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Yin Yang Through Plants September 17 2017

National Heirloom Expo 2017
"The National Heirloom Expo showcases the world's largest show of pure food diversity!" I feel so honored to be invited to speak at this exciting event.  In order to allow the audiences to fully experience the Asian herbs that were in my presentation, I decided an 8+ hour roadtrip to Petluma, CA was necessary to get the plants there safely.  At the end of the talk, everyone was welcomed to taste and experience all the edible plants I brought.

For those of you that missed my talk, here's what I've covered in my presentation:

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the philosophy of Yin and Yang is used to balance the body.

Yin: represents shade, cooling, calming nature
Yang: represents the sun, heat, aggressive nature

Vietnamese balance their food using the five fundamental tastes:
Sweet, salty, sour, spicy and bitter

These 5 tastes correlates with the 5 elements which represents the organs in the body:
Metal: spicy flavor benefiting the nose, lung, large intestine
Wood: sour flavor benefiting the liver, eye, gall bladder, veins
Water: salty flavor benefiting the ear, kidney, urinary, bladder
Fire: bitter flavor benefiting the tongue, small intestine, blood, heart
Earth: sweet flavor benefiting the mouth, stomach, muscle

Plants discussed at the Heirloom Expo:

Piper Sarmentosum
Other name: La Lot
Nature: warm
Belongs to peppercorn family
Origin: Malaysia, Vietnam, Lao, India
Health benefits: helps speed fractured bone injury, joint aches, has anti-depressant effect. Contains powerful antioxidant called Naringenin.
Uses: use as wrap to grill, cook leaves as a decoction.

Fish Mint
Other name: Diep Ca, Houttuynia Cordata, poison blocking plant
Nature: cool
Origin:  China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, India
Health benefits: anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, benefits respiratory, reduce coughs.
Uses: leaves and tender stems are eaten raw.

Other name: Tia To, Perilla frutescens, Shiso, purple mint
Nature: warm
Belongs to mint family
Origin: China, India, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam
Health benefits: relieves vomit and diarrhea from minor seafood poisoning, improves digestion, contains omega 3.
Uses: leaves are used with ginger in a decoction for minor seafood poisoning.

Grass Jelly
Other name: Suong Sam, Cocculus orbiculatus
Nature: cool
Origin: SE Asia, Vietnam, Indonesia
Health benefits: promotes healthy range for blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol, relieves fever discomfort.  Pectin soothes GI tract, slows glucose absorption. Contains high amount of water soluble fiber, and chlorophyll.
Uses: leaves are mashed, massaged and strained to extract juice.

Gynura procumbens
Other name: Longevity Spinach
Nature: cool
Origin: SE Asia, Thailand, Indonesia, West Africa
Health benefits: promotes healthy range for blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol.  Contains amino acids, carotenoids, alkaloids.  Promotes healthy weigh management, and healthy gut bacteria.
Uses: leaves and tender stems are used in soups, salads, smoothies.

Vietnamese Coriander
Other name: Rau Ram, hot mint, Pericaria odorata
Nature: warm
Origin: SE Asia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Laos, Thailand
Health benefits: helps bones and bruises, lowers sex hormones, improve digestive issues such as diarrhea, stomach ache.  Contains anti-inflammatory.
Uses: raw leaves and tender stems are used in salad, soup, stir fry rice vermicelli.

Gotu kola
Other name: Pennywort, Rau Ma, Herb of Wisdom
Nature: cool
Origin: Central Asia, parts of Africa, China, India, Vietnam
Health benefits: benefits brain health, cognitive health, rejuvenating, includes wide range of vitamins and minerals, improve concentration, Benefits the nervous system, calming, manage anxiety, stress.
Uses: raw leaves are used for juicing, leaves cooked in soups, leaves added to salads.

Other name: Bacopa monnieri, Rau Dang Bien
Nature: cool
Origin: wetlands of Africa, SE Asia, Australia
Health benefits: benefits mental functioning, memory, comprehension.  Contains Bacosides properties, a powerful antioxidant in brain, improve nerve conduction, help to improve cognitive function.
Uses: raw leaves are eaten raw, cooked in soup, add to salad.

Rice Paddy Herb
Other name: Rau Om, Hugging herb, Limnophila aromatic
Nature: cool
Origin: Vietnam, SE Asia, Malay, Indonesia, China, Cambodia, India
Health benefits: benefits brain health, cognitive health, rejuvenating, includes wide range of vitamins and minerals, improve concentration, Benefits the nervous system, calming, manage anxiety, stress. Promotes fever relief, appetite stimulant, fever relief, appetite stimulant, antiseptic, regulate female hormone indigestion
Uses: raw leaves are used for juicing, leaves cooked in soups, leaves added to salads.


Super Power of Lemon June 21 2017

Lemon Juice Vitamin WaterAll fruits and vegetables have different super powers. Today I will turn the spot light on the lemon.  Here's why! In the previous post, I had shared information about vegetables containing different amounts of oxalate. Oxalate is a natural compound found in plants.  When there's a high amount of oxalate in the body, it can bind with calcium, forming crystals and eventually become kidney stones.  This is an unbearable pain that calls for an emergency visit for medical attention.

Lemon has the superpower to prevent kidney stone formation.  The citrate in lemon juice can dissolve crystals when they begin taking form.  Below are tips that will help you in preventing oxalate build up in your body and stay hydrated all summer long!

Ways To Prevent Kidney Stones

  • Add lemon juice in any recipes containing high oxalate
  • Oxalate in foods can be reduced by the process of steaming or cooking
  • Add juice of 1/2-1 lemon in water to drink daily
  • Make vitamin water by adding any fruits you like submerged in water with some lemon juice
  • Rinse mouth after drinking or eating any citrus to protect enamel
  • Eat foods with high oxalate with caution, see list of foods here

Ways To Keep Your Kidneys Happy

  • Stay hydrated through the day
  • Eat food full of moisture to protect your kidneys
  • Low sodium diet puts less stress on kidneys
  • Eat whole foods, unprocessed foods
  • Best to avoid soda and alcohol, or at least drink as few as possible
  • If you struggle with Diabetes, consult with your medical physician about kidney health

Benefits of Growing A Lemon Tree
Lemon is one of the easier citrus to grow. Places with a wild winter can be grown outdoor, but it grows well in containers too!  You can always bring it indoor over winter if it's kept in a pot.  In zone 9 and 10 lemons and limes are hanging on the tree almost year round.

