Let's talk dirty. The average adult has 2-6 pounds (!!!) of microbes in their gut. There is 10x more bacteria than all human cells! It is like Midtown Manhattan up in there, so crowd control is necessary. So many essential metabolic functions in the gut are carried out exclusively by our microbiota, which is why you should seed the belly regularly with high potency probiotics, like this absolutely ambrosial vegan coconut yogurt from @coconutgods. Keep your microbiome in check with a few tangy tablespoons per day, or make your own with a yogurt starter and a little elbow grease.❤️
Medicinal rice porridge, or 'congee,' is the nutritional foundation for optimal health in traditional Chinese medicine. Simple and fuss free kitchen witchery, the basis of congee is one part rice to 6 parts water simmered in a slow cooker overnight with minimal elbow grease or finessing. In 'The Book of Jook', one of my favorite repositories of congee recipes both egalitarian and exotic, Bob Flaws explains that "in Chinese medicine, the prognosis of any disease is based on three things: spirit, stomach qi, and root. Spirit refers to the heart spirit which is nourished by qi. Root refers to the kidney essence which is also nourished by qi. Once the stomach qi fails, we can no longer make qi and blood postnatally and thus must decline. It is believed in traditional Chinese medicine that when the vital energy of the stomach is depleted, the disease will be incurable, and that is why rice porridge is considered to be the most fundamental of dietotherapeutic foods." My favorite part about being a Chinese medical physician is that my prescription pad is not limited to pharmaceuticals, and I get to relish in the simple transformative magic of prescribing personalized congee formulas to my patients using medicinal herbs and foods. This one is comprised of mulberries, spirit Poria mushroom, Chinese dates, and goji berries, and is for supplementing the liver and boosting the kidneys, enriching yin and blood, moistening the intestines, brightening the eyes, and calming the heart. ❤️
“The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious…
The beet is the murderer returned to the scene of the crime. The beet is what happens when the cherry finishes with the carrot. The beet is the ancient ancestor of the autumn moon, bearded, buried, all but fossilized; the dark green sails of the grounded moon-boat stitched with veins of primordial plasma; the kite string that once connected the moon to the Earth now a muddy whisker drilling desperately for rubies.
The beet was Rasputin’s favorite vegetable. You could see it in his eyes.”
-Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume
Beet Kvass is an acquired taste, a guttural garnet brine of sanguine soil, mossy mouthfuls of prosaic, proletarian food medicine. A digestive tonic of Slavic heft and ardor, it’s a simple remedy that exalts the latent magic of the beet through fermentation, boosting its nutritional profile and inoculating the beets with boughs of beneficial bacteria. Kvass is a perpetual staple at my LA homestead, along with Bone Broth & Cod Liver Oil. Taken religiously with the fervor of my Slavic ancestors, it can render the need for further digestive support obsolete, all the while strengthening a sluggish immune system and supporting the organs of elimination.
I first sampled this rosy, fermented fête out of an unmarked carafe at a hot spring in rural Austria. Thinking it to be cranberry juice, I was immediately perplexed by its salty strangeness and effervescent bite. Which is to say, I spit it out. Moments later, I longed to swill it by the mouthful, like a Viking gulping the blood of its enemies. Beet Kvass will sneak up on you like that. My friends from Eastern Europe grew up swigging Kvass daily in school, a nourishing ritual that shames the pants off the Dixie Cups full of sugary fake juice doled out by the US school system.
The probiotic puissance of Beet Kvass lies in its ability to rectify the morass of an unbalanced digestive system, whilst thinning out the bile to help with liver congestion and function. The mystical beet, in and of itself, also boosts an ORAC value of 1,776, making it an excellent natural anti-inflammatory and preventative medicine for cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, allergies, and chronic fatigue.
