Happy Heart Month

Here are some heart-healthy tips for you to celebrate February’s Heart Health Month:

1. Laugh and be happy! Happiness helps your heart
2. Have a supportive social network and spend time with positive people. Loneliness and depression are linked to heart disease
3. Reduce your stress (meditate, exercise) Get your heart out of fight or flight mode
4. Quit smoking and reduce the amount of alcohol you’re consuming
5. Eat a heart healthy diet, such as lots of fruits and veggies, healthy fats, beans, nuts, seeds, and grains. AVOID trans fats, refined and processed foods, too much salt, and too much sugar.

pulses

pulses 2

Pulse photos via Ecocentric Blog

Heart-Disease-American-Heart-Month-Eat-Red
Red foods photo via PCRM

Kula, Maui strawberries
Kula, Maui strawberries

Happy Valentine’s Day!

The Year End Ritual

As we rapidly approach 2016, I’m reflecting. A few years back, Melanie Waxman, one of my favorite macrobiotic teachers and chefs, suggested that I write down ten goals that I accomplished in the past year as well as ten goals for the new year to come. Since then, each year, I spend time reviewing how things have been going in my life and in my business. Another person shared this exercise (below) with me which is quite similar, and I would like to pass it on. Wishing you a new year filled with health, happiness, and abundance.

The Not So Big Life:  The Year End Ritual

by Sarah Susanka @ www.notsobiglife.com

In the Ancient Egyptian calendar days 361 through 365 were considered feast days of the gods—extra days, if you like, completing the cycle of the year and the Earth’s rotation around the sun. This exercise is intended to give these same days an exploratory purpose in your own life here in the 21st Century. If you fully engage this yearly ritual, you’ll find that the time spent greatly enhances the process of your own unfolding. Though you may forget precisely what wishes you articulated during the five day period, when you look back a year later you’ll discover that many of the things you’d expressed an interest in came into being over the past twelve months, although not through any planning on your part. They came about simply because you allowed yourself to listen to the inner longings of your heart, and then let them go.    

The process is very similar to sowing seeds. When you plant a garden, you don’t sit and stare at the seeds until they sprout. You know that some will germinate and some will not, but it is not up to you to make them grow. All you can do is set the conditions for their growth with good soil, adequate water, and the right amount of sun. In exactly the same way, all you can do for your own unfolding is to set the conditions by slowing down a bit (that’s the good soil), giving yourself the gift of your own presence in your life (that’s the water), and meditating regularly to help open to more of who and what you really are (that’s the sun).  None of this can take place, however, without sowing seeds. And that’s what this exercise does—and while you are sowing seeds during this five day period, you can be enjoying the fruits of the previous year’s harvest at the same time.

You can design this exercise to fit your own time schedule, so there’s really no one way to do it, but I’ll tell you how I’ve practiced it, and then you determine what works best for you. I designate two hours each day between December 27th and December 31st —five days in all??to engage the questions below.

During each two hour period, I don’t answer the phone or email, and I ask other family members not to interrupt me. Some years, if I’m going to work each day, I’ll take these two hours in the evening; other years, if I’m on vacation, I’ll take the time right after breakfast—the time of day when my mind is clearest. Before starting the exercise each day I’ll meditate, so that I’m really open to what arises once I begin writing down my thoughts, memories and insights.

As you plan your own year?end ritual, it helps to make it happen at more or less the same time each year so you’ll remember to do it. So if summer vacation works better for you than the last few days of each year, feel free to do that instead. If you’d prefer to designate one single day where this exercise is all you do, rather than spread it out over five days, that’s fine too, of course. Just don’t cut the period down too much or you won’t have time to really get into it. Ten hours of time seems about right to really give the exercise its due. The fewer interruptions you have as you engage this process the better, so it’s very helpful to let other family members know ahead of time what you are up to. If you have children who you can’t leave alone for an hour or two, you might try to engage them in their own version of this discovery process by suggesting they use crayons to illustrate their dreams of what they will be like when they are older, as well as places they’d like to visit, houses they’d like to live in, etc.

You may want to write your responses to the questions below in a blank book or journal similar to your Not So Big Life notebook, or you may prefer to make an audio recording. The medium is up to you. The key is to make this an enjoyable process during which the faucet can simply flow unimpeded.     

