Chinese White Porridge – Congee

When I saw this recipe in a New York Times article, I was editing my Chinese railroad worker novel. Congee, also known as báizhōu, or white porridge is a daily staple in China.

When railroad workers came to California, in the mid-1860s, they would have eaten it in their camps. In China, it was consumed in times of famine and is still served during festivals and religious ceremonies. It is also given to infants and to those who are ill.

For research and realistic writing, I had to try it!

At its essence, congee is a small amount of grain cooked low and slow with a lot of water.

Basic Recipe

1/2 cup rice – thoroughly rinsed

6 cups water

Cook low on a stovetop or in a crockpot for approximately 6 hours, stirring occasionally.

I started out skeptical. I could not imagine how a half cup of rice could thicken six cups of water! Every time I stirred it, I shook my head because it looked like nothing had changed. Then toward the end – voila!

What Happens During the Cooking Process

The grains burst, releasing starch. What results is a lovely soft textured, thickened mush or soup.

What You Add Determines the Flavor

Congee is like a blank art canvas waiting for colorful paint.

Common Chinese Additions; tripe, intestine, crab, fish, bamboo shoots, pickled tofu, hundred-year-old eggs, lettuce, and/or soy sauce.

Other grain options;  cornmeal, millet, barley, brown rice and sorghum
For additional variations, see Soothing Savory Porridge

You Might Also Try;

Sweet – raisins, nuts, and brown sugar
Savory – beef or chicken broth, meatballs, pork, shredded chicken, salmon patties, scrambled eggs, cabbage, carrots, broccoli, onions, chives,

 

Wikipedia Congee

Savory Porridge

This is a no shopping, no reading recipe. All it requires is rooting around on your shelves for items you already have – things that will thicken – and an approximation for the correct amount of water.

Examples of thickening grains; rice, quinoa, oats, bulger, and couscous

For the water to grain ratio, it’s about 2 to 1. Two cups of water for every cup of solids.

When I make this, I place the dry items in a pot, then eyeball the water to cover it.

Here’s what I included with this batch.

Quinoa blend. This thickening grain comprised the bulk of the mixture.

Since lentils are thicker than the quinoa, the cooking time was based on these.

If using a bouillon base, calculate the amount to coincide with the amount of water used.

Heat on medium, stirring occasionally.

Taste test for doneness.

*Tip: If the grains still need more cooking time as the water begins to evaportate – add more.

 

Kiwi Pie

Photo Credit: Shirley Dickard

Kiwifruit Pie

Begin with a pie shell.

Filling:
1 pkg. 8 oz. cream cheese
1/3 cup sugar
2 tblsp. orange juice
2 tblsp. cream
3 cups kiwifruit (sliced thin)
Layer this, a little difficult, but works out okay
Put in refrigerator to cool.
Glaze – add green coloring (optional)
3 cups sliced kiwis, mash.
2 tblsp. cornstarch in a little cool water
1 cup sugar
Mash kiwis, put in kettle to heat, it will make own juice.
After cooked a little, add sugar, cook a little more, add cornstarch
mix quickly
It will thicken.
Cool
Put over pie.
Cool
Serve with whipped cream

Guest Post by Shirley Dickard, Author of Heart Wood
“We made the kiwi pie to celebrate our daughter’s January 1st birthday. It was yummy and such an unusual dessert. It wasn’t too sweet, which suited everyone after a long Christmas holiday. **I used a gram-cracker crust, which gave it sort of a key-lime pie taste.” – Shirley Dickard

Photo Credit: Shirley Dickard

 

Any Culture Shredded Chicken Soup

Prepare this meal in a crockpot.

*The meat will be most tender if ingredients are placed in the pot in the order listed below.

1 medium onion –  chopped

2 bundles fresh asparagus – chopped fine

4 chicken thighs

3 long sprigs rosemary

2 fresh bay leaves

4 cups chicken broth

1 16 oz can crushed tomatoes

1 16 oz can beans -drained (Choose any kind that fits with the flavor profile you are creating. (This recipe was made with cannellini beans.)

