Hey y’all! I’m Laura Lea, a Certified Holistic chef, recipe developer and writer. I’m rooted firmly in my hometown of Nashville, TN, and in my opinion, this is the best city on earth.

10 years ago, I couldn’t have dreamed that those sentences might apply to me. By then, I had graduated with a B.A. in English Lit from the University of Virginia,  and I had been swept along in the mass-exodus to New York City. Very quickly, I found myself listless and anxious, slogging away at a corporate job that I didn’t enjoy. Initially my escape, I quickly became disillusioned with the late night cocktails and hungover, greasy brunches.

So I decided to OPT OUT of the way I’d been living my life.

And I found myself alone all of a sudden…a lot. I hadn’t quite mastered the art of “table for one”, and my wallet wasn’t fond of dining out anyhow, so I began to occupy my time with cooking. My mother is a fabulous cook and I grew up with family dinner over cozy from-scratch meals. In my NYC loneliness, cooking felt like the perfect way to fill the void.

On a tight budget and surrounded by farmers markets, I made fresh, seasonal vegetables the main attraction in my meals. Proteins and healthy fats took the form of beans, whole grains, pasture-raised eggs and meat, wild seafood, nuts and seeds. Over time, I began to notice my emotional and physical health improving. I had more energy, a clearer head, and my anxiety reduced dramatically. I was officially smitten by the far-reaching, holistic benefits of REAL FOOD.

One day, I quite nearly stumbled upon a school called the Natural Gourmet Institute (NGI): a nationally-certified culinary school focused on health-supportive cooking. As soon as I stepped inside, I knew I’d found my future, and I made the best decision of my life.

I finagled my work situation to accommodate the part-time program, and I spent the next 11 months squeezing every drop from my year at NGI. I was trained in classical knife skills, sanitation and safety, but I also took extensive classes on the relationship between food and healing.

When I graduated in July, 2013, my heart and mind were full and determined to spread the world of holistic health in my hometown of Nashville. This city is in my blood, and I knew I needed to start with this community in sharing my food.

Nashville is a growing, thriving metropolis, but it’s also still a small town that holds tight to tradition. My goal is to offer healthier versions of Southern classics and introduce new ideas about food, so that we can have our caramel cake and eat it too.

Here, you’ll find comfort-food-inspired dishes that are delicious, nutritious and EASY. I hope my recipes improve every aspect of your health. Even more, I hope they inspire you to start creating your own culinary masterpieces!

Thanks for stopping by LL Balanced, I hope y’all stay a while!

xo LL