The plant based nurse

My family's excellent adventure to better health!


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Stuffed sweet peppers with spicy cashew almond cilantro filling and lime salsa

 

This recipe was a raw foods assignment for my Rouxbe Plant-Based Professional Certification Course. It was a challenge for me as most of my raw dishes are simple salads. I love Mexican flavors and also love cashew spreads and wanted to see if they would go together well. I wanted a dish that was spicy but not overpowering and I thought that the sweet peppers would be a good contrast. Since the cashew filling was fairly smooth, the textural contrast of the crunchy peppers was also excellent. My taste testers loved it, and I hope you do, too!

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Ingredients:

2 c. raw cashews (I used a small handful of raw almonds with the cashews for a total of 2 cups)

1 large clove of garlic or 2-3 small cloves

Juice of one lime

Ground cumin

Chili powder

Chipotle powder

About 2 tablespoons of fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

1 bag of mini sweet peppers or 18-20 jalapeno peppers if you prefer some spice

Soak the nuts in warm water for about 2 hrs. I chose to add the almonds to add some textural interest as I knew that they would not blend as smoothly in my Nutribullet as the cashews.

Drain the nuts and add them to a bullet, high speed blender, or food processor with the garlic, lime juice, a couple of shakes of cumin, a few shakes of chili powder and about 1/4 teaspoon of chipotle powder. You can adjust the spices to your liking. Add a small amount of water and blend and then keep adding water and reblending until mixture is smooth. Add the cilantro the last time you blend the mixture. My goal was a moist mixture that will spread easily and be slightly spicy without being overpowering.

Remove the ends of the peppers and seeds, and stuff the peppers with the cashew filling.  You can also cut the peppers lengthwise and fill them. Spoon some salsa on top as desired. The cashew filling is also delicious on whole grain crackers, such as Wasa crackers, which are low calorie and low sodium, or on toasted whole grain bread and topped with the lime salsa. Enjoy!

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Lime salsa

Ingredients:

1 chopped tomato

Juice of one lime

1/2 of a purple onion chopped

1-2 tablespoons of chopped cilantro

3-4 turns of a Sea salt grinder or just a pinch of salt (optional)

2-3 shakes of ground cumin.

It is difficult to find ripe delicious tomatoes this time of year in Northeast PA, but even without perfect tomatoes, this simple salsa is very tasty.

salsa

Remember to have fun with your food and enjoy!

 

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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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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.

Jean Scranton Times

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.

Naismiths

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!

elec city

 


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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!

 

 

 

 

 


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Tsumamis of change–Dr. T. Colin Campbell coming to Scranton PA!

I have been so busy with my day job, being a home health nurse and making evening visits on call that some of my plant based projects have had to simmer on the back burner for a bit. I needed something to get me reinvigorated and involved, so you cannot imagine my surprise and excitement when I opened my email this morning to find out that T. Colin Campbell, PhD, author of The China Study, is coming to Scranton, PA! He will be giving a lecture at the University of Scranton where I went back to school to earn my bachelor’s degree in Nursing. The Exercise Science Club is sponsoring the event and it is open to the public and free of charge. If you are in the Northeast and can make it to Scranton on November 11th at 7 p.m. please join us! The venue holds 500 and I would love to see it filled to the brim! All you have to do is call to RSVP to reserve a spot.

Scranton is about a 2 hr drive from NYC and Philadephia and has a rich history as a booming coal mining center, a stop on the railroad and home to some beautiful architecture. I call this area the land of pizza and pierogies, and we have some wonderfully rich and not so healthy ethnic foods, a church on almost every corner along with a “beer garden” and a funeral home in close proximity. According to the Northeast Regional Cancer Institute, approximately 30,000 people are living with Cancer in Northeast PA. and 9.900 in our 10 county area are diagnosed with cancer each year.

Considering our cancer rates in this area and across the U.S., there is no time like the present for a visit from Dr. Campbell. “For more than forty years, Dr. T. Colin Campbell has been at the forefront of nutrition research. His legacy, the China Project, is the most comprehensive study of health and nutrition ever conducted. Dr. Campbell is a professor Emeritus at Cornell University and is most well-known for co-authoring the bestselling book The China Study with his son, Thomas Campbell, MD. In addition to his long and outstanding career as an author, scientific researcher, and Cornell professor, Dr. Campbell has been featured in several documentary films. He is the founder of the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies and the online internationally-recognized Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate offered by the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies in partnership with eCornell. Dr. Campbell’s expertise and scientific interests encompass relationships between diet and diseases, particularly the causation of cancer. He has focused on nutritional status and long term health. Surprisingly, Campbell started his life on a dairy farm, but is now widely-known for researching links between animal-based protein diets and disease. He currently serves as the Chairman of the Board.”(http://nutritionstudies.org/about/board/dr-t-colin-campbell/).