The use of lemon is so versatile that you don't have to worry there's too many!  It's a flavorful, functional fruit to have around the house.  You can make lemonade, lemon powder, lemon zest for cooking and baking, add a small amount for DIY skincare to brighten skin, and even to make disinfecting cleaning product.  If there's still lemons any left, juicing and store in freezer will keep them fresh for the next time you need them.


Vegetables that Should Be Eaten With Caution June 18 2017

What is OxalateSummer just arrived! For some home gardeners this is the prime time to enjoy our harvests.  When it comes to growing greens, Spinach and Swiss Chard remain being the popular choices of greens to grow.  Spinach contain a range of nutrients such as iron, niacin, calcium, phosphorus, copper, vitamins A, C, E, K and lots more.  It also has a very mild flavor so it's great to hide in smoothies. 

Swiss Chard come in colors of the rainbow.  The stalks and veins of these plants come in vibrant red, pink, yellow, orange and white -- these truly brighten an edible garden on any day!  Besides the beautiful appearance, these vegetables also offer properties such as calcium, manganese, iron, potassium, B vitamins, vitamin C,  anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits.

Both of these vegetables are great for our health, but there's one thing you should be cautious of if you like consuming them on a regular basis.  Spinach and Swiss Chard contain higher amounts of oxalate than some other plants. Oxalate, AKA Oxalic Acid, is a natural compound found in plants, and can bind with calcium in the kidneys when ingested.  When there's too high amount of oxalate accumulated, it can cause kidney stone formation.  Below is a list of foods that you can use to reference the next time preparing a meal.

Foods With High Oxalate

  • Spinach
  • Swiss Chard
  • Rhubarb
  • nuts
  • beet root, and beet leaves
  • avocado
  • taro root
  • dates
  • beans
  • kiwi
  • figs
  • wheat
  • potato
  • sweet potato

 Foods With Low Oxalate

  • Kale
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Cucumber
  • Bok Choy
  • kohlrabi
  • mushrooms
  • radish
  • water chestnuts
  • peas
Spinach Substitution

For those who have a history of kidney stones, or urinary tract stones is best to avoid consuming foods that are high in oxalate, especially should not be consuming them on a regular basis. Speak to your medical physician or nutritionist about being on a low oxalate diet to prevent recurrence.  

Gynura procumbens is a delicious replacement for Spinach. It has a similar texture and taste to Spinach, especially when cooked.  This vegetable also offers lots of health benefits especially for blood sugar and cholesterol health.  For more information on growing this vegetable, see this article.

Find out how to easily prevent kidney stones in this article.


    Eco Garden Expo Day June 08 2017

    Eco Garden Expo 2017It was a gloomy morning, and a storm might be on its way said the weather app.  Despite the rain might pour, the show must go on!  I was invited to speak at the event so there was lots of space crowding props such as large plants to load before heading out.  Also, I was giving away an olive pickling barrel.  That alone took up half the space in the SUV!  As my helper and I were filling up the vehicle, I felt sprinkles began to hit my face.  The SUV was completely full by then, and I sure hoped someone will turn up.

    Goin Native and VendorsFortunately, the drizzle had stopped when we arrived.  I met with the coordinator, and he helped us unload so I could start setting up.  When it was getting closer to my presentation, seats started to fill.  The rain seems to drive people away from the outdoors usually, but...Oh my goodness!  THANK YOU for coming everyone!

    Wendi Phan's PresentationI gave a talk on my personal experience in growing tropical, exotic plants & herbs in Southern California.  Health benefits of these herbs seem to intrigue many, and the culinary aspect definitely had struck lots of curiosities.

    Leopard Plant And Dutchman's PipeAfter the talk, we watched a couple of speakers' talks then went around exploring the the goods and the old shops behind the park.  There were 20 great speakers eager to spread their knowledge all throughout the weekend, and 60+ vendors offering unique plants, plant based treats and garden supplies at the beautiful park in the historic district of San Juan Capistrano, CA.  

    If you are in the area, next April, don't miss out on this if you are looking for ways to improve your growing success!  The event was held by Goin Native.  They offer workshops locally throughout the year to help people and plants thrive together.  Be sure to checkout their website for more information.

    Thank You Benafsha, Steven, and everyone at Goin Native for everything, and for such a fun day!


    Identifying Your Gynura Procumbens May 18 2017

    Gynura Procumbens Leaf Comparison
    Leaves of the Gynura procumbens can take on many organic shapes.  If you are unfamiliar with this vegetable, sometimes it can keep you guessing whether that plant you have is in fact a Gynura procumbens.  Below are a few key things I have highlighted to help you understand why your Gynura procumbens may look the way they do.

    Growing in Full Sun
    Normally when growing Gynura procumbens in full sun, the leaves take on thicker, more crisper succulent texture.  At times the leaves can develop ruffle edges, or more defined serrated edges. The green stems can develop purple specks, and the midrib of the leaf can become purple.  Thus, some home growers became confused between Gynura procumbens with another vegetable: Gynura crepioides.

    Growing in Part Sun or Full Shade
    Gynura procumbens is mainly green in color when growing in most shaded area.  The leaves are thinner, more flexible compared to being exposed to more intense sun.  With inefficient light, the leaves can grow smaller, and the stems would stretch.  This means each leaf would grow further apart from each one along the stem.

    Hope you find these tips to be helpful!  If you are still uncertain whether you are growing Gynura procumbens, it's best to check with a source that you trust.  Happy Gardening!

    ♥Enjoy this video as I documented Gynura procumbens growing throughout the four seasons in Southern California♥


    Easy Way To Get Your Plants Growing Stronger March 17 2017

    Gynura Procumbens New Side ShootSpring has sprung in Southern California, but for some of you -- don't worry, spring is almost here!  Now it's time to prepare for your growing season. 

