The plant based nurse

My family's excellent adventure to better health!


Day 28, Engine 2 nationwide challenge, Lentil curry and my kitchen is back, sort of!!

It has been a wild week with the house remodel continuing. We have been able to go between the kitchen and the bedroom, making sure we walk on the wood floor only in socks. The dogs are mostly in the kitchen with their beds and food and the cat splits his time between the basement and outdoors. They are all very confused and bewildered and we are tired and will be SO happy to have the house back in order.

We did have fun yesterday looking for an enamel top kitchen table and some unmatched chairs. We found a really unique table that is perfect for my bright yellow kitchen at an antique shop only about 30 min from our home. I was so excited to be able to sit at my “new” table tonight and have a dinner I cooked! This table is so cheerful and makes me feel like it’s Spring.

New table

The dinner was easy and delicious. I found a sodium free soup mix at Wegmans from a family business in Rochester NY that was fabulous. It was just green and red lentils and a curry spice mix. I just sautéed onions, a bay leaf, and garlic in veggie broth, added a can of no salt diced tomatoes, removed the bay leaf, used my immersion blender to make the ingredients smooth, added the spices, and a little water, simmered for 30 min and then added 3 cups of veggie broth and the lentils and simmered for another 30 min. The spices were a little bitter, so I added some steamed carrots and a dash of real maple syrup and some Penzey’s maharajah curry powder and it was perfect over baby spinach and jasmine brown rice. I had two helpings and have leftovers for lunches. I’m so glad I’m enjoying lentils now since they’re so easy to prepare, tasty, and loaded with fiber and healthy plant protein!

soup mix Lentil stew

My husband liked how Gwendolyn signed the package of lentils, too! Hope everyone had a happy healthy weekend. It’s sad to see this challenge end, but I’m excited to  see what adventures will come our way this spring!

Remember to have fun with your food and enjoy!


Engine 2 nationwide 28 day challenge, days 11-15, Tear it down and build it back up!

It has been a little crazy around the Hayes house the last few days. We’re still in the midst of tearing down damaged parts of our home and putting them back together better than before. Well, we’re not exactly doing it. Some qualified professionals are since anything we do ourselves usually has to be redone later!

Tear it down 4

Tear it down 5

All this craziness has made me think about how when we began our plant based journey to change our diet and improve our health, we had to do the same thing— tear down and discard all of our old ideas about what healthy eating is and build new ones along  with gathering a new arsenal of foods and recipes to begin building up our health!

I feel so happy and honored that I have been able to make so many new friends in the course of our journey and we got together with many of them this past Friday evening to enjoy plant strong pizza. We were 18 strong and we had folks of all ages, from age 2-60+. The wonderful thing about this lifestyle is that it is never too early or too late to begin learning about preventing and reversing disease through plant based eating.

My niece Amanda came with her 2 boys and her oldest often asks her why people eat junk food! Their favorite food is salad and they love bean burritos. I am so proud of her for involving them in preparing their food and getting the off to a great start.

E2 pizza7

We also have some members who are retirement age and it’s exciting to see  them come  to our gatherings with open minds to hear new ideas and  experience new foods. A plant based acquaintance on engine2extra told me a story about her father last summer. He came to plant-based eating in his late 80’s and was feeling so great after his first month, that he e-mailed all of his friends  to share his  good news. One of them replied back that it was too late for him to change and for the diet to do any good at his age. He became furious and held  fast to his  stance that he knew he was doing the right thing and that he would continue to have wonderful benefits.

That is my wish for our new Engine 2 friends, that they will experience such wonderful benefits in these 28 days  that they  will not be deterred or discouraged from this path!

Remember to have fun with your food and enjoy!

E2 pizza 3 E2 pizza 13 E2 pizza 16 E2 pizza E2 pizza2 E2 pizza4 E2 pizza8 E2 pizza12 E2 pizza14 E2 pizza15 E2 pizza17 E2 pizza19 E2 pizza20

E2 pizza9 E2 pizza11E2 pizza18

E2 pizza10

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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


Engine 2 Nationwide challenge, Day 2, Put the scale in the closet!

