I will always be on board for simple, starchy comfort. Risotto, steel-cut oats, polenta laden with Parmesan… if it’s warming and clings to a spoon, I’m on board. Congee is starchy comfort at its best. It’s a rice porridge that’s most common in China, though you’ll find other versions in the Philippines, Taiwan, Japan, and India. Congee is kind of magic: A small handful of rice simmered in lots of water transforms into something luxuriously creamy and filling.
The only problem? Congee takes a long time. Most recipes call to simmer a big batch for a few hours. I don’t have that kind of time, but a congee craving is a congee craving. So what’s a solo cook to do?
I found the answer by way of Nadiya Hussain’s Ginger Rice with Spiced Chickpeas. You’ve got to whisk it. By boiling the rice first, then whisking constantly for about 5 minutes, the grains broke down and became porridge in less than 20 minutes. Magic. It’s definitely not traditional, but it totally works in a pinch.
The best part is topping with whatever you have on hand—why this is one of my favorite “use it up” meals. I added leftover roast chicken, microwave-steamed snap peas and yellow squash, sliced radishes, and an extra scallion here.
More topper ideas: – Protein: Any cooked meat or fish, cubed tofu, or a soft-boiled egg – Veggies: Any steamed veggies or thinly sliced cucumber and radishes – Drizzles and sprinkles: soy sauce, chile-garlic sauce, sesame seeds, garlic chips, or crushed red pepper
The consistency of your congee is really up to you. Let it simmer a little longer after whisking to thicken, or add a little more water if it feels too thick. Just don't skip the swirl of sesame oil or butter at the end—it's what makes the texture so luxurious.
Course Main Course
Prep Time 5minutes
Cook Time 20minutes
Total Time 25minutes
1tspgrated fresh ginger
1tsptoasted sesame oil or butter
1small scallion, thinly sliced
Combine the ginger, rice, and water in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, for about 10 minutes (the rice should be cooked through at this point).
Uncover and whisk constantly for about 5 minutes (the rice should start to break down and the water should turn milky white). Let simmer another 5 minutes, uncovered, until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in sesame oil, scallion, and salt.
Ladle congee into a wide bowl and top with the veggies, protein, and condiments of your choice.
The best meals to come out of my kitchen usually happen when I have next to nothing in the fridge. Maybe it’s the necessity of invention. Maybe food just tastes better with the added satisfaction of using up the odds and ends of my fridge that never found a home. If I can get it done in under 20 minutes, I’ve hit the solo cooking trifecta: using up what I have, making something simple and satisfying, and getting it to the table fast. Added bonus if there’s only one pan to clean.
I always, always keep a can of cannellini beans in my pantry. They’re so mild and creamy, so endlessly versatile. I know as single cooks we’re supposed to fear that half-eaten can lest it get forgotten, but this never happens with cannellini beans. I’ll use half in a dinner tonight, then use the other in my next salad, random veggie sauté, or pasta toss. It’s the can that keeps on giving.
You might know of shakshuka as the tomato sauce-y, skillet-baked eggs found on many a brunch menu. I love the idea of a “white” version that’s a bit heartier. I had some droopy parsley, so in it went, along with the Swiss chard, crumbled feta, garlic, and crushed red pepper. I recommend serving with butter-slathered pita (I am so lucky to get mine fresh from a Middle Eastern restaurant across the street from me) and a glass of wine.
Other ways I’ve used that bunch of Swiss chard this week:
– Steamed with a sliced sweet potato and yellow squash as a side for roast chicken
– Shredded for a lunchtime wrap with turkey and white Cheddar
– Blended into a green smoothie with banana, pineapple, and almond milk
– A big veggie stir-fry over brown rice
A speedy beans and eggs skillet made a little heartier with Swiss chard. Use whatever greens you have on hand (spinach, kale, even a big handful of parsley).
Course Main Course
Prep Time 10minutes
Cook Time 15minutes
Total Time 25minutes
2garlic cloves, minced
Pinchcrushed red pepper
¾cupcannellini beans, rinsed and drained(about ½ cup)
¾cupwater, chicken stock, or vegetable broth
1cupSwiss chard leaves, roughly chopped
2tbspfinely chopped flat-leaf parsley(optional)
Salt and black pepper to taste
Heat oil in an 8-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and crushed red pepper and cook about 30 seconds or until the garlic starts to sizzle. Stir in white beans and a pinch of salt and sauté about 2 minutes.
Turn down the heat to medium. Using a fork, mash about half the beans in the pan. Stir in water or stock and chard until the chard is wilted. Stir in half the feta crumbles. Spread bean mixture in a single layer in the skillet. If the beans look a little dry at this point, add another splash of water.
Make two pockets in the bean mixture with a spatula or the back of a large spoon and crack one egg into each. Cover the skillet and cook for 4 minutes or until the eggs are just set. Remove the pan from the heat. Sprinkle salt and black pepper over the eggs. Sprinkle the parsley and remaining feta over top. Serve with toast or pita.
My Solo Kitchen
Is cooking really worth it, just for me? Yes, and it’s easier than you think. This is food for the busy, social, single cook, with hacks and use-it-up strategies that make the most of everything you buy. It’s solo cooking designed for real life, and it’s never been more delicious.
Hi, I’m Hannah. I’m a food writer, recipe developer, and content manager based in Nashville, TN. I’m also passionate about helping single cooks of all skill levels find confidence and joy in cooking for one. Learn more.