First, in case you haven’t heard….
The Best Paleo Recipes of 2014 is going away is less than one week! If you want access to 150 amazing Paleo recipes (some of which you’re about to see!) now’s your – LAST – chance!
This week for Featured Contributor Friday I got the opportunity to interview Lexi from Lexi’s Clean Kitchen. When I do these interviews, all I can think is, “When do these bloggers sleep??” Lexi is a former full-time teacher, runs an amazing blog, and is also a killer marketer. She runs a regular column for American Express, and has been featured in many magazines and publishings.
Like so many in the Paleo community, Lexi went grain-free after searching for answers to her relentless stomach pain and discomfort. Keep reading for how she healed her stomach, her ideas for kid-friendly recipes, and what you can expect from Lexi in the future!
Tell us about the recipes you included for the Best Paleo Recipes of 2014!
The Pancakes are one of my most popular recipes. People are obsessed with them. I like simple, base recipes that can be altered for family and friends.
The Chicken Strips are a comfort-food-favorites; an easy weeknight recipe. It’s also kid-friendly.
The Salmon is one of my most popular recipes. It’s easy, but totally different. The maple syrup makes this awesome crust on the salmon.
I love hosting brunches and having friends over, so I love making big breakfasts. The Lemon Blueberry muffins are one of my go-tos.
What lead you to Paleo?
It started three years ago when I was having a lot of stomach issues. My digestion was horrible, I was bloated, I didn’t want to go out because my clothes wouldn’t fit; I just felt gross. I thought, “I need to change something.” After doing a little research, I announced I was cutting out gluten and dairy. I took it one step further, and cut out grains and refined sugar. I didn’t heal my stomach then by eating the sweets that exist on my site now.
There was a point where I would eat a tomato and my stomach hurt. At that point, anything hurt. I couldn’t eat bananas; only low-sugar fruits. I was wondering, “How far do I have to take this?” Now, I’m to the point where if I eat a bite of gluten, I won’t react the same way.
How did you heal your gut?
I started working with a holistic doctor, and we’ve discovered some candida stuff. I’ve discovered sugar is a problem for me. Tests showed I had candida overgrowth, and a lack of certain probiotics. I went to a dermatologist who put me on antibiotics. Later, my natural doctor told me I didn’t even respond to antibiotics. I take natural supplements including magnesium, I’m doing a liver detox, and I take probiotics regularly.
My skin is better, my nails grow, my hair grows; it’s like I’m a different person. Within the first month, I noticed I felt different. It wasn’t amazing, but it wasn’t horrible. In 3-6 months, I noticed big changes. I wasn’t bloated or uncomfortable anymore.
How was “Lexi’s Clean Kitchen” born?
I posted pictures of the food I was eating on my iPhone. I wanted to eat good, clean food. My following started growing really fast. People kept asking me, “Where can I find all your recipes in one place?” I made Lexi’s Clean Kitchen from there.
You are SO good at marketing yourself! How have you created partnerships with other companies?
I think one reason big companies are attracted to my brand is I don’t market myself as Paleo. I market myself as clean-eating, gluten-free, or grain-free. It’s great for them (and for me) to reach a lot of people: refined sugar-free, grain-free, Paleo. They want others who push and promote a similar lifestyle.
Most of the companies have reached out on their own. I do a weekly post for American Express, which is probably the biggest brand I work with. I think one thing that worked well for me is social media – I started on social, and the blog stemmed from there. It’s made me connect more with my readers. Last year a recipe for Sriracha Lime Chicken Chopped Salad received over 150 thousand pins on Pinterest – it just completely went viral. I try to work all social platforms, even though one will always be working better than the others.
Do you have any tips for anyone starting their own blog?
Don’t take the easy way out. Sometimes, it’s easier to just bring someone on, than trying to do it on your own. I started on WordPress’s free version, and switching over was a mess. Be active on social, all the different channels. It gets discouraging – there’s a lot of competition and negativity, but stick it out. It’s more rewarding than not.
Did you know how to cook before Paleo? Or were you always in the kitchen?
