This week, I am over the moon with excitement to introduce (or reintroduce you) to one of the most enthusiastic, vibrant, energetic, and fresh voices in the whole foods plant-based scene – the lovely and lively Jane Esselstyn, RN. I met Jane for the first time at the Esselstyn family’s New York home when I was delivering wedding cakes for her brother, Rip’s wedding. (Can you just imagine how excited I was!) I was immediately drawn to Jane, a friendly and charismatic woman with an infectious smile, never-ending energy, who happens to have super impressive –and incredibly eclectic credentials. Jane brings her perspective and passion as a nurse, researcher, mother, and teacher to the forefront of the plant-based movement. Jane’s wildly popular conference Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease and Autoimmune Disease for Women focuses on the power of a plant-based approach to eliminate this #1 killer of women as well as other preventable, lifestyle-related diseases. Jane claims, “Prevention is the New Cure!” — and the most powerful, relevant, and protective medicine we have is a plant-based diet. I am sure you will enjoy reading about Jane and her journey today. Do sign up for Jane’s newsletter and stay up to date with her events. I hear she may be coming to the Philly area and you know, I’ll try to snag a seat! Thank you so much, Jane, for taking the time to be my January Fabulous Women in Vegan Food guest blogger.
This whole cookbook author part of life hit me totally out of the blue. At least from my perspective. I have a bachelor’s degree in psychology of religion from The University of Michigan, a massage therapy degree from New Mexico Academy of Massage Therapy and Advance Healing Arts, a Rolfing certification from the Rolf Institute, and a BSN and RN degree from Kent State University. What says ‘you will write cookbooks’ amongst those degrees? Nothing. But somehow my path lead me to do just that.
Growing up we ate a healthier version of the Standard American Diet; whole wheat bread, Grape-Nuts, bean sprouts, natural peanut butter, skim milk, Yoplait yogurt, cheese soufflés, pineapple chicken, muenster cheese sandwiches, ribs, and cheesecake. As a kid, I never liked meat. I recall my mom nudging me to finish my hot dog; we both cringe at the thought of that now! My brothers and I were all nationally ranked swimmers, so when I went out to Mission Viejo, CA to train for the summer in 1981, I lived with a family who introduced me to beans: bean burritos, refried beans, and hummus. I loved it all. Soon thereafter, because of my father’s research – not because of my new love for beans, we started eating a plant-based diet.
It was a rough start out of the gate: my mom was a miracle worker at figuring it all out pre-internet and pre-Whole Foods Market type stores. At times, it was slim pickin’s being a vegetarian, athletic teen in college. I remember discovering a life-saving option at Pizza Bob’s on State Street. They made an extraordinarily large, spacious Chapatti puff of bread. I recall it being a hollow orb about 10 inches wide and 6 inches high and stuffed with chopped lettuce. I adorned it with their famous marinara which I recall the taste of as I sit here typing. I ate that lettuce filled puff innumerable times in my four years in Ann Arbor.
Each meal, day, month, year, and decade we continue to eat plant-based, the better we get at creating delicious, winning recipes. Nonetheless, it was a shock and honor when my brother Rip ask me, a mom, middle school sex ed teacher, and nurse to help him with the recipe section of Plant-Strong. It was to be the second Engine 2 book, so without hesitating, I jumped at the chance. Our kids were little and whenever a recipe won their approval I knew it was going in the book, see: Bettermilk Biscuits! Rip and I had a blast with the book and were thrilled when Plant-Strong became a NY Times #1 Bestseller.
By this time, my mother Ann and I were in the habit of writing down recipes, and, as mentioned earlier, the longer we cook this way the better we get. Thus, it was time to follow up my father’s book, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, with a beautiful, photo-filled cookbook. What a riot to work on The Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook book with my mom. I live next door to my parents – just a wee pine-needled path between our houses. Oh, the number of times we ran back and forth to try, taste, and share recipes. A favorite from this book is hard to choose: see Matt’s Sofrito Black Beans.
