Healthy Dessert – How to Get By Without Sugar

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It’s been a long time since I’ve posted on my blog and as I prepare to go back to school, I’m feeling the writing bug attack again! Writing is something that doesn’t come very naturally to me. I feel like I have to work at it (I guess that’s how most people feel…). But, once I get started I really enjoy it! So, I hope you enjoy reading it! I guess I should get used to it, too, since I start back in my doctoral program at UVA next week! YIKES! How time flies…

So, since I last posted lots has changed! I got my first year of my Doctor of Nursing Practice degree under my belt, I had a baby girl, and we moved back to our home state halfway down the east coast! Shooo! It was an incredibly busy year, but when I look back on it I am incredibly grateful for all we got to experience in that year.

Now, enough catching up. On to my blog post… SUGAR! One thing that is definite in this life is my love of dessert. Even after going plant-based with my diet a year and a half ago, I still have major sweet tooth cravings. I’ve made great leaps and bounds giving up sugar and processed foods in my life; however, I still fall victim to not so healthy desserts all too often. Thankfully, I’ve grown in my knowledge of nutrition to the point where most sugary treats and desserts just aren’t that appealing anymore (once you’ve seen the light… you can’t go back!). Sugar is not your friend. Sugar does nasty things to your body. And it’s extremely addictive! In fact, some researchers think it’s as addictive as heroin.

So what’s a dessert loving girl to do? Find healthy alternatives!!! Being a regular reader of the Engine 2 Diet‘s blog, I stumbled upon another great blog – StraightUPFood by Cathy Fisher. Engine 2 featured her recipe for Blackberry-Peach Cobbler and I just had to try it. I had just seen some juicy looking blackberries and peaches at the farmer’s market and thought I’d give it a whirl! And it was delicious! The perfect summer treat that I allowed me to scoop out a huge portion and not feel to guilty.

So take advantage of summer’s bounty and enjoy this delicious, healthy, processed-sugar free, and vibrant sweet treat! Your body will thank you!

Our first vegan Thanksgiving was a… SUCCESS!

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As I continue to eat our Thanksgiving leftovers for now the third day in a row (what’s the rule on how long your leftovers are good???), I am proud to say that they are still amazingly good! I by no means am a great cook, nor do I pretend to be. In fact, I’m pretty challenged at most things culinary. However, since going vegan in April of 2011, my hours of practice in the kitchen have dramatically increased and my confidence is slowly following suit. That’s the difficult thing about becoming vegan: your dining out choices become drastically limited very quickly. But that’s for another post…

So! Here are some not so great photos of our feast. Unfortunately, I had already started serving when I remembered that I should probably document this momentous occasion. So please forgive the lack of artistic quality!

The picture is horrible, but the meal was delicious! The contents of our meal included: sweet potato casserole, pumpkin bread stuffing, green bean casserole, and a Tofurkey roast (with potatoes, red onion, and carrots). I think the Tofurkey and the green been casserole were my favorites. Of course, the best was the dessert: vegan peanut butter pie! My husband is not a fan of pumpkin pie, so we went with a less traditional dessert choice… and it was scrumptious! Even better than the “real” thing (from what I remember)!

Most importantly though, aside from all the food, we remembered with grateful hearts all the things that we are thankful for. Even my 2 year old son participated in the giving of thanks! I think my heart exploded into a million tender pieces when he said, “I’m thankful for you, Mama!”

We also remembered to share our gratitude: we donated money to our local food bank. No, we didn’t rescue a turkey. And no, we didn’t implore our friends and family to not eat their own dead bird. On the other hand, we did hopefully rescue another family from not being able to celebrate this Thanksgiving with food and love. We are so grateful, beyond measure, for all the good things in this life (family, friends, love, forgiveness, compassion, etc.). Hopefully, that gratitude is contagious. Happy Thanksgiving!

Peas and love,

Holly

University bucks convention in Texas with vegan dining hall | Reuters

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University bucks convention in Texas with vegan dining hall | Reuters.

Woot Woot! Go University of North Texas! College students are one of the fastest growing segments of the vegan population and their influence has been astounding. Due to the efforts of student groups around the country, many colleges are now offering vegan, or at least vegetarian, options at most meals. The amazing part is that according to a USA Today article, what college students really want are healthier meal choices, and colleges are attempting to comply (Green Dining: Vegan and vegetarian options abound on campuses, USA TODAY College, posted August, 30, 2011).

Within the last ten years, the number of vegetarian and vegan food options on campuses has dramatically increased. Michigan State now runs a food station serving vegan and vegetarian options. The University of North Texas (article linked above) has recently opened the first all-vegan cafeteria and last year Oklahoma City University became the first campus with a raw vegan bar (USA TODAY article). It’s the students pushing for healthier dining options, said John Cunningham, a consumer research manager with the Vegetarian Resource Group. “The change comes from the bottom up,” Cunningham said. “More students are getting active and demanding it to their administrations.”

Most college students surveyed indicated that they wanted to eat healthier and saw the vegan/vegetarian diet as a healthy alternative to the standard American diet. Hopefully, thanks to our college students, this trend will spread to the consumer market and restaurants will try and catch wave of healthy eating, vegan-style. At least, that’s what I’m hoping for.🙂

Peas and love,
Holly

Remembering September 11th

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I know this post is a little late in coming. I actually started it on Sunday, September 11th, but my heart was so heavy after hearing all the families who still missed and grieved their lost loved ones (and probably always will) that I couldn’t figure out what to write. (Plus I have a paper due for one of my DNP classes that has literally consumed all my free time lately!) All the stories of sons growing up without dads and children growing up without their mom/aunt/uncle/brother/sister flooded my ears and my heart as my husband and I commemorated the day with the rest of the nation. Now that I’m a mom, I feel so poignantly for those who lost children or parents. It brings tears to my eyes to think of my own son growing up without his mom or dad. What a tragedy, but also what a glorious nation that grows stronger and never forgets those that lost their lives – be it on the battlegrounds in foreign nations or in the disaster zone in our own backyard.