    Gynura Procumbens Side ShootsTo maximize the growth and production of your plants, you want to grow them in rich, fluffy, organic soil that consist of compost, worm casting, peat moss or coconut coir, and perlite.  However, for plants that root easily once they touch the soil, you can take an extra step to get your plants growing fuller and stronger.  Plants that root easily such as basil, tomato, Gynura procumbens, potato and mint can be planted deeper to build a stronger and larger root system.  Normally we allow the soil level to cover up to an inch above the start of the roots, but for plants that root easily can be planted up to the next node on the shoot.  They can even be planted horizontally laying on the ground too!  The side shoots will rise above the soil growing strong and full.  This is especially beneficial for growing leafy greens as there will be more leaves to harvest. Try it next time you plant!


    Why You Should Eat Sprouts September 07 2016

    Grow Your Own Sprouts Right At Home
    Sprouting is an excellent way to grow your own nutritious food in a short period.  A tray of sprouts can be grown in just 1-2 weeks!  It's a great choice for anyone, but particularly beneficial if you are limited to outdoor gardening during the colder months. 

    Sprouts are at least 10-30 times more nutrient dense than a full grown plant.  During the sprouting stage, they contain a much higher content of enzymes, vitamins, essential fatty acid and fiber than fresh fruits and vegetables.  These nutrients are also easier for our body to absorb during this stage.

    My Favorite Seeds To Sprout
    There's all kinds of seeds you can sprout, but my top favorites are sunflower seeds, mung beans, and Chia seeds. If seeds are fresh, they take just 2-5 days to sprout usually.  The warmer the room is, the faster they begin sprouting.  I enjoy sunflower sprouts and mung bean sprouts the most because of the nutty flavor, and crisp texture.

    Sunflower Seed SproutsHow To Sprout In A Jar
    I highly recommend beginners to start using this method since this is the easiest way to sprout.  In the warmer months I particularly enjoy sprouting mung beans in a mason jar.  The warmth of the room makes them sprout as quickly as one day!  The fresher the seeds are, the faster they will sprout.

    The entire process should only take 2-5 days usually.  If the seeds take a week or longer to sprout, they are too old.  Keep in mind not every seed will sprout either, but majority of them should.

    Pick up a sprouting jar at any health food market, or home & kitchen shop.  You'll need a glass jar with a mesh wire lid to allow air circulation.

    Let's Begin!
    1. Place a small hand full of seeds in the sprouting jar then fill it with drinking water.  Let it soak overnight, and the seeds will expand at least 50% more than when they were dried.

    2. By the next morning, drain and rinse the seeds then keep the jar in a bright, cool location (70-80F is ideal).  Usually anywhere on the kitchen counter that does not get direct sunlight would be fine.

    3.  Rinsing helps to keep seeds clean, and prevents mold or fermentation occurring so each day rinse the seeds 1-2 times.  In a warm room, rinse at least 2 times per day.  Repeat this step until the sprouts grow to the length you like.  I prefer anywhere between 1/2 - 1 inch.  

    4. When sprouts reach the length desired, they are ready to go on your dinner plate!  Store the jar or transfer it to another container and keep in refrigerator.  The cold will stop the sprouting process, and keep them fresh.

    Corn Sprouts
    How To Grow Sprouts In Soil

    I use a tray to grow sprouts in soil.  This allows me to grow more sprouts than a jar.  I can also get the sprouts to grow up to around 3 inches, or until the first true leaf begins to show on the sprout.

    Sprouting in soil is great for sunflower seeds, kale, daikon radish, corn, peas, wheat grass and so much more!  Normally sprouts grown in soil, or any kind of growing medium is called micro greens. These plants are just a tiny bit older than sprouts you grow in a jar.  The entire process takes about 1-2 weeks depending on the seeds you choose.

    You can use organic indoor potting soil, or coconut coir for the seeds to set roots in.

    Seed Growing TrayAs for the tray, I highly suggest purchasing a seed growing tray at your local nursery, Orchard Supply Hardware, or hydroponic shop.  For growing micro greens, you would need a 3 tray setup.  These growing trays are very inexpensive, and make it much easier to grow abundance of food. 

    Why 3 trays would be ideal for growing micro greens: 1 tray has holes for drainage.  The other 2 do not have holes.  The tray with holes is the one seeds will be planted in, and this sits on top of the tray without holes so it can catch any excess water. The third tray will be used for covering the top to keep dark, and help retain humidity.

    I prefer seed growing trays since it's shallow and wide, but you can use something as simple as a regular pot for plants since these have holes for drainage.  You can also find any plastic containers and poke holes on the bottom, and use a baking tray to put underneath.

    Sprouts Grown With and Without Sun ComparisonsLet's Begin!
    1.  Place about 1/2 inch of then lay a thin layer of seeds closely together on the top.

    2. Mist soil and seeds with a water spray bottle to moisten.  Do not over water.  Soil just needs to constantly stay damp.  When finished, cover the top.

    3. Keep tray in a cool location without direct sunlight.

    4. Check on the tray daily, spray water when needed.  You will start to see sprouts peeking through the soil in a few days.

    5. Once the plants grow to about 2 inches, keep the tray uncovered and move it to a brighter location if needed.  By uncovering it, you are encouraging chlorophyll to produce.  This takes around 2-3 days.

    6. When the micro greens turn green, they are ready to enjoy.  Take a pair of scissors to harvest!

    Where To Purchase Seeds?
    There's many websites that carry seeds for sprouting.  If you want to support small businesses, check Etsy.com. You can also purchase from the isle that carry grains at the grocery store.

    Tips On Using Seeds From Your Garden
    Sunflowers are enjoyable to grow in the garden.  When they finish blooming, seeds can be collected to use for sprouting.  After leafy greens have bolted, allow the plants to produce seeds so they can be collected to grow the next season and to use for sprouting.

    Adding Sprouts In Your Food
    Ways To Eat Sprouts

    Seeds contain all the nutrients plants need to start life; thus, we can benefit greatly when eating them.  Add these in sandwiches, salads, garnish on soups or any entrée, even mix with snacks. 