1 jar marinated artichoke hearts – chopped OR 2 tablespoons artichoke bruschetta


Cook between 4-5 hours on ‘low’ setting.

When cooking is complete, remove chicken & shred. Return meat to crockpot.

Remove herb sprigs and bay leaves.

Toppings

Top this soup with two or three ingredients from any world flavor profile. Click on the ‘Toppings’ link for more ideas

Samples:

Chinese: Hot Pepper sauce & tofu

Greek: Chopped kalamata olives & crumbled feta cheese.

Italian: Pesto & parmesan cheese

Mexican: Crushed tortilla chips, chopped fresh cilantro & sharp cheddar cheese

 

Nineteenth-Century Creole Snacks & Jennie Carter

The first public screening of a local historical short documentary was an occasion to serve Creole finger foods from a cookbook published in 1885.

Actress Katrina Thompson who portrays Jennie in the film read a book excerpt and spoke about the timeliness of the reappearance of Carters’work.

Jennie Carter was a free black woman who moved to Nevada County, California from New Orleans at the outbreak of the American Civil War.  Her essays, published in the book Jennie Carter: A Black Journalist of the Early West, edited by Eric Gardner, were the basis for a seventeen-minute video shown to Nevada County neighbors.

To add to the learning experience, recipes were chosen from a cookbook that originated in New Orleans, La Cuisine Creole. It was food Jennie Carter may have prepared or eaten. While some of the recipes (squirrel or pigeon pie, or suet pudding) were not ones we were willing to attempt, many sound delicious!

For this setting, we chose simple, finger fare and modified ingredients as necessary. (See notes below.)

pickled scallops

*Frozen scallops were substituted for oysters. Ground mace was used instead of ‘blades.’ Scallops were sliced thin and placed on slices of buttered baguette, topped with a very small amount of ground mace.

*To French’s mustard, salt, garlic granules, tarragon leaves, and white wine vinegar were added – to taste.

*A specialty squash from one of the neighborhood gardens was substituted for pumpkin. Stop cooking soon after a fork or knife is easily inserted. Let cool overnight. Eat at room temperature.

Resources:

Published in 1885. Click on the book cover for a PDF of the entire cookbook. Courtesy of Michigan State University | Feeding America: Historic American cookbook collection

Click here to watch the video and read related articles.

Additional Jennie Carter Articles

Jennie Carter’s Nevada County Setting 1860s, 2nd Marriage & Obituary
Jennie Carter’s Pre-Civil War, Civil War & Reconstruction-era 1846-1870
Jennie Carter Book Review
Jennie Carter – Filming Behind-the-Scenes & Creative Partners

Stuffed Baked Apple (Individual)

Individual apple pies!

STEP ONE: Prepare Apple Stuffing

Simmer

1 bag of fresh cranberries with 

½ cup raisins

¼ cup chopped pecans (or other nuts)

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup water

Cook until berries burst and most liquid is absorbed.

Add ¼ tsp cinnamon

And 5 crumbled gingersnap cookies & mix thoroughly (reserve enough cookies for the base of your apples)

STEP TWO: Prepare Apples

Place 5 gingersnap cookies in a baking pan.

Cut the center out of 5 apples

 

Place coreless apples on top of cookies.

STEP THREE: Stuff & Bake Apples

Take 5 tablespoons of cranberry stuffing, place in a separate bowl.

Add 2 or 3 eggs.

Mix thoroughly. Fill apple holes with stuffing.

Place a small slice of butter on top of the apple.

 

Cook at 350° for one hour

Remaining apple stuffing is a great addition to morning oatmeal or with yogurt or cottage cheese!

 

*If you tried this and liked it…AND concocted your own apple stuffing, please revisit to tell us about it.

Three-Meat Giant Meatball Soup

from above

STEP ONE: Make Meatballs

Three packs of ground meat

Turkey, beef, and Italian sausage were used in this batch, but it also works well with pork, elk & buffalo. (In the comments, send combinations you discover and love!)

