Cookie and Kate
Kate is a self-taught photographer and cook who daydreams about new recipes and devours cookbooks. She believes in eating whole, sustainable foods that delights the senses and nourishes the body. On her blog Cookie and Kate, she shares her vegetarian creations while keeping things fun and recipes flexible.
I am so delighted to have Kate Taylor of Cookie and Kate joining me today.
(*All images below are Kate’s.)
On Her Passion for Food:
It’s funny because when I was a kid I was the pickiest eater of all time. We’re talking peanut butter sandwiches, no jelly and no crust for a while. Before I got sick of that and then it was just like mac and cheese. So I think that my taste buds expanded exponentially once I went off to college and tried new things, and it was kind of a whole new world. We just live in this awesome time where we can sample all these different ethnic cuisines, and sample the world in any decently sized city. So coming from, like, a suburb in Oklahoma, I just hadn’t tried any of that and it was kind of a revelation.
I think that my learning how to cook was more just out of necessity. In college, I was trying to live really, really cheaply. Actually I spent a semester in France that really got me interested in cooking because we’d walk all the way to the grocery store and we’d just come back with what we could carry. And we did not have a refrigerator, we did not have a microwave, we just had a stove.
The two girls I was with were pretty content just eating spaghetti with marinara sauce every night. But I’d be like, “What would happen if I added these vegetables, or what’s that sauce taste like?” And so I’ve just always been a creative person who likes to make stuff, and I found, especially in that situation, that cooking could be pretty fun. It was like I had all those constraints and I just sort of played around with them.
On Her Blog:
I would say my blog kind of had a different story than most. Most food blogs start because the person already has a passion for cooking and loves to try recipes and share recipes with their friends. My blog just started when I was really bored at an office job, like, maybe a year and a half after college. I was working in online marketing, so I was learning a lot of stuff that was relevant to the more technical side of blogging. And I just felt sort of creatively stifled. I had always enjoyed writing and photography, I had taken several photography classes in college, and just wasn’t using those passions and skills. So when my friend introduced me to a lot of blogs that were out there I was like, “Oh, this is really fun.” And eventually it was like, “Hey, I can build websites and I like all the stuff that goes into a blog so why don’t I just start one?”
Cookie and Kate was just the only catchy name I could come up with for a blog that had no focus really. But I knew that myself and my dog would be involved somehow.
I wanted it to be really unique content that you could only get there. And when I started the blog I thought, “Oh, well, maybe I’ll dabble in interior design or, you know, some other topics that I enjoy, but there were other people out there doing a really good job with that.” It was like, “How do I add my own spin on this?” So one day I shared a salsa recipe that I’d been making at home and it was kind of a lightbulb moment, because I was like, “Oh, this is something I get to photograph, I get to wrap stories around it, I get to write about it. I kind of get to geek out because I really love projects that I can immerse myself in.” I also felt really, really good about sharing healthy recipes. You might not be able to buy that $200 top that I said was cute last week in a blog post I didn’t feel good about because I can’t even buy that $200 top, but you could probably stop by the grocery store and spend $4 on ingredients.
On Whole Sustainable Foods:
Whole foods, the basic definition, is just that they’re foods that are as close to the source as possible. In this day and age there are just processed foods everywhere you go. Even most breads out there have like 25 ingredients when there should only be five. So I just feel like somewhere in the last 100 years we’ve gone from whole foods, which didn’t even need definition, until now I just feel it’s really important to eat unprocessed, unrefined, whole grains. All the nutrition I have read reinforces the importance of getting enough vegetables and fruits and whole grains. It’s really just, we need more plant-based foods in our diet and less processed foods. If I have an agenda it’s just to try to get people to eat more healthy, whole foods and less processed foods.
I grew up in a pretty health conscious household. I mean, granted, for a while I only ate peanut butter sandwiches, but my mom was also really good about always just having a simple salad on the table, and fresh fruit, and she appreciated whole grain bread versus plain white bread. And I can tend to be hypoglycemic, so my blood sugar levels just get out of whack easier than other people, and so I learned very early on, if I just ate plain Bisquick pancakes with a lot of fake maple syrup on top for breakfast I would be seriously ill in a few hours.
For me I felt like the connection between what I ate and how I felt was more apparent than it is for other people. I guess my grandmother and my mom have been interested in healthy cooking and back then it was low fat so when I went to college I eventually picked up a book by Marion Nestle who’s a well-known nutritionist and I was just really surprised to learn, “Oh, maybe I don’t need three glasses of milk a day” and, “Oh, we need fat in our diet.” It’s not something I need to be scared of or avoid.
