chatting with cobi kim about veggietorials

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.

Southwest Potato, Black Bean and Corn Napoleon with Wayfare Foods Mexi Cheddar (click for recipe)

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.

Cobi learned to make Calabcitas while working as a cooking instructor for The Cancer Project (click for recipe).

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?

Choco-maca-chia-mint smoothie

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.”

Potato Salad with Flair (click for recipe)

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.

Tabouli Salad with Cucumbers

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

Websites: The Post Punk Kitchen (,

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)

Vegan Hollandaise Sauce (click for recipe)

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?

Everett on his first birthday.

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.

Mujigaedukk made by Aunty Sylvia.
Chi Chi Dango

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.

43 thoughts on “chatting with cobi kim about veggietorials

  1. Loved the video–Everett was so very methodical while making his big decision. : ) Great information about plant-based diets. I’ve been slowly edging my way in that direction for several years. Thanks, Cobi and Jama!


    1. Glad you enjoyed the post, Leslie. I’m looking forward to learning much more from Cobi in the days to come.🙂

      And Everett did seem to carefully weigh his choices, didn’t he?


  2. It can’t get any better than watching a one year old on his birthday. What a treasure the video is for the future. The recipes look so inviting & I like that your niece makes it easy. It is interesting to hear how many people are concerned about diet when one takes a different path for food. I like that advice about shopping the perimeter of a grocery, so true. Thank you for all this Jama. And best wishes for the cooking show, Cobi Kim!


    1. The key is “easy.” People these days are often too busy to cook at home. With something simple and unintimidating, they’d be more inclined to try. Dishes don’t have to be elaborate to be nourishing and tasty. it’s all about high quality, fresh ingredients.

      I usually keep to the perimeter of the store🙂.


  3. Jama, You featured two of my favorites today, my beautiful niece, and my adorable grandson! Cobi has had a huge influence on the way our big ohana eats. She is never preachy or judgemental… she merely prepares delicious plant based food and lets us taste it. Her depth of knowledge and her enthusiasm has swayed us to a diet that is at least 75% plant based, if not more. I have no doubt that she will be successful in her endeavors.


    1. I see that you prepared another of your impressive, delicious feasts for the occasion!

      What you said is what I noticed right away about Veggietorials — no preachiness, no heavy agenda, no pressure. Take what you need at your own pace. Of course the beautiful dishes speak for themselves — who can resist trying them? She’s done such a fabulous job with the blog!


  4. Wow, the Universe is going to fulfill this chica’s order in a big, big way. I can feel it coming. Such beautiful food, and such a knowledgeable way of presenting herself, and you just WANT it. I know very well I’ll be finding my way to more Veggitorials. Thank you so, so much – what a resource.


    1. I have to agree with you, T.! Veggietorials is a fabulous resource, not only for newbie vegan-ish people like me, but for lifelong plant-based people like you. I feel healthier just reading her posts🙂.


  5. Cobi is a beauty — and so is her blog! I’m always looking for veggie inspiration, so I’m very glad to know about this resource. Oh, and what a cutie Everett is!
    I’ve missed my regular visits here, Jama. We’re in the middle of a big move, so life is a bit chaotic at the moment. Looking forward to getting settled in a few months.


      1. No, the moving part isn’t fun, but the purging of stuff is a very good exercise. Hope you like the orzo — let me know how it comes out!


  6. Gorgeous food photos…I am amazed! The lighting is superb and the colors are lush! Will be stopping by Veggitorials in the future. My DD is a ‘nothing that has eyes’ eater with the exception of potatoes.


  7. Okay I love my meat and potatoes but I got a little hungry after looking at some of those photos. Any chance she shares that minty smoothy recipe somewhere?


  8. Thanks for introducing us to Cobi! She’s inspiring, and reading this and looking at her site, I feel like she’s just got to get that television show.


  9. Mahalo nui loa Jama for inviting me over to the Alphabet Soup kitchen! I appreciate the opportunity to share some veggie♡ and aloha with your readers.


  10. Hi Jama, Cobi looks beautiful! You have great genes. For a long time now, I’ve been meaning to transition to a more vegan-ish kind of lifestyle as well, but I agree that it’s very difficult. I have a singer-songwriter friend who’s a vegan and I also noted that she tends to eat little meals throughout the day. I admire them though for this resolve, and here’s hoping that I’d develop the same kind of discipline in the future.


    1. It’s definitely a challenge. The key is to take little steps and incorporate changes gradually over time as they make sense to you and can become new good habits.


  11. My nephew has been eating vegan and I learned so much more about it from this interview. Your niece is so interesting, I would watch her show on TV. I love her quote- “We’re all on the same path, just at different points on the journey.”


  12. What a great interview — and I love the photos and the video. It’s always difficult to make lifestyle changes, but every small change makes a difference.


  13. This was just an amazing post! She needs a TV show for certain!

    Everett is beyond adorable!

    We are not vegans but I am going to try some of these beautiful recipes.😀


    1. Thanks for visiting, Carole. Cobi does indeed take beautiful photos. Don’t know if she’s ever submitted to Foodgawker.


  14. The mujigaedukk is stunning. Too beautiful to eat. This is an inspiring post. Thanks so much for taking the time to do it. Great photos. Great food.


  15. Hi jama and Cobi!
    Fantastic post!
    Cobi said: “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!”

    Isn’t that crazy?!!! It just goes to show you what most people consider an acceptable and “normal” diet. I sincerely hope our country (and the world) starts to see the urgency of changing this norm to a diet focused on whole, plant based foods instead. Our very health and lives depend on it!


    1. That really was an eye-opening quote. Cigarettes and martinis are okay, but plant-based diets are cause for suspicion? It’s all about vast misconceptions and the need to re-educate. Things are off balance when you’re the richest country in the world with more information available to the average person than ever before and you still have an obesity epidemic.


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