and chiles certainly will help with stuffy noses and bronchial issues.

Plenty of Vitamin C, from citrus and other fruits, always is prescribed when clouds bring chilly wet weather.

But what about those antioxidants everyone talks about? Do you even know what they are or what they do, not to mention how to get them into your menu?

Simply put, antioxidants help keep our immune systems strong and better able to fight off cold, flu and other infections. They are vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients naturally occurring in fruits and vegetables that protect and repair cells from damage caused by free radicals, which can interfere with your immune system.

Experts advise including the brightest colored fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet because those foods contain the most immune-boosting anti-oxidants. Get plenty of betacarotene, vitamin C and vitamin E by focusing on the orange, red, yellow and dark green colors in the produce section.

Use vegetable oils such as olive or soybean for their Vitamin E content, which also is present in kale and chard, squash and bell peppers. In addition to citrus, vitamin C can be found in spinach, broccoli, strawberries and sweet potatoes. Get betacarotene from a variety of dark orange, red, yellow and green vegetables and fruits.

After a study of the facts, I wanted a recipe that combined as many of these good-for-you ingredients in one dish as possible. And at this time of year, a hearty warming soup is an easy way to make that combination really add up in the benefits department.

To prevent the loss of those important vitamins, it is best to cook them quickly or, in the case of hard vegetables, at least cook them without boiling in water that dilutes them. In this recipe, the squash is roasted first. Vegetable broth and orange juice provide the liquid, and the soup is only cooked long enough to bring all of the parts into harmony.

Surrounded by a chorus of sneezing, coughing, sniffling family members on the first day that long-awaited snow coated the ground, I served this soup and declared our table a flu-fighter zone. I hope it works for you as well as it did for us.

Judith Dunbar Hines is a cooking teacher, tour guide, writer and culinary consultant in Chicago. Contact her at www.judith@judithdunbarhines.com.

Flu-fighter Soup

Makes about 10 (1-cup) servings

At this time of year, we need all the help we can get in eating the right foods full of healthy vitamins and antioxidants. This soup packs them all into one bowl.

1 (3-pound) butternut squash, halved and seeded

11/2 teaspoons ground cumin

5 cloves garlic, very finely minced

11/2 teaspoons salt

¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 large onion, chopped

3 tablespoons olive oil

5 cups vegetable broth

1 cup orange juice

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1 (1-inch-long) piece of fresh ginger, grated

½ teaspoon dry mustard

½ teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)

3 cups coarsely chopped kale, chard or spinach leaves

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Rub squash on cut surfaces with half the cumin, half the minced garlic and some of the salt and pepper. Place on greased baking pan, cut side down, cover lightly with foil and roast until soft, about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook onion and remaining garlic in the olive oil in a large stockpot over low heat until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the broth and juice, and heat to the boil.

Scoop cooked squash from the skin and mash with a fork until chunky. Add to the stockpot along with the cinnamon, ginger, mustard, red pepper. Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes. Drop the greens into the pot and continue to cook another 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.

Adapted from “The Manual That Should Have Come with Your Body”
by Cindy Heroux



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