The plant based nurse

My family's excellent adventure to better health!


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Delaware and Hudson…more than a meal!

How often do you have a meal that makes you fall in love with the chef? Words cannot adequately describe the experience we had last evening thanks to Chef Patti Jackson at Delaware and Hudson  in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn NY.

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Chef Patti grew up in Clarks Summit, PA, the community where we also grew up, raised our children, and still reside. We were so excited when we heard she was opening her own restaurant in NY and we finally had a chance to go and sample her creations. Patti’s grandfather worked for the Delaware and Hudson railway and her American cuisine is named for the canal system, gravity railroad, coal line and passenger trains that served the Northeast in the 19th and early 20th centuries. I love the history behind the venue and the vision that went into planning not only the menu but the warm atmosphere in the 35 seat tavern and the 38 seat restaurant.

The menu at Delaware and Hudson changes weekly, reflecting the availability of local ingredients from farms and markets in the surrounding area and you can read about the farms that supply the restaurant on its website.

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My husband, Scott, and I were impressed by the attention to detail at every turn, starting with the reservation process. When is the last time you were asked if you had any special dietary needs or restrictions when you called for restaurant reservations? Not only was the person answering the phone not ruffled by our request for a meal free of animal products, he said it was no problem. Patti had told us her restaurant was vegan friendly, but we have been told that before, only to find later that the people in the kitchen didn’t really understand what it meant. Patti not only contacted me to make sure we had no food allergies or restrictions, but also helped us find the best route to her restaurant by way of the East Side ferry.  We boarded the ferry at Pier 11 in the Wall Street area and got off at the North Williamsburg stop and were in the Delaware and Hudson neighborhood after only a 5-10 min walk, literally straight from the pier down N 5th St. The ferry ride afforded us fantastic views of the city, the Hudson River, and the Brooklyn Bridge. We were also fortunate to have a picture perfect day with glorious weather on our side.

When we arrived at Delaware and Hudson after some browsing and shopping in the block around the restaurant, we were greeted by a friendly young man and decided to have a beer before dinner in the tavern. The bar was made from gorgeous reclaimed wood with the original distressed painted finish left in place. Patti even took a few minutes to catch up with us before dinner. If you think you can’t afford a drink in NY or that you can only get expensive pretentious drafts, think again! Delaware and Hudson has fine beers on the menu but for down home folks from NEPA who love local drafts that won’t break your pocketbook, she offers Yuengling lager and even Genesee Cream Ale!

Now, to attempt to describe the food which was like a dream, an out of body experience even, that left us looking forward to coming back for more…

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The first thing that came to the table was Patti’s famous pretzel rolls. She was worried we wouldn’t enjoy the vegan version without the butter and milk. My husband was head over heels for this crisp roll with a soft chewy center, remarking that it was the best thing he had ever eaten! Right after the rolls, came this beautiful tomato and melon salad which was refreshing and delicious. We thought the tiny green slices were green tomatoes but their mild tartness stumped us. It turns out they were Mexican sour gherkins that look like baby watermelons before slicing!

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Next were fried zucchini blossoms with a basil pesto. My husband enjoyed them and the presentation was beautiful. Patti  did a great job of minimizing the oil in all of the other dishes, but I’m not sure how one could make these blossoms without oil unless you had an air fryer.

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Next up was a warm bean salad with red peppers that had just the right blend of sweet and spicy. This was not your mother’s traditional three bean salad but had enough of the traditional flavor to make you feel right at home.

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This beautiful plate was pickled perfection with a burst of creative genius! Along with the crispest pickles I have ever eaten, there were fresh beets and ramps. I had never eaten ramps and the ramps were mild and sweet and a like “a party on the taste buds” according to my husband. If you look closely, you will see some dimpled tan gems on the plate. These were green Tristar strawberries. Patti chose them for the crunchiness afforded by the little seeds. Brilliant!

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This pretty plate of bruschetta was a taste explosion of mushrooms on a delicious and crisp bread with fresh micro greens. Incredible!

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Many local Italian restaurants in Northeast PA serve a pasta course, but I have never had gnocchi like this! They were like pillows from heaven with a balanced but striking basil flavor  with cherry tomatoes that were ripened perfectly, and topped with edible blossoms that added amazing flavor and texture to the dish and were a delight to the eye! Patti’s experience with pasta was evident on this plate.

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Just when we thought we were nearing the finish line, this incredible bowl arrived before us. This was the creamiest polenta with the freshest and most flavorful tomatoes and zucchini, topped with the mildest broccoli rabe we have ever eaten with no hint of harshness or bitter aftertaste. It was as if Patti had reached into my soul and made all of my favorite things in one dish. My husband also loved it and I kept thinking that if I told him I was making this dish at home, he would probably be wishing we had Chinese take out. It shows what an educated and experienced chef can do with the simplest, yet most incredible ingredients to make a show stopping dish!

