Goji Berry Chocolate Muffins

This is a muffin that is like a chocolate cupcake, mixed with some goji berries and whole wheat that make you feel like it’s slightly healthier. Goji berries are a bittersweet berry that are supposedly a superfood.  We normally snack on them or put them in chrysanthemum tea, but I wanted to give the kids a little variety in how we get this superfood, so I made Goji Berry Chocolate Muffins.

Goji Berry Chocolate Muffins
Goji Berry Chocolate Muffins


Makes 12 muffins / cupcakes

  • 1 ¼  cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup cacao powder
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch (optional – I added this to make it more “cake-like,” but you’d be fine without)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup of sweetener (Really, any sweetener like sugar, maple syrup, brown sugar, etc. We generally find commercial sweets to be too sweet for our palates. If you do too, then use ½ cup of sweetener. If you prefer things sweeter, then use 1 cup.)
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup sour cream 
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup of hydrated goji berries (These usually come dried, so hydrate them for 5 minutes in hot water and drain.)
  • ¼ cup – ½ cup of chocolate chips (your sweet tooth preference!)


  1. Mix the flours, cacao powder, cornstarch, salt, and baking soda in one bowl. 
  2. In a larger bowl, stir together the eggs, sugar, oil, and vanilla. 
  3. Mix in the dry ingredients. 
  4. Gradually stir in the sour cream until mixed. 
  5. Stir in the goji berries and chocolate chips.
  6. Spoon batter into a lined muffin tin. (Batter should be thick enough to use an ice cream scooper, which makes this part easier and faster!)
  7. Bake at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes.

How to Raise Good Eaters

Updated 9/2/2021

Feeding our children in this day and age is challenging – unhealthy food is too readily available and social norms of accommodating children can cultivate picky eaters. As parents, we’re met with a plethora of feedback from grandparents, pediatricians, parenting books, media, peers, societal norms, and social pressures and expectations.  

My kids, ages and 7 and 9, are good eaters, in the sense that they eat a wide variety of foods (meats, vegetables, grains), and will try new foods. Some of this may be luck, but it’s also due to habits. There are constant “turning points” in their eating career, and we can’t take their eating habits for granted at all. Their tastes and behavior continue to evolve and I’ve sometimes had to double down on some habits that wane easily. Below are our top 10 habits (10+ actually) to raising healthy eaters.

Today’s array of food options are endless

#1 Limit Snacks

Start with limiting snacks in quantity and frequency. This is very subjective – we’ve had friends who say they are limiting snacks but I see that their “limits” are quite different than ours. The basic idea though is that snacks, whether in the morning or afternoon, reduced my kids’ appetites for regular meals. 

Not over-snacking is fundamentally important to being a good eater at mealtime.  It’s totally fine and good for kids to be a little hungry or thirsty. The effectiveness of any other tactics that we use at mealtimes is very dependent on this habit of limiting snacks. I have seen a friend give his child a cupcake 30 minutes before dinner, and then fight with his son to have him finish a pasta dish. My friend didn’t realize that he himself had sabotaged his son’s appetite for that dinner. 

#2 Eat Only in Designated Areas 

We only allow eating in the kitchen and dining room, never in any other area of the house. First, it reduces ant and sticky toy problems. Secondly, it takes away the temptation to extend snacking and meal times and distract from the eating process itself – eating is not to be multi-tasked. Originally, we started this habit from when they were mobile because we didn’t want to be chasing them, or cleaning up after them all over the house. Then, I saw other kids running around their homes after taking a few bites, and coming back to the table for now cold food, and fighting with their parents about finishing their food. I realized we had conveniently sidestepped this battle. 

#3 Try Everything At Least 10 Times (not during the same meal)

I once read from one of those child nutritionist guides that people need to try something at least ten times to determine if they like that particular food or taste. Whether this is true or not, I have actually used that rule of thumb to great success. My children have expressed dislike for a lot of foods at one point or another. I tell them the rule and continue to put the foods that they dislike on their plates. My only requirement is that they have at least one bite of the food that they dislike and they can discard the rest. Over time, they surprisingly just started eating more of that food.

