Don’t call it a diet, part 2

See here for part 1.


What we eat

I very, very commonly get asked, “What do you eat?” Sometimes it’s asked with genuine curiosity, sometimes with concern and often with a hint of disdain. (What DO you eat anyway?) The short answer is that we eat anything that is a plant. Whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, corn, oats, etc.), beans and other legumes, lots of veggies and fruits and some nuts. We don’t add oil to anything. If any sweetener is added, it’s just a bit of maple syrup. We don’t have heart disease, so we do use a small amount of salt. Very quickly, our tastes changed and we found most prepared foods to be too sweet or too salty.

We don’t count anything – not fat grams, calories, carbs or anything else. If we’re hungry, we eat. If you know me, you know that not only do I not miss meals, I don’t even miss snacks. I get mean when I’m hungry (or “hangry”), and really, no one wants that. There is zero deprivation here.

Breakfast for me is almost always oatmeal (I order Bob’s Red Mill in bulk from Amazon), with frozen blueberries, some ground flax seed and a dash of maple syrup. My husband eats his version of Rip’s Big Bowl, made with shredded wheat, oats, Uncle Sam’s cereal, flax seed, walnuts, raisins, fresh fruit and unsweetened almond milk. Breakfast occurs way too early in the morning to have to think about it, so having a standard go-to thing that we like seems to work well for us. We also drink black coffee. (It was easy to stop adding dairy. I spent a week or so weaning off sugar in my coffee. Get good coffee. It makes all the difference.)

We ditched juices, soft drinks and sweet tea and we now exclusively drink water. I have come to love a cup of hot tea, especially in the evening. I drink mostly peppermint or ginger, with an occasional cup of green tea. No sweeteners are needed.

For lunch or dinner, we eat flavors and dishes that have always been favorites, we just make them without animal products or added oil and sugar. It takes adjusting, but not too much.

So, there you have it. Now, go clean out your pantry. 🙂



Regular foods at our house:

· Veggie bowl: This is very customizable based on what you have. Use a grain, a bean, a starchy vegetable, some greens and whatever else. My favorite combo here is brown rice, black beans, roasted sweet potatoes (no oil needed) seasoned with cumin and chili powder, some kale or salad greens and some peppers, onions and zucchini sautéed in a little veggie broth or water. I could eat this every stinking day. It’s also delicious piled into a tortilla.

· Noodles and such: I use brown rice pasta or soba noodles here. Sauté a bunch of veggies (peppers, onions, broccoli, snow peas, cabbage, mushrooms – whatever you have and like) in veggie broth or water. When they are cooked enough, add a brown sauce (low sodium soy sauce, a dash of maple syrup, ginger, garlic, a little cornstarch) or a peanut-based sauce (basically brown sauce with a couple of tablespoons of natural peanut butter), heat and add to the noodles.

· Beans and rice: I often cook beans in the crockpot. I no longer soak my black beans or pinto beans (science! Instead, I cook them all day in the crockpot. Use good beans. Rancho Gordo is far and above any other brand I’ve ever tried. Even expensive beans are still far cheaper than an equivalent amount of meat. Spring for the good stuff here.

· Stir “fry”: Do your usual stir fry veggies in broth instead of oil. Season and serve over brown rice.

· Chili: Peppers, onions, garlic, tomatoes, kidney beans and/or black beans, chili powder, ground chipotle or cayenne. Simmer, adding water as needed. This is also delicious served over oven fries or, as with almost any other food, stuffed into a tortilla.

· Salad: There’s nothing wrong with a good salad. Pile it full of veggies, add some chickpeas, top the whole thing with some balsamic vinegar and go to town.

· Kale salad: I make this every week of my life. I wash and strip kale from the big stems and chop or tear it into small pieces. I may or may not add chopped veggies and maybe a drained and rinsed can of chick peas. The dressing is my standard variety – a little peanut butter, low sodium soy sauce, a little sriracha and maple syrup. Thin the whole thing with warm water and whisk like mad. Toss it with the kale and enjoy. It’s better the second day.

