Into the Kitchen


Herbs, Mushrooms and Rosehips

Changing Seasons ~optimum cooking methods for each seasons~

In the Five Elements system of the ancient Chinese, the seasons have a profound cyclical effect on human growth and well-being.  Based on this philosophy, the belief is that we are influenced by climatic changes and should live in harmony with them. This process is undertaken in part, by knowing how to choose and prepare food in harmony with the seasons.

With the beginning of spring we start to use lighter cooking methods, such as boiling and steaming, along with the use of sprouts, leafy greens and edible wild plants. Summer is the time of year for continuing light cooking processes like steaming and water sautéing, plus the addition of salads, raw vegetables and fruits.  Condensing cooking styles such as slow cooking and oil-sautéing is best in the autumn. Winter calls for richer, heavier fare like fried, roasted, and baked dishes. With your body well protected by the food you eat, you need only wait for spring to start on the pleasant cycle of the seasons once again.

Autumn Cooking

In the autumn, food is plentiful; the bright natural colours of fall are reflected in the grains, beans, squashes, and vegetables.  We serve rich, tasty, and nourishing dishes to stimulate warmth.

According to the Five Elements theory, the flavor associated with autumn is pungent, the organs are lungs and colon, and the colour is white. For purifying and protecting the lungs and colon one can include white pungent foods.  These include members of the onion family, especially garlic, as well as turnip, ginger, horseradish, cabbage, radish, daikon radish, and white peppercorn. Mucilaginous foods like marshmallow root, flaxseed and fenugreek are also important for mucous membrane renewal of the lungs and colon.

Dark green and golden-orange vegetables high in pro-vitamin A appear to protect both the lungs and the colon against cancer. Some of these foods include carrot, winter squash, broccoli, parsley, kale, wheat or barley grass and common green and blue-green algae.

Winter Cooking

Winter, the end of all the seasons, brings darkness and cold. Our food provides us with the warmth and strength necessary to live through the cold weather.

The Chinese sage who developed the Five Elements theory associates winter with the salty flavour, the organs with the kidneys and the bladder, and the colour black. Using this guidance, one can choose food to support the body. Dried foods, small dark beans, seaweeds, and steamed winter greens benefit the kidney in winter. Bitter foods are also appropriate in winter since they cool the exterior of the body and bring body heat deeper and lower. These foods include lettuce, watercress, celery, oats, quinoa, and rye.

In winter, this is also the time of year when one can indulge in a little bacon, pork, confit and foie gras. As winter progresses and spring approaches, we begin to lighten our cooking to balance with the energy of the coming spring.

Spring Cooking

The three months of the spring season bring about the revitalization of all things in nature. Spring is the beginning of things, when the energy should be kept open and fluid.

The colour associated with spring is green, the flavour pungent in alliance with sweet , the emotion is anger and the organs are liver and gall bladder. On the physical level it is good to rise early with the sun, exercise more frequently and do some stretching exercises to loosen up the tendons and muscles.

Foods that are sweet and pungent flavored, such as honey/mint, carrot/ green onions, are beneficial at this time. Young plants who have expansive and rising quality such as fresh greens, sprouts and wheat cereal grasses are also recommended.

The cooking methods for spring are simpler. Food is best cooked using a little less seasoning, for a shorter period of time but at higher temperature. Vegetables and grain dishes help us to harmonize with the energy of spring.

Summer Cooking

Summer is a yang season; it is a time of growth, lightness, joy, passion, closeness, brightness and creativity. Summer is a time to play, and it is the season of the hearth. In the tradition of the ancient Taoist five element theory, summer is ruled by the fire element, the organ system are the hearth/yin, the small intestine/yang and the sex circulation. The flavour of food that nourishes our fire is bitter and the colour is red. The primary emotion when the fire element is balanced is a deep joy and it is in charge of all relations, de-construction and transformation.

In the summer food is abundant everywhere and it offers infinite possibilities for creativity in your cooking. Summer is also the time to release toxic heat from your system and regulate the moisture in your body. If this is not done with the proper choice of seasonal foods, it shows in the autumn in the forms of fever, colds, flu and other acute condition.

Raw salad can be enjoy more frequently than at any other time of the year. During hot, clear weather, we naturally want to use simple cooking methods, such as boiling, steaming, and quick sautéing and serve dishes that require less time to prepare. Corn on the cob can be served often during the summer, as well as a small amount of fruit salad, fresh local melons and fresh cucumbers can also be enjoy for their cooling and moistening properties. Grain, bean, noodle, vegetables and seaweed salads can be served often as well as sushi for an enjoyable treat.

On the hottest days, cook lightly and add a little spicy or pungent flavour. Foods with small amounts of heat are much more effective in releasing deep-heat buildup. Use little salt and more water to avoid dehydration.

