It’s immediately apparent that Laka Living founder Liz Smithers is a work hard, play hard kind of person. The same could be said for her amazing adaptogenic nut butters…
At its start, Laka Living embodied three major principles: it must be plant-based, it must be convenient, and it must be fashionable. Ten years later, the brand continues to evolve and push through the purpose of Liz Smithers, Kauai-by-way-of-Virginia resident, all in the name of making wellness as easy to grab as a drive-through window meal.
Liz took time of her very busy schedule (it’s nothing short of humbling to see what she’s able to take on in a day and STILL get to bed by 9pm) to share with us a bit behind the inspiration for both Laka and life in general. Don’t forget to bookmark this page so you can add Liz’s go-to nut butter recipes into your regimen.
How does Laka envelop your knowledge of Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ashtanga?
I found Ashtanga first, primarily as way to trade in my addiction to partying and strengthen my then frail body. You know…really commit myself to something with purpose. That I did. Six days a week I biked in the freezing cold (when i lived on the East coast) to my Ashtanga studio in Richmond and practice asana and pranayama for 2 hours. I was totally lost at the time, coming out of a horrible depression and a bout of disordered eating. I was ready for something regimented and challenging. Ashtanga, for the first time ever, illuminated my very black or white personality.
I don’t really moderate my life. Whether it’s drugs, fitness, or blooming a business, I have always gotten high from giving it my all. Ashtanga is also what introduced me to Ayurveda, as the two systems go hand-in-hand and greatly support one another’s efficacy. Immersing myself in the world of yoga — at the most sponge-like state of my existence — allowed me to meet people practicing in and healing from Ayurveda, Chinese Medicine, Reiki, etc. It became clear that these wellness systems called to me, but I continued to pursue a modern “hook,” one that the western world could latch onto in rebalancing their systems. Laka is basically my stab at delivering a convenient way to use the powers of ancient medicine with the new age concept of fast food. Still completely formulated for a “desired” result, but not as boring as a bunch of herbs sitting around. Plus, you can add them to your chi-building and dosha-balancing broths, grain dishes, salads, and fresh fruit, sealing in the flavor with plant fat.
What is Kauai’s influence on Laka?
Kauai’s climate — of all forms — is constantly changing. New people are in and out. There is a constant mix of rain, wind, water, moisture. It forces us to adapt here, and I feel that has totally influenced the way I handle any turning points and glitches that come up.
Tell us about the first adaptogenic nut butter you ever conceived…
Omg! The good ol’ days. I had just moved out to Kauai with my 3 best friends from college. We were crammed into a South Shore beach house, and I was just starting to formulate the foundation for what Laka is today — convenient, plant-based, and food that’s fashionable (no shame — food can be cool). I also chose plant fat as the carrier because I knew that high quality fats helped marinate nutrients into the system, so why not let the plant sit inside you for longer? I was using a Cuisinart food processor, nuts from Costco, and way too much coconut oil, haha. I cringe at the thought of adding coconut oil to butter now! My first two blends, if i can remember correctly, were a mix of: almonds, coconut oil, Reishi, Cordyceps and sea salt; and macadamia nuts, ashwagandha, maca, moringa, raw honey and sea salt .
At this time, awareness of adaptogenic wellness was rare, and my friends sort of shrugged their shoulders when I force-fed them batches of “adapted nut butter.” I remember preaching that this simple concept was going to be huge and prove a much more fun way to incorporate the power of plants — they were way more interested in going to brunch, haha.
What’s the difference between drips, guap and powdered blends?
So, the Drips are just our daily blend of adaptogens, but all ready to go. No need to blend with anything (except hot water if you desire a tonic). Our Drips are the bridge for the inexperienced, time-starved individual who needs to start managing his/her stress but doesn’t want to invest in all the bells and whistles. For the commuter who simply has to eat and snack on the go, for the athlete to keep in the gym bag in between classes or sessions, or for the mom who’s running errands all day and needs her adapted dose.
