Holiday feasting..yes, it’s the time of year when we splurge on the big-ticket foods, pouring our excess cheer into several hours, or even days, of planning, baking, basting, table setting, and cookie swapping. It’s a veritable embarrassment of riches, a bounty of gluttony, a meal to end all meals as we toast our families and friends, and the year to come. Every dish has a knob of butter, is laced with meat, or comes with its requisite creamy, cheesy sauce. No calorie counting here!
And, just as quickly as it arrives, the day is gone, and we are left with mountains of dishes, leftovers, and an impending sense of illness from all the richness. At least, that’s what happened to me this year. As our last family members trickled out the door on Christmas Day, homeward bound with tummies full of hearty yuletide fare, I took stock of what was around me. My husband, passed out asleep on the couch. My daughter, buzzing from adrenaline over new gifts, and sounding hoarse (uh oh). My poor kitchen, under siege of casserole dishes and glassware. Me…I was simply exhausted. Weeks of work and shopping, coming to a crescendo of several short hours of revelry, and now the aftermath had begun. Time to clean. Time to sleep.
Unfortunately, in my case, my body gave in to the elements, and I woke the following morning (if you could call it waking) with a sandpaper throat, chest cough, and aches like I’d been through an obstacle course. And here comes my daughter…”Mommy, I have a fever!”. No rest for the weary.
I’m a big believer in the healing qualities of food, and when I’m ill, I need soup. Rich, homemade broth laden with umami, steam, and maybe some noodles, if I’m feeling peckish. Fortunately for this house of infirmed, I had thought enough to throw our turkey carcass and ham bone from Christmas dinner into a stockpot, and let it simmer on the lowest setting overnight…maybe it was a clairvoyant moment, who knows. But now, I had a rich, nutritious food to begin our healing process!
Noodles were enough for my kid, but I needed some vegetative nourishment to bulk out my broth. And this, my friends, is where leftovers really come into play. I had roasted some turnips and rutabaga with salt, pepper, and olive oil the night before, and of course no one ate them (why would they when they could INSTEAD have two kinds of stuffing!). I also had some green kale hanging around from the farm. This, along with a chopped clove of garlic, would make a fine, hearty, nutritious healing soup!
First I fetched the root veggies from the depths of my fridge, and cleaned and tore some kale into pieces. One garlic clove was thinly sliced. On to the stove went a small pot with a bit of olive oil, and then the root vegetables, then the kale and garlic. Once I heard a sizzle, I poured in some of that delicious stock, and slapped on the lid, letting it all come to a boil to wilt the kale. As soon as that kale was just wilting, but still al dente and bright green, it was ready.
Sitting down to a homemade bowl of brothy soup is one of life’s great pleasures, especially when you are under the weather. Maybe it was the illness talking, but I believe it may be the best bowl of soup I ever ate. And, a brilliant way to handle leftovers in the post-holiday week.
Healing Leftover Holiday Soup
No matter what veggies you have left, they can be incorporated into this fast and restorative soup. Creamed items can be made into cream soups, unadorned green things can be simply heated through in the broth, and a big, raw clove of garlic rounds it all out, while also lending great antiviral properties if you are feeling ill.
Leftover turkey/chicken carcass from holiday roasting, plus 1 ham bone (optional)
1 rind of Parmesan cheese (optional)
1 c. leftover vegetables (root vegetables are great, as well as anything green. Avoid potato.)
1 large handful kale, or other dark green leafy vegetable (raw or cooked)
1 large clove garlic, sliced
- The night of dinner, after the meat has all been plucked from the bones, throw that carcass into a large stockpot, with the ham bone and Parmesan rind, if you have them. Cover with water, and put on the stove on the lowest possible flame. Slap a lid on, and go to bed.
- The next morning, you’ll have a simmering pot of nutritive broth! Bring it up to a rapid simmer, skimming fat and foam from the top. Leave simmering, until it reaches the depth of flavor you like.
- In a small saucepot, heat the leftover veggies in a small amount of olive oil over medium high heat. Add the greens on top of them, and the garlic on top of that. Once you hear a sizzling, pour over about 2 c. of your simmering broth, and bring to a boil. If your greens are raw, put on the lid and boil until they are just wilted, about 1-2 minutes. If they are cooked, bring to a boil and shut off to prevent cooking any further.
- At this point, you have two options: do as I did, and keep the chunky veggies in their clear broth, or pour the whole thing into a blender and make pureed soup – that works especially well if you used creamed vegetables.
Immediately pour your delicious soup into a bowl, and breathe in the steam…it’s time for the healing to being!