A list of cooling foods for the summer months are sprouts, especially mung and alfafa, fruit, cucumber, tofu, apples, watermelon, lemons and limes. Foods containing the bitter flavour that nourishes the hearth and small intestine are bitter greens such as kale, lettuces, watercress, frisee, radicchio, chicory, dandelion, beet green, artichokes, broccoli, amaranth, quinoa and dark bitter-sweet chocolate.

Summer is a great time to awaken early in the morning and get inspired by the colours, textures and aromas of nature.

Late Summer Cooking

Late summer, a short season starting around the first of August and lasting until the fall Equinox is around the middle of the Chinese year.  It is the element that balances the yang phase with the yin phase.

The Spleen belongs to the earth element, the earth being our provider of nourishment to ground and center us. Earth element rules our digestive system; spleen/yin, stomach/yang and pancreas, and the naturally sweet flavour nourish and regulate the “center”. Processed sugar depletes the spleen and stomach, and results in inability to assimilate nutrients. The colour associated with Late Summer is golden yellow, sympathy and worrying are the emotions that relates to this element.

To attune with Late Summer, choose some foods that are harmonizing and nourishing for the center~ round foods, mildly sweet foods, yellow or golden foods~. Foods should be prepared simply and include locally grown and organic food as the life force is more strongly preserved. Try to eat a light meal in the evening at least three hours before bedtime, the weakest time for the spleen and stomach being between 7:00-11:pm.

Foods to be favored are:

amaranth, anis seed, apples, apricots, avocado, banana, barley malt, beef, beets, berries, cabbage, cardamom, carrots, cayenne, cinnamon, coriander, dates, dried beans, eggs, fennel, figs, ginger, lamb, licorice root tea, maple syrup, millet, molasses, nutmeg, oats, oils, onions, oranges, oregano, parsnips, peaches, polenta, potatoes, poultry, pumpkin, raisins, raw honey, red grapes, rice, rosemary, star anise, sweet cherries, sweet corn, sweet potato, thyme, turnip, winter squash and yams.



Arame Seaweed

~Basic Foods, Properties and Applications


 Seaweeds have been part of the traditional diet of all coastal cultures, including the people of Japan, Korea, China, Iceland, Denmark, Wales, Scotland, Hawaii, and the South Pacific islands. It is also the world’s most abundant wild food that hasn’t been modified, and if we treat them with care they will feed us endlessly and delightfully.

 Sea vegetables varied on colour, flavour, texture, and nutritional value. They are classified according to their colour; green, brown, red, blue-green and the colour being determined by the spectrum of light available to the plant for photosynthesis.

 Did you know that you may find seaweed in ice cream, baked goods, jelly, salad dressing, beer, wine and toothpaste? There is also a large amount collected for use in supplements, medicines, and vitamins, as well as for agricultural purposes such as organic fertilizer.

 All seaweeds share some nutritional values such as being high in fiber and they also contain a wide range of essential nutrients including enzymes, nucleic acids, amino acids, and minerals. Also a rich source a protein, they are higher in vitamins and minerals than any other class of foods.

 The documented medicinal properties of seaweeds are voluminous. Some of the benefits include reducing blood cholesterol, removing metallic and radioactive elements from the body, treating edema, high blood pressure and rejuvenating the lungs and gastrointestinal tract.  They greatly benefit the thyroid, helping to regulate metabolism, and increase the effectiveness of the digestive system. Seaweed is  great to stay in shape and is helpful in maintaining glowing, healthy skin and hair, and it is also use as an anti-aging food.

 When purchasing seaweed, the best choice is seaweed that has been wild crafted from clean coastal area, available at farmer’s market, in natural food store or by mail order. According to laboratory analyses, they test zero for pesticides, hydrocarbons and herbicides and for toxins like E.coli, yeast and salmonella.

It is very easy to incorporate seaweed in many recipes; they are versatile and can be use into any dishes, from tea and soup to grain, meat , fish and vegetables dishes to deserts.

Here’s a list of the most popular seaweeds and how to enjoy them. I encourage you to experiment with their flavour, texture and taste.

 When purchasing seaweed, the best choice is seaweed that has been wild crafted from clean coastal area, available at farmer’s market, in natural food store or by mail order. According to laboratory analyses, they test zero for pesticides, hydrocarbons and herbicides and for toxins like E.coli, yeast and salmonella.

It is very easy to incorporate seaweed in many recipes; they are versatile and can be use into any dishes, from tea and soup to grain, meat , fish and vegetables dishes to deserts.

Here’s a list of the most popular seaweeds and how to enjoy them. I encourage you to experiment with their flavour, texture and taste.

Dulse (palmaria palmate)

 Dulse has a red and blue pigmentation. It is extremely high in iodine, iron and rich in magnesium, potassium and phosphorus. It has been traditionally used in soups and as a condiment in Europe. Soften by dipping quickly in fresh water and added to salads, soups, sandwiches or use as a garnish for grain, fish and vegetable dishes. It can be found easily in natural food store packaged in fronds, flakes or powder for use as a condiment.

