Cold comfort food

What's on your shopping list when you have a cold

Image credit: chicken noodle soup by stu_spivack on Flickr. CC BY 2.0.

You know the feeling. You’re minding your own business, when all of a sudden you realize your throat is a little scratchy. Not longer after this realization, you remember you have been a little sneezier than usual in the cubicle farm. Then you know. You are the next victim of the plague that’s been going around the office: You have a cold.

You know what’s going to happen next. Within the next 24 hours you’re going to feel awful. In 24 hours your two best friends are going to be a box of facial tissues and a container to throw the used ones away in. So, you start the list of things you’re going to get at the store on the way home: facial tissues, decongestant, pain reliever, saline nasal spray.

You also know that you’re probably not going to be able to leave the house for several days and you’re not going to want to do much cooking. What do you add to your list?

Well a few days ago when I got that old familiar feeling, here was the list I made:

  • Chicken noodle soup. In a can. Anyone who claims they take chicken carcasses they keep in their freezer for just such an occasion and make a fresh batch of chicken broth for soup is a damn liar because everyone knows you don’t have the energy to comb your hair when you’re sick, let alone do culinary wrangling. (Or that person is Martha Stewart, and what she really means when she says she makes from scratch chicken soup when she’s sick is, “I have my staff make me a fresh batch of chicken soup when I’m sick.”)
  • Jell-O. Ready to eat in those cute little cups. Preferably something in the red flavor category. (Feverish side note: I remember my mom making us drink warm Jell-O water when we were sick on the advice of our pediatrician. Anyone else do that? No, just us? Moving on…)
  • Mashed potatoes. Instant. Warm, salty and sore-throat soothing. Bonus: This meal takes less than five minutes from dinner to nap.
  • Mac ‘n’ cheese. In a microwavable cup with a dried cheese packet inside. For when you’ve reached the next step in the recovery process and you need to chew your food or you’ll go crazy (but nothing too hard because your throat is still too ouchy).

What about you? What are your go-to sick time foods? I’m on the mend but I’m open to expanding my simple carb repertoire for the next time around!

Tomato soup and grilled cheese: a love story

Come close, children. I’m about to tell you a story. The story of a love that will endure throughout the ages.

Tomato soup and grilled cheese.

Tomato soup and grilled cheese

Tomato soup and grilled cheese: Goes together like peas and carrots.

When I feel chilled to the core by the arctic blast of winter, some tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich are what I need to warm the cockles of my heart. Even though I’m eager to crunch into the toasted bread and taste the warm, melted cheese as soon as possible, I have learned the key to the perfect grilled cheese sandwich is patience.

Diana and The Supremes said it best: You can’t hurry love.

A grilled cheese sandwich, like any great romance, cannot be rushed. Turn up the heat too high and too fast your sandwich will burn, leaving a bad taste in your mouth. Have the heat just right, but don’t put in the time needed to see how things develop, you’ll have a sandwich that looks good on the outside, but is cold on the inside. But give that sandwich time to mature, and you’ll have a perfect sandwich; a sandwich that leaves you feeling all gooey inside and feeds your spirit.

While you’re giving your sandwich its “space,” you can cultivate your other interests—namely preparing your tomato soup. Open the can of condensed soup, empty the contents into the pan, gently stir in the water (or milk if you prefer) and turn up the heat. Now, check on your sandwich; it’s probably time to turn it.

Now wait a just a little bit longer.

Once the bread is toasted, the cheese has melted to the perfect consistency and the soup is at the perfect soul-warming temperature, you are ready to experience the most heavenly union: dipping your sandwich into the soup and eating it. The crispy, salty bread and melted cheese is the perfect mate to the acidic tang of the tomato soup. Delicious!

And they lived happily ever after (at least I did, until I ran out of sandwich).

Tomorrow, April 12, is National Grilled Cheese Sandwich day. I can’t think of a more perfect time to toast this union. If you don’t know how to make one, here are few resources to get you started:

  • For the beginner, Kraft’s basic sandwich recipe (it even has video if you’re kitchen challenged) is found here.
  • Want to get a little more creative? The Food Network offers 50 Grilled Cheese variations to inspire you!
  • Do you have mad kitchen skillz and a refined palate? Check out Martha Stewart’s Grilled Cheese for Grown-ups.