Tag Archives: breakfast

Who Knew I’d Love Congee?

September 16 081September 16 083

Did you ever have something you were sure you didn’t like; sure in the way that a three year old just knows she doesn’t like that very thing she ate last night?  Well, that was me and congee.  I just knew I didn’t like it.  I have had ample opportunity to try it, both here and in China where I spent almost three weeks waiting for the processing and paperwork involved in adopting my daughter.  Every morning there it was, that white gloppy mess, and I knew I wouldn’t like it. I have seen it roll by each and every time I’ve had dim sum (and that’s a lot) and confidently shook my head no.  Well, like that three year old, I was just plain wrong.

Last Thursday I met my friend Sarah for breakfast at the Cube Cafe here in Philly.  She got the meat congee and I got a sesame Hong Kong Waffle, which is a whole other post, but here is what that looks like, each of those ‘bubbles’ is about 1″ in diameter.  Anyway, Sarah’s congee looked pretty good, but it was still hot last Thursday, so I went for the waffle, but I kept thinking about that congee.  Friday was a cool day, and I was still thinking about congee, so I decided to go back to Cube and try it.  First of all I need to say, this congee has to be the best breakfast deal in Philadelphia, if not the entire U.S.  I got that bowl of congee and my choice of hot beverage for $2.50, which would have been a pretty good deal even if I didn’t love the congee, but I did!

I got the meat congee (on Sarah’s endorsement) and it was mildly meaty and topped with roasted peanuts, and fresh scallions.  It was excellent, and I decided I would try to make it at home.  I found a few recipes, did my typical hybridization, using the recipes as a guide for water/stock/rice ratio, as well as timing, and today for lunch I had my very own, very easy, very delicious chicken congee.  I started with 1 cup of rice, and half a chicken, and ended up with about six (or more) cups of finished product  (I ate some before I remembered to measure the yield).  I am already hooked, and ready to start making all kinds of versions as soon as I finish this batch, which could take me all week.

Jook 2

I have always has a particular affinity for Chinese food in general, and breakfasts in particular.  I’ve posted here before about my breakfast issues, and my disdain for that current breakfast hero oatmeal, and cereal of most sorts.  But congee, or jook as it’s sometimes called is my answer to breakfast!  It is warm and tasty, cooked with ginger and some chicken stock, and is almost soup, and I love soup!  I was dubious about cooking the chicken in the porridge mixture, thinking it would be dry, but it came out tender, moist, and flavorful.

jook 3Jook 1

If you prefer sweet morning cereal (to that I say yuk, but that’s just me)  you can make congee with coconut milk and the sweetener of your choice.  It does take a while to cook, but it reheats well, just stir it with a bit more water, and top it with whatever you like.  I am also going to try this in mt slow cooker.  I drizzled mine with a bit of soy sauce and some scallions.  I think peanuts are a nice addition, but who keeps peanuts around?  If you haven’t tried congee I urge you to.  It’s a nice alternative to other hot cereals, and I’d love to hear how you make it!

jook 4



Breakfast for Dinner

open all night
When we were kids every once in a while we would have breakfast for dinner. It was upside down, it was a break from the norm, it was exciting, and it was fun! My daughter loves breakfast for dinner, as do most kids I know. Even I feel like a kid again when I make myself an omelet, or something breakfast-y at night. In my younger days-when I could still stay up until 2 a.m. we loved going to the diner for a big, messy, greasy pre-dawn breakfast, now, sadly, I think that combination might be more than I could manage, but breakfast in the middle of the night is as at least as much fun as it is at 6:00 p.m.

A few years ago I went to Seattle for four days to interview for a job. Because it was a short trip, and I was travelling alone, I did my best to stay on Eastern time, going to bed early and waking early as well. On my last morning, the day of my interview, I awoke around 3:00, I was nervous, and had to get ready for the interview as well as pack to leave. Of course all of this took much less time than I expected, so there I was all dressed up and ready for breakfast at 4:00 a.m. local time. I Yelped, and found a bar in walking distance from my hotel that served food all night and set off. When I called my friend Nicole for some last minute advice and to chat, and told her where I was she was quite surprised to hear I was alone at a bar at 4:00, this scenario being quite out of character for me. It was a great breakfast, chicken fried steak, eggs and probably some kind of potatoes and coffee, and though I don’t think it was related to my meal, I didn’t get the job…

