Healthy Nibbles and Bits
Lisa is a lawyer turned food blogger and on Healthy Nibbles and Bits is where she shares simple, healthy recipes with bold flavors. She loves experimenting in the kitchen and can talk about food all day.
I am so happy to have Lisa Lin of Healthy Nibbles and Bits with me here today.
(*All photos below are Lisa’s.)
On Being a Lawyer and Becoming a Food Blogger:
Long story. I’ve been cooking a lot for my family and then I kept cooking while I was in college. And then when I got to law school I actually devoted every Sunday afternoon to cooking. It was just sort of my time to not study and also I always cooked my own meals because I got tired of all the stuff that was around school. Just all of these sandwich shops. So I really cooked a lot during law school and that’s when I started following food blogs.
When I finished law school and I moved back to the Bay Area and I was trying to find a job, I just kept following more blogs just to distract myself. That’s how I fell into food blogging. I think my husband who was my boyfriend at the time just said, “Well, why don’t you start one yourself?” Which was actually really daunting because the last blog I ever had was a Xanga.
I wrote about stupid things like Backstreet Boys and what happened at school and I was thinking like, “There’s no way I’m going to write a food blog because it’s going to be the same stuff.” But I just fell in love with testing and creating recipes and talking about it and that’s just how it all happened. So there’s no real logical transition from lawyer to food blogging but it was just something that I’ve always been doing. It just sort of blossomed into a passion.
On Being Fearless in the Kitchen:
First of all I don’t really have formal culinary training and so the only way you learn is by experimenting with flavors and cooking. Sometimes I blend things that don’t make sense at all. I was trying to make a cauliflower cake once and I used purple cauliflower thinking the color would look good. It looks nasty. It was just this weird bluish color. But you have to do it and you do it until you learn and you write it down, make sure you don’t do it again.
On Her Curiosity Around Cooking and Food:
When I was younger I was just more into books and that kind of explains why I kept going through so much schooling. But there were always times my mom forced me to help her cook. So there are all these big Chinese holidays that we have to cook for. Chinese New Year’s, the Dragon Boat Festival we make those rice wrapped in bamboo leaf things. I don’t know what they’re called. Rice cakes. So I would help my mom with that all the time and so through that that’s how I started cooking.
I was always very interested because it’s very involved. All those cakes, my mom makes it from scratch so it comes from the dough and the flour, and you press it out and everything, and then fill it, and then fold it. I was very interested in the very difficult cooking projects. But then when my mom made me cook for the family just on week nights, I was definitely way less interested in that because stir fry is just not as sexy as making dumplings. But I’m very thankful that my mom forced me to cook for the family because otherwise I wouldn’t have cooked for myself in college and onward.
On Her Food Heroes:
I guess my mom is one of my food heroes. She loves to cook and she loves to experiment. And I’ve sort of, because of that, assumed that all Chinese moms love to cook which is not the case at all.
I think I took it for granted and she has an innate curiosity to try to recreate what she eats. I think I picked it up from her. It gets a bit annoying, but whenever we go to eat Dim Sum she’d say, “Well, I can make this at home.” And it’s like, “Yeah. That’s not the point, mom.” But I do look up to her. There’s a lot of Chinese dishes that I wish I could make or famous cake that I wish I could bake one day. So she’s definitely one of my early, early food heroes. And then I would have to say when I was a kid I loved Martin Yan.
His show always aired on PBS on Saturday afternoons and I always watched it. And I love the show and I really admire what he has done for raising awareness about Chinese food in America. I really think he’s one of the pioneers of introducing Chinese cuisine. And he’s done so much to travel around China and he’s written a lot of books. So I definitely admire him.
On What She Would Make for Martin Yan:
Oh my gosh. That would be so intimidating because I’m sure he’s had everything. But if I were to do something it definitely can’t be a traditional Chinese dish because he has done it so much, he has done it so well. You just don’t do that. He just won’t appreciate it. I’ve done a General Tso’s brussels sprouts dish. So you kind of get the General Tso’s chicken flavors and then you blend it into brussels sprouts so it’s something that might fit his pallet but a bit unexpected. I would probably make that for him.