One of my kids hated mushrooms with a passion. Over the course of a year of seeing them on his plate regularly, he suddenly started eating them. So don’t give up. Keep making the food a part of their meals whether they eat it or not. Foods come in and out of “favor,” especially the vegetables, so if I remove them from the lineup altogether, I’ll never know when they’re coming back into favor!

# 4 Don’t Offer Alternative Foods During a Struggle

There have been times when my kids didn’t like the meal we had prepared for them, and basically looked like they were going to be missing a meal. Their grandparents have then suggested that I heat up some leftover pasta or other food that they knew the children liked. First, missing a meal here and there is okay. Second, try not to give in during those moments. All it takes is your doing this a few times, for your child to see your potential as a short order cook. 

#5 Prepare a “Reliable” Food

I might sound like a mean mom, but I don’t like my kids to go hungry either. To be proactive about avoiding a struggle, try to always have one aspect of the meal that is “reliable.” Reliable as in reliably eaten. That could be something as basic as rice, pasta or bread. If you’re introducing a new grain, then try to make sure either the meat or vegetable portion is “reliable.” That way, even if they’re not fully satisfied, they won’t “starve.” Or I might even heat up the “backup leftover food” and offer it as a side dish in advance, so long as they don’t think I got up specifically to go make a special dish that only they like to eat.

# 6 Offer Yucky Foods in a Variety of Ways

We prepare the “yucky” foods in different ways: different shapes, different spices, and different sizes. Our kids hated red bell peppers. Then I chopped them up and put them in chili (which has a pretty overwhelming flavor on it’s own). They noticed them, but couldn’t taste them. Gradually, I put the chopped bell peppers in less overwhelming dishes and before I knew it, they were eating large pieces without complaint (although still without love). 

#7 Have One Bite and Don’t Force Finish

We have a one bite rule. It doesn’t matter if they spit it out. The important thing is that they put it in their mouth. And the important thing is that they try it every time it’s offered. 

On the flip side, we never encourage the kids to finish their meal either. We encourage them to stop eating when they feel full even if it means leaving a lot of food on the plate. We don’t say just “a few more bites.” However, we also have limited snacks and don’t prepare special meals outside of meal times (unless someone is sick), so there’s no gaming the system for extra snack food.

#8 Offer a Variety of Foods Early On and Repeatedly

It’s now commonly encouraged for parents to introduce babies to a diverse diet as a way of limiting the likelihood of developing allergies. However, this advice has multiple benefits. It helps develop a diverse palate early on. The ability to eat a variety of foods early on makes it easier for kids to get the different vitamins and minerals that their growing bodies need. To avoid FOMO, even junk food, snacks, and desserts are all sampled – just in limited quantities! The important thing is to keep offering the variety even as it is rejected. . . possibly over and over again. 

#9 Control Meal Portions

Controlling how much food your children eat is contrary to most of the advice I found in baby-led weaning books, parenting books, and from our own pediatrician. All these sources advised that babies and young children know how to self-regulate and will stop eating when full. This ranks among some of the most incorrect advice I ever heard from “official” sources. Maybe this was true for breast-feeding, but absolutely wrong for milk and solids. Or perhaps this may have been true for humans prior to a world of processed foods, fiber-free food where eating bite after bite was not so easy. 

Yet given the ubiquitous advice, I tried this many times, and watched as my babies, and later, children absolutely did not know their limits over and over again when eating a food they liked (usually something fried, sweet, or a processed snack). In fact, adults often don’t know their limits either when it comes to snacking or foods they like in particular, and we somehow expect children to? Allowing kids to stretch their stomachs too much on a regular basis sets them up for a cycle of overeating and getting more than their bodies need. Try to limit meals to reasonable quantities until you’ve taught your kids to reliably know how to stop eating. 

#10 Educate About the Foods They’re Eating

Don’t underestimate the ability of your children to want to do right by their bodies. In past societies, food education may not have been so important, but with all the choices of foods these days, teaching kids how to navigate the food world is just as important as teaching them how to navigate cyberspace. 

