Happy New Year, everyone! 2014! Wow, 2013 flew by so fast. And of course, with the beginning of any New Year, always comes new resolutions and new possibilities. In January, I am dedicating my posts to just that…A New Year ~ A Fresh, New You.
And first up in this series, is the introduction of One Part Plant. One Part Plant is an amazing website geared towards providing inspiration for healthy eating and happy living. On their website, you can find new recipes, great advice and fun events hosted around the city. Also, they’ve been the sole force in partnering up with some of the best restaurants and hotels around the country, in efforts to incorporate more plant-based dishes on their menus (my specific restaurant favs ~ Sable, Lula Cafe and Trenchermen, here in Chicago). Also, a lot of you have asked about services geared toward healthy living and One Part Plant has some really fantastic programs centered around just that. A couple of weeks ago, I sat down with One Part Plant‘s Jessica Murnane to ask her a few questions. We met at Chicago’s LYFE Kitchen, where the food fit into our conversation perfectly, as they have some really unique and flavorful plant-based dishes…
Were you always interested in health and wellness? How did your health journey start?
No, I was not healthy at all. I was always very envious of people who were healthy, but I didn’t think that it was me, I didn’t know that I was capable of that sort of lifestyle because I really liked junk food. I didn’t see myself as a healthy person, but I always wanted to be one. And then, I was diagnosed with endometrieosis at 28 years old (that I was suffering with for a long time) and I went to a whole bunch of doctors and no one truly believed that I had so much pain. And so, there came a point when one of my cysts ruptured and one of my doctors officially diagnosed me correctly. And even after a couple of surgeries, nothing took the pain away until a friend of mine sent me a website that looked like something written in 1989 that outlined what is basically a plant-based diet (no meat and no dairy). At that point, I was heading in the direction of having a hysterectomy and I was willing to give it a shot and try it. And it was hard and I was evil for like two weeks because my body was going through withdrawal and I think I was just really mad because I didn’t know what to do or where to eat and none of my friends ate this way, but I tried it and kept with it. And after about a month or so, all of my pain was gone. It worked. So, actually from that point I stuck to a gluten, dairy, soy-free diet and occasionally would still eat meat and sugar. And then, what happens is when you eliminate certain things, you are able to tell what does and doesn’t make you feel good. I was able then that next year, to eliminate meat and sugar completely. I would say that the first year that I changed my diet, I would still, like maybe once a month, have pizza, and then I would feel like crap. Or I would have candy, and would feel like crap. It was a definite transition for me. I don’t think I was ready at the beginning to eliminate everything. It is hard. Not just because of ‘This is how you eat all the time’, but socially and how you identify yourself. I identified myself as a meat-eater. So, just to have to change your identity as a person also goes into it, which I don’t really think people think about.
You’ve partnered with some really amazing restaurants in Chicago. And this partnership has inspired the addition of more plant-based dishes on their menus, etc. How did all of that begin? What inspired this movement?
Last January, I thought that I really, really wanted to change my career. Badly. I had been a graphic designer for 10 years and I have a paper line as well. So I was just thinking, “What do I actually care about, what am I passionate about?” I initially looked into joining the Peace Corp, but the thing that kept coming up is health and food. And as I was sitting with my husband one night and said, “What if I started doing something with food?” and he immediately agreed that it was my destined path. And the first thing I knew that I wanted to do was the restaurant program. And because I know restaurant industry people, I thought by them offering plant-based dishes — (A) – this gives the plant-based movement some legitimacy and it doesn’t seems like a fringe, weird, hippie thing. These chefs are embracing this, so it must be ok. I knew I could start a website and have people come to it and love it, but I’m only going to get the people that already like to eat that way to the website. I wanted people that didn’t eat that way to come to the website, so it was important for me to partner with them. Partner with them in a way where they are offering a least one to two dishes on the menu that are plant-based or at least committing to, if a plant-based person comes in, easily modifying something. So, I decided to get a certification in plant-based nutrition because I have worked with chefs, they are super into ‘their thing’, they are artists and they are very serious. I wanted to make sure that I had very knowledgeable information on this lifestyle.
