Chicken Soup for the Girlfriend's Stomach
April 9, 2010 8:21 PM   Subscribe

What can I cook my girlfriend when she feels sick?

She feels sick to her stomach, or catches a cold, once or twice a month, and I would love to have a thing that I could cook that would make her feel better. I really want her to be able to say "Ever time I feel ill my boyfriend cooks me XYZ."

I know chicken soup is a good idea, but for some reason we can never keep it stocked, and I hate going to the store at 2 A.M. I have just about everything needed for cooking anything - rice, noodles, flour, eggs, chicken, cheese, etc etc etc. I just don't know what to make.

So, suggestions please for something that is super comforting, easy on the stomach, and easy to cook on the fly.
posted by rebent to Food & Drink (43 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
When I'm nauseated, mashed potatoes is one of the only things I can eat.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:23 PM on April 9, 2010

Best answer: In my house, it's all about the hot toddy. Whiskey, lemon juice, honey, hot water, a cinnamon stick and a couple of cloves. Delivered to a partner who's soaking in a steaming hot bath.
posted by mollymayhem at 8:24 PM on April 9, 2010 [8 favorites]

Tea and toast is nice. Ginger tea when her tummy's bothering her.
posted by padraigin at 8:26 PM on April 9, 2010 [4 favorites]

When I felt sick to my stomach my mom always recommended the BRAT diet - bananas, rice, apple sauce, and tea. I've heard these specific things replaced with other things that still fit the BRAT acronym. Things to avoid are dairy, grease, lots of sugar. Simple starches are good but not yeasty like bread.
posted by amethysts at 8:27 PM on April 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

Egg noodles + 1 can of cream of chicken soup. It's probably really terrible for you, but my mom made this for me every time I was sick. When I get sick now, my boyfriend makes it for me. Sometimes he adds tuna or peas, depending on how I feel. Kind of silly, but it makes me feel better.
posted by kerning at 8:28 PM on April 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

OH! I forgot to float a couple of slices of ginger in that hot toddy up there.
posted by mollymayhem at 8:28 PM on April 9, 2010

I tend to eat a lot of dry warm food. Toast with butter. Potato chips. But then my liquids come very separately. Tea and selzter water. And you cannot ever go wrong witht he aforementioned hot toddies!
posted by carlh at 8:31 PM on April 9, 2010

Candied ginger is awesome for nausea. And tasty (if you like the spiciness of ginger).
posted by ishotjr at 8:34 PM on April 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

mashed potatoes (instant) are my cure-all. Or at least hold me over, food wise, until I feel better. Make them with chicken stock/bullion for extra savoriness! Or peas/soy beans for extra nutrients.
posted by itesser at 8:40 PM on April 9, 2010

Best answer: My family is vegetarian, and their food of choice for sick days is dahl/dal also known as lentil soup. You can make it pretty simple by just cooking the lentils in water (more or less depending on your preference for soupy), and then at the end adding a spice mixture of some kind. The way I like to make it, though, is with yellow split peas. Start by sauteeing some ginger and onions, adding the lentils, and then adding about half veggie broth / half water. Turmeric is also a good addition, and then you can add some yogurt and toast.

Another plus on the ginger idea, too. I like to have lemon and ginger tea when I'm feeling sick - ginger minced and cooked and boiling water, then add a squeeze of lemon and a dollop of honey.

My personal sure-fire hangover cure is Annie's Mac and Cheese (the kind with the bunny).
posted by ajarbaday at 8:46 PM on April 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Bittman's fried rice.
posted by contessa at 8:49 PM on April 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Chicken or Beef flavored Ramen Noodles. Stay away from the Shrimp and Spicy flavors.
posted by TooFewShoes at 8:52 PM on April 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

This idea can backfire. When I was a kid, whenever we got stomach flu and started vomiting, my parents bought us 7-up to drink. That's the only time I ever drank 7-up and now I associate that flavor with being ill.

I can't stand 7-up. I despise it.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:09 PM on April 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Sorry, I gotta be the one to ask: have you asked her what she'd like? No point in making, say, soft-boiled eggs with ginger tea and biscuits if that's going to make her puke or something.

I mean, for example, TooFewShoes (sorry to pick on you, it's not personal) suggested chicken or beef flavored ramen noodles, but if you made that for me (assuming we are talking grade z American-style ramen) when I was sick I'd drag my ass off the bed and punch you before collapsing in a heap of sweat and coughing.

Just sayin'.
posted by dubitable at 9:23 PM on April 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

White rice and sauteed chicken. Avoid any fried dishes.
If you have a chicken, why can't you do a chicken broth? It is magic.
posted by Gilbert at 10:00 PM on April 9, 2010

My chicken soup equivalent is steamed eggs, a traditional Chinese (but absolutely simple) dish. Beat some eggs in a small bowl, adding some water or chicken broth (I've also heard soy milk), then gently place in a pot of water and steam until firm. The more liquid you add, the smoother the result, but both versions are nice.

