One look at Lee Tilghman on Instagram and you’ll know exactly what drew me into this lovely lady’s world. Her feed is overflowing with the most gorgeously arranged, bright, beautiful smoothie bowls, among other raw deliciousness and some snaps of this cutie in her daily life. Immediately I knew I needed to meet her.
I spent a recent wintery morning in Lee’s adorable apartment in the Village in Manhattan as she constructed a special smoothie bowl just for Free People! We chatted, we laughed, and then… we ate. And it was delicious. My friends, meet Lee!
Your smoothie bowls are to die for – both in taste and aesthetic. What’s it like to put one of these creations together, from start to finish?
Often people ask, “How do you have time to do that?” and I always say it comes down to prioritizing and preparation. From start to finish, a smoothie bowl usually takes around 10 minutes. I’ve been making them for a while so I know the tricks and how to shave off time.
The three major aspects of the smoothie bowl are consistency, flavor, and toppings. The ratio of liquid to solid must be a perfect balance or else the toppings will sink. Bananas, peeled and frozen at their peak ripeness (when they’re brown & spotty) are an integral part of the smoothie bowl and its consistency. Bananas are almost always included in my smoothie bowl base flavor because of their versatility and nutrients. Bananas enhance other fruits’ flavors very well and work well with almost any combination.
Toppings are important because of aesthetics and texture. I learned from a young age that we eat with our eyes first, so it’s gotta look pretty! I always buy my toppings in bulk, which I keep in Mason jars in my cabinet so I can easily find everything I want or need.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It’s my “me time,” a time for me to just focus on nourishing my body and myself. It’s personal, meditative, tranquil. I’m always thinking about it. When I travel I even make sure to bring along my own super foods just to be sure I can pack in the nutrients. I kept goji berries and brazil nuts in my purse at Coachella last year! I was the goji girl.
Which is the best part: putting the bowl together, admiring the look of your finished creation, or eating it?
My favorite part is putting the smoothie bowl together. Before I make one, I visualize what I am going to make in my head. I thoroughly enjoy the process of picking out a base flavor, which ingredients pair well with what, putting together the toppings, and experimenting with new items. I go into a meditative state whenever I make food, and a smoothie bowl is no different. It’s so relaxing to me, even when it’s stressful. I love seeing it come to life!
But smoothie bowls aren’t all you do – tell us about your homemade granola!
A lot of women my age get internships at magazines or public relation firms in college. I spent my summers working on organic farms (also called WWOOFing). At the first farm I worked at, Sylvestor Manor on Shelter Island, I’d make huge batches of granola for the team to keep us satiated on the field all morning. They encouraged me to begin selling it at the farmer’s market and at our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). I’d sell them in Mason jars, and give discounted refills if they brought back the Mason jar the following week. That was back in 2008. Fast-forward to 2014,when I officially gave my granola a brand, Granolee!
After posting photos of my homemade granola with the recipe for months, I was inspired to make and market it myself when people were still asking me to make it for them. I started off small, selling small batches through Instagram and word of mouth from my friends and co-workers. Eventually I made a website. I sell my Granolee on My Shopify. Every batch is organic, vegan, and made to order.
Are there other kinds of treats you make, as well?
All kinds, I love cooking! I have a habit of tasting food, at a restaurant or at a friend’s, and obsessing over making it myself. I’ll make it over and over again until it tastes better than the restaurant’s. I also like to reinvent old favorites. For example, I love making raw and vegan peanut butter cups with coconut oil and raw cacao because I know what’s in them. If you go back and taste a Reese’s after that, you’ll notice the metallic, almost chemical aftertaste. Reinventing treats is more about the purity of the ingredients and elimination of chemicals than the calories and fat content. Just because it’s raw doesn’t mean it’s not high in calories.
I also learned how to make raw and vegan banana cream bars this summer. Every time I make them I can’t help but eat the entire batch. They are that good.
What does “eating right” mean to you? Is there a particular diet that you think everyone should follow?
