Shani left behind a career in graphic design to pursue her passion for food full-time, and we couldn’t be happier that she did! Shani’s website and meal service, Keep It Simple, is the go-to for people with a variety of nutritional needs who are after delicious and accessible recipe ideas and meals. We spoke with Shani about her journey, her top tips for plant based staples, and what her idea of a nourishing meal looks like!
Keep It Simple Meals is such a great way to help the community enjoy nutritious and nourishing food! What inspired you to start your business, and what has been the best part about it so far?
I started Keep It Simple in early January 2017. I remember sitting on the idea of starting a food blog for about five months. At this time, I was working as an Interior Designer at a well known architecture practice in the CBD, and I was working very long hours and was burning out – stress crippled my body, and I was on the verge of a breakdown. I was suffering from candida overgrowth, ongoing issues with my gut, anxiety, acne, brain fog, weight gain… you name it!
At the lowest point in my health, I was at my wits end. I went to doctor after doctor who kept prescribing different medications. I felt lost, confused, and like I was going around in circles. Deep down, I knew that these medications would just be a bandaid fix and not long term. I needed to get to the root cause.
I would spend hours researching my symptoms and what I could do… and it all kept coming back to one thing: what was on the end of my fork. My gut told me this was the only thing that would help me, and my god it was right! I cleaned up my diet and starting filling my body with exactly what it needed.
I was on a horribly strict diet (due to candida overgrowth), and I wouldn’t trust anyone else cooking my meals. That is when I started to get creative with my cooking. At the start, I thought I was so limited in what I could eat, but really it was my perception of healthy food which was limited! I started to cook every day, take photos, and then on the train to work the next morning I would write the recipe and post to Instagram.
My new venture occupied my mind and filled me with so much excitement and passion. As scary as it was, I knew I had to quit my job and to pursue Keep It Simple Shani… and that is exactly what I did!
The most rewarding and best part is getting to wake up every day to do what I love and to help people! My heart fills with so much happiness when I get pictures from people trying my recipes or eating my meals. For me, it doesn’t get any better than that.
You are able to cater for so many dietary requirements; you must have a great understanding of food! For plant based eaters, which pantry and fridge essentials do you recommend?
Such a good question, I have so many simple hacks for plant based eaters to make every day life simpler!
Chickpea Flour – Add some grated veggies, curry powder, water and chickpea flour. Pour batter onto a pan and cook like a fritter.
Celery – I always start my day with a celery juice on an empty stomach, and then I will eat about 20 minutes after that. If you have any troubles with digestion or acne, this is a must try!
Coconut yoghurt – This is my go to breakfast. I add in some pea based protein powder, frozen wild blueberries, strawberries, and cacao nibs.
Fresh Curry Paste – I always love having fresh curry paste in the fridge; it’s so easy to whip together a curry for lunch or dinner with leftover veggies. Serve with cauliflower rice or brown rice. Delish!
When you’re developing recipes, what are the components that you always like to see on a plate or in a bowl?
I love to see loads of colour on my plate. Eating the colours of the rainbow is a simple principle derived from Traditional Chinese Medicine. For thousands of years they have taught the important of eating a balance of colours to ensure we are getting a variety of nutrients. Each colour is linked to different healing benefits… Eg. Orange is for the spleen and stomach, etc.
Earlier this year, you released your recipe book – congratulations! There’s such a great variety in there, something for everyone! What was the biggest challenge in creating these delicious meals?
Honestly, there was no challenge in creating the meals for the recipe book… I always look to international cuisines for my inspiration. For example, I take the nasi goreng and I think ‘how can I make this healthier?’
Coming from a background in design, how was this helped you with creating your beautiful Instagram feed?
It’s so funny, from the age of 6 I always wanted to be an interior designer… like I never had a doubt in my mind. Although I no longer practice as an interior designer, I still consider myself a designer; I design meals, all my own graphic content, Instagram feed, and design a workplace for my team that we all want to be a part of!
I never plan my Instagram feed, it’s basically a download of what’s going on in my head and in my life… being a designer definitely helps the overall aesthetics!
We love hearing about how people enjoy their Cocobella. What are your favourite ways to use Cocobella coconut water or coconut yoghurt?
I seriously love Cocobella products so much. I love that all the ingredients are so natural and going to fuel my body in the best way. I love the coconut water by itself or with some mint and cucumber. I love how it replenishes my electrolytes and is so hydrating. The coconut yoghurt is my go to for brekky on-the-go. It’s so versatile, and as you can see with the recipes created, I have used it in a savoury form so you don’t have to eat it sweet!
What’s your go-to recipe at the moment, as we come into the warmer months?
I am a sucker for salads! I love putting anything I can find in the fridge in the salad. I always like to dress with smashed avocado, lemon juice, fresh herbs, a sprinkle with chia seeds, Himalayan sea salt, pepper, and sometimes even nutritional yeast and coconut flakes… it kind of tastes like parmesan cheese!
Even though you cater for many diet types, you’re gluten, dairy, and sugar free yourself. So, when it comes to grocery shopping, which five items are always in your trolley?
- Almond or coconut milk… always check the label. The less ingredients the better.
- Celery – If you haven’t picked up by now… I am obsessed with it!
- Cocobella Coconut Yoghurt – Seriously can’t live without it! I’m obsessed with everything coconut.
- Strawberries… need I say more?
- Zucchini – it’s my go-to vegetable.
My biggest tip for supermarket shopping: the majority of your shopping should be done around the outside, that is where all the fresh produce is.
What’s your favourite way to use up leftover vegetables while they’re still fresh?
I always have so many leftover vegetables from prep days in the kitchen… so I have quite a few ideas:
Big Curry: Add a fresh curry paste ( I love Curry Favour), coconut cream, and bucket loads of veggies!
Stir Fry: Add everything in a pan, add tamari or coconut aminos, grate some garlic, ginger, fresh chilli, basil!
Roasted Veggie Dip: Roast your veggies, add to food processor with tahini, garlic, lemon juice, fresh parsley, salt and pepper!
Plant Based Fritters: Grate all your leftover veggies, add into a bowl with chickpea or buckwheat flour. Add curry powder and water. Cook on a pan!
A great thing about social media is the people you meet and the ideas you can discover! Which Instagram accounts are in your top 5 for foodie inspiration?
I am so grateful for Instagram… I really do owe it a whole lot. If it wasn’t for Instagram, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Some of the most influential friends and mentors I have met, I have met them through Instagram. It’s amazing how it can connect people with similar interests.
My top faves, no order:
@Deliciouslyella – for all your plant based goodness
@Laus_Healthy_Life – Laus is a Naturopath from Toronto with a heart of gold.
@Officiallydelicious – Annie from Singapore – she lives and breathes food as medicine!
@Plant_Proof – Simon from Sydney. I am calling it now; best resource for plant based people!
@Healthyfrenchwife – Claire from New South Wales… absolutely divine content.
We’re excited to see where you’ll be going next – do you have any plans you can share with us?
I have some big dreams, and I can’t wait to share them all with you! 2019 will bring a Keep It Simple HQ, a new recipe book, recipe videos and much more!
Thanks for chatting with us, Shani!
Get her recipe for Roasted Vegetable Pesto Burgers with Chickpea Buns.