Another writer that I fell in love with his books is Michael Pollan. Very influential in convincing me to eat less meat.
On Misconception About Healthy Eating:
I think that the low-fat craze really did a number on everyone’s concept of healthy foods, because once you take the fat out of anything, it’s not going to be satisfying. So I would say don’t be afraid of healthy fats like olive oil or even some butter. They are fine, we need them in order to feel satisfied. I’d also say don’t even be too afraid to salt the recipes. I suggest to salt them, because I mean, really, you’re not going to get as much salt in anything you make at home versus the processed foods. And also just fresh flavors like fresh lemon, which I add to tons of stuff, like a squeeze of lemon juice or garlic, herbs, those aromatics just are bursting with flavor. There is no reason to think that healthy means flavorless. Also, vegetables are super tasty if you ask me, and if maybe you need to add some cheese to help you get there, go for it!
On Eating Vegetarian:
Well, I eat fish on rare occasions. I don’t have any problem in eating fish. I went vegetarian over five years ago. It was before I started my blog. I don’t really push vegetarianism much on my blog, it’s just that everything so happens to be meatless.
I think a lot of people that, maybe even most of the people, who follow my blog just appreciate healthy, wholesome, produce-driven meals like I do. I became a vegetarian, a lax one really, after reading Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma. I just felt like he presented a really well-balanced view on it and frankly when I went to college and my taste buds expanded I was still very picky about meat, so I never ate a ton of it, if I did it was like chicken. I eventually learned to like burgers just because there is ketchup on them. It wasn’t a lot of meat that I loved, and once I learned more about it, was like, “Okay, well this is a really relatively easy way for me to do the environment a favor, because meat takes a lot of energy to produce. It’s another way to avoid antibiotic exposure, and just the growth hormones and the stuff we put in the animals these days.” It was just easier for me.
For a while after I went vegetarian I decided I would eat some bacon and pepperoni every now and then, but I don’t do that anymore. Those are the only meats that I really missed just because they are really tasty. I never once missed chicken. I missed some comfort food, stuff that my mom would make like chicken enchiladas but now she just puts beans in mine.
On Some Resources for Learning More About Eating Vegetarian:
The book that I’ve been referencing most often is a new one that came out from America’s Test Kitchen called The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook. They just have a vegetarian version of almost anything you can think of. If you’re just dying for pad thai they’ll tell you how to make it. I think that would be a good book for anyone who wants to eat less meat. I really love Michael Pollan so if you want to learn more about food. I always feel like learning more about the reality of what you’re eating, makes it so much easier to make good choices. So I would recommend anything by Michael Pollan.
The Pressure Cooker:
Which food shows or cooking shows do you watch?
I don’t have cable, but recently I’ve gotten into Mind of a Chef on Netflix. I’ve only seen season one so it’s all about David Chang and he’s just, like, kind of blowing my mind with his ideas, so that’s been fun.
What are some food blogs or food websites we have to know about?
Well my friend Tessa has a really awesome gluten-free baking blog. She has convinced me that gluten-free baked goods can be super tasty and she works really hard on them. So I would say Salted Plains, that is the name of the blog. And then I recently met with a researcher from Harvard and she told me about a newsletter that Harvard sends out that has like really solid nutrition advice in it. So I would say subscribe to that.
Who do you follow on Pinterest, Instagram, or Facebook that make you happy?
It’s this pig that these two guys adopted thinking it was going to be a little pig, but it’s like a giant pig.
They even moved to a farm so she would have more space and they dress her up. I watch my friend’s little girl some afternoons and we always catch up on Esther the Wonder Pig.
What is the most unusual or treasured item in your kitchen?
I have this little spatula with a little wooden handle that I inherited from my grandmother. My dad said she was always walking around with that spatula in her back pocket. So I’m pretty attached to that one.
Name one ingredient you used to dislike but now you love.
I use to dislike fennel, I really like it now.
I am so sure my mom never put fennel on the table. If you slice it super thin it becomes really palatable and kind of a surprising ingredient to add to salad.
What are a few cookbooks that make your life better?
Yeah well I definitely reiterate America’s Test Kitchen Vegetarian Cookbook. I also really love the Vegetarian Flavor Bible, which also came out recently, it’s like a flavor thesaurus and I use it for almost everything. If I’m wondering what to do with a tomato, I’ll open it up and see what goes well with tomatoes. Honestly, I just have the most enormous pile of cookbooks and it’s kind of just rotating inspiration.
What song or album just makes you want to cook?
I would say anything by Otis Redding just makes me want to move and hop around in the kitchen.
On Keeping Posted with Kate: