Struggling to find balance in that beautiful whirlwind of craziness called 'motherhood'? I get it....trying to juggle a healthy lifestyle, a happy, fed family while trying to squeeze in a little 'you' time in the one day can get a little overwhelming sometimes, to say the least!
So in this weeks edition of her of the week we are joined with the beautiful Laurel from @laurelstreetkitchen who is here to save the day! Laurel, creator of the Laurel Street Kitchen blog filled with cultural homemade foods, culinary travel stories and lifestyle inspiration gives us an insight into her family life, tips and advice on cooking nutritious meals for the whole family, how to food shop on a budget and so much more!
Tell us a bit about her behind @laurelstreetkitchen?
The basics: I’m a 32-year-old mother of two girls and wife to a handsome Indian dude named K. For work, I’m a journalist and content creator focused on helping small to mid-size brands tell their unique stories.
A little deeper: While my roots ground me to Alabama, I spent the first eight years of my life in Mexico. Maybe I'm really a southerner at heart, but my first word was "mas" and I would take a bowl of beans and rice over grits any day. When we moved to the states, my mother remarried to an Italian guy who grew up in Libya. Traditional pasta dishes and steak tacos with pico de gallo were weekly staples growing up (things that served me well in college). Then I met K and the vast world of Indian food opened up.
What is your inspiration behind the Laurel Street Kitchen blog?
The blog was inspired by moving into our first family home. Tucked away behind a little courtyard covered in jasmine, Laurel Street Kitchen is the heart of everything. It's the place where I cook for my family and friends and explore all that California has to offer. It's where I'm figuring out what story I ultimately want to tell around food, and the journey of where that takes us — both in and around our kitchen.
I landed in the Bay Area by way of Washington D.C. after a year of traveling around the world. Shortly after declaring San Francisco home, I learned the ins and outs of the restaurant world when I landed a gig as a hospitality reporter. While it was wonderful to simply write about the world of food, I wanted to dig deeper. So, I took my research on all things culinary into the kitchen. K and I put up some serious change for culinary school and did a couple of (very brief) stints at some stellar restaurants in the city. I even took a job as the test kitchen manager of an organic meal kit delivery company, where I actually got paid to write and taste recipes, as well as develop a few of my own. Finally, I turned back to freelancing.
What I'm learning is that the more I cook, the more I find myself in between all these cultures. They're different, of course, but similar in so many ways, with strong traditions around food and family.
You have a beautiful family of four, what’s your top tips when trying to prepare nutritious, tasty meals to feed the whole family?
Find a few favorite meals that nourish you and make you happy and stick to them — save the creative stuff for dinner parties and long weekends. Also, we give our kids what we eat — we don’t give them special meals that are bland and lacking color. As for the meal itself, we always make sure we have a couple of vegetables, a protein and a healthy carb. That way, if someone is being picky, they’ll have at least one element to choose from. Also, soups. We make a lot of soups.
What’s your top tips for eating a healthy, balanced diet on a budget?
It can be done! I once had to eat on $5 a day for two weeks. Here’s how to do it: buy a lot of bulk foods. Beans, whole grains, vegetables. You can make delicious stews, soups and chilli's that will last you for several meals and give you everything you need. Also, there are now a variety of companies, like Imperfect Produce, that are taking things that would typically go to waste and selling them for cheap. That’s where I get my organic vegetables and fruit every week for way cheaper than the grocery store. Last tip: go at the very end of the farmer’s market when they’re about to pack up and you can bargain with them for discounts on fruits and veggies that they don’t want to take back.
Through your experience as a mummy what have you found the best ways to introduce your babies to food and open them up to a range of meals and flavours?
I always gave them everything from the start — spices, veggies, meats, fish. Nothing was off limits. If I was eating a curried carrot soup, the baby was eating curried carrot soup. If I was eating salad, I’d give the baby a leaf to chew on. I also had an extremely varied diet while pregnant and breastfeeding, which I’ve read exposes them to things before they even take their first bite! And if they don’t like something, I try introducing it at least 30 more times (not exaggerating) until they finally come around. Raw tomatoes are the only thing I haven’t been able to get my toddler to eat, and I’ve never liked them either.
Do you have a daily health ritual/s and if so what are they?
Besides washing my face and brushing my teeth, not really. Although I try to move every day — even if it’s just a walk down the street to get in something or a mid-day stretch. I practice yoga weekly and either swim or run for exercise, but as long as I move at some point throughout the day, I’m all set.
What’s one of your favourite, go-to recipes at the moment?
I so many favourites! But to name a few. My curried carrot soup. My butternut squash Mac and cheese. Baked eggs with coconut kale. And chocolate hemp bars.
You love to travel! How do you still maintain the travelling lifestyle with your little ones? Do you have any tips for travelling or adventuring with younger children?
There’s less sleep, but traveling with the babes is great! I love getting out of our routine for a bit. My toddler has been on over 40 flights since she was born and I swear she’s the best traveller because we started her early! She is now super open to change and we feel like we can take her anywhere. My tips: Bring some comfort from home and go easy on the rules. Our toddler loves traveling because she knows she can watch any movie she wants on the plane and eat all the junky snacks we typically don’t keep in the house. She’s happy and we’re relaxed because we’re not holding tight to every single rule. You have to be flexible when traveling with kids!
What are your top 3 favourite products/items at the moment?
In Fiore face oils. I feel like I’m giving myself a mini facial every time I use them.
Olio E Osso balm. It gives you that no makeup make up look. I use that and mascara and I’m done!
My three new sweaters from Everlane. So classic, so basic, so great.
What’s next for Laurel Street Kitchen?
I plan to make it more focused on overall wellness and self care as a mother. I will still share my favourite family recipes and new creations in the kitchen, but I also want to dedicate more space to how to life a healthy life beyond food and do things that nourish the whole self, mentally and emotionally.
Takeaway #1: When cooking for the whole family, find a few favourite meals that nourish you and make you happy and stick to them. Save the creative stuff for dinner parties and long weekends!
Takeaway #2: Shopping on a budget? Go at the very end of the farmer’s market when they’re about to pack up and you can bargain with them for discounts on fruits and veggies that they don’t want to take back!
Takeaway #3: Want to go travelling with your babes? Bring some comfort from home and go easy on the rules. Flexibility is key!
Thank you Laurel for taking the time to share all this amazingly valuable information and advice! For more family lifestyle inspiration and delicious, homemade recipes follow Laurel on Instagram @laurelstreetkitchen or check out her incredible blog Laurel Street Kitchen.