· Chips and salsa: We love salsa here. Add this to your food processor: one 28 oz. can of whole tomatoes (no salt added is great), add some onion, a big handful of fresh cilantro, and fresh jalapeno or crushed red pepper flakes to taste. Blend and then add some freshly ground black pepper. Serve with no-oil tortilla chips. We cut fresh corn tortillas into triangles and bake in a single layer on a Silpat mat at 375 for 10 minutes. Make a batch and they will keep in a sealed container for several days, staying crispy and delicious.

· Oven fries: We eat plant carbs like nobody’s business. Cut potatoes into French fry sizes, put them on a Silpat or parchment paper, season with whatever you want (chili powder, Mrs. Dash, rosemary, etc.) and bake at 425 for 40 minutes. Awesome.

· Nice cream, also known here as “banana stuff”: Cut bananas in slices and freeze on a cookie sheet. Once frozen, bag them and store in the freezer. To make banana stuff, add frozen banana slices and unsweetened almond milk to your high-powered blender or food processor. We use a Ninja blender that was about $40 from Amazon. Blend it a bit and then add cocoa powder. All of this is very subjective, depending on whether you want an ice cream consistency or a milkshake. Experiment and then lick the bowl because you just made something totally healthy that tastes exactly like chocolate ice cream. If you absolutely must have a recipe, here’s one that omits the almond milk. This does not taste like bananas. I repeat: no banana taste. This is critical.


oven fries

Recipe resources:

· Forks Over Knives: Also try the Forks Over Knives Cookbook.

· Happy Herbivore: She has several cookbooks in print. All are filled with easy, delicious recipes. My favorite? Enchiladas. She also offers a weekly recipe/meal plan subscription at and YouTube videos that show how to prepare a week’s worth of healthy meals in just an hour or so. If cooking isn’t your thing, this could save you.

· Fat free Vegan:

· Eat Plant-Based:

· Engine 2:

· PlantPure Nation: For a freakishly easy transition, PlantPure Nation even sells frozen meals (good ingredients) that are WFPB, just like the meals used in community jumpstart programs. (See the movie for context.)

· The Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook:

· Plant Powered Kitchen:

· If you use Pinterest or Instagram, search #wfpb or #wfpbno (whole foods plant based no oil).

Movies currently on Netflix:

· Forks Over Knives: START HERE.

· PlantPure Nation: I see this as a de facto sequel to Forks Over Knives. It’s very motivating and includes a bit more of the political side of how we as a country have the nutrition guidelines that we do. (Spoiler alert: the guidelines don’t have much to do with nutrition.)

· Engine 2 Kitchen Rescue: this is a great “how to” starting point once you are ready to change.

· Fed Up: this is great if your sweet tooth is the thing that is killing you.

· That Sugar Film: I don’t agree with everything here, but again, it’s good info, especially if sugar is your kryptonite.

· Not movies, exactly, but some great videos:



· “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease” by Caldwell Esselstyn: THE starting point, in my opinion, whether you have heart disease or not.

· “The Engine 2 Diet” by Rip Esselstyn

· “How Not to Die” by Michael Gregor: This is a truly comprehensive book, loaded with double blind, peer-reviewed studies. It is written in a way that is very accessible, even if you don’t enjoy reading medical stuff. The “how not to die” hook is about how not to die from specific causes likes heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, etc. It is not a guide to immortality. You are still going to die eventually. As the T-shirt says, y’all need Jesus.

· “The China Study” by Colin Campbell: OK, correlation doesn’t equal causation. Whatever. If you nerd out about medical stuff like I do, you will enjoy this.

· “Whole” by Colin Campbell: again, a little on the nerd side, but important if you have a keen interest in nutrition.

· “The Plant Based Journey” by Lani Muelrath: this is a super accessible, easy read for anyone interested in changing nutrition.



Stuff that is helpful but not required:

· Salad spinner – I get great use out of my cheapo salad spinner from Ikea. We are fortunate to live where we can get a delivery of fresh, local veggies each week, so I prep a lot of veggies at one time. The salad spinner really helps dry greens well enough so they keep throughout the week.

· Silpat mat – Dear Lord, please let this not turn out to be a carcinogen. I love my Silpat mat.

· Small coffee grinder – I ordered a cheap one and use it once a week to grind flax seeds. I store the whole seeds in the freezer and store the ground seeds in a jar in the fridge. Easy. Omega 3s, baby.

