Interview with Kathy Patalsky of Healthy. Happy. Life.
This week, I’m excited to feature powerhouse blogger, Finding Vegan founder + curator and cookbook author Kathy Patalsky of Healthy. Happy. Life.
In this Why I Cook column, I’ll virtually sit down with Kathy to ask her what drives her to constantly create. This allows both me and you to get know this amazing individual better!
Veganism and vegan bloggers
I think that vegan bloggers play such a vital role in promoting veganism by making vegan cooking doable and accessible, staying on top of food trends and sharing with others their own unique point of view and perspective through their cooking.
Kathy Patalsky does all of this and more, showing that veganism isn’t about deprivation or compromise—rather, it’s about having fun in the kitchen in a way that embraces and combines compassion and creativity. Whether Kathy is talking about travel, sharing a video on YouTube or creating and sharing a recipe, she approaches it in a way that draws her readers in, and makes them curious to learn more. It’s such a great way to not only engage other vegans, but also make veganism look fun and approachable to the newly vegan or veg-curious!
Also the author of two vegan cookbooks, 365 Vegan Smoothies and Healthy Happy Vegan Kitchen, Kathy achieves everything in print that she embraces on her site: sharing with us content that we can use again and again, because of its simplicity and ability to nourish.
When she’s not blogging, working on a cookbook or other project, Kathy also manages to actively curate over at Finding Vegan, an aggregate vegan recipe site (similar to Foodgawker or Tastespotting, but 100% vegan), which features an endless, delicious stream of recipes and inspiration by an array of vegan bloggers from large to small, older and brand new. I have to admit I am a little addicted to the site and have gotten lost in it for hours, gawking at what other bloggers create.
Finding Vegan is a website I started in July 2011. I started it because I realized that there were SO many amazing vegan blogs and recipes on the internet. I really wanted one website where I could browse vegan recipes and keep up to date with my favorite bloggers. Instead of remembering to visit ten, twenty blogs a day – I can just browse FV daily and check out which recipes catch my eye. The front page changes every hour, so checking the site can become quite addicting! And the best part about FV is that it allows me to discover blogs and recipes I might never have come across otherwise. Some of my favorite blogs were discovered via Finding Vegan!
Given Kathy’s heavy schedule, I’m so honored that she agreed to take some time to answer some questions about why she cooks! Read on to learn more about who Kathy’s culinary heroes are, why she thinks learning cooking basics is so important and what mystery guest she would like to throw a dinner party for!
When did you start to cook and what about the process itself kept you interested in it?
I first remember cooking all by myself when I was in grade school. There was a healthy living book that I bought at a book fair at school and it had a few recipes in the back. I remember making a Brown Apple Betty and some Vanilla Muffins. I also started making my own smoothies. This was way back in the late 80’s so instead of VEGA I was using hot cocoa mix or Carnation Instant Breakfast for my mix ins!
The first time I really got into vegan cooking was when I was in college and living on my own. I experimented with veggies and made giant yummy salads, tofu, hummus and sweet potatoes dishes.
Flash forward to today. I cook every day for my family and for the blog. Having the blog really helps me stay curious about trying new recipes for my readers. Otherwise I just might stay in my usual rotation of favorites! I think blogs are such a valuable resource for any cook to stay inspired. Amidst the day to day grind of life it can be a challenge but sitting down to an amazing creative meal is always a huge reward.
Describe your process of recipe development. How do you come up with fresh and new ideas on a regular basis?
I blog what I eat. That wasn’t what I used to do. I would create recipes based on what I thought would be popular. But it makes work much more rewarding to share real meals and real desserts for everyday life. As for recipe development. I will usually be making a recipe a few times until I want to post about it. Then by the time I write the post I know exactly the best version of the recipe by my own organic trial and error in the kitchen.
What influenced your love of cooking?
My mom was a very healthy California cook. My curiosity for and love of ingredients definitely came from her. And I think having a passion for ingredients is where cooking begins.
Define your own style of cooking.
I cook plant-based foods for everyday life. These include healthy desserts and smoothies and fast and easy comfort foods. I try to keep things as simple as possible but I do love spices and smart sauces. I love as many fruits and veggies in my recipes as possible. That keeps things healthy, delicious and beautiful for me.
Describe the best dish you’ve ever made.
That’s hard! I love so many things. The truth is I really adore such simple recipes done well. The simple process of correctly baking a sweet potato or blending a smoothie or simmering a soup is really my favorite. That transition from ingredients to a prepared dish is always what excites me. But to answer the question, I will say I make a mean cashew pumpkin pie around the holidays. It always excites people. And I always love making my sweet potato veggie burgers with avocado.
If your current self could give your past self one piece of sage cooking advice, what would it be and why?
Don’t skip the basics. I have a friend who is taking a cooking 101 course right now just for fun and I think that is so smart. Everyone can benefit from learning the basics about knife skills and the chemistry of baking, flours and techniques etc. I wish I had done more of that in the beginning! And if I had time I would have no shame in taking a 101 class myself! Maybe I will one day. It’s always great to be refreshed.
Do you have any culinary heroes?
Chef Amanda Cohen of Dirt Candy is a favorite of mine. She does incredible things with vegetables!! I also think Chloé Coscarelli had basically mastered the art of making vegan look cool and delicious to mainstream folks.
I also think Chef Tal Ronnen of Crossroads is amazing. And I won’t even get into the bloggers and cookbook authors I am constantly inspired by because, as you know, THERE ARE SO MANY! It’s awesome.
I have to credit nonvegans like Martha Stewart and even Anthony Bourdain (yup) for inspiring my love of cooking very early on. If you remember those days when Top Chef was all anyone talked about, I was totally a fan of all that cooking hype. And I loved watching mainstream chefs and veganizing some of the creativity I saw.
If you could choose anyone to cook with in the kitchen, who would it be?
My grandmothers and great grandmothers! (Ok and the grandpas too) 😉
If you could throw a party for anyone, who would be there and what would the menu look like?
I would throw a party for Leonardo DiCaprio. Haha, you asked didn’t you?! It would be the most eco-amazing party ever and would have an EPIC vegan menu with a giant tower of vegan cupcakes in every color of the rainbow … and the party would celebrate our planet and all the animals on it. A party for the animals! And all the beauty on earth that we sometimes don’t properly appreciate. Why is Leo there? Well I guess he doesn’t have to be, but you did say any person … so haha. I’ll gladly have Leo as our celeb of honor.
Name one ingredient and kitchen gadget you can’t live without.
Sweet potatoes! Vitamix! (That was way too easy)
Oh shoot, maybe chocolate too?
Check out more of my Why I Cook interviews below!
Amrita Bala of Crazy Vegan Kitchen
Sophia DeSantis of Veggies Don’t Bite
Hannah Kaminsky of BitterSweet
Jackie Sobon of Vegan Yack Attack
Stay in touch with Kathy!
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