A few months ago, I was paired with a blog mentor through Dine and Dish's Adopt-a-Blogger #3. I was so lucky to be paired with Kathy from Panini Happy and Cooking on the Side. She was so great in helping me work on an identity for this blog, getting my technical stuff together, and in overall support for this whole adventure. If you follow either of Kathy's blogs, you'll have noticed that she's been off the grid for a while, but you'll be happy to know that she's back to her wonderfully scrumptious blogs now that she's past her first trimester. (Yes, that's right, she's pregnant! Congratulations, Kathy!)
Since we're about to wind up this Adopt-a-Blogger event and since I'm celebrating my 100th post here, I thought I'd share a little interview I did with Kathy about her blogs, cooking in general and a little advice for us newbie bloggers. Enjoy!
What are the names of your blogs and how did you come up with those names?
With my first blog the idea was that I was going to be making lots and lots of panini - going "panini happy" - so that's where Panini Happy came from. I guess it could have just as easily been called Panini Crazy or Panini Overboard. I do like seeing the word "happy" in the title, though.
Cooking On the Side actually has a few different meanings. It's my second blog, which I created so I could share the cooking that I do outside of panini-making. The more literal interpretation is that the recipes actually come from the side of food packages.
When did you start blogging? What compelled you to start blogging?
I started Panini Happy in January 2008, when my daughter was about 2 months old. I had decided to step out of the workforce for a while to stay home with her, but I still had a desire to keep a toe in the online world, where I'd been working for many years. Blogging appealed to me because I could get up and running relatively quickly on my own and I could work at it as much or as little as I had time for, while balancing baby duty. I'm asked "Why panini?" quite often. The simple answer to that is that I received the panini maker as a gift and needed motivation to make sure I put it to good use. Suffice it to say, the blog has definitely provided plenty of that motivation!
How do you keep up with both blogs?
It's a bit of a challenge. I usually do most of my cooking and photography over the weekend and work on writing up the posts during the week. It often means I don't post quite as frequently as some food bloggers but it's what works best for me. My readers don't seem to mind!
Has blogging changed your life at all?
I don't know if blogging has changed my life per se, but the opportunity to get to know so many other bloggers and food folks in the process has certainly enhanced it.
Which post (on either or both blogs) has been your favorite? Why?
My favorite post on Panini Happy was this year's Grilled Cheese Pageant roundup. I wasn't entirely sure how many folks would get on board for a pageant featuring grilled cheese sandwiches but I decided to just go big with it and have fun. The response was really positive. On Cooking On the Side I'd say the Matzo Ball Soup post was my favorite because 1) it gave me the opportunity to try out a decades old recipe that my mother-in-law has always used and 2) my first-ever matzo balls came out light and fluffy!
If you were stranded on a desert island (with a fabulous kitchen and regular drops of your favorite foods, of course) and could only have one cookbook with you, which would it be?
The Joy of Cooking - it's got everything I could ever think of wanting to cook. It might be a little heavy for me to lug around the island, but at least I'd have a comprehensive resource!
What is your favorite kitchen tool/appliance?
It probably ought to be my panini maker, but actually it's the toaster oven. Aside from using it every morning for toasting bread and bagels it's my favorite appliance for baking, broiling or reheating small quantities.
What is your favorite food to eat?
Fries. I can never resist.
What is your favorite food to cook?
I'll always love the whole process of baking chocolate chip cookies - from "sampling" the dough, to smelling the cookies while they bake, to enjoying the final results fresh out of the oven, to packaging up little gifts to share with friends.
Tell us a little bit about the food from your part of the world.
San Diego is probably best known for its Mexican food - no surprise, as we're right on the border. Fish tacos are a local favorite - I'm not sure if they're as big in other parts of the country. One of my other favorite local specialties is Julian apple pie, made from apples grown in the Julian area of San Diego County. They sell them in grocery stores but it's a real treat to drive out to the mountains in the fall and enjoy a warm slice there.
What advice do you have for newbie bloggers like me?
I've got some general pieces of advice, but if anyone is looking for detailed specifics on food blogging issues I highly recommend visiting (and bookmarking) the Food Blog S'cool and the Food Blog Alliance websites.
Keep focused on your content. Get clear in your own mind what your blog is truly about. If you can find a unique point of view that no one else has tapped into yet, all the better. Read lots of other blogs. Images speak louder than words - and good-quality images speak louder than lackluster ones. Get to know other bloggers, through local meetups, Twitter and Facebook. Be open to trying out new ideas and changing course if you need to. Enjoy blogging - if it ever starts to become a chore, take a step back and reevaluate things.