Foods to Chase Holiday Chills & Ills – Fresh Tastes by Bev

By Bev Laumann, Author of A Taste of The Good Life: A Cookbook for IC & OAB


Of course I love the holiday cheer, the warmth of fireplaces, the get togethers with friends and family. December is one of my favorite times of the year. But all the shopping, decorating, and traveling just seem to give my body a real workout. Then too, I don’t know what it is about cold weather, but my bladder just hates it.

Some quick-to-make soups, stews, or chowders are just the thing to shake off the winter chills and comfort us when our bladder symptoms flare up. Hearty and filling, bladder-friendly soups make excellent meals after shopping or tasty first courses when entertaining. Some IC people even have favorite soup and stew recipes that they’ll swear actually helps their bladders recover from a flare.

For fighting bladder flares, Barbara S. uses a meat and vegetable broth recipe (which seems as easy to make as one can get). She simmers any kind of leftover meat she has in the refrigerator to make a broth, then adds whatever fresh or leftover cooked vegetables she has on hand. She lets it cook until the vegetables are soft and the meat is tender, then strains and reserves the broth. She drinks warm cups of the broth for a day or two. It makes her bladder calm down quicker, she says. Several years ago another IC patient, Shirley C., posted a message on an IC message board about her “bladder calming soup,” a hearty beef soup with green and yellow vegetables. She enthusiastically reported, “…I don’t know why it works, but it helps within 6 hours. So whenever I’m having a bad flare, I make this soup and eat it for several days…”

And speaking of healing, who doubts the powers of old fashioned chicken soup– that famous grandmothers’ cure-all for colds and flu? Here’s one of my favorite chicken soup recipes. It’s a variation on one in my cookbook, A Taste of the Good Life: a Cookbook for an Interstitial Cystitis Diet (1998). This soup will warm the tummy and is quick to make (about 20 minutes). For a delicious light meal, I like to serve it with garlic bread and slices of soft Monterey Jack cheese. Canned pear slices make a quick dessert. The soup freezes well and can even be made a day ahead to serve as the first course of a formal dinner.

Quick Holiday Soup

– serves 2

  • 3-1/2 c. low-sodium chicken broth (see note*)
  • 1/3 c. frozen sliced carrots
  • 1 stalk fresh celery, chopped fine
  • 1 Tbsp. converted (parboiled) white rice
  • 2/3 c. cooked chicken (or leftover turkey), in bite-sized pieces
  • 1-1/2 c. frozen chopped broccoli or broccoli florets
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/8 tsp. onion powder
  • Pinch of coriander
  • Pinch of allspice
  • Salt (and/or pepper) to taste
  1. Add the broth, carrots, celery and rice to a medium saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Add remaining ingredients to the soup, seasoning to taste with salt (and/or pepper). Simmer about 12 minutes before serving.

Notes: The key to making this recipe bladder-safe is the chicken broth. Be sure to use brands that do not contain monosodium glutamate (MSG) or any substances that are “autolyzed” or “hydrolyzed”. Health Valley makes MSG-free chicken broth. Campbell’s Low-Sodium Chicken Broth may work for you too. Another good brand is Pacific’s Free-range Chicken Broth . Of course you can also make your own broth and freeze it.
Another soup I like to make on chilly winter evenings is crab chowder. It makes a delicate and delicious first course when entertaining, or a tummy warmer for late afternoon suppers.

Crab Chowder

– serves 3 or 4

  • 1-3/4 c. frozen corn kernels
  • 3/4 c.chopped green bell peppers
  • 1 c. boiling potatoes, peeled and chopped into half-inch pieces
  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 3 c. chicken broth (MSG-free)
  • 1/2 c. crabmeat, cooked and cut in bite-sized pieces
  • 1-1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 Tbsp. dried chives
  • 3/4 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 Tbsp. white wine (optional)
  • 1/3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c. whipping cream
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Thaw the frozen corn under running water in a colander. Turn out on paper towels and pat dry. Empty into a bowl and add chopped bell peppers, potatoes, and oil, tossing to coat. Spread the vegetables evenly on a large rimmed non-stick cookie sheet or baking pan (line with foil if not non-stick). Roast vegetables in oven about 20 to 25
    minutes, stirring once or twice. They will start to brown a bit.
  2. While vegetables roast, place broth in a soup pot and bring to a boil. When vegetables are done, remove from oven and add to the broth. Add crab meat, onion powder, chives, and thyme. Add wine if desired. (Alcohol boils at a lower temperature than water and will evaporate). Reduce heat to simmer. Place flour in a small dish and stir in a tablespoon or so of the hot broth to make a paste. Gradually add about 1/4 cup more of the soup broth to the paste. Pour back into the soup and simmer and stir until the soup is slightly thickened. Stir in the cream, add salt to taste, then ladle into serving bowls. Serve with oyster crackers, Original Triscuits, or fresh vegetable sticks.

Notes: To make this bladder-friendly be sure to use chicken broth and crab meat that is MSG-free. Canned cooked crab meat that doesn’t have monosodium glutamate(MSG) is hard to find– its best to buy fresh crab meat in the seafood section of the market and cook it yourself. For those with vulvodynia who need low-oxalate, substitute fresh chopped red bell pepper for the higher-oxalate green variety, and don’t use any black pepper.

I never get tired of split pea soup. It’s great for a hot lunch on a rainy day. But fixing it so that my IC and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) won’t flare up takes a bit of work. According to most texts, beans should be soaked overnight before cooking (to keep them from being “gassy”) but split peas and lentils don’t require a pre-soak. Don’t believe it. If you have IBS, you’ll need to soak split peas and lentils– or pay the price.

Here’s a neat trick however, to keep split pea recipes from becoming an onerous multi-day task: Soak two pounds of dry split peas in a big pot full of water overnight. Drain, rinse, and drain again. Divide the peas into four packages for the freezer. Next time you want to make split pea soup, no need to pre-soak, just grab a package from the freezer. Keeping frozen pre-soaked beans, peas, and lentils on hand will speed up soup-making all winter long. Try this unusual but tasty recipe for split peas, made with beef instead of the traditional ham.

Split Pea Soup With Beef

– serves 4

  • 1 medium globe onion, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1/4 lb. stewing beef, chopped in «-inch cubes
  • 4-1/4 cups water
  • 1 frozen package pre-soaked split peas (« lb. dry peas before soaking)
  • 1/4 cup boiling potatoes, chopped coarsely
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrots
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsnips
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  1. Cook the onion in vegetable oil in a skillet until the onion is clear. Remove onion to a 2-quart pot. Briefly brown the meat in the remaining oil. Add the meat to the pot. Pour water into the skillet and scrape up browned bits. Turn off the heat and pour the contents of the skillet into the soup pot. Add the frozen split peas and other remaining ingredients. Cover and simmer over low heat. Stir often. Simmer 1-1/2 hours or until mostly smooth.

May this holiday season bring you and yours peace and comfort, and the best of everything in the coming year! -Bev