6 Organic beets, washed & peeled
1 Tsp Sea Salt
½ Gallon Glass Jar or Fermentation Crock
Wash, peel, and chop your beets into small pieces, placing them in your sterilized glass jar. If you don’t have a ½ gallon vessel, you can distribute them amongst smaller jars, and divvy the recipe up equally (Kvass is a cooperative chap!). Fill the jar with purified water, enough to cover the beets, making sure to leave 1inch headroom at the top. Add your sea salt and probiotic starter, shaking and whisking until thoroughly infused. Loosely seal (I use a paper towel and a rubber band, because I’m the utmost fancy) and store away from direct sunlight, allowing your rubicund potion to ferment at room temperature for 3-5 days. You may notice a winsome, white mold starting to form on top of your prized Kvass. Fret not, fervid fermentors! It’s merely a harmless rogue mold, entirely par for the course in the wily badlands of cultured foods. Scoop her off gingerly, with nary a scoff or skirmish.
After my counter top fermenting has commenced, I’ll either whirl my Kvass with a smidgen extra of water in a Vitamix before bottling (for the earthy girth of a thicker brew), or strain the beets and bottle the scarlet elixir. You can reserve the beets for a nice salad or amuse-bouche, or re-ferment them in a second batch of Kvass. Store your Kvass in a sealed glass vessel in the fridge, where it will continue to simmer and seethe with bountiful bacteria indefinitely. Serve chilled, with a squeeze of lime or a spritz of sparkling water if you so fancy, or add to homemade Borscht for a bit of old world Slavic kitchen witchery.
*If the Kvass is entirely too pungent for your palate after the counter top fermentation, mellowing it in the fridge for 2-3 weeks will curb its mojo. This will also enhance the nutrition of the Kvass, but is not a necessary step, as she’s already an unequivocally potent brew.
¼ cup per day, taken as a few sips hither and thither before meals to stimulate digestion. If your body temple is not accustomed to the bubbling brawn of fermented foods, start small, and work your way up to the full dose.
Never does a week go by in our household where the scraps of our epicurean labors aren’t heaped in a giant enamelware pot and stewed for hours while we mill about the homestead. We’re fanatical about our bone-collecting, surreptitiously slipping chicken carcasses into napkins under the table, asking waiters to box up our goat bones after indulging in a hearty pot of Birria De Chivo Goat Stew. The result of our rampant scrap-mongering is a rich, profoundly nourishing bone broth, imbued with golden melted life-force, exceedingly nourishing to the illustrious Three Treasures of Chinese Medicine:
Jing, our Essence, the source of life, the basis for all growth, development, and sexuality.
Qi, our energy, giving us the ability to activate and move our bodies, whilst protecting us against external and internal pathogenic factors.
Shen, our inner light, the vitality behind Jing and Qi, the mental and spiritual force that shapes our personality and spirit.
Bone Broth- or ‘stock’, depending our your particular cultural milieu- is a pan-cultural old world panacea, utilitarian kitchen alchemy transforming vegetable scraps and bones into pure nutritional gold. Heaps of vegetables, herbs, and leftover bones are pragmatically piled in a pot, and left to simmer slowly for long periods of time, extracting every morsel of function and flavor. The resulting infusion is a gently potent brew, teeming with trenchant, bio-available nutrition, easy to digest and suitable for all matter of medicine, both preventative AND curative. A complex, rich mosaic of variegated flavors, it is also an opulent addition to stews, soups, sauces, poaching liquid, grains, beans, and porridge, transforming blasé cooking water into a savory swill. It nourishes our tendons, ligaments, skin, bones, and blood, keeping us limber and spry, with an assassin-worthy immune system. As a grounding force in our otherwise hypersonic, twenty-first century lives, it forces us to spend a few hours a week at home, tending to our hearth fire. If I seem a little in love with it, it’s because I am. I get to melt bones in a giant pot, like a surly wizard necromancer.
