The dark, cold and wet days of winter are challenging for the body and spirit. This season is considered a time of "maximum Yin" when the earth and its inhabitants move into a slower and more restful state. This is a perfect time to recalibrate activities of daily life that support restoration of energy. Bodies expend energy all the time. The winter season encourages us to recharge ourselves. Chinese medical practices (tai chi, qi gong, nutritional therapy) provide ways to recharge without putting stress on the body's systems.
An easy way to do this is through food. These soups are lighter and more healthful than holiday fare, are soothing and warming, and help increase vitality and build immunity.
Dried herbs are available in Asian markets.
Healthful Herbal Chicken Soup
2-3 lb. chicken pieces
8 cups water
pinch of salt
1 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, slivered into slices
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
6-8 medium size pieces of dried Chinese yam (in packages labeled Shan Yao or Haui Shan)
6 med. size pieces astragalus (Huang Qi)
1 tablespoon goji berries
6-8 red dates (Hong Zao), seeded – these are usually sold dried and packaged
2 tblsp. rice wine
2 green onions
3 tblsp. soy sauce
Combine chicken, water and salt and bring to boil. Skim off fat. Tie ginger, garlic, yam, and astragalus together in cheesecloth and add to soup with berries, dates and rice wine. Bring back to boil then lower heat and simmer with cover slightly ajar, for an hour. Remove cheesecloth at end of cooking. Add soy sauce to taste and garnish with green onions
Flu Season Soup
¾ cup pearl barley or coix seeds (Job’s Tears)
3 ½ cups water
1 tblsp. oil
½ med. size onion, cut into ½-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2-3 med. size stalks of celery, cut into ½-inch slices
1 cup cooked beans (kidney, black or azuki beans)
2 tsp. dried thyme
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 leek, well washed and cut into ¼-inch slices (no root or tough tips)
½ cup fresh or frozen peas
Pepper and salt
A handful of arugula, roughly chopped into 1 or 2-inch pieces
Combine barley and water in a pot, bring to boil, then lower heat and cook uncovered at a gentle simmer for 30 min. Heat oil in a separate pan over medium heat, then add onion and garlic, cooking until golden brown. Add celery, beans, thyme and broth and cook (covered) for 15 minutes. Gently stir to break open beans. Add water if beans become too thick or is sticking to pan. Add bean mixture to barley with leeks and peas. Season with pepper and simmer another 15 minutes until barley is soft. Add salt to taste. Sprinkle arugula on top of soup as garnish.