Search This Blog

Sunday, January 5, 2014

How To Get Healthy: A One-Word Lesson (and also, Sunday morning congee recipe)

If I had to give a one-word lecture on how to achieve your healthiest self, here's how the lecture would go:


All things in moderation, "good" things and "bad" things alike. This applies to exercise, to emotions, and very straightfowardly to food.

I love congee and I think you should eat it for breakfast every day, yes. But I don't think you should eat it for every meal of every day, because it would be hard to get enough calories and because eating lots of different foods is important (and fun!).  Kale is good for you, and it's hard to eat too much of it, but "kale overdose" can actually cause thyroid problems.  Beer and bacon cheeseburgers and pistachio ice cream hot fudge sundaes are generally considered not so good for you, but I'm going to go ahead and say that in moderation, all of those things can be very good for your soul.

I remember one day in particular, five years ago, when Adam and I had recently moved into our home. The backyard had been serving as a mini-farm for 30 years for the family that lived there before us, but hadn't been maintained for their last few years there. We'd spent that long, bright September day, along with many days before and after, working hard to restore the backyard to a functional and beautiful growing space.

Here's a "before" pic of our backyard...

...and an "after" pic. Hard work, but so worthwhile.

When the sun finally went down and we'd showered and stretched our aching muscles, all either of us wanted was a burger and a beer. We went to Flavor, sat at the bar, ordered a couple of pints of Moonlight and medium-rare bacon cheeseburgers, and felt really, really good about it. It was a meal that was good for our souls. Not the kind of meal anyone ought to eat on the regular, for sure--but that night, it was exactly right. It was moderation at its most fun.

This morning Adam made me the congee he's made most often for me, one I requested while at the hospital after giving birth to Kamal. The morning after Kamal was born, after sleeping in a chair in the hospital room with me and spending hours with our brand-new son in the NICU, Adam went home, checked on the animals, fixed me congee, and brought it to my hospital room steaming hot in a thermos. The hospital staff got really worried when my breakfast tray came back untouched; a nurse stopped in and gently remonstrated that I shouldn't worry about losing the baby weight yet. I explained that my husband was making me the breakfast I really wanted, and she frowned skeptically, then slipped a bunch of applesauce cups onto my bedside table with a conspiratorial look.

Sunday Morning Chicken Congee with Kale, Ginger, Goji Berries and Shiitakes


For full congee recipe:
1 1/2 cups of white rice (we used jasmine)
1 4-inch piece of ginger, sliced into thin coins--no need to peel if it's organic
2/3 cup of dried goji berries
one 10 oz bag frozen shiitake mushrooms, or equivalent weight fresh shiitakes
water to fill the pot, or a combination of water and stock (approximately eight parts liquid to one part rice, so approximately 12 cups of water--but this is a very flexible ratio)
2 whole chicken legs, skin-on, bone-in*

For individual serving: 
about a quarter of a bunch of kale
one egg

*A whole chicken leg=one thigh and one drumstick. You could also use four thighs, or four drumsticks, or three drumsticks and one get the idea. You could certainly also use the equivalent weight in skin-on, bone-in chicken breast, but I prefer the flavor of dark meat.


Adam first thoroughly washed the rice, then put in in the rice pot with the ginger, goji berries, shiitakes and water.

Next he heated a skillet, added a little bit of coconut oil to it (we use Nutiva brand) and browned the chicken legs all over in it.

He put the browned chicken in the rice pot with the other ingredients and filled the pot with the water.

Then he turned the rice cooker on. (Follow the directions for your rice cooker; or, if you're doing this on the stove top, add about 12 cups of water, cover your pot, and bring it to a low boil, then reduce it to a low simmer, stirring occasionally, until congee is done. See this post for a description of how to know when your congee is done.)

While the congee is cooking (about 90 minutes to two hours in our rice cooker) chop and sautee the kale; Adam used coconut oil for this, too. Here's an important note: Half a bunch of kale is enough for a couple of servings, and this recipe makes way more than a couple of servings of congee.  If you want to make enough kale at once to accompany the whole pot of congee, Adam suggests two bunches of kale.

You could also just add the kale to the pot of congee at the beginning of cooking, if you want. This wouldn't work for softer greens, like spinach--those would just sort of melt into the congee with the long cooking time--but it's fine for a hardy green like kale.

Once the kale is done, cook an egg over-easy in coconut oil.

Put the congee into your favorite bowl, making sure there's a little of everything in it, then top with the kale and egg.

For over-the-top decadence, Adam also crisped some of the chicken skin in the hot pan. This is a time-revered, ridiculously delicious congee topping--but definitely falls in the category of things that, no matter how good for the soul, should only be eaten in very careful moderation. BUT HOLY MOLY IT'S SO GOOD.

No comments:

Post a Comment