Hi, I’m Lauren! I’m in my late twenties living in Virginia with my husband and golden retriever puppy, Harper. I love sweet potatoes, nut butter, and red wine. Flora & Vino promotes healthy and balanced living through a whole foods diet. All of my recipes are plant-based and made with real ingredients. Many of my recipes are also refined sugar-free, gluten free, and oil free. I try to keep my recipe ingredients to a minimum because whole foods are delicious as is. I’m just here to play mix and match!
I went vegan in 2013 after being told by the doctor that I had high cholesterol. What? Me? I was shocked, because I worked out regularly, ate oatmeal for breakfast every morning, and, let’s be honest, I’m not very big. I grew up without eating much meat. We ate chicken and fish maybe once a week and red meat on a rare occasions. I wasn’t in LOVE with cheese like so many of my friends were. So when I meditated on what to change in my diet, I decided impulsively to take the giant leap and go vegan. I tell people that I just woke up one day and decided that to be vegan. And that really is what happened. I pulled into the Starbucks drive-through at 5:30 AM before my group fitness class and ordered a latte, with SOY milk, I said proudly (cringing now because I stay away from all soy products!).
The first year was a learning curve and I learned that vegan choices aren’t always synonymous with healthy choices. (I should add here that my cholesterol DID go down and has been down ever since following a plant-based diet.) I heated up a lot of Amy’s Kitchen frozen foods for meals and pre-packaged foods for lunches and snacks. I ate a lot of plain salads when out with friends and family, sneaking in mouthfuls of peanut butter from a squeezable packet when no one was looking. While I knew that I enjoyed eating a plant-based diet based on my palette, I found myself eating the same crummy frozen foods every day or unabashedly walking into Sweetgreen again, for the fifth time that week (okay, maybe sixth. Let’s be honest.) I didn’t understand that preparing food like that for myself was even an option.
I discovered Tone It Up, the fitness and lifestyle program by trainers Karena & Katrina. The program focuses on eating clean and preparing healthy choices for your busy week through “meal prep”. At the time, the only thing I knew of the concept of “meal prep” was through my fitness pals who portioned out plain shredded chicken and broccoli into equally sad and boring Tupperware containers to “check the box” for lunches and dinners all week. What appealed to me about the TIU Nutrition Plan was that they had a vegan version, my meals all laid out for me, and a paired grocery list. The food looked and sounded amazing, photographed in cute brightly colored bowls surrounded by TIU gear.
It was through following the TIU Nutrition Plan that I discovered, with delight, that I could make good food at home. I loved my tower of chopped rainbow veggies in the fridge, my homemade kale chips, the fun shake recipes that put my classic banana and PB to shame. The plan opened my mind to the creative side of food; that eating wasn’t just about nourishment, but also about having fun doing so. By following the plan, I learned how to re-purpose many of the same ingredients in different recipes throughout the week. I discovered that meal prep is like a gift to yourself that gives back all week. I also thank TIU for introductions to the funkier fruits and veg that I’d been scared to prepare (and now ADORE) like eggplant, squash, pomegranate, and mango. I still adhere to many of the “TIU guidelines” because they became the foundation for what feels healthy to me, but now I put a “Lauren” spin on them.
I started branching out and began creating my own recipes from those that I knew and loved, inspired by some of my favorite bloggers: Minimalist Baker, This Rawsome Vegan Life, Love & Lemons, The Glowing Fridge, and Oh She Glows to name a few. I found such joy in preparing food, photographing it, and sharing it with others. You should know that Dan is not vegan, so sometimes my rejoices of THIS IS SO GOOD fall on deaf ears, especially if it’s anything with tofu or purple veggies. That’s when the idea of Flora & Vino was first born. That’s when I took to the ‘Gram.
Show of hands– who feels like they’re picking out art supplies when they step into the produce section of Whole Foods? In college, I studied art– painting and drawing. I don’t do either anymore, and I miss it. I think that’s why food styling and photography struck a chord with me- because it fulfills that need in me to create that has been dormant for so long. I remember telling my dad once how beautiful the bell pepper was on the kitchen counter– vibrantly red and catching the sun rays through the kitchen window. He laughed and we probably ate it afterwards but I should have known then that I would forever find beauty in nature’s bounty.
I think that just about covers the “Flora” part. So, why the “Vino?”
My husband and I were married at a winery in July of 2013, and ever since then, we’ve been visiting wineries in Virginia and marking them off on a giant winery map on our wall. I think our tally is close to 35 now, but the last time I checked there are over 250 in the state so we have a long way to go! I love the sense of community and tranquility that wineries exude. At least one weekend a month we try to get away to a new winery, packing up the car with Harper and snacks. I love driving further and further away from urban life and into sprawling fields and picket fences. Everything (and maybe everyone) just feels a bit nicer, a bit more natural, a bit slower. Dan and I have our best conversations at wineries, away from all of the stresses of “real life”, sharing a bottle while serenaded by live music.
Wineries are my happy place, and so is the kitchen. Together, they make Flora & Vino, which I hope will become a happy place that you can come to for fun nourishing food that you can get excited about. Way back in 2013, when I was first considering starting a blog, and wondering what to do with my life, I left a comment on one of my favorite bloggers’ pages asking for advice. She told me that her goal for each day was to put something beautiful into the world, whether that be a pretty food photo, a witty blog post, or simply a note to a friend. I love this idea of creating and giving back to the world. What I ultimately hope to do with Flora & Vino is to put something out there that inspires you, from Arugula to Zebra tomato.