Cultural Get Well Foods

Fall is that time of year when the leaves begin to change and look pretty because they are dying. Unfortunately for people, when we are sick we tend not to look that great. If you want to avoid scaring away your professors and peers, you may want to look into some foods that will shorten the span of any illness you may find yourself afflicted with. Luckily for you, just about every culture has their own ideas about this. The following is an extremely short list of easy-to-make foods that may help.

Beginning with a classic, we have chicken soup. There are a few ways that you can do this, and the reality is that you can add whatever veggies or other enhancers you want to add to make this your own. You like noodles? Go for it! Egg noodles are pretty good and pack a lot of protein.
As far as the broth goes, the traditional way to do this is to boil an entire chicken until the meat begins to fall off the bones. When you’re sick, however, you probably feel like you’d rather boil your face until the meat falls off the bones. Instead, you can boil some chicken breasts in lightly salted water for 15 minutes, or until it’s completely cooked, remove the chicken, break it up with a couple of forks or tongs, and set it aside.

Next scoop the foam from the top of the water and place the veggies of your choice in it (carrots, celery, potatoes, onions or whatever you like) and throw in some chicken bouillon cubes and salt and pepper to taste. The veggies can be cooked until they are soft or left slightly crunchy. Cooking is really great because while it does seem like there are a lot of rules, the biggest rule of all is that you can pretty much do whatever you want as long as you cook your poultry entirely.

Add your chicken to your soup and cook it until the chicken is warm. If you are the type of person who wants to add noodles to the mix, the same rule that goes with the veggies goes along with those: Cook until they are as soft as you want them to be. You can do this before you throw the veggies into your boiling pot if you’d like, or at the same time. I would suggest the same time if you want soft veggies—it cuts a step and hey, you’re feeling sick!

Let’s move on to a Cuban dish that is sure to offer you some much-needed energy. Ropa vieja is a dish best made in a slow cooker. I know a good deal of people do not have these, but they are something that you really should invest in. The thing about a slow cooker is that it generally does all of the cooking for you, and that is ideal when you are sick. A small slow cooker is affordable enough, but don’t waste a perfect opportunity to assure your parents you will starve to death without being gifted one. When your package from home arrives with your new slow cooker in it, you are ready to make your ropa vieja.

Flank steak is usually used for this dish. If you get to the store and find that it is out of your price range, do not be afraid to ask someone in the meat department for a good substitute. Assuming you get home with some sort of beef, you should brown it in a pan with whatever oil you like to use. This generally takes about 4 minutes per side if you are cooking it over medium heat.

Now comes the easy part: throw the meat in the slow cooker with EVERYTHING else. That’s right, all of it. Beef broth, tomato sauce, onion, green bell pepper, garlic cloves, tomato paste, cumin, cilantro, olive oil and white vinegar. You just let it cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 10. No, really, that’s all that you do. When it is done, take it out, shred the meat and have it with rice or on tortillas. I was not kidding about the slow cooker; it will make you feel like a master chef and allow you to avoid responsibility at the same time. That is the perfect set up for when you are sick, as well as for being a student in general.

Okay, so some people don’t eat meat. We’ve been over it, it’s alright, I still love you and you still need something to help you feel better when you’re sick. Eastern Europe has something that they assure me will make you feel better. Borscht is a sort of beet soup that can apparently cure all ills. Whether that is a legitimate fact or not, it is worth a try.

Start by bringing some water to a boil in a large pot. You should definitely put some salt in there, then, your carrots, celery, beet, tomatoes and potatoes that should be cut into quarters, and half of your bell pepper. Just let it happen. While it is happening, grab a skillet.

In the skillet, you should melt your butter over medium heat. Saute your onions in the butter for about 5 minutes, or until they are as tender as you’d like. Stir in your tomato sauce and reduce your heat until it’s at medium low. Let this mixture simmer for a good 15 minutes. When the simmering is all done, remove half a cup or so of the broth and set it aside, then add your cabbage and simmer the rest for 5 more minutes or, once again, until tender.

Now turn back to your boiling mixture, where you remove your beets and, unfortunately, discard them, unless you need them for something else. Your borscht now thinks beets are so last year. You should also remove your potatoes and place them in a different bowl with the remaining butter and cream so that you can take out your sick-rage on mashing them until they are smooth.

Return the cup of reserved onion-tomato sauce to the stock pot and stir in the diced potatoes, then simmer until just tender enough for you, which should take approximately 5 minutes. Increase your heat to a low boil, stir in remaining cabbage, tomato sauce and mashed potatoes, then reduce heat and simmer a few minutes more. Stir in remaining bell pepper, season with black pepper, and you are done! It sounds more complicated than it is, trust me. It will taste fantastic and you will have no regrets.