Elaine Gordon is the wiz behind Eating by Elaine. At once a writer, mother of two, blogger and culinary goddess, she’s doing it all. Here she dishes on all that’s encompassed in the world of food blogging, the beauty of plant-based eating, and how she keeps a healthy work-life balance.
So, how did you get started in the culinary world? Have you always been interested in food and health?
Growing up my mom and dad cooked together for our family every day. These healthy homemade meals showed me the importance of eating right and spending time with family. To this day, I credit my mom and dad to exposing me to the world of gourmet cooking. Beyond observing them growing up I am completely self-taught. I love experimenting with ingredients in the kitchen and learning ways to make dishes healthier and allergy-friendly. My recipes are simple, quick and approachable and none of them require any tricky cooking skills or culinary training. I wanted to create a recipe blog where anyone could go and feel confident that they could make a healthy, allergy-friendly recipe.
My interest in food and eating healthy started at a young age and definitely grew as I studied public health in college and graduate school. Getting my Masters in Public Health and becoming a Master Certified Health Education Specialist exposed me to the importance of proper nutrition for a healthy lifestyle. At that same time, I discovered I was allergic and/or sensitive to many common food allergens such as gluten, peanuts, soy, dairy and eggs. I adopted a plant-based lifestyle and eliminated the foods that were not agreeing with my body. I enjoy creating fun and delicious food that also doesn’t make me feel sick. It is a win-win! I believe you should love what you are eating in terms of taste and it shouldn’t make your body hurt. With a little trial and error, I have created vegan and allergy-friendly twists on everything from breakfast to snacks to entrees to desserts. I hope my recipes inspire others to get in their kitchen and cook up something healthy.
Your meals are always so colourful and inventive. Can you describe your food philosophy?
Well thank you!
Color and overall aesthetics of a dish are so important. I believe we eat with our eyes first. Plus, from a nutrition perspective I love to vary the colors of my fruits and vegetables to ensure I’m getting a broad spectrum of nutrients. My food philosophy is that healthy food can and should taste good and make you feel good.
With that in mind, I like to create dishes that are unexpected, nutritious and fun while avoiding common food allergens that don’t agree with my body. I love to pack nutrients into each dish in surprising ways, like drizzling flax oil on salad, or using hemp seeds or chia seeds in my morning smoothie. I try and incorporate fruits and/or veggies into every meal and fill up on plant-based protein and whole grains. And when I do indulge, which is about every day, I avoid refined sugars and stick to clean-eating desserts that are still super tasty.
Can you give a health tip that everyone can implement right away?
Challenge yourself to eat more fruits and vegetables. They are so important to our overall health as everyone knows and oftentimes we just don’t get enough. So, add them in to your meals in ways that feel comfortable to you. I like to keep fresh fruit cut up in the refrigerator to make it easy to grab when I am in need of a sweet treat or a light and healthy snack. And I try and add a green vegetable to my morning smoothie each day. Small steps add up so anything you can do to help reach your daily fruit and vegetable goal will benefit you in the long run.
Another easy one is to use parchment paper on your baking sheets. This can work for baking cookies or roasting vegetables. You can use less oil this way and nothing will stick. Promise.
What’s your favourite tool in the kitchen?
It is hard to pick just one! I use my blender every single day for my morning smoothie and I don’t know what I would do without it. I also puree soups in my blender to make them extra creamy. The other tool I use almost daily is my mini food processor. It is so light and tiny and easy to grab and use. I make hummus in it, grind my oats to make oat flour, make salad dressings, pulse nuts and seeds, shred veggies like carrots for baking or for salads etc.
The other gadget I love is my lemon/lime squeezer. The squeezer gadget makes it easy to get all the juice out without any seeds. I love to flavor so many things with lemon and lime juice such as smoothies, dips, marinades and salad dressings. I also use lemon and lime juice to finish off soups and entrees – it really brightens up a dish.
Quick culinary tip for a newbie in the kitchen?
Invest in a good set of knives. Cooking can become frustrating without the proper cutting tools. These ceramic knives are a great starter set that don’t require any sharpening and are very affordable compared to other high end/fancy knife brands. When it comes to eating healthier that means lots of chopping and dicing fruits and vegetables so the proper knife is a perfect investment in your health.
