Nightshade Vegetables and Inflammation

Note on the nightshade vegetables and inflammation:

Nightshade family such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and potatoes can cause inflammation in body. these plants contains an alkaloid, solanine, to protect itself from the attack of insects. This plant chemical can promote inflammation, even more in very high doses, this can be toxic. If you have any symptoms that canbe aggravated by inflammation (such as arthritis, pain in general, or irritable bowel syndromes), you should eliminate all of nightshade vegetables and herbs (paprika, cayenne pepper, tobacco etc) for 2 to 3 months to see how much symptoms improves, or try the followings

  • Always eat moderate amount that you can toralate.
  • Choose ripe vegetables as possible (solanine contents are higher in green part of vegetables)
  • Steaming, baking, and boiling process all helps reducing 40-50% of the solanine contents, however it is only reduced, so sensitive person may still affected by the remaining of solanine.
  • Sundried tomatoes has less solanine then fresh tomatoes.
  • Peppers and eggplants are higher in solanine per grams than other vegetables such as potatoes, so avoid them first.
  • Cooking with anti-inflammatory herbs (ie. ginger, termeric) maybe helpful.

Ratatouille from Garden Vegetables

I have my first shared garden this year in Toronto! With a quite bit of rain and sunshine, we have been blessed by the vegetables, now tomatoes, eggplants, and zucchinis are just in season.

With all of these vegetables, I like making Ratatouille, a dish originated in southern France. It’s like a perfect garden vegetable soup for mid to late summer!

I usually love adding some Kabocha squash to add little sweetness in sour taste of tomato. We found a nice fresh Kabocha pumpkin, so we made this:

Ingredients for 4 servings:

  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 large, riped tomatoes, cut in cudes
  • 1 eggplant, cubed
  • 1/2 Kabocha squash, cut in larger cubes
  • 4 baby zucchini, sliced diagonally
  • A handful of string beans, cut in half
  • 2 medium peppers (any colour), coarsely chopped
  • Sea salt and black pepper for taste
  • 1 teaspoon of good quality olive oil for garnish
  • 10 fresh basil leaves, chopped finely for garnish

In a Dutch oven or large saucepan, place olive oil over low-medium heat. Add onion and garlic, stir well until onion becomes golden. Add tomatoes, continue cooking for 10 min. Turn the heat to medium, add eggplant, Kabocha squash and zucchini in to the pot, stir to combine, cover the top and cook for 15 min (stir occationally). Add beans and peppers cook another 10 min then season with sea salt and black pepper. Cook with low medium again until the Kabocha squash gets soft. Serve with basil leaves and olive oil for garnish.

Also read: Nightshade Family and Inflammation

Ontario Lamb with Red Wine & Rhubarb Reduction

Rhubarb is something people love as a desert and pastry in this season, but in Chinese tradition, the root is well known as a medicine for some thousand years to treat many of digestive complaints such as constipation and gastritis. As a food, rhubarb is a good source of vitamin C, fiber and calcium, so it is great for preventing illness like osteoprosis.

I was once at a presentation about local eating in Toronto, and they were suggesting using fresh rhubarb for substitute of lemon (which is not a native plant to northern hemisphere). This gave me the idea of using rhubarb in cooking and made this dish: Ontario lamb with red wine & rhubarb reduction. It has a sweeteness from caramelized onion, and mild sourness from rhubarb that melts in red wine. Yes, it goes just perfect with lamb!
Hope you have a nice celebration with seasonal, local food this month!

NOTE: If you have a chance to harvest fresh rhubarb, remember that the leaves are toxic in large quantity, so do not eat the leaves!