Many moons ago, before I was religious about my bone broth, I was stricken by a persnickety set of symptoms that left me vacillating between a sprightly 20-something yoga warrior and a knobby, decrepit old crone. One day, I would be handstanding in yoga class like nobody’s business, and the next day, I could barely touch my toes, plagued with spells of tightness, pain, and numbness, accompanied by bouts of sleep seizures that made me feel ancient, neurotic, and utterly powerless. After getting diagnosed with a vague autoimmune disease, delivered with a despondent, helpless send-off from the Western Medical Hegemony, my homegrown recovery was rooted in cutting out all inflammatory foods (gluten, sugar, ungainly processed rubbish), and going the way of old man Hippocrates by using food as my medicine. Through Traditional Chinese Medicine and the wisdom of thee Weston A. Price Foundation, I discovered the ancient magic of bone broth, and have never looked back. Years later, I am symptom free (though on occasion, I go to town on Chocolate Stout and homemade bread), and enjoying all sorts of bendy melee on the regular. And really, despite seeing tons of under-the-weather patients daily, have developed a super-human resistance to colds and flu. I make my cauldron of bone broth weekly, and drink a cup a day, increasing in times of debauchery, disorder, or debilitation. I suggest this to everyone that walks through my door, as I’ve seen countless miracles in managing all matter of disease (you can check out the foxy graphic below from Vanessa Romero at Healthy Living How To for a list of its wiles and wonders).
If broth seems too good to be true, it’s because it is. Our leery, infirmed culture has taught us to be inherently disdainful of anything that seems ‘too good to be true’, a silly idiom I’ve always despised for shading the world in a Saturnine hue, thwarting the everyday magic of simple things, and propagating the ‘snake-oil’ mythos that impedes the advancement of traditional medicines. I much prefer the wisdom of wise old Yeats, who knew that “The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”
Why is bone broth so beautiful? The venerable Dr. Mercola at The Mercola Institute drops some science on this egregious elixir below, adding some credence to my highfalutin claims:
BENEFITS OF BONE BROTH
Helps heal and seal your gut, and promotes healthy digestion: The gelatin found in bone broth is a hydrophilic colloid. It attracts and holds liquids, including digestive juices, thereby supporting proper digestion.
Inhibits infection caused by cold and flu viruses: A study published over a decade ago found that chicken soup indeed has medicinal qualities, significantly mitigating infection.
Reduces joint pain and inflammation, courtesy of chondroitin sulphates, glucosamine, and other compounds extracted from the boiled down cartilage. (Aside: glucosamine and chondroitin are usually sold over the counter as fancy supplements for arthritis).
Fights inflammation: Amino acids such as glycine, proline, and arginine all have anti-inflammatory effects. Arginine, for example, has been found to be particularly beneficial for the treatment of sepsis (whole-body inflammation).Glycine also has calming effects, which may help you sleep better.
Promotes strong, healthy bones: As mentioned above, bone broth contains high amounts of calcium, magnesium, and other nutrients that play an important role in healthy bone formation.
Promotes healthy hair and nail growth, thanks to the ample gelatin in the broth.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
Large Stainless Steel Stock Pot or Crock Pot
Roughly two pounds of organic chicken, beef, lamb, or fish bones, procured from a local butcher, or culled from recent feastings and stored in the freezer until needed. We’re talkin’ carcasses, knuckles, and hooves, oh my! If you plan on making a habit out of your stock making shenanigans (which you should!), I suggest finding a sympathetic meat peddler to bro-down with in your hood. In Los Angeles, I’m sweet on J&J Grassfed Beef. You can peruse sustainably raised local livestock on LocalHarvest.org, or check out the CrossFit gyms in your area, as many CSA’s are starting to offer gym delivery.
¼ cup vinegar: Of paramount importance, for extracting the minerals from the bones into your broth.
A Mirepoix, consisting of 1 coarsely chopped onion, 2 carrots, and 2 sticks of celery.