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I have heard Dr. Campbell speak and his knowledge of nutrition is astounding and his passion for spreading the word about plant based nutrition and optimal health is contagious. The last time I heard him speak this August at Plantstock there was an urgency in his voice, an urgency that we must stop this vicious cycle of poor diet, chronic illness and suffering and replace it with a story of health promoting plant based foods and health and wellness for our citizens.


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Cooking all day without cooking ALL day!

A couple of weekends ago, I decided that in addition to cleaning out the basement to get ready for the waterproofing company, I was going to cook for my husband and I all day Saturday since we were both going to be home all day for the first time in a long time. Breakfast is tricky since I usually eat the same thing every day, oatmeal with bananas, blueberries, and raisins and my husband is not a fan. He usually has a sprouted grains bagel. So the challenge was to make something totally different. I was also participating in a challenge on Engine2extra.com that was called Camp E2X. One of the assignments was to make a recipe from “My Beef with Meat” that I had never made before, so it was off to the breakfast section of Rip’s book. It turned out I had all of the ingredients for the Spicy Bouldin Scrambler. Perfect! This harkened back to the old days when we would have omelets on the weekends.

It was a pretty easy and quick recipe. I just had a couple of things to chop, some onions, jalapeño, garlic and some tomatoes to add on top.

OnionsMBWM

While the tofu was draining, I got some diced potatoes out of the freezer, added some extra peppers and garlic powder and popped them into the toaster oven.

potatoes

After I pressed and drained the tofu, I mixed the nutritional yeast with herbs and spices to coat the tofu.

tofu

I thought it was a little too much yeast, but I carried on and enjoyed the aroma of the spices and fresh garlic. The scramble was easy to heat in a nonstick pan and before you know it we had a breakfast fit for a queen!

scramber plate

It did turn out we could have enjoyed the scramble with a lot less nutritional yeast but I was glad I tried something new and will adjust the recipe next time.

I spent the day in between meals going to the local farmers market and giving away and selling things we will never use again, like an ice cream maker and a turkey fryer! We never did fry any turkeys but used to use it for large batches of wings. Now we eat cauliflower wings!

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turkey fryerIce cream maker

Before I knew it, it was time to make some lunch. I looked around and I had some whole wheat pasta, some red ripe tomatoes from the farmers market and some broccoli and broccoli greens in the garden just waiting to be picked! I sautéed some onions, garlic, peppers and tomatoes in a little veggie broth, added some fresh chopped tomatoes and oregano and then a can of crushed tomatoes. If you like fresh basil, add it at the end for a great fresh flavor.

tomatoes and onions lunch sauce luch

I chopped up the broccoli and greens and added them to the pasta water the last minute or two of cooking.

broccoli lunch pasta with broccoli

This whole lunch took no time at all and it was satisfying and delicious.

Lunch bowlMy husband told me not to bother cooking supper since I made such a big lunch and we could have leftovers but I was determined to make 3 different meals so we would have leftovers during the week. We love Indian cuisine and I made one of our favorite recipes from “The Starch Solution,” Festive Dal Soup. It was super easy in my Instant Pot. All the ingredients go in and I simmer it on the slow cook setting, et voilà, fabulous supper in less than an hour served over basmati brown rice. We love spicy dishes so I always add extra chili paste in the dish and at the table. I also added some curry powder this time.  For the greens I used broccoli greens, what else!

dal

I cooked all day, but spent very little time in the kitchen and we had 3 great nutritious meals plus leftovers for lunches or dinners during the week. I also had a nice surprise from my neighbor Charlie. He was afraid this unusual bird was going to be thrown away and he thought I would like it, so he brought it over to my picnic table. It was a bright spot in a busy day and this little bird really is growing on me!

bird

Just a closing thought. Cooking plant based foods is SO much more than just nourishing and healing our body and soul but can also help to heal our planet. This mug we received with our last spice order from Penzey’s is a great reminder when I need a push to get in the kitchen,

“Heal the world… cook dinner tonight”

Heal the world cook dinner tonight

Remember to have fun with your food and enjoy!