When I think of breakfast for dinner, I want more than a scrambled egg and a slice of toast, I want pancakes, or waffles, I want corn fritters with syrup and sausage or bacon. I can’t recall the last time we had breakfast for dinner, but shaking things up can bring out some creativity and challenge our notions of what a specific meal should be. Lately I have been having a more dinner-y lunch, and a salad for dinner. I haven’t done any metrics, but the results seem interesting. I think I eat less for my dinner/lunch at midday, and my salad dinner is certainly less than my usual dinners, and about the same as my lunch salad. I go to bed feeling lighter, and not feeling hungry. I can’t say I did this with any plan or purpose, though it may be a factor of my effort to consume more fruits and veggies (I have yet to hit ten, but am managing a solid 7-8 per day). In any case, for now it feels right, and lately I’m going with that for all kinds of things.

Even the most creative and adventurous cooks can fall into a mealtime rut. Our bodies, working on an internal timer seem to say “lunchtime” at a certain time, maybe 12:30, or 1:00 depending on our habits, and before we even check to see if we feel hungry, we eat, and then we do it again at 6:30 or 7:00. Of course for many of us these time as prescribed by our jobs, spouses, children, etc, but it is probably worth at least taking notice.

Time isn’t the only rut we’re subject to though. Do you eat the same breakfast or lunch every day? Do you even notice what you are eating? Do you enjoy it? You probably have more variety at dinner, but do you have 5-6 standard meals you kind of rotate through? Many people do, I do, and why do we so often rely on restaurants to provide variety? If you’ve got some great home cooking ideas please share them here, as I will as I start to expand my rotation of regular meals.

The Breakfast Club

So many people say they can’t eat breakfast, or they’re not really hungry in the morning, or all they need/want is a cup of coffee to get started. These people are not invited to join my breakfast club. I wake up hungry! In fact morning is the time when I am the most hungry. If there were no consequences I would probably either graze all through the morning hours, or go out for a big sloppy breakfast every day. I love things like biscuits and sausage gravy, pastrami and eggs, home fries- especially the ones that are shredded and crispy and don’t contain green peppers. I am not a particular fan of sweet breakfasts and though I would not turn down an almond croissant with a cappuccino, I rarely think of, or crave pancakes, French toast and the like. I wish I could develop a liking for oatmeal. That ubiquitous item that almost everyone I know righteously eats daily with fruit, and flax seed, and nuts- yuck! I do not like oatmeal, I do not like it rolled or steel cut, with cream and sugar, instant or long cooking, in fact the only place I feel oatmeal belongs is in the super delicious white-chocolate oatmeal cookies from Deb Perlman’s Smitten Kitchen, or in any oatmeal cookie recipe that does not include raisins.

Each day I struggle with breakfast. Do I have my healthy smoothie which consists of almond milk, hemp protein powder, cocoa powder and heaps of frozen fruit? Maybe I should juice, but unless I have planned to do this, I don’t have the necessary quantities of fruits and veggies. Eggs? I rarely have bread in my house, if I have eggs they are solo, and that’s not any fun. This is not a good way to start a day of mindful eating and making peace with food. I have been eating breakfast for many, many years, you’d think I’d have it figured out by now…

It may be a cultural thing. I may not be cut out for the American idea of breakfast. Last fall I travelled to Bali, and each day we were served fried rice for breakfast, the rice had many mystery ingredients, and was just a little spicy, but it was great. Many years ago in China I ate steamed dumplings each morning. In Japan they eat rice and miso soup- soup sounds good… Maybe I need to do some more research into Asian breakfasts, maybe later, but as I said I am hungry now.

As I sit here, early in the morning writing about breakfast, thinking about it, wondering what to eat/make, and still not sure. I ask myself “If I could have anything to eat right now, what would it be?” and honestly I don’t know. The danger here is that I will get increasingly hungry as I put off making a decision. I will snack on random things, and eat more than enough for a normal breakfast, and at some point make a decision and then eat what I will call breakfast, but is now my second breakfast… And so my day is off to a not so good start.

Each day I swear I will break this cycle. I will come downstairs to my kitchen, take my many herbs and supplements, make myself a smoothie, and move on to my day. Yes, I think today I will have that smoothie, and if I have it today, then maybe I will have it tomorrow too. I don’t think I will ever stop loving grits, and hash, and smoked salmon on an everything bagel, but today a smoothie sounds just fine.