I wasn’t very aware about food growing up, but the trends towards understanding what we put in our bodies and our babies has really heightened my awareness around food and its impact on our health. Talk to them often about what your family is eating and why it’s good for you. Or when you’re having junk food, talk about why it’s not good for you and why you shouldn’t eat too much of it. Talk about cultural differences in foods and diets and the relative healthiness of each. Talk about the evolution of food. Talk about it all repeatedly. Eventually, it will resonate. 

For example, you can explain in a way kids can understand more easily. An 8/18/21 study published in Nature Food, framed eating a hot dog to be akin to losing 36 minutes of healthy life! Eating nuts, on the other hand, added 25 healthy life minutes. That news gave my children pause!

#11  Educate About Junk Food, Peers, and Society

When we joined the food world through organized sports and school, our kids became inundated with birthday party pizza and cake, sport practices that included brown bags filled with a variety of processed/healthy/sugary snacks, and classmates who got to eat candies and chocolate milk regularly at school lunchtime. We had to teach our kids about how food and snacks are thought about differently by each family and why they might not get to eat as much of the snacks and sweets as their friends. Holding off the peer pressure to eat like their friends can be one of the toughest things to do, but it gets easier the longer you do it.

#12  Model Food Behavior

Finally, what if you’re a junk food junkie and / or a picky eater yourself? It’s extra, extra tough to raise your kids to eat differently than you do, so I had to model the food behavior I wanted them to have. 

I found myself learning to be a better eater by following the habits that I was trying to model for my kids. Interestingly, my appetite for junk (formerly quite strong), waned when I removed a lot of the items from my shopping list. After I learned to pay attention to labels and ingredients, the rational side of me was put off by many of the ingredients in a lot of packaged foods that I used to eat. 

Similarly, I hated lamb meat, eggplant, and brussel sprouts growing up, but in an effort to diversify and follow the behavior I was trying to encourage in my kids, we introduced it in meals periodically. Roasted brussel sprouts and spicy garlic eggplant are now in my list of favorite vegetable dishes. I’m still working on the lamb meat, one bite per meal. . .

Prevent Food Allergies With the Latest Research

It may be too late for my children in some respect, but it seems there are more things that we now know about how food allergies develop that would have COMPLETELY changed the way we approached our kids’ diets at birth. If you’re concerned about your baby or child possibly developing allergies, below are some things you should absolutely consider. Actually, there are an increasing number of individuals who are developing allergies as adults, so it’s worth taking a read below even if you’re no spring chicken. 

Food Allergy Epidemic  

First, some statistics that I came across recently – according to Dr. Kari Nadeau, who is well-known in the food allergy treatment world:

  • 1 in 12 children in the US, Europe, China, Korea, and Japan have food allergies
  • 1 in 10 children in Australia
  • 1 in 10 adults had food allergies according to a recent survey of 40,000 adults. 50% weren’t aware of the allergies until they were adults.

I don’t have food allergies yet, but I’ve developed some environmental allergies as an adult. . . are food allergies on the way? Below are three food allergy prevention strategies that every one should know.

Food Allergy Prevention Strategy #1: Avoid Antibiotics and Heartburn Medications 

the cause of food allergies
This visual illustrates the theory of how modern life may be altering our body’s natural defenses

Avoid antibiotics and heartburn medications if at all possible –  they cause changes to your gut flora, which in turn, affects the way your body responds to food.For all ages, studies have come out showing a link between the increased likelihood of food allergy and the use of antibiotics or heartburn medications. While the studies have shown correlation and not necessarily causation, it’s suspect enough to reconsider your next antibiotic or heartburn medication RX. If there are alternatives, why risk it? Until recently, I didn’t realize that there are a lot of things to try before resorting to antibiotics or heartburn medications, so do your research on alternatives.  Your doctor may or may not be aware of this information, let alone warn you of the possible issues when prescribing these medications. For further understanding:

Food Allergy Prevention Strategy #2: Introduce Potential Food Allergens Early – Don’t Avoid Them

Neither my husband nor I have any food allergies – just hay fever, so I didn’t consider that my kids were at high risk for food allergies. Yet both kids ended up with nut allergies (and underwent oral immunotherapy). We followed the accepted approach at the time of avoiding nut introduction until age 1. 