Is her sickness related to the start of her period? Many women have unbearable menstrual cramps on the first day. For that occasion I prefer something cold and hearty, to calm my digestion, like good granola in yogurt with fruit or a big sandwich with a mountain of lettuce.
posted by acidic at 10:07 PM on April 9, 2010

Best answer: Chicken broth with a few dashes of fish sauce with some boiled pieces of chicken, topped with fried garlic, thin slices of ginger, and cilantro. Dump a bowl of cooked white rice into the soup. My family's from Thailand and I always ate this whenever I was feeling ill. I even make it when I'm feeling fine but too lazy to cook anything complicated.

Here is a recipe for the soup - this version has pork meatballs.
posted by pravit at 10:12 PM on April 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Bananas, Rice, Applesauce and Toast
posted by Confess, Fletch at 10:17 PM on April 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Egg drop soup with lots of white pepper is my favorite thing to make when sick. It's very easy ingredient wise but kind of impressively difficult to get the cooking process down pat. Makes for good extra-special comfort food. But honestly why don't you just ask her? Or stock pile chicken noodle soup if that really does the trick?
posted by Juicy Avenger at 10:28 PM on April 9, 2010

Response by poster: dubitable: "Sorry, I gotta be the one to ask: have you asked her what she'd like? No point in making, say, soft-boiled eggs with ginger tea and biscuits if that's going to make her puke or something"

I hear ya, but if only it were that simple! I usually get something along the lines of I am really hungry but I don't know what I want to eat or That food you just cooked yourself is going in my mouth because it turns out it is exactly what I want to eat right now

Anyway, a lot of these look really good!
posted by rebent at 10:30 PM on April 9, 2010

Best answer: Congee.

A "fake" (better?) equivalent can be made by making up rice in a cooker replacing the normal amount of water with 1/2 water and 1/2 chicken stock (from a can). When rice is done, throw it into the rest of the can of stock + can of water and boil for a bit. Maybe add more water + white pepper, onion, and garlic powder. And boil some more.

Easy to eat, easy to digest. Reasonably tasty. You can season the porridge with furikake or pork fluff or you can cut up seasoned "snack" seaweed packages onto it. Otherwise, break up and fry up some luncheon meat or turcky/chicken/ham/tuna from a can in a skillet and then mix it with the faux congee. You could add it in directly from can, but it tastes better after the meat has seen hot oil. Or maybe break up flavoured triscuit crackers into the faux congee. The rosemary and the pepper ones are quite taste-y.

If you want to make real congee, it's worth another in a couple of weeks.
posted by porpoise at 10:36 PM on April 9, 2010 [7 favorites]

Best answer: I'm a huge fan of hot ginger drink when I'm nauseated or congested. You can find it at pretty much any Asian or international market, it's cheap, and all you have to do is add hot water and stir.

My parents are Sicilian and they always gave me stracciatella when I was sick as a kid. It's basically the Italian version of egg-drop soup... chicken broth with an egg scrambled in it, to which you can add whatever herbs/spices/cheese your girlfriend is in the mood for.
posted by arianell at 10:42 PM on April 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

White rice, luke warm, with salt. When I can't eat anything because nothing tastes good, or when I can't cook much because I'm SO HUNGRY that I'm nauseous, that's what I eat.
posted by strixus at 11:00 PM on April 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Toast with vegemite and a strong cup of tea. I can ALWAYS eat that.
posted by geek anachronism at 11:14 PM on April 9, 2010

Response by poster: Chocolate Pickle: "This idea can backfire. When I was a kid, whenever we got stomach flu and started vomiting, my parents bought us 7-up to drink. That's the only time I ever drank 7-up and now I associate that flavor with being ill.

I can't stand 7-up. I despise it.

I know the feeling. When I was a kid, my mom made us blue jello with gummy sharks in it. Now I can't stand jello.
posted by rebent at 11:15 PM on April 9, 2010

Best answer: Egg noodles topped with butter, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper is easy and bland without being tasteless. You can always toss some steamed veggies or a little cooked chicken on top, depending on what you have on hand and how she's feeling.
posted by platinum at 11:31 PM on April 9, 2010 [4 favorites]

I second congee. If you have a Chinese restaurant nearby you can ask them to make you some. I'm not Chinese but it's one of the things I always want if I'm feeling rocky for any reason. Chicken and mushroom is good, but plain fish can be surprisingly good too and very delicate. You can even get plain.

