Nutrition: Immune-Building Brown Rice Congee Recipe, by Julie Daniluk

An important part of preventing illness and infection is to provide the body with ample amounts of the nutrients it needs to keep the immune system strong. In late fall and early winter, it is critical to be thinking of prevention, before the cold or flu bug has a chance to settle in.

Eating the right kind of whole foods, like those found in my “Immune-Building Brown Rice Congee” from my book Meals that Heal Inflammation, is a great way of doing this. Congee is a rice porridge commonly served for breakfast in Japan and China. Made with one part rice to about sixteen parts liquid, congee is easy to digest and tones the body, so it is often given to weak or frail people.

This is an excellent soup when you are feeling cold, weak and generally unwell. A slow cooker works very well for this and you can cook it all day if you choose. If you do, add more water rather than less. The following congee is prepared with astragalus root, an herb that is native to China. It is thought to relieve weakness and fatigue and to enhance stamina and immunity. In traditional Chinese medicine, astragalus is often recommended in the winter to prevent colds and flu; however, it is generally not taken once a cold or flu begins.

Immune-Building Brown Rice Congee Recipe

Ingredients:

You can add other ingredients as you wish. Chicken stock makes the best tasting congee but if you do not have it, you can use water and miso at the end for flavour and a probiotic boost.

1/2 cup (125 ml) short-grain brown rice
4 tbsp (60 ml) dried and sliced astragalus root (optional)
8 cups (2 L) stock or water mixed with 1 tbsp (15 ml) light miso
1 chicken breast or 2 large white fish fillets (chopped into small pieces)
1 tsp (5 ml) grey or pink sea salt
3 green onions (scallions) finely chopped
2 tbsp (30 ml) finely sliced ginger

Add on top as a garnish:
1/4 tsp (1 ml) toasted sesame oil per serving

Directions:

1. Combine the rice, astragalus, fish or chicken, water or stock, and sea salt in a large pan or slow cooker.
2. Bring to a simmer.
3. Turn the flame as low as possible and place the pan on a diffuser.
4. Cook for 4-8 hours, or consider starting the night before and cooking overnight in a slow cooker so it is ready when you wake up.

Serve in deep bowls topped with some green onions, sesame oil and slices of ginger.

Makes 6 servings.

Julie Daniluk, RHN, hosts Healthy Gourmet, a reality cooking show that highlights the ongoing battle between taste and nutrition by using unique groups such as bikers, dragon boat racers and ballroom dancers to challenge their taste buds with nutritious foods. Julie is excited that her show was chosen to be part of OWN (the Oprah Winfrey Network). Similar to Oprah’s book club, programs on OWN explore stories of strength and transformation. Television viewers also recognize Julie from her “busted” segments on The Right Fit (W Network) and The Marilyn Dennis Show (CTV) where she examines the foods people need to stay healthy, acting as a nutrition encyclopedia. Her fun and engaging style comes in handy when she creates a recipe a week that is packed with health tips for www.chatelaine.com.