Surrounded by the flu

Cynthia Stone
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Why I haven't come down with one of the thousand viruses I seem to wade through every day is beyond me. We all know it's temporary - they're going to get you and me and everyone else sooner or later; we just have to hope it's a common cold and not the big bad flu. I recall writing similar words in 2007, and I hadn't been sick for quite a while then, so am I ever due for something nasty.
Whatever bug catches up with me, I'll feed it. I've never been sick enough to lose my appetite completely, but when everything starts to taste like paper, I go that extra mile.

Easy lentil tomato and spinach soup
Not only is this soup delicious, the protein in the lentils and the vitamins in the spinach
will do you the world of good - sick or well. There are no heavy or exotic spices here, so the fresh green taste of the parsley is especially important.
Serve yourself up a big mug of this with a spoonful of yogurt or some crispy croutons.
1 large onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 tbsp. olive oil
4 cloves garlic
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 cups green lentils, rinsed and drained
2 bay leaves
1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes
large bag baby spinach
1 tsp. each smoked paprika, salt and pepper
big handful chopped fresh Italian parsley
Fry onion and celery in oil in a Dutch oven until soft. Add garlic and fry another minute or two. Add broth, lentils and bay leaves and simmer about 20 minutes or until lentils are tender. Stir in tomatoes and cook another 15 minutes. Add spinach, paprika, salt and pepper and simmer until spinach is tender.

Three-cheese omelet
Eggs on toast feel right when you're sick. You're thinking poached would be easier on the tummy, but if your taste buds aren't up to snuff I think you'll like this better. You're no doubt feeling selfish if a virus has you in its grip, so this is just enough for you; of course, double or triple it if you're up to serving guests.
2 tbsp. each grated old cheddar and Swiss cheese
1 tbsp. goat cheese
2 eggs
pinch each salt and pepper
butter for the pan
Using a fork, combine cheeses; set aside. Whisk eggs lightly with salt and pepper. Heat a little butter in a nonstick pan. When it stops foaming - but before it browns - pour in the eggs. Shake them around, pushing in the edges to let the raw egg flow underneath the cooked part. When there's only a little jiggly stuff left on top, flip the eggs. Quickly put the cheese mixture on one half and flip the other side over. Turn off the heat and wait a few seconds, just until the cheese is starting to melt, then serve on a warm plate with toast and tea on the side.

Tenderest buttermilk biscuits
Warm biscuits with butter and jam - especially homemade jam - have restorative properties beyond my ken. All I know is, a cup of coffee and one of these makes me feel much better. If
you have a food processor, there is zero work involved in making these delicious baked treats.
2 cups flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt (1/4 tsp. if using salted butter)
6 tbsp. cold butter, preferably unsalted
3/4 cup buttermilk
Whisk or sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add butter and pulse in a food processor until mixture resembles coarse meal, or work in the butter using a pastry cutter. Add the buttermilk and pulse until dough forms, or stir in with a fork - be careful not to overwork the mixture. Dump out on a lightly floured surface and pat into a 1/2-inch thick slab. Cut into rounds using a floured biscuit cutter - actually, I use a juice glass, but only because I can never find my cookie cutters. Place on a parchment paper-lined or greased baking sheet and bake at 450 F for 10 minutes or until lightly coloured.

Corn tomato bake
I have no idea why this appeals to me when I'm sick, but it solves so many problems it's worth getting off the couch to make. Use fresh tomatoes if you'd rather, but I just can't be bothered; they don't taste very good this time of year anyway. This amount makes just enough for two platefuls, or a great side dish for four.
1 14-oz. can corn kernels, drained
1 14-oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
pinch salt
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 tbsp. melted butter or margarine
Combine corn, tomatoes, pepper, salt and sugar and pour into a small greased baking dish. Combine bread crumbs and butter and sprinkle on top. Bake at 350 F for 20 minutes or until bubbling hot and top is crusty and brown.

Luxurious mocha cocoa
Calories are afraid of viruses, so you can eat pretty much whatever you want when you're sick. Besides, there's nothing like a hot drink to make you feel better when your nose is all stuffed up. Leave out the coffee if you're having trouble sleeping, but you can't call it mocha then.
3 tbsp. cocoa
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp. instant coffee
4 cups milk (divided)
1 tsp. vanilla
Combine cocoa, sugar and coffee. Add a little bit of milk, just enough to moisten the dry ingredients; stir to make a smooth paste. Heat remaining milk in a small pot. Stir in cocoa paste and stir until smooth and steaming hot. Add vanilla just before serving to 4. Of course, if you don't want to spread the germs around, you can put it in the fridge and reheat it for yourself later.

Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John's. Questions may be sent to her c/o The Telegram, P.O. Box 5970, St. John's, NL, A1C 5X7.

Organizations: The Telegram

Geographic location: St. John's

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