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Winter represents the most Yin aspect of Chinese medicine.

Yin is dark, cold, slow and energetically inward. Compared to summer which is Yang energy representing light, hot, quick and expansive. In TCM we believe that the diet and activities in the winter should be adapted to enriching the yin and subduing the yang. Winter in TCM is associated with the kidneys, which hold our body’s most basic and fundamental energy. This means that winter is a good time to strengthen the kidneys.

The kidneys are associated with the color black. Rest is important for revitalizing the kidneys, which is why some animals hibernate during the winter. It is a good time to look inward, reflecting on ourselves with mediation, writing, gentle exercise like yin yoga, tai chi and qi gong. These practices help us to connect to our inner selves to help support the kidney energy.

In the winter months, the body needs warming foods. Soup made with hearty vegetables and rich stocks cooked with animal bones are best. A small amount of salt will also benefit the kidneys. There are many foods that are beneficial for us to eat during the winter season. These foods are ones that naturally grow during the season like squashes, root veggies, winter greens, legumes, beans, grains, mushrooms, apples, pears, roasted nuts and bone broths.

Cooking time should be for longer periods, using lower heat and less water.
This infuses food with heat that helps keep the body warm in the cold winter months.

Here are some recipes to support your kidneys during winter:


Lentils are known for their ability to tonify Qi. Leeks are considered warm in TCM and help reinforce the kidneys, warm the body, activate blood circulation, improve appetite and move the bowels. This is a wonderful, healthy, hearty soup that will warm you from the inside out.


  •  2 tablespoons olive oil

  •  6 ounces (2 cups) leek, chopped white and light green part

  •  2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

  •  5 ounces (1 cup) parsnip, peeled and chopped

  •  8 ounces (2 cups) butternut squash, peeled and diced

  •  5 ounces carrot, peeled and chopped

  •  2 tablespoons tomato paste

  •  2 1/4 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped

  •  8 cups vegetable stock

  •  8 ounces (1 cup) green or brown lentils

  •  1 bay leaf

  •  1 teaspoon salt, to taste


  1. To a soup pan, add the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the leeks and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute, stirring.

  2. Add the the parsnips, butternut squash and carrot, tomato paste and rosemary. Mix well. 

  3. Add the vegetable stock, lentils and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer and cook for 20-25 minutes uncovered, until the lentils are tender. Taste for seasoning and add as much salt as you like to taste.

  4. Serve warm and enjoy!

Servings: 6           Total time: 35 minutes

Hearty Lentil Soup


Mushrooms are terrific in autumn and winter as they remove phlegm and toxins. They also relieve fatigue and boost energy. Barley is also an energy booster and improves physical strength. It can also help with indigestion and diarrhea. Thyme can ease the common cold and associated symptoms such as headache, cough, aches, pains and a sore throat. Parsley aids digestion and removes mucus. Pine nuts provide moisture for the lungs which can ease a dry cough



  • 1 ounce dried porcini or mushroom of choice

  • 8 ounces fresh mushrooms (button, shiitake, or your favorite)

  • 1 1/2 cup boiling water for mushroom soaking liquid

  • 4 tbsp olive oil or butter

  • 1 clove garlic

  • 1 1/2 cups pearl barley (not instant)

  • 3 cups canned vegetable broth

  • 1 dried bay leaf

  • 1-2 sprig of fresh thyme

  • 1/4 tsp. onion powder

  • Fresh parsley

  • A small handful of pine nuts (optional)

  • Salt and pepper


  1. Put dried mushrooms on cutting board and coarsely chop with chef’s knife, then place them in a bowl and pour 1 cup boiling water over. Let stand 30 minutes.

  2. After 30 minutes, strain mushrooms (a coffee filter or a piece of cheesecloth would work for this) catching liquid. Boil mushroom liquid to reduce to 1/2 cup.

  3. Heat 2 TBSP butter in a dutch oven type pan. (If you’re using a non-stick pan you can use a bit less.)  Add barley and saute 3-5 minutes, until barley is slightly toasted and well coated with oil.

  4. Add stock, reduced mushroom juice, thyme, and onion powder bring to a boil, then lower heat, cover, and simmer until all liquid is absorbed and barley is tender about 30-35 minutes. Add more liquid and cook longer if needed to get the barley to the degree of tenderness you want.

  5. When barley is tender and all liquid is absorbed, turn off the heat.

  6. In very large deep frying pan, heat the remaining 2 TBSP butter. Saute fresh mushrooms 3-5 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated and mushrooms are softened. Add dried mushrooms and saute 2-3 minutes more, then stir in barley and heat through.

