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Musings on the Art of Writing Recipes & Caesar Pasta Salad

As I was writing this post I opened an email from Foodista (They are behind IFBC), with the released results from their State of Food Blogging 2013 survey. Coming from 679 bloggers that completed a 32 question survey online. And the final section grabbed my attention:

Part VII: Food Blogger Conferences

There have been 18 food blogger conferences created in North America alone since the International Food Blogger Conference (IFBC) started in 2009, although not all are still in existence. Surprisingly, 70% of respondents have still never attended a conference; this is hearteningly down from 82% last year. When asked what is most important in determining whether a blogger would attend a conference, the most important factors were cost, the quality of the schedule and speakers, and scheduling.

Also of interest is that bloggers who attend food blogger conferences have a greater impact than those who don’t:

• Sites seen by 10X more unique website visitors per month

• 93% more likely to be making money from their blog

• 172% more likely to have been blogging for over four years

• Engaged with 704% more fans on Pinterest, 668% more on Google +, 281% more on Facebook, and 155% more people on Twitter

This is important reading and when the survey is released tomorrow I’ll post a link. What it shows is my attending conferences is worth it. Not just for mental health and getting inspired, but that I get my voice out there and view my world differently after. Conferences can seem expensive, which is true. You can’t get around travel, fees and hotels easily. The knowledge learned, for me at least, makes the cost worth it. I look at it as “professional education”! If I can encourage my husband to keep up with his for his work, well, maybe I should as well.

Panel

Musings on the Art of Writing Recipes? Yes! This was a class I attended on Friday afternoon at Vida Vega Con II. It was a panel featuring Terry Hope Romero, Dreena Burton, Nava Atlas and moderated by the charming Grant Butler. This class wasn’t one I had originally planned on going to, but decided to give it a listen. Classes like this confirm why I write down the meals I make for my family. It is as Terry put it, a “festival of freedom” to blog. You can say what you want, when you want. It is OK if no one listens but that success (to me) is finding that others have made my recipes and loved them. I love how many readers I consider “online” friends, that I have met through my blog. Blogging can be hard, conferences will rejuvenate you like nothing else.

The ladies talked about why they blog and ways to be better at it ourselves. Tips I scratched down and thought about how I use many of them in my way already –

  • Who is your audience? Write for them as much as for yourself. Let your readers get to know you, not just a recipe. Be personal!
  • Find what you want to be, and follow it, But don’t style yourself after whoever is popular/you huff after. Just be yourself! Readers see through fakeness.
  • Write about your failures. Don’t be embarrassed! I am on first name basis with my compost bin out back and yeah, not everything I create is edible. And I don’t deny it.
  • When you hit a block and have no ideas, go out of your comfort zone for inspiration. I read lots of main stream books and magazines and often veganize recipes – just because I can and it is fun to do!
  • As you create a recipe, keep writing down whatever you do. Otherwise you will forget something when you go to blog it. I keep lots of scratch paper in my kitchen by the stove, with a pen, just for this.
  • Never assume your readers will know what you are talking about. Odd ingredients? Post a link or explain it, tell why you use certain brands. Don’t just list “bake in a loaf pan”. Give an exact size as often as you can. Go into writing knowing many readers are just dabbling and not full-blown foodies.

Tips on the actual writing of recipes:

  • If there is an idiot out there, they will find your blog. Plan in advance for them. That means? Write clearly and double-check your ingredients and directions before publishing. If it fails for them, they will blame you!
  • Be consistent in your writing style. They brought up how writing cookbooks changed them – if you like the term “skillet” or “sauté pan”, use it all the time and not “frypan” in one line, then “skillet” in line three. As well, keep your recipe directions consistent from recipe to recipe.
  • Define the ingredients from the directions. Bullet points show it well.
  • Be consistent in your measurements. If you use cup and tsp/Tbsp, stick to it. Yes, we know ½ the world weighs flour and it is more accurate, but you can get novice readers confused if you go back and forth between styles of measuring. OK, and yeah, I get hate mail from British readers here and there telling me I should use a scale and use the metric system, but no, I usually don’t weigh. Because the majority of my readers are from the US. And I refuse to use the metric system  anyways. I was promised it was coming 30+ years ago, and so were personal flying cars. So until I get my car, no dice. 😉
  • Avoid random measurements. Example given? 6