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When this dish arrived, my husband was envisioning chef Patti in the berry field, choosing each lovely small, sweet berry with her own hands. Her attention to detail gives you the feeling of love and care for each ingredient and for the people who will be nourished by her food. When you have excellent ingredients, you don’t need fancy embellishments. The food is the main event.

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We had no expectation of any vegan sweets and would have been satisfied with the gorgeous berries we had just eaten, and then this floated onto our table! Chocolate with pink peppercorns and sea salt, popped sorghum, and strawberry gel candy. These small bites were a perfect ending to a perfect evening and we can’t wait to go back and bring our kids and their partners! We also hope more of our classmates will take the easy two hour drive to Brooklyn to have this experience and share it with us. Patti has something for everyone! We cannot express how grateful we were for how special our meal was and how she accommodated our lifestyle.

You can follow chef Patti on Instagram @delawareandhudson and on Facebook, too!

Remember to have fun with your food and enjoy!


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Can we be overweight and healthy?

This is a touchy subject but I’m going to dive in. I often hear people say, “You can be healthy and overweight.” By the same token, I have taken care of many thin folks over the years with end stage heart disease and other lifestyle related chronic illness, so it appears it may not be all about our weight. This is on my mind since I read this passage in Dr Michael Greger’s book, How Not to Die:

“Because those eating high-fat diets are absorbing so much fat into their bloodstreams from their digestive tract, the level of free fat in their blood is as high as someone who’s grossly obese. Similarly, being obese can be like gorging on bacon or butter all day even if you are actually eating healthfully. That’s because an obese person’s body may be constantly spilling fat into the bloodstream, regardless of what goes into the mouth. No matter what the source of fat in your blood, as fat levels rise, your ability to clear sugar from the blood drops due to insulin resistance–the cause of type 2 diabetes.”

I found this fascinating and came across an article from Harvard University that talks about the concept of the metabolically healthy obese, however, it does note the condition is uncommon and that we can’t discount the risks of joint damage, Sleep apnea and the risk for several cancers that come with obesity even in those who may meet the criteria for being metabolically healthy and obese.

The easiest way I know to lose weight and reduce your risk for chronic illness that is sustainable, delicious, and fun is a plant-based lifestyle!

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Remember to have fun with your food and enjoy!


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Engine 2 Immersions: Enrich, enjoy, and get your discount here!

Whether you’ve been eating a plant-based diet for years or you’re just plant curious, an Engine 2 Immersion could be just the place for you! I just returned from a magical weekend at The Esselstyn family farm in the Hudson Valley in NY at a 2Forks Event produced by Engine 2 and Forks over Knives. We heard incredible speakers with invaluable information about the why and how plant-based eating prevents and reverses disease. We heard inspiring stories of recovery and self discovery from illness and addiction and met athletes who have achieved incredible goals, all with the power of plants.

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If hearing from and rubbing elbows with the plant-based experts and celebrities isn’t enough to entice you, think for a moment about the delicious plant-based food you will enjoy without having to ask what’s in it or if they can make you a special dish without oil.

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For most of us, just knowing all the right information isn’t enough. A 2Forks Immersion will also give you the practical tools you need to continue your plant-based adventure after you leave. With cooking demonstrations and talks that will give you insight into why it’s so hard to do the right thing for your health since the wrong thing feels so right, you will head for home empowered to make good choices and take your health into your own hands, or should I say your own fork!

Perhaps best of all, you will spend time making new friends and maybe even catching up with other plant-based friends you have met on social media. I find it fascinating to meet the real people behind the online personas and meet people from all around the country and the world. The experts will graciously sign your books, answer your questions, and sometimes even sit with you to listen to the other speakers.

You will leave tired but inspired, educated, and nourished.

You still have two weekend opportunities for fun with Engine 2 and Forks over Knives  this year and one coming up next spring!

Dallas

September 30th – October 2nd 2016

Cleveland

October 28th – October 30th 2016

Pasadena

March 24th –March 26th 2017.

$50 Off Full Weekend Pass using code: BEETS50

2Forks Immersion – Seven Day Retreat 

Mago Retreat Center in Sedona, Arizona

October 3rd-9th 2016

Not only will 2Forks provide incredible plant-based meals to fuel you, but you’ll also experience a full menu of activities: hands-on cooking demos, yoga, hiking on one of the country’s “Top 10 Most Scenic Trails,” a stargazing party, bonfires, live music, plus a few other surprises.

