The plant based nurse

My family's excellent adventure to better health!

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Recipe for a plantstrong pizza party, Days 16 and 17, Engine 2 Nationwide challenge!

I have had some requests for the pizza sauce and whole wheat pizza crust recipes from our Engine 2 pizza party last Friday, so I thought I would share them here! First, make sure you invite some good friends over to help you eat all of the delicious food you will be making. Next, set aside a few hours if you want to make your sauce nice and thick. You can go about your day, and just check on it periodically and get your crust rising while it simmers.

Jean’s Pizza Sauce (just a guideline, adjust the ingredients to your taste buds!)

2 medium onions, roughly chopped

A few large cloves of garlic, chopped

Crushed red pepper, a few shakes, or less if you don’t like spicy sauce

2-3 carrots, washed and chopped

28 oz can of low sodium crushed tomatoes

1 container of Pomi no salt added tomatoes (26.5 oz) or 2- 15 oz cans of no salt added diced tomatoes

1/2 of a 6 oz can of tomato paste

A few tablespoons of oregano

A couple of tablespoons of dried basil or fresh basil

Heat up your pan (I use a nonstick stock pot) and add the onions, garlic, and carrots, and sauté until soft. If they start to stick, add a little water or veggie broth. Next, add the oregano, red pepper and dried basil. If using fresh basil, add it just in the last few min of simmering your sauce so it stays fresh tasting. Next, add the tomato paste and heat it up and incorporate the spices. Add the crushed and chopped or diced tomatoes. Stir and let it simmer on low after you get it bubbling. After an hour or two, blend it with an immersion blender to make  it smooth. If you  don’t have one, then grate the carrots before you add them to the sauce. Let the sauce simmer a total of about 4 hours so it cooks down and thickens. Taste and add more of whatever you think it needs. In the summer, we also add zucchini to the sauce. The onion and carrot will help sweeten the sauce so you  don’t need any sugar.

Pizza sauce

You can make your pizza party simpler by using pizza sauce from a jar if you  need to save time. It is  difficult to find  oil free sauce but not impossible. Classico fire roasted pizza sauce is the only one I have found locally that is oil free, but I doubt it is low sodium. Chime in if you have found one!

Scott’s whole wheat pizza crust:

2 cups warm water,105-115 degrees

1 tablespoon molasses

1 tablespoon yeast

1 lb , 9 oz whole wheat flour

1/4 cup vital wheat gluten

1 tablespoon salt (I use about 1/2)

1 tablespoon applesauce

Preheat oven to 375 degrees 

Mix the molasses into the warm water. Sprinkle the yeast on top and give it a few minutes to form a sponge. In the meantime, weigh out the flour. Add about half of it to the sponge along with the vital wheat gluten, then add the salt and the oil. Stir well with a wooden spoon gradually adding the rest of the flour.

Transfer the dough to a Kitchen-Aid or other upright stand mixer and mix, using the dough hook, on the lowest speed to combine the ingredients, adding more flour a little at a time if necessary to keep the dough from sticking to the sides of the bowl. After a minute or 2, increase the mixer speed to 2 and let it knead the dough for 10 minutes until it is smooth and elastic. Remove the dough from the bowl, divide it into two, cover it with flour, place it on a cutting board, cover it with a plastic bag and let it rise for about 45 min or until doubled in size.

Stretch the dough onto a 14″ round pizza pan sprinkled with corn meal. I like to turn it upside down and slowly remove it from the pan and bake it for 450 degrees for about 6 minutes. I found a new toy recently that helped me stretch the dough. It’s a small wooden pizza dough roller I found at the grocery store and it’s my new favorite kitchen tool!

Top your pizza with whatever you like–  tomato sauce cashew cheez, hummus, fresh veggies, olives, spinach…the possibilities are endless!

Put the pizza back on the stone or back into the oven on the pan with your toppings and bake at 450 degrees for about 10 min or until it’s as crsip as you like.

