Congee is savory Chinese rice porridge. The rice is slow cooked for a long time so that the grains become creamy and easy to digest. The long cooking process makes it excellent for building qi and blood because much of the digestive work has been done by the cooking process. Congee is good for anytime (it’s a popular breakfast food in China), but especially indicated after giving birth and when your digestion or body is weak. This recipe can be adapted an infinite number of ways so please experiment with what’s already in your fridge by adding greens, parsnips, butternut squash, kabocha squash, pork, garlic, even curry powder.
I recommend making some bone broth to use as the basis of this recipe since you will benefit from all the minerals and gelatin in the stock. I’ve used chicken and ginger in this recipe because the chicken builds qi and blood and the ginger is warming and healing.
4 cups homemade chicken or bone broth (or store-bought chicken stock: If you use already made product, you may want to add some chicken bones to the stock during the cooking process.)
1 lb of skinless chicken breast or thigh meat, diced
6 cups water
1 cup brown or white rice (white is easier to digest), rinsed and soaked for 7 hours or more
1 inch fresh ginger, skinned and thinly sliced
2 large carrots, sliced
1 large sweet potato, cut into large pieces (it will fall apart into small pieces during the cooking process)
2 stalks thinly sliced scallions
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Salt, and pepper to taste
1. Place all ingredients except scallions in a large pot.
2. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a rolling simmer with lid on.
3. Cook for one hour or more until the rice absorbs all the liquid and becomes creamy. Stir occasionally, taking care to scrape the bottom of the pot. As the rice begins to break down and absorb the liquid, it may stick to the bottom of the pot. Brown rice will take longer.
4. Remove from heat and stir in salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle sesame oil on top and add scallions.
This is a wonderful, basic recipe that can be riffed upon in endless ways. I make a couple of batches a week so I always have a healthy snack and an excellent foundation upon which to build quick dinners.
The fortified rice has good protein content because of the lentils and quinoa. I sometimes even stir in cooked beans at the end for an additional boost of vegetarian protein. Patients with weaker digestion may want to skip the beans and stick to lentils because the former can be hard to digest.
I like to add a dash of sea salt and pepper and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and and lemon juice for a quick and easy snack. Or if I’m hungrier, I top the rice with a sliced avocado and sautéed tomatoes, a boiled egg, or cubed and roasted sweet potatoes.
For dinners, I serve the fortified rice with greens (See blog post for my Easy Vibrant Greens recipe.) and a small serving of a meat protein. Often I add it to bone broth (See blog post recipe.) with the meat I’ve pulled off the bone, vegetables, an egg poached in the broth, and a drizzle of sesame oil for a hot and comforting dinner.
Please make it a priority to soak the rice, lentils, millet, and quinoa for 7 hours to overnight to increase the nutritional availability of the food and to increase digestibility. (See blog post on soaking.)
Use any combination of the ingredients below and experiment with increasing the amount of lentils and decreasing the grains for a heartier rice. It’s good to vary what you use form batch to batch to add interest and widen the spectrum of nutrients.
1 cup of brown rice
1/2 cup of black rice or red rice
1/2 cup of lentils (green, black, or de puy)
1/4 cup of millet or amaranth
1/4 cup of quinoa
Place all ingredients in a pot and soak overnight. Rinse and strain.
Add double the amount of water for the amount of grains and legumes used. For example, if you use all the ingredients above, in the quantities listed, use 5 cups of water.
Cover the pot and bring to a boil on the stovetop.
Keep the lid on, reduce to a simmer, and cook 25-30 minutes until rice and lentils are cooked through and all the water has been absorbed.
If you have a rice cooker, you can use that instead of cooking on the stove top.
Bone broth is high in vitamins and minerals that might otherwise be missing from your diet. It nourishes depleted blood and builds the body’s qi in an easy to absorb form.
I recommend this broth for my fertility patients as well as my patients suffering from a variety of digestive issues since the naturally forming gelatin in this broth is healing to the gut.
