The plant based nurse

My family's excellent adventure to better health!

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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


Navigating the holidays and Happy 2nd Plantiversary to us!

I hope everyone had a wonderful, healthy Thanksgiving holiday filled with great food and family and friends. The holidays can be a time of great joy for many but a time of grief and sadness for others. If the holiday season is hard for you, I hope you find a way to reach out for support and comfort. I find myself having a tough time this time of year, but have found I cope better with stress and sadness when I have something positive to focus on and keep my food full of wonderful plant based nutrients and antioxidants. Our families have accepted that our diet and lifestyle have changed for good and we no longer worry about offending anyone by bringing our own food to share for special occasions. Eating plants is our new normal and we have learned that if we want to celebrate with delicious food that won’t leave us feeling guilty and weighed down, then we have to plan ahead and bring some yummy dishes with us. It is really a small price to pay for better health and feeling great. When you think about it, we plan for sickness by purchasing health insurance, and we even plan for our death by buying life insurance. Why not plan for health and wellness by filling our bodies with the best fuel on the planet, whole plant foods!

Our Thanksgiving celebration actually started the week before with a huge celebration at our church. We have a Thanksgiving pot luck every year and invite some folks from the Clarks Summit State Hospital to celebrate with us. Some of the church members cook turkey and stuffing and everyone brings a dish to pass. My sister Bonnie and I and a few other friends who are vegetarian at church decided we didn’t want to miss the meal and fellowship, so we planned to make our own dishes to share and then put them out on the main table and we had a great variety of dishes and had a great evening. The play the Sunday school children was a great surprise as they did a play about children rescuing turkeys from a farm and inviting them as guests at their Thanksgiving vegetarian meal. It was so cute and so appropriate for the meal we ate! We had sweet potato casserole, roasted potatoes with apples, green beans with almonds, steamed broccoli and carrots, roasted brussel sprouts and carrots, eat loaf, tofu peanut butter pie, and pumpkin pie.

Church dinner

Our second Thanksgiving on a plant based diet was more successful than our first since we made recipes we had already tested and knew we liked except for the cranberry sauce which turned out to be a very good experiment! My sister Judy was also kind enough to leave the butter off of the veggies she cooked and have butter on the table for those who wanted it so we had a great feast at her home. I did compromise and have some foods we normally don’t eat, such as a vegan pumpkin cheesecake my daughter made from a recipe of Susan Voison’s from her blog, fatfreevegan. My husband also made a delicious stuffing full of herbs and spices using bread from a bakery since we didn’t have time to bake our own bread, but the rest of our meal was plantstrong. My daughter and I made the dessert, the cranberry sauce from straightupfood, and the Eat loaf the night before and the rest of the dishes came together easily in the morning by team effort, including mushroom gravy, garlicky mashed potatoes, stuffing, and green bean casserole. We had the dishes cleaned out of the sink and were at my sister’s by noon. It was great to have helping hands and no rushing or bickering!

There are so many wonderful cookbooks and websites with great recipes that are plant based and even those recipes that include oil can be modified or the oil can often be left out without affecting the dish a bit. This year, we used ‘The Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease cookbook” for the Eat loaf, mashed potatoes and gravy recipes. The Eat loaf is like a party in your mouth with a wonderful mixture of creamy cannellini beans,steamed greens and veggies and topped with a spicy organic bbq sauce I found at our local Wegman’s. The mashed potatoes were yukon gold boiled with the skins on and mashed with fresh garlic I sauteed in veggie broth with some fresh rosemary and thyme I found buried in the snow in my garden and topped with dried chives and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. If you think you’ll never have real gravy again on a plant based diet, think again! Mommy’s mushroom gravy 2.0 is flavorful and hearty and good on everything! It is also super easy to make. I like to make a double batch so we don’t run out. The green bean casserole came from fatfreevegan and my daughter substituted almond milk for soy creamer and left out the vegan margarine and they were fabulous with the fresh green beans my husband found. We did take a shortcut and use the french fried onions in a can on top, but last year we baked our own onion topping. The ones in the can were pretty greasy and I doubt I will buy them again. We didn’t miss the turkey broth in the stuffing at all. My husband used veggie broth and lots of herbs and it turns out that it’s the herbs that really make the dish. We have found that with most of our dishes. If you have delicious herbs and spices, the dishes will be fabulous. One of my sisters scoffed when we made gumbo without shrimp, but it really is the spices that make the gumbo, not the seafood.

Some other great resources for holiday recipes are The Engine2diet website, Happy Herbivore’s website and cookbooks, Dr. McDougall’s website, among so many others. For Christmas the last couple of years, we have been making lasagna, traditional for the omnivores and plant based for us. I hope to continue this tradition this year. I will be working Christmas Eve and Christmas day, but lasagna is a great dish to make ahead, and we can have a huge salad and maybe some home baked bread. My favorite substitute for ricotta cheese is this Rinotta cheez from Ami Mackey’s blog, plantbasedadventures. It tastes so much like traditional lasagna, that I have had people who are not plant based rave about it. I like to make Engine 2 Raise the Roof lasagna but use Ami’s rinotta cheez instead of the tofu mixture in the original recipe. I also leave the sweet potato off of half of it for my husband who is not a sweet potato fan.