· Parchment paper – If you don’t have or aren’t using a Silpat, this works very well for fries, veggie burgers, roasting veggies, etc.

· A heavy, stainless steel frying pan – I don’t use nonstick pans, but a heavy stainless steel one works just fine. Get it screaming hot and/or add a little veggie broth or water and you’ve got instant nonstick without the chemical stew. You do not need to cook with oil. I swear.

Ninja blender or equivalent – See banana stuff. Totally worth it, even if this becomes a kitchen unitasker.

Don’t call it a diet, part 1

veggie bowl

I decided to compile this information based on questions I’ve been asked in recent months. I’m not an expert, but here is what is working for us. I’m 47 and healthier than I’ve ever been. I don’t say that to sound boastful or braggy. It’s the truth. How I got here is not really very complicated. If you are reading this and you eat food, you can do this. You can improve your health.

There are a million diets and magic pills out there. You don’t need to do a juice cleanse if you have a functioning liver and kidneys. You don’t need to buy a supplement or protein powder or a drink mix. Seriously, you do not need those things. OK, maybe it’s a good idea to take a multivitamin. Ask your doctor.

My husband and I look different than we did a year ago. We feel great. Both of us get asked what we are doing to lose weight. We aren’t on a diet, at least in the traditional meaning of that word, and weight loss has been a happy side effect of getting healthy. It wasn’t the goal for either of us. This information is to answer that question in a way that I hope will inspire you to seek good health.

Whole foods, plant-based nutrition has been the key for us. Don’t call it a “vegan diet.” Technically, it is vegan since we don’t eat animal products, but as someone who was an unhealthy vegetarian, I can say with certainty that it is really, really easy to be a junk food vegan. French fries and Oreos are vegan. Quinoa and avocado sushi? Also vegan, but much better for you.

If I haven’t scared you off, read on.

The background

I became a vegetarian around the time I became pregnant with my first child (1992). I was doing a lot of work with an animal rescue group and I was starting to learn about factory farming. Couple that with the ease with which a newly pregnant person can be grossed out and it was an easy call. I never again ate anything with a face, but I did continue to eat eggs and dairy and I really loved cheese. I loved cheese a lot.

By early 2013, I was enough out of sorts that I made an appointment to see a doctor. I wasn’t sleeping well, had moments of feeling anxious for no reason, had daily digestive issues, etc. The doc checked the obvious possibilities, including hormone levels and thyroid function, which showed no problems. I left without a solution and maybe a little bit of eye rolling on the part of the doctor. Five months later I was in the emergency room with debilitating pain. To make a really long story somewhat shorter, within a couple of weeks my new doctor (ha!) diagnosed me with pancreatitis due to gallstones. My liver enzymes were crazy high and I was put on a clear liquid diet pending surgery. Good times. About 10 days later, I had my gallbladder removed.

Following that surgery, I felt like a new person. My ongoing nagging symptoms went away completely. That’s the good news. The bad news was that every time I ate a high fat (for me) meal, I was sick for about three days. I had seen the movie “Forks Over Knives” and decided to try a whole foods, plant-based (WFPB) diet for a month. I lost weight and felt wonderful, but after that month, I slowly went back to old habits. (I’m talking to you, cheese.) By December 2014, I was at my highest non-pregnant weight ever and was trudging along.

USC grad

Above: August 2014

The change

“When you know better, you do better.” Maya Angelou

After yet another bout of sickness due solely to high fat holiday food, I spent the week after Christmas 2014 reading everything I could find about plant-based nutrition. I read medical studies, personal stories, criticisms – all of it. I read studies about endothelial cells with a tab open so I could Google the words I didn’t know. (True story.) I watched “Forks Over Knives” again, along with “Engine 2 Kitchen Rescue.” (Both are on Netflix.) I hit the library for “Prevent and Reverse Hearth Disease,” “The China Study” and “The Engine 2 Diet.” And I decided that I knew better so it was time to do better.

After 46 years of settling for less than the best that I could give my body, I had no more excuses. Nothing – NOTHING – tastes good enough to feel less than optimum.