    This will be a fun project with children, or just to help get more greens in your diet.  Thanks for reading.  Share your tips with us below, and tell us what your favorite sprouts are! SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave


    All About Jambu Wax Apple September 06 2016

    Jambu Wax Apple
    A few years ago I posted my first video on our Jambu tree on Youtube, and viewers' responses had exceeded my expectation.  Many were surprised this tree can grow in the mainland US, so their interest in getting a hold of these seedlings became a question I've been asked often.  Today I am very excited to tell you these darling seedlings will be available here! They were grown from the fruits of our tree.  Not every fruit contains a seed so there's limited amount of seedlings available.

    Jambu In My Childhood Memory
    These fruits in the garden brought back memories of my childhood living in southeast Asia. It's hot most of the year in Vietnam so my dad often came home after work with papaya or jambu for me.  He held the jambu between his palms, crossed his fingers and squeezed the fruit.  A loud squish and a pop sound would follow then he gave me the two halves of the fruit he broke apart.  It was sweet, crunchy and juicy, a taste I will not forget.

    Jambu FlowersFlowers of the Jambu
    After new leaves grow back in the spring, tiny clusters of flower buds start to form. When they bloom, they make the bees busy at work. Flowers can self pollinate to develop fruits. 

    How Jambu Taste
    This is one of the most beautiful trees when it's covered with fruits.  Fruits are crunchy, delicately sweetened, lightly fragrant like nectar, and just so refreshing!  The texture of the exterior is like a pear, and the interior is like a watermelon.  During the warmest time of the year, these fruits turn bright pink/red, tempting you to reach out to grab a few.

    Jambu Growing From Seed

    Who Can Grow Jambu?
    Jambu is a sub tropical fruit tree that can adapt to places with a mild winter.  Regions that freezes over in the winter can grow them in pots, and bring indoor during the colder period.

    Where To Plant Jambu?
    For places with mild winter, keep the seedling in a pot until it reaches about 1.5-2 ft tall before planting in the ground.  It's best to plant the young tree in the ground in early spring so it has most of the year to adjust to its environment. 

    A seedling is more sensitive to the cold than a mature tree.  Whether you are growing it in a pot or in the ground, find the warmest area where it gets the longest hours of sun.  Full sun is best, or at least 6 or more hours of direct sun is preferred.  The more sun it gets, the more flowers the tree will produce.

    For regions that freezes over in the winter can grow them in pots, and bring indoor during the colder period.  Keep tree in the warmest, brightest area in the room.

    Water Requirements
    The tree can endure dry soil for short period, but best to keep soil moist at all time.  Leaves curling, folding inward is a sign for lack of water.  Increase watering when the days get warmer. If there's not enough water given in the summer, the leaves may fold inward and get burned from the intense high sun.  When the tree is flowering or setting fruits, increase watering slowly.

    In the winter, cut back watering.  This is time for the tree to rest since it's growth has slowed.  If soil is too damp, it keeps the cold in the soil longer which can harm the roots.  

    Soil and Fertilizer Requirements
    Grow Jambu in well drained soil to prevent waterlogging.  Especially if you get winter rain, you want the water to drain quickly so roots are not sitting in cold water for long period. 

    Mix compost, warm casting, Perlite or sand, with native soil for growing it in the ground.  If you are growing in a pot, organic potting mix for fruit trees can be purchased at any local nursery.

    When the tree puts out new growth during spring, use an organic fertilizer that is higher in nitrogen to give it a boost.  When flowers come, add organic fertilizer that is higher in phosphorus.  You will see these indicated on the package of fertilizers so it's not absolutely necessary to remember these terms!

    Aside from fertilizers, I like adding fresh compost such as vegetable scraps from the kitchen back in the soil.  You can also make worm casting tea to water. 

    Protecting Jambu From The Cold
    A young tree will need more cold protection than an established tree. Jambu begins to drop leaves as the temperature drops.  By winter, my tree in Southern California loses about 30% more of less of its leaves.  These fallen leaves make an excellent insulation covering the top of soil.  Otherwise, mulch can be added to the soil top to protect the roots.

    How Long Does It Take To Fruit Growing From Seed?
    While every plant and its environment is different, I can only speak from my personal experience.  Our tree was grown from seed, and it produced a few fruits by 3rd year.  Each year after, the tree produced more fruits than the last!


    Make Juice Without A Juicer August 15 2016

    Organic Grapes On The VineAfter a couple months of summer heat, grapes on our vine are ripening quickly.  Warm days really made them taste sweeter than ever.  At times I would fine many bunches ripening all at once.  That's the thing with food -- if you don't enjoy them fast enough, they will end up in your compost.

    I supposed we can freeze the remaining grapes, but we really like to enjoy our fruits fresh for their maximum nutritional benefit. So these tiny, plump balls of sweetness ended up in our salads, baked goods, roasted dishes, and juices!

    Grape Muffins, and Grape Juice

    Over the weekend, our friend, who also has a grape vine, gifted a container of grapes to us!  It's a variety with very hard seed inside so we decided to extract the juice rather than eating whole.  Some of them were starting to ferment as well so we had to pick through and use them quickly.

    When making juice, you will notice your fruits disappear in a snap!  Since I don't own a juicer, I used a blender to extract it.  You can do this with any juicy fruits such as oranges, plums, peaches, nectarines, or berries in a blender to make juice.  See how I did it below!
      How To Make Juice With Blender

    How To Juice With Blender
    Step 1:   Wash and pick out the good grapes and put in the blender. I leave the bad ones for composting.
    Step 2:   Add 1/2-1 cup of water in the blender.
    Step 3:   Blend until fruits are broken in small pieces.  The grapes my friend gifted had really hard seeds so I did not run the blender on high.  It was only blending fast enough to break down the flesh. 
    Step 4:   Place sifter over a container, pour liquid through a sifter to strain.  Use a spoon or any kitchen utensil to press on the blended liquid as it would help the juice to pass the sifter.
    Step 5:   To make juice smoother, you can repeat straining then enjoy!

    How To Bake With Grapes
    Seedless grapes work best in baked goods since you can place them whole in the batter, otherwise slice grape in half to remove seed.  Add fresh grapes in any muffin, cake, or bread recipes you like!  The grapes will caramelize, and bring a sweet & tang twist to your baked goods.

    Hopefully you can get creative with your fruits when there's abundance of them.  Happy Gardening and Healthy Eating!


