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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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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Grapefruits and butterflies

A couple of weeks ago I found the most amazing white balsamic grapefruit vinegar at our local store, Thirteen Olives, and I have been anxious to make a fabulous salad with it. I had some beautiful grapefruit in the fridge and finally today I reserved my afternoon to play in the kitchen.

Grapefruit balsamic

 

I learned how to peel a grapefruit with a knife and how to segment it to get rid of the bitter pith and my husband even sharpened the chef’s knife for me.

I took my time and reveled in the texture of the fruit, how the sun shone through the kitchen window and through the thinly sliced pale pink flesh of the grapefruit. It looked so delicate and beautiful like the wing of a newly hatched butterfly.

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It was a gift to have this time to study this sour, yet sweet and juicy fruit which I have far too long neglected.

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I hope to be more intentional not only with my appreciation of the beauty of nature and the nutrition and pleasure it provides for us but also my appreciation of the people in my life who help and care for me along my path.

I was recently overcome with gratitude for all of the friends, old and new, who offered words of encouragement, suggestions for job leads and just pure kindness when we received word that our home health agency was closing. In the course of 2 weeks, I lost my job and gained a new one in which I will retain my benefits, seniority, and will have a position with no after hours call and no taking work home. I hope that the reduction in hours will free me for spending more time living my passion for nutrition and health and loving my family and friends as they deserve.

Grainy Grapefruit salad

If you enjoy fruit and farro, you can find my recipe for Grainy Grapefruit Salad on the Plant Based Nutrition Support Group’s website at http://www.pbnsg.org/ soon.


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New to me food adventure- Farm to Table dinner at Vge Cafe!

Last weekend My husband Scott and I were able to attend a special dinner that our friend, Engine 2 diet coach, and plant-based certified professional chef from Rouxbe cooking school, Char Nolan was heading up with her chef friend and owner of Vge café, Fernando Peralta! I have NEVER been to a dinner in a restaurant where we did not have to ask to have something left out off of our plate or ask for a special favor in the preparation of our food. So this really was a new and glorious experience!

The meal was held at Vge Café in Bryn Mawr, PA, so we had to drive a little distance, but it was worth it. The café was closed, so our group of 11 had the whole place to ourselves!

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The meal started with warm mighty muffins, and whole wheat “buttermilk” biscuits. AND they were served with cashew butter. I never had this creamy concoction and It was decadent and delicious!

Farm to table muffin

The food presentation was out of this world and the Mediterranean olive hummus with crudité was no exception!

Next we had a velvety cream of tomato and red pepper soup! I have NEVER had such a creamy soup and tomato soup is my favorite! The flavor was so complex and unfortunately Fernando could not share his recipe because he didn’t use one, he just created it as he went!

 The big surprise of the night was when my husband ate an entire massaged kale salad a la Char Nolan! He doesn’t like kale and Ann Esselstyn was quite perturbed with him at Plantstock last year when he told her so! Hope I get a chance to tell her that Char convinced him it’s good!

Just when we were beginning to get full, Fernando’s wife Marta brought out the entrée, veggie loaf with mushrooms, brown gravy, a roasted tomato between the two layers of loaf and mashed potatoes. They even gave us extra gravy for our potatoes. We had so much food that we all took leftovers home. Can you taste the gravy?!

And yes, we even had dessert! This granny smith apple tower with no added sugar was out of this world!

 If the outrageously delicious gourmet food wasn’t enough to put us over the edge, the interesting and kind new people we met made the night picture perfect!

Our hosts and chefs, Char Nolan and Fernando Peralta!

 Our own E2X Fire Marshall from Engine2extra.com, Cathy and her daughter Angela and husband Greg!

 Cita and her husband, regulars at Vge café who just found plant based eating 6 months ago. She was so interested in learning new things that she was writing notes. She heard about plant based eating from a friend who is an oncologist!

Bruce, telling us about working for Dr. T. Colin Campbell at his foundation, and his friend Anyta who owns a juice bar.

Liz, vegan, jazz singer, and marathon runner and her husband, who is an ultra marathon runner.

See the “Plant Pure” logo on the menu above for Vge café? Char  kept talking to Fernando about oil free whole foods and he did want to serve his customers the healthiest food possible, so he tried changing his methods and he was able to keep the food tasting fabulous and keep his customers happy, win, win! He has a culinary degree from Le Cordon Bleu and a business degree, too! AND he met with Dr. T. Colin Campbell when he was in town for a screening of Plant Pure Nation and they decided to develop a program to teach other restaurants about how to make plant pure food so they could have options for plant based customers on their menus! This is ground breaking and it was SO cool to hear about it from Char and Fernando. Ripples of change!! Keep talking to your friends and family and who knows, maybe exciting things will happen in your community, too! Here’s to many more new adventures!