Nobody else has commented, so I just have to say that your girlfriend is getting sick awfully frequently, and should probably put some effort into figuring out why and seeing what she can do to improve her overall health.
posted by zadcat at 11:41 PM on April 9, 2010

your girlfriend is getting sick awfully frequently

If she works with small children, it's actually pretty typical. It's also typical for some women to feel sick if they have menstrual cramps. For my menstrual-onset nausea or for the times when my lactose intolerance has crept up on me, I like Thai Kitchen's Hot and Sour Soup with plain tofu cubes. It's probably not the healthiest thing to eat, but it's easy to keep on hand and sometimes the sour/salty combo seems palatable when nothing else is.
posted by corey flood at 11:54 PM on April 9, 2010

I spent a lot of time with an upset stomach this summer due to active crohn's disease. My 'safe' foods when i was sick was chicken soup (easy on the veggies), pasta and potatoes. Nice simple starches/carbs were all I was eating. Not nutritionally complete but I would imagine it won't hurt you for a couple days. Also: jello. Key for when you're feeling flu-y
posted by gilsonal at 11:59 PM on April 9, 2010

I love small pasta with butter and parmesan when I'm sick. I also tend to eat a lot of soft boiled eggs on toast, and plain rice when I'm feeling nauseous.
posted by OLechat at 5:06 AM on April 10, 2010

Another plus on the ginger idea, too. I like to have lemon and ginger tea when I'm feeling sick - ginger minced and cooked and boiling water, then add a squeeze of lemon and a dollop of honey.

I'd second this and add that chamomile or green tea would be especially good. If you have a cinnamon stick (not ground cinnamon), you could add that too.
posted by Jaltcoh at 6:15 AM on April 10, 2010

Best answer: I do a sort-of fake egg drop soup -- chicken broth, lots of garlic (I remember reading years ago garlic helps colds, but mostly I just like garlic), a little salt and pepper, and then beat an egg and stir it into the boiling water. I don't worry too much about getting the egg part exactly right; the taste and texture is always find, if not as awesome as my local good Chinese place. Chicken broth, garlic, and egg all go down easy and are good for sick people, and the egg makes it a little more nourishing.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:51 AM on April 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: There is a big difference between being sick with a head cold and being sick with a queasy stomach. With a head cold, hot and spicy will get the nose running and clear out those sinuses. My (ex) Japanese husband swore by Korean soup which was extra spicy. When I have a head cold, I love hot whiskey with lemon and honey and any soup with a spicy, clear broth. By the way, capsiacin (found in hot peppers) is also good for post-workouts and arthritis as it has analgesic properties.

On the other hand, when she is queasy, spices, alcohol, and fats (as in fried rice) are going to make her feel worse. In that case bland and simple is best. It is also a good idea to serve something very familiar and comforting. In the olden days (pre-50's) they served "milk toast" which is slices of buttered toast served in warm milk, but I always hated that when my mother tried to fix it for me. Depending on how bad her stomach is, plain boiled rice with a little broth is best. As others have pointed out, ginger is well known for its ability to settle a queasy stomach, so you can serve ginger ale, ginger tea, or freshly grated ginger on top of tofu.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:58 AM on April 10, 2010

No cooking required, but I find rice pudding and tapioca to be quite comforting when my stomach isn't feeling well. The good stuff in the refrigerated aisle.
posted by mireille at 8:25 AM on April 10, 2010

Best answer: Keep some water crackers on hand. When I'm hungry and almost nothing else appeals, I can usually start with those.

Tea sometimes really doesn't work; it's pretty acidic. Chamomile tea, maybe with a piece of candied ginger, is sometimes great, sometimes not so great, but it smells really nice.

If you really want to cook something, fresh homemade biscuits can be wonderful. There's a technique to cutting the shortening into the flour that's worth learning. Serve with butter and jam on the side in case she wants them plain. They can be an awesome hot breakfast for any time, too.

A little whole wheat flour in the biscuits can be quite nice, but for an upset stomach I'd stick with white flour. I've also had great success dressing biscuits up by adding a little thyme to the mix.

If you want to avoid dairy, use soy milk (not rice milk) instead of cow's milk. I always make mine with soy milk, and I think it makes them gentler on the stomach.

Homemade biscuits are much different from those ones in a can you can get at the supermarket, so try _homemade_ biscuits.
posted by amtho at 9:05 AM on April 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I was in the hospital last week getting rehydrated after several days of Norwalk; the doctor told me to avoid dairy and gluten, as they're difficult on the stomach, and focus on clear liquids and electrolytes.

A homemade chicken broth did the trick; make it with real chicken bones if you can get them and boil them for taste. Otherwise, gatorade and a lot of sleep got me through.
posted by Hiker at 9:30 AM on April 10, 2010

Ginger tea! Anything ginger, in fact. Sometimes just fresh ginger..

