My little food and beverage blog is celebrating its one year birthday on March 6th! I can’t believe a year has gone by already and I especially can’t believe how much I have learned in a year! From food photography and styling (still learning lots there!) to light web coding (lots more to learn there too) and social media engagement (wow there are a lot of platforms to engage on!) – I am excited to hit the ground running in year two with all of this knowledge and to continue learning!
For my blog birthday I am celebrating by sharing my top 5’s of your favourite posts, my favourite posts, my favourite cookbooks, my favourite kitchen items, my favourite beers and the five things I have learned since i have started food blogging!
Happy One Year Birthday Chews and Brews!!
My readers top five favourite posts
Starting out the birthday celebrations with the most important part of Chews and Brews – that’s the posts you love most!! These five had the most views and social media shares! Thanks for all the love! Chews and Brews would obviously not have made it to its first birthday without all of you readers!!
This was one of my first posts and I am so happy that it is still being read by you! This is also a regular recipe of mine – I bake these monthly to make my breakfast sandwich that I eat almost every morning!
These were so fun to make…. and eat!! If you love bacon, bourbon and chocolate, then you will love these! And it looks like a lot of you are loving them as they made it into the top five read posts of the year!
This didn’t surprise me as this dish is so interesting and absolutely delicious! Everything from the squeaky cheese curds to the smokey prime rib, this dish was not only a winner on the blog, but in our house too!
This was my first soup post and they kept coming after this! I now have eight soups and it has inspired me to write a soup eCookbook for all of my readers! So if you were one of the readers that helped this kale sausage soup to make it to the top five, watch for the soup book coming this spring / summer!
Speaking of soup – this was another soup winner that made it to the list and it makes me so happy since this is one of my absolute favourite soups!
My top 5 favourite posts
Although I totally agree with my readers and think those top 5 posts are awesome and deserve those spots, I also have some personal favourites of my own I want to share. These 5 posts are my favourites because they were totally new for me and took me out of my comfort zone, they have great memories or the taste was just so amazing it would be crazy for me to not mention!
Baking is not my forte and using beer in baking was also new to me! But these turned out great! We ate two batches in a weekend!
This salsa isn’t just amazing; making it is a fun family event for me! We have a lot of great laughs and it’s always one my favourite ways to spend the whole day with my family!
I went to New Orleans this year and took a New Orleans Cooking Class which is where I learned to make this! So far I have made it a few times for a celebratory evening, as well as for a few friends and it’s been a hit all around!
This was my most recent post and was so fun to make. It felt like I was camp cooking inside! I love cooking with my cast iron skillet – and the meal it made was epic!
This made the list because these little gems were fantastic! But they were a bit of a planning fail. I had planned on making about 24 of these until I found out how labour intensive they were! I dropped my quota to 12 in the end.
My five favourite cookbooks
I have a cook book addiction. This addiction has provided me with a great collection of cookbooks that I am always looking to for recipe inspiration! But out of all of the cookbooks I own, these are my top five:
The Flavour Bible – I am always in this book looking for ingredient combos. This book is so popular in my kitchen, it has it’s own place on my kitchen counter!
Bar Tartine – This cookbook is epic. The entire first half is all about building your pantry with recipes for drying herbs, flowers, making vinegars, and more, and finishing it off with great recipes using these pantry items!
Jerusalem – I have made use of this cookbook the most out of all of my cookbooks! Every recipe I have made has been packed full of flavour and there are never leftovers!
Smoke & Spice – My husband and I love barbecuing, grilling and smoking meat and we go to this book all the time for new ideas and recipes.
Note: Just putting this out there – I am hoping to receive a few cookbooks for Chews and Brews’ birthday… or my own at the end of this month! 😉
The five items in my kitchen that I love!
Good knives. This is something I still need to get. I have a couple decent knives that I love, but I want really good knives. And before I invest in something like that, I want to get some knife skills. I plan on taking some courses this year to get that experience! There are very few recipes that I make that don’t need a good knife so I think it is important that you have good knives and know how to use and take care of them. Henckels are my personal favourite. I have two.
KitchenAid Mixer. This is an item that when I bought I had some buyers regret. I put it on my counter and wondered, since I don’t love baking, how often will I use it? Will it be another appliance that goes in the basement? Well, I bought it over two years ago now, and it’s still on my counter; and it is used weekly! I use it for my attempts at baking, making sauces, mashed potatoes and so many other things! I am so happy with this product! I am looking into adding items to it such as the meat grinder and pasta maker next!
Assorted sized bowls. I have about 30 different bowls and they are always being used for food prep, mixing, serving, food props, and eating out of. Some I have bought from the clearance shelf at Pier One Imports and lots were given to me from a friend at work who made them in her pottery class! I recently started prepping my food photos with these bowls, like in my Greek Yogurt Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffins and Steak and Eggs post, and I think it looks pretty cool!
A cheese grater. I actually use my grater for more than cheese – I will grate fresh nutmeg, ginger, and garlic. Of course it’s swell for cheese too and I use it almost daily for that purpose! I might have a slight addiction to cheese, just saying.
My spice rack. My husband made this spice rack for me out of some old wood. The wood itself is fantastic and a conversation piece. It has worm trails (not sure if that is what you call them?) all through it which adds a lot of character and interest to the wood. The rack is rustic looking and if we ever move, Eric is going to need to find a way to carefully remove this delicate wood from the wall to take with us!