Other coarsely chopped vegetables and assorted kitchen detritus: Perhaps the most admiral facet of broth is its commonsensical use of otherwise discarded cooking debris, with a peasant zeal otherwise reserved for Bruce Springsteen. Yellowing parsley, disfigured carrots, celery tops, blood-red chard stalks, onion skins, the graveyard of your heroic juicing efforts, haunted specters from the crisper… they all get their day in the sun. Your ingredients will be subject to the capricious nature of your weekly eating habits, producing a protean olio that is romantically un-reproducible from one week to the next. We keep a jar in the freezer that we fill with our forsaken vegetable fragments just for this purpose. My mainstays for flavor are 1 bunch of parsley, 2 quartered potatoes, a few hearty sprigs of rosemary and thyme from the garden, and a few cloves of garlic.
1 tsp black peppercorns
Fresh, cold water
I love to add a smidgen of Chinese herbs to my brew, to enhance and direct the healing vectors of my broth. 2-3 ounces of each herb should do the trick, always being intuitive with your needs and working with what you have on hand, like the cunning egalitarian Kitchen Witch that you are. These folks are mainstays in my cabinet, and on any given Sunday, I may sprinkle a smattering of the following into my cauldron:
A handful of Dang Shen/Codonopsis Root: To help strengthen the qi, counter mental and physical fatigue, build blood, and nourish body fluids.
Perhaps 5-10 slices of Huang Qi/Astragalus Root: To boost the immune system and strengthen qi, ensconcing one in protective energy that helps prevent illness due to external influences.
Certainly always a knuckle or so of Sheng Jiang/Fresh Ginger Root: To stoke the digestive fires and stimulate the circulatory system.
A pinch of Xi Yang Shen/American Ginseng Root: Boosting gentler Ginseng tendrils than the Chinese or Korean varietals, an admirable addition to combat fatigue and stress, whilst improving athletic and mental performance,
Dong Quai/Chinese Angelica Root: The ultimate femme tonic, invaluable for strengthening the blood, nourishing the reproductive organs, regulating menstruation, and alleviating period pain.
Shan Yao/Chinese Wild Yam: A lovely anti-inflammatory that tonifies qi, nourishes yin, and strengthens the spleen, lungs, and kidneys, particularly puissant after a long-term illness.
A sprinkling of Shan Zhu Yu/Dogwood Fruit: An excellent astringent herb and reproductive tonic that strengthens the liver and kidneys, while securing leakage of vital essence.
6 or so strands of dried Dong Chong Xia Cao/Cordyceps Mushroom: My most favorite herb in the Chinese pharmacopeia, Cordyceps is hailed on the street as the Himalayan Viagra for its revered ability to increase stamina, sex drive, virility, strength, brainpower, athletic prowess & focus. It’s a favorite of Chinese Olympians, so you know it’s gooch.
1. Break your precious bones up into smaller pieces (ideally about 3 inches long), with kitchen scissors or a fun weapon (living with a ninja has infinite perks). This will increase the surface area of bone exposed to the water, giving you a higher nutrient yield.
2. If using beef bones, you’ll want to roast your bones until browned at 400 degrees F for roughly 60-90 minutes to add richness.
3. Place the bones in your stockpot or crockpot, along with your vegetables, scraps, peppercorns, and Chinese herbs. Cover with cold water, adding a few fingers for good measure. Add your splash of vinegar and cover with a lid.
4. Slowly bring your stock to a boil, then reduce to low and simmer gently for 6-48 hours (yes, I know 48 hours is a very daunting commitment in our breakneck world). I love to use a crockpot, because you can just pile all your business in, turn on high until boiling, reduce to low, and then promptly forget about it whilst retiring to your bedchamber for the evening. It’s so egalitarian, I can hardly stand it. If using a stockpot, you can use the following guidelines (and your own pending commitments) to gauge cooking time: 6-48 hours for chicken bones, and 12-72 hours for beef and other meats.
5. Give your bone broth the occasional shout-out during simmering, checking to see that there is always a fair amount of water covering your accoutrements.
