Featured Foodie: Cara Reed

Cara Reed is on a mission.  In her kitchen in Los Angeles, California, she’s recreating every sweet treat you loved as a child.  But here’s the real kicker: she’s going to make it vegan and gluten free, and it will be better than you remember.  Since being diagnosed with dairy and gluten allergies last year, Cara has been showing herself and everyone else that vegan, gluten-free eating doesn’t have to mean the death of your palate.  Irked by the term “restrictions” when it comes to diet, Cara purposefully focuses her attention on baking, the  GF and vegan world’s most vulnerable spot.  And the collection she has built in only six months of blogging is nothing short of astounding.  From Lucky Charms to Tagalongs, Fork and Beans is already one of the most interesting treasure trove of gluten free and vegan recipes in the blogosphere.  Additionally, Cara serves even more than engaging recipes and beautiful photos on Fork and beans.  The stories that accompany her posts are particularly frank and personal.  From daily worries to longterm struggles, reading Fork and Beans is like sitting down with a friend for a cup of coffee and a gluten, dairy, and egg-free chocolate shortbread cookie.

Name: Cara Reed
Blog: www.forkandbeans.wordpress.com
Twitter: @ForkandBeans
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

1. You write a vegan and gluten-free food blog now, but you have quite a history with meat, carbs, and processed food. Can you tell us how you came to eat the way you do today?

I was definitely a processed food, meat-eating, bread-loving kid growing up, completely oblivious to all the digestive symptoms I was experiencing. I also struggled with my weight ever since I can remember, so that really made it even more difficult to face my food/emotional issues. It honestly took a decade of soul searching and relearning how to properly feed myself to get to the place of being able to experiment with my diet. I went vegetarian in October 2010 just because I really never cared for meat all that much anyway, and then made the transition into a mainly vegan diet 6 months later after finding out I have a dairy {and gluten} allergy.

2. I think your issues with food are quite common. Do you think there’s a lack of awareness when it comes to GF/vegan diets and its health benefits?

I think there is an overall lack of awareness when it come to the health benefits of eating well, not just on a GF/vegan diet {and unfortunately a GF/vegan diet doesn’t necessarily mean you eat well}. I also think when people hear that they have to restrict what they eat, they automatically assume that their options are painfully limiting, bland, and boring. This couldn’t be farther from the truth, in fact, once I went vegan, I became the most creative in the kitchen than I ever have been.

 3. You make a point on your blog that you never want to feel deprived when it comes to food. Can you share some of your rock star vegan recipes? (I’m especially thinking of the recent girl scout cookie extravaganza!).

This is huge for me–I never want myself or anyone I know who have similar food issues to feel left out in terms of their way of eating. A big misconception is that you have to feel deprived if you cannot have gluten, dairy, etc. My mission with the blog is to prove to people that having a restricted diet doesn’t mean that you have to eat celery sticks and tofu. You really can do anything with a GF/vegan diet and {and this is my biggest point} it can actually taste GOOD. For examples of the things I am recently doing, check out my Girl Scout Cookie Series: TagalongsThin MintsSamoasDo-Si-Dos, and Trefoils

4. You’re relatively new to the food blog scene. What have you learned? What’s been surprising?

Yes, I am 6 months young to the blogging world–just a baby. But I have gained so much in such a short amount of time. Things I have learned: You can teach yourself anything. When it comes to understanding computers, photography, recipe development, and networking I had no clue what I was doing when I started. I just immersed myself into those worlds–studying and observing from everyone around me. What I have been surprised by: The most loyal, supportive, and encouraging readers I could have ever asked for support Fork and Beans. For some strange reason, these people like me and come back daily to read the crazy talk that comes out of my brain.

5. Where did you see your blog going when you started? Has that vision changed?

I started Fork and Beans immediately after I had to change my diet so I was clueless. I really didn’t know why I felt like I should start a blog, I just knew that I should. When the month long blog fest known as VeganMoFo came on scene for me in October 2011, I started to really formulate what I wanted to focus on with my blog. I didn’t know that I was capable of ever becoming known for my GF/vegan candy making skills but I realized throughout that month that I was supposed to recreate anything and everything I could possibly think of that everyone has loved at least at one point in their life. Has my vision changed? It has only grown bigger. I am realizing my full potential now and the sky is the limit at this point.

6. What advice do you have for people recently diagnosed with food allergies and having to relearn how to cook and eat?

First of all, I am sending you the biggest internet hug possible. I felt awfully alone when I first was diagnosed, despite reaching out for it from those that could. My biggest piece of advice comes in 2 fold:

1). Don’t ever forget your sense of humor. Expect to make many mistakes and when you do, laugh at them. Understand that these mistakes are paving the way for knowledge in your new diet.

2). Don’t give up on yourself. It takes time to learn something new so give yourself a break and take off the pressure of trying to understand it immediately. Immerse yourself into absorbing more information (find new blogs, magazines, cookbooks, etc). You can also email me at myforkandbeans@gmail.com too if you have any questions.

7. What’s one key ingredient you always have on hand?

Vegan chocolate chips.

 

Neysa King is the Blogger in Chief at Key Ingredient.  You can reach her at neysa AT keyingredient DOT com.  All photos used with permission by Cara Reed.

  • http://www.theveganchickpea.com/ Caitlin

    such a fantastic interview. cara is amazing <3

  • http://www.cadryskitchen.com/ Cadry

    What a lovely interview! Cara is such a delight and a bright light. Food should be life giving and fun, and she certainly brings that enthusiasm to her blog. It’s contagious.

  • Crackers on the Couch

    It’s hard to believe you’ve only been around for 6 months, Cara! You have come so far!

  • http://spabettie.com/ Kristina

    cara is one of my most favorite people ever. thanks for sharing her here!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1079165513 Heather Poire

    Echoing the other wonderful Ladies below- Cara YOU are amazing and so very talented; what a great interview, congrats on the featured foodie spot!

  • http://anonymousburn.com/ Megan

    Cara is my hero!

  • http://twitter.com/betit19 Richa

    That picture says it all! I am Cara, I am on a mission! and i am currently enjoying this delicious gf and vegan cookie! I am amazed by her themed collections and creativity.. Thanks for this beautiful write up!

  • http://forkandbeans.wordpress.com/ Cara

    Caitlin, I am awarding you with THE coolest friend to ever have :)

  • Cara

    Man, that is so nice of you to say Cadry! I feel so blessed to be surrounded by AMAZING bloggers like yourself.

  • Cara

    Kinda crazy huh? I’m waiting to burn out but have only found that it has given me more a hunger to create! xo

  • Cara

    Yeah, you pretty much are not only one of my most favorite but also a huge inspiration, girl!

  • Cara

    Thank you Heather! I honestly feel like I owe a HUGE credit to you and the rest for always being the most supportive people on earth! People I have never met in person but feel like I have known forever. I heart you! xo

  • Cara

    Why do I want to sing Bette Midler songs all of a sudden??? ha. Meg, you are my hero. I adore you!

  • Cara

    Darn skippy! Or maybe the picture says, “I’m Cara and I love to eat everything in sight!” ha. Thank you for reading this, Richa, and for inspiring me daily!

  • Nina

    Lovely interview (and mouthwatering photos). How could anyone who’d seen her wonderful recipes or read her inspiring/inspired words NOT like Cara Reed? I think she’s greaaaat and really look forward to her frequent blogs (not sure when she sleeps though)! And Cara’s right, eating vegan does make you more creative in the kitchen. It’s either that or you sit, crying into your pulling up knees, declaring, “Woe is me!” And we can’t have that!

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