I’m excited today to welcome my lovely niece, Cobi Kim, to the Alphabet Soup kitchen!
Cobi hosts the beautiful food blog, Veggietorials, where she shares her passion for all things plant-based. She features delicious recipes, product reviews for items she uses in her daily life, travel and cooking videos, and lots of photos and tips about what to order when eating out.
She prefers “plant-based” and “vegan-ish” when describing her lifestyle, choosing not to call herself a “vegan,” since she is uncomfortable with labels that tend to separate rather than unite us. She aligns herself with the principle of “Ahimsa,” doing no harm by leading a life of non-violence.
I really enjoy Veggietorials because I’ve been trying to transition to a healthier plant-based diet for a long time. But it isn’t easy changing lifelong eating habits, especially if you’ve grown up with your mother’s mouthwatering Korean kalbi and you end up marrying a meat and potatoes New Hampshirite.
But I’ve fallen under the spell of Cobi’s daily dose of food porn — tempting, drool-worthy photos of doable recipes + fun road trip videos with the scoop on all the best places to score a satisfying veg*n feast, quick nosh, or healthy snack. It’s the friendliest spot on the web to learn, discover, and feel good about your choices, especially if you want to eat what’s healthy for your body as well as for the planet.
I asked Cobi some of the things I was most curious about, hoping you’d also find the information helpful and inspiring. Oh, and wait till you see the video she just made showcasing some of the dishes served at my great-nephew Everett’s first birthday party — brace yourselves for some serious baby cuteness!
Welcome, Cobi! Please tell us all about Veggietorials. Your photos are absolutely gorgeous and the videos so well produced. Are you professionally trained in food styling, photography, and videography? When did you start developing your own recipes (have you always enjoyed cooking)?
Veggietorials began in 2011 as a way for me to share my love of all things plant-based, delicious and beautiful via the internet machine. We’re all on the same path, just at different points on the journey. I hope that by standing in my own truth, it inspires others to their own greatness.
My goal is to offer a comfortable entry point to discover, learn, share and explore. I’ve placed a direct order with the Universe and my intention is that Veggietorials will become a professionally produced plant-based lifestyle show on one of the major television networks. In the meantime, I’m working on a cookbook that I will food style and photograph myself. I wish I was professionally trained, but I tend to just leap and hope the net will appear. When I return home to Hawai’i in a few weeks, I’ll be taking a few classes to improve my photography and video editing.
When I was a kid, instead of waking up early on weekends to watch cartoons, I prepared breakfast for my family. I made every recipe out of my Betty Crocker for Kids cookbook and then started to experiment with my own creations. My grandmother still remembers a Mother’s Day brunch that featured a baked French toast with orange essence I whipped up when I was about 10 yrs old. The cooking style I’ve acquired makes it impossible for me to follow a recipe. Recipes are only guidelines and the true art of cooking is to pepper a dish with your own flair.
How did you first become interested in plant-based cooking? Why did you decide to adopt it as a personal lifestyle?
I was a vegetarian on and off for about 20 years. I had been working as a Personal Chef and then began teaching as a Cooking Instructor for The Cancer Project after a friend’s father became ill with stage 4 cancer. My friend’s family were life-long vegetarians and her dad still got sick. I suddenly realized that being vegetarian wasn’t enough if I wanted to be in control of my health.
Reading The China Study helped me understand the science of why animal products literally turn cancer cells on and off in our bodies. Becoming awake and aware of where our food comes from prompted me to live a more compassionate lifestyle that is truly in line with my belief system. Now, when I say I am an animal lover, I don’t feel conflicted about loving one animal and causing harm to another.
What are some of the most common misconceptions about the vegan diet?
The most common misconception is that vegans don’t get enough protein or B12. It’s funny because most omnivores don’t know how much protein their body needs, but they are quite sure I’m not getting enough. The simple formula to calculate your daily needs is to take your body weight in pounds, multiply by 0.36 and that is how many grams of protein you need each day. So, if you weigh 120 pounds, you need about 43 grams per day.
To get adequate protein, I aim for at least 10 grams of protein at each meal and then have snacks that are at least 5 grams of protein a couple times a day.
As for B12, you need a very small amount, 2.4 mcg a day. I take a multi-vitamin that has the RDA of B12 and also use nutritional yeast. It’s funny, back in the day when I thought the four food groups were coffee, martinis, pizza and cigarettes, nobody cared about my diet. As soon as I switched to a plant-based lifestyle, everyone was concerned about me and was an unregistered dietician/nutritionist! I believe we are reaching a tipping point. In another 20 years, we will look back at eating animal products with the same disdain we now have for smoking.
What do you eat on a typical day when you’re not traveling?
I start my day with at least 50 oz. of green smoothie. It really wakes up my cells, helps to balance my hormones and is an easy way to get a good amount of fiber, protein and omega 3’s.