With this special spice rack I knew I had to reserve it for special spices which is what also makes the rack so awesome! It is loaded with all of my favourite items from The Silk Road! I know I have mentioned this place before, but seriously, it’s amazing! If you read my posts regularly you will notice a lot of these spices and herbs are in my recipes! They really make the dishes for me!
My five favourite beers
On top of recipe development and sharing my latest eats, I am in love with craft beer. For 2016 I will be writing a monthly beer review and I love writing these reviews as much as I love writing the food portion of the blog! Narrowing down to five favourite beers is a tough feat, but I was able to do it:
This is basically adult chocolate milk. It’s thick, sweet, creamy. Just amazing. Once I find it in the stores, watch out! So far I have only found it in pubs. I would love to do an official review of this beer, so hopefully I can find a store that sells it soon!
This sea salted, caramel, malty delicious beer was in our Christmas beer advent calendar and I fell in love immediately! Even though this beer is heavy in alcohol (7.5% alc/vol.), it’s actually light and easy to drink! Maybe too easy!
If you like nutty beers, this could be your favourite too! Every fall and winter this beer is in my fridge; I wish it was available all year long!
Dead Frog Nut Brown Ale
Okay, there might be a bit of a theme here. Clearly I like darker beers with the nutty malts mostly! Most of these beers are seasonal, however; luckily the Nut Brown Ale from Dead Frog Brewing is available all year round! A win for me and all malt lovers!
This is a new favourite of mine! I actually just discovered it in the last few weeks and quickly turned it into what will be a regular choice for me! If you are wanting to love IPAs but can’t get over the bitter hops, try this one out. It has the bitter hops, but it’s a smoother IPA that I think will be quite tolerable for those starting out with IPAs.
Five things I have learned from running a food blog
I will never be a true food photographer. Everything on this food blog has actually been eaten or drank by me and my husband. When I first started Chews and Brews and was learning about food blogging, I read about how to make food photos look more appealing. Some of the tips included using styrofoam or clear rocks at the bottom of noodle bowls or bowls of soup to make them fuller; using cardboard and toothpicks inside a sandwich to give it more bulk; or using fake ice for cocktails and drink photos. There are many tricks out there, but I haven’t used any and won’t ever. I totally understand the methods behind using these tips and tricks and know that they work to create stunning food photos; but because my husband and I are actually eating and drinking everything made, I can’t fake it for the photography! I am okay with this. I know my photos will not be as stellar as other food blogs out there. What you see is literally what you get!
Stay true and real. This kind of goes along with the first point. Nothing on my blog is fake and nothing is made up for the blogs sake. My writing isn’t amazing and my photography isn’t stellar, but it’s me and it’s real. People who know me personally and read my blog have told me that what they like best is that it really is me speaking on my blog; they really knew it was me behind the blog! This is probably one of the coolest compliments I’ve had on Chews and Brews and I will continue to be me!
You can never stop learning. There is so much to know about food blogging and I have learned so much in the past year! For the next year I have some learning goals. One is to continue to learn about food photography. I am convinced that eventually I will be able to take and post epic photos without using styrofoam or cardboard; I am enrolled in a few food photography online courses that I think will assist in this goal. Another is to gain expertise in web coding. This will give me more control of my site plus could open other opportunities for me! And lastly I want to launch at least two eBooks this year! One I have already started will be a book on soups!! Look for it this spring/summer!
Sharing is caring. I learned that to gain exposure to your blog, you need people to not only read your posts, but also share them! Before running a food blog I would be on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest maybe weekly… if that. Now it’s daily… more like hourly. And I have added in Tumblr, Google Plus, Twitter, Reddit, Snapchat, Periscope and Flipbook. There are so many avenues to share a blog post on and I utilize them all as much as I can. And before doing all that, I had to learn how to use them properly, from applying for rich pins, reading and understanding platform analytics and best times of day to share and post. There truly is a method behind social media that I am constantly experimenting with! And not only am I working to share my blog posts on every media channel I can, I am also working on sharing as many other food bloggers work on my platforms as well!
Patience. Okay, I will be honest here. I may not have learned this yet. But I have learned a little about patience. When Chews and Brews launched, I really wanted it to be viral overnight. I envisioned walking down the streets of Edmonton and people whispering “That’s the writer behind that great blog, Chews and Brews”. And when it didn’t go viral in a day, I learned to accept that. When people weren’t gossiping about my greatness, I accepted that. Okay, so I am being silly and I knew that I wouldn’t end up being a food writer celebrity; jokes aside, I really wanted Chews and Brews to be epic. And patience taught me that I could either accept Chews and Brews as a daily hobby that eventually will and can grow into something amazing, or I could quit. Quitting is not an option! I am glad I moved along because now I am a year into food blogging and I can’t imagine my life without this hobby! Yes, I want it to be more than a hobby and yes I am still waiting for that viral post to occur, but at the end of the day, this truly is my passion and I am better for having found it! Some people never find their passion, so I consider myself lucky.
So for the Chews and Brews birthday post, I have written the largest post ever – over 25oo words! Also this is my 99th post… I know… would have been perfect if it were they 100th…
I hope you enjoyed reading it and I hope you continue to enjoy reading Chews and Brews! I will continue writing it, two days a week, every week, for as long as I can! I love hearing from you – drop me a line and let me know what you think! Comment box is below or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Happy Birthday and cheers to the past year and cheers to the next year! Thank-you!!