Dan Kerry is on a mission to teach people how to liberate themselves from food-related disability and disease by eliminating animal protein from their plates and replacing it with whole foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. It has become clear over decades of scientific research that many diseases are life-style related and can be improved and even reversed by simple changes in one’s diet. Simple changes in the way you eat can literally save your life!
Dan is a recent graduate of Food For Life, a teaching program designed to promote a healthy plant-based lifestyle. Food For Life is the brainchild of Dr. Neal Barnard, President of Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine based in Washington, DC. Accepting only a handful of applicants each year, the program is designed to teach people suffering with Heart Disease, Cancer, Diabetes, Obesity and other food related diseases how to improve or even reverse health outcomes by simple changes in their diets.
Dan has jumped into this activity with both feet. He is currently teaching a 21-day quick-start weight loss classes in his community in Manhattan, NYC. Using the curriculum of Physician’s Committee For Responsible Medicine (PCRM) for the series which targets the lifestyle of western civilization, Dan seeks to demonstrate how these classes can enable students to take control of their health by making better food decisions. The classes are a combination of cooking classes of easy, tasty meals that compose a plant-based diet. It is accompanied by a video of the founder of PCRM, Dr. Neal Barnard, who explains the nutrition and science behind a plant-based lifestyle. Each class is designed to focus on a particular food and each series is designed to focus on a particular issue whether it be diabetes, cancer, weight-loss, etc. Each class is designed to show how clients can make the most of that information.
For the last five years, Dan has worked as a life coach, helping people to live happier and healthier lives. Something felt missing to him and he began to look into expanding his practice. Serendipitously, his younger brother introduced him to the film, Earthlings, which is more about the ethical side of a plant-based diet. The film had a profound effect on Dan. “It changed my heart,” he said simply. “It changed my heart.” He could no longer participate in the cruelty connected with consuming animals. He didn’t know how to go about it, but he knew it was something he had to do. Then Dan discovered that he just felt better and he wanted to continue to feel better. This led him to look at the nutritional aspects of being a vegan. He took Cornell’s e-program on plant-based nutrition, started following Michael Greger’s NutritionFacts.org, and was eventually introduced to PCRM through an email communication with Dr. Greger.
Dan became plant-based Feb 2, 2014. “It is always interesting to me that the change to a plant-based lifestyle is often so profound that people remember the exact date they made the switch,” Dan recalls. He discovered that he felt better, more energetic and the arthritis issues he had been dealing with completely disappeared. “It is all the things that one can expect when switching to a plant-based lifestyle.”
Dan is teaching classes out of his home in Manhattan, is partnering with a local yoga studio to teach classes. When I asked Dan about the responses he’s receiving from his students, his response was surprising. “It’s interesting. I thought the biggest challenge would be the purely plant-based approach, but what I actually found was that the students understood some of the issues with the animal products. They were really more shocked about the issue of cutting out or minimizing the oil in their diet. They had not looked at cooking from this perspective. They were actually shocked at how tasty the vegetables were that we produced without oil; it still had its flavor, it was still moist, and all these things.”
Dan is creating a plant-based eating guide for his students to assist them in choosing restaurants that will support their goals. “One of the things I got to think about in my own journey and in talking with New Yorkers, because it is very common to eat out in New York. People eat out about 30% of the time, it’s the lifestyle of the city. It’s good to have these recipes but most of the people eat out about 30-40% of the time. So how would that work if they want to have a social life with their friends. I started to look at the restaurants in my neighborhood and I started to reach out to them. I was surprised that in my neighborhood there were at least twenty restaurants that were able to provide two or thee main courses and then sides that were totally vegan. We reached out to these restaurants for information. Some of them responded, some didn’t, some are vegan so we know what they will provide. We just want to give people that extra boost for going plant-based and dealing with the social challenges of going plant-based can really get in the way of going all the way in this lifestyle. No one wants to be the troublesome person who asks the waiter too many questions or sends the food back when it has animal protein in it. So I wanted to cut out that barrier to their transition. We have already asked the questions of the chefs and the managers. I really wanted to make it easy for each person who attends our classes.”
Dan and his wife, Angie, are looking for their first child in March. They are excited to raise a vegan child, giving him or her a healthy foundation on which to build its life.
You can learn more about Dan Kerry’s plant-based Food For Life classes at his website: theplantstrongproject.com.