$150 Off Immersion using code: BEETS150 

Visit 2ForksEvents.com .com to Register Today!

And remember to have fun with your food and enjoy!

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Meet Debbie! “I don’t want to be in that stent club.”

I met Debbie in August of 2015 at a plant-based potluck I attend in Tunkhannock, PA. She had been invited by her friend and chiropractor, Virginia Fennelly, who was encouraging her to improve her diet and her lifestyle. Debbie had a long rap sheet of health problems and was making  great strides to shorten that list.

In 2014, Debbie saw her primary MD and discussed her concern about her family history of heart disease. She passed all of the screening tests, but her cholesterol was elevated at 200 and she had an uneasy feeling that something wasn’t quite right. When she saw the cardiologist, she was getting ready to leave when she mentioned that she had been getting short of breath climbing stairs. The cardiologist decided Debbie needed a cardiac catheterization and found a major blockage. He was able to perform a stent to relieve the blockage and restore blood flow.  Like most, Debbie thought her heart problem was fixed but she was frustrated that she had to take 40 mg of a statin as her cholesterol was still elevated.

Debbie had always steered clear of fast food and drive through windows, cooked her own food, and cultivated veggies in her garden. She had the tools she needed to make changes along with a strong desire to reverse her heart disease and lower her cholesterol. When Debbie told me she couldn’t understand why she couldn’t improve her numbers, the confidence of Dr. Esselstyn  came over me and I urged Debbie to to go all in, to go 100% plant-based, as dramatic changes can lead to dramatic and wonderful health improvements. I explained that she might see small improvements making gradual changes, but that the best and most exciting  things can happen when we make the biggest changes. I didn’t know Debbie and kept waiting for her to tell me to stop babbling, but she listened patiently while I asked her to look up Dr. Esselstyn on Youtube, grab a copy of his book, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, and if she could afford it, a copy of The Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease cookbook, and come back in a month and let me know how she was doing with plant-based living.

Debbie took my scribbled notes, went home and went in 100%! She came back the next month to the plant-based pot luck and when I asked her how she was doing, she told me that she was following Dr. Esselstyn’s plan and she had already lost 20 lbs and felt great! At her primary MD appointment 3 months into her lifestyle change, she told the doctor she had lost 50 lbs and she looked at her skeptically and told her to get on the scale. She was blown away by Debbie’s results. It has now been 10 months since Debbie and I met and she has lost over 50 lbs, lowered her cholesterol to 148, her triglycerides to 137 and reduced her statin to 20 mg. Her next check up is in 2 months and she is hoping to get permission to ditch the statin!

Beyond improving her numbers, Debbie is feeling fantastic! She has noticed her energy level has greatly improved and she is saving money on her grocery bills. She says the standard American diet “sure wasn’t cheaper because that stent cost $100,000.” She also noticed that “there is no vegetable that I’m paying $7.99/lb for!” She tells people that eating more fruits and veggies can be more expensive if you’re adding them to the already expensive meat and dairy, but once you ditch those expensive items, it all works out. She is excited she was able to give up dairy as she felt it was her enemy. She remembers going to her father’s home after he died and seeing the empty milk carton right next to his heartburn medication and recently realized her heartburn has completely gone!

Debbie has become an advocate for the plant-based lifestyle and sets a great example of health and vitality for her family and friends. She is saddened when she hears people sharing how many stents they have with one another. She wants them to know that they can prevent risky, expensive procedures just by making some simple changes to their diets.

Finally, Debbie says, “I think it’s the way to go because I don’t want to be in that stent club!”

If you’d like permission to go all in, improve your energy, and most importantly, stay out of the stent club, just do it! Then come back here and let us know how you did it and how you’re doing!

Remember to have fun with your food and enjoy!


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Ain’t no party like a Scranton party!

‘Cause a Scranton party don’t stop! If you’re a fan of the show The Office, then you may remember this Michael Scott and Dwight Shrute version of a 90s rap song by Coolio.

I am excited and proud to say that there ain’t no plant-based party like a Scranton party and this April there are plenty of plant-based events for all!

Our plant-based extravaganza started with an article in The The Scranton Times  April 3rd about my efforts to spread the word about the health benefits of plant-based eating and our local group, The Scranton Beets.  It was humbling to be able to tell my story and I hope that it raises awareness in an area which has so many good folks with chronic illness that are preventable with lifestyle changes.

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Today when I got to work, someone in my department told me that a plant-based recipe won the recipe contest in the newspaper, Local Flavor: Recipes we love, and to check it out when I got home. I was thrilled to see that Nadia Naismith Dailey  not only shared a delicious recipe for chickpea salad, but  that she also talked about how her father adopted a plant-based diet for his heart disease which inspired her creativity in the kitchen.