We all have our “Where were you when the Twin Towers were struck?” story. It’s become the “where were you when JFK was shot?” question of our parents’ generation. I was in my graduate nursing program at VCU on that day. I was actually at a daycare, doing my pediatric clinical rotation when parents came flooding in to retrieve their children and take them home to safety. This particular daycare served a lot of the parents who worked in the Capital in Richmond, VA. You can imagine these parents feeling particularly vulnerable as the Pentagon had been struck, as well as Pennsylvania, and they weren’t sure who was next. Richmond is just a short drive down I-95 from the Pentagon. We as students were instructed to return to campus as well.

We went back to campus and felt utterly lost – wanting so badly to help, to do something. We are nurses after all! That’s what nurses do – we help people in need!!!!!! So we did the best we could do – we found a Red Cross and we donated blood. It didn’t seem like much as the time, but we were hoping it would somehow make its way to those who needed it the most.

As the years have passed, I still very much as a nurse feel the need to live a life that changes peoples lives for the better, that helps those in need and that provides a service to those who are suffering. I feel this passion even more strongly now that I’ve committed my life to a plant-based diet in the hopes that my example will help others to do the same. In doing so, hopefully those who do change their way of eating will feel so much better, so quickly, that it will re-frame the reason for making these changes from fear of dying (of heart disease, diabetes, etc.), which usually is not sustainable, to joy of living. Eating plants makes you feel alive and reconnected with your true self, the way you were meant to live! I never want to preach – I just want others to see my joy and want to embrace it for themselves. This may sound cheesy or overly dramatic, but it’s honestly the was I feel. Hopefully it’s contagious!

As September 11th comes and goes, life moves on again. My prayer is that those who suffered that day may have a little more peace this year than in previous years, and may more be added in the years that come. As for me, it’s back to my paper. C’est la vie.

Peas and love,
Holly

21-Day Vegan Kickstart / a Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) site

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21-Day Vegan Kickstart / a Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) site.

So here’s how I got started on my plant-based diet journey. I am by no means savvy in the kitchen. In fact, if I don’t have a recipe telling me exactly how to cook it, I’m probably not going to eat it! I definitely lack creativity in that department! That’s why the 21 Day Kickstart is such a perfect solution to those interested in making the switch to a plant-based diet but not sure how to get started. There are recipes and tips and a complete meal plan that covers 21 days. It also has all kinds of additional videos, tips, celebrity endorsements and recipes to up your knowledge on a vegan diet. My husband and I did the whole 21 days and all the recipes were delicious! There wasn’t a single recipe that we didn’t enjoy.

If you join the kickstart, let me know! I’d love to hear if it changed your life as it did mine.

Peas and love,
Holly

Hello world!

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So here is a stab at my first attempt to write a blog. I am pretty sure no one will end up reading this, but guess what… the joy of life is in the journey and not the destination! I am extremely excited to begin this blog. I have flirted with the idea of blogging for months, only to be discouraged by lack of time, feelings of inadequacy (who would want to read about what I think, anyway?), and other lame excuses. The final push came last week that caused me to finally sit down and put words on screen. I started my Doctor of Nursing Practice Program at the University of Virginia School of Nursing and one of my core classes is Nursing Informatics. My professor is having us create a blog for this class and part of our assignment was to become more familiar with blogging tools. I interpreted this as a sign that I should finally commit myself to this long held desire and start typing. So here I am.

Another great life event happened this past week as well. In starting the DNP program, I have also begun thinking about what type of Capstone (a.k.a., thesis/dissertation) project I would like to create. This lead me to really focus in on what health-related matters I am most interested in: nutrition and disease prevention (specifically cardiovascular disease and diabetes). In a random internet search, I figured out that I could actually contact via e-mail someone in the medical field that I have an immense amount of respect for: Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr. So guess what? I e-mailed! And guess what else? I got a response!!! I actually received a phone call from him the very next morning. Unfortunately, I never heard it ring (darn you, water-damaged, intermittent ringing iPhone!) and it went to voice mail. Long story short, I was invited to one of his epic 5 hour Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease patient education sessions that he and his wife, Ann, run. I am currently trying to devise a way to actually make it to one. His sessions are held at the Cleveland Clinic and that is too great a distance to travel from Newport, RI. So, we’ll see.

If there is any way possible, I am going to make it there. I just believe this is a once in a career connection too great to pass up. My mind was blown the first time I read about Dr. Esselstyn’s stance to view heart disease, high blood pressure, and type-2 diabetes as “food-borne illnesses”.  And as Dr. Esselstyn-and others often say, “Genes load the gun… but lifestyle pulls the trigger.” If you are the least bit interested in eating better to treat or prevent heart disease (or just to eat better) I highly recommend you read Dr. Esselstyn’s book, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. Like me, your mind will be blown, guaranteed! I also recommend watching Julia Grayer’s documentary Chow Down. It’s about three people who changed the way they eat (Dr. Esselstyn-style) in order to save their lives. You can watch it for free on Hulu.  You’ll never go back to your old lifestyle again!

So that’s that. My first blog. I promise if you are reading this, that it will become more interesting as I get better at this.🙂

I look forward to sharing this journey with you into health, wellness and disease prevention!

Peas and love,

Holly