I was always into cooking, but it wasn’t healthy by any means. I loved cooking with my grandma and my mom. I would bake brownies or cakes. My whole childhood I thought, “Bring on the Taco Bell.” I actually quit eating meat for a time in college. When I changed my diet, it was a good outlet to be creative. Going Paleo made me try things I hadn’t attempted before.
Are you mom and grandma supportive of your new diet? Or do they get bummed out when you won’t try their favorite recipes?
My Grandma (I call her my Nanny) is 90, and she still cooks big Jewish family dinners. She’s so funny. She’ll make meatballs and I’ll say, “There’s no gluten in this…right?” She’ll lie and say no, and finally admit, “Ok yes, but I only put in a little bit!” She’s just the sweetest and cutest thing.
My mom is pretty good about it. She doesn’t do much baking, and when I’m over she’ll say, “I went to Trader Joes and bought you Kerrygold Butter!”
You’re a teacher. Do your students ever try to bring you treats? Or do their parents ever try sending you things you can’t eat?
I was the art teacher (today was my last day!), so I don’t see students for “snack time.” There are definitely some school lunches where I think, “Oh my…” but actually, our school lunch program does very well. We have a salad bar that uses local ingredients. If I don’t have food, I feel totally fine eating that salad bar. There are tons of vegetables and lots of eggs.
I have a few students whose parents know I’m gluten-free. They’ll send me a treat, and say, “Here’s a cupcake! It’s gluten-free!” In terms of grain-free, I’m not sure we’ve gotten there. Some of the kids I teach are really young, so I don’t always go into it.
Do you have any suggestions for kid-friendly snacks?
I have a Nut-Free Power Bite on my site. It’s a no-bake recipe made in the food processor. You can add chocolate chips, dried fruit, and all sorts of things to customize it. I also have a recipe for Apple Nachos which is a good afternoon snack. Plus, kids can make them too!
Do you have any tips for someone just starting Paleo?
You don’t have to cut out everything at once! Start slow, ease into it, and find what works for you. If you work 18 hour days and it’s not realistic to cut out rice, than fine. Cut out what you can. I hear so many people on Week 1 saying, “But I can’t eat this and I can’t have that.” For some parts of an elimination diet, it doesn’t have to be forever. You can reintroduce things after awhile. We’re trying to heal our bodies, not drive ourselves crazy. If you’re really sick, then yes a Whole30 might work for you. I think the overall goal though, is long-term change.
Also, remember it’s not going to happen overnight. I once thought, “Ok, I’ll take this supplement, and I’ll wake up feeling better.” Try not to get frustrated, and take one day at a time. Eventually you can still have your donut. It might just be one you make yourself.
Today was your last day of teaching. What big plans do you have for the future?
Well, I just announced I’m writing a cookbook! That’s all I’m saying for now though – you’ll have to wait and see!
I’m also launching a refreshed website. I have a tech team who runs the show. There will be easier navigation and other new features.
Deciding to quit teaching was the hardest decision. I love teaching. I love teaching art. The blog got to the point where it was hard to do both. I was working weekends, I brought people on, and it was still a lot. It’s been exhausting at points. When I started the blog, I never thought I would make a penny on it. Then it got to the point where I thought, “Wow I can really do this.” When a publisher came with a book offer I said, “It’s time to give this a try.” It’s hard to have two things you love so much. All my friends say that it’s a nice problem to have.
Three years ago, did you see yourself where you are now? And where do you see yourself another three years from now?
I think my goal then was just to help people who were in the same boat as I was. It was also a creative outlet. Art is a part of my life. I got really into food styling and photography. I had no idea what was going on with me at the time, but I wanted to help people from it.
In three years? Hopefully I’ll be a successful author. Hopefully I’ll be reaching more people, helping them toward a healthy lifestyle. Maybe I’ll be helping people on their blogging journey too. I think that would be awesome. I think things will evolve as my family grows – maybe there will be Lexi’s Clean Kitchen Baby Food one day! I don’t think the whole foods and clean eating lifestyle is going away.
Last question. Tell us something we don’t know about you!
I’m 4’11. I’m super tiny and petite!
Don’t forget to grab your copy of the Best Paleo Recipes of 2014…Before it goes away forever on June 30!