Creator of brand ‘A Happy, Healthy Heart’ Melissa Haithcock talks about how plant based living is the key to her love of life
As a cook, recipe innovator, food stylist, writer, speaker and photographer, Melissa Haithcock is passionate about teaching others the heaps of benefits that come with adopting a healthy plant-based lifestyle. Using her blog, ‘A Happy Healthy Heart’ to share her vegan values through a beautifully curated catalogue of nutritious meat and dairy-free dishes, Emily has earned a loyal and growing following who too have come to understand her theory of, what you choose to put in your food, is what you will get out. And you know what? We think she’s spot on.
Can you tell us a little bit about your own plant-based journey?
My food journey has been one that was completely unexpected but has been incredibly important for me and my family. I grew up as a very picky eater whose diet consisted mostly of Southern- American cooking including; fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, and buttery biscuits. About three years ago I began researching the pros and cons of eating meat and dairy, and since then I began developing my own opinions on why being a plant based eater is best for one’s health. I read a research book called The China Study during the start of my journey and it changed my world. I began to understand health from a medical, scientific, and overall wellness perspective. To me, being healthy starts with eating the most nutrient-dense foods that the world has to offer and I believe those foods are plants.
How did you learn to cook great vegan food?
I started making recipes from scratch after my husband and I got married. I became bored with typical boxed meals like frozen lasagne. I wanted to learn how to create real and good food on my own. So, I started by reading every cookbook that I had from front to back. I’d also watch cooking shows on TV at any given opportunity, and then I started experimenting in the kitchen. I made a lot of mistakes (and sometimes I still do.) In fact, I started with a lot of meals that weren’t so tasty. However, that is how I learned that when you eat primarily plant foods, you need a good amount of protein and fat. From there I started reading about how to incorporate those foods into my diet without having meat and dairy. It has been an adventure for sure, but I love every bit of it!
How would you describe your own signature style?
Life shouldn’t be complicated. It should be full of things we love and that make us happy. And I feel the same way about food. I’ve had no formal training when it comes to cooking so I don’t necessarily know exactly what flavour pairs best with another. However, I know what tastes good. My goal is to always make delicious food that is healthy, pretty and delicious. It may be a simple pasta dish but because there is love and heart poured into it, it tastes like heaven.
What is your signature dish?
I think it depends on the season. I absolutely love cooking with seasonal ingredients. I very rarely cook a vegetable like butternut squash in the summer, or make a dish with tomatoes in the winter. When there are plenty of fresh garden vegetables during warm weather months, I love making vegetable pizzas and flatbreads. They’re quick, filling and a crowd favourite. In the winter my favourite dish is a sweet potato, kale and red lentil soup. It has been known to be bring-tears-to-your-eyes (in a good way).
How did you create the menu for your blog?
I think of a lot of recipes when I’m hungry. I think “I have a craving for some really good oatmeal with fresh berries” and out comes a delicious baked oatmeal dish. When an idea comes to mind, I write it down and start brainstorming. Often I’m inspired by food that I don’t cook. Whether it is a dish that I’ve eaten at a local restaurant that I want to recreate but with my own spin, or it could be that I see a picture in a magazine and want to whip up something similar. I’m inspired by everyday life, and in the end it comes together on a plate of food.
Can you talk a bit about wine – are you interested in drinks, and how do you pair them with your dishes?
I have never been a big wine drinker. I will have the occasional glass at an event, but I never learned how to pair wine with food. A friend of ours recently went on an extended trip to Europe and fell in love with the art of wine pairings. He has taught me quite a bit since being back. Seeing his passion for wine has inspired me and made me eager to learn more.
What are your future food plans?
There is a long list of things that I hope to accomplish with A Happy Healthy Heart. The first thing on it is to publish a cookbook. I would love to host a cooking show and be able to share the beauty and simplicity of what I do with the world. My husband and I have a long list of long-term goals that include a café, a multi-use mercantile and food space and more. I will never stop dreaming and I always will continue to look forward so that one day they will become true.
Check out Melissa’s blog at ahappyhealthyheart.com