Be creative and have fun with your food! Almost any traditional recipe can be re-imagined to be plantstrong and you don’t even have to use recipes if you’re not a fan of cooking. You can keep it simple and just have some rice and veggies or potatoes and veggies with whatever spices and herbs you love. And as always, we find it’s fun to be different! Here is our friend Bobby Anderson, The Plant Fueled Trucker’s  “turkey” dinner:

Bobby's turkey

It was 2 years ago on the Saturday after Thanksgiving that my family and I set out to try out plant based eating and we haven’t had one regret that we embarked on this journey. It has been a wonderful two years filled with great food, great fun, and great opportunities to meet new friends and open our minds to new ideas!

When is your plantiversary?

Eat loaf igCranberry sauce   Garlicky potatoes Green bean casserole Happy Thansgiving with Love Mushroom gravy  pumpkin mousse  Stuffing Take twoFlowers

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I’m not sure where the time went this weekend. It seemed to have just flown by! I did have some fun and got to meet some great people. After I got some things done in the a.m. I went to a craft fair at a local church to check out the wonderful things my daughter’s future mother-in-law paints. She had painted vases, candle holders, glasses and salt and pepper shakers with beautiful flowers and seasonal scenes. I picked out what I wanted to buy with gorgeous fall colors and she gave them to me! I could not believe her kindness and generosity and hope to be able to repay her someday with another kindness. I also met my future son-in-law’s grandpa who has been giving me beautiful produce from his garden. We had a great chat about gardening and I can’t wait to visit his garden sometime. His wife was also lovely! I spent the afternoon making deviled potatoes and a black rice salad to take to my father-in-law’s 75th birthday party and off we went to celebrate. We had a wonderful time and he really enjoyed visiting with all of his friends and family. When it was time to leave, my husband heard my sister-in-law was going to a jazz club to hear a band with her partner and work friends and we ended up going along. I have not been out that late in many, many years! We had fun but didn’t get home until around 2 a.m.

Sunday was spent working on my course work for the ECornell course on plant based nutrition and then meeting plant based friends for lunch at our favorite Indian restaurant. It was fun to relax and visit with them and have delicious spicy fare. I decided afterward to bite the bullet and finally buy myself a new computer. I have been using my daughter’s old Dell laptop and it is very slow. I still may get it checked so someone can use it, but I got myself a new Surface and a lightweight projector which is wireless. It will be great for showing plant based documentaries and both are very portable! Back to more coursework tonight and learning about the environmental impact of what we choose to eat which is very eye opening. Goal for tomorrow is to finish the remaining coursework!

Breakfast day 27 and 28- oats with arugula, grape nuts, a dash of maple syrup and almond milk

Lunch- Yesterday I had a casserole dish full of salad and leftover roasted butternut squash and cauliflower soup and an Engine 2 crispbread. Today I had mushroom mutter at New Amber Indian restaurant with rice and lentil wafers and whole wheat chapati bread

Supper- Yesterday at the birthday party, I had my black rice salad and a deviled potato, a whole wheat roll, pickles, cashews, almonds, and peanuts, and I did have some crackers, but was able to avoid the cheese. It looked really good to me last night for some reason, and I had grapes for dessert. Today I had leftover black rice salad and a red potato with the last of the leftover chili while watching videos for my course.

I can’t believe another challenge is over! Hoping my local Engine 2 members weigh in about what they learned about themselves, this way of eating, or whatever they would like to share!

Oats and arugula love Lunch day 27 Black rice salad party smoky devils party Chili with ecornell

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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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More great recipes from the Prevent and Reverse Heart disease cookbook!

The theme for the dishes today at my Engine 2 gathering in Northeast PA seemed to be beets! My daughter’s fiancee brought me some ginormous beets from his grandfather’s garden and since I LOVE beets, I knew I had to find a way to use them for today’s meal.

Monster beets


The beets looked pretty gnarly before I boiled and peeled them, but here is the after picture.

Pretty beets

I found my inspiration for these lovely plants in the “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease cookbook.” The first dish I made was the Endothelium enhancing beet soup. I have never had a cold soup before that I liked, but this was so lovely and refreshing, and beautiful, too. I was also relieved that it was very simple to make. I used my immersion blender instead of the regular blender which made clean up a snap.

Beet soup

I still had several beets and the gorgeous beet greens, so my next beet dish was Beet burgers, also from the PRHD cookbook. My daughter and I decided the batter from these burgers was fabulous before we even heated them up. I tried making them in a nonstick pan as the recipe suggested but they were sticking and taking too long to heat through. So I put them on a silicone mat on a cookie tray and put them in the oven at 375 and cooked them until they started to brown and then flipped them. My husband broiled some pineapple rings while I took a shower and my daughter suggested we use romaine leaves for buns since I didn’t buy any buns and they were great this way! I just put some whole grain dijon mustard on mine. I got too busy once everyone started arriving and forgot to snap a pic of the burgers but they were a rich red color and were very tasty.

It has been fun to try old foods in new ways. Up until recently I had never eaten beets unless they were pickled! I still love those, too. I just slice them and put them in a container in the fridge with red wine vinegar, et voila, pickled beets! As one of the members of our local Engine 2 group, Virginia, said at our first meet up this Fall, I love shopping for my food, chopping the vegetables, cooking the food, and eating it! It’s so cool how changing your way of eating is so life altering and it really is a total experience. It’s not just about sitting down at the table and eating quickly so you can go watch your favorite TV show. She said it so eloquently and it really made me smile inside to hear that experiencing and appreciating one’s food isn’t just something that I enjoy!