The love of cooking was something I inherited from my mother.  Her home-baked breads and other goodies were served up daily at family dinners.  Our friends were always eager to come to our table.


In 1971, I married my best friend Les, with his three beautiful children, two of which were already teenagers.  After a few months, I resigned my office job and took up home duties full-time.  During that first year, I read a book that sparked my interest in health and nutrition, and for the next 10 years our journey would take us from a diet of some meat, lots of cheese, milk, eggs, and copious amounts of refined food into a whole new way of thinking and eating.  I became inspired to take the familiar family favorites and make them into health-giving family favorites.  Our weekly homemade gooey, sugary, white, frosted cinnamon rolls became lovely tender whole-grain, date, and maple pecan rolls (see recipe under “breads”). These have become not only a favorite of our family, but a favorite for the people across the country who purchased my cookbooks or attended my cooking classes!

Unlike our sweet baby girl who had the privilege of growing up vegan, the path wasn’t always easy for us as we re-educated our taste buds.  However, these changes brought us improved health and greater eating enjoyment than our previous lifestyle ever had. The term, “plant-based” was still decades away, but my passion grew daily as research continued to confirm the benefits of a whole-food lifestyle.  We didn’t have the advantage of all the packaged “health” foods which were yet to come, so we made our own milk, soy-almond-rice.  It was delicious!  The fun of creating good food and recipes has never waned–not for one day. We have continued this journey for 50 years.

I started working with physicians and teaching plant-based cooking classes — large and small, community based and private. Then I began working with the Coronary Health Improvement Program (CHIP), now called (Complete health Improvement Program) which serves people in many countries.  It teaches how to prevent and reverse lifestyle diseases.  I was able to share plant-based culinary skills needed by the clients in local chapters and oversee the hotel chefs for CHIP conferences and cruises.  It was very gratifying to see lives saved and chronic diseases reversed as people learned they can be in charge of their own destiny through their lifestyle choices.


Les has been very instrumental in all my work, supporting, encouraging – and yes, being the first to taste all my creations.  He has also reaped the results: at 86 years old, he has no need for medications, continues to be active, and exhibits physical stamina that belies his years as he pursues his ongoing love of rebuilding vehicles.   I continue to create recipes for health promotion projects. We both delight in what we do, and it is our prayer that the recipes and tips shared here will be a blessing to you.

Please take time to enjoy life, gather for family meals, exercise, drink water, eat good food, bask in the sunshine, learn to love, be at peace with your neighbor and stay on the journey.


Heather Leno