6. At some point, you will inevitably notice a thick, insalubrious scum rising to the top of your broth. Many folks will trick you into thinking you MUST skim this off routinely, to clarify the product and make a finer tasting brew. To this I say, “ain’t nobody got time for that!” The whole skimming off the top thing is sadly overrated, as testing has shown that this “scum”, while unsightly, contains nothing harmful. If you wanna be fancy, go right ahead. Otherwise, fret not!
7. When you’re ready to call it quits, remove your bones with a slotted spoon, discard, and strain the rest through a colander into a large bowl. If you’re feeling spry, you can strain again through a sieve or cheesecloth to achieve an extra-fancy, clear broth. Chill your luscious potion of collagen and gelatin in the fridge, until the fat congeals and rises to the top. If you want a liquid broth for cooking purposes, you can skim the fat off and store the remaining liquid in the fridge for roundabout a week’s time. However, if you want your broth to drink like a rich toddy of hot buttered rum, I say leave the fat on (we do), and enjoy your broth like molten velvet bone mojo. Enjoy in radiant heath, golden ones!
Preventative medicine in a porcelain pot, Si Shen Tang 四神汤, ‘Four Deities Soup’, is an old school tonic remedy for all matter of melee thwarting zest & zing. I have been all sorts of obsessed with this soup since introduced to it by my Chinese Nutrition teacher, who’s hot-blooded zeal for food as medicine is unparalleled. Slurp by slurp, I noticed near immediate relief from digestive doldrums, and felt palpable rays of puissance wash over my seriously taxed bag o’ bones. This gentle soup can be utilized in a myriad of ways, from strengthening the digestive system, increasing appetite after illness or chemotherapy, battling fatigue, boosting the immunity, and calming a jostled nervous system. Because it’s taste is placid & mild, Si Shen Tang is the perfect source of nutrition for finicky kids with digestive distress. Though I find juice fasts to be haughty, ill-informed, & positively superfluous (life is entirely too vivacious to camp out on top of a Vitamix for weeks on end, eschewing commitments, kettlebells, and spontaneity), I CAN get down with a soup detox, which grounds, nourishes, and warms the body. Where juice lacks fiber & protein, shuts down the thyroid, dampens the digestive system, and contributes to wild fluctuations in blood sugar, tonic soups are PERFECT for a midsummer cleanse. They will sustain and simplify, supporting your organ systems without dampening and depleting your inner fire.
Soup cures are this bruja’s medicine of choice, nonpareil. Though you must be proactive, prudent, and vigilant in your preemptive preparation, using soup as medicine is an infinitely rewarding and deliciously empowering alternative to medication and surly interludes at urgent care. A dash of fastidiousness in the kitchen goes a long way in the gallant fight against acute ailments, chronic fatigue, and recovery from illness, by maintaining a buoyant & valorous flow of qi throughout the body.
Though their pedigree may seem glamorously avant garde, Chinese herbs are a hoary banality, and customary staple in most Asian pantries for both healing and grubbing. All of the herbs below can be easily procured in your local Chinatown apothecary, should you have a local Chinatown apothecary. If Los Angeles happens to be your halcyon homestead, hustle on over to Tin Bo or Wing Hop Fung for a crash course in Chinese herbalism, and a fanciful frolic amongst shelves of dried fish maw, beetle skeletons, powdered horns, seahorses, and musty mystical mushrooms. Fresh fare- such as Sake and Chinese Yam- will be readily available at any Asian market, where you can also try your luck at finding rogue Chinese herbs to flesh out your budding collection.
1 Cup Job’s Tears Barley/Yi Yi Ren
A gluten-free barley (be still my heart!) that adds burly nourishment to even the most tedious soups, stews, and brews, Yi Yi Ren is a gloriously gratifying grain. Excellent for eliminating dampness, heat, and toxicity, it goes to the spleen, stomach, and lungs, aiding in digestive troubles, swelling, fatigue, urinary difficulty, abscesses, and joint pain. I was thrilled to learn recently that Yi Yi Ren is being used intravenously in China to shrink cancer cells, and has been exhibiting hefty anti-tumoral powers. It is, unfortunately, not suitable for pregnant women, though it’s wondrous in soups for conjuring postpartum joie de vivre.
