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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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.

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

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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!


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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!

Vge cafe

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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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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Plant shy? To tell or not to tell…

You’ve decided to embark on an adventure into plant based eating that will set you apart from most of your friends and family members in social situations that involve food, SO… do you tell everyone about your new found plan to improve your health or keep it to yourself?

I imagine you may have guessed my opinion since I have a blog devoted to sharing the joys of plant based eating with others, but not everyone is comfortable sharing their diet and lifestyle with others. If you do decide to share, be prepared that everyone will suddenly become an expert in nutrition, offering you advice about how you will not get enough nutrients and protein if you eliminate dairy and meat from your diet. Others will try to coax you to have “just a little” of whatever they are eating that you have chosen not to eat. Many will think you have lost your mind and have become a crazy vegan hippie. I tend not to argue with folks who are befuddled and confused by my choice since I had little to no understanding of this way of eating before I watched Forks over Knives. I try to share in a positive way that this is working for me and my MD has sanctioned my choice and is excited about the benefits I have seen so far. I also let them know I am glad to share if they want to learn more.

For some, sharing can be too stressful and cause too much attention and grief. However, I have found it has been freeing for us to let family and friends know how we eat and that we don’t expect them to cater to our special needs at events. We are glad to bring food to share with everyone at parties and gatherings and people now have accepted that this is the way we eat and don’t try to talk us into eating things we no longer choose to eat.

If you would rather keep your choices quiet at first, you may need to eat before going to gatherings where food is served and then take your chances with whatever is served and hope there is something that will fit into your food plan to snack on. This way, you won’t show up so hungry that you feel you must eat whatever is served to keep from fainting before you drive home! You can always make the excuse that you have changed your diet for health reasons and are not partaking in the usual fare but came because you really enjoy the company!

Some people may even become angry that you have improved your diet. They may feel threatened without even being consciously aware of it as you are threatening their status in “the village” by having the information you have about getting healthy. They may try to coax you to go off plan and will be pleased when you have that chicken wing or cheese and crackers. It will level the playing field for them. Doug Lisle, PhD is a  psychologist, director of research at True North Health center, and co author of The Pleasure Trap. He is a fabulous speaker and in his talk, “Getting along without going along,” he addresses these issues of how to navigate social situations gently without making others feel bad. He often responds to people’s questions about how he gets his protein by saying he’s not sure and if he is questioned further, he tells people it seems to be working for him and his MD checks his levels and they seem to be fine. It diffuses the situation and often relaxes people so they are open to ask questions and learn more.

Lastly, you will find that as you begin to experience the wonderful benefits of plant based eating, people may start to ask you what you’re doing to achieve this fabulous glow, how you have lost weight, or where you get your energy. Be prepared to share!

Here is a great and very brief video from Dr. John McDougall about spreading the good news. I totally agree that with him that 9 out of 10 people will think you’re from outerspace, but it will be worth it for that one person whose life you may change by sharing the “good news.”

What’s your style? Are you plant shy or plant proud? 

 

 


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Support rocks and some interesting statistics!

I was very intrigued today when I saw a post from Julienna Hever, the Plant Based Dietitian on her facebook page referring to a report about vegans and vegetarians in the US. The statistics are based on a sample of 11,000 people and according to the Humane Research Council, only 2% of people in the US aged 17 and over are vegan or vegetarian.

percentage of vegansVeg stats

I find it sad that 63% of people who went back to eating meat disliked that their diet made them stick out from the crowd. I find it fun and exciting that we stick out from the crowd and are different! That is one of the things that actually attracted my husband to this lifestyle. When did anyone ever say that going along with the crowd was the right or wise thing to do?

I also was intrigued to see that 49% of former vegans and vegetarians said they had insufficient interactions with others who follow this path and 84% were not actively involved in a veg group such as a potluck group or online community. That just solidified the importance of all that we do on engine2extra.com, in our local Engine 2 group in NEPA, and in my friend Virginia’s Plant based eating group, P-BEG. Anytime we lend an ear to someone trying to begin this lifestyle or trying to maintain it,or break bread with them it makes a difference. I’m totally convinced that the more we reach out, the more success stories we will hear and the more long term successes we will see. If you would like to share what keeps you motivated to maintain your diet along with the 2%, please share it here in the comments or on my facebook page! I love stories!

Here is Robert Frost’s poem about choosing the road less traveled. This is one of my favorites. Remember, you are on a wonderful journey and keep sticking out from the crowd! It WILL make all the difference!

THE ROAD NOT TAKEN

BY ROBERT FROST

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.