I personally feel my best when I am eating a plant-based, minimally processed diet. I eat mainly vegetables fruits, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. I eat meat and seafood very infrequently for health concerns. I’m also a big believer in eating with the seasons, and eating local whenever possible. I’m always hitting up the Union Square farmer’s market. You’ll never see me eating strawberries in January.
Eating right means listening to my body. I’m a big believer in being careful about what I put into my body without being too strict or obsessive. Life has its ups and downs and I realize that food is culture, food is love, and food is social. The cool thing about eating is that it’s one thing that you do only for yourself. It’s nourishing. You eat the food you think you deserve. Want to improve your health? Start by paying attention to what you feed yourself. Americans are so caught up on quick fixes: whether it be taking painkillers for a headache or a tummy tuck instead of a lifestyle change. We really should be focusing on what we’re feeding ourselves because food is the greatest medicine. For everyone else? There is no right answer. I try not to be judgmental of what others eat, but if asked, I can’t help but express that most of us will feel a lot better, have sharper minds, and probably naturally heal most of our ailments if we adapted healthier and more active lifestyles.
What are 3 ingredients we can always expect to find in your kitchen?
Bananas, a dark, leafy green, and medjool dates.
And your number one kitchen appliance?
My number one kitchen appliance is a Vitamix. I know they’re a splurge, but they are completely worth it. I have yet to find another tool that blends as well. I use mine 3-5 times a day. I use it to make everything from juices, nut milks, nut butters, and obviously, my smoothie bowls. If you are curious about starting a healthier lifestyle, getting a high quality blender like a Vitamix is the first step. Also, you save a ton of money. It’s an investment in your health and wellbeing.
You’re originally from Connecticut, yes? How long have you been in New York? Can you let us in on your favorite hidden gems of the city (cafes, boutiques, flea markets, parks, cute streets, etc)?
I am originally from a preppy town in Connecticut, right outside NYC. I grew up on the beach in the summers. My mom would drop us off at beach camp and we would play tennis, golf, and then take swimming lessons. My family is really active and healthy.
I’ve been in New York for 2 1/2 years. I have lived in Greenwich Village the entire time. My favorite neighborhood is definitely NoLiTa. It contains my favorite cross street in all of the city, Prince and Mott. I can’t explain why, it makes me feel nostalgic, hopeful and peaceful all at once. I love the European feel of NoLiTa, and the fact that the Aussies have taken over with all their Australian cafes and avocado toast. My favorite Saturday morning hang out is the Union Square Green Market. I go every week. My favorite cafe is Ground Support in SoHo because it’s fast, consistent, and they have amazing cookies and coffee. For shopping, I love going to American Two Shot. I love how the personalities of the owners show through their clothes, I think it’s rad. That’s how stores should be. A little slice of the designer’s/owner’s personality.
I have Instagram to thank for connecting the two of us – and I love the app dearly for doing exactly that. Do you find you’ve made a lot of connections through social media?
Absolutely. Instagram has been life changing for me. It helped me find an amazing group of core girlfriends in New York City who inspire me daily. I’ve met some really amazing entrepreneurial, and independent kick-ass girls through it. My first Instagram friend was Jessi Frederick. I had been following her because I loved her whole situation and always thought, “We should be friends in real life”. She posted a photo of a bathing suit she designed and sewed herself and I commented, “I need to wear this to Coachella”. Then I went over to her apartment to pick it up, and we actually got on really well.
I’ve even found jobs through social media! My current job is one that I found through Twitter! Instagram inspired a few friends of mine in the food industry to start #hashbrownsandhashtags, a pop up brunch that connects women who are influential on social media across all industries. It gives women a chance to meet up with their favorite Instagrammers in a casual setting.
I’m a big proponent for women encouraging other women on social media, rather than dissing them. There’s way too much bullying on there, it’s heartbreaking to me. I try to always lift other girls up. It’ll only help all of us in the long run.
What do you think we as women can do to use social media in a healthy way; a way that encourages us to grow together?
