School Psychologist by day, plant-based food blogger by night. My name is Ashley, and I’m the writer, recipe-creator, and photographer behind Blissful Basil. I first fell in love with cooking under the guidance and encouragement of my parents. After spending the first just-over-a-marathon worth of my years as a meat-eater, I transitioned to vegetarianism in August of 2010 after a two-week trip to Ireland. In March of 2014, I made the full shift to veganism after careful thought and lots of research. As my lifestyle has changed, so has the direction of this blog, so you’ll find that my recipes have shifted from pescatarian to vegetarian to vegan over the years.
I believe that it’s the small, daily choices we make time and time again that either support or undermine our ability to thrive physically, mentally, and emotionally, and the foods we eat are an important part of this equation. When consciously and thoughtfully enjoy a wide array of wholesome foods on a regular basis, we set the stage for a more vibrant, energized life. That said, it’s certainly not just kale salads and green juice up in here (although, for the record, I do enjoy all the green things)! I was raised to believe that food should be something that’s both nourishing and enjoyable, so I create recipes with this notion in mind. Whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, or omnivore, I hope you find Blissful Basil to be a welcoming and inspiring place. I strive to develop plant-based recipes that appeal to everyone, so you can count on a variety of flavors, textures, and colors in every dish.
Whether I’m literally finding my balance in a regular yoga practice or figuratively finding it through self-reflection, I’m more optimistic, centered, and motivated when self-care is at the cornerstone of my daily routine. Of course, this isn’t about chasing perfection or following precisely in someone else’s footsteps; it’s about finding the tools and strategies that enhance our own personal well-being, choosing them as often as we can, and being gentle with ourselves when we don’t. The three most profound and impactful changes I’ve made that have shaped my life in a positive way are:
1| Adhering to a regular exercise regimen. After a long battle with Seasonal Affective Disorder, I started exercising regularly at the age of 24 and found that it eliminated the feelings of anxiety and depression that I had once accepted as my winter-month reality. I also felt happier, more energized, and more focused. I now exercise 4-6 times a week, striving to incorporate yoga, interval training, and weight lifting into my weekly routine. Exercise not only contributes to our physical health, it’s also an incredibly powerful tool to promote cognitive and emotional well-being, offering our brains a boost of feel-good neurotransmitters (i.e., serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine).
2| Following a plant-based lifestyle. I became vegetarian in August of 2010 after my love for animals caused too much cognitive dissonance to endure. I made the shift and never looked back; from that moment on, I felt at peace with my plate and my spirit was renewed. In March of 2014, I made the full shift to veganism after easing into the lifestyle for over six months. I now feel healthier, more energized, and even happier than I was prior to the shift. That being said, I’m a strong believer in listening to your body in an intuitive manner; vegan or not, if you’re doing what works best for you, that’s all that matters.
3| Finding my peace in the present moment. I give myself 20–30 minutes a day to be present with my thoughts through meditation, yoga, mindfulness techniques, or self-reflective reading. With so many distractions in this increasingly busy world, it’s easy to misplace our goals, values, and ideals if we don’t check-in with ourselves on a regular basis. Setting aside time to self-reflect on a daily basis supports a balanced, peaceful perspective and has the added benefit of fostering feelings of joy and contentment.
How + Why I Started Blogging
I started Blissful Basil in July of 2010 as a way of expressing my love for cooking, writing, and food, in general. Throughout my first 3+ years of blogging, it was strictly a hobby; I’d create recipes and post them when an inspiring wind blew in the right direction. This go-with-the-flow approach meant that I would sometimes go months without posting at all. However, in late 2013, I decided that I had a choice to make: I could let my passion for blogging fizzle or thrive. Thank goodness I have a super supportive husband, because I chose the latter of the two options and have been dedicating nearly every weekend and weeknight since January of 2014 to Blissful Basil. Whereas my previous posting schedule was about as consistent as the weather in Chicago, I now work extra hard to ensure that I’m posting three times a week (typically M-W-F). I blog because I love it. It offers me balance, a place of respite when my job as a school psychologist dishes out something extra upsetting, and gives me that tingly, butterfly feeling of excitement in my stomach. To me, Blissful Basil is about more than just food; it’s about passion for and commitment to living life in a way that nourishes the heart, mind, soul, and body. I hold firmly to the belief that a little inspiration is all a person needs to cultivate creativity, so I hope my blog inspires you — even if it’s in the tiniest of ways.
My Daytime Career
Listening and helping people sort out the stories of their lives was something I knew I wanted to do at a very young age, and I feel so lucky to be living out that dream in my career. I’m a school psychologist at a high school on the North Shore of Chicago, and I have the opportunity to work with some of the most inspiring, mature, and all-around wonderful kids I have ever met. Most of my days are spent conducting psychological assessments and writing up results for special education evaluations; however, I also run a handful of support groups that focus on the topics of body image, eating disorders, and diversity. Most days as a school psychologist are incredibly rewarding; however, there are some immensely difficult ones thrown into the mix, too. Although not initially created for this purpose, Blissful Basil has offered me an opportunity to take care of myself when I’m feeling overwhelmed. I re-center while cooking, release stress while photographing, and lift the weight off my shoulders while writing. Thank you for giving me the space to do this and for reading when I occasionally meander off on a life-related tangent.
What I love more than anything | my husband (Dan), family + friends, our orange tabby cat (Jack), world travel, wholesome + energizing foods, yoga, psychology, animals, fearlessness, passionate + empathic people.
Please feel free to contact me at blissfulbasil (at) gmail (dot) com with any questions, comments, inquiries, or just to say “hello!” I’d love to hear from you!