Ontario Lamb with Red Wine & Rhubarb Reduction (for serving of 2)

  • 1/2 lb Ontario lamb chops, rub salt and pepper
  • 2 medium onion, cut in thin slice
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, cut in cubes
  • 3 small to medium stalk of rhubarb, cut in thin slice
  • 1 portobello mushroom, cut in large pieces
  • 2/3 cup red wine (Ontario wine would be lovely!, like Cabernet sauvignon, Merlot… any of your choice)
  • 10-20 Brussel sprouts, cut in half
  • 5 leaves of kale, chopped finely
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp fresh tarragon (or parsley), chopped
  • Sea salt and black pepper
  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Placelamb in the skillet, panfly for 3-5 min each to reach your desired donenes (or you can use a grill to do this part). Take out the lamb from skillet, and keep warm on a serving platter. Use the same skillet, place onion in, and slowly cook for about 10-15 minutes until it becomes golden brown. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper and continue cooking for another 10 minutes until tomatoes disolve to become like a source.
  2. Add rhubarb and portobello mashroom, Brussel sprouts to the skillet, and cook for a few minutes. Stir in red wine, scraping any bits of lamb from the bottom of the skillet, then continue to cook and stir over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes, until the sauce has reduced by half. Remove from heat, and add kale and fresh tarragon, cover the top until kale becomes temder. Pour over the lamb chops, and serve.

Bon Appétit!

You can add any vegetables that you wish such as green beans, asparagus, zucchini, and/or colourful peppers would mostly goes well together with this dish. I made this in a one-pot, but you can also cook the vegetable separately (like steaming, grilling, boiling etc) and serve as a side.

Cooling Summer Herbal Teas

In Japan, unsweetened iced tea can be said the most popular drink that any soft drink company sell!

Cold Filtered Water is yet the best choice of any drinks available to hydrate and cool you down, but some herbs are naturally cooling. We can certainly use this unique property and wonderful flavour of herbs to make ice-tea. About 2 tsp to 1 tbsp of each herb will be enough to make for 8 oz glass of ice-tea. Put herbs and a cup of water in a source pan, bring it to boil and simmer for 10 min. Let the tae to cool, add ice and water to dilute to taste.

So here are some healthy, easy, cooling herbal teas you can enjoy this summer!

  • Jasmine: it is a cooling and balancing herb for the body especially after too much sun exposure or fevers. Jasmine have a delicate perfume and aroma, and it makes a wonderful tea!
  • Mint: peppermint, spearmint etc are really refreshing just by itself. Adding fresh mint in the end to serve tea would make it pretty and also adds extra freshness!
  • Lemon Balm & Camomile: These herbs both have a cooling effect plus calming, soothing effect on nerves and digestive system.
  • Cornsilk: cornsilk is used as a medicine for treating edema, irritation of urinary system such as UTI, and it is cooling and reduce damps from the body. So it is great for humid summer. Making tea is quite simple, you need a raw corn silk from fresh corn, put them in a jug with water and leave it overnight to extract.

Sweeteners: start to make no sugary cold drink as a habit! You will soon enjoy the taste of actual herbs and your taste buds will start to recognize the flavors more without any sweeteners. But if you really need, some options are raw honey, maple syrup, stevia or molasses are things I tend to use. These are still all sugar (except stevia), but has much more nutritional value compare to any refined sugar. You can also use pure fruits juice as a sweetener/taste for your tea.

Mushroom: Benefit to human and the earth

Mushrooms have been recognized as a food and medicine for long time. Especially in Asian medicine, mushroom has been used as a tonic for more than 3000 years. Nowadays, the scientists are finding the compounds in mushrooms that can stimulate the function of the immune system and can inhibit tumor growth, contribution the possible usage on mushrooms in cancer treatment.

There are further possibilities in mushrooms….such as using as an energy source, cleaning the soil etc. The pioneer of this research is Paul Stamets and you can see him in this video:” 6 ways mushrooms can save the world” from TED, 2008.

The new article of Paul Stamets wrote in response to Fukushima nuclear power station crisis was that he believe that mushrooms can be very useful in cleaning the soil by planting the specific species that reported to absorb radioactive Cesium 137, and re-bulising the foundation of natural forest ecosystem. (Click to: Read full article of Paul Stamets)

Just like our health, the best of what we can do is the prevention, so that the crisis does not happen, but when it actually occur, it seems that when we look into the natural ecosystem, where the perfect harmony exists, then we find the answer…

Spring Sprouts: Kitchen Garden

Spring is just around the corner!

Spring is an exciting time for the gardeners and I hope you to experience that this spring through growing and harvesting your own sprouts!