The Guap is like our Drips, but up-leveled. The penthouse suite of the plant butters world. The Guap is your money, your golden ticket to high performance. I designed the Guap (more Guaps to come!) for individuals like myself who really like to ride the edge without suffering from the consequences of simply creating something epic. It contains adaptogens, as well as CBD + amino acids to help further mitigate inflammation, fatigue, and low sex drive associated with a high-stress lifestyle.
Powdered blends simply provide another way to get your adaptogens, but I find them limiting to the beginner in terms of affordability and education, and require a lot more “gadgets” to get the job done. I use and encourage the alchemy, but I find my powders tend to stay at home.
Your favorite adaptogen and why…
It is hard to pick just one — isolating an adaptogen allows only half the power of combining two or more to source the synergy of the pair(s). My favorite combo would have to be Lion’s Mane + Cordyceps together. As a creative entrepreneur, fitness instructor, and someone who just has to keep moving, I find this combo lights up my neural network and exponentially improves my breathing during workouts. Any extra energy boost? I am all ears.
Best/worst advice you’ve ever gotten:
Best: “You take yourself wherever you go. Wherever you go, there you are.” This is just a reminder that nothing changes if nothing changes. You can’t move to a new place and reinvent yourself unless you truly do the work. The idea that a place can change who you really are is toooootalllllll baloney, baby!
Worst: I don’t think I have actually gotten bad enough advice that I actually remember. I have very selective hearing so if someone told me something that just wasn’t gonna jive, it left my mind as soon as it entered.
Fave hidden gem in Kauai?
Hmmmmm, a few!
Pu’u Road for sunset. Gotta be in the right spot, though.
Kauai Farmacy. An awesome tea garden in the middle of the woods on the North Shore.
Midnight Bear Breads on the West Side. Best Lilikoi curd croissants and cold-drip coffee, hands down.
What’s next for Laka?
I think first and foremost, radically improving the flow of what we already have going on!
After that, throughout the year, placing a heavy emphasis on serving the local community and strengthening our branding as an Adaptogenic Wellness company rooted in sustainable food, fashion and fitness. :) We have a lead on 1/3 of our algorithm. Quarters 3 and 4 are going to be huge for us and I can’t wait to share what we have planned for the coming year. Can’t seep the potency much more, though!
In all honesty, though, I won’t truly know what to do next until the universe drops what I call a click* on me. Those days, moments, where things just click. And you go for it. The answers are there and you know to take steps 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 to turn your inside feelings into outside matter.
And, as promised, Liz has shared three simple recipes for incorporating her nut butters into your life plans…
1/2 frozen avocado
1/2 cup frozen pineapple
1/2 cup frozen berries
1/4 cup coconut yogurt
1/2-1 cup almond milk
2 tbsp hemp seeds
1/4 tsp vitamin C crystals
1 tsp colostrum
2 tbsp Living Entrepreneurs Guap (1 tbsp inside, 1 tbsp to drip)
Simply blend and serve frosty style with a spoon!
SPICY VEGAN COCONUT BROTH
1 can full fat organic coconut milk/1.5 cups fresh coconut milk
24 oz lightly salted veggie broth (local best)
24 oz lightly salted veggie broth (local best)
1 tbsp curry paste
1/2 bunch kale, stemmed, chopped, and steamed
1 whole avocado, cubed
1/2 cup parsley
1 tbsp tamari
6 tbsp Super Shroom Drip
Blend coconut milk, broth, curry paste, and tamari on high in a blender. Simmer mixture until hot, about 20 minutes. Pour into 6 mugs and top with avocado chunks, parsley, and Super Shroom Drip (1 tbsp each).
LADY LAKA FAIT
1 cup coconut yogurt
1/2 cup fresh pineapple, cubed
1/2 large mango, sliced
2 tbsp hemp seeds
2 tbsp Chocolate Pearl Drip
1 tbsp raw honey (optional)
Layer 1/4 cup pineapple, then 1/2 cup yogurt. Repeat one more time.
Use the mango slices to form a flower shape in top of parfait, and top with hemp seeds and Chocolate Pearl Drip. Add extra toppings like granola, berries, or chocolate chips if desired. Drizzle honey if desired.