Flu stew (variable servings)

If the flu were a person, she'd be that girl you spent some time with every few years during your childhood, mainly because she knew a lot of the people in your class. Maybe she visited you once or twice during college, but after that, you parted ways and didn't think much about each other. From time to time, you'd hear about her visiting somebody you knew, but you shrugged it off because you didn't remember much about her after all those years apart.

But then one day in your adult years, she knocks on your door -- usually late at night -- cold and shivering and begging for a place to lie down. You let her in, figuring she'll be out of the way in the morning. But when she's still with you a few days later, you realize something is most definitely wrong. First of all, she's so irritating that she makes your blood boil but so clingy that she chills you to the bone. And god, she's boring. She says she wants to get caught up, but really, she just wants to force you to sit on the couch and watch movies for days in end. She's boring enough to make you ache all over. Even the most menial tasks, like doing laundry or washing your hair, become impossibly exhausting when she's around. And every time you think you're over her and ready to kick her out, she forces you to spend yet another boring day at home with her. And you can't even drink while she's around! Is there no end in sight??

Naturally, the only way to overcome both the flu and awkward social situations is soup. I don't know why, but soup seems to cure everything. And when you're not feeling well, the easiest way to prepare it is to throw stuff in a crockpot and then take a three-hour nap while it cooks. Trust me.

Now, I realize that people are of two schools of thought when it comes to flexible recipes: Some are excited by the challenge, and some are paralyzed with intimidation. I promise it's not scary. Basically, all you're doing here is gathering up whatever leftover and/or frozen veggies you can find, covering them with broth or ready-made soup, and tossing it all into a slow cooker. This really couldn't be easier, and when you're sick, you need things to be as easy as they can be.

You will need:

  • Several cups of fresh, canned, or frozen veggies, chopped into bite-sized pieces (I used broccoli florets, frozen corn and peas, sliced snow peas, chopped baby carrots, a diced tomato, and frozen butternut squash)
  • Some protein, such as chickpeas or granulated TVP (I used 1/2 cup TVP)
  • Whatever spices and herbs seem fitting (I used dried basil, dill, oregano, smoked paprika, pepper, and salt)
  • Several cups of store-bought soup and/or broth (I used a 32-oz carton of Imagine's Harvest Corn Soup and two cups of vegetable broth)

Steps:

  1. Place the veggies and protein in the bottom of the crockpot. Add enough liquid to cover the solid ingredients. Place lid on crockpot and turn to high for 3 hours.

Honestly, it could not be much easier. When deciding which ingredients and base to use, think about how you're feeling and what your body needs. If you have a sore throat or chest congestion, you probably want to stay away from dairy-based soups. If you're all stuffed up, you might want to focus on aromatic, Asian-style ingredients like ginger, garlic, and green onions. Most of all, you just want to make sure you're getting plenty of vegetables and protein. 

As far as the seasonings go, I'd suggest waiting until the end to add the salt. For the most part, it's hard to mess up something like this, but salt is tough to undo. (You can try adding another cup of water and then tasting it to see if the salinity is less harsh.) Just go with what feels good and enjoy it!