If the making your own dough is too cumbersome or time consuming for you, you can purchase oil free crusts, although they are somewhat difficult to find. Ann Esselstyn recommends Sami’s bakery crusts, but I found the shipping cost to be a little high. They make a millet and flax crust that looks tasty. You can also use oil free pita or oil free tortillas. I like Ezekiel sprouted grain tortillas.

Let your imagination be your guide, serve your pizza with a big salad and some fresh fruit, or have a salad pizza, and top your pizza with all of your salad fixings!

Remember to have fun with your food and enjoy!

pizza dough rising

pizza roller

spinach pizza 

E2 pizza11

E2 pizza 16



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Engine 2 nationwide challenge, day 4, “I’m going to eat a ton of these potatoes, because I can!” -The Plant Based Husband

I was really tired tonight, and didn’t want to eat out since we just ate out yesterday. I stood in the kitchen and grabbed things out of the cupboard trying to come up with some kind of concoction. I wanted to make rice and beans, but I only had chickpeas and cannellini beans. So I gave up and left my fire roasted diced tomatoes, beans, and BBQ sauce on the counter and sat down to finish some work and watch you tube videos. I happened to be watching Potato Strong’s channel and I thought, BAKED FRIES, one of the easiest and most delicious meals on the planet! I was also dying to try the BBQ sauce we bought on our field trips to Whole Foods Market on our way home from Philadelphia the other day, so I crumbled up some tempeh and poured some Bone Suckin’ Sauce on top to heat it up to have on the side.

Next I sliced some Yukon gold potatoes and a sweet potato into wedges, no peeling required, topped them with extra spicy and Southwestern Mrs Dash, garlic powder, and onion powder, and sliced a yellow and green pepper and an onion and threw them around the potatoes on the silicone baking mat. The fries baked at 450 degrees for 30 min with no turning or fussing and while they were baking, I put a couple of handfuls of prewashed chopped kale in a pan with veggie broth and lemon zest and put some fresh broccoli in a pot to steam.

Potato fries going into the oven

Potato fries going into the oven

My husband came home to the aroma of potatoes baking in the oven and was excited and said, “I’m going to eat tons of these because I can!” He proceeded to tell me how he loves it when we eat a ton of potatoes and then laugh about how much we can eat. Yes, this is a romantic moment in the Hayes house, a couple of plant based nerds having fun eating potatoes and  laughing about how much we eat!

Have fun with your food and enjoy!

Engine 2 day 4

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Engine 2 Nationwide challenge, Day 1, GET FIRED UP!

I’m excited to be joining in the Nationwide 28 day challenge for the Engine 2 diet! Engine 2 is not a weight loss diet, a gimmick, or a quick fix. It’s a whole foods, plant based diet and a team of supportive people who can help you learn to “cook, eat, and live in a way that’s truly healthy and will allow you to be your best you!” –Rip Esselstyn

I think the thing that attracted me to the Engine 2 plan is that it’s for real people who live in the real world. It can be tailored to your needs. If you like to eat simply, and make easy, no recipe meals, they have tips for you. If you love to cook and make great looking dishes to impress your friends and family, they have recipes and tools for you. If you are not even sure you like to eat vegetables, they will help you with how to ease into plant based eating and focus on foods you do like. You can eat out but need to learn to ask for what you need and yes, you can even have chocolate. However, I am still learning that treats are for special occasions, not for everyday.

If you don’t have any friends or family in your area who eat plant based and you need support to learn how to get started and how to maintain a plantstrong diet over the long term, Engine 2 even has an online support web site called Engine 2 extra. You can join for only $5.00/month and you can meet new friends who are just as excited as you about your new lifestyle, get coaching from knowledgeable and friendly support staff, share your journey in your personal blog and get meal ideas and tips on how to navigate social situations. It also gives me a place to go when my family tires of my plant based ramblings!