I'm a fan of avoiding anything with milk when one is sick as it adds to the feeling of being stuffed up. Of course, sometimes it's about comfort and sometimes it's about symptoms.

Broth. Chicken, vegetable. It's soothing and has nutrients/calories but doesn't demand too much in the way of one's digestion.

For that matter, even Campbell's tomato soup (made with water) and sipped as a broth.

If she has a cold and nothing going on with her stomach, I'm a big fan of something spicy like pho with hot pepper (don't make it, just go out and get it). Seriously. Even wasabi. It helps clear everything out.

And now a recipe from my grandmother for when one is ill with a cold:

(sounds awful but it works)

Take equal parts honey and apple cider vinegar
add two cloves of garlic (through a press or smashed)
add cayenne pepper (a few dashes)

Have her sip on this. It also makes a great dressing.
posted by marimeko at 9:30 AM on April 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

For nausea and queasiness (hello, old friends!) instant ginger drink is wonderful stuff — I start just about every morning with a mug of ginger drink with lemon juice (or a packet of this stuff if we don't feel like squeezing a lemon). We get it at the Asian groceries near us, which makes it easy to compare the ingredients lists. Some are "ginger, sugar" or "ginger, sugar, honey", but others are "fructose, glucose, ginger, sucrose, maltose..." We stick to the shorter ingredient list.

Cream of Rice and Malt-O-Meal are usually pretty soothing and non-challenging. I usually have them with just a bit of brown sugar and no milk, maybe with a tiny pat of butter for flavor swirled in.

Egg noodles with a little butter, Parmesan, and a small bit of black pepper is tasty enough to be interesting but not enough to be challenging.

For a cold with congestion, I have a really simple soup recipe I like: chicken or vegetable broth and a generous amount of chipotle hot sauce (Tabasco or Bufalo) in a small saucepan; add orzo or other small pasta, or spaghetti broken into 1/2-inch pieces, and simmer until almost al dente — just a little resistance left when you bite into it. Add half a cup of frozen peas, corn, or whatever you have on hand and simmer until hot. Remove from heat and stir in as much lime juice as you like. Easy, pantry-based, and clears the sinuses and stimulates the appetite. Mm.
posted by Lexica at 10:56 AM on April 10, 2010

Best answer: Keep on hand: chicken broth (homemade is the best, but canned/packaged is okay), ginger ale, decaf tea bags, powdered lemonade mix, whiskey, noodles, poppy seeds, carrots, boneless skinless chicken breasts.

Concentrate (reduce) some chicken broth by simmering out 1/3 of the liquid. Roast carrots in chicken broth and butter or olive oil until all liquid is gone. Stir them occasionally. You can do this on the stovetop, too. Sweet and mild.

Cooked noodles, butter, poppy seeds. Or, cooked noodles, chicken broth, cooked carrots (frozen allowed) and some coked chicken = sort of homemade soup. A tiny splash of sherry gives it a grownup taste.

Boiling water, lemonade mix, whiskey, in bed. The cure for a sore throat.

A cup of tea is always soothing, and if it's decaf, you can still sleep.

I live alone, in the boonies. I keep all the above, and a bunch of canned soups, during cold/flu season, so I can have comfort food if I get sick. Given that she gets sick a lot, start getting rotisserie chicken occasionally, and making chicken stock regularly, to keep in the freezer. Homemade chicken stock is my favorite comfort food.
posted by theora55 at 2:02 PM on April 10, 2010

Best answer: Hot Coca Cola! Apparently it's a Chinese thing? I dunno, I think I saw it on Kottke or something. It's delicious! Dump a can of Coke into a saucepan on medium. Add a 1-inch knob of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced. Maybe a little lemon juice if you roll that way. Cook til it simmers and gets a little thicker. Drink. Yum. So soothing for colds and flus.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 7:31 PM on April 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

My favourite comfort food is miso soup. It feels like a hug.
posted by ms.v. at 8:08 PM on April 10, 2010

Response by poster: mollymayhem: "In my house, it's all about the hot toddy. Whiskey, lemon juice, honey, hot water, a cinnamon stick and a couple of cloves. Delivered to a partner who's soaking in a steaming hot bath."

She just got sick again, and I was excited to try out this on her, but she did not like it. Also, it was either this or the cough syrup that made her feel really sick to her stomach (or maybe it was the combination of both)
posted by rebent at 11:48 AM on May 5, 2010

Response by poster: Well, I got a big bag of that Hot Ginger Drink from the Asian Store nearby, and it is incredible! Thanks for the tip on that one.
posted by rebent at 10:44 AM on May 16, 2010

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