  7. Serve hot, garnished with fresh chopped parsley.

Servings: 6          Total time: 1 hour 20 minutes

Mushroom & Bearly Pilaf


Black beans are considered the "grains of the kidney". Black beans can tonify the kidney and calm the mind, improve eye sight, clear heat, invigorate blood circulation, reduce swelling and detoxification. It can descend qi to eliminate water retention because of magnesium and potassium, which have been found to decrease blood pressure. Black beans contains iron, magnesium, copper manganese and vitamin k which are important for healthy bone growth and strength.


  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil

  • 1 medium onion, chopped

  • 1/2 medium red bell pepper, diced

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

  • 2 green onions, chopped

  • 2 cups butternut squash, peeled, and cut into 1/2 inch cubes

  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed

  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning

  • 2 sprigs thyme

  • 1 cup coconut milk

  • 1 cup vegetable broth

  • 1 veggie bouillon cube 

  • 1 cup tender collard greens, or kale or spinach, chopped

  • 1/4 teaspoon Cayenne pepper

  • Pinch of allspice, (optional)


  1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and bell peppers cook and cook until onions are soft, about 3 minutes. Stir in garlic and spring onion and cook for 1 minute

  2. Add butternut squash, black beans, Italian Seasoning, thyme and stir to coat. Stir in coconut milk, vegetable broth. bouillon cube, allspice, cayenne pepper and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer for 20 minutes.

  3. Stir in leafy greens and cook for about 4 minutes, delicious served with brown rice and avocado.

Servings-4          Total Time- 40 minutes



congee is a traditional Asian rice porridge that’s been around since the time of Buddha. This medicinal meal benefits the stomach and intestines and is excellent for digestion. Slow-cooked with lots of water, congee is exceptional at hydrating, often fed to babies, nursing mothers, or the ill and depleted. This simple porridge easily delivers needed nutrients to those with compromised digestion, while simultaneously healing and repairing the organs and associated channels. It is a healthy, nutritious, warming meal that is delicious, very simple to make and can be flavored many different ways to taste. 

Black Bean & Butternut Squash Stew


  • 2 cups sushi or jasmine rice

  • 4 chicken drumsticks

  • 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, wiped with a wet towel (optional)

  • 5 quarts water or chicken stock or bone broth

  • 2 teaspoons pink Himalayan salt

  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil or ghee

  • Garnish with chopped ginger or scallions,

  • Other flavorful garnish options-coconut aminos, or dark sesame oil 


  1. In a large pot, combine the rice, chicken, mushrooms (if using),  water or stock, and sea salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then  immediately reduce to medium-low.

  2. Gently simmer, uncovered, for about an hour, or until the rice is soft,  the broth is thickened into a porridge-like consistency, and the chicken is tender.

  3. Remove the chicken to a medium mixing bowl and pull the meat from the bones using two forks. Discard the bones and return the chicken to the pot along with the ginger. Cook for 5 minutes more.

  4. Stir the coconut oil or ghee into the congee. Serve the congee alongside additional chopped ginger, scallions, gluten-free tamari or coconut aminos, and dark sesame oil for added flavor.

Servings-4          Total Time- 1 hour 10 minutes

Chicken Congee


In TCM, bone broths are used to support the digestive system, strengthen the kidneys, and build the blood. Bone broths are a delicious base for soups, but they are also a nutrient-rich and easily digested medicine for everyday health.The Kidney is the powerhouse of the body, supplying reserve energy to any organ running low on Qi. The bone is the tissue associated with the Kidney, so eating or drinking bone broths will give your body a much-needed boost.


  •  2-3 pounds bones of choice (beef, lamb, chicken, etc)

  •  1 white onion, roughly chopped

  •  2-3 carrots, roughly chopped

  •  2 stalks of celery, roughly chopped

  •  2 bay leaves

  •  2 teaspoons sea salt

  •  1 teaspoon black pepper


  1. Place the bones in a roasting pan. Roast in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.

  2. Transfer the bones to a large, deep pot. Cover the bones with water.

  3. Add the chopped vegetables, bay leaves, and salt and pepper to the pot. Bring to a rolling boil.

  4. Lower the heat and let simmer for 8 to up to 24 hours, adding water as necessary to cover the bones. (The broth can also be cooked in a slow cooker.) Skim any impurities from the surface of the broth with a large spoon and discard.

  5. Use a large slotted spoon to remove the vegetables and bones from the pot. Discard. Then pour the broth through a fine-mesh strainer to remove any additional solids.

Use this broth as a soup base, drink as a hot tea, or use in place of water when cooking rice or other grains.


****Be sure to use the best quality bones (organic, grass-fed, etc.) available to you. This broth is simmered for hours to release gelatin from the joints and minerals from the bones, so you want to be sure the animal was very healthy and given a good diet. The longer the broth is cooked, the more concentrated the flavor becomes.

Servings-8          Total Time- 8.5-24 hours

Bone Broth
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