Blogging about food changed the way Becky eats. She adopted the paleo diet and even recently released a paleo cookbook. Becky encourages us to see familiar dishes with new eyes (hello, pillowy grain-free naan!) and shows us how anyone can eat better with recipes that use fresh, wholesome and unprocessed ingredients. That's a food philosophy everyone can benefit from!
Tell us about A Calculated Whisk.
A Calculated Whisk is a food blog featuring creative paleo and gluten-free recipes. I want to help anyone who's interested to make delicious, beautiful and nutritious meals and desserts with real food ingredients. I didn't start A Calculated Whisk as a paleo blog, though—I actually went paleo because of the blog itself! I've always loved sweets and baking, and I gained a whole bunch of weight in the first three months after launching my site due to all the extra desserts I was making. I started searching for a way to get healthier but still talk about food and develop recipes, and that's when I discovered paleo. It's a great fit for me because I love all the main ingredients of the paleo diet (fresh vegetables and fruits, meat, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts), and I also love the challenge of making desserts within a healthy framework when I do make them. I've lost a lot of weight and learned a ton about cooking and about which foods make me feel the best and which ones I need to avoid.
How would you describe the paleo diet?
The paleo diet is a framework for eating more real food, and is based on what humans likely evolved eating. Paleo ingredients include meat, poultry, fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats like coconut oil and olive oil. Most people who eat paleo choose to avoid grains, legumes, dairy, refined sugar and processed foods.
What advice would you share with someone who's about to embark on a paleo diet?
I would recommend making yourself a big batch of ghee to cook everything in, stocking your fridge and freezer with a variety of proteins that you like (including some that are quick to make for when you're really hungry, like shrimp, eggs and sausage), and considering joining a CSA so you can get a wide variety of produce from a local farm without having to think too much about it. Also, go crazy pinning and do some meal planning before you start! And of course, you should buy my cookbook Paleo Planet, which has over 125 paleo recipes inspired by traditional dishes and ingredients from all around the world. It's also great to build a support network in real life and/or online, because it's hard to make big changes alone. I'm always available to answer questions via email, in my blog comments, or on social media, too, if anyone has specific things they're wondering about.
Was it challenging to adapt some of the world's recipes into paleo recipes for your cookbook?
To be honest, for savory dishes it was not that hard! Since there are so many cultures that have been eating their traditional foods for such a long time, a lot of great cuisines and dishes are already based largely on primal ingredients and just need a few substitutions and tweaks. The desserts were a little harder, but I've been experimenting with paleo baking for a couple years now, so I have a good sense of what works. The most difficult part of recipe testing for me was perfecting the honey and almond milk caramel that goes into the millionaire's shortbread bars—I made so many batches that I lost count. It was definitely worth it, though, and those bars are my fiancé's absolute favorite.
What have you learned about different food cultures through the process?
I learned a lot about spices and how they contribute to the flavor profiles we associate with certain cuisines while I was working on the book. For example, I always associated cumin with Indian food, but it goes into a lot of Mexican dishes, too, and the finished foods don't really taste anything alike at all. I guess maybe that's not so surprising, but I like to think about it. Cardamom is another one I first learned about in Indian curries, but I then found out it's also the main flavor in a traditional Norwegian tart called fyrstekake. I hope to be able to travel more in the near future and learn more about foodways and food history, because it's so fascinating.
Why do you write about food?
Mainly because I'm hungry, and I know everyone else gets hungry, too. When you write about food, everyone can relate—even if they're saying "Wow, I'm not sure I'd ever eat that," there's always some kind of reaction. I've always loved food and loved to eat, but I'm picky. I won't eat anything I don't love and while my tastes have changed and continue to do so, I've always had high standards for how much I have to like what I'm eating in order to make it again or recommend it to anyone else.
What are you currently reading?
I have over 150 food blogs that I love to read and I use Feedly to keep up with them. Obviously I can't read every single post that goes up on all those sites, but opening up my feed and reading some posts over coffee is one of my favorite parts of the day. There are a lot that I follow mainly for the photos, but Alexandra's Kitchen is one that I really love for both the writing and the photos. I've also started reading some food blogs in Spanish to help keep my skills up, and Sabores y Momentos is a new favorite. In the cookbook department, I'm making my way through Heritage by Sean Brock—since moving from Boston to Chattanooga I've become more and more interested in Southern cooking, and his book has so much fascinating information about ingredients native to the South. I'm also reading My Kitchen Year, Ruth Reichl's book about what she did in the twelve months after Gourmet suddenly shut down. I loved that magazine and can't read too much of the book in one sitting because I get really sad!
What's your favorite recipe on A Calculated Whisk?
If we're talking vegetarian recipes, I think I can narrow it down to three: my favorite vegetable dish is Blistered Okra with Garlic and Cumin because it's healthier than fried okra but even more delicious. Two of my all-time favorite indulgent recipes are Paleo Flatbread and Pear Galettes with Pistachio Frangipane. The flatbread is a yeasted bread so it has a wonderfully authentic flavor, and it's perfect for sopping up curries. I love the galettes because the combination of pears and pistachios is unexpected but so good. They're also really pretty!
Question from Kathryn of The Scratch Artist: How do you navigate the internet to get your posts in front of readers who will resonate with what you are saying? (Click here to read Kathryn's interview)
I try to optimize my content for Google and Pinterest, I share on social media, and I submit to food sharing sites when I have time, but I don't do a lot of other things to get my content in front of new eyes. I'm currently focusing on creating new content, connecting with the readers I already have (and of course any new ones who discover my site), and finishing up some reformatting from the Blogger to Wordpress move I did last fall.