A total diet overhaul can be scary, but a Scranton plant-based eating group aims to show how simple — and fun — it can be.

Empowered Eating, organized by Scranton Beets founder Jean Hayes, meets at the Greenhouse Project, 200 Arthur Ave., at least once a month for classes on plant-based dishes made easy. The group typically brings in a different person to lead the class and demonstrate his or her recipes. On Thursday, June 6, at 6 p.m., Paulina Lizbeth will teach about her Mexican heritage as well as plant-based Mexican dishes, including ones made with nopal, aka prickly pear cactus.

Empowered Eating at the Greenhouse Project is this week’s Local Flavor Gives Back recipient thanks to Paulina Lizbeth’s Nopal Tacos recipe, which will be a featured dish at the group’s Plant-based Mexican Dishes class on Thursday, June 6.

Local Flavor loves to expand our taste horizons, and that’s why Lizbeth’s Nopal Tacos earned Empowered Eating at the Greenhouse Project a $50 grocery gift card through Local Flavor Gives Back.

When the Clarks Summit resident started a plant-based diet, she wanted to incorporate the Mexican dishes she grew up eating. She uses nopales in many of her dishes since the consistency is hearty and filling. Like cucumber or celery, nopales are mostly water as well as nutrient-dense, Lizbeth explained. She gets them at one of several Mexican grocery stores in South Scranton, where they are sold de-thorned. She advised cooks to heat the nopales over medium heat until their color changes from a brighter green to a more muted color. Lizbeth also uses lime juice in place of cooking oil.

Nopales have a slight kick to them, almost like that of a green pepper. They paired excellently with the guacamole, tomato and cilantro inside the tacos. The best part? The tasty meal was made in under 20 minutes, including prep.

In addition to Empowered Eating, the Greenhouse Project and executive director Jane Risse also host activities and events throughout the month, volunteer Sue Schaffer said. Beyond gardening, there’s yoga, exercise and DIY classes. Occasionally, elementary school field trips come through so kids can learn about everything from composting to bees. It’s a community hub, Schaffer noted.

“People hear ‘greenhouse’ and think ‘Oh, that’s where they grow plants’ and that’s it,” Schaffer said. “It’s lots more than just plants.”

Lizbeth happened upon the Greenhouse and Empowered Eating when looking for tips from others on plant-based eating. Hayes acknowledged that while the classes are open to anyone — from foodies to those just looking to eat more fruits and vegetables — eating plant-based is a total lifestyle overhaul, and the group is there for the recipes and resources as well as the social aspect.

“Eating plant-based, it can feel isolating,” Hayes said. “(Empowered Eating) is a place where you can swap recipes, learn something new and be with other people doing the same. It’s nice to have that support.”

Contact the writer: gmazur@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9127; @gmazurTT on Twitter

Paulina Lizbeth’s Nopal Tacos

  • 3 nopales (prickly pear cactus pedals)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • Limes (in place of cooking oil and for topping)
  • Salt, to taste (if needed)
  • Corn tortillas
  • Tomatoes, chopped (for topping)
  • Guacamole (for topping)
  • Cilantro (for topping)


  1. Chop nopales and set aside.
  2. Squeeze lime juice into pan and cook onions until almost translucent over medium heat. Add chopped nopales and cook until they change color, adding salt to taste if needed. Fill each tortilla with nopales, onion and tomato. Top with lime juice, guacamole and cilantro.


If you go

  • What: Empowered Eating: Plant-based Mexican Dishes
  • When: Thursday, June 6, 6 p.m.
  • Where: The Greenhouse Project, 200 Arthur Ave., Scranton
  • Details: There is a $5 suggested donation. Parking will be available in Nay Aug Park lots adjacent to the greenhouse.