Riding high on girl power, I decided to create a conference called Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease for Women with my great friend and publicist Char Nolan. So many events in the plant-based world seemed to curate men as the speakers and women doing the cooking demo. Enough. There are herds of women out there with compelling voices, research, and experience. Time for them to be featured. We are in the third year of hosting this informative, warm, conference featuring raffles, dancing, grocery-filled goodie bags, tons of food and current evidence-based presentations. This year we have added Autoimmune Disease to the title: see Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease and Autoimmune Disease for Women.
Meanwhile, Engine 2 keeps powering forward with events, books, and products exclusive to Whole Foods Market. Based on the stunning biometric results seen in our week-long Engine 2 Immersion programs, Rip and I did another book with a lean focus: The Engine 2 Seven Day Rescue. We honestly rewrote this book 3 times. After the invaluable help of conducting 3 pilot studies we shaped it into the fine-tuned, user-friendly guide it is today. A favorite from this is hard to pinpoint as we encourage everyone to build-a-bowl that suits you: see Empower Bowl.
As an RN, I do not work in the clinical setting, but I have been invited to do research with the Cleveland Clinic on two studies involving obese children with high cholesterol. Our first study was a month long and we divided the group in two: one group followed the American Heart Association Diet and the other followed a Plant-Based Diet. What a blast it was to design and instruct the classroom and kitchen curriculum for the plant-based diet. They were champs in the kitchen whipping up hummus, veggie burgers, mango-bean salad, and chocolate (tofu) pudding. The results of this study were published in the Journal of Pediatrics in February 2015. Our most recent study was similar but longer and larger. It lasted for one year and we divided the group into three groups: American Heart Association Diet, Plant-Based Diet, and Mediterranean Diet. This study is yet to be published – so keep your eyes peeled!
Right around New Year’s our latest book came out: The Engine 2 Cookbook, Over 130 Lip-Smacking, Rib-Sticking, Body-Slimming Recipes to Live Plant-Strong. It is gorgeous. A testament to the fact that the longer you eat a plant-based diet, the better you get at preparing the food. A favorite from this book is really impossible to choose: see Char’s knock out, “Yo, Adrien” Burgers, and Romesco Sauce. Actually, those two together would be a one-two punch.
Women are stunningly creative. So, believe me, a sex ed teaching, massage therapy trained, psychology of religion major, veteran Outward Bound instructor, and mother of three – we all have amazing creations within us. My personal favorites are Kale Cake with Blueberry Frosting (The Prevent Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook), Dr. Seuss Stacked Polenta (Plant-Strong), Grandpa’s Homemade Eat Loaf (The Engine 2 Seven Day Rescue) and Chick & Salad (The Engine 2 Cookbook).
What crazy combination of your talents has inspired a favorite recipe?
Jane Esselstyn RN is a fresh, charismatic voice who brings her perspective and passion as a nurse, researcher, mother, and teacher to the forefront of the plant-based movement. She presents her work, research, and high energy demos all over the country. Her annual conference, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease and Autoimmune Disease for Women, focuses on the power of a plant-based approach to eliminate this #1 killer of women and other preventable, lifestyle-related diseases. Jane claims, “Prevention is the New Cure!” — and the most powerful, relevant, and protective medicine we have is a plant-based diet.
Jane is an avid and inventive designer of plant-strong recipes and the co-author of The Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook. She created the recipe sections of #1 NYTimes bestseller, Plant-Strong and T
She and her husband Brian Hart live in Cleveland Ohio with their 3 plant-based children. Jane graduated from the University of Michigan, where she competed as an All-American swimmer and varsity rower. Visit www.JaneEsselstyn.com for more info.
Jane has a copy of The Engine 2 Cookbook for one lucky winner. Follow the instructions below to enter. U.S. residents only, please. Contest ends at midnight eastern time on January 30th. Good luck!