Studies over the last few years have reversed that recommendation and pediatricians now recommend introducing potential food allergens as early as possible. This is a pretty time-sensitive, age-sensitive recommendation, so don’t miss this window if you want to try it. These two articles from verywellhealth.com give a good introduction on the change in recommendations as well as guidelines for how to do this early introduction to food allergens as safely as possible during COVID-19 (when you may be tempted to hold off). They write specifically about peanut, but it’s the same idea for all food allergens:

Alas, it’s also clear that there is still confusion and the guidance you receive will depend on your pediatrician. This study by Contemporary Pediatrics found that pediatricians today are still not necessarily recommending the current guidelines. Regardless of what your doctors say, do your own research too, especially given the inconsistencies across medical professionals, and come to your own conclusion about what you want to do. If you do introduce potential allergens early, do it with the support of a doctor because the risk levels vary by family.

Food Allergy Prevention Strategy #3: Control Eczema

The existence of food allergies has also been strongly linked to eczema, of which some forms are suspected to trigger food allergies. 30% of children with eczema also have food allergies. Researchers call this the “atopic march.” It’s described as a pattern, “in which eczema generally appears first, followed by food allergies, seasonal allergies, and asthma.” The link to eczema is so strong that the American Academy of Pediatrics first guideline  “recommends that the highest risk infants — those with severe eczema and/or egg allergy. . . — be introduced to peanut as early as 4-6 months of age, following successful feeding of other solid food(s) to ensure the infant is developmentally ready.”

For babies and children (and who knows, perhaps adults, too?), it appears particularly important to try and control eczema as best that you can to avoid the risk of further allergy development. This includes finding and avoiding the triggers for eczema as well as treating it topically. 

Both Western and traditional Chinese medicine have some strategies (listed extensively on the National Eczema Association website). In Western medicine, there are injections (like Dupixent), topical creams, and washes. In TCM, I’ve heard about herbal pastes that are applied topically as well as herbal medicines to alter the body’s reaction to triggers. I’ve read on the Facebook group for Dr. Xiu Li Min (an expert on integrated East/West approach to food allergies) that she believes part of the food allergy treatment involves addressing the severe skin issues first (which she has done with apparent success through Chinese herbs) before tackling the food allergy.


Antibiotics linked to development of food allergies

Heartburn medications linked to development of food allergies

The latest in food allergy prevention

Developing food allergies as adults

Eczema and food allergies

Chrysanthemum and Goji Berries Tea Recipe for the Eyes

Are you trying to bolster your eye health? In our family, we are definitely doing what we can to strengthen the eyes. At any given time, members of our family will have red and/or itchy eyes, dry eye, or blurry / myopic vision. While we use artificial tears and allergy eye drops, we also do what we can to help address the root cause.

In traditional Chinese medicine, chrysanthemum (菊花, ju hua) is the go to herb for clearing and strengthening the liver which is apparently closely tied to our eye health, among other things. While there are extracts and capsules, our form of intake has always been through tea. 

Which kind of chrysanthemum (菊花) is best for eyes?

When I first looked up chrysanthemum tea recipes, I found many refer to chrysanthemum generally without specification. In fact, there are (at least) two main kinds of chrysanthemum, white (白菊花, bai ju hua) or yellow (黄菊花, huang ju hua). In the realm of eye health, yellow is much more popular and is indicated for dry, tired eyes. White is suggested more often for visual acuity. There was some conflicting info online (I’ve listed the main sources that I consulted below in ‘Resources.’) So I’ve settled on buying and drinking some of both. The white version is definitely more bitter and tastes more like medicine. 

You can buy chrysanthemum at your local Asian grocery, Chinese herbs store, or online. I’ve been buying an organic version from Starwest Botanicals that is sometimes available on Amazon as well as directly from their website.

