In the immortal words of Red Green, it is winter. People are sneezing, hacking, and spraying, with no regard for those around them. You're going to get sick. I spent 3 weeks under the weather, and the cold and sinus part was hugely helped by the following three things. Standard disclaimer: if you haven't already noticed, I'm not a doctor, and taking my advice on anything should be taken with a grain of salt. MMMMM, salt.
1. No need to put 8 ounces of water in Emergen-C. You put an ounce of water in, then you shoot it. Also, there's no need to drink Emergen-C. A bottle of 1000mg Vitamin C capsules is a lot less money. Take as much as your body can tolerate*.
(*=a discrete way of saying: when the uncontrollable farts start, lay off the C)
2. If you don't already own a Neti-pot, 2016 is the year to change that. Salt water is virtually free. Have a friend help you the first time so you don't accidentally waterboard yourself - use distilled or boiled water if there are any questions about how clean it is.
(This is fantastic year-round, especially if you struggle with dryness from indoor heating, or seasonal allergies.)
3. Chicken soup. In the absence of a jewish grandmother... here's how.
Don't be put off by the number of steps - this isn't hard, just read it through.
Freedom from watery, bland commercial stock is ahead.
- A crock pot
- Carrots, onions, and celery, plus salt, pepper, dried chiles or crushed red pepper, and bay leaves.
- A whole chicken. If you already have it cooked: take the meat off the bones and set meat aside. If it's raw: put it in the crock pot for approximately 2 hours on high or 4 hours on low (will vary, but it's apparent when it's done). No need to add liquid or seasoning: the goal is just to cook the chicken. When it's cooled a bit, take the meat off the bones and set meat aside.
- NOW: put bones, skin, and any weird pieces of fat into the crockpot (Smaller households: keep a bag in the freezer with smaller amounts of bones until you get a couple carcasses worth, along with vegetable scraps). Since you're going to be making soup out of this, take out the carrots, onions, and celery.
- Peel as many carrots as you're going to use, and put the peels and ends into the crockpot, along with the onion ends and the weird layer that's under the skin but before the good part of the onion, and the wiggly undesirable bits, roots, and leaves of celery. Basically, whatever you'd throw out, goes into the pot.
- Add a good size amount (maybe 1 1/2 tsp?) of black peppercorns, a dried chile or a good shaking of crushed red pepper, around 1 1/2 tsp of salt, and all the broken pieces of bay leaf you are worried about using in case someone chokes to death.
- Cover the whole thing with water.
- Cook for as long as you can stand. I like to do this at night and let it go 12-14 hours, although sometimes the smell will wake you up at 2am, and you're like "that's weird, I smell food".
- Pour the broth through a strainer into the pot you're going to use to make the soup in (you can also stop the soup process here and just boil the stock down until it's extremely concentrated - make a note when you freeze it so you know how much water to add. It thaws faster and takes up less freezer space.)
- Chop the carrots, celery, and onions. If you have the time, you can saute these all a little bit, in some chicken fat, until the colors are bright. If you don't, no big deal. Chuck them into the stock, let it simmer until they're soft, while you chop up the chicken you set aside earlier. Add the chicken. Adjust the salt level, and you're done. The actual soup-making part of this takes about 20 minutes.
- Unless you want to add pasta, which you should pre-cook, and add to the individual bowls, so it doesn't waste all this INCREDIBLE STOCK.
- Don't you dare be scared by OR remove any of that extra fat that will solidify on the top of this when it's cold. This is part of what made your grandmother's soup taste so good and why you have never been able to replicate it since. It tastes delicious, and it'll make you feel better. If you're that worried about it, you should have started with an organic chicken anyway.
- Finally: grind some pepper into your own bowl. This isn't being fancy. Black pepper will make your sore throat feel better and your sinuses clear out.
- Eat. Repeat. Freeze the leftovers, so the next time you're down & out, your future self will be able to have soup.
- This can be scaled down - if you have less of everything, only make half a crockpot's worth. Mine is generally overflowing, but I'll make a big pot of soup AND freeze some stock for the future.
- You can tinker with this - jalapenos instead of chiles, cumin instead of bay leaves, parsley added at the end... but why mess with perfection.
- The picture, by the way, is "bird jello" - stock concentrated to a 4x strength.