Here are the questions:

Past

  • How have I spent my time in the past year?
  • What are the results of the actions I have taken?
  • What events, realizations, and understandings have come into being over the past twelve months?
  • What has inspired me over the past year?
  • What blessings have I received during the year?
  • What were my sorrows and disappointments from the year, and how have I been changed by them?
  • What were my enthusiasms, accomplishments, creations and joys, and how have I been changed by them?
  • What books have I read this year and what impact have they had?
  • What movies and other entertainments have moved me this past year, and in what ways?
  • What journeys have I taken?
  • What patterns and themes have I noticed in my nighttime dreams?
  • What have been my most significant dreams, and how have they affected me?
  • What patterns and themes have I noticed in my waking dream?
  • What conditioned patterns have I recognized, and what experiences have allowed me to see them more clearly?
  • What hidden beliefs have I uncovered in working with these conditioned patterns?
  • What previously unrecognized aspects of my personality have been revealed?
  • What habitual patterns have I experimented with or changed?
  • What new patterns of behavior have I adopted over the past year, and what effects have they had? 

Present

  • How am I different this year than I was last year at this time?
  • How can I integrate the key lessons of this past year into my life?
  • Are there any strategies, phrases, questions or flags that have particular significance for me right now?  If so, why?
  • Are there any things I’m being asked to do right now that I am rejecting? If so, what would happen if I simply did them?
  • Are there any things I’m trying to force into existence right now? If so, what would happen if I stopped trying to make them happen?
  • Are there any new characters in my life that can reveal to me unrecognized aspects of who I am?
  • What recent synchronicities do I recall? What do they appear to point toward?
  • To what part of myself am I giving birth?
  • What am I becoming?
  • Who am I really?
  • Has my experience of time changed at all since last year?

Future

  • Specifically what is it that I wish to focus on or experience in the coming year?
  • If I could see far into the future, what wishes, longings, or creations will I be bringing into being, or engaging in some way?
  • If I could sum up all my desires and longings into one simple statement, spoken from the highest aspect of myself, what would it be?

That’s all there is to it. The more engrossed you allow yourself to become, the more potent this tool for transformation will be. When I engage this exercise, my first step is to answer all the questions—which I usually do in the first three days. And when this part of the process is completed, I reread the previous year’s answers. This is always the high point of the process for me, because, just like my rediscovery of the forgotten list in the drawer of my nightstand, it is only then that the results of the previous year’s planting become apparent. This is the moment when you can really appreciate the power of the entire ritual. At the end of the five?day period—or however long you’ve designated for your own ritual??close your journal and place it in a locked file safe, or somewhere else out of harm’s way, so that you won’t be tempted to look at it until next year. Then forget about it, and drop all attachment to anything you’ve written, understanding that that part of the process is not in your hands. You are simply the gardener.

Osechi Ryori Photos

I’ve put together a set of photos that highlight some of the deliciousness I learned during my macrobiotic studies in Japan. Some of the dishes are pictured here.  The dishes eaten during the first few days of the New Year are intended to bring more abundance, happiness, longevity, and health into your life.

All of these recipes were vegan and macrobiotic using the best quality organic and hand made ingredients. There was no refined sugar contained in the recipes, only natural macrobiotic quality sweeteners.

Boiled Vegetable Salad with Dressing

Chirashizushi (Beautiful Decorated Sushi Rice)

Datemaki (Tofu and Millet Rolls)

Kombumaki (Kombu Rolls)

Kuromame (Black Soy Beans)

Makizushi (Sushi Rolls)

Namasu salad (Raw Vegetables with Vinegar Dressing)

Nishime (Simmered Root Vegetables)

Oden (Daikon Stew)

Omelet (Tofu, Vegetables, and Hijiki)

Sekihan (Red Beans Rice)

Shofuyaki

Yakisoba (Stir-fried Vegetables and Soba Noodles)

Dessert: Cranberry Kanten

Dessert: Kurikinton (Chestnut and Sweet Potato Twists)

Yum!

Lucky Foods For The New Year * Osechi Ryori

When I lived in Japan, one of the tastiest menus that I learned was how to prepare the traditional New Year’s food. First introduced during the Heinan Period, osechi-ryori is basically a bento (boxed lunch) prepared in advance, stored in a cool place, and reheated when it is to be eaten during the first three days of the new year. Each dish and ingredient in osechi has meaning, such as good health, fertility, good harvest, happiness, and long life.

Cleaning up everything from the previous year and starting the new year with a clean slate complete with nourishing healthy food is very culturally important!

Here are some of the ingredients and their significance.

Mochi

Black Soybeans (Kuromame)

These sweet and hearty beans signify good health, vitality, wealth, abundance, and prosperity. These are typically made these days with sugar and shoyu, though the macrobiotic way is to replace these with natural handmade mirin, brown rice syrup, and unpasteurized, fermented shoyu.

Soba Noodles

Long life

Kombu (seaweed)

Usually made into kombu maki (as seen on the left), this represents joy.

Nishime

A slow simmered vegetable dish signifying “harmonious family relationships”.

Renkon/Lotus Root

This is an auspicious food, because you can see through the holes of the root “into the future.”