I am happy to announce the launching of our new website Time For Change Kitchen.
This focus of this site is on learning to prepare whole plant-based cuisine. The amazing colors and flavors of these dishes will show you how adding healthy foods to your diet can be so delicious and hearty you won’t give artery clogging meat and cheese another thought. So, join me at my new site Time For Change Kitchen and let’s start cooking!
I grew up in the town of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where the biggest industry was the manufacturing of steel and Bethlehem Steel was the biggest employer in the Valley. My father worked there all his life and retired from the company before they went bankrupt. I have many fond memories of the city and it’s culture, but in my entire life I never encountered a place like the Crêperie.
The Crêperie is is a little French café located in a strip mall right around the corner from the Marriott hotel properties near the airport. When I arrived at the hotel, I inquired about local places to have breakfast that served vegan food and I was directed to the Crêperie. I went for breakfast the following morning and had a great conversation with Kathy (the owner) about how she cooks her food and what brought her into this line of work. She told me her story about leaving corporate America and opening a small restaurant serving food that she enjoyed while growing up. Her grandmother, which she affectionately calls Vava, was a major influence in her life. This is how she came up with the name Vava’s Crêperie Café. We both grew up in a family of six children which gave us the opportunity to exchange stories about our places in the pack. One of her fondest memories is coming home after school to crepes with homemade raspberry jam.
I must admit at this point she almost had me drooling as she described the crepes her grandmother made with great affection. She uses the recipes her grandmother used to make crepes when she was a little girl. Let’s face it folks, don’t we all want to eat the food our grandmothers cooked for us when we were younger. It takes us back to a happy and comfortable time sharing meals with our family in grandma’s kitchen. This is the atmosphere Kathy has tried to create in her café.
As is the case with many people working in corporate America, Kathy became disillusioned with her work and decided to open the Crêperie. Her goal was to create a similar atmosphere to a French café, mimicking the recipes her grandmother had made for her. Much of this information is locked away in her memory of growing up as a child. She went back to visit Mery, France her grandmother’s birthplace, which gave her the inspiration for the Creperie. The personal touches with which Kathy has imbued her café is obvious the moment you walk in the door. I had conversations with several of the patrons, all of whom heartily endorse Kathy’s creations. The café is small and friendly, which lends itself to an atmosphere of interaction. The Crêperie is evidence that the culture of the city of Bethlehem has changed a great deal from what it was when I grew up. The breakfast of choice for the blue-collar workers in Bethlehem was quite different from what Kathy has created in her restaurant.
As you pick up the menu or look at the choices on the wall where the daily offerings are written, your mind starts to spin trying to digest all of the choices available. You can order anything from a Montecristo, to a peanut butter and banana crêpe. The nice thing about this place is that you can also create your own crêpe from a large list of choices available. The categories include a source of protein, cheese, vegetables, and sauce. There are no strictly vegan options at this point since the crepe batter contains eggs and milk. After our discussion, Kathy has agreed to research vegan crepe options and hopes to have them available in the future.
The sauces range from a balsamic glaze to a pesto created by Kathy. She prepares everything from scratch and obtains her produce from local sources. I had a blast ordering my meal and going through all the choices available to create my crêpe. Kathy prepared for me a whole-grain plant-based crêpe which included spinach, mushrooms, caramelized onions, tomatoes, sautéed peppers and a pesto sauce. Needless to say, by the time I received my breakfast, my mouth was watering. The taste was fantastic and took me back to a time when I was having breakfast with my brothers and sisters in my mom’s kitchen.
There are plenty of choices here for carnivores and vegetarians. My bet is that everyone will walk away from here delighted with what they have experienced. The Crêperie has been open a little over a year. If you are like me, when you travel it is fun to experience new and different places to eat. It’s great to have an opportunity to experience food that is prepared with affection and passion. Nowhere is that more evident than at the Crêperie. Bethlehem has finally acquired a little slice of French cuisine. I plan to tell everyone I know about what Kathy is doing here so that she has enough business to allow to continue fueling her passion.
Travel-weary and ravenous, Rich was searching the web for a place to eat near our hotel in north Charleston when I happened to look up from my steering wheel and noticed a sign that read “Gathering Café.” My car just steered its way into the parking lot. We were greeted by our friendly waitress, Olivia, and we grabbed an empty table. Casual and understated, the restaurant decor belies the gustatory delights awaiting discovery.