You can drink 1/2-1 cup a day as savory tea or add some cooked grains (See my Fortified Rice recipe blog post.) and meat for a snack or small meal. The stock can also be used as the base for other soup or stew recipes. The meat can be cleaned off the bones and eaten with the broth for added protein. I recommend storing in glass containers in the freezer: this keeps the broth fresh and allows you to make a big batch. Defrost and reheat as needed.
The broth can be made using only beef bones or only chicken bones, although the combination of the two supports a wider variety of vitamins and minerals.
Ingredients (I recommend using all organic ingredients, especially for the beef and chicken bones)
3-4 lbs of organic, grass-fed beef bones (marrow bones, hoofs, tendons, and ligaments are all excellent.)
3-4 lbs of chicken wings, bones, or a whole chicken
1 roughly chopped onion
1/4 cup of goji berries (rinse and soak for 5 minutes to clean off any dirt)
4 stalks of celery, roughly chopped
2 Tbsps of apple cider vinegar
1 bunch of fresh parsley, chopped
Sea salt and pepper to taste
Place beef bones and/or chicken in a large pot with roughly chopped onion and celery. Add rinsed and strained goji berries and 2 Tbsps of apple cider vinegar. Add approximately 1 gallon of water. Let sit for a half hour. This allows the vinegar to help bring out the minerals in the bones. Bring to a boil and then cover and simmer for 6-24 hours. You can use a crock pot as well. In the last ten minutes, add one bunch of chopped fresh parsley, which helps to ionize the minerals for better absorption.
This recipe is adapted from Albany, CA-based Nutritionist Sara Russell (yourprobiotickitchen.com, 510.423.0647) and Sally Fallon and Mary Enig’s Nourishing Traditions.
The best way to get the most out of your grains (brown rice, millet, quinoa, amaranth), lentils, beans, nuts, and seeds is to soak them overnight. These foods all have naturally occurring levels of phytic acid which could spell out digestive troubles for us and decrease our absorption of nutrients.
We can easily circumvent this natural plant protector by soaking overnight before eating and cooking.
NUTS and SEEDS
Place 2-4 cups of raw, unsalted nuts and seeds in a bowl. Add enough water to cover and 1/2 Tbsp of salt for every cup of food.
Soak 7 hours to overnight.
Strain and rinse off salt.
Dry at a low temperature of 150 degrees in a dehydrator or in the oven for 12-24 hours until nuts are slightly crispy or use directly in my Fortified Oatmeal Recipe (see blog post).
LEGUMES AND BEANS
Simply cover and soak 7 hours to overnight. Rinse and cook.
Further increase the digestibility of beans by adding a piece of kelp to the pot.
Simply cover and soak 7 hours to overnight. Rinse. I like to rub the quinoa, millet, and amaranth between my hands while I’m rinsing to really clean off the phytic acid before cook.
I find that the grains absorb enough water to have “cold cooked” slightly already so I usually add less water than the 2 to 1 ratio typically used in cooking grains.
If you eat 2-3 servings of sautéed greens every night, you’ll be well on your way to better health. Greens clean your system and power your body! 2-3 servings in one sitting sounds like a lot, but one serving of vegetables is only ½ cup of raw vegetable. Greens cook down quite a bit and you’ll be surprised by how little 2-3 servings really is.
Eating greens cooked (rather than raw) increases your body’s ability to digest the vegetables so that you absorb more nutrition.
Keep your palate interested by eating a variety of greens and by adding my recommended modifications in the finishing of the dish.
Recommended vegetables: Kale, collard greens, celery, cucumber, broccoli, swiss chard (limit to 1-2 times a week), spinach (limit to 1-2 times a week), fennel, red, green, or savoy cabbage, green beans, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, napa cabbage, mustard greens.
Wash and cut vegetables into bite-sized pieces. Aim to chew each bite 30 times, but it’s a difficult task so cutting the pieces smaller helps speed the break-down process of the food so that your body can digest it better.
Dice some ginger (1/2 tsp) or garlic (1-2 pieces to taste) (optional)
Dice some tomatoes (optional)
Place vegetables in a sauté pan (stainless steel if possible) with 1-2 Tbsps of water.