If you would like to learn more about 28 days spent learning to love  plants and how they can help you be your best you, stroll on over to Engine 2 and download the 2015 eBook with recipes, exercises, guidelines for easing into the plan or diving in headfirst!

I will be journaling my food for the next 28 days, the good, the bad, an the ugly, so here goes!

Breakfast: Steamed kale with blueberry banana oats, topped with grape nuts, a tsp of maple syrup and almond milk , and apple cinnamon herbal tea

Snack: 1 1/2 bananas

Lunch: Sweet potato topped with leftover rice and beans, salsa, and chipotle Tabasco, spinach with strawberry balsamic, and a honeycrisp apple which I ended up eating after supper

Supper: Engine 2  roasted red pepper hummus with 365 brand woven wheat no oil crackers, Happy Herbivore inspired Thai soup with veggies and tofu (Thanks to Annabelle and Rob for helping me make supper!), 4 cherries dipped in chocolate from a local shop. I think my excuse for buying these cherries was celebrating  wedding dress shopping with my daughter. I had been doing well avoiding sweets but they crept back in. Time to start over!

E2 challenge Day 1


Lemon garlic hummus with roasted yellow bell pepper and my first cooking video!

I like to make hummus on Sunday afternoon when I get home from church to have for lunch and so I have leftovers for snacks and lunches during the week. I especially love it when we have fresh tomatoes in the garden so I can make hummus sandwiches with fresh greens, tomatoes, and whole grain mustard. Hummus is filling and nutritious and you can use it for so many dishes. For example, if you like 3-2-1 dressing (3 TBS balsamic, 2 TBS mustard, 1 TBS maple syrup), but you want to change it up and give it some more texture and creaminess, just add a little hummus! It’s great on grilled Portobello mushroom, as a snack with raw veggies or in a wrap with a tortilla or a romaine or collard leaf.

Hummus is a great way to add beans to your diet, especially if you’re new to this way of eating and not so sure about eating whole beans yet. I remember before we started eating this way and I used to groan a little inside when my husband would make a dish with beans. Now I LOVE all kinds of beans. They are a great source of plant protein, will help you feel full, are rich in phytonutrients and can help you lower your blood pressure, lose weight, lower your cholesterol and may even be protective against cancer according to Michael Greer, MD from So eat your beans! Have some hummus, rice and beans, bean tortillas, bean dip, veggie and bean soup, bean salad, or whatever you like.

Today, on a whim, I decided to try to make a video about making hummus. The lighting wasn’t perfect and I had some technical difficulties, but it was fun and I hope you enjoy it!


Plant determined? Step back and check your numbers!

You’re ready to start an exciting adventure to improve your health through plant based nutrition. Step back for a moment and get a grip on where you stand with your health and check some markers to see where you are before you begin.

You may want to have a checkup with your primary care health provider before you begin if you haven’t had an exam in a while. Have your blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and weight checked and I like to ask for copies of my results. If you are up to date on your health exams and just want an updated number, you can pick up a home cholesterol kit at the pharmacy. If you have elevated blood pressure, you may want to purchase an automatic blood pressure cuff to self-monitor. As your weight and blood pressure improve as your diet improves, you may need to work with your healthcare provider to adjust medications. It can be dangerous to adjust doses on your own, so always consult with your primary care practitioner. For diabetics, it is important to watch blood sugars closely as you may also need dose adjustments in insulin or oral diabetic medications as your numbers improve. The American Heart Association has some good information about target values for these markers. Dr Caldwell Esselstyn goes further than the AHA by recommending getting cholesterol below 150 along with eating a healthy oil free plant based diet to make you heart attack proof!

Some recommend speaking with your healthcare provider about changing your diet before you start, and some like Dr. Esselstyn recommend just mentioning that you will be trying to eat a more healthy diet and you would like their assistance in monitoring your progress. Many people are so excited, that they want to find an MD who is well versed in plant based nutrition and as excited as they are about their new diet. Unfortunately, this is not realistic for many of us as most doctors have few courses in nutrition in medical school and even less background about plant based nutrition. My husband and I both told our physicians we were embarking on this path and they were supportive and told us to go for it.

