Mellissa Byrne’s @one_full_belly, is a delightful array of colourful, nutritious and beautifully shot meal ideas. With a focus on fresh, plant-based ingredients, it’s a guilt-free feast for the senses. We chatted to the talent behind this month’s recipe series about what inspires her in and out of the kitchen.
Hi Melissa, thanks for chatting to us! Your Instagram feed is a great source of inspiration for healthy smoothie bowls and sweet treats. What prompted your journey into plant based cooking and baking? What have you learnt over the years regarding nutrition and recipe development?
I had just finished my nursing degree and I had put on a lot of unwanted weight after hours on the couch completing assignments, lack of activity and indulging in way too much junk food. Before starting my graduate year, I decided to make a change to improve my health and lose some weight on the way. I used Instagram personally and stumbled along some amazing plant-based accounts and this started my plant-based journey. Over the years I have taken so much recipe inspiration from the wonderful Insta-community, and I use ingredients I like to eat alongside what is seasonally available.
You have two beautiful kids who feature in your posts. Do they enjoy trying your creations? Is there a secret to getting them to try something new?
I would love to write that they love them all, but it is not always the case! I have a very fussy 9 year old, but luckily my youngest girl loves anything fruity. I find that by making them as colourful as possible or as close to something they already love, it is much easier to get them to try something and if all else fails, make something with chocolate. The girls also love getting involved in the shoots, and my eldest has taken an interest in photography.
How do you balance the different parts of your day, from being a mum, to creating amazing photos for your feed, to working as a nurse?
Sometimes I wonder how I manage to fit it all in with kids and working as a nurse in an emergency department, but the creating and photography is my ME time. Shift-work allows me to have free time after I get my girls off to school and I am often seen wandering in the garden looking for flowers for my shoots. Don’t get me wrong, some weeks I hardly have time to do anything, or work is so full on that I just need to sit and watch some trash TV.
The toppings on your smoothie bowls are incredible; you do such a great job at layering flavours and textures. Which three ingredients would be your go-to garnishes?
Thank you so much, I always use a base of granola or muesli and then I build up from there. As you can see from a majority of my photos I am crazy for frozen berries. I buy punnets in season and place them directly in the freezer that gives them that frosted appearance. I like to look for unusual toppings that you wouldn’t traditionally find on a smoothie bowls like pretzels and I also love flowers, shells and funky spoons.
After a busy day, which wholesome meal do you like to whip up for the family?
I only get an average of two meals per week at home with them so really enjoying cooking something yummy, I call it day off food! Pasta is always a winner and pesto would be my favourite along with curries and Asian food.
When it comes to recipe inspiration, which Instagram accounts are in your top 5?
You recently moved to a stunning region of Southern New South Wales – what is the best thing about living here? What outdoor activities do you like to do?
We are very lucky to live in such a beautiful area and it was our favourite holiday destination when growing up. I am so in love with rich coastline, and the food revolution starting down here is very exciting. As a family, we love going on walks and paddle boarding around the amazing waterways.
We love hearing how our community uses Cocobella in their daily routine! What is your favourite way to enjoy Cocobella?
I would have to say that my favourite way to enjoy Cocobella is by adding the coconut yoghurt to my smoothies for sure or just grabbing one to eat for my tea-break especially the Vanilla one.
What do you like to experiment with in your recipes? Is there something you’re looking forward to trying?
I have recently been experimenting with plant-based baking and adapting traditional recipes to plant-based ingredients, so using coconut yoghurt, coconut oil and plant derived butters as substitutes for dairy. The trick is trying to work out the right amount to use so that it tastes even better than the original. I have been looking forward to creating meringue using Aquafaba which is the liquid from canned chickpea’s and when it is whipped it reacts just like egg-whites.
You manage to keep active despite a busy schedule! Do you have any advice for people who want to include fitness into their weekly routine during the cooler months?
I lived in Northern NSW for the past 9 years, so it was much easier exercising when the weather turned cooler there, but the South Coast is definitely testing me. I try layering up for that early morning walk, or if you can, wait until mid morning, I also like working out at the gym, as well as completing equipment free online workouts at home, so I think I will find myself there when the freeze really hits.
Making delicious smoothies is one thing, but taking gorgeous photos of them is another! How did you learn to create your signature photo shoots?
When I started, I shot with only my iPhone and had no photography skills but the more I got into it the more I longed for a better camera, so I upgraded to a DSLR last year. I literally learned to work within a square and balance out shots with props. I am completely self-taught and learn things every day. I take inspiration from our insta-community and other food-styling sites. I find that the backgrounds really make the shot – my brother in law even nailed old fence palings together, and this was my favourite for a long time. I find different objects translate differently on camera, so don’t rule anything out till you take the picture. Some of my least favourite set ups ended up creating my favourite photos.
What do you love about the Instagram community you’re a part of? Have you noticed any new exciting ideas and trends?
I really love the togetherness and the support we all give to each other. I saw a hashtag the other day saying #communitynotcompetition I think this sums a lot of the accounts that support me, and that I follow. I have made actual friends from Instagram and I wish that we all lived closer together so we could all catch up and have amazing creative get togethers. I think a trend at the moment is Spirulina and smoothie powders, especially the different colours we can now make using them. Also I think Instagram stories have really taken off – I have a lot more engagement with them, and it gives a glimpse behind the scenes. My followers really enjoy it!
Which recipes are you looking forward to creating during the cooler months?
More baking for sure, along with soups and home made breads. I also love a good coffee or latte, and I have got some great matcha and turmeric powders I can’t wait to indulge in.
What can we expect from @one_full_belly next?
I am not sure, to be honest, I am looking forward to continuing some fantastic collaborations and also some travel for more inspiration. I found myself with a lack of motivation in the last few months following the move and a new job, but have decided that I don’t need to make something new every day, I’m happy to make one amazing thing a week.
Thanks for chatting to us Melissa!
Check out Mellissa’s recipe for Coconut Yoghurt Passionfruit Panna Cotta here.