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On the heels of all this wonderful press for plant-based eating, tomorrow evening, April 7th at The University of Scranton, there will be a screening of the life-changing documentary, Forks over Knives, sponsored by The Greenhouse Project at Nay Aug. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the movie starts at 7 p.m. There will be plant-based refreshments, too!

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The next event will be a come and go as you please event with displays about plant-based eating, including busting myths about plant-based diets,  tips for families, tasty food samples and resources about how to get started. There will be experienced plant-based people available to answer questions from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at The Abington Community Library, Saturday April 9th. Screenshot (11).png

On Sunday, April 10th and the 2nd Sunday of every month,  P-BEG (Plant-Based Eating Group) holds a potluck meal at St Peter’s Episcopal Church, Tunkhannock, PA. This is a great no-judgement zone to try out plant-based eating, enjoy a delicious meal, and meet people who have improved their health through their food choices.

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Next is a double header! Two plant-based giants back to back in the Electric City! First is a visit by Dr. T. Colin Campbell, author of The China Study, on Wednesday April 19th sponsored by the Exercise Science Club at the University of Scranton. There will be a screening of the documentary, Plant Pure Nation, followed by a Q & A session with Dr. Campbell.

PPN screening April 19th

The next day, just a few blocks away at The Commonwealth Medical College, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn Jr will be giving two lectures about reversal of heart disease with plant-based nutrition. The 12:15 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. lectures are free and you can RSVP online. Not only will you be informed, educated and entertained by Dr. Esselstyn, but you will also meet his wife Ann, who will give a lively presentation about the How, Why, and Wow of Plant-based eating! The evening will end with a beautiful plant-based meal at The Colonnade. We had a preview of the food in March and the meal was not only delicious but the presentation was stellar!

Dr. Esselstyn lecture 12 pm

The last event for April is Empowered Eating, a group led by Kathy Reap at the Greenhouse Project at Nay Aug. The group meets on the fourth Tues of every month for support and education from 7-8:00 p.m. and is open to those who want to learn about plant-based eating, those who are seeking like-minded people to share ideas and recipes,  and anyone who would like to taste some delectable dishes.

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So, if you live in or near The Electric City and you are plant curious, plant strong, or just want to learn how to add more healthy dishes to your repertoire, come visit us in April!

Remember to have fun with your food and enjoy!

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Puttanesca in a Pinch!

pastaOne of my husband’s favorite dishes is Pasta Puttanesca. He loves everything about it–the pasta, the salty flavor from the olives and capers, and the sauce. To him, it’s the total package. He even tells the servers at our favorite local Italian restaurant, La Trattoria, that he dreams about this dish.

I decided since this dish seemed fairly straightforward, I would try to recreate it at home one evening when I was at a loss for what to fix for dinner. I had everything except capers, and I knew it wouldn’t be the same without the homemade pasta at La Trattoria, but even if I messed it up, how bad could it really be? So here is my “recipe” for Puttanesca in a pinch. I used miso to replace the anchovies used in some recipes and also the extra saltiness of the capers. If you need to restrict sodium due to heart disease or hypertension, just leave it out. If you prefer a smoother sauce, use crushed tomatoes instead of whole tomatoes. In the summer, this would rock with fresh tomatoes!

Puttanesca in a Pinch

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic, minced or chopped
  • 2-3 tablespoons of oregano
  • 1 – 28 oz can of whole plum or San Marzano tomatoes (low sodium)
  • 1/2 of a 10 oz bottle of pitted Kalamata olives, slice olives in 1/2
  • 1/2-1 tsp of miso
  • 1 lb of whole grain pasta of your choosing
  • A few shakes of crushed red pepper
  1. Start a nice big pot of water boiling for your pasta and add it when it comes to a rolling boil. When the pasta is done to Al dente, drain it and set it aside.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, place a small amount of water or veggie broth in a big skillet, heat it up and add the onions and garlic and sauté a few min until soft. You can also start them with no liquid and just add a small amount if they stick.
  3. Add the oregano, crushed red pepper, and olives and heat quickly.
  4. Here’s the fun part. Warning, this is messy. I love the feel of the tomatoes in my hands so I just pluck them out of the can and use a paring knife and roughly chop them as I add them to the pan. Then add the extra juice from the can.
  5. Heat the sauce through or cook it down a little if you prefer, then add the pasta, coat the pasta with the sauce, sprinkle with nutritional yeast if you like,  and serve!