When my stepmom was here a couple weeks ago, she loves to eat steak when she comes to town and so, she looked on my website and made a reservation at David Burke’s Primehouse because there was a plant-based option and it kind of made a bit teary-eyed because they’ve never had a plant-based option before. It’s kind of crazy because these restaurants are willing to make that change, if it is presented in a way that makes it seem not so militant and scary.
You have a few really great services geared toward assisting those interested in living a more healthy lifestyle? Could you explain those programs: Game Plant, Master Plant, and Mini Plant? In what ways can you assist folks with their lifestyle choices or with their business ventures?
The Mini Plant (A Kick-Start to Wellness) and Master Plant (A Buddy System for Greatness) are pretty much the same, in terms of the program. And I really spent a long time developing the program itself. It is 6 weeks where basically, every week you have homework that you get to do. Because, I think apart of this is just feeling accountable for doing things. Not crazy homework, but asking you to watch a movie, for example. And then, you also have a journal page every day that I’d like for you to record. And on every single journal page there is an inspiring quote. It’s interesting because as much as the 6 week program is about food, I would say 60% of it is actually about loving yourself a little more through the journey. Because I think that when you change your diet, the food part is hard, and I think I said this before, but the social part and the identity part is even harder. So, you have homework that has to do with that change. There are pages that discuss how to deal with people in your life that are not cool with this change in your life because you will find people that are like, “Why are you doing this, that is weird?” or “How are you getting enough protein?” So the programs are just really designed to assist you in a very loving and supportive way and not just giving you a list of a whole bunch of foods to avoid, or cannot eat. It’s funny because it’s a lot about food, but it’s so much more about being sensitive to your new life. Mini Plant – we work together, I give you the guide, we talk through the guide, I give you a cookbook and you follow the guide and do it on your own. And the Master Plant is for somebody that wants the guide, but then they still want to meet once a week for the 6 weeks. So ,it’s a little more one-on-one. And you get some videos that I’ve made as well. It’s more for the person that needs a bit more help. The Mini Plant is for someone that kind of wants to do it on their own. And the Game Plant (A Business & Life Decoder) — I get a lot of emails about “how I started”. I do have a lot of business experience. I thought that it’s a great way to discuss those business related questions with me. I might not have time to answer all of the emails, but it is a way to schedule time with me and I’ll answer whatever you want. I don’t hide things.
MORE ABOUT JESSICA…
What is one of your favorite recipes?
I love sweet things. I made these cookies, they are on my website. They are called “Boukie Butter Cookies”. They are named after my friend Lauren Boukas who has been the most supportive in my life since I’ve started this. And all it is: almond butter, maple syrup, and brown rice crisps. You roll it into little balls and drizzle dark chocolate syrup and then freeze them and it’s just like, literally, the easiest cookie to make, ever, and everyone flips over them. I try not to use crazy ingredients, I try to have like 10 staples that I keep on using.
What is one of your favorite places to grocery shop in Chicago?
I mean it’s so cliché but I love Whole Foods. I think with plant-based shopping, really, I kind of shop where I know I can get the best deals on quality items. There are a couple items that I buy at Trader Joe’s — their lemons and limes. I’ll buy my organic herbs at Jewel because they are a dollar less than they are anywhere else. But if it’s the summer, hands down, Green City Market. That’s my favorite, favorite, favorite.
What’s the one kitchen tool you couldn’t live without?
That’s hard. I love my juicer so much. I have the Omega 8006. It’s the best and it’s easy to clean. But in terms of actual baking, parchment paper is so great, right?! And I feel like a blender is awesome as well. But, I would say that my juicer is something that I use every single day.
Last meal that you prepared?
I recently had a slummer party with two of my friends and we decided on “comfort food” as the theme. I made mashed potatoes with mushroom gravy. The mushroom gravy had tons of mushrooms, vegetable broth, a lot of nutritional yeast, tamari and I added a little bit of brown rice flour to thicken. It was delicious.