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A warm welcome to Vanille Verte! So glad you are here.

I care a lot about food and health. Why?

Because if I didn’t, my life today would most likely be pretty dreadful.

My passion for both stemmed from a very unhealthy adolescence.

I was born and raised in Madagascar, where I ate mostly local, organic and in-season foods. Nothing else was available, so that’s what we knew. But when I moved to the US as a teenager, everything changed: I discovered the world of easy, processed foods, and I ate a junk food diet well into my twenties.

After eating so poorly for such a long period of time, my health began to fail. I carried around an extra 40 pounds, and suffered from chronic anxiety and mood swings.

Looking for health in all the wrong places, I got on the yo-yo diet train, counting calories and grams of fat, and depriving myself of true nourishment. That was no life. I was controlling my weight, but with great effort and constant deprivation, and my moods were getting worse.

When I became pregnant with my son, I also started having migraines. They got so bad that there were weeks when I had 4-5 migraines days.

I was on a downward spiral towards worsening health. Something needed to change.

Really wanting to address the cause of my pain, instead of its symptoms, I shunned pharmaceuticals and looked elsewhere for help. In my quest for answers, I found the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN), and started learning about real food and holistic healing.

I gave up gluten, and within 3 days, my anxiety magically lifted. No more rapid heartbeat, or that constant feeling of impending doom. Gone, just like that.

This immediate result taught me just how much food and mood are intimately connected. And if food was connected to mood, then maybe it was also connected to migraines.

That’s when I knew that if I wanted to get well for good, and keep my family healthy, I needed to radically change the way we ate and lived.

Little by little, I completely revamped our diet (eating a lot more vegetables, less and less processed foods, clean sources of fat, natural sugars, etc), and gave up all the foods that were helping to make me sick, my so-called “migraine triggers”: gluten, alcohol, chocolate, soy, caffeine, MSG and many others, mostly artificial ingredients.

After years of thinking that a large bowl of pasta with olive oil and cheese was an adequate meal, I needed to learn how to cook healthier foods. 

That’s when I attended the Natural Chef and Nutrition Educator programs at Bauman College in Berkeley, CA. I wanted to learn more about the science of nutrition, and also needed a boost in confidence when cooking natural foods.

Because it is one thing to tell people to eat more kale, but quite another to help them prepare it in a way that is delicious and crave-inducing.

Gradually, it all clicked, and my health came back. I no longer had issues managing my weight, the migraines lifted (and only return when I ignore my triggers), and the anxiety was gone.

No great mystery, really: when you eat well, you feel well.

Food really does change everything.

Hence this blog. 

Who am I and who is my family?

I am Nathalie. I am a foodie who loves clean but delicious food.

I started this blog to share my passion for real food and health. I needed a space to keep growing and learning, and connect with a community of like-minded people.

I really love creating recipes in my head, making them in the kitchen, and closing the circle by photographing my creations.

Mostly, I cook whole, fresh, and nourishing foods.

Real food, vibrant living, is my motto.

I am mom to a 14-year old boy, Luka, and wife to Ricardo, with whom I have been for more than half of my life. We have a rescue dog, Woody, who is slowly working out his issues from the abuse he endured before we adopted him (the prescription: love, exercise, and healthy food: sound familiar?).

What are my food and health beliefs?

– First and foremost, I believe that healthy food should be really tasty. I am on a crusade to convince people that truly healthy food can, and always should be, absolutely scrumptious.

– If it doesn’t taste great, I am not eating it, and neither should you!

– I don’t believe in counting calories, or grams of this or that. Life really is too short for this insanity, and it is not necessary to be healthy. I believe in the 90/10 rule – when we eat clean 90% of the time, we can eat whatever else we might want for the other 10%, and be fine.

– I really, really love great food, and especially vegetables so you will see a lot of plant-based dishes here. I am no longer vegan or vegetarian, but I happen to cook a lot of vegan and vegetarian food. Vegetables are an absolutely vital component of a healthy diet, but because they need to taste rockin’ delicious, too, I am always on a quest to prepare them in new and creative ways. No steamed veggies, here!

– I don’t consume much dairy but when I do, I prefer goat to cow, as it is more easily digestible. However, when I find raw, pastured cow’s cream at the market, I rarely resist. Whipped with fresh vanilla and a little coconut sugar, and sitting on top of organic berries, it’s heaven in the mouth, people. Really.

– I don’t use a lot of soy in my recipes, either. Tofu has not convinced me that it is good for us, so I only use fermented soy (like tempeh or miso) in my cooking.

– I am gluten-free, and so are all of my recipes.

– I really believe that the more we can reclaim our kitchens, and learn to make delicious and easy meals for ourselves and our families, the better off we will be. Homemade food is one of the cornerstones of vibrant health. As Michael Pollan says: “It turns out that the single most important dietary choice is not about a nutrient or even calories, but an activity: cooking”.

– I believe that when we eat a mostly organic, whole-food diet of vegetables and fruits, whole non-glutinous grains (if tolerated), nuts and seeds, legumes and pasture-raised animal products (but almost as a condiment, not as the main actors on our plate), we open ourselves up to feeling really vibrant. It’s pretty simple, really.

– I know that every “body” is unique in its needs, and that these needs might change over time. I believe that we need to keep listening and adjusting what we eat as necessary. Our body knows what works. Let us trust it.

Why “Vanille Verte” ?

Because it’s French, like me. (Plus, I like how the words look and sound.)

It means “green vanilla”, and it is what you see when you pick the vanilla pod from the orchid plant. Yes, you read right; vanilla comes from an orchid.

Vanilla doesn’t start its life as the aromatic black pod that all of us associate with the spice. Before it can truly shine, the vanilla “bean” (it isn’t actually a bean, but never mind), is the rather unassuming green pod of a species of orchid that originates in Central America, from the time of the Mayas. It isn’t edible and doesn’t really smell like much of anything.

It needs to be boiled, fermented, and dried for an extensive period of time (months, really) to become the spice we know and love.

In other words, every pod, while it may not look like much, is full of possibility, just waiting for some attention to help it release the most complex fragrance and flavor imaginable.

It is, one might say, a bit like life.

I am a trained chef. I must be really good at cooking, then?

I may be a trained chef, but before attending Bauman College, I barely knew how to cook an egg. Ask my husband, he’ll tell you. So, even though I have been to culinary school, I simply don’t have a lot of years of cooking experience.

Which means that if you don’t know how to cook, don’t worry. If I can do it, so can you. Promise. I am a busy mom, so I like to keep most of my recipes simple, and focus more on the quality of the ingredients than on technique or complexity.

Who does my photography?

Unless otherwise specified, all the photography is done by me. I am an amateur photographer, but through this process of learning how to cook, I discovered that I really love taking food photos.

I shoot in natural light and I like honest photography. I shoot food that has not been tampered with, or altered in any way. I might spray a little water on fruit, but generally, what you see is what we saw before we ate it!

I use a Nikon D3100 D610 camera fitted with a 50mm, 60mm or 100mm lens.

Website design: Katie Henry (www.blueerth.com)

Logo design: Meredith Locklear (www.jackandmo.com)

I hope this answers some of your questions. If not, please email me directly at nathalie@vanilleverte.com

I’d love to hear from you!

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Headshot photos: Ricardo Bayon