Gathering Café serves animal dishes for the most part, but we were thrilled to learn the menu has a number of vegan options We quickly discovered Olivia to be knowledgeable and accommodating. To start, we ordered the Carrot-Ginger Soup and the House Salad, which we shared while awaiting our main course. The salad consisted of fresh, delicate baby greens, fresh tomatoes, carrots and cucumber tossed in a lemon vinaigrette and served with a crisp sesame seed cracker. It tasted… well, like spring.
The Carrot-Ginger Soup was sweet and spicy and utterly delicious. I was beginning to get the picture. The chef at Gathering Café certainly understands flavor. There is a vegan falafel sandwich and vegetarian dishes in which the cheese can be removed if you prefer. We opted for the clearly plant-based options.
I ordered the Oven-Roasted Chickpea Cakes. Served on a bed of chickpeas, roasted peppers and tomatoes and topped with perfectly prepared fresh asparagus, the combination of flavors was out of this world.
Rich had trouble choosing between the two rice bowls, so we resolved the dilemma by ordering both (taking one back to the hotel for later). The Panang Curry boasted carrots, broccoli, sweet potato, mushrooms and ginger stewed in coconut milk and served with brown rice.
The Teriyaki Rice Bowl comprised of mixed vegetables, avocado, and sesame seeds, was flavored with, you guessed it, teriyaki sauce.
Finally, we finished with a delightful refreshing fruit sorbet that was just the right combination of tart and sweet. These are not on the menu but are offered as seasonal specials in a variety of flavors.
Do yourself a favor the next time your are in Charleston. It’s worth the drive out of the city to visit this charming little restaurant to enjoy some of the best food in the area.
Happy Trails Café in Alvarado Station, Virginia is smack dab in the middle of the Virginia Creeper Trail between Abingdon and Damascus, VA. The famous Virginia Creeper Trail is named after a railroad that ran between Abingdon, VA to Whitetop Mountain in North Carolina, spanning three states on what is now 34 miles of biking, hiking and horseback riding trails.
What is unique about Happy Trails is that they offer vegan options! Since there isn’t a single place in Abingdon or Damascus where we can find a plant-based meal, it is rather astonishing to find something to eat in this out of the way diner. The owner, Gwyn Hill, is a darling. Her partners/co-workers are her husband, Travis and her son, Logan, her parents, Loretta and Harvey Johnston, and her mother-in-law, Fran Hill, making it truly a family affair.
There are several plant-based options on the menu and Gwen often offers vegan specials. The first thing I noticed was the sign for boiled peanuts. I’m not ashamed to admit it, I’m a boiled peanut fanatic. Rich and I scarfed down an order while awaiting the rest of our meal.
We couldn’t think of celebrating the Fourth of July without the traditional hotdog, vegan of course, with relish and sweet onions and a side of fried chips.
We ordered the Big Honkin’ Veggie Wrap, a flour tortilla layered with house-made hummus and stuffed full of fresh vegetables from local farmers and dressed with a lemon vinaigrette.
On a subsequent visit, I discovered I could replace the chips with a fresh side salad for a healthier version.
Rich and I also shared a Loaded Veggie Wrap, which is wrapped in gluten-free rice paper, stuffed with fresh veggies and served wit a lemon-vinaigrette. This wrap is made surprisingly sweet by the house-made sweet onions prepared by Gwen from a prized family recipe. It really is something special.
On our next visit we tried the Veggie Quinoa Salad, crisp, garden fresh vegetables topped with the now famous pickled sweet onions.
We enjoyed our meals in a small dining area next to the kitchen. Outside are plenty of tables underneath a sunscreen as well as numerous bike racks and plenty of parking. Across the street is a public park next to a lovely stream. There are pavilions with tables for dining and even swings to relax in underneath.
This day’s veggie special was a veggie burger which comes with two sides. The menu board also features a delicious juice of beets, apples, carrots and ginger. I watched as one customer’s eyes popped open wide as took a sip from her friend’s glass. She immediately ordered one for herself.
Happy Trails Café is perfectly located and is a welcome oasis in the middle of our 17-mile bike ride. Rich and I are becoming regular customers and, so far, Gwyn and her charming family do not disappoint.