Datemaki

Sweet rolled omelette (seen on the right) traditionally mixed with fish paste which symbolizes wishes for many auspicious days filled with gold, wealth, fertility, and children. I learned how to make it with tofu and millet (also, minus the fish paste).

Datemaki

Gobo/Burdock Root

Usually made into a dish called “kinpira gobo”. This symbolizes “wishing for luck to split and multiply.”

~~~~~~~~~~

Have a safe, happy, healthy, and abundant new year everyone!

osechi plated final

Students at First Vegetarian School Find Better Health and Academic Success

Students at First Vegetarian School Find Better Health and Academic Success

By

Posted on June 3, 2015 in Success Stories

PS224Q, a public school in Flushing, Queens (New York), was the first public non-charter school in America to offer students an all-vegetarian menu. The all-vegetarian plan (which includes breakfast and lunch) was launched in 2013.

The school’s administration was able to implement an all-vegetarian menu with the support of the Coalition for Healthy School Food. This year, the Coalition also helped a second school, the Peck Slip School in lower Manhattan (New York), become a meat-free school.

Getting Meat Off the Menu

We recently spoke with Amie Hamlin, the executive director of the Coalition, about its work with school food. She gave some great insights and tips into how parents can have an impact on the food their children eat in the school cafeteria every day.

How did the Coalition get started?

In 2004, I helped write a legislative resolution for New York State that passed unanimously. The resolution stated that schools should have a healthy vegan option every day in public schools, and that nutrition education would include information about plant-based and healthy multicultural eating patterns.

Resolutions are voted on just like laws in New York State, but they are just recommendations. So they serve an educational purpose, but they don’t require people to do anything. We decided that we needed to create a non-profit organization that would actually help implement the recommendations in schools.

So we created the New York Coalition for Healthy School Lunches, which brings plant-based foods and nutrition education to schools. We were the first statewide non-profit in the country to be devoted solely to school food, and now we’ve expanded beyond state borders.

The Coalition has done amazing work in such a short period of time. How hard was it to launch the country’s first and second all-vegetarian cafeterias?

We have been bringing plant-based entrées to New York City schools (the largest school food program in the country), running nutrition education events and programs, and helped to implement healthy snack programs in schools for almost a decade.

Administrators at PS 244Q knew about us from our work at a school in Harlem where they used to teach, and they asked us to help them put plant-based meals on their menu. It started out a few days a week. When the federal regulations were about to change, we asked the NYC Office of School Food if the entire menu could be vegetarian, and we got the approval.

At the Peck Slip School, the principal, Maggie Siena, got the idea when she heard about the success of the vegetarian food program at PS 244Q. We provided implementation assistance once the principal got the Office of SchoolFood’s approval for an all-vegetarian menu.

Did you face any barriers to going vegetarian? From the staff or the parents?

It was a real community effort and the kids actually enjoy the food, which helps. We worked closely with the New York City Office of SchoolFood, which is on board with our efforts, and the principals, administrators, staff, food service directors, cooks, and parents at both schools. Everyone has been wonderful to work with, and the food really looks and tastes great.

At both schools, it’s a real community effort, and it takes buy-in from all involved to make it successful. We couldn’t do it without the amazing dedication of everyone involved, including the students who are very open to learning more about healthy eating. In fact, they have gone home and taught their parents, which has resulted in changes to how they eat at home. Students are allowed to bring meat from home, but overall the parents at both schools were totally on board and there were no big concerns. I think everyone realizes that well-fed students perform better in school, have less behavioral problems, and get sick less often.

Students are thriving not only physically, but academically as well! Is that ever part of the selling point when you talk to school administrators?

At PS 244Q, BMIs have gone down, and the kids get sick less often. The school’s standardized test scores were #11 in the state. All the other schools with higher test scores have no English language learners, and they all have gifted programs. PS244Q does not have a gifted program and does have English language learners, so it was an incredible achievement. I am so proud of the kids and the school. Though there is no cause and effect proof, we like to think it is a result of the healthier menu.

We know that healthy food benefits physical health and the immune system, and we know that good nutrition also helps improve focus, attendance, and learning. We like to talk about all the reasons for switching to a vegetarian menu: better health, better grades, and better behavior!

What’s next for you guys? Are more schools interested in going vegetarian?

