Why I Write About Food 024: Brianne B of Natural Girl Modern World

A natural girl in a modern world striving for a healthy lifestyle. Many of us can identify with that, but even if you're time-poor, cooking and eating well is not impossible, and Brianne shows us how things are done in her kitchen. With wholesome and inspiring allergy-friendly recipes, this modern girl knows how to rock the natural world with delicious uses of fresh, seasonal produce. 

Tell us about Natural Girl Modern World.
Natural Girl Modern World is a vegetarian blog that celebrates healthy food for the everyday. It's meant for those who want to make healthy choices, but sometimes find that life just seems to get in the way.

As a working couple, we're all too familiar with this challenge. So, on this blog you'll find what we eat at home. Things like healthy weeknight dinners that can double as lunch the next day. And easy make-ahead breakfasts so you can get a few extra minutes of sleep in the morning.

On the weekends, we like to make dishes to serve a crowd, because nothing makes us happier than cooking up a vegetarian feast to satisfy even our most carnivorous friends. And because my sweet tooth cravings are real, you'll see that dessert recipes are far from forgotten. All the recipes on the blog are vegetarian, and many are vegan and gluten free.

Why do you write about food?
Nourishing the body with fresh, wholesome foods is a topic close to my heart. I wanted this blog to be a source of inspiration, a way to show that healthy eating can be accessible, even for those who don't have the luxury of spending all day in the kitchen. It's about taking shortcuts when you're strapped for time, and taking the longer route whenever that suits you. You'll find most recipes offer options to accommodate a wide range of dietary needs. Because after all, it's about what works in the context of your life.

I hope to show that healthy eating can be fun. And that there's no need to take it too seriously. Food should be a source of satisfaction, not a source of anxiety or restriction. I'm a big believer in balance. So yes, while I do eat more than my fair share of salads, I also won't blink twice when it comes to indulging in a piece of cake or ice-cream. Boy do I ever love to eat, and I'm not even close to being ashamed of it! Natural Girl Modern World is about nourishing your body and soul with delicious, no-compromise recipes that taste great and are good for you. And not to sweat it when that cookie catches your eye.

On a personal level, this blog has become a creative outlet for Anguel and I. It's a place for us to channel our creative and artistic passions together. All while getting to eat some pretty darn delicious food along the way. Even if it means eating our way through so many cheesecakes we stop counting. I have a lot of fun developing healthy plant-based recipes for others to use in their own kitchens. And Anguel is the best camera-wielding boyfriend and partner I could have asked for!

How do you strike a balance between running a food blog, studying to be a nutritionist and having a full-time corporate job? 
Balance is somewhat of an elusive term for me. I'm not sure if I've ever felt perfectly in balance, but I'm hoping that's totally normal! I'm definitely the type of person that likes to have a lot of things on the go. Although, with time, I'm starting to get more comfortable with the fact that I can't do it all (no matter how hard I might try).

Given that I work full-time, and want to make the time for blogging and studying, I need to be quite organized. I test recipes multiple times before they go up on the blog, so recipe testing usually happens on weeknights, and then the final shoot on the weekend. I'm really enjoying my nutritionist courses, so that often doesn't feel like "work" to me. I do most of my studying in the evenings and weekends.

And finally, it's also important to take the time to unplug. Thankfully, Anguel and I live next to some amazing outdoor trails. We do our best to make time to exercise, whether it’s a quick evening walk, a longer hike in the forest, or getting our sweat on at yoga. Exercise provides me with a much needed break to clear my head and get my body moving!

Does your Asian heritage influence your cooking?
It most definitely does! My mom is one of my biggest cooking inspirations. She was born in Hong Kong, but moved to Canada at a very young age. So, her cooking style definitely reflects a mix of both worlds. Growing up, my mom would make fried rice with organic vegetables, hormone-free chicken and liquid aminos (instead of soy sauce). She also makes a killer stir fried pasta with spaghetti noodles. Definitely not classic Chinese by any means! Her "no rules" creative approach to cooking is something that continues to inspire me to this day.

But beyond Chinese food, I also have a deep appreciation for many other types of Asian cuisine. After travelling in Southeast Asia, I fell in love with Thai food. And living in Vancouver, we're very lucky to have so many amazing Japanese restaurants. Many of my recipes are inspired by Asian flavors, but of course I love to give them my own healthy, vegetarian twist! It's fun to be able to introduce people to ethnic dishes they may not be familiar with, such as crispy Vietnamese crepes (Bahn Xeo).

What are you currently reading?
Currently I'm reading Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer for the Mindful Book Club, which is hosted by Erin Ireland here in Vancouver. I wish I could say I had more novels on-the-go at the moment, but here's to hoping the list will expand this summer! That said, I'm also reading through plenty of nutrition textbooks as part of my studies.

Over in blog-world, well, frankly there are so many inspiring food blogs out there, I could probably go on forever about this! Green Kitchen Stories is a favorite for both Anguel and I. We've been following David and Luise's blog for years and years. The photography is stunning. I also love The First Mess; Laura's approach to plant-based food is nothing short of inspiring (and she's a Canadian gal, just like me!). Jessie over at Faring Well is another blogger I love. And Oh, Ladycakes is another goodie, partially because Ashlae's desserts are almost too pretty to be eaten, but also because her stories are so fun to read.

What's your favorite recipe on Natural Girl Modern World and why?
Ohhh good question! It depends on the day really. If I'm craving sweets, then I would have to say the Vegan Chocolate Coconut Cream Pie. To me, this is one of those recipes that shows how eating healthy, whole foods doesn't need to be a compromise. The proof is in the pudding, literally. This pie is vegan, gluten free, and uses no refined sugar. And it's always a big hit! Not only is this one of my personal favorites, but it's one of my readers' favorites too.

I recently got an e-mail from a mom who was looking for a dessert to make her daughter, who unfortunately suffers from life-threatening allergies to dairy and eggs. She reported back that her daughter loved the pie and that this was the best dessert she ever made! It's really fun to see readers’ e-mails and pictures of this pie. Everyone gets excited about it.

On the savory side, I often crave the Mediterranean Chickpea Casserole with Spinach and Feta. It's crazy delicious and totally doable on a weeknight. And for a yummy vegan dinner option, I love the Creamy White Bean Pesto Pasta. Most of our family and friends aren't vegetarian/vegan, so we love plant-based recipes like these because they satisfy everyone.

Question from Claire of Vidya Living: What is your process for creating a new recipe? (Click here to read Claire's interview)
All my recipes start with a "spark". The inspiration might come from anywhere, whether it's during my weekend trip to the farmers' market, re-jigging a family favorite recipe, or simply a cooking technique or flavor combination I want to try. I do my best to jot down these ideas so that I can test them at home. And embarrassingly, as organized as I am in other aspects of my life, I'll admit that I have recipe ideas scattered across many notebooks, in e-mails and iPhone notes, and on random bits of paper around the house!

When I'm ready to get cooking, I'll review my list of ideas, pick the one that inspires me most and run with it. I typically test a recipe at least a few times before it hits the blog. Each time I'll note down the ingredients, quantities, cooking times and other tips, and then continue to refine during each trial. I spend a lot of time and effort testing a recipe extensively before posting it on the site, because I want to make sure it will produce awesome results for my readers when they give it a try!

Visit Brianne's website at www.naturalgirlmodernworld.com
Recommended Recipes:
Creamy White Bean Pesto Pasta
Mediterranean Chickpea Casserole with Spinach and Feta
Vegan Chocolate Coconut Cream Pie