My boyfriend (2)

 Remember to have fun with your food and enjoy!


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A Shout out to PBNSG and MANY thanks to Engine 2!

Many months ago, I made a new friend through plant based eating and living, Paul Chatlin. We met online through one of his Plant Based Nutrition Support Group (PBNSG) members who found her way to my Engine 2 facebook group for my local Engine 2 friends. We have talked on the phone several times and since we “met” his group has grown to over a thousand members! Paul led a chat  on Engine 2 Extra and if you haven’t read his story about how he reversed his heart disease with the help of Dr Esselstyn, you can read it here at: http://www.pbnsg.org/our-start/.

His group really is a model for other plant based groups and I know of no other like it. He has large group events and has had Rip Esselstyn and Dr. Esselstyn come to speak in Michigan. He also has small neighborhood groups for people to meet for support and ideas.  He recently had the “culinary curator” for his web site call me to see if I would contribute some recipes for their site. I hesitantly said yes, knowing I really don’t have that many original recipes and don’t consider myself a “chef.”

I then realized that two of the 4-5 recipes they wanted could be ones I created for recipe challenges on Engine 2 extra, my Scrumptious squash with rosemary apples and Thai soup with kale, carrots and ginger. The other two are old standbys I make almost every week, chili and pasta sauce. SO, Thank you to Engine 2 and coaches Ami and Char for challenging us to be creative and use delicious, fresh, and simple ingredients to make good meals! The link to my recipes is at: http://www.pbnsg.org/recipe-collection/?tag=Jean+Hayes. Check out all the site has to offer and challenge yourself to try something you never thought you could do!

PBNSG Thai soup


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Plant-based in Vegas, an oxymoron?

 

Life has been busy here since we got home from a great spring vacation in Las Vegas.  Vegas was surreal, interesting, and fun. We saw a a fabulous Elton John show which was one of the highlights of  our our 3 night stay.

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We also enjoyed getting out of Vegas better than when we hung around the casinos. We don’t gamble so the casinos don’t have much allure for us. However, so many people tell us how much they love Vegas so we wanted to experience something new and different.

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We rented a car for a day and a half and drove to Hoover Dam, Red Rock canyon and  Valley of Fire state park. The landscapes were outstanding! These were the scenes that will draw us back to the Southwest.

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So, down out of the clouds and back to the food. Without a car and a lot of cash in the casinos, it was hard to find really tasty plant based options. Our first day in town we were really hungry and tired and decided to try out the buffet in Harrah’s. We were able to find salad, veggie lo mein,  bean tacos and fruit. Some of it was a little greasy but some of it was half decent. We definitely did not get our money’s worth but our bellies were full.

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We saved a little money on lunches by finding a Chipotle in The Venetian and a Subway on the way back from Hoover dam. Our best lunch was veggie sushi and a big veggie noodle bowl at a nearby Whole Foods Market.

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Our first splurge was at Spago at Caesars. They accommodated us by making me a pesto dish without cheese and my husband had meatless tomato sauce. My pesto we good but I got so hung up on the cheese I forgot to ask them to ditch the oil. I had gemelli pasta for the first time and unfortunately it tasted overcooked to me.

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By far our most tasty and expensive meal was at Wynn at the Lakeside Grill. It was more than a meal. It was an experience. The waiter shared with us that when the owner, Steve Wynn, went vegan a couple of years ago he had each employee watch documentaries about the vegan lifestyle like “Forks over Knives.” Every restaurant in Wynn has veg options and there was a crazy unexpected show in the lakeside garden outside of the window at the restaurant. We were relaxing with our dinner and all of a sudden, this huge frog popped up from behind the waterfall and started mouthing the words to, “What a wonderful world” by Louis Armstrong. There were also two dancing flowers later and two other shows that are just to hard to describe here!

Wynn

Frog

We both agreed the meal was excellent. We shared grilled asparagus with balsamic vinegar and I had “clam” chowder with oyster mushrooms and cashew cream, organic red quinoa with roasted tomatoes, mushrooms, and zucchini, and we had our one dessert of the week, a small piece of vegan carrot cake.

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Wynn meal

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I think the cleanest and cheapest meal I had in Vegas was in a small Mediterranean restaurant late one night on Fremont Street. It was simply a bowl of rice and steamed veggies with a light tomato sauce.

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So, while it wasn’t easy to find tasty, healthy plant based options in Vegas, it wasn’t impossible. The best part of the trip was spending time together and getting away from the everyday craziness. We walked together, relaxed by the pool, and just enjoyed being somewhere completely different for a bit.

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