We are constantly surrounded by so many different diet crazes telling us to give up the foods we love most for the sake of our health. However, 24 year old Katie, author of the dessert blog Chocolate Covered Katie, refutes the myth that healthy food can not be mouthwatering and delicious. Her blog is centered on healthy, yet tasty chocolate vegan desserts that are simple to make. Katie’s blog has over 2000 ‘likes’ on Facebook, and is gradually becoming more popular as she dives into the chocolate madness of her diet with her devoted fans. Being a fan myself, I recently had the honor of talking to Katie about her journey from vegetarian, to vegan, to an upcoming chef and blog entrepreneur.
Starting out Early
Katie changed her life at age fourteen by eliminating all meat products from her diet – a decision that was soon followed by the choice to give up dairy products. Without missing small, high calorie foods like ice cream and cake, Katie learned how rewarding the life of a vegan can be.
Megan Hennessey: You became a vegetarian at fourteen. That is a pretty big leap! How did people around you respond to that?
Chocolate Covered Katie: Well, actually, I’ve always been an animal lover. When I was eight, I became a vegetarian—my mom said I could do it, but she wouldn’t cook different dishes for me, so that lasted about a week (laughs). At fourteen, mom said, “Research it, make sure you know what you’re doing.”
MH: When did you become a vegan? Were there any useful websites you can recommend that helped you?
CCK: About a year and a half after that. I was living in China, and they never ate ice cream, cheese, or milk. Then I found this board online, where people can post different things for vegans, ‘Vegsource’, and they really helped me.
MH: Why China? What type of foods did you eat there?
CCK: My dad’s job. My family always ate healthily. We were eating whole foods, no processed foods. If we wanted processed foods, we would have to go the American stores and buy it, which would be really expensive. A box of Cheerios cost $11 a box!
MH: Where there any big challenges at first when you switched to your newly found vegandom?
CCK: There were challenges a long time ago. Now, if you’re craving ice cream, there are twenty different kinds. There is vegan everything.
MH: When did you start writing your blog?
CCK: Technically 2006. I started it while I was at Bryn Mawr, to keep in touch with friends from back home. I started it on a Zenga site, which was big back then, from the perspective of my dog (laughs). It was not the nutrition site that I have now. My friends would comment on what I wrote—it was a lot of fun. At the end of ’07, when I was at SMU (Southern Methodist University), I found vegan recipes online and thought, “Well this is cool.” After that, I started posting my own healthy recipes.
Getting “Chocolate Covered”
By browsing through Katie’s blog, you will be able to find many delicious and interesting recipes, such as“Naughty Girl Fudge”, “Raw Chocolate Fudge Cake”, and “Cookie Dough Baked Oatmeal.” Many of these recipes are low on sugar – or contain none at all – some may even only contain a handful of flour. However, they are chockablock with ingredients such as bananas and applesauce that act as a healthy alternative to processed sweeteners. In addition to these tasty recipes on the blog, Katie hands out gallons of advice and personal words of wisdom to other food lovers out there on how to stay healthy, whether they are vegan, vegetarian, or otherwise.
MH: Where do you get your recipes from?
CCK: Pretty much from my own head—like my White Bean Blondies. I remember Black Bean Brownies were a really big deal, and I thought, “Everyone has already done them.” So I thought about how to make white bean brownies. My kitchen is always a mess. When I did brownies, I had 20 pans of brownies. People will ask, “Can I try this recipe with agave?” And I wouldn’t know—so I have to try it. I also get ideas from other bloggers’ comments. For my milkshakes, people asked for cake batter milkshakes, so I had to figure out how to make them.
MH: I actually tried your white bean brownies. My friends were so shocked that I used garbanzo beans in a dessert!
CCK: (Laughs) I don’t know why it’s so shocking. The Chinese use beans all the time! Red bean this, red bean that. Even in all the processed foods, there’s hydrogenated soybean oil!
MH: When I was looking through your site, I saw your post to the anonymous bloggers who said that you are too skinny and unhealthy. Can you tell us a little about this?
CCK: I know some blog readers have eating disorders, and they were using the internet to come after me. I don’t want to trigger anything. As a big blogger, I have to watch what I write. I can’t censor everything, but I’m not going to post pictures about everything either. I know people coming to my website are trying to lose weight, but at first, I didn’t post calories. Now it’s on another page, so if you’re looking for it, it’s there. I really try to show them you don’t have to starve yourself; you can eat real food and live a much healthier life. Some of them tell me, “You don’t even eat sugar!” Yes I do. If I want cake, I’ll eat cake! What I want them to understand is that it’s not about obsessing. If you’re craving a Twinkie, eat a Twinkie!
MH: Though on your site, you stick to all-natural recipes.
CCK: If you use all-natural ingredients, it makes it healthier when it tastes just as good as the processed foods. For my recipes, I don’t want to people to say, “This is good, for a health food.” I want them to say, “This is good. Period.”
MH: Do you always test your recipes before posting them on your blog?
CCK: Always. I mean, the average American eats sweets all the time. I remember I gave a dessert to my mom and dad, at different times, and he said, “This is too sweet!” while she said, “This isn’t sweet enough!” So I include disclaimers for sweetness in my recipes.
MH: Do you have a set group of guinea pigs to try out your recipes?
CCK: Nah, it’s whoever’s around. If it’s my friends that are around, the kids I baby-sit for, my sister, my parents.
Tips and Tricks from the Master
Whether you are a college student, a parent, or a workaholic, Katie shares some tips and stories about how she stayed vegan. Rule number one: make sure to keep your pantry full!
MH: Did you have any dietary challenges when you were at school?
CCK: I never had to eat at the dining hall. At Bryn Mawr, I needed a meal plan, so I took fruit and bread back to the dorms. They called me “food pantry girl!” And Bryn Mawr is, or it used to be, one of the 10 most vegan friendly dining halls. When I was at SMU, I lived off campus. I did a lot of home cooking.
MH: Do you have any general tips for vegetarians and would-be vegans?
CCK: I do, actually. I posted an article on my blog “Omnivores and Veganism.” Instead of telling people about veganism every time, I tell them to go here. My first tip is always, “Don’t bite off more than you can chew.” Go vegetarian first, and then try veganism a few times a week.
MH: Any suggested readings?
CCK: ‘Food Revolution’, by John Robbins.
MH: John Robbins!
CCK: (Laughs) He’s amazing! This book may not make you a vegetarian, but it will help you understand vegetarianism. All his research about Alzhimer’s, then mad cow disease—all because of the meat and dairy industries. Another book I would suggest is The Vegetarian Way by Virginia Messina and Mark Messina. They have a chapter all about vitamins, about where to get your nutrients. It really helped me. Also, get one or two cookbooks—not too many, since there are so many recipes online.
MH: Where do you see Chocolate Covered Katie going from here?
CCK: I’m really excited about it. I’m looking at making it my career. My mom first suggested it to me and I said, “Eh, I don’t know, it’s on the Internet.” But now, I’m working on my own cookbook, and I’m doing what I love! It’s scary, because I have no idea what I’m getting into, but I can’t wait.
MH: Any final words for our readers?
CCK: (Laughs) Eat more chocolate!
Stay tuned for more news and delicious recipes on Chocolate Covered Katie’s blog, online at http://chocolatecoveredkatie.com