Welcome to The Colorful Kitchen!
Here you’ll find vegan and mostly gluten-free recipes that are colorful, not complicated.
Hey there! I’m Ilene and I make, photograph (and eat!) all the recipes you see on the site.
I’m a certified health coach, recipe developer and food photographer. Before all of that, I studied Textile Design at RISD and Photography at OCAC. This blog is my happy place where I combine my love of color, texture and all things rainbow with plant-based cooking.
My Plant-Based Journey
I’m crazy about all things veggie, but I haven’t always felt this way. My journey to a plant-based whole food diet has been eight years in the making and I’m still happily learning new things everyday. My diet is 100% vegan, and mostly gluten-free, but I know that the way I eat isn’t necessarily for everyone. I’m a firm believer in listening to your body and making food choices based on what’s right for you, but I also truly believe that everyone can benefit from incorporating more plant-based dishes into their diet.
People often ask me why and how I eat the way that I do, so I would like to share a little about how my diet got to be where it is now. As a child I was an extremely picky eater and like many kids, my favorite foods were white bread, french fries and chicken nuggets. I found the taste of all fruits beyond bananas to be too intense and there was no way I was getting anywhere near a green vegetable. At age 9, after seeing a live lobster cooked in a pot of boiling water, I fully realized the connection between meat and animals and I immediately decided to become a vegetarian. My parents were supportive but had no idea what to feed me, so I subsisted on a diet of grilled cheese sandwiches and microwavable veggie burgers until my pediatrician told my parents I was malnourished and needed to eat meat.
I experimented with vegetarianism off and on until it finally stuck during my freshman year of college. I was still very much uninterested in most fruits and vegetables and my diet was heavy in dairy and processed foods. Slowly I started to become curious about some of the foods I had avoided my whole life. Believe it or not, at age 19 I tried olives and tomatoes for the first time and oranges and peaches at age 20!
I should mention that I used to have a lot of allergies. In addition to having asthma, I was diagnosed as allergic to grass, trees, dogs, cats, pollen and dust to name a few. I had been on a steady stream of prescription shots and allergy medications since age 7 but somehow I still managed to be constantly coughing, sneezing and suffering from sinus problems. At age 20 I finally decided to be proactive about my health and see if there was something I could do to alleviate my never-ending symptoms. I had heard about the Macrobiotic diet working as a mysterious cure-all for everything from headaches to cancer so I did a little research and decided to give it a try. Macrobiotics center around eating unprocessed whole grains, cooked vegetables, and legumes. I felt completely overwhelmed even looking at macrobiotic recipes but I decided to give it try.
I had never even heard of quinoa or millet before and certainly never cooked with kale or chard. My first few days following the Macrobiotic diet were a little rough but by day 4 I began to experience a sense of clarity and lightness I had never felt before. I noticed another huge difference in the way that I felt, for the first time in my life my stomach didn’t hurt after I ate. I had grown so accustomed to feeling sick after every meal that I never realized that it wasn’t normal to have daily stomach aches. After a month of eating this way my allergies completely disappeared (I soon discovered this was linked to cutting out dairy) and I went off all my medications.
I followed a strict macrobiotic diet for six months and while I felt better than I ever had before, it seemed that something was missing. I began to experiment with raw foodism and was amazed by how energized all the fruits, vegetables, sprouts and nuts made me feel. I spent a summer eating 95% raw foods but when it turned into Fall I began to crave cooked grains and tofu. At this point I decided to listen to my body eat the foods that felt right to me. After a year of eating this way I discovered that gluten doesn’t sit well with me and I feel my best without it.
All in all it took me about 3 years to figure out what foods make me feel my best, and I’m still learning every day. Along the way I found that I really love spending time experimenting in the kitchen (something I never thought I would say!) and I discovered how amazing and important seasonal and organic food produce can be and learned about the benefits of supporting local agriculture. Now my diet consists of plenty of fruit, raw and cooked vegetables, nuts, legumes, whole grains and of course, desserts. I listen to my body and I eat what makes me feel good.
I decided to become a health coach because I’ve seen so many people around me suffer from poor diets and lack of real food, like I once did. Making the decision to radically improve your health is one of the most valuable things you can do for yourself and your family. I’m here to help as many people as I can find their happiest, healthiest selves…and come up with a few new recipes along the way.