As you may heard about, the health benefit of sprouts is more than just amazing. Sprouts are considered as a “living” foods or biogenic (in Greek, life generating) foods. Because the sprouts need a full nutrients and energies to grow, the nutrients in sprouts are anywhere 50 to 400% greater than nuts and seeds and sprouts contain higher quality of protein. Also sprouts have a rich supply of enzymes; thus easy to digest, assimilated, and metabolized by the body!

Last year, I did a week project with kids for them to create own sprout garden in a jar. They rinse the sprouts everyday, watch them grow, and we created a big salad to nourish us in the end. I believe making your own sprout is a wholesome, joyous activity for the spring!

Sprouting in a Jar

You will need:

  • wide mouth glass jar
  • cheesecloth to cover the top of the jar
  • rubber band
  • uncooked nuts, seeds, and/or legumes (wheat, rye, mung beans, aduki beans, sunflower seeds, fenugreek, alfalfa etc)
  • clean water
  1. In a clean glass jar, put any of the single or mix of nuts, seeds and/or legumes (please note sprouts becomes 4-5 times bigger, so leave the enough space for sprouts to grow in a jar). Add enough clean water to cover the seeds and soak for one day.
  2. Cover the top of the jar with cheesecloth and fasten with a rubber band, place in a darker place (by placing the seeds in darker place, it mimics the seeds growing in a soil, and this process maximize the biogenic energy).
  3. Next morning, discard the water in a jar through the cheesecloth, and rinse with fresh clean water few times to make sure get rid of all the phytates (natural insecticide that is on the skin of seeds) in the first soaking water. After the first day, the seeds do not need to be soaked in a water, but just a little amount of water through rinsing is enough to grow. So after a few good rinse, just place the jar back in the darker place.
  4. At night, rinse the seeds 2 times, and place the jar back in the darker place.
  5. Next morning and night continue rinsing 2 times and place the jar back in the darker place.
  6. You will be able to eat sprouts anywhere in 4 days to a week. It is best to eat sprouts on the day they are ready, but you can also store them in a fridge if needed.

“Nothing is so rewarding, so tremendously beneficial in relation to the small amount of effort required, as the sprouting…requiring only a simple rinse morning and night…”–The Essene Way Biogenic Living

Using this space, I want to thank my sprouting teacher, Paul Hall!

Recommended further reading on sprouting:

What is Kudzu?

Kudzu (pronounce “KooZoo”) is a family of legumes (beans and peas), the starchy property of the root has been used as a thickener in Japanese cooking (you may have seen Kudzu in macrobiotic cooking book and wonder what it is…).

It has been also used as a healing herb in traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine for helping digestive system. It is also known for its use in treating alcoholism.

Kudzu is rich in isoflavonoid phytoestrogens including geistein and diadzein which have anti-inflammatory property and can protect body from developing cancer (especially hormone related). Kudzu has also been studied to use in treating high blood pressure.

Kudsu as Food:
As I mentioned above, it is like a thickener. Typically in Japanese cuisine, we use to thicken a source, to make sweets (pudding, jello-like texture), and make tea.  Kudzu itself does not have much taste, so usually we mix with some other flavour to make a tea. My favourite is putting a tea spoon of Kudzu in a cup with fresh ginger and honey and add boiled water and stir. It becomes little thickened ginger tea! It could be just my cultural background, but it’s so soothing to drink this. This is great for indigestion, warming, and improve circulation.

Here are some other recipes with Kudzu

Chocolate Desserts

Recently I made chocolate mousse and chocolate pudding using nutrient rich foods. Both has a rich flavour that I believe most of chocolate lovers will approve its taste. So I would like to share these recipes with you!

The first recipe, Avocado Chocolate Mousse, is for people who love dark chocolate; the second recipe, Kudzu Chocolate Pudding, is more for people who loves milky taste. It is a great dessert for kids also for guests! I used stevia as a sweetener for this recipe. I am usually not a big fun of the taste of stevia…but with this recipe, most likely because of the chocolate taste, you will not feel the stevia “aftertaste”. Also I tried to make it with other sweeteners (like maple syrup etc), but it was not as tasty as when I made with stevia.