There are a few more schools interested in going all vegetarian, and we just had a principal’s meeting for schools interested in doing so. But we also work with many schools in getting plant-based options on their lunch menus by encouraging them to adopt an “Alternative” menu, which is less processed and has some plant-based entrees. As a result of our programs, over 17,000 students now have the option of plant-based entrees at least twice per week, if not more.

There are so many opportunities to grow and so many administrators who are interested. The only thing we are lacking is people on the ground and the funds needed to create more change. If we could, we’d do a lot more education of parents, teachers, and food service personnel.

 Do you have any tips for parents who want to bring more plant-based options to their children’s schools?

Yes! We want people to take initiative and do this at the local level. I’d worked in the nonprofit world, but I first got interested in school food as a parent. I walked into my stepson’s school (he’s now an adult) and volunteered to head the PTA Nutrition Committee with a friend.

The most important thing, and I can’t stress this enough, is that the easiest way to make something happen is to make it easy for food service directors. Don’t give them extra work. Make things easy for them.

Here are four tips:

1. Be helpful, not critical.

To make this happen, you are going to have to speak to the school’s food service director. When you approach him or her, it’s really important that you are not critical. Instead, be positive about what they do and your interest in adding plant-based options.

Try to understand the system that food service directors work under. They have a lot of regulations and budgets to consider.

2. Use the resources on our website.

To make things easier for the food service director, show him or her the recipes on our site. They meet budget guidelines and they are scaled up for school-sized yields. They also meet USDA regulations for school lunches.

3. Do some research.

If your school doesn’t cook its own food (which is common), then do some research on healthy veggie burgers, falafel, or other manufactured foods that they can order. Many schools are very receptive of this if it’s in budget.

4. Let the food service director taste the food.

If your school does prepare its own food, then make some of the recipes and bring them in for the food service director to try. It’s a nice gesture, helps him or her understand what you’re talking about, and can help smooth the way.

If you want to get involved with the Coalition for Healthy School Food, visit us at healthyschoolfood.org.

Amie HamlinAmie Hamlin, executive director of the Coalition for Healthy School Food.

http://www.forksoverknives.com/students-at-first-vegetarian-school-have-physical-and-academic-success/

 

 

World Meat Free Day – June 15

world-meat-free-day

It’s a fact

If our target of 10 million people swap the meat in one of their meals for a plant based protein on World Meat Free Day, the impact would be extraordinary**.

It would:

  • Reduce enough CO2 emissions to drive around the world 2,438 times**
  • Save 885 million calories…
  • …And 48 tonnes of Sat Fat – the weight of 3.5 Big Bens
  • Save up to 5,700 acres of land – the equivalent of 89,000 tennis courts
  • Reduce water usage by 13 million tonnes – equivalent to 5,000 Olympic swimming pools

All credit goes to the Meat Free Day website

– See more at: http://www.worldmeatfreeday.com/#sthash.HcoEJoLm.dpuf

Spring Dishes – Photos

These are various dishes that I have recently cooked for customers (or myself). Enjoy, and of course, please let me know if you would like me to cook for you!

 

 

Easter Brunch Treats

My spring cleaning has unearthed a bunch of gems, including recipes that I haven’t ever made.  While I didn’t have all of the ingredients on hand for the original recipe, I improvised so that I could make these vegan broccoli and pepper jack biscuits for Easter brunch.

Step 1 – Assemble wet and dry ingredients separately

biscuits1_macrobiotichawaii

Step 2 – Mix gently (don’t over mix or the gluten will get tough) and drop onto your baking sheet.

Biscuits2_macrobiotichawaii

Step 3 – Bake until golden brown on the bottom

biscuits3_macrobiotichawaii

Step 4 – EAT! The final meal was with local organic kale, organic raspberries, the biscuits, and green tea.

breakfast_macrobiotichawaii

I also enjoyed a lilikoi (passion fruit) mimosa with my brunch.

Lilikoi_Mimosa_macrobiotichawaii

Pantry Must-Haves for Macrobiotic Cooking

For healthful and varied macrobiotic cooking, I recommend these following items. Don’t know what they are or what to do with them? Try a Google recipe search and see what pops up (or better yet, let me teach you how)! Stocking these in your pantry helps make cooking easier so you can just pull out something from your cupboard to prepare for delicious and tasty meals.

1. Brown Rice Syrup
2. Miso (I have white, barley, & brown rice)
3. Umeboshi and Brown Rice Vinegar
4. Unprocessed & Unrefined Sea Salt
5. Sea Vegetables (nori, wakame, arame, hijiki, kombu, dulse)
6. Dried Shiitake Mushrooms
7. Whole Grains (brown rice, barley, quinoa are a few great ones)
8. Dried Beans (azuki, lentil, black turtle, garbanzo/chickpea, pinto are some good staples)
9. Cooking oils (olive oil, toasted & untoasted sesame)
10. Shoyu (soy sauce) and/or Tamari (make sure this does not have msg, food coloring, or any other addditives or preservatives)
11. Kuzu root starch for desserts and sauces

pantry.macrobiotichawaii pantry2.macrobiotichawaii