    Healthy Diet 101 January 25 2016

    Healthy diet collage

    From time to time I've been asked by my viewers, "How can I improve my health? What type of food should I eat?"  First, I must tell you I am not a nutritionist.  My knowledge on this topic was collected from years of research, personal experience, and keeping up on news in the health world.  I helped my family and friends improve their health through food and supplements.  Basically, if you eat the right type of food, it can do wonders for your health.

    There's many types of diets out there, and they all may seem confusing to someone who is unfamiliar with this subject.  That's why I rather focus on explaining about nutrition and food, not types of diets.

    Our body is much like a car.  It requires fuel to run.  If you filled your car with low grade gas, it will run, but it won't run as smoothly, and efficiently.  Whereas filling your car with premium gas, it will run smoother, have more power, and gets better mileage.  It's the same with our body.  If you eat food that is poor in nutrition, your body will function, but not at the maximum capacity. At times you may feel sluggish afterwards too.  In contrast, if you had a well balanced, nutrient dense meal, you will have more energy, complexion will improve, your overall health will start feeling better.

    Here's some healthy food suggestions I'd like to share with you.  If you are new to this journey, below is a list of foods that I hope will inspire you to begin eating healthier.

    Food to Avoid
    Food to Eat
    White bread, white pasta, white rice, white vermicelli

    Whole wheat, spelt, multi-grain, sprouted grains, brown rice, Basmati rice, millet, quinoa, barley, oat meal

     White flour aka All Purpose Flour, or Enriched Flour are mostly found in most food such as cookies, cakes, breads, pastas. White rice often are served in Asian dishes.  These are low nutrition and high in starch, which turns into sugar in your body.  Avoid intake of flour and rice that are white. 

    Below "Food to Eat" section are grains that have more nutrition, fiber and won't spike blood sugar as quickly. 


    Starch Vegetables Russet potatoes, white corn

    Blue/purple potato, red potato, gold potato, sweet potato, pumpkin, squash

     All potatoes are high in carbohydrates, which turn into sugar for the body to use.  When selecting starch vegetable, choose ones with deep pigment inside.  These will offer more nutrients, minerals, and fiber.

    Pumpkin, squash, sweet potato have lower carbohydrates and higher nutrition.

    Protein Red meat: beef, farmed salmon, tuna

    Beans, organic soy, organic peanuts, nuts, plain yogurt, eggs, lean poultry, turkey, wild-caught salmon

    Limit your intake of red meat, it can led to many health problems. 

    Generally, farmed salmon are raised with poor diet, lack of exercise, and live in contaminated water. Wild caught get more exercise, fresh diet, and fewer toxins from chemicals that some farms have.

    Farmed and wild salmon have levels of mercury, but not as high compared to larger fish such as Tuna and shark. Mercury can cause multiple issues such as nervous system, immune system, digestion, organs.  Mercury does not leave the body once it enters so choose your fish carefully, and limit the amount you consume unless you know it is from a clean source.


    Leaf Greens Sprouts, microgreens, Gynura Procumbens, Ashitaba, dandelion, kale, spinach, arugula

    When plants are at the sprouting or microgreen stage, they make all the nutrients in the seed available and easy for our body to absorb. That's why these tiny ones have many times more nutrients than full grown plants.

    Gynura Procumbens and Ashitaba are slowly getting recognized in America for their beneficial properties that many other vegetables do not have.  Their properties can help improve health of blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol levels.  Watch the video below to learn more about these amazing greens.

    When choosing leafy greens, eat the dark greens instead of ice berg lettuce.  The green chlorophyll can boost your immunity, and promote overall wellness.

    Sweeteners corn syrup, beet sugar, agave, white sugar, artificial sweeteners Honey, raw cane sugar, maple syrup It's best to eat foods that are least processed or refined as possible.  Honey, raw cane sugar, maple syrup have slightly more nutrients than processed sugars in the "Food to Avoid" list.  However, if you are a diabetic, it's best to avoid cane sugar and maple syrup, and all processed sugars.
    Oils Corn oil, vegetable oil, canola oil, soy oil Unrefined coconut oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, olive oil, sesame oil Limit consumption of fried foods. Occasionally lightly pan frying, roasting at 400F or lower are healthier alternative to deep frying.
    Fats Lard, shortening, hydrogenated oil, margarine avocado, coconut meat, coconut cream, nuts, organic peanut butter, high quality butter, high quality fish oil

    Good fats can promote heart, brain, joint health, especially fats of avocado and coconuts.  Bad fats can increase risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other ailments.

    Choose butter from cows that's grass fed.

    Choose Omega 3 fish oil that has gone through process of eliminating mercury and other heavy metals. This supplement can promote healthy joints and heart.

    Dressings Thousand Island, Ranch, seasonings

    Italian dressing: Olive oil, raw vinegar.

    Creamy dressing: Tahini, olive oil, lemon juice

    Asian dressing: Sesame oil, organic soy sauce, honey, ginger (fresh or powder), garlic (minced or powder)

    Seasonings usually contain some form of MSG.

    Store bought salad dressings often contain preservatives, unhealthy oils, high about of salt or sugar.  It's quick and easy to make your own to enjoy.

    Beverages Soda, diet soda Mineral water, pure juices, smoothies, herbal tea: chamomile, lavender, rose hip, hibiscus, mint, dandelion root,  rooibos,

    You can control what goes in your juice and smoothie if you make it.  Add greens and fruits to make vitamin, mineral, antioxidant rich drink to enjoy.  For diabetics, drink beverages that have more greens than fruits. Gynura procumbens, cucumbers, spinach are my favorite greens to add in smoothies.  These greens have a neutral taste compared to other greens. Greens will give you more energy also.

    If purchasing your juice, always read ingredients list.  Look for juice without sugar or corn syrup added.  Certain juices such as pineapple, citrus, or berries goes well with mineral water.  It's kind of like having a fruity soda!

    Some herbal teas some have calming effect, and can replenish your body with minerals.  It's a great way to end the night since herbal tea does not contain caffeine.