1 Cup Lotus Seed/Lian Zi
A dapper bedfellow to Yi Yi Ren, Lian Zi is a meaty lil’ seed that nourishes the heart, spleen, kidneys, and vital essence. Another darling of the pantry, Lotus Seed is mild enough to beef up any feastly fête, excellent for cases of chronic diarrhea, urinary and reproductive disorders, low appetite, irritability, insomnia, anxiety, and palpitations.
1 Cup Fox Nut/Qian Shi
Completing the trifecta of tonics, Qian Shi gently supports the spleen and kidneys, for frequent urination, diarrhea, diabetes, chronic discharge, and sore low back from stress and over-taxation.
A Few Pieces of Fu Shen/Spirit Poria Mushroom, Broken Up
One of the most poetic medicinal mushrooms of the Chinese canon, Fu Shen is both a mushroom AND a morsel of host wood from the pine tree upon which she feasts. Thus she contains the rootsy, arboreal energetics of the tree, and the otherworldly, decaying detritus of the fungus. Spirit Poria nourishes the heart spirit, and the ancient Taoists believed that consuming this famed fungi 'leads to a long and happy life.’ It is used by those wishing to overcome anxiety, palpitations due to heart deficiency, insomnia, poor memory, worry, fear, edema, and urinary difficulties.
1 Raw Chinese Yam/Shan Yao, Grated and Sliced
Another boon for boosting spleen and stomach qi, Shan Yao is excellent for diarrhea, fatigue, spontaneous sweating, and lack of appetite. Also admirable for tonifying lung and kidney qi, it is an delightful herb for diabetics and those with chronic cough and wheezing.
3 Cups Sake or Mirin
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, rice wine invigorates and warms the channels of the body, quickening the flow of qi and enhancing the potency of herbs.
3 Liters Purified Water or Homemade Bone Broth
Should you be hoarding any homemade Botanarchy Bone Broth, this would add luscious flair to your brew. If water seems entirely too ho-hum for your tastes (which it won’t be, I promise), you can find my broth recipe here. I recommend a lighter broth, such as chicken, tempered with purified water.
A Heavy-Handed Sprinkling of Toasted Sesame Oil and Sea Salt, To Taste
Optional: Chicken or Pork
First, sanctify your herbal assemblage by bathing it in water, and grate the scrappy skin off your Chinese Yam before slicing. Once your herbs have been happily hallowed, grab yourself a hefty stock pot, and throw in the Job’s Tears, Lotus Seed, Fox Nut, and Fu Shen with wild abandon. Cover with a liter of purified water, boil, and then reduce to a slow simmer with lid on for about 2 hours, until your herbs have sweetly softened. Pop on over about two shakes of a lamb’s tail short of two hours, and add the Sake and Chinese Yam. Once the yam is soft, season to taste with Sesame Oil and Sea Salt. Enjoy in robust health, surreptitiously slurping your bowl of medicine daily, until you have thoroughly coaxed your mojo back to life and hoisted the heebie jeebies right outta dodge.
This tangerine-tinted titan has been my bedfellow all morning whilst nursing a wee cold in my gypsy sleep tent. The ocherous alembics of turmeric and ginger root warm the bones and stoke the middle jiao, while the saccharine swirls of maple syrup tendrils send me into an autumnal abyss from which I never want to return. Whip the following up in a Vitamix until milky, and warm on the stove:
1 large knuckle of fresh Turmeric root/Jiang Huang
1 small knuckle of fresh Ginger root /Sheng Jiang
3 Tbsp raw Hemp seeds
Maple Syrup, to taste
2 cups fresh water
The sweet solar energy of this hot toddy will boost your wei qi, providing you with Viking-worthy armor against pathogenic pests and shivering bones all season long.