On Sugarlaws Katy shares health and beauty tips, very personal stories including her new adventures in motherhood and of course FOOD. Katy has also penned a series of incredibly well-received novels called, Moving Neutral.
I am so delighted to have Katy Atlas from Sugarlaws joining me on the show today.
On Starting Her Blog:
This is a thing that I’ve never really talked about on my blog, but I actually had a personal blog in college.
So actually before Sugarlaws was born I had a live journal for about three years in college. And then I gave it up when I started law school because I had this idea that I was going to be this very serious lawyer, and very serious lawyers don’t blog and certainly don’t write about things that they do on the Internet.
I found that I just missed it so much. I just kind of missed having that outlet. I missed sharing with people that way. I missed getting to know people through blogging. And so when I was a year out of law school I started Sugarlaws. In a lot of ways I think it was kind of a natural outgrowth.
I love to write. I’ve always kind of been a writer. I think it’s something that I was born with. And so it felt very natural. Again, I think it was also a way not even just to write but to communicate and to connect with people.
When I first started Sugarlaws it was exclusively recipes. It was because I was learning how to cook. I was sort of on my own for the first time.
In law school I hadn’t really cooked very much and I was starting my first job and I wanted to learn this skill. I found that I was taking pictures of these recipes, that I would make them and email them around to my friends and my family. I just thought, like, “Okay, well, why not put them on the Internet?”
I originally thought it would sort of be my own little cookbook that I could come back to and have all these recipes and figure out what I liked about them and what I didn’t, and what I tried and what I wanted to try. Then suddenly people started reading it. That kind of shocked me at first.
It’s like, “Who are you? You’re not my mom, what’s going on?” It was really my cooking adventures for the first year and a half. Then eventually as I felt like I’d mastered a lot of cooking skills I expanded it to add fashion and beauty and lifestyle. And now again I’ve kind of expanded it to write about parenting a little bit.
On Her Connection with Her Readers:
One of the things that I always think is really cool is I’ll get emails from readers a lot and there’ll be people who say, “I’ve followed you since those early days when you were taking a photo with your little point and shoot,” because I didn’t even have an iPhone back then.
And they looked terrible but they kind of, I feel like, I really feel like those are my friends. Those people that I know now or have known me for six years, seven years now. I think what keeps people coming back is the human being behind it. Lots of blogs have beautiful pictures and that is something that obviously the blogging world is just amazing at creating, but what makes blogging different from magazines and other places where you can see these beautiful images, are that you kind of get to know the human behind them.
I think that really has been, if there’s anything I think that makes my blog popular, it’s that people sort of feel like they know me.
On Her Epic Holiday Fail:
Yes. So last Christmas we . . . well so I have a very big kind of extended family.
We had my parents in town and my sister and then my husband’s parents and his brother and his brother’s wife and their son. And I was responsible for cooking Christmas dinner.
I did all the things in preparation, like I had my recipes ready, I had a schedule of what needed to go in when. It all was going okay until everything got ready. At that moment had I been a really on-the-ball hostess I would have said, “Sit down at the table right now.”
But instead, people were talking and that was fun and so I just sort of gently hinted that people should go to the table. It took like an hour to get everyone to the table, at which point all of our food was burnt.
There was nothing to eat.
Usually I take pictures of everything. I take pictures of my shoes practically every day. But I couldn’t take any pictures of these burnt potatoes because I was so mortified by them.
It was just one of those moments where I was so excited to cook this Holiday dinner and I really felt like I could rise to the challenge. And then I just burned everything.
I think in some ways I actually kind of love it as a story now. At the time I was really disappointed in myself. I couldn’t talk about it for a while. My whole family had to pretend I’d done an okay job, that it wasn’t really that bad. Then they threw everything in the trash after we were done.
So it was just a total epic failure.
But you know I think probably everyone in their life is going to have one of those stories. You know one of those Holiday dinners that just didn’t quite go the way you planned. Those are probably going to be the ones that you remember even more than the ones that go perfectly.
I started Sugarlaws when I started getting into cooking. Everybody gets through life making a couple of dishes pretty well so that they can eat. I had a few of those. But really when I started to get fascinated with cooking and with all the techniques and kind of learning about it, not sort of seeing it as a task that has to get done every day, and more seeing it as sort of a creative outlet, and something that I could learn how to do and a skill that I could pick up, that’s really when I started enjoying cooking.
That’s when I started going to the farmers’ market and going to different food blogs and picking out recipes and thinking about what techniques I wanted to master. I took a bunch of cooking classes. It was really a long learning experience that is well documented on Sugarlaws. I kind of went from here are some cookies with four ingredients to all of a sudden I’m piping my own eclairs and rendering duck fat.
Now it’s funny because cooking is still obviously a huge part of our lives but now what I gravitate towards more are easier recipes that can be healthy and manageable for our family. We’ve obviously got a lot on our hands with an eight-month-old and both my husband and I work. So now it’s kind of taken its own little turn but I still really enjoy it.