Being a mother yourself can you give any advice for busy parents who are trying to keep their family healthy?
Life is crazy and eating healthy can sometimes feel like a chore without some basic organization and planning. Meal planning and bulk meal prep is a huge time saver. This will make grocery shopping easier and ultimately save you time and money.
The basic framework is to plan your nightly meals, shop from your list and meal prep once a week (on Sunday nights for example) to enjoy healthy meals quickly throughout the week. To make it happen, read my article on Weekly Meal Planning and Bulk Prepping for Healthy Meals. Get ready to plan, shop and prep!
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get involved in the health/food world?
There are so many aspects to the health and food industry. First figure out what you are most passionate about and talk to someone who is doing what you aspire to do. Find out how to get started and what credentialing/training you might need.
What are some difficulties you’ve encountered as an entrepreneur?
In many ways I feel like I’m just getting started and learning the industry and the ropes. The learning curve about the food blogging world can be overwhelming. There are so many aspects to blogging such as food photography and styling, website management, social media management, writing, videography, recipe development, marketing, accounting and client management. It can be tough to master it all at once. I sometimes struggle with finding the right clients that match my brand identity. I would never want to promote a product that isn’t something I wholeheartedly believe in.
The technology side can be tricky at times since that isn’t my forte. But I love to learn new things and it excites me when I master something that I didn’t think I could. I find the best thing to do when I identify a weakness is to work on it until I feel confident. I ask lots of questions and seek help when needed. I’m not afraid to ask for help and try and learn from the experts in those areas.
Are there any quotes or mantras you live by?
I see inspiring quotes and mantras all the time but have never adopted one as something I live by. I mostly just try to focus on positivity and passion and find the rest will come.
Is there any book you’d recommend for someone trying to figure out his/her passion?
It would probably depend on what business they are trying to start. I tend to learn from others and from doing rather than books. One thing that helped me figure out my passion and my “why” was this TED talk: “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.”
In the saturated world of food blogging and recipe development it is important to focus on my ‘why’ rather than my ‘what’ or ‘how’. Ultimately, I want to attract people that identify with my ‘why’ and help inspire them to cook recipes that will improve their life.
First thing you do every morning?
As a mom of two little ones mornings can get crazy busy pretty quickly. My three year old typically wakes up before my one year old so I like to spend a little one on one time with her before the day really gets started – even if it is just me sipping my morning green tea while chatting. Any one-on-one time is so special these days. And three year olds say the cutest things that can put a smile on your face first thing in the morning. I’m grateful for those moments when we can just chat or play, something low-key, like coloring or doing a puzzle together.
When my other daughter wakes up we love to make a morning smoothie together. I find involving them in the process and letting them choose the ingredients makes it more likely they will drink it with me. Our morning smoothie tradition is a great way for us all to get in a lot of nutrients quickly while doing something together.
Night time routine?
Our kids go to bed by 8pm so typically our night starts then. My husband and I like to workout together when possible in the evenings. We might pop in a 45 minute yoga video or do a 30 minute Insanity video. We find working out together makes it more likely that we will workout at all. The buddy system really does work and we help motivate each other to get started.
Non-negotiable every day for overall health?
Water! I drink so much water throughout the day to stay hydrated and energized. I sleep with a pitcher of water by my side at night so that I drink water first thing in the morning. I also sip water throughout the day at my desk (another pitcher of water). Having it there makes it more likely I will drink it. When I’m on the go I take a big water bottle with me too. And I drink a glass of water with every meal. It is something I crave and love so I don’t struggle with this healthy habit. It is a part of my routine and so necessary for me.
Finally, can you share some of your favourite recipes?
Quinoa is a staple in my diet. This recent post shares my easy trick for how to make perfectly cooked quinoa and provides some of my favorite quinoa recipes.
My favorite easy weeknight meal (15 minutes and 6 ingredients) is this Parsley Pea-Pesto Pasta. Perfect for springtime and full of whole grains and plant-based protein. Very satisfying.
My favorite healthy on-the-go snack/healthy dessert option are my Healthy Raw Cookie Dough Energy Balls. They actually taste like raw cookie dough (and who doesn’t love that!?) but they are full of whole grains, dietary fiber, healthful fats and plant-based protein. They come together in under 10 minutes and require only 7 ingredients that you likely have on hand.