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

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Pulse photos via Ecocentric Blog

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Red foods photo via PCRM

Kula, Maui strawberries
Kula, Maui strawberries

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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.”

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

osechi plated final

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.

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!

Eat Well, Live Well

I always wanted to be a contributing author to edible Hawaiian Islands and this dream came true with the launch party that happened in early 2014 at Taste.

The name of my featured article is Eat Well, Live Well: A Game Plan for Health

edible Jawaiian Islands Jan - Mar 2014

The photography (and actually everything) in this issue is really spectacular.  So professional! All the articles are a very interesting read, with the entire content focusing both on health and sourcing local.

Game Plan for Health

The party itself was a lot of fun in the pop-up restaurant space Taste in Kaka’ako. I provided vegan brown rice sushi for pupus (appetizers).  Here is what people were saying about the day…

leslie reading article

Here I am seeing the article in print for the very first time.

dania leeann leslie

That’s Chef Lee Ann Wong behind me who was featured on Bravo’s Top Chef in the background nibbling my “sushi butts” as she called them, as I sliced everything for the other guests in attendance. Next to me is Dania Katz, the brilliant woman in charge of the magazine (and who organized the launch party).

jenn's pic of leslie's sushi

This photo (above) means a lot to me because it’s from Jennifer Hee of Kale’s Deli who is a brilliant vegan baker and chef herself!  Anyone on the east side of the island, go check out their menu.

kim shibata instagram

melissa808 instagram

Special Vegan Dining Experience

This weekend I joined the women of Les Dames d’Escoffier, Hawai’i Chapter, to celebrate their birthday at the Sheraton Waikiki. The original menu was not something that I would have normally eaten, so the Dames President of the Hawai’i chapter arranged for me to get a special vegan course menu, and it was absolutely scrumptious. I felt completely spoiled and so happy to be out enjoying such a tasty and special meal as this is more difficult to find here in Honolulu. The course was prepared by the Executive Sous Chef Colin Hazama and his team.

Maui Ag Festival

The Maui Ag Festival took place on Saturday, April 6th, at the Maui Tropical Plantation. I flew over for my first neighbor island trip that I’ve had in a little while so that I could explore what’s happening with food, farming, and education, getting ideas and inspiration. The festival was spread out over the land and had several tents filled with various vendors covering the following topics: Ag in the Classroom, A History of Coffee in Hawaii, Grown on Maui (or in other words, a gigantic farmer’s market), Grand Taste Education (many of the islands best chefs participated), Flowers, Keiki Zone, Livestock, and Localicious, Eat Maui food vendors). Hopefully, I’ll be able to convey at least some of the highlights of this well-organized, super-exciting event.

Social Media & Smiles – I’m a big social media geek. Some people think social media is impersonal, but it has been one of the best ways for me to meet new people throughout the community. For years, I have talked with various people on Twitter and Facebook prior to meeting them, and upon arriving, found and met them for the first time, or reconnected with others who I frequently chat with, but don’t often get to see IRL (in real life). It was like a giant Tweetup! We ate and talked, talked and ate. It was a sweltering hot day, and we were melting, so we hid out under this tent as much as possible.

Some of the attendees that I was excited to see and meet were (not pictured, as she was really busy working), (just below, who organizes spectacular ), and . I was also so excited to see that was there and she introduced me to a number of new people (like cute farmers and chefs. Thanks Melissa!). Pictured in the group photo are Peter, Dawn of , , Melissa, and .

and Marilyn are here, on the left.

There are so many more people there that I met and talked with, and connecting with everyone was probably my favorite part of the whole day. The festival ran from 9 am to 4 pm and I was there drinking in every possible moment of it.

If you take a look at and photographs, the first thing that jumps out to me is that everyone is smiling!

More Multi-Sensory Moments – When I landed in the airport, I grabbed all the free touristy magazines I could to see what was happening on the island. I made a list of restaurants that I might want to try or chefs that were notable, and I was happy to see that they were pretty much all featured at the festival as part of the Grand Taste Education, in which chefs were paired with farmers to create dishes with local ingredients. We spent $30 and went to 12 different booths to get samples of the food that they were preparing. I requested vegetarian versions of everything so I could sample the flavors and presentation. Better descriptions are on Melissa’s where she got video of all the details.

carrot tempura (yes, carrots!!)

taro cake over macnut pesto, beets, and salt/pepper marshmallow

ulu, sweet potato leaves, and micro-greens

I also got to meet Chef Sheldon who was recently featured on Top Chef, James Simpliciano of KupuMaui, and saw Brian Schatz.

Chef Sheldon

Walking around, I was breathing in the smells of the Taste Education food cooking, the food from other local vendors, the smell of flowers, fruits, and vegetables, as well as the feast for the eyes of colorful and ornamental displays. I ate popsicles made with island fruit and drank strawberry lemonade to cool down and quench my thirst.

Family Fun

What I also loved seeing was all the chefs hanging out with their families, including their children who came to support them during the Taste Education event. Many local families were there taking part in the fun which seemed like a great way to spend the day, train rides and all.

P??ia

The rest of my time was spent reading books, soaking up sun and surf at a gorgeous villa close to Mana foods in P??ia town, shopping and eating even more, including lilikoi gelato!

Sunset Breeze Villa

This trip was a much-needed getaway and inspirational learning adventure.

My Madre Chocolate Farm Tour

I chose Madre Chocolate to include in my Vegan Mexican Pop-up Dinner after learning all about how they make the chocolate bean to bar. They are very supportive of fair and clean food from the farmers to their own production. I’m so excited to use their Xoconusco chocolate in my mole sauce!

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Vanilla beans

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A cacao tree on the Windward side

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Another cacao tree on the same farm

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Dave was telling us about lilikoi which they also use in their chocolate

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Cacao seeds are purple on the inside before they are fermented and roasted.

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Dave was explaining about the roasting process

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Here’s a close-up of the cacao pod, roasted beans, vanilla, and cocoa butter.

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Some of the finished product on display for sale in their Kailua shop.

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Grinding the cacao takes days!

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Dave, pouring the chocolate into molds

Learn more about the dinner on my EVENT PAGE

Eventbrite - Mexican Pop-Up Dinner

What is mole anyway?

“What is mole? Mole generically means “sauce”. Modern mole is a mixture of ingredients from three continents, North America, Europe and Africa, making it the first international dish created in the Americas. Moles come in various flavors and ingredients, with chili peppers as the common factor. The ingredients are all roasted and ground into a fine powder or paste depending on the ingredients used. This roasting and grinding process is extremely laborious and if done by hand, takes at least a day. Traditionally, this work was shared by several generations of women in the family, but after the arrival of electric mills, it became more common to take the ingredients to be ground. Moles made in families are all different, as each has had its own varieties passed down for generations, with the making of it reserved for special events in large batches.” (From Wikipedia)

I first had enchiladas al mole when I lived in Eugene, OR. There is a large Mexican population there so the restaurants are amazing, and my dear friend Mario (and his wife Jenny) used to treat me to his mole and homemade salsa while we listened to salsa music from all over the world.  I’ll be serving this tasty sauce over a pinto bean burrito, with a side of MA’O Organic Farms Sassy Salad.

xoconusco

Learn more on the EVENT PAGE

or

Eventbrite - Mexican Pop-Up Dinner