Tips:

If you add capers, just add them near the end and leave out the miso. You can add some of the brine from the bottle also if sodium is not an issue for you.

Serve with a big salad or you can even add some greens in your sauce if you love greens as much as I do. They will make your arteries sing!

Don’t fuss over this dish!  It will be delicious in its simplicity and is difficult to ruin.

It is even better the next day leftover!

Remember to have fun with your food and enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Field trip, friends, and great food!

Yesterday was a sunny day full of new experiences , good food,  great discussions and chance meetings with old friends. A few weeks ago my husband and I decided we were going to take a day to visit many of the ethnic markets in Scranton since we love Indian,
Asian, and Mexican dishes and the wonderful spices and herbs that give them their fabulous flavor.

Before we headed out on our field trip, we made a stop at the South Side Farmers Market. The indoor market is open during the winter and has a variety of vendors with cheese, eggs, hard cider, greenhouse fresh veggies, pickled beets and zucchini, fresh juice, and more.

 

Our first market visit was to La Mexicanita on Cedar Ave in walking distance from the farmers market. We found baskets of dried Chiles, many dried spices, fresh herbs and veggies. They also had some baked goods  and a variety of dried and canned beans and rice. The woman who helped us was friendly and this was a great start to our adventure.

Next we visited Garcia’s Market on Pittston Ave in South Scranton and found many of the same products and I was intrigued by the Chicharrones de Harina that we saw in both of the Hispanic markets. They are  wagon wheel shaped puffed wheat that is fried and then covered with lime juice and salsa and is a popular Mexican street food. I thought maybe they were tomato pasta because of the color, but the package listed red and yellow food coloring. I wonder if there is a healthy version of this snack. I love lime and salsa but try to avoid fried foods. Fried pork rinds also was available in large quantities.

Our next stop was the Hill Section of Scranton and we visited P&P Oriental Groceries and Gifts. It was a tiny store but we found many varieties of rice, including red rice, dried mushrooms, Asian noodles, and a few fresh foods and chili sauces.

One of our favorite stops was at Shiv Shakti market on Ash Street. They had huge bags of basmati rice which is my husband’s favorite and some unfamiliar fresh and frozen veggies we will have to try soon. We picked up some crunchy, spicy, roasted chickpeas for my husband.

We found pickled turmeric and since turmeric is so great for you, we decided to try it, When we opened it at home we found it spicy, slightly sweet, sour and very tasty!

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We also found blocks of sugar cane at both the Mexican and Indian markets. In the Indian market, it was called kolhapri gur.

Sugar cane

Here’s a video of how the sugar cane is cooked in a small factory in India and placed into molds.

While checking out at Shiv Shakti, my husband was talking to the owner about how we have been learning to make some Indian dishes and love the cuisine and he told us about a café they just opened 2 weeks ago called Shiv Shakti Chat House. Since it was lunchtime and we were only a couple of blocks away, we had to check it out!

Chat House sign

The owner of the chat house, Rita, couldn’t have been more helpful AND all of the menu items are vegetarian and only one had dairy! It was great to have more than one choice and we ordered two dishes which were unfamiliar, Sev Usad and Pav Bhaji with biryani. We also ordered Samosa chat, a house specialty. I misunderstood and thought the Samosa was baked and not fried but was mistaken. It was presented in a bowl with a wonderful spicy mix on top with chickpea and onions, tomatoes and spices. The food was fantastic and the spices were just right. Despite the sign out front that said “We serve delicious vegetarian fast food,” everything was homemade except the bread they served on the  side. If you live locally, you will just have to visit for yourself to see how delicious the food is! There was nothing fancy or pretentious about the place, just good hot, spicy, flavorful food and you can watch Indian TV on a big screen from the loft where the guests sit.

Our last stop on our tour was at Shivam Grocery Store on Capouse Ave. Again, we found large bags of all kinds of rice and some great sounding whole wheat multigrain flour.

 

So, we found that while not all of the items in the ethnic markets were healthy, it was a lot of fun to browse and pick up some new finds. Many of the items were also cheaper than in the grocery store.

I had a great afternoon planning a  plant-based educational event with my friend Kathy, then received a surprise call from another friend about an upcoming visit from Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn Jr to Scranton in April for a free lecture and plant-based dinner. I also had another pleasant surprise while grocery shopping as I ran into another plant-based friend from our group, the Scranton Beets!

It was getting late so I made an easy dish I call Puttanesca in a Pinch for our dinner.

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The day ended by catching up with my daughter and her  fiancée about their wedding plans and remembering being young and in love. Hope you’re able to take some time to enjoy some new experiences and  great food with friends and family, and…

Remember to have fun with your food and enjoy!