Spring Cooking Style


The first leaves and buds of spring usually take several weeks to peek through the snow, unfold, and open (or if you live in Hawaii, the rain and chillier weather makes way for warm dry days again). In the same way, we can slowly modify our cooking as spring and warmer weather approaches. In addition to adding fresh greens to our meals, we can use more light cooking methods, such as short-time boiling, steaming, and quick sautéing. We may reduce the amount of salt and other seasonings slightly and fuse foods and pickles fermented for a shorter amount of time. During the long cold winter, the energy in our bodies often freezes, but as spring approaches, it begins to thaw and move upward and out. To help this process proceed smoothly, we begin using spring foods with upward energy such as wild grasses, sprouts and varieties of grain that have matured over the winter. Lightly fermented foods are also very helpful for releasing stagnated winter energy. Wild plants that grow in the neighborhood can be foraged. They give very strong energy and should be used only occasionally and in very small amounts. Wheat and barley have lighter energy than other grains and may be served relatively more frequently during this season. Condiments made with oil, miso, and scallions or chives are also especially enjoyable at this time of the year. As the weather turns warm, it is better to balance our meals with more lightly boiled vegetables and pressed or boiled salads rather than increase our consumption of fruit.

From Aveline Kushi’s Complete Guide to Macrobiotic Cooking

Welcoming Spring into Our Kitchens

Tips for Spring Cooking

  • Add fresh greens to your meals (e.g., kale, collards, watercress, parsley, and other hardy greens)
  • Use lighter cooking methods, such as short-time boiling, steaming, and quick sautéing
  • Reduce the amount of salt and other seasonings slightly
  • Use foods and pickles fermented for a shorter period of time
  • Include wild grasses, sprouts, and varieties of grain that have matured over the winter.   (Wheat and barley have lighter energy than other grains.)
  • Add green onions and chives to your soups and other dishes

Thanksgiving photos

Preparing holiday meals with seasonal ingredients makes for fresh and vibrant food.  Here is a sampling of some of the dishes I cooked this Thanksgiving in various stages of preparation.

The Dirty Dozen & Clean 15, 2014

If you’re wanting to eat more organic produce but are on a tight budget, the Environmental Working Group has published a list of foods that you should definitely buy organic due to the high amounts of pesticide residue, and a list of the those items that are safe to buy conventionally.

Why is it important to eat more organic produce?

Pesticides are implicated in various health issues such as disrupting brain development, behavioral issues, cancer, and the decline of honey bees. Pesticide exposure is more detrimental for children because the dose they receive is more concentrated due to their smaller bodies.

The list includes:

The Dirty Dozen

Produce that should be purchased organically:

1. apples
2. strawberries
3. grapes
4. celery
5. peaches
6. spinach
7. sweet bell peppers
8. nectarines
9. cucumbers
10. cherry tomatoes
11. snap peas
12. potatoes

…plus lettuce, collards, & kale
…plus blueberries and cherries
…plus summer squash & zucchini

See the full list

The Clean Fifteen

Produce that is safe to purchase conventionally:

1. avocados
2. sweet corn
3. pineapples
4. cabbage
5. frozen sweet peas
6. onions
7. asparagus
8. mangoes
9. papayas
10. kiwis
11. eggplant
12. grapefruit
13. cantaloupe
14. cauliflower
15. sweet potatoes

Farm-to-table yoga event

My birthday was not too long ago and my wonderful friend SH gave me one of the best gifts I’ve ever gotten.  She bought a seat for me at Yogarden’s Farm-to-Table & Yoga events held at Green Row Farms and I went with my other friend GS.  GS & I stopped on the way at Sweet Home Waimanalo to get some lemonade and then we made our way into the back roads of Waimanalo. When you show up, you get a farm tour and learn about permaculture design methods, do yoga outside looking at the Ko’olau mountains to live music, and then eat a delicious plant-based meal with community. The theme for this dinner was Cajun/Creole and my friend Jennifer Hee was one of the people preparing the meal for about 40 people. Since we were dining by starlight & candles only, it was too dark to get any food photos, but an example of one of the farm-to-table dishes was corn that was grown, dried, and then milled in Waihole and then cooked for us at this event into polenta. Yummy! Since I’ve been working a lot, it was truly inspiring and rejuvenating for the soul.

Big Island Personal Chef Work

Recently, I’ve had the super fun opportunity to travel to the Big Island for work. It’s an adventure to fly in, source the ingredients (and in the process, get to know the health food store Big Island Naturals), and then cook.  If you’re on a neighbor island and interested in having me cook for you, please drop me a line!