The difference

I love data. I am hardcore about separating science from woo woo, feel good hokum. And I believe the science is strong with this one. The books mentioned above give some great information, but here’s what happened at my house:

February 2014 (Vegetarian diet with cheese, oil, eggs, etc.)

Total cholesterol: 202

HDL (good cholesterol): 50

LDL (gunk that clogs up the works): 126

Triglycerides: 129

May 2015: (after 4½ months of a whole foods, plant-based diet)

Total cholesterol: 170

HDL (good cholesterol): 46

LDL (gunk that clogs up the works): 99

Triglycerides: 127

February 2016: (after 13 months of a whole foods, plant-based diet and 3 months of exercise)

Total cholesterol: 140 (!)

HDL (good cholesterol): 47

LDL (gunk that clogs up the works): 77

Triglycerides: 81

My blood pressure has remained excellent throughout, but I have genetic predisposition to hypertension, heart disease and a bunch of other stuff. (Yes, I did a DNA test.)

I am a little hesitant to talk poundage here, not only because no female wants to make her weight public (thanks for that, society), but I don’t want someone at a higher weight to dismiss this as impossible. It’s not. There are many, many stories of success for people who have lost well over the weight equivalent of a grown adult by eating this way. Don’t be deterred. Please.

Having said that, my weight has dropped from 157 to my current 128. (I am a wee short person.) I’ve gone from an optimistic size 12 jeans (stretching the waistband and the bounds of credulity) to a very comfortable size 6 (or an 8 with a belt). Since I started regular exercise in October 2015, my body fat percentage has dropped 4.5 percent and I’ve lost a lot of inches. I still feel like a straight up newbie with exercise, but I am learning. I am doing cardio and strength training about four times per week. I never would have darkened the door of the YMCA before I lost weight. For me – and everyone, I would argue – health starts in the kitchen, not the gym.

Lest you think I had some freak response to my change in nutrition, here’s what happened to my carnivore husband when he saw my first lab results and made the switch to WFPB nutrition in May 2015.














































I should interject here that I am far from perfect. If we go out to eat and there is falafel on the menu, I will be eating it. I also love chips, so I try to keep home-baked tortilla chips on hand, but I am not above using fried chips as my salsa delivery device when necessary. I have curves (not a bad thing, I would argue) and I am not at an optimum weight for my elementary school sized height. Since I’ve lost weight everywhere else, I have discovered that my thighs hold every ounce possible. My thighs have been present with me through many, many hours of sci-fi viewing and are now convinced that when the alien/robot overlords come, it will be my sole responsibility to repopulate the species. I’ve seen Battlestar Galactica. I know how this goes down.

April 2016

Above: April 2016 (also, I stopped coloring my gray hair)

A word of warning

If you have heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc., and especially if you take medication for those conditions, you must be monitored by your doctor before and during your switch to a plant-based diet. This way of eating is so effective at combating lifestyle diseases, it could be dangerous to continue your dosages of medication while switching to good nutrition. If you watch the movies I recommend, you will see that in action. For FAQs:

Part 2: Our best resources, coming up next

on the table

For the month of June, I’ve been in an experiment of my own design. Even though I’ve been a vegetarian since 1992, I still had a crazy attachment to cheese and other high-fat forms of tasty deliciousness.

For June, I’ve been vegan. (Truth check: At Biltmore Estate, I had a chickpea burger with goat cheese. Whatever – it was amazing. I also split a chocolate malt with my husband at the end of the month. My gall bladder-less body was not happy with that choice.) Here’s what we’ve eaten. These are phone photos because I am spending more time cooking. Maybe I’ll do better in the photo department for July.

Breakfasts have either been oatmeal with berries, whole wheat toast with a drizzle of molasses, or cream of wheat with nutritional yeast. I’ve added a bit of Florida orange juice, because scurvy is bad and OJ is good. I always have coffee (no cream, a little raw, organic sugar).



Lunches and dinners have been filled with lots of veggies, beans, healthy grains, and an occasional healthy dessert, like date bars or sweet potato brownies (don’t hate).


Good eats on top of polenta.



Pizza on homemade whole wheat crust, lots of veggies, no cheese, sprinkled with nutritional yeast. (This is an Engine 2 diet recipe.)