Bread crumbs

I make mine from scratch. 

Cut bread in small squares, place flat on cooking in sheet in 200° oven till crisped to desired amount.  For his recipe, I used Kalamata Olive Sourdough bread.

Once you have tiny toast squares, blend them in the blender till they look like…bread crumbs.

Additional Items

Salt, pepper and any other spices you like.

½ bunch fresh Italian parsley, chopped

2-3 eggs

Mix ingredients to the consistency of meatloaf

Prepare Meatball Stuffing

Peel and chop fresh garlic cloves

garlic-3185163_640

and hunks of parmesan cheese

cheese-3058056_640

Roll ground meat mixture into palm-sized balls, pressing garlic cloves and cheese into the center, making sure they are completely covered.

Bake covered in a 350° oven for 50 minutes, uncover and bake for 10 more minutes.

 

STEP TWO: Cook pasta in chicken broth

Use any kind of pasta you have on hand.
Drain when cooked.

STEP THREE: Make Green Soup

Finely chop spinach, chard, and onions

Saute in olive oil till tender, add chicken broth to cover

 

*If a smooth soup is desired, let cool completely then blend in a blender.

Assemble Soup

Steam meatballs to reheat if you made them ahead.

assembled

Combine all. Enjoy!

 

This is one of those meals that tastes better after a day in the refrigerator.

Bacon – Flat, Crisp & Splatter-free

Spread bacon strips between layers of paper towels on a flat plate. (Don’t overlap.)

Microwave on high for 6.5minutes.

Check crispiness. If more is desired, cook at 2 minutes increments until it’s how you like it.

Hal Greene’s connection to the Wrysinski / Schmidt’s; Two of his sons married two of the sisters.


A byproduct of this cooking method is a heap of bacon fat-infused paper towels. Most composters agree animal fat should not go into the outdoor pile. Putting these paper towels in the garbage may attract dogs and urban adapted animals such as raccoon, coyote, and bear (in more remote areas). Since I’m always interested in alternatives other than entombing refuse in great twentieth-century pyramids, I encourage and welcome waste disposal recommendations in the comments section.

Cutting Winter Squash like Butter

Love squash, but challenged by peeling and chopping?

cut out squash cutting

Eliminate the ‘hard’ part by cooking squash first.

In a 350º oven, cook whole raw squash (stickers removed).

Depending on squash size, cook for 1 to 1.5 hours.

When it starts to smell …like squash, check for doneness.

Let cooked squash cool to room temperature before handling.

NOW it’s easy to cut and seed!

 

Miners Shovel Bread & Watercress, Potato & Tomato Salad

Fast food for miners.

After a long, hard day in the creek bed shoveling and sifting gravel, the last thing a 49’er miner wanted to do was prepare a meal. This simple fare offered a quick fix as well as a host of health problems.

Shovel Bread

Start a fire. Let the wood burn down to coals.
Mix:

2 tbsp butter
1 ½ cup flour
water
salt
onion powder
1 egg

Stir until smooth. *The batter should be thick.

Using a clean shovel, rest it in coals until hot.

A deep fire pit is NOT necessary for this recipe.

Support shovel firmly over coals. Pour batter over the blade. Use a long-handled spatula or spoon to keep it in place until the base sets.

Lightly press against batter to determine doneness.

It’s done when it feels spongy.

 

Click on the photo to watch a video about malnutrition during the California Gold Rush.

Learn about Scurvy in California’s Food Capital.

Watercress, Potato & Tomato Salad

Finely chop potatoes.
Fry in oil till done.
Salt and pepper to taste.
Set aside to cool.
Chop or tear watercress into bite-sized pieces.
Add fresh or sun-dried tomatoes (in oil).
Dress with red wine vinegar and oil.
Top with grated cheese.

 

Resources:

 

Huffington Post – Recipes That Show You How Watercress Is Supposed To Be Eaten

Sauteed Potato and Watercress – Quick Vegan Side