Food is Medicine: Crockpot to the Rescue

What is more comforting than walking in from the chill to the smell of warm food? That’s one of the blessings of a crock pot – it allows you to be away from home and come home to the comfort of good food that is ready to eat.

The winter season has the yin characteristics of cold, damp, and inactivity. These characteristics, when living in harmony with nature, cause us to want to slow down, stay warm, replenish our energy, and conserve our strength during the winter.

The kidney system is associated with winter. Our Kidneys are considered the source of all Qi (energy) in our bodies. During the winter it is important to nourish and nurture our Kidney Qi by choosing appropriate foods and preparing them in ways that support the Kidney system.

Your crock pot will be useful in preparation of stews, hearty soups, and beans, which all nourish the Kidneys. The Spleen system, an important part of the digestive system in Chinese Medicine, is also supported by the slow cooking method offered by a crock pot. Both the Spleen and Kidney systems enjoy warmth offered by cooked foods and warming spices.

The Self-Healing Cookbook by Kristina Turner has a great soup stock suggestion. It suggests that you save the ends and bits, whenever you cut vegetables, and keep them in a jar in the fridge or freezer. When you have plenty, simmer them in a quart of water for 20 – 30 minutes, strain, and refrigerate this stock to use as a base for any soups or stews that you make.

Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair offers the following recipe for a hearty White Bean and Kale Minestrone which is very supportive of the Kidney system. Good for the crock pot. I altered it very slightly to make it more Chinese Medicine appropriate.

Prep Time: 30 Minutes

Makes 3 to 4 servings

5 to 6 leaves of kale            
2 large cloves of garlic        
3 cups cooked white beans, divided into two equal parts
2 ½ cups vegetable or chicken stock, divided into two equal parts
1 Tbs tomato paste              
4 fresh sage leaves
1 tsp sea salt                        
Freshly ground pepper
1 Tbs fresh lemon juice    

Wash kale and remove the stems from the leaves. Roll up kale leaves and cut into thin ribbons. Set aside. In a 4 quart pot, heat oil and sauté the garlic briefly over medium heat. Add about half of the cooked beans and half of the stock. Puree the rest of the beans and stock in a blender along with the tomato paste and sage. Stir the pureed beans into the soup. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix the kale into the soup and simmer until it has wilted (about 10 minutes). Add the lemon juice and enough water to make the soup a desirable thick consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings.

The Kidney system is also supported by seeds and sprouts. The Kidneys govern birth, growth, development, and death from a Chinese Medicine perspective. According to the law of signatures, seeds are about birth and sprouts about development. Use spouts to garnish salads and cooked vegetables, or warm your bean sprouts in a little soy sauce or tamari as an addition to your meal.

Try this seed recipe as a delicious snack or as a garnish on your vegetables.

Dry fry ¼ cup of each – brown flax, golden flax, black sesame, white sesame, sunflower, and pumpkin. (Dry frying = putting the seeds into a frying pan that has no oil or water in it and warming them until you hear the seeds begin to make a popping sound.) Pour them into a dish to cool. Store covered in the refrigerator.