I became vegetarian as a teenager, causing my mother a lot of extra work and in typical teenage fashion was rather rude and self righteous. My ethical reasons for becoming vegetarian remain the same today. I could not understand why people ate meat when there were so many other plant forms of protein available. All I saw was a lot of waste around me and I know now just how hard my mother tried to be the best she could. Along the way I educated myself about a healthy, nutritious , delicious vegetarian lifestyle.

I am a culinary professional who teaches cooking classes, develops recipes for products and websites and writes cookbooks and magazine articles. I have written 4 cookbooks: Everyday Flexitarian: Recipes for Vegetarians & Meat Lovers Alike, Nettie’s Vegetarian Kitchen, New Vegetarian Basics and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Being Vegetarian in Canada. I have a new cookbook, Flex Appeal, coming out Spring 2014 which shows people how to prepare delicious & nutritious recipes in under 30 minutes.

For the past 25 years, I have been the resident culinary instructor at The Big Carrot Natural Foods store in Toronto, Canada. For the vegetarian and flexitarian curious, I also teach cooking classes at Nella Cucina, President’s Choice Cooking School (Loblaws), LCBO, The Cookbook Store, Aphrodite Cooks, Brick Works, and Nature’s Emporium. I’ve also taught at George Brown College, Calphalon Culinary Centre and Dish Cooking School. I develop and test recipes for companies and have written articles that have appeared in Chatelaine Magazine, Canadian Living, Food & Drink, Homemakers, Natural Health, Alive Magazine, The Globe & Mail and Toronto Star. I’m also the Chair of the Women’s Culinary Network, and a board member at Taste Canada and Fairtrade Canada.

Many of my students tell me they have 25 minutes to put dinner on the table. Fortunately, we live in an era of organically cooked beans in non-aluminum cans and grains such as quinoa that can be prepared in 15 minutes while you prep the rest of the recipe. I know many people rely on pre-packaged, processed, microwaveable meals because they lead busy lives with no time to shop and cook.

When I talk about setting up a natural foods kitchen, I receive a lot of questions. I am talking about ingredients people are unfamiliar about. I can easily relate to that ” lost in the weeds ” feeling. Using a computer, setting up a website, monitoring, posting, are all alien concepts to me that I need to embrace and learn about in order to ” be here now”. But, that hasn’t stopped me from sharing my years of cooking and teaching experiences with you.

But, just when you think you have figured it all out, life throws you a curve ball. In my case, my family — three kids and a husband — told me they did not want to be vegetarian any longer!

— Nettie Cronish