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What should you cook when you have a cold, flu or Conjunctivitis?

By Tom Tillman

When the cold, flu, Conjunctivitis (red eyes) and tons of tummy viruses start to pop up this time of year, eating can be a challenge, which makes certain dinner ideas for when you’re sick such little lifesavers. I have a mental “go to” list of foods I like to eat when I just don’t feel like doing anything but laying on the couch or in the bed nursing myself back to normal. You can’t just eat junk out of the cabinet when you’re sick either. That usually makes things worse. Been there, done that, and take my word for it that no matter how simple that box of cereal or tub of ice cream looks, trust me, you won’t feel any better if that’s all you eat. Instead of eating junk, eat some of my other favorite easy, yet much healthier, dinner ideas for when you’re sick. In the meantime, rest, drink a lot of herbal tea, and be patient with your body.

1.Veggie Broth Soup

My ultimate favorite choice of all dinner ideas for when you’re sick is a delicious veggie broth soup. It’s comprised of easy to digest root veggies and veggie broth. I like to buy unsalted broth varieties to keep in my pantry at all times, so that when a virus or cold hits, I have it on hand. Sure, I like homemade better, and it’s healthier, but who wants to cook homemade broth when you’re sick? I like Kitchen Essentials brand Unsalted Vegetable Broth. It’s gluten-free, vegan, has no MSG, no soy, dairy or anything else you would find in conventional soups. It’s also so healing and nourishing. For the veggies, I like to keep roasted veggies in my fridge most of the time anyway. I usually roast big batches of sweet potatoes, onions, squash, beets and carrots for the week, and they develop a delicious caramelized taste as they cool. Then you can just toss them right into the broth, heat, and add a can of fire roasted tomatoes, and you’re good to go! I also have a few favorite soups I like to keep stocked in the freezer known as Frugal fall Harvest Soup, and Magical Healing Soup.

2.An Omelets

Unless you’re sick to your stomach, eggs are a great food to eat when you’re sick. Plus, if you can get yourself up off the couch for a few minutes, an omelet only takes a few minutes to make, and contains amino acids and protein, B vitamins, iron, Vitamins A and D. One specific amino acid it contains is tryptophan, which will help you relax and rest. I suggest buying organic or pastured eggs if you can though, to avoid pesticides, hormones and fertilizers that might not be so good for you. Prepare an omelet with 2 egg whites and 1 egg, toss in some no- salt- added canned tomatoes ( such as Muir Glen organic brand), and perhaps add some asparagus or spinach. This is a very satisfying, warming meal that can aid in healing and repair. Plus, it’s really tasty! I like mine topped with fresh black pepper and Italian spices.

3.Tom Yum Seafood

This Thai Seafood Soup is authentic and incredible tasting - you’ll love the combination of shrimp and/or seafood together with lemongrass, coconut milk, and lime. This soup soothes and uplifts the spirit as well as the body. In Thailand, Tom Yum Seafood is known for its health benefits and is the Thai equivalent of chicken noodle soup when you’re feeling ill. It’s also remarkably easy to make once you have the ingredients. And if you have any trouble finding these ingredients, don’t be put off making it - just try my recommended substitutions (bottom of recipe) and it will still turn out great! Make this soup on a chilly fall or winter day and you’ll soon feel thoroughly warmed from the inside. ENJOY!

6 cups good-tasting chicken stock
12 medium raw shrimp, shells removed
Other seafood of your choice: fresh mussels, scallops, crab, or sliced fish fillet (up to 1 handful of each)
1 stalk minced lemongrass*, OR 2.5 to 3 Tbsp. frozen or bottled prepared lemongrass (or see substitutions list)
2 kaffir lime leaves*
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. galangal OR ginger, grated
1-2 sliced red chilies OR 1-2 tsp. Thai chili sauce*
Optional: handful of fresh mushrooms, sliced thinly
1 medium tomato, cut into thin strips
Other optional vegetables: handful baby bok choy
1/2 can (14 ounce) thick coconut milk (not ‘lite’)
2 Tbsp. fish sauce * (if you don’t like the smell of fish sauce, see substitutions list below)
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
juice of 1 lime
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 cup fresh coriander (cilantro), roughly chopped

Pour stock plus lemongrass and lime leaves in a deep soup pot over medium-high heat. If using fresh lemongrass, also add the upper stalk pieces for extra flavor. Bring to a boil.

Add garlic, galangal/ginger, chili, and mushrooms (if using). Reduce heat to medium and simmer 2-3 minutes, or until mushrooms are soft.

Add the shrimp, any other seafood you’re using, and tomato plus baby bok choy (if using). Simmer over medium heat 3-4 minutes, or until shrimp turns pink and plump and mussels have opened. Scallops, crab, and fish should all be firm to the touch and no longer translucent.

Reduce heat to medium-low and add the coconut milk, fish sauce, soy sauce, lime juice, and sugar. Stir well to combine and gently simmer until hot (do not boil at this point). Taste-test the soup for salt and spice, adding more fish sauce instead of salt (I usually add 1 more Tbsp.), or more chili as desired. If too sour, add more sugar. If too spicy for your taste or if you’d like it creamier, add more coconut milk. If too salty, add another squeeze of lime juice.

Serve in bowls with fresh coriander sprinkled over. For an extra hit of flavor, you can also add some Thai chili sauce, either store-bought or the homemade version.

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