    Antioxidants Processed food, junk food Blue berry, cranberry, raspberry, acai, beets, dark leafy greens Antioxidants have anti-aging effect.  Each color is made up of a different kind of antioxidant property so it's good to include a rainbow of colors in your diet!  The more vibrant your food looks, the more vibrant you will feel. 
    Snacks Chips, candies, cookies Nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, kale chips, dark chocolate with very low sugar Nuts and seeds are very nutritious and contains healthy fats.  You can roast nuts and seeds, add flavor and spices.  You can blend cashews or almonds to make a dipping sauce.  There's many simple recipes out there to explore. 


    The chart above is a general guide.  As you learn more about food, and how your body feels with certain kind -- slowly you can adjust your diet to better suit you.  Be sure to consult with your physician, especially if you are on medications.  Certain medications do not allow high intake of vitamin K, for example.

    General rule of thumb is to include more raw foods in your diet.  Start by eating a salad a day, or having a side of fresh, raw vegetables with your meals.  These very small changes can make a big impact on your health.

    Visit your local farmer's market, or grow your own for fresher, higher quality food.  Support organically grown food as they are not grown with pesticide, chemicals, hormone and antiboitics.

    Learn About Gynura Procumbens

    Blood Sugar Health Superfood Capsules

    Learn More About Ashitaba

    Learn More About Ashitaba

    Food to Inspire
    1 Lotus root, bamboo shoot, sugar snap, purple sweet potato, carrot, mushroom, green onion cooked in low sodium organic soy sauce.  Toasted sesame seeds and seaweed sprinkled over brown rice.

    2 Lentil, carrot, gold potato cooked in water, unrefined coconut oil, curry powder.  Raw dandelion cut and placed on top.

    3 To make sauce: fresh basil, avocado, olive oil, fresh garlic, sea salt, lemon juice mixed in a food processor.  Poured over pasta that's made with lentil.

    4 Steamed egg: eggs, dairy or almond oil, small pinch of sea salt, toasted sesame oil, green onion. 

    There's no set rules when it comes to preparing food.  Only stock up on healthy ingredients, and have fun in the kitchen. Once you get in the habit of cooking at home instead of ordering take outs, you will get to enjoy wholesome food regularly.

    At times I came across someone asking why do I live this lifestyle, and I always say, "any health condition is stressful and painful to be in, and seeing your love ones go through it is just as difficult of a situation." That's why I encourage people around to maintain their health. Nutrient dense food will bring a quality of life to you and your love ones.  I wish you the best of luck on this journey.

    Easy Yeast Bread October 28 2015

    Open Lid Yeast BreadMany of us are obsessed with baked goods: cakes, muffins, bread just to name a few.  A good piece of yeast bread is so satisfying when paired with your favorite dishes.  That's why for many years I turned to the bakery for good quality bread.  Before making my own bread I used to imagine how difficult it is to make.  I couldn't understand the concept of turning this mosh that's made of flour and later they turn into this wonderful rustic shape.  How do you turn flour into this mosh then it'll come out looking all rustic, crunchy and delicious?  Or maybe I need a fancy commercial oven to make bread appear that way.  

    A few years ago I decided to attempt making my own bread because organic whole wheat bread is almost impossible to find near me.  I pulled out recipes and attempted to bake, and it sure wasn't successful.  That's when I turned to baking soda breads using baking soda as the leavening agent.  Soda bread is tasty, but it's not like a toasty piece of yeast bread. 

    Recently I decided to give yeast bread another try.  After multiple experiments later, I learned how to work with whole wheat, spelt and all purpose flour.  Turns out most recipes available are for baking with all purpose white flour.  Whole wheat requires more water and yeast for it to raise.  Spelt requires the least amount of water compared to others. Spelt is an ancient grain.  Spelt and whole wheat offer more nutritious than all purpose white flour, but I find that spelt is easier to work with especially if you make bread that requires kneading. Don't worry though, in this blog and video I will keep it simple.  There will be no kneading involved.

    Finally, it is very important that your yeast is alive or your dough isn't going to rise! To properly store yeast, the packet needs to be air sealed, or release all oxygen (as much as possible) before storing.  For longer shelf life, you can store it in refrigerator or the freezer. 

    Ways To Bake
    If you want a rustic thick, crunchy crust use a cast iron or clay topf with a lid.  Using an oven safe pot that can withstand 500F would be fine too, but it won't create the crust the same way. 
    You can use a pizza stone, pan, or skillet, and bake at 425-450F instead of 500F.  You will need to allow dough to rise again after shaping it.  This will create a thinner crust. It's all the matter of preference! 

    Baking without a lid
    If you choose to bake without a lid -- place the dough that you already made into a shape you want on a sheet of parchment paper.  Or, if you have access to banana leaves that's what I use.  You can find this in the frozen section at Mexican and Asian markets. You can to allow 1/2-1 hour for the dough to rise on the parchment paper.  While waiting for dough to rise preheat the oven to 425 or 450 F with a pan inside.  Once dough doubles its size, take a knife and score a "+" on top.  Finally, carefully pickup the parchment paper with the dough to place on the pan, and let it bake about 25-35 minutes. To ensure the bread is cooked, poke the interior with a stick.  If the stick comes out clean the bread is ready!  

    Baking Directly On A Pan
    This method requires the least tools.  No parchment paper, just flour the pan then place the dough directly on top.  Allow 1/2-1 hour for dough to rise.  Preheat oven to 425-450F.  Once dough doubles its size place the pan in the oven.  Let it bake for 25-35 minutes.

    You don't need fancy kitchen supplies to make a good loaf of bread.  Using any methods above would create a great loaf, just that crust thickness will vary.

    Hope you enjoy the simple recipe.  Have fun, and good luck!

    Spelt Flour Bread:
    3 cups flour
    1-1 1/8 cup lukewarm water (add more if needed)
    1 teaspoon dry yeast

    Whole Wheat Flour Bread:
    3 cups flour
    2-2 1/4 cup lukewarm water (add more if needed)
    1 tablespoon dry yeast

    All Purpose Flour Bread:
    3 cups flour
    1 1/2 cup water
    1 teaspoon yeast

    ♥Watch the video to see how easy it is to bake bread!♥

    Reishi Mushroom (Ling Chi or Ling Zhi) January 05 2015

    Reishi is the Japanese's name.  It means 10,000 year mushroom!  In Chinese, this woody mushroom is called Ling Chi or Ling Zhi, it means mushroom of immortality!  This mushroom was so precious that only the kings and queens could afford it.  Their servants had to travel hundreds, or even thousands of miles and high up the mountain to harvest from the wild.  It's only very recent that Reishi mushrooms were cultivated. 