White chrysanthemum from Starwest Botanicals

Which kind of goji (枸杞子) is best?

As with chrysanthemum, I didn’t realize there were different kinds. There are at least two different kinds of goji berries (also known as wolfberry, gou qi zi, 枸杞子). Until recently when someone gifted us a box of black goji berries (the exact product that I’ve linked to here), I had only heard of the red goji berries. But apparently, the black goji berries are even more powerful and have more antioxidants than red goji berries. You can supposedly chew the dried black goji as a snack (the red ones are definitely snackable and have raisin consistency), but when I tried the black ones, they were very dry and tasteless. Maybe I have the wrong kind. 

Red goji berries are sold at various grocery health food stores (Whole Foods and the like). They even sell them in bulk at our local Costco. Black goji berries are not so ubiquitous, but I found them at my local Chinese herbal store, online herbal stores, and even Amazon seems to have some selection these days. 

In the end, I concluded that choosing the goji berry depends on your needs at the time. Both are generally good for you – the red goji berry is sweet and more neutral in nature, and the black goji berry may be more powerful, but less tasty. We have some of each, as I like to hedge my bets and balance things out.

Goji berries from Costco

If you don’t have access to the variety, don’t get hung up on it. Any chrysanthemum and any goji will likely have some benefit. As with a lot of Chinese medicine, long term, steady consumption is advised for more benefit. My children’s TCM doctor told us that we, including the children, could safely have chrysanthemum tea everyday and that it would be great for subduing allergic tendencies. 

Basic Recipe

Ingredients (for 1 serving)

  • 4-5 dried white or yellow chrysanthemum flowers (this quantity is more dependent on taste, the more flowers, the stronger the tea, and so on)
  • A handful of goji berries (again, the quantity is also more about taste. The more you add, the sweeter the tea). Use either black or red berries, or both!
  • Honey (optional)


  1. Boil water.
  2. When water comes to a boil, turn off heat. Throw in flowers and berries. Let it steep for at least 5 minutes. (More time won’t hurt; it’ll just taste stronger). Variation: Simmer the flowers and berries for a few minutes before steeping.
  3. Strain out the flowers and goji berries. 
  4. Add honey if desired and drink! 


Different kinds of chrysanthemum, indications for white vs. yellow:

Goji berries, red vs. black:

Other chrysanthemum tea recipe write-ups that I like:

Thoughts? More info? Better info? I’m all ears. Email me at:  wishiknewbefore20@gmail.com or leave a comment below.

Simple Dang Gui Soup or Tea Recipe

As I mentioned before, dang gui (angelica sinensis, 当归) soup is my go-to Chinese herbal tonic for whenever I have any issues that I suspect may be remotely related to blood, circulation, or hormones. Men can benefit from this tonic in the same way, too. Whenever I drink it, I feel revitalized and relaxed at the same time, helping my sleep and energy. I swear by it, and so do 2,200+ years of traditional Chinese medicine.

(Whenever I think about how Western medicine would never suggest this as a simple remedy because it’s not evidence-based, I’m frustrated by how many people could benefit, but are missing out!)

Although the dang gui herb comes in extract, capsule, or powder, I have only had the tea form. Having tried taking other Chinese herbs in capsule form, I think that the brewed method is far superior in feeling immediate benefit.

There are two basic recipes either sweet with dates or savory with chicken drumsticks, that you can use to prepare the soup/tea. Personally, I LOVE the bitter and sweet flavor of the sweet tea. I asked my mom to write me the recipe as she always prepares it for me and I haven’t ever done it myself. Now I’ve written down the surprisingly simple recipe here for myself (and you!) and have no excuse not to be able to prepare it for myself.


  • About 5 slices of dang gui (當歸)
  • About 8 red dates aka jujubes (红 枣 or 大枣) or more if you like it sweeter
  • Substitute the red dates with 2 chicken drumsticks if you prefer savory
dang gui slices for recipe
These dang gui slices are about 1.5-2 inches in length.
red dates for recipe
Dried red dates/jujubes above – they can be eaten as a dried fruit snack, too.  Terrible photo, I know, but the tea is delicious!

