For us, it all started on Pinterest. We’d keep seeing them: beautiful, delicious, healthy plates of food that all seemed to come from the same place. Skinnytaste.com. Is it a magazine? A group of culinary wizards? It turns out these amazing recipes that tasted as good as they looked, all came from one very industrious and passionate woman: Gina Homolka. She built Skinnytaste from scratch, and now has a digital empire, counting nearly 3 Million followers on Facebook, 430k on Instagram, and a million more on Pinterest, not to mention a best-selling cookbook, and another on the way. We met Gina one beautiful day in New York City, and we learned a ton about how to build a social following. (The big secret: love what you do.)
Introduce yourself: name, age, and occupation.
Gina Homolka, 46, cookbook author and creator of Skinnytaste.com.
How did Skinnytaste start?
Before my wedding, I wanted to lose a few pounds because I wanted to feel perfect in my dress. My cousin was doing Weight Watchers, so I decided to try it too. I liked the program, but when I started trying to figure out what to cook for dinner, I was at a loss. I found a few websites that had recipes that follow Weight Watchers, but the sites themselves were poorly designed, and some of the food was very processed. I couldn’t find anything that I was excited to cook. There was a part of me that had always wanted to start a blog, and I realized there was a need for something like Skinnystaste.com, which has light recipes that taste delicious and are made with fresh foods. It was never meant to be a career. It was just something I was doing for fun.
Were you professionally trained as a chef?
I was never trained professionally. I just love to cook. My parents both cook everything from scratch, and when I was young, I was always in the kitchen with them cooking. I’m still always learning. If somebody makes an amazing meatball recipe, I ask them how they do it. And I like to recreate things that I try that are delicious.
How quickly did it take people to discover Skinnytaste and how did you get the word out?
When I first started, people discovered my site when they searched for certain key words, like “Weight Watchers recipes”. Then, at that time, online weight loss boards were popular, and people would talk about what they were cooking; they kept talking about Skinnytaste. I was so happy that people were trying my recipes, liking them, and leaving comments. Within a few months, people started sending emails telling me that they were losing weight with my recipes and that I was helping them stay on the program. I’m a typical people pleaser, and once I started hearing from everyone, I thought, “Wow. I can’t stop doing this.” I may have started it for fun, but I started to feel like I was making a difference and that I wanted to keep doing it.
How did social media platforms, like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, play into all this?
It was a slow progression. Building a following did not happen overnight. I was just very passionate about posting to all the platforms, as much as I could. It was fun to see that I was getting followers. When I started, I’d gain about 60 people in a day, and it meant so much to me. If I ever had the intention of starting a blog to make money, I would have failed, because it’s very challenging to do that. I did it because I loved it.
What do you love about social media?
The great thing about social media is the relationships, the connections, the conversations that you have. You can connect with people you’d never otherwise meet or communicate with. It makes the world a smaller place.
What’s your dream meal?
Oh, wow. My dream meal? This is a hard question. It would be indulgent. I love a short rib ragu with lots of ricotta, cheese, homemade pasta, and of course, I’d be with my family and friends.
What are you enjoying about the current moment in your life?
I just finished writing my cookbook, which took me a little over a year. It was a huge accomplishment. It’s really nice right now to have a little bit of quiet time. The book, Skinnytaste Fast and Slow, is coming out in October. It’s for people who have no time to cook. There are 60 slow cooker recipes, and the rest take less than 30 minutes to make. So many people tell me they don’t have time to cook.
Gina’s Tips For Being Fabulous On Social Media:
- First and foremost, always focus on sharing great content, whether it’s creative, funny, witty, delicious, or just beautiful.
- People are visual, so I can’t stress enough the importance of beautiful pictures.
- Always engage with your audience, and follow similar blogs with your interests and engage with them by leaving comments on their social pages.
- When taking photos, always use natural light when possible.
- Try shooting something from several angles, and then choose your best image.
- Let your photos tell a story.
Be sure to follow Gina on all her platforms: Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, and check her site for recipes daily. Her new book, Skinnytaste Fast and Slow, is out October 11th, but she generously gave us a sneak peek with this delicious (and deliciously easy) apple pie recipe. Mmmmmm….
Crustless Slow Cooker Apple Pie à la Mode
Nothing says fall like the scent of apples and cinnamon filling up your home. These slow-cooked apples have all the delicious flavor of apple pie without the crust—or the extra calories. They’re delicious warm right out of the slow cooker with a scoop of vanilla frozen yogurt—simply divine! But there are so many other ways to enjoy these apples, too: Try them over waffles, oatmeal, or pancakes for breakfast.
- 2 1⁄4 pounds (about 6) apples (I like Honeycrisp), peeled, cored, and cut into 1⁄4-inch-thick slices
- 1⁄3 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1⁄4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 4 cups nonfat frozen vanilla yogurt, for serving (I like Stonyfield)
- Place the apples, brown sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a slow cooker. Stir to combine.
- Cover and cook on high for 2 hours or on low for 4 hours, until the apples are bubbling and tender.
- To serve, put 1⁄2 cup of the apples in each of 8 small bowls. Top each with 1⁄2 cup frozen yogurt.