It is not our job to educate our physician or provider but they may ask about how you achieved your fabulous results which will give you an opportunity for discussion. Of course, since I have to share my excitement with everyone, I gave my doctor a list of resources and at my last visit, gave her a signed copy of Dr. Esselstyn’s book, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease and a copy of his latest study, “A way to reverse CAD?” She probably thinks I’m out of my mind, but if I can help her or any of her patients, it’s worth it. My husband’s doctor wanted to know where this program was that he attended so she could tell her patients about it since he is doing so much better than he has in years. Last June he attended a 10 day program by Dr. John McDougall to help him learn more and get on board with this way of eating.

I was already taking a B12 supplement before I even thought about eating a plant based diet, because on my meat laden diet I was running a borderline low B12 level, but if you don’t know your level, you may want to have it checked, especially if you’re over 50. You can ask your provider what dose of B12 they recommend for someone on a plant based diet. My physician gave me pretty much the same advice offered by Dr. Neal Barnard in this brief video.

If you are super organized, or yearn to be, you may want to organize your health history and your lab and diagnostic study results so you can track how you’re progressing toward your goals. I recently met a fellow nurse at a Holistic health fair, Judy Rienzi, who has developed tools to help people better track and manage their health. She has developed the Connect method to help people organize, guide, and plan for success. I love that she uses the phrase plan for success! We plan for all sorts of things, retirement, vacations, and we even plan for our death by buying life insurance. Why don’t we plan for success in getting healthy?!

Let’s make a plan!

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Plant curious? Step one: Watch Forks over Knives!

Considering taking a bold step to better health by eating a plant based diet? Step one: Watch “Forks over Knives.” You can watch it on Netflix, download it on the Forks over Knives website or ITunes, or buy the DVD from Forks over Knives or Just watch it! I love what Rip Esselstyn says about 2 min into the trailer, ” To me the answer is so simple, it’s criminal. It’s just people starting to take responsibility for their health and starting to eat more plant based foods!”

Check out the trailer below.

This documentary not only changed how we eat, it changed how we think about our food and where it comes from and how it affects our health. Perhaps even more important to the health of our family, it improved our mental health and my husband and I  began to rediscover that we not only liked one another, but maybe even still loved one another and enjoyed being together. I will forever be grateful to my friend Sarah and her friend Brittany for introducing us to this wonderful life changing film and to all the people we have met along the way who have helped us in our quest for better health and finding the most delicious, nutritious food on the planet.

Here is our friend Sarah who casually mentioned Forks over Knives to me and her hesitancy to watch it since her friend Brittany told her it was life changing. She wasn’t quite ready for any major change at the time, so I told her I would watch it. I thought maybe the film was about animal rights since Sarah mentioned something about wanting to eat fewer animal products and I knew she was working with a dog rescue so it made sense to me. I also love documentaries, so it was not exactly work for me to take 90 minutes out of my week to check it out on Netflix.

sarah and kids

Sarah and her wonderful children!

I was totally absorbed in the documentary and flabbergasted that I had never heard this science before about how plant based eating could not only prevent, but also reverse chronic disease. I had been taught a disease was “chronic” because it was irreversible and often progressive. The best a person could hope for was to manage their symptoms if they had heart disease or diabetes. This movie was truly revolutionary to me!

A little over a year after we began our plant based journey, I realized I had never touched base with Sarah’s friend who told her about FOK to thank her. Sarah gave me her name and I looked her up on facebook and sent her a message and had a wonderful chat with her. It is so exciting to see young people like Brittany and Sarah making changes and inspiring others and even more importantly, teaching their children a better way. They will not have to wait until they become ill in middle age to learn about better nutrition. They will be the ones preventing illness and suffering. How exciting is that!

Brittany kisses

Brittany cooking and blowing kisses in the kitchen!