Welcome to my new series, ‘Woman Crush Wednesday’! I have absolutely loved featuring my favorite shops and artisans in the Shop Around the Corner posts the past few years, but felt ready to branch out a bit. So many inspirational women I follow online aren’t shop owners – they are bloggers, chefs, designers, along with many others.
I’m excited to share my favorite online voices with you each month; women who are uplifting, original, and find joy in sharing their gifts to make others’ lives better!
Now, for my first #WCW, I’m delighted to introduce Laura Lea Bryant with Laura Lea Balanced. By the magic of Instagram, I stumbled upon her feed last year, and I always, always look forward to her posts. She’s a holistic chef with a deep love for Nashville, constantly sharing the most amazing-looking meals and snacks, along with many encouraging words. As I was reading through her answers below, I kept nodding to myself and giggling at times, too. Though we haven’t met (yet!), I believe Laura Lea is one of those people who makes you feel comfortable right away…and probably welcomes you with yummy baked goods!
Read on to learn all about LL!
(via Kate Davis Photo, following photos via Laura Lea Bryant)
// Tell us all about you! Who you are, what you do, what you love.
First and foremost, I’m a Nashville baby to my core, a partner to my fiancé and a wife and sister to my family. My second deep love is for my job, which is holistic chef, writer and recipe developer for my business, LL Balanced. LL Balanced focuses on easy, healthy, family-friendly meals that remind you of childhood comfort food. I’m also passionate about teaching, and I cover a variety of topics, from women’s hormones to dairy intolerance to feeding picky eaters.
// What does a regular day look like for you?
Oh man, there really isn’t a regular day! I start my day with a hot cup of Dandy Blend and a yummy breakfast—overnight oats or a green smoothie or avocado toast with tahini, sea salt and lemon. Then I’ll work for a few hours till a mid-morning exercise break, usually yoga or a long walk. The afternoon is a combination of writing, photographing or creating recipes and errands until I shut things down around 6 pm. Evenings are spent cooking while listening to nutrition podcasts (nerd alert) until my man comes home. Then dinner and snuggles on the couch with our pets, followed by a healthy sweet treat. Right now I’m hooked on gooey medjool dates dipped in almond butter, cinnamon and coconut flakes!
// What led you to begin Laura Lea Balanced?
I was in New York in my early twenties, deeply anxious and mildly depressed. I felt no passion for my job, and I was completely over the social scene of late nights and hungover mornings. I’ve always loved food, so I found solace wandering farmers markets and the Barnes & Noble cookbook section. Learning about and cooking nourishing, whole foods gave me an incredible outlet for my emotions, replacing the negative ones with positive. It seemed like a no-brainer—that food is medicine—but at the time, very few people were sharing that message. I knew I wanted to dedicate my career to doing just that, in my hometown of Nashville.
// Where do you find inspiration?
Speaking of…Nashville! My family goes back generations in this town, and it is truly my happy place. I find inspiration in Southern hospitality, in the traditional foodways, and particularly in nature. My fiancé and I escape to my family’s farm in Leiper’s Fork, TN, whenever we need to reconnect with ourselves and the earth. And of course, my sweet readers/followers…nothing inspires me more than when someone asks me to create a healthy version of something they can’t eat anymore.
// Best part of what you do? Hardest part?
Bar none, the best part is hearing back from clients or readers that I have brought joy and healing to their lives with my food and inspired them to create in their own kitchens. The hardest part? Learning to say no. I wish I could do it all, but I can’t excel at my job or provide an example for healthy living if I don’t take care of myself.
// Favorite way to ‘treat yo’self’?
I think we should all be indulging ourselves (read: putting ourselves first) more often, and that doesn’t have to mean a major cost or time commitment. One night, have sweet potato fries dipped in hummus and one of my Holy Fudge brownies for dinner and you’ll feel like a princess/prince. I’m also big on “fancy bath time”, with salts and candles, the works. If I do have more time, massages are incredibly healing, or a long yoga class followed by a green smoothie with extra fruit to make it taste like a milkshake…simple things, but they energize my body and soul.
// Favorite recipe you’ve created?
Whoa, that’s tough. It totally depends on mood, time of the day. But I think I could happily eat my Avocado Chicken Salad with Mary’s Gone Crackers and my Best Ever Chocolate chip cookies every day.
// Dance party time! What song do you put on?
Aha’s ‘Take on Me’, Toto’s ‘Africa’ or Billy Idol’s ‘Dancing With Myself’
// Who would you choose for your ‘Woman Crush Wednesday’?
My dear friend Caroline Randall Williams, who just published not one, but two books while getting her masters degree. Caroline is making waves in current food conversations for demystifying healthy food and educating about true Southern foodways. Her book, Soul Food Love, is a cookbook/history book hybrid with mouthwatering photography and simple, creative recipes. She’s also plain hilarious with an infectious smile, and I adore her.
// What’s the biggest message you want to share through LLB?
Healthy living is commensurate to healthy eating—you can’t be your best self as a family member, partner, athlete, student, mentor etc. if your body isn’t sustaining you. When you start to feed your body simple, delicious whole foods, you will find yourself improving in every aspect of your life. Invest in YOURSELF. I also want to point out that although cookbooks are amazing resources, they’re not intended to be a blueprint for your meals. The majority of your meals can be much simpler, such a mixture of arugula, quinoa, olive oil and sea salt or baked salmon with lemon and roasted sweet potatoes. You don’t need to ‘cook fancy’ to enjoy wonderful, nourishing meals.
Thank you again, Laura Lea!