Take out from Chipotle: brown rice, beans, salsa, extra lettuce, hold the cheese, sour cream and guacamole.



(Pardon the missing  bite. Clearly, I couldn’t wait to eat my yummy sandwich). Sandwiches are my favorite. I’ve been eating mine on whole grain bread, loaded with veggies, drizzled with balsamic vinegar.


The results: I feel good. I sleep well. I’m down six pounds. The experiment continues…

We’re baa-aack

We’re back in the saddle folks, after many months of not making time to post here. The portfolio page has been updated, as well as the “Find me here” links on the left. Enjoy! There’s much more to come. In the meantime, meet the not-so-new addition, our sweet Charlie.


veggie bounty

I promise, this is not a food blog.

Having said that, here’s another post about vegetables.

This week’s delivery from Mother Earth Produce featured daikon radishes the size of Volkswagens and they are as tasty as they are large. Here’s a bit of the yumminess:


(These photos are from my phone, so please forgive the quality.)

With the daikon roots, the napa cabbage, onions, red kuri squash, broccoli and ginger (ginger was from last week’s bin), we made veggie curry.


I served it with pickled daikon and carrots. Good eats.


Our sugar pie pumpkin made a very delicious and oh-so-healthy-except-for-the-crust pie.


Tonight, we are embracing the winter need for carbs (maybe that’s just me) and having veggie tetrazzini.

veggie delivery–it’s happening


We just received our first order from Mother Earth Produce, an Asheville-based company that has expanded to the Upstate of South Carolina. The folks who own the company have a passion for local, organic goods. They believe, as I do, that we take responsibility for our food when we can know our farmers.

And they delivered this awesome box of goodness right to my door. I have sorely missed having this option of late. MEP is the only company that does this in our area right now and I was incredibly pleased with the veggies.

Here’s what we got in our medium box:

  • Rainbow chard (Oh, how I love chard. That’s not weird, right?)
  • Collards
  • Broccoli (I know you’re singing the Dana Carvey song. It’s OK.)
  • Cilantro (This was a substitution for something we didn’t like or didn’t want. I can’t remember.)
  • Yukon gold potatoes (Also a substitution because I am about to turn orange or purple from all the sweet potatoes we’ve been eating.)
  • Kale
  • Salad greens
  • Zucchini
  • Acorn squash
  • Mutsu apples
  • Green beans
  • Ginger (I had no idea I could get local ginger!)
  • And a free tub of Roots Thai Coconut Hummus (what the what).
  • I also added on a dozen local, organic, pastured, the-chickens-eat-bugs-like-God-intended eggs.


I missed having organic produce delivery for many reasons, not the least of which is meal planning. I ordered this and now we have to eat it, so I better know what I’m cooking this week.

Right away, we whipped up a batch of fresh salsa with the cilantro and I made some kale chips with a handful of the greens. For dinner, I quickly stir-fried (OK, I was on the phone, so my husband did the stirring) the zucchini and chard, along with some onion. I used a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and seasoned with sea salt and cumin. We stuffed the veggies in tortillas, along with some pintos, salsa and salad greens. Good eats.

More to come…


on civil discourse

I’ve mostly kept my pie hole closed this election season. That’s not because I am without opinions – I have lots of those. A few of them might even surprise you.

Months ago, as I began reading the sometimes daily (I gave up reading those) rants of friends on both sides of the aisle, one thing became crystal clear: the outcome of this or any other election is far less important than loving people.

That’s not a cop out and again, it doesn’t mean for a second that I am apolitical. It just means people are more important than my right to hear myself talk. (The irony of saying that in a blog post is not lost on me.)

Having an instant, worldwide platform is a good thing. My goodness, it’s been a tool for people to unite, whether to find their loved ones in the midst of disaster or to come together to bring down tyrants. Being able to instantly broadcast your every thought has its down side, of course. I think that’s come in the loss of civil discourse. Facebook and Twitter are filled (and have been for months) with the most hateful, vilifying words I’ve ever heard.

(I remind you that I used to spend a lot of time visiting clients in prisons, psychiatric hospitals and rehab units. Political pundits and angry voters should have nothing on a cocaine addict in detox.)