1. Avocado Chocolate Mousse

Ingredients (serving for 2)

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • a few drops of stevia (liquid form)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder, unsweetened (use the good quality coco!)
  • 1 tbsp cashew butter
  • a dash of salt

Mush avocado until it gets really smooth or use the blender to make it smooth. Mix the rest of ingredients, and chilled in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours (this makes mousse to harden a bit, and becomes mousse like texture)

2. Kudzu Chocolate Pudding

Ingredients (serving for 2)

  • 1 cup almond milk (or any other nut milk)
  • a few drops of stevia (liquid form)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder, unsweetened (use the good quality coco!)
  • 1 tbsp Kudzu
  • 2 tbsp water

In a little bowl, place Kudzu powder, add water and mix well until smooth. In a pot, place almond milk, stevia, and cocoa powder and mix well on medium heat. When all the cocoa powder is well mixed in a liquid, add Kudzu mixture in and mix with wooden spoon. As the temperature rise up, the liquid will get thicken, so mix constantly to avoid burning the bottom. When it gets to the desirable texture, turn off the heat, pour them in a small serving bowls. Both warm and chilled are tasty!

Salad with Superfoods

“Superfoods” are considered as nutrient-rich, health beneficial foods. The term is sometimes used too much for commercial purposes, unfortunately. Regardless, adding some of these foods are highly recommended to improve the nutrition of your everyday meal! Be creative with your salad is a great place to start. Here is just an example of quinoa salad with Gojo berry and nuts and seeds, which are high in minerals and vitamins! Hope you will find your own version of super-salad!

Serving for 2


  • 2 cup of cooked quinoa
  • 1/4 cup Goji berry, chopped or crashed in small pieces
  • 1/4 mix of hemp seeds, sesame seeds, and grand flax seeds
  • handful of parsley, finely chopped
  • handful of kale, finely chopped
  • 1/2 each red and yellow pepper diced
  • 1/2 lemon, squeezed
  • 2 tbsp oil of your choice (grape seed, almond, flax, extra virgin olive etc)
  • sea salt and pepper for your taste

Mix all well and serve fresh!

Food Additives to Avoid

The biggest concern in pre-cooked or pre-packed food is the food additives. Many company use food additives to make the shelf life longer, to make it tasty/pretty, cut the cost down, and/or to make people addictive to the products. There are now so many of them…but here are a few of them that you want to avoid and reason why.

1) Aspartame

Usually this is contained in “low calorie” or “diet” food as a sweetener. It may cause neurological problems such as dizziness, seizures, or hallucination, also mood issues such as irritability, anxiety and may cause cancer.

2) MSG (Monosodium Glutamate)

This chemical is used to fatten the lab rat. This can damage brain cells and eventually desensitize the signals that we feel “full”. Thus this chemical has been associated with obesity and related diseases. Some people also may have an immediate allergic type of reactions. MSG are now in many processed food (soup, dressings, flavorings, chips) and most fast food.

The labeled name can be followings: Monosodium Glutamate, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein, Yeast Extract etc.

3) Trans Fats

This has been proven to have a link between cardiovascular diseases. Restaurant food, margarine, pastries, processed food, fast foods, and deep fried foods are generally containing this type of fats. Also called Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil

4) High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)

This is a type of sugar our body cannot use and this is the most common cause of the liver producing excess cholesterol (especially triglyceride) and linking to cardiovascular diseases, and liver disease (non-alcoholic fatty liver). Also because the body cannot use the fructose (insulin cannot recognize it), blood sugar can go up, and may contribute to diabetes

Common sources: soft drinks, pops, fruit juices, canned fruits, baked goods, jams, gums. Hidden sources are ketchups, mayonnaise, dressings

5) Cancer Causing Agents

  • Sodium nitrate: used to keep the colour of meat, found in hams, hotdogs, luncheon meat etc
  • Food Colourings: Blue1,2; Red 3; Green 3; Yellow 6
  • Potassium Bromate: used to increase the volume of flour, usually in baked goods
  • BHA and BHT (Butylated hudroxanisole): used as a preservatives in cereals, chips etc

How to avoid these additives?

  • Home cooking as much as possible! Especially the sweets and snacks! Not-so-healthy sweets can be way healthier when you make it from scratch!
  • Read the label, get to know the sources and company who makes them. Usually smaller, old fashion company/business uses home style cooking methods.
  • Don’t be fooled by sales catch! “organic”, “natural”, “low calorie”, “diet” etc