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

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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.”

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

osechi plated final

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

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!

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!

 

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

Year in Review: 2013

One of my favorite things to do at the end of the year is to review my accomplishments.  It’s important to validate one’s progress and also set new goals.

For me, 2013 brought gifts and challenges, and overall was very experimental, as I had lost my regular space for cooking classes and sought other options. This opened the door for new offerings.  A few of the wonderful things looking back at 2013 have been:

  • 3 pop-ups at TASTE in Kaka’ako (Detox, Vegan Ramen, and Cinco de Mayo)
  • A mention in Modern Luxury, Hawai’i
  • Writing an article for Edible Hawaiian Islands (which comes out 1/2014)
  • Giving a talk for The Vegetarian Society of Hawai’i (Compassionate Activism) on O’ahu and Maui
  • New cooking classes (Thanks SH for providing your home for several of them!)
  • Partnering with the University of Oregon Alumni Association, Hawai’i Chapter for a fabulous food and wine event at CookSpace
  • Acquiring some simply amazing new customers
  • Expanding my coaching
  • Cooking for someone who makes a big difference for a lot of people in our world (maybe some day I can say who that was!)
  • Perhaps most important of all, making new friends and having a lot more fun than in previous years.

Thank you so much for being a part of this community!

Happy holidays and see you in 2014.

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