You have the absolute right to speak your mind. That’s the beauty of this great country. Hate the president or his opponent? As long as you don’t threaten them, you can rant all you want. The Secret Service is not going to pull you from your bed and cart you off into the night, where you’ll disappear forever. That happens elsewhere, you know. Don’t forget that.

Words do matter. I admit that I am nursing a few wounds here. Some people have said things that I can’t "unhear” but that, if nothing else, have caused me to evaluate my boundaries. If you claim to be a person of faith, I hold you to a higher standard than my non-Christian friends and I hope you’ll do the same for me. (Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.)

We can disagree at the core of our political leanings and still agree on the things of eternal significance. I truly believe that. If you want to change someone’s mind, talk with them. That means having a conversation that involves both listening and talking. Have a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. Love people, love people, love people. Love doesn’t leave room for personal attacks.

And remember that we have about 1460 days before we do this all again. That’s a lot of days, people, and a lot of opportunities to say words that heal, influence, change, impact and inspire. Make them count.

my version of Epcot’s vegan chili colorado

At Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival, I was thrilled to get my hands on a dish of vegan Chili Colorado made with Gardein Beefless Tips. Oh. My. Word.

Of course, I had to try and make it myself. My version isn’t vegan because I used queso rather than cashew cheese.

Notes: This is an amalgamation of lots of chili recipes I found online. It’s also my first time cooking with dried chilies, so consider the source. I know not what I’m doing. Also, the Epcot version had equal parts onion and chopped bell pepper.

Gardein doesn’t know me and is in no way involved in this post.


What you need:

1 package of Gardein Beefless Tips

About five dried guajillo chilies

2 T. extra virgin olive oil

2 T. balsamic vinegar

1/3 finely chopped onion

2/3 cup vegetable broth

1 clove of garlic

Rinse the peppers and remove the tops and seeds. Dry toast the peppers in a pan over medium heat until the color starts to brighten just a bit. Bring about 3 cups (enough to cover chilies) of water to boil, add the peppers and remove from heat. Allow the peppers to soak for 20 – 30 minutes.

In a skillet, heat the olive oil and add the onion and Gardein. Cook over medium heat until the faux beef is cooked through and the onions are tender. Remove from heat. Stir in vinegar.


Remove the peppers from the water and add to food processor, along with garlic and broth. Pulse to puree, adding soaking liquid as needed to puree the peppers to a smooth, thin sauce.

Add the chili sauce to the Gardein and simmer over low heat until the sauce is slightly reduced.


Serve over rice or with fresh corn tortillas, crumbled queso and chopped cilantro (there’s a bit of arugula on the ones above). Close your eyes and imagine you’re at Epcot.

new fantasyland and wordy mcwordword

This should be two posts, but I went to Florida where it’s summer and then returned home where it’s fall and now I can’t stop sneezing. Achoo!

Business first, then fun – like an Internet mullet.

  • In Palmetto Parent’s October issue, I have lots of words, including some I am especially proud of about some local moms reaching out to others who have lost children to miscarriage, stillbirth of infant death. It’s not light reading, but it’s important to spread the word.
  • Read online about Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival and Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.
  • I have some fun stuff in Upstate Parent this month as well, including a story about making your own baby food (with recipes, because we’re thorough like that) and a story about how our local hospital now has midwives and birthing tubs (best of both worlds).
  • Maybe this is a repeat, but I had a lot of fun writing about the Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail for Sandlapper Magazine. Quilters have goodness in their veins.
  • And I always enjoy writing for the good folks at WNC Parent.

Now, Florida…

While at Walt Disney World, “dress rehearsals” were being held at New Fantasyland. It’s gorgeous, people. Simply gorgeous. Next time, I am wearing a dress with a pinafore so I can spin around and sing about books.


Nooooo one brags like Gaston.


Oh my, Under the Sea shows that a huge technological leap has been made in the world of animatronics. Gone are the herky jerky hydraulics. Ariel’s moves are lifelike and smooth. Kiss the girl, Prince.


I am compelled to photograph all gargoyles. That probably warrants some psychological analysis.


I picked up a hot guy on the bridge.



Tomorrowland Transit Authority at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom

Then (Feb. 2003):


Now (Oct. 2012):


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