For lunch, it’s usually a big sandwich with cucumbers, tomatoes, hummus (or some kind of bean spread), sprouts, and leafy greens on nutrient rich whole grain bread. The bread slices alone can have up to 12 grams of protein and 10 grams of fiber. By the time I add the toppings and my spread, it’s very close to 20 grams of pure plant based protein . . . I just cut out the animal as the middle man. I love sandwiches so much, I have to take a bite as soon as I press the two halves together!
Dinner is different every night. I use this meal to experiment with new recipes for my blog. But one of my favorites is a quinoa-based “Not Yo Mama’s Meatloaf” with cauliflower “mashed potatoes.”
It’s very challenging to change lifelong eating habits because of social, psychological, cultural, and emotional factors, so it has to be a gradual process of re-education and making some compromises. Can you suggest three simple things one could do to jump-start a healthier, plant-based lifestyle – especially for someone who may not necessarily have a Whole Foods in their neighborhood or access to a year-round farmer’s market?
1) If you have the space, start an organic garden. There is nothing more rewarding than picking your dinner fresh every day. I started mine in a 3ft x 4ft space and have added on in the past two years. Start small, grow big.
2) If you can’t garden, join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). You can usually get a box of fruits, veggies and herbs that would feed a family of four, for about $50-$70/week.
3) Eat more whole foods. Ditch the processed foods and learn to shop the perimeter of your supermarket. Most of the really bad foods are in the center aisles.
Could you suggest easy ways to incorporate adequate protein in your diet if you’re allergic to soy and/or nuts and don’t necessarily want to eat beans every day?
As a percentage of calories, broccoli and dark leafy greens have more protein than red meat. I also use hemp, chia, pumpkin and sunflower seeds in many of my meals. But I lurrve me some beans!
Please share some of your favorite vegetarian/vegan resources – websites, books, cookbooks, etc.
Books: The World Peace Diet, The China Study
Cookbooks: Eat Vegan on $4 a Day, Color Me Vegan, I Am Grateful: Recipes & Lifestyle of Café Gratitude
Documentary Videos: Earthlings, Food Matters, Queen of the Sun, Raw for 30 Days
I’m familiar with some great soy and gluten free products, but want to learn more about some of the other quality plant-based food products out there. Could you list a few of your favorites in the following categories?
Spices, condiments: I have a video where I discuss my top 12 vegan pantry essentials. Penzey’s Spices have some great blends that I love, especially the Foxpoint and Forward seasoning. And my life would be incomplete without miso or nutritional yeast.
Snacks: Jem Cinnamon Red Maca Almond Butter (slather it on everything), Mary’s Gone Crackers (onion flavored), seasoned roasted seaweed, That’s It fruit bars, Alive & Radiant Foods Quite Cheezy Kale Chips, ChocolaTree Curry Nori Nachos
Ready-to-eat foods: It’s rare that I eat packaged food entrees, but in a pinch I like Amy’s Kitchen Enchiladas and the Mattar Tofu. Sunshine Burgers are also a good alternative to the dreaded Boca or Garden Burger.
Beverages: My beverage of choice is Kangen water. If I want something with flavor: Coconut water, Guayaki EnlightenMint Yerba Mate, Kevita Coconut Kefir.
Meat substitutes: Tempeh, tofu, Field Roast Apple Sage Sausage (soy-free), Soyrizo (gluten-free), Gardein, Sophie’s Kitchen Vegan Seafood (gluten-free)
Is there a cooking utensil or appliance that is an absolute must-have in your kitchen?
The one kitchen essential is my VitaMix.
Could you please share one of your favorite recipes, perhaps an Asian-inspired dish in celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month?
My Aunty Sylvia requested that I make Chi Chi Dango (rice cakes) for my cousin Everett’s first birthday. The rice cakes are part of the doljabi (ritual) in which the baby chooses his life path. We cooked for almost six hours making japchae, kimchee, vegetable jun, puchim, namuls, potato salad, wakame cucumber salad, and mujigaedukk.
Here is Cobi’s video featuring the Chi Chi Dango recipe, some of the other delicious dishes specially prepared for the birthday party, and the happy moment when Everett chooses his life path. Click through to the Veggietorials site to read Cobi’s post which contains the printable Chi Chi Dango recipe.
Cobi, is there anything else you’d like to add about your food philosophy and/or website?
We eat with our eyes first. Make it beautiful, make it delicious, make it healthy. Start small, dream big, change lives.
Thank you so much! I think all of you can see why Veggietorials is my go-to blog when I crave a little beauty, nourishment, cool information and positive energy. ☺
♥ Here are several ways you, too, can savor the goodness of Veggietorials on the web:
This post is being linked to Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking, where all are invited to share food related posts (fiction/nonfiction/movie/cookbook reviews, photos, recipes, musings, etc.). Put on your bib and check out all the deliciousness!
Copyright © 2012 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.