The number of dang gui slices and red dates are really more about the taste/effect that you prefer. The more dates you add, the sweeter the tea will be. Likewise, the more dang gui you add, the stronger the tea.

I get the dang gui from a local Chinese herbal store and recently have been able to find organic jujubes online at luckyvitamin.com.


  1. Rinse both ingredients, then put them into a pot of water (about 6 rice bowls of water – that’s how my mom measures things, haha).
  2. Cook on medium high heat for about 20-30 minutes.
  3. Then turn to medium low heat until the soup is ready (stop brewing when the liquid is equivalent to about 2 rice bowls of soup/tea).
  4. If you prepared the savory version, you can salt to taste.

Keeping Produce and Cheese Fresh

It’s probably obvious why I’ve been researching how to make fresh food last as long as possible (not including freezing, pickling, cooking, etc.). In an effort to go grocery shopping just once every two weeks, I’ve discovered my Achilles heel in my desire for fresh produce. Below are the methods I’ve found so far for some fresh food that I recently bought.

Keep produce fresh
Keep produce fresh

How to store cucumbers as long as possible

I found conflicting opinions. Epicurious says to clean, dry, and wrap them in a dry paper towel, tucked inside a plastic bag. However, kitchn.com begs to differ. Its writer says to keep them on your counter at room temperature, away from ethylene-gas-producing foods like banana, melons, tomatoes (which cause other foods to ripen/spoil faster).

Well, I’ve already tried the Epicurious method and it has never gotten me past a few days, so next time, I’m going to try the counter top method.

How to store leafy greens / salads as long as possible

I reviewed a bunch of expert-sounding sites, including another nice write-up in kitchn.com that actually compared 3 different methods. The overwhelmingly best method seems to be: wash, dry, and then store in layers of paper towels in a plastic container (not a plastic bag!) According to confident practitioners of this method, produce stored this way can last from 10 days to 1 month! Fantastic! Except I don’t currently have any plastic containers that would suit this purpose. . .

How to store tomatoes as long as possible

I used to toss tomatoes directly in the fridge. Well, now I know better. If they’re ripe and you’re not going to eat them right away, put them in the fridge.

If they’re not fully ripe, leave them on the counter at room temperature until they have become fully ripe. To allow them to ripen properly, Food52.com and a number of other reliable-sounding websites, says you should either place them stem side down or place a piece of tape over the stem “scar” to prevent moisture from leaving the tomato (drying it out) and keep air from entering which creates mold.

How to store broccoli as long as possible

We find our broccoli to go bad within a couple of days, so I can tell you for sure how NOT to store it: Don’t leave it in a plastic bag in your vegetable crisper. We get terrible results from this. Listonic and Wikihow offered two different options to try: 1) Wrap it loosely in a damp paper towel and it may last 4-5 days. 2) Store the broccoli like a bouquet in a bowl/jar of water, stem side down and it could last 5-7 days.

How to store zucchinis as long as possible

Storing zucchinis didn’t seem to be as interesting for the internet as tomatoes. The general consensus seems to be to avoid putting zucchinis in the fridge if possible because the cold ages the zucchini. If you do put it in the fridge, then put it in a plastic bag (partially open or perforated to slow down the oxidation process).

If you do leave it at room temperature in the open air, the zucchini will shrivel in about 2-3 days. Instead, it is recommended that you put it in a plastic bag, again with holes on the countertop. I’m not sure about this recommendation, as I have personally have found zucchinis to last at least one week unwrapped on the countertop.

How to store cheese as long as possible

Yeah, I know this isn’t produce, but I’m having a problem with this one, too, so I figured I’d just add it here until it finds a better home. The answer seems to be to wrap cheese in wax or parchment paper and then place in a plastic bag. There’s such a thing as a cheese bag which apparently works best, but I don’t own one and chances are, you don’t either. If the cheese sweats a lot, then you’re supposed to replace the paper each time you take the cheese out.

I’ll keep this post updated as I look up other veggies and storage methods. What suggestions do you have for making produce last? I’m all ears!