    This is a powerful, medicinal mushroom that helps to cleanse and detoxify our body.  The high level of antioxidants in the Reishi can help strengthen our immune system and reduce inflammation. Reishi can also help strengthen the function of our organs, relieve arthritis pain, suppress or prevent growth of tumors, even help with candida overgrowth. 

    To make the tea
    Each mushroom can make approximately one gallon of medicinal tea. Bowl a pot of filtered water, or the purest form of water you find, slice it in small pieces and place in water.  Bring water to boil then turn heat to low and simmer for 30min or up to 2 hours with the lid on.  The longer you steep the tea, the richer the flavor will be. You can reuse Reishi to make the tea two more times after.  Each time the flavor will be less intense than the previous.  Finally you can compost it. 

    Tea is best to drink warm.  The rest you can store in the refrigerator up to 1 week.  I hope you get a chance to try this wonderful, medicinal tea!

    Click here for fresh Reishi Mushroom!

    Watch how I made Reishi tea!

    Spontaneous Hike in Mount Baldy August 17 2014

    Again, we went on another spontaneous hiking trip.  We didn't decide to go hiking until the very day.  I checked the weather and it showed that it's going to be 90F in the area we'd be hiking so it got me a little worried about the heat.  Luckily there was a nice breeze during our long day hike since it's at a higher altitude.

    Before leaving home, we packed our backpacks full of water, jambu (wax apples), and peanut butter sandwich with passion fruit and Gynura Procumbens inside.  Nuts and a few power/protein bars were also in the backpacks.  The jambu were so refreshing, and the Gynura Procumbens leaves in our sandwich gave us a little boost of energy to keep going.  Passion fruit made a really good "jelly" in the peanut butter sandwich.  The weight in our backpacks definitely had made our hike more challenging, especially the higher we climb, and the oxygen is reduced, but we are so thankful to have all the food with us or we wouldn't have made it to the top. 

    After a very long, tiring day we finally made it to the top!  San Antonio "Mt Baldy" Summit at 10,064 Ft, marks the highest point of Los Angeles County.  Although by my very last mile I was traveling just 1 or 2 mph ( I know, that's pretty ridiculous ), it sure felt so good to finally made it.  The view was spectacular.  Mountains in front of us looked like a giant watercolor painting.  It was breath taking. 

    The Perfect Catch June 24 2014

    Ever since I planted these Hairy Balls plants (AKA: Milk Weed.  Scientific name: Gomphocarpus physocarpus) about two years ago, they have been attracting Monarch butterflies.  I These beautiful little creatures are often seen flying in and out of the garden especially in spring and summer.  This morning I was fortunate enough to catch one that just hatched.  I'm still trying to catch one in the process of hatching, but for now, hope you enjoy this photo I captured.  

    You can also watch the video I did on these butterflies:

    Gynura Procumbens Vs Gynura Crepioides June 02 2014

    Some people have been confused about Gynura Procumbens and Gynura Crepioides so I decided to explain the difference and similarities between the two.

    - Both types of vegetables are grown in a similar way.  They both like partial sun/shade and can withstand full sun as long as the soil stays moist.
    - They have similar tastes, but the Gynura Crepioides has a slight bitterness.
    - They develop slight purple specks on the green stem when it's more mature.

    - Most research and reports from people about the benefits for diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol is for the Gynura Procumbens.  
    - Leaves of Gynura Procumbens are green on both sides.
    - Leaves of Gynura Crepioides are green on top side and bottom side is purple. 
    - Shape of the Gynura Crepioides leaves are more narrow and is saw-like where as Gynura Procumbens are more smooth, and the width of the leaves are wider.

    I personally prefer the taste of the Gynura Procumbens over the other. The taste of Gynura Procumbens is more pleasant and easy to acquire. Here is a video about this vegetable if you are interested.

    Garden of Grapes May 07 2014

    This is the first year ever to have grapes in the garden!  From the moment I was able to identify the silver little things on tips of the vines to be flower buds I was full of joy.  It's been about 1.5-2 months since the little buds came and now the largest grapes on the vine are starting to turn purple.  I find this to be the prettiest stage of the grapes because that hint of blue is starting to show through the green, creating such a frosty appearance.

    There are quite a few clusters of this Japanese purple variety on the vine so in a couple more months we would have so much grapes to share with family and friends.  Hopefully they will continue to do well and grow into beautiful clusters of purple jewels.  

    It occurred to me today that we can use these leaves as food too!  Many Mediterranean dishes use them to wrap food.  You can eat them raw, baked, steamed, however you like!  It is best to pick the young leaves so they won't be so tough. I'm really looking forward to using these leaves.

    The first thing I made use of the leaves were to place my chocolate pudding on top.  I just love how natural it displays this little piece of heaven.  :)


    Surprise Hike at Cleveland National Forest May 01 2014

    Yesterday the sky in L.A. was filled with smoke.  Everyday this week has been dry, high winds and reached 97F!  It's a magnet for fire.  Surely there was 3 fires in and around LA.  We decided to do a staycation for some fresh air.  This was a completely spontaneous, unplanned trip we made.  Just packed our backpacks with loads of water and power bars and headed 2.5 hours south.  

    The mountains you see in the photo was in East San Diego County.  I was surprised to see so much green in this hot weather.  Usually in So Cal, greenery only last until early spring.  The mountains were so beautiful, much like a landscape painting showing great depth.  We hiked and sometimes had to climb over large rocks to get to where we wanted.  It was about a total of 4-6 miles we hiked.  

    The goal of this trip was to find the waterfall, but Cleveland National Forest did not provide much signs at all.  We ended up going off trail and climbed some rocks then it led us to the cliff with no waterfall.  That's ok, we figured we'll just take out our lunch and enjoy the view.  

    On our way back we finally saw the waterfall we were looking for; thus, decided to go see it.  We jogged as fast as we could, trying to beat the sunset getting to the waterfall.  Finally, we made it close enough to see it and stopped there to enjoy for a bit.  It was about 7:30 pm now, and it gets dark quicker in the mountains so we headed back to the car.  