On Cooking as a Parent:
I cook very differently because we used to order out and go out. We could certainly go out on a much more frequent basis and now we don’t.
Now it tends to be a lot more meals that I prepare at home. I find two things. One, is that I have to be a lot more organized about it. It can’t be like, “Oh, I bought two things for a recipe and then I’m missing the other four ingredients,” because then we have no dinner. So that doesn’t work very well. And then also I really strive for recipes that can just be our staples, something that isn’t necessarily learning a new technique all the time but is just like, I know how to make this. I know it will be good.
I love our slow cooker. It’s the lifesaver for a new parent.
Because nothing burns. I definitely kind of experiment still with recipes. I’ll work one into the rotation and see if it works and make it a few times. Then, if it sticks around, then it becomes sort of part of our repertoire and one of the staples. But it definitely has changed a lot.
I definitely gravitate towards healthy but easy and low maintenance, and something that is not going to burn.
On a Dish that’s Good for Parents:
I have two that are kind of go-to’s a lot, and they’re both slow cooker recipes. I just find that those are just life savers. One of them is barbecue chicken. I’m so obsessed with the recipe that I literally have it going downstairs in our slow cooker for dinner tonight.
It’s the easiest, the recipe’s on the Sugarlaws website but it’s so easy. It’s chicken breasts, barbecue sauce, Worcestershire sauce, Italian dressing and just leave it in the slow cooker for six or eight hours. And then shred it with two forks and put it on a wholewheat bun, and you have a really delicious, incredibly easy dinner that takes, active time, five minutes.
Then I also have a Southwestern stew that’s one of our favorites. It uses black beans and corn and chopped onions. And then a lot of the time I just kind of throw in some taco seasoning. These are really low maintenance recipes but I swear I really do like to cook and can do the fancy stuff too but lately with a baby…
On Her Book Series called Moving Neutral:
I was an English major in college. I’ve always loved to write, loved to read. I read all the time.
I started reading a ton of young adult books and just love them, love the stories, love the pace of them, love that you could pick them up and sort of fall into these characters’ lives. I just found them really, really enjoyable.
After a while I started getting these characters in my head and, you know, it just kind of felt really natural to try to put . . . well I want to say pen to paper but obviously it was fingers to keyboard. And try to tell the story.
I love writing and I think writing fiction is one of the most fun, enjoyable, hair pulling, intense activities that you can challenge yourself to. The discipline that it takes to write a book is just something that I’m glad that I challenged myself to do because I really learned a lot from it.
I would encourage anyone to take that story that they have sitting around in their head and those characters that they think about every once in a while and try to tell their story. I’m so proud of that as an accomplishment.
It is one of the things that I am probably most proud of at least before our child arrived. I loved it.
I think there’s something to be said for sort of staying in your niche, but I always felt like I write about fashion, I write about food, I write about beauty, but foremost I’m a writer.
Not so much foremost, I am a fashionista or a beauty expert or even a cook, I’m really kind of first and foremost a writer.
The Pressure Cooker:
Which food shows or cooking shows do you watch?
What are some food blogs or websites that we have to know about?
I rely on the big ones like Bon Appetit. Cooking Light actually I think has really good recipes. And then a lot of Joy the Baker, I love her blog. Smitten Kitchen obviously is a huge one that I think probably you already know about, I love her blog. Cupcakes and Cashmere is kind of fashion and food but she always has great recipes.
Who do you follow on Pinterest, Instagram or Twitter that make you happy?
So on Instagram in particular I follow a lot of my friends. I follow a lot of bloggers too.
The nice thing about the blogging community is that the ones that I follow that make me the happiest tend to be the people that I actually kind of know in real life, and have gotten to know through various projects.
They feel like my friends in addition to obviously they’re creators of really, really beautiful content. So I always really like it when I know the person and have some connection to them.
What is something all home cooks should have in their pantry?
Maldon sea salt is the biggest one. You never think of it but it actually makes such a huge difference in your recipes. You don’t want to be pouring table salt on to everything.
Name one ingredient you cannot live without?
Cheese. Like probably parmesan cheese. My husband is always like . . . I’m like, “Let’s just put some parmesan cheese in there” and he’s like, “It doesn’t go in everything.” But I disagree, it pretty much goes in everything.
What are a few cookbooks that make your life better?
Back to Martha Stewart. I have a bunch of Martha Stewart cookbooks that I really, really like. I just find that those recipes are kind of foolproof. They really, really work. They always turn out great.
I also have The Art of Simple Food, which I think is kind of, almost less of a cookbook, and more of just kind of a cooking perspective on which I really, really like.
And then I do a lot online. I love my cookbooks and when I have a Saturday I love browsing through them. But I also, when I’m looking for a recipe, I also look a lot online.
What song or album just makes you want to cook?
I love the 60s and the music of the 60s. So I put on Bob Dylan or Crosby, Stills and Nash or the Beatles. Those are just the songs that sort of speak to my soul, and those are always kind of the immediate go-to songs.
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