Blog Name: Cocoa Bean, The Vegetable
Where were you born? Belleville, Ontario
Where are you living now? Montreal, Quebec
Why did you start your blog?
My blog started initially because I was restless in University and lacked some sort of creative outlet. That, plus I was a total glutton and wanted to justify baking all the time. I have since added other food categories to my list, but baked-goods were the initial draw. As I got more and more positive feedback I felt encouraged to spend more time working on it.
How did you decide on your blog name?
As a kid my Mom would ration my desserts or I would eat until I felt sick. At one particular family gathering my mom whispered, “that’s enough, Hilary,” just loud enough for me and my Aunt Pam, who was sitting nearby, to hear. My Aunt, being somewhat devilish, said, “chocolate is made from the cocoa bean, and the cocoa bean is a vegetable. You’re getting some vegetables out of that chocolate cake!” It stuck with me well into adulthood. So that’s why I came up with the name “Cocoa Bean, The Vegetable”.
What do you blog about?
I blog about food. All kinds of food. I try to use fresh in-season produce, but I also want my ingredients to be fun and easy to find. I post about desserts, mains, salads, sides, all kinds of things. I also throw in blurbs about my own life too, because I find it adds a personal touch.
I pick recipes that I believe will make my readers think, “hey, I can do that!” because I genuinely think people don’t cook enough at home. I’m not trying to push it though, I just want to inspire.
What post are you most proud of and why?
I think I am most proud of my Strawberry and Cream Scones, as this was the first recipe to get picked up by online food communities. They were deliciously fluffy and rich, and the strawberries became delicious pockets of jammy goodness. I was thrilled when it appeared on the food community site! I felt like it validated myself as a food blogger.
Which post do you wish received more love and why?
I think my homemade salmon gravlax, cured with gin and earl grey tea, really deserves more attention. The texture, flavor, and aroma of this dish was absolutely outstanding. I can’t wait to make it again! Perhaps it didn’t get a whole lot of hits because a filet of salmon isn’t necessarily the most photogenic thing, but this recipe was amazing. Cured fish isn’t something people think to make at home but it’s dead easy and much more flavourful than the grocery-store variety.
Which post’s success surprised you and why?
My Banana Coconut Bread with Rum recipe! It’s totally decadent and wonderful, especially with the large-flake coconut streusel, but so many online editorials adored it. I think it’s gotten more press than any other recipe on my blog. Who would have thought there was a demand for boozy breakfasts?
What is one (non-kitchen) gadget you can’t live without?
My cellphone. I hate lugging around my camera to food events or to restaurants so I am often snapping discrete images on my cellphone to post on social media. I am loving Instagram right now, although I realize I kind of missed the boat on that one.
What is one kitchen gadget you can’t live without?
My Cuisinart 9-cup Prep food processor is my favourite. I use it for everything! That, and for not-quite-so-gadgety, a Littledeer wooden spoon “pan paddle,” which is beautifully designed and feels wonderful for my left-handedness (they make right-handed ones too). It’s Canadian-made!
Favourite food, care to share a recipe?
I don’t think I could commit to anything as being my all-time favourite food, but I do love anything with almond paste such as the Frangipane and Nectarine Tart. It has a delicious lemon zest shortbread crust and cradles the best frangipane and nectarine filling. Ah, hunger pangs just thinking about it.
What else should we know about you that may or not be in your “About Me” page?
I am presently juggling full-time work in Hospitality and part-time study in Communications and Public Relations at McGill University. My dream job would be to have my own cooking show on the Food Network.
What makes your blog unique?
I think it might be the photography and the writing style. For the photography, I knew that if I wanted my blog to be recognized I had to get better at the photos. I spent hours researching and practicing. For Christmas I asked for an artificial light for food photography. Then I had to play around with it to get it just right. Every day I get a little better!
For the writing side, I try to keep it light, a little funny, and easy to read. I really don’t want to be wordy. I often try to answer the question, “why this recipe, and why now?”
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