    By 11 pm we made it home.  This all happened like a dream to me.  In the morning I was home responding to emails then by 5 pm we were sitting on a cliff overlooking the mountain range having lunch.  Just a few hours after that we were home with Lotus (my dog).

    Avocado Health Benefits April 27 2014

    I came across a Giant Avocado at the market the other day.  There were a pile of regular size Hass, but 2 out of the pile stood out to me.  They were these giant avocados.  Since I have never had it, it was a must try for me.  

    Although avocado has such a rich texture, but the rich fats are actually good for you.  Avocado contains vitamin B6, E, and folic acid, which can help regulate homocysteine levels, preventing heart disease. It can also regulate your blood sugar, blood pressure, promote eye health, anti-aging properties.  Now we know that the creamy good fats in avocado is beneficial for us, we can enjoy it moderately without having guilt.

    I love using avocado in my smoothies, milkshakes, salads, and make guacamole of course!  I have an Out of this World recipe for a vegan chocolate pudding / fudge recipe made with avocado if you are adventurous.  Click here for the recipe!

    As for the taste of this giant avocado, it definitely looked better than it taste in my opinion.  It has a much more sweet flavor, but not as creamy and rich like regular avocado.  Maybe if it was grown in better soil, it'll improve the flavor, but for this taste test, it's not my favorite kind.  I have not researched what kind of avocado this is, if you recognize this type, please let me know!


    Natural Coloring -- Purple Tortilla! April 25 2014

    I'm constantly on a quest for natural ingredients to use when I'm making food.  Here you see some purple juice, purple dough, purple tortilla!  The purple juice came from a plant called Magenta Plant (Peristrophe roxburghiana)!  You must think why is this plant called magenta when the leaves are green, or where does the purple come from!?  

    The Magenta Plant is definitely one of my favorite plants to grow because of its uniqueness -- though the leaves are green, but once boiled in some water the juice of the leaves will turn purple!  The Vietnamese have been using this plant to dye their sweet rice purple for many generations.

    Here I've given a try to use the juice in flour instead of rice, and it made my dough lavender.  Such a pretty, soft color!  I think I will be using a lot more of this plant in the near future to create some fun dishes!  

    The Magic of Worm Castings March 24 2014

    Many people said that eating just 3 Gynura Procumbens leaves a day can help support your high cholesterol, blood glucose, hypertension, rheumatism, viral ailments, and other illnesses.  3 leaves doesn't sound like much to grow at all, but if you are eating it everyday, the plant will not be able to produce as fast to catch up with you.  Now, what if I told you that your leaves have the potential to grow bigger so you can eat even fewer leaves?  

    The leaf you see in the photo is indeed a Gynura leaf!  It is about 2.5-3 times the size of a regular one.  WOW!  What I did different last year was to added some worm castings in the soil.  Worm castings are great organic fertilizers for your gardens. They are rich in plant nutrients, and trace minerals which help stimulate growth in your plants.  If you haven't given worm castings a try, I highly recommend it for your vegetable gardens.  

    You can either get worm castings online and have it delivered straight to your door, or visit your local nursery.

    Spring into Gardening! February 23 2014

    For those of us in Southern California, Spring has already sprung!  This year winter has been very short, and have no complains at all! It is already too warm to grow lettuce or romaine.  In fact, my bok choy and lettuce are already flowering, finishing their cycle. I'm a little sad to see them go, but this also means I have a bunch of different varieties to look forward to.  

    It still amazes me how quickly you can grow food.  Even from seed, in just a few months your food will be ready for harvest.  With a little planning, you can get food growing almost year round!  

    Currently I just planted seeds of bell peppers, Anaheim peppers, kale, cilantro, and Winged Beans.  As the Scarlet Runner Beans, I planted the seeds 2 weeks ago and today a few were already transplanted to the ground!  I really love using these ergonomic gardening tools that were given to me last Christmas.  Since I work with my hands so much, these tools are such much easier on my wrists.  I really have been enjoying gardening with much lesser effort.  I highly suggest checking these tools out if you have carpal tunnel or arthritis for gardening to be more enjoyable. Click here to check them out!   

    If you are in the colder regions, I hope spring will come soon for you so you can start growing again!  Leafy greens such as kale, swiss chard, celery, or arugula seem to have a pretty long growing period.  Places without freeze can enjoy these in the garden year round!  

    Herbs that do well in the spring are cilantro and basil.  You can start these or even keep them on a bright window sill.  These herbs like cooler weather so I plant them in the shade or under some larger plants to keep them growing longer.  To keep them going a little longer, you can pluck off the flower buds when they start to develop too.  Have you bought any seeds or save any from last year?  Hope you get to sow your seeds soon.  Happy Gardening!  :D 

    Taste of Vietnam November 23 2013

    Hope you enjoy these. I will be posting more soon. Stay tuned! :)

    Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

    Marimo T-Shirt Photo Shoot! October 04 2013

    Trips are always fun, but can also be stressful.  The stress of getting everything done before leaving, the stress of making sure things needed were packed, the anxiety of trying to figure out if everything would fit in the luggage…but the excitement of just being 24 hours away from seeing my family was just indescribable.

    It was just 2 hours before leaving the house to get to the airport, and I was just finishing up packing.  I was also trying to make a few T-shirts for my little cousins.  Oh their adorable faces ~ I thought they were perfect candidates for modeling my Marimo T-shirts.

    It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve been in Vietnam now and this morning we got up early and went to a local park for the photo shoot.  It’s Monsoon season in Vietnam and the rain had just cleared up by early morning.  Thank goodness!  We were so fortunate to have beautiful clear sky for the shoot.  It was loads of fun spending time with my cousins and family.  The mother of these girls is quite a chef too!  I’ll post some photos of food to share with you later.  For the meantime, enjoy these photos.  Have a fabulous day!  :)  XXX


    My Marimo Shirt Designs! August 30 2013

    One night, about a month ago, it came to me that it would be a lot of fun to create Marimo characters so we get to wear them! After many sketches and reiterations I am finally happy with them! These are a few that I will be working on to show you. Hope you like them. I'll keep you posted with more updates! Have a lovely week! XOXO