Place pan on stove and heat. Once you hear the sound of sizzling vegetables start using your spatula to stir the vegetables in the pain. Add one Tbsp of water to the pan as needed as the vegetables start absorbing the water and steaming, but use water sparingly so that the vegetables don’t get soggy. If using ginger, garlic, or tomato add after a minute. Cook for 2-4 minutes until vegetables have reduced and softened, but are still vibrant.
Turn off heat and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. (Don’t leave this step out. We need fats to metabolize the nutrients in the greens.)
Add salt and pepper to taste.
For some interest, squeeze on some fresh lemon juice or add a splash of apple cider vinegar before removing from heat.
Add some powdered kelp flakes for a boost of iodine.
Add an extra drizzle of extra virgin olive oil if desired.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but many of my patients say that they don’t have time to eat a warm, healthy meal. This is a huge mistake because it’s very important to recharge the body and brain first thing in the morning–you will have more energy and function better with breakfast. And if you’re skipping breakfast in order to lose weight, don’t make that mistake: Obesity is strongly linked to missing the first meal of the day.
While vitamins can supplement the foods we eat, I believe very strongly that food is far more perfectly created to give us nutrition.
With that in mind, I created an easy and healthy recipe so that even the busiest person can start the day out with a nutrient dense breakfast. My ”Fortified Oatmeal” recipe is prepared beforehand so that all you have to do in the mornings is add a little water or milk and heat it up.
Fortified Oatmeal (will make enough approximately for 2 people for 3 days of breakfast)
I highly recommend soaking your grains and nuts for 7 hours to overnight before using them in this recipe. Soaking increases the digestibility of grains and nuts and helps us absorb more nutrients. Please see my post on soaking for more details.
The night before you first plan on eating the oatmeal, bring 4 1/2 cups of water to boil in a large stainless steel pot.
Once water boils, add 1/2 cup of rinsed and soaked organic millet, organic quinoa, or organic amaranth. (I like to use a mixture and/or vary what I use each week.)
Add 1 cup of organic steel cut oats or 1 1/4 cup of organic rolled oats (not quick cooking).
Stir until incorporated and reduce flame so that water comes to a simmer.
The following ingredients are all optional. Experiment and see what tastes you like best. Also, it’s good to vary the ingredients so that you get a variety of nutrition. I always recommend that you vary the foods you eat since many foods, even similar ones such as different types of nuts, contain unique nutritional profiles.
Add 1 tsp to 1 Tbsp of Cinnamon to taste.
Add 1/4 cup of organic goji berries, raisins, currents, diced prunes, or any dried fruit (optional).
Add 1/4 cup of organic soaked raw sunflower seeds or raw pumpkin seeds(optional).
Add 1/3 cup of organic soaked chopped raw walnuts or raw pine nuts(optional).
Add 1/8 to 1/4 cup of flaked coconut (optional).
Bring to a boil again and then add lid and let rest for at least 1-2 hours. The oatmeal and millet will have expanded to absorb the water and may be on the dry side.
Cool and place in refrigerator overnight.
In the morning, spoon some of the cold oatmeal into a small saucepan, add water or Organic whole fat milk or other liquid to the pan to taste (I like to just use water and then add soy milk afterwards). Stir until the oatmeal has a smooth and creamy consistency and the water has been incorporated.
Remove from heat and sprinkle with ground flax seeds, hemp, sesame seeds, or chia seeds. Maca powder can be added for fertility patients with luteal phase defect or PCOS. Add a banana, or for additional sweetness, some maple syrup or honey.
Goji berries: excellent for my blood deficient patients, but also for those patients who are trying to get pregnant or have trouble falling asleep, experience dry eyes or want to improve eye sight. Please avoid if you are on blood thinners such as Coumadin.
Raw pumpkin seeds and raw sunflower seeds are excellent for my female and male fertility patients. The sunflower seeds are high in selenium which help protect eggs and sperm from free radical damage and the pumpkin seeds are high in zinc which can increase sperm count and motility.