Hurricane Ready in a Whole Foods Home

Last week, Hawai’i was warned that two hurricanes, Iselle and Julio, were expected to hit the islands over the weekend.  From what it looked like in the weather projections, Iselle in particular was heading right for us, and this would be the first time in about 20 years that a hurricane would make landfall.  In these cases, civil defense and the weather service can let us know in advance to prepare.  I take these warnings seriously and definitely hope for the best yet prepare for the worst.  We’ve been lucky here so far on O’ahu that we haven’t had more damage, for example, with the recent tsunami warnings and hurricane season runs until November.

Even by the Tuesday preceding the weekend when it was predicted to hit us, supplies like water were completely sold out in the regular drug stores, grocery stores, and Costco.  I had already decided that it would be better to stock up on food and supplies in the event that it would be very serious, but what could I purchase that were appropriate for an emergency situation and yet still fit my value of healthy eating?

Here’s what I ended up with:

BATTERIES: For my 2 flashlights

CANDLES: Reminds me of growing up living summers off the grid for months with my family in Northern Idaho. (My family still does this, but they now have electricity!)

GAS for my car.  I don’t have a battery operated radio at this time so my car would have to charge my cell phone and be my radio.

BUTANE gas for portable gas stoves. They’re called “hurricane stoves” for a reason.

WATER: While everyone was upset that the town was “sold out”, the health food store sold empty gallon jugs that you could purchase and fill up for $.50/gallon with purified water, so I got 4 and then took all my large cooking stock pots and cooler and filled those up with water.

CANNED FOOD: I don’t usually purchase canned foods, with the exception of canned beans, but if there is no electricity to keep the refrigerator cold, then simple things are important.  I ended up getting a variety of organic soups that had the fewest ingredients possible. I’ll keep them through hurricane season and then I can always donate them during a canned food drive.

PACKAGED FOOD: Organic miso and vegetable ramen, soy milk, packets of Korean nori (these never last long in my house and were gone before the hurricane arrived), fig newtons, rice crackers, bread, organic peanut butter and 100% fruit jam. I had 2 bars of dark chocolate, but decided to go back and get a third. (Priorities!)

DRIED FOODS: Dried fruits and nuts like raisins, dates, apricots, and almonds.  Cous cous cooks quickly and easily, and so does oatmeal, so I stocked up on those grains.

FRESH PRODUCE: Kale and other green veggies are growing in my garden, but I bought things like apples, sweet potatoes, and carrots, which are all things that can store easily if the electricity were to go out.

Before the storm hit I did some cooking, but it was very simple preparation, like steamed sweet potatoes, hummus, and a lot of broccoli.

Luckily, we dodged a bullet, and currently, we are out of the danger of these two hurricanes. Wishing you a safe and healthy hurricane season.

Brain Food

summerblueberriesbrainfoodBlueberries protect your brain because of the flavonoids they contain.  The blue color is a flavonoid called an anthocyanin.  According to the American Academy of Neurology, those who ate foods with anthocyanins were less likely to develop Parkinson’s disease. Other anthocyanin rich foods are eggplant, plums, bananas (yep), red cabbage, kidney and black beans, peaches, and cherries.

A Beautiful Summer: Naturally

Keep your skin healthy in summer (and year ’round) with these beneficial plant foods:

Vitamin A
Butternut squash
Sweet Potatoes

Benefits: Improves skin texture and reduces age spots.

Vitamin C
Bell peppers
Brussels sprouts

Benefits: Key to the production of collagen (which keeps skin firm)

Vitamin E
Leafy Greens (beet greens, chard, mustard greens, spinach, & turnip tops)
Nuts and Seeds

Benefits: Helps protect and repair skin, and reduces redness and irritation

Adapted from Whole Living, July/Aug 2011

Roy’s Waikiki – Vegan Prix Fixe 2

When my parents are here, it’s a tradition to dine at Roy’s and my favorite one is the Waikiki location because they have a vegan prix fixe menu available.  This was the new menu they had since the last time I was there.

Cauliflower Soup
Cauliflower Soup

Vietnamese Buns with Portabellos
Vietnamese Buns with Portabellos and Spicy Dipping Sauce

Eggplant Tempura over Somen Noodles
Eggplant Tempura over Somen Noodles

Blueberry Coconut "Cheesecake"
Blueberry Coconut “Cheesecake” and Berry Sorbet

There was no way to eat all the food so the cheesecake was my treat for the next couple of days.  I love going back to see what new creations they are cooking up!