There is a ton of negativity within social media. I prefer to stay far away from that. It is refreshing to be involved in a network of women who continually encourage & collectively motivate one another. Instagram has been an amazing source of support and motivation for me when I’ve felt down or just needed someone who understands what I am going through. I wish more people would see the beauty of social media and use it correctly. Instagram is a great platform for connecting with like minded individuals. Instagram is kind of like a snapshot into how someone sees the world. If you like someone’s Instagram, chances are you’ll like them in real life, too.
For me personally, I follow a lot of healthy eating accounts which help me stay on track and stay motivated. It also gives me endless ideas on how to stay creative in the kitchen. Before Instagram, I never thought I’d be open to the vegan lifestyle. I discovered a whole new world of cooking, it was kind of crazy.
When I first got into running, I searched the running hashtag and found an amazing running group in New York City (Bridgerunners) that helped me train for a half marathon. It’s really a fantastic way to connect with people who share the same values, interests, and lifestyles as you. It’s rad because you can find someone who has the same goals and interests as you, no matter where they are in the world. You can follow their journey and they can follow yours too.
What’s your idea of the perfect day, from morning to night?
Waking up around 7:45am, no alarm, just by the sun. Making a creamy single cup of french press coffee. Getting back into my cozy bed and greeting the world. Reading a book or the New York Times. I try not to go on Instagram the first hour I am awake, because I don’t want any outside noise. Then, going for a nice long run to Brooklyn and back. I love running, it’s my second favorite thing in the world next to cooking. After my run, coming home and making breakfast for myself. Then meeting up with a friend or heading to the farmer’s market. Then going back to my space, working on my website, making food, and just having more me time. I’ve learned to really fall in love with my alone time. At night, I’d meet up with friends for dinner, and laugh until my abs are sore. That’s a perfect day to me.
What’s up next for you? Any exciting adventures on deck?
I’ve been asked to cater a few events with my smoothie bowls, and I look forward to expanding in that area. I have the opportunity to demonstrate the making of smoothie bowls at a large event, which would be rad. I want all of America to be eating my smoothie bowls every single morning. 2015 will be the year of new adventure, experiences, and lots of travel for me.
Imagine it’s 2025. What do you see yourself doing? Where are you living? What are you eating?
In 2025, I’m most definitely running an organic farm where I grow all my own vegetables and herbs. It’s probably in California, close to the coast. I swear I’m a farm girl at heart! On the same land, I am running a restaurant that serves the food we grow. I also want to run a health and wellness program for people to heal their relationship with food on the farm. Planting food, growing food, and cooking food, it’s all incredibly therapeutic. I want to help people find their balance in life, and help them feel their best. It inspires me.
And finally, what does free mean to you?
“Free” above all else means listening to your intuition. It means living life with no hesitation or regret. It means looking back on past experiences and learning from them but not dwelling on them. It means living life and listening to that authentic voice inside you— no matter how scary, how abnormal, or how crazy it may be. It means taking steps in life that will help better you and the community around you because we only get one life and we better not waste it, because it is a gift. It means getting rid of the things that are holding you down, making you second-guess yourself, or just aren’t true to you. Get free!
Smoothie bowl recipe:
Makes 1 bowl
To make the base:
2 frozen bananas
1/2 fresh banana (make sure it’s spotted and browned – (most easily digested this way)
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
1/2 cup frozen raspberries
1/2 cup almond milk (I make my own)
1 tsp organic cinnamon
3 jumbo medjool dates
Blend until smooth. Make sure it is thick & creamy. Liquid to solid ratio is very important here!
1/2 sliced fresh banana
1 tbsp goji berries
1 tbsp flax seeds
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tsp pepitas
1 tsp buckwheat groats
1/2 cup ‘rawnola’ — medjool dates, peanut butter, and coconut shreds pulsed in a Vitamix for a few seconds
Add some blueberries to top it off!
More healthy recipe ideas from the BLDG 25 blog