The evening before the start of the Nationwide 28 day challenge for Engine 2, we were chatting on Engine2extra and the topic of weight loss came up. I tend to be scale obsessed, NOT healthy, and my friend Kirsten, Lady Bug in the Kitchen happened to mention she was putting her scale in the closet for the challenge. I immediately thought it was a brilliant idea and that night when I went to bed, I slid my scale right into my closet, too. There is no good reason for me to weigh myself every day or even a couple of times a week. My BMI is normal, my weight has been maintained at the same level within a 2-4 lb range for the last year or more without dieting and my clothes fit. The only reason I keep weighing myself is out of fear that I will gain the weight back that I lost when I switched to a plant based diet. I guess I can’t believe sometimes that it’s real. I’m so glad that Kirsten’s announcement gave me “permission” to set aside my anxiety and just see what the next 28 days brings and enjoy my food without focusing on the weight. After all, we keep telling people that it’s not about the weight, it’s about getting healthy and the weight loss is just a bonus! I have another friend who has not gotten on the scale over the past year since I met her. Marlene has gone down 2-3 sizes since she joined our Engine 2 crew in PA, but she never gets on the scale and even told the staff at the doctor’s office she didn’t want to know her weight! The person who weighed her was bursting at the seams to tell her because of all of the weight she lost since her last appointment! So, I will join Marlene and Kirsten in freeing myself from a number on the scale and be happy that I feel good, that my labwork results are fabulous, and finally break this love affair with the almighty scale!

My food today:

Breakfast: Blueberry banana oats with raisins and almond milk and kale, of course!

Snack: Banana and apple

Lunch: Leftover rice and beans with salsa

Supper: Happy Herbivore creamy Dijon pasta, balsamic roasted asparagus with Mrs. Dash lemon pepper, and steamed broccoli

Dessert: 3 chocolate cherries (they’re all gone, and I WILL stay out of the spice shop that sells them!)

 Day 2 Engine 2

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I often hear comments from people about how we eat grass, or that they could never eat my “bird diet.” They think we only eat veggies and salads all day with some bird seed thrown in. They often worry I’m starving myself. I have even been told that I must be since I’m staying thin. It amazes me that when people are able to sample some of our bird food and discover that it is not only delicious but filling and satisfying, they are often more open to at least thinking about eating some plant based meals.

I was definitely very full tonight! I came home and decided I had everything I needed to make chili and I had chili and corn muffins ready in about an hour and 15 min. My husband and I both had seconds and enjoyed every bite! No deprivation here!!

Breakfast- Oats with blueberries, raisins, banana, grape nuts and almond milk

Snack- banana

Lunch- Leftover gorgeous black rice salad from The Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease cookbook, whole wheat pita.

Supper- More black rice salad, chili with cilantro and cornbread muffins

Chili fall 2014 Black rice salad 2Black rice salad

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Day 20, Engine 2 Fall 2014 28 day challenge, Good food, good friends, and my family rocks!

What a great day! It started with breakfast with my son and his sweet girlfriend Katie. We had Happy Herbivore blueberry pancakes and fruit salad. It was great to spend some time with the kids this morning before they went to the wedding of an old high school friend of Ben’s.

After breakfast I made the kale bruschetta from “My Beef with Meat” by Rip Esselstyn and Clouds in the Sunset (roasted butternut and cauliflower soup) from to take to our Engine 2 gathering at Marlene and Eric Zeidman’s home. The walnut sauce for the bruschetta was super easy, very garlicky and delicious. I used Merstemacer sunflower seed bread for the toast and I will definitely make these again. They looked and tasted great and took very little time to make. The soup is one of our old stand by’s and I just love it. It makes the whole kitchen smell so wonderful as the butternut squash roasts. Edie made a wonderful pasta dish with broccoli and Marlene made a Mexican feast with corn tortillas, pico de gallo, guacamole, refried beans, rice and more! We had a laid back afternoon with a small group of our plant based friends and watched a great film, “Fat, sick, and nearly dead.” I hadn’t seen the movie in months and really enjoyed seeing it again. I would love to see a follow up of what the filmmaker ate after his 60 day juice fast. It sounded like he was planning to follow a whole foods plant based diet but they only touched on it briefly. Maybe in the sequel that’s coming up they will elaborate more on that. It’s just great to see people restored to health!

To top off a wonderful day, my daughter decided to come home this afternoon and we got to chat with she and her fiancee Rob. We feel so blessed to have such great kids who have such great people in their lives who love them!

Breakfast- Happy herbivore pancakes made with White Whole wheat flour and blueberries, fruit salad.

Late lunch- Corn tortillas with refried beans, pico de gallo, guacamole, onions, peppers, brown rice, kale bruschetta, roasted butternut and cauliflower soup, fresh watermelon, brown rice pasta with broccoli.

Snack- Air popped popcorn with balsamic vinegar and nutritional yeast.


Blueberry pancakes 2 Frosty fruit salad

plate  pasta Mexican  Fixins

Edie and Marlene

Marlene and Eric #4

Jean and Scott smiling

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Your genes are not your destiny, a message of hope!

