We’re wrapping up this summer’s foodie friend series with the the amazingly talented Traci—former teacher turned food blogger from Vanilla and Bean! I stumbled across Traci’s beautiful Instagram account earlier this year and I’m SO happy to have connected with her! She is kind, encouraging, very inspiring, and shares the most mouthwatering recipes…just you wait and see!
Tell us a little about yourself, Traci—
First, Joscelyn, thank you for inviting me to your beautiful space. You are an inspiration to me and many others.
I live with my husband, my high school sweetheart, Rob, my biggest fan on beautiful Whidbey Island, WA. I’ve always loved to cook good food yet it hasn’t always been good and healthful. About 14 years ago, I made the switch to a mostly vegetarian lifestyle from a Texas born and raised meat centered, eat it at every meal, lifestyle.
My first few years as a vegetarian were a bit challenging as I replaced a lot of the meat I previously ate with vegetarian processed food that resembles meat. But over the years, I’ve learned how to phase out almost all of the processed foods and create whole food, vegetarian meals through trial and error, and with the help of lots of cookbooks and outstanding food blogs. Through my vegetarian lifestyle shift, I’ve also learned why ‘diets’ don’t work and the importance of consuming whole, plant centered food. I love sharing delicious food with others and the bounty of local and organic (when possible) produce that I prepare in my kitchen. It helps that I live amongst beautiful and productive family owned farmland that has thriving farmers markets and many community supported agriculture options. Inspiration is everywhere!
fast facts: (which do you prefer?)
a. mountains or beach? Both
b. chocolate or vanilla? I can’t choose just one! Both
c. flip flops or tennis shoes? flip flops
d. sweet or savory? sweet
e. early bird or night owl? early bird
f. read the book or watch the movie? book
What’s the significance of your blog name Vanilla And Bean? What kind of recipes do you share?
I share plant-based and vegetarian sweet and savory recipes mostly inspired by our surrounding farms and farmers markets. I love baking and pastry but because my husband and I eat everything I make for Vanilla And Bean, most of the recipes are savory. Thai and Mexican food are favorites so there’s lots of those inspired flavors on the blog.
You mention on your blog that you switched to a vegetarian lifestyle many years ago after eating a predominately meat-centered diet your whole life. What kind of positive changes did you notice in your body when you changed to eating mostly whole, plant-based meals?
I was so surprised at how much more energy I have and how my weight became easier to manage. I stay fuller longer too. But it wasn’t just my body where I felt a difference. I noticed how my food knowledge increased not only about new to me spices and ingredients, but how what we eat impacts our environment; how we grow food, treat animals, land and soils and how farming practices have a negative or neutral effect on biodiversity and ultimately our health. Our daily choices about food, as well as many others, have long-term consequences on our planet. I felt like this is an area, because I eat daily, I could lighten my impact in a positive way.
With the rising popularity of vegetarian/veganism, so comes the rise in processed foods to mimic meat. Do you have any dishes on your blog you could recommend that would be a good alternative for those new to vegetarianism looking for a hearty and satisfying, yet meatless meal?
While I do eat processed foods that resemble meat occassionally, I do-so selectively. I’m very particular about reading ingredient labels and making sure what I eat is sourced as locally as possible and to organic standards, crafted with care. One of my favorites is Seattle Field Roast. While I do not have any vegetarian recipes on the blog that incorporate those processed foods, a few recipes I’d recommend to new vegetarians include:
Smashed Chickpea Salad Sandwich – readers of the blog love this recipe. Many have written indicating it as a perfect transition food. It’s cheap and takes 10 minutes to pull together. Best of all, it’s nutritious and filling. Some say it tastes like egg or tuna salad! I make it at least once a week!
Chana Dal with Cauliflower, Coconut Milk and Cashews is popular as well. It’s meaty, hearty and makes excellent leftovers.
Mushroom Stuffed Cabbage Rolls is another popular recipe especially during the holidays. It’s umami filled flavor and heartiness is a favorite of my readers.
Mexican Inspired Tofu Tacos are a favorite on the blog and around here! The pepita crema is over the top amazing! You’ll be serving that up as a dip! The ‘meat’ is freezer friendly so it makes meal prep a snap! Taco Tuesday is looking good!
You live in the beautiful Pacific North West, a place I am dying to visit! What are some of the things you love most about where you live?
You’ve gotta make it out here! It is a beautiful, scenic and an inspiring place to live. Two of my favorite things about living on Whidbey Island is that I’m only a five minute drive away to our nearest farm where fresh produce and eggs are abundant most of the year. We also have a weekly farmers market that’s a short walk into town. Having access to fresh produce is something I’m incredibly grateful for as I realize this is not the case in some areas of the country. Also, I’m never far from the ocean or a view of the mountains. Open spaces, forests and the ocean offer tremendous tranquility and grounding for my spirit and abundance for my eyes. I’m so grateful to have landed here….