 Arame (Eisenia bicyclis)

Arame is a brown kelp, with a mild and sweet taste most Westerners enjoy. It is an excellent source of calcium, iron, and trace minerals. When purchasing arame it is precooked, you may rehydrate and add directly to a salad, soup, or sautéed with vegetables.

 Kombu and Kelp (laminaria species)

 Kombu is a member of the kelp family, they have yellow – brown pigmentation and are the largest and the longest of all sea plants. It is consider the most completely mineralized food. Add kombu to soups, bean dishes, stews and stocks to greatly increase the nutritional value of your dish. You can also roast a large piece and grind into a powder to use as a condiment.

 Nori (porpyra tenera)

 Nori has the highest protein content of all the seaweeds and is also very easy to digest. A high source of A, B, C and D vitamins, it contains many minerals and trace element.Nori comes in sheet and can be used as is. Traditionally use for sushi, nori flakes can be sprinkled over salads, popcorn, grains and vegetable dishes.

 Wakame (Undaria pinnatifida)

 Wakame is a versatile olive-green sea vegetable very high in calcium, rich in iodine, protein, iron, and niacin. It acts as a tenderizer and so soften beans and the hard fibers of foods cooked with it. Soak in warm water for 3-4 minutes chop and use like a leafy green vegetables, add in soups, stews, stir-fry and baked vegetable dishes.

Beans and Legumes

Beans and Legumes

Beans and Legumes

 The name legume comes from the Latin legumen or legere, “to gather”. As one of the least expensive forms of protein, beans are as nutritious as they are practical, which is why they are an integral part of cultures all over the world. Ounce per ounce, some beans have as much protein as a comparable amount of meat.

 Some of their healing properties include reducing cholesterol, lowering blood pressure, regulating colon function and preventing constipation. Classified as a low-glycemic index food, they are slowly digested and help diabetics and people who have low blood sugar. They are a good source of calcium, potassium, iron, zinc, and several B vitamins including folate and are low in fat.

Chinese medicine embraces the bean ~especially the dark/black coloured one~ as a highly beneficial food for the kidney-adrenal functions.Legumes and beans are generally drying and diuretic.  They are not the ideal food for thin, dry, frail or weak persons. To counteract this tendency, combine beans with oily foods or olive oil ~refried beans, hummus containing oily sesame seed butter, sausages or meat eaten with beans~. Legumes are a good food for strong, robust, overweight person. With their drying quality, they are beneficial when there are signs of edema and yeasts, soybean being the exception.

Basic Pot of Beans

They are many people who don’t enjoy the benefits of beans because they don’t digest them well. Often the problem is improper preparation, wrong choice of legume or poor food combining. Start by introducing legumes slowly allowing your digestive system time to adjust. Adding a small amount of kombu seaweed and spices for flavour may help. Soaking beans with 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar or baking soda are other options.

 Quick Soak

Boil the beans in water for 5 minutes, remove from heat, cover and allow them to soak for 2 to 4 hours. (Soaking longer will not damage). Drain, rinse, add to fresh water and proceed with cooking.

 Overnight soak: preferred method.

Soak beans 8 to 12 hours, drain, rinse, add fresh water and proceed with cooking.

Before soaking, pick through the beans and remove any that are discolored or broken. Place the dried beans in a large bowl with an ample amount of cold water to cover and allow to stand at room temperature for 8 hours or longer. The soaking water should always be drained and discarded before cooking beans. Once the beans are drained rinse them under cold water and allow them to drain again.

 When cooking beans use plenty of water to allow room for expansion (6 cups of water for every cup of bean).  For cooking, place soaked, drained, beans in a heavy medium saucepan. Add 6 cups of water for every cup of beans and place over medium – high heat. Bring the water to a boil, skim off the foam, lower the heat to medium-low and simmer gently, uncovered, until tender.

  • Spices that aid digestion are bay leaf, cumin, anise and fennel. These can be added to the water near the end of cooking.

  • Only add salt at the end of cooking, about 10 minutes before beans are done. Otherwise the beans won’t soften.

  • A simple way to tell if you have soaked your beans enough is to slice a bean in half; if the center is still opaque, soak more.

Canned Beans

A busy lifestyle does not always allow time for soaking and cooking dried beans. Having canned beans on hand provides a quick meal option. When buying canned beans, consider these few tips:

  • Buy canned beans that do not contain added salt or preservatives

  • Look for beans that have been cooked with kombu.

  • Rinse beans once removed from the can.

 When Choosing Beans:

In China, a traditional practice exists in which legumes are assigned healing properties according to their Five Element colour.

  • Red: aduki, red lentil, kidney bean influence the hearth and small intestine.

  • Yellow: garbanzo, yellow pea and soybean influence the spleen-pancreas and stomach.

  • White: lima, navy, and great northern influence the lungs and large intestine.

  • Dark, black and brown: black bean, black soybean, brown lentil influence the kidneys and bladder.

  • Green: mung, green pea and fresh green bean influence the liver and gall bladder.

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