Today one of my assignments for the course I’m taking from ECornell in plant based nutrition was to write a letter to a friend who is “worried because his/her mother and aunt both had cancer and s/he worries that s/he is destined for a cancer diagnosis too! S/he is considering scheduling an early detection precancerous screening next month. Your assignment is to share some encouraging information with her.” I wanted to share my letter with you and “Steve” is a fictional friend.

However, prior to writing this letter, I ran into a friend who has been diagnosed with cancer just recently. I was saddened to hear the news and thought of him as I wrote the letter. I did try to broach the topic of nutrition gently with him as I have read about research by Dean Ornish that was encouraging, but he changed the topic so I did not push. Just a short couple of years ago, I would not have been receptive to this information either, so I try to respect where people are in their journey to health. It is hard for me, as I can hardly restrain myself from sharing, but this information is not mainstream yet and people often think we speak of quackery. I am eternally grateful I have found the plant based lifestyle and only wish I had learned about the amazing health benefits sooner.

Here is my letter:

Dear Steve,

I can relate to your worry and fear about cancer and am sorry to hear of your mother and aunt’s illness.I had always assumed I would die an early death from cancer. After all, my mother died when I was in infant at age 38 of metastatic melanoma and it is a dominant trait in my family’s genetic makeup on my mother’s side, which means my children have a 50/50 chance of having melanoma. I had even considered not having any children because I did not want to pass this legacy on to them. Both of my sisters have had multiple melanomas and two of my cousins have died from the illness. Between my mother and father’s side of the family, there are 14 of us that we know of that have been affected. When I survived to the ripe old age of 50, I decided maybe it was time to rethink my health. I had survived 6 localized melanoma lesions and I was still on this earth. Maybe I really was going to live to retire and see my kids have kids of their own.  This may be part of why my mind and heart were open to changing my lifestyle to improve my health when I watched the documentary, “Forks over Knives” in November of 2012. I heard the message of hope ring through the entire film that our genes are not our destiny and that by simply eating a more nutritious diet, I might be able to change my fate.  I no longer feel doomed and that is what I would like to share with you.

Along with chemical, viruses, and excessive radiation from sunlight or radioactive substances that can initiate cancer, family history can also play a role. According to Dr. T. Colin Campbell, “Family history implies the presence at birth of cells already initiated: that is, the genes have been mutated, implicating genetics as a cause of cancer” (Diet and Cancer I: Chemical Causes of Cancer, T. Colin Campbell, Certificate in Plant Based Nutrition Course Two: Diseases of Affluence).  Dr. Campbell and others have shown through their research that nutritional imbalances are the most significant cause of cancer, consuming nutrients above or below their optimum levels which promotes cancer growth. If one returns to eating these nutrients at optimum levels, the phase of cancer development called promotion where the mutated DNA that has been altered by a carcinogen causes cells to grow in clusters and eventually form tumors, can actually be halted and perhaps even reversed. According to Dr. Campbell, cancer may even be controlled by nutrition in the progression stage where the early clusters of precancerous cells grow into small and then larger tumors and are eventually diagnosed as cancer and may spread to invade tissues elsewhere in the body, better known as metastasis. Even though supporting evidence for controlling cancer through nutrition during the progression stage is less well developed according to Dr Campbell, it is none the less a cause for hope.

The other good news to me is that in order to help prevent my less than perfect genes from flipping the switch and causing promotion of tumors in my skin that can metastasize to my vital organs, I can make some simple changes in my diet. I don’t have to buy expensive supplements or medications. In fact, Dr. Campbell notes that “nutritional control of cancer should be considered within the context of food, not (within the context of ) supplements of individual nutrients” (Diet and Cancer I: Chemical Causes of Cancer, T. Colin Campbell, Certificate in Plant Based Nutrition Course Two: Diseases of Affluence).  Dr. Campbell did some very provocative research with mice that showed the effect of protein intake on tumor development that supports his idea that consuming nutrients at optimum levels can halt cancer growth. One of his studies fed four different levels of protein to mice and they followed the development of liver tumors in mice that were exposed to the Hepatitis B gene. Tumors emerged and developed in animals that ate a diet in which 20% of their calories came from protein, there was less tumor activity in the animals that were fed 12% protein, and the animals that were fed diets with 6% protein had no tumor growth. Dr.Campbell notes that the amount of protein required by humans is about the same amount as rodents, or about 10% of our diet and that most humans consume diets well in excess of the amount we need. Dr. Campbell’s research went further to show that even in groups of rodents given high doses of carcinogens, but then fed a low protein, or “optimum” diet, they grew fewer foci  or clusters of pre cancerous cells and tumors. In contrast, the animals that were given a low dose of carcinogen, but then fed a diet high in protein grew more foci and tumors.  It is exciting to me that despite the dose of carcinogen, the important factor in the tumor development was diet.  In addition to these findings, Dr. Campbell’s research also showed that animal based nutrients when fed in excess, tended to stimulate cancer and plant based nutrients tended to decrease tumor development (Diet and Cancer II: Initiation versus Promotion, T. Colin Campbell, Certificate in Plant Based Nutrition Course Two: Diseases of Affluence).