On Her Blog:
When I first started I didn’t even think I was going to be doing food blogging to the extent that I would right now. But it’s definitely not what I expected. I just wanted, initially, to test other peoples’ recipes and just blog about what I tested because that’s what I had been doing for a few years. I didn’t expect that I would have to buy a new camera, learn how to edit my photos, be engaged on social media because I only had a Facebook account and Pinterest that I used occasionally at that point.
And I really didn’t expect the business skills you have to develop for running a food blog because we do have to make money, too. And if you asked me 10 years ago whether or not I would become a business woman, I’d be like, “You’re crazy.” Because I was always about books and being an academic. But this entrepreneurial spirit was nowhere inside of my blood. So those are definitely things I picked up and I didn’t realize I had to do when I first started it.
On Where She Finds Inspiration:
A lot of different sources. One big thing is what’s in season. Then I look at what I’ve been posting on the blog lately. Do I maybe tone down on sweets now and do something savory? Magazines, I subscribe to maybe six or seven food magazines just so I can learn and get inspired. And food websites. Sometimes it’s based on what I eat at a restaurant, too. Things like that and then sometimes other food bloggers, too.
The Pressure Cooker:
Which food shows or cooking shows do you watch?
The Great British Bake-Off. I just love it.
What are some food blogs or food websites we have to know about?
I think if you’re starting out cooking you should definitely check out The Kitchn. They just have so many great tips on how to improve your cooking. Those articles are really short so you can digest it very easily. Or Serious Eats, they do a lot of cooking tips kind of posts. So I would definitely check out those two websites.
Who do you follow on Pinterest, Instagram, or Facebook or Snapchat that make you happy?
The accounts that make me really happy are actually non-food related if that’s okay. I like to get visual inspiration from sources outside of food. So there are definitely several Instagram accounts that I can think of, and Instagram’s actually my favorite out of all the different social media channels.
One of them is this guy named Sam Larson. He does a lot of sketches and they’re absolutely gorgeous. Sometimes he draws really tiny animals that are about the size of a penny, a U.S. penny. And so he takes a photo of the penny and the drawing just so you know how big it is.
It’s amazing. Definitely check him out. And I also like to follow DIY bloggers on Instagram, too because they’re all so colorful and it makes me really happy when I see color. I try to incorporate that on my blog, too. Oh Happy Day is a good one, The Crafted Life. They’re always very colorful so those are my favorite. They make me happy.
What is the most unusual or treasured item in your kitchen?
This is actually a really cool gadget that I don’t really use all the time because it’s a seasonal thing. But I have a cherry pitter. It’s one of those things where you stick the cherry and then you clamp it. It’s so much fun and I love it. I now bake a lot of cherry things in the summer time because of that thing because I hate pitting cherries with a knife and then you make such a huge mess. But with the cherry pitter you just do it inside a bowl or over the sink and you’re done. One of the best tools ever invented.
Name one ingredient you used to dislike but now you love.
Fresh mint. I think it’s because when I was a kid I ate a lot of mint, artificial mint-flavored things like mint-chip ice cream or chewing gum. I had a perception of what mint should taste like and then when I tried fresh mint for the first time it was at a Vietnamese restaurant and we had Pho and on the side they always give you some fresh herbs to put into your soup. I remember thinking, “What the heck is this? It’s so disgusting.” But over the years I’ve started incorporating it in water. So I would have cucumbers, strawberries, and some fresh mint in there, and that’s how I reintroduced mint into my palate and I really like adding it to my cooking now.
What are a few cookbooks that make your life better?
Definitely anything by America’s Test Kitchen because there’s just a lot of cooking tips. I have their cooking school book. I flip through it all the time when I have some cooking questions. One book I really like is, Nom Nom Paleo. I’m not a strict paleo-eater but I think that Michelle Tam has very creative ways of using ingredients to reduce the amount of sugar intake. She has this cherry barbecue sauce in there. I frequently flip through it all the time to see if, “Oh, is there another creative way for me to use ingredients that’s unexpected, that doesn’t require adding sugar or anything like that?” And, Joy of Cooking, just classic American recipes that I need to flip through.
What song or album just makes you want to cook?
Going back to Ratatouille because I know it’s a cooking movie, if I heard the soundtrack, I would totally be all up for cooking. It just sets the mood but has a French restaurant vibe to the whole soundtrack.
On Keeping Posted with Lisa: