While I remain a strong gluten and bread enthusiast, I love to hear about other passionate bloggers’ food journeys, and Donyel Meese (aka The Kosher Cave Girl) has a very interesting food journey. She and I had the chance to catch up over email recently and I really loved what she had to say about making your own bread and sweets and switching out healthy options into your diet – everything in moderation! Read more about Donyel and her kosher Paleo lifestyle below.
Why did you start blogging?
The idea to start a blog stemmed from an afternoon I spent with a friend whining about the fact that I had just made the most incredible hazelnut-swirled brownies, but that I couldn’t find the piece of paper that I had written the recipe on anywhere. The friend suggested that I start blogging my recipes to ensure that I’d never lose another one. I really do enjoy the creating recipes, the photography, and coming up with posts. The Kosher Cave Girl also serves as an outlet for my love of writing, and my readers are often unfortunately witnesses to my (often rather pathetic) attempts at humor.
Your food journey has had lots of ups and downs. Would you say you always loved cooking and food, or did it result out of necessity for your diet?
I have always loved baking things. When my friends arrive at my apartment, they make a beeline for my freezer, breezing past me without so much as a hello until they’ve got something in their mouth. When I found out that I was both lactose and dairy intolerant, and made the switch to a Paleo lifestyle, I quickly grew frustrated with what I saw as so many restrictions.
It was as simple as changing my outlook. Instead of mourning the fact that I could no longer eat my favorite browned-butter snickerdoodles, I decided to create a version that I could eat. Now, there are very few foods that I actually miss, and I have a lot of fun coming up with recipes to mirror the dishes that I loved before going Paleo.
What are your culinary influences?
My mother spent time in Africa, Australia, and Thailand before returning to the U.S. after she completed her undergrad at University of Hawai’i, so I was exposed to lot of cultural dishes at a very young age. Because of her, I love experimenting with unique flavors and spices like coconut milk, lemongrass, saffron, and curry.
For those that can and do eat gluten, what ways can the paleo diet influence their eating habits, without taking away their beloved bread?
You don’t have to follow a Paleo diet to incorporate fresh, healthy, & non-processed foods in your lifestyle. Simple switches can make a world of difference. Try making tuna salad with avocado instead of mayo. Learn to love water. If you want bread, cookies, or cakes, make your own instead of buying prepackaged ones loaded with preservatives to keep them “fresh” (homemade is not only cheaper, but it tastes better too!). Sodas and sugary drinks are usually calorie bombs and do little to quench your thirst. Cook with coconut oil and olive oil, instead of canola oil and vegetable oil.
One of the wonderful aspects of a Paleo lifestyle is that you’re encouraged not to count calories. Instead, emphasis is placed on mindful and intuitive eating – listen to your body and eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re satiated.
What has surprised you about blogging or what’s been the best thing that has happened as a result of blogging?
I always thought that blogging was so glamorous, but I’ve found that in this circus, I feel more like the juggler than the girl on the flying trapeze. The amount of time and preparation that goes into blogging is absolutely unbelievable. The readers only see the glamorous side of food blogging, but behind the scenes, all hell breaks lost. My kitchen sink is perpetually overflowing with dirty dishes. I spend more time at the grocery store than at my own apartment. Recipes go horribly wrong, it takes 200 pictures of cookies to get one useable one, and my e-mail inbox is almost always full. On top of all of that, I’m juggling my food blogger lifestyle with being a full-time student.
I’ve learned so much about photography, graphic design, and social media, but my absolute favorite perk is being able to connect with readers, whether it’s getting to know them, answering a question, or helping them adapt a recipe. It’s so rewarding, and it brings me such a sense of joy and fulfillment.
What advice do you have for someone else who wants to start a food blog?
Is it terribly cliché of me to tell you that good things come to those who wait? When I first started blogging in Fall of 2013, I had no readers. You could literally hear the crickets chirping every time I posted a new recipe. But don’t get discouraged. Keep posting, keep marketing, and people will come.
I’ve also found that pictures are key. I’m also guilty when I tell you that if I see a recipe without a picture, I probably won’t make it. Everyone loves drooling over stunning food photography, myself included. I don’t have any fancy lights or props, just my Nikon 5100. I’m still learning, but I’m having fun with it.
What’s on the horizon for your blog?
Thank G-d, I’ve been offered a lot of wonderful opportunities for The Kosher Cave Girl. Let’s just say that there might be a cookbook revolving around a Paleo take on traditional Shabbat foods in my future. I have a lot of exciting projects and partnerships in the works, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.