I hope that this information encourages you to educate yourself about how diet can influence your risk of developing cancer and gives you hope that your genes are not your destiny. I hope that you learn that you can make a difference in your own health by choosing what you put on the end of your fork. Eating a variety of nutrient dense foods provided by a whole foods plant based diet provides me with about 8-10% of healthy plant based protein, and gives me confidence that I am doing the best job that I can in keeping the switch turned off for cancer.

Please take care,


My sister Bonnie and I, plantstrong partners and melanoma survivors

My sister Bonnie and I, plantstrong partners and melanoma survivors





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Putting a bandaid on a gaping wound, nursing in America!

Nursing school graduation, 1985

Nursing school graduation                  1985

When I graduated from nursing school in 1985, I had big dreams. My birth mother had died when I was only a few months old from melanoma and my mother who raised me as her own suffered from diabetes, high blood pressure, and osteoarthritis. Looking back she also had undiagnosed and untreated depression for many years. I hoped to really help people manage and overcome these awful illnesses and offer comfort where I could. I worked in the hospital setting for many years where most of our patients were in and out of the hospital for exacerbations of chronic illnesses such as diabetes, emphyesema,and congestive heart failure and I witnessed much suffering from strokes and cancers. Looking back, we did our best to patch people up, treat their symptoms with medications and treatments and send them home to do their best to care for themselves and manage their illness. There were people we got to know well as they were frequent visitors to our facility, coming in and out of the revolving door with acute flare ups of chronic illness. These patients were often labeled as non compliant as they would often stop medications that were prescribed to control their symptoms but had side effects that were difficult to bear or were too expensive.

When I transferred to home healthcare in 2003, I again hoped to make a difference as I could focus on patient teaching with one patient at a time. I now was able to get a better picture of why people had difficulty managing their illnesses. Some had little family support, some had limited education, and some were even illiterate and couldn’t read the instructions on their medications. Again, the cost of so many medications was an issue for some. For some, we could find strategies to overcome these obstacles, but for others, they continued to have frequent stays in the hospital, continuing to decline.

This is not to say that we don’t see success stories. We do care for people with acute and chronic illness who are able to learn to manage their medical problems, heal, and return to normal activity. I am constantly amazed by the resilience of our patients and families and am thrilled to hear their life stories. It helps us to remember that people are more than their disease state and had active and vibrant lives before they became sick.

Since my familiy and I learned about plant based eating and how it can help to prevent, improve, and even reverse many chronic illnesses like heart disease and diabetes, it is hard for me to know this information and not share it with everyone I meet. The research is astounding and yet the mainstream medical community does not offer plant based nutrition as an option for patients. The work of physicians and researchers like Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Dr. Dean Ornish, Dr. John McDougall, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn Jr, and others is not known by the general public and if I can help to educate people in any way, that is my passion right now.

Even though the statistics around chronic illness and obesity in America are disheartening, I chose not to lose hope. I will talk to anyone who is interested in learning about how to empower themselves and improve their health through better nutrition and have found plant based community in our small town in Northeast PA and our small group is growing and is enthusiastic about the health benefits they have experienced.

I hope that in the future instead of blaming patients for failing traditional medical treatments, we will routinely be offering them the option of eating their way to a healthy mind and body without the worry of side effects, enormous cost and the complexity of managing multiple medications and instructions. I often feel that we are putting bandaids on gaping wounds as we try to treat the overwhelming rates of chronic illness in this country, but then I remember hearing Dr. Esselstyn and Dr. Campbell speak and become reinvigorated by their messages of hope which are contagious. They believe in the power of people to heal if we have faith that they can help themselves and we give them the tools they need.

If you have ever thought about plant based eating, but are not sure if it’s for you, try it for 3 or 4 weeks and see how you feel! There are so many tools available, including great books, free resources online, and wonderful recipes. Enlist a plant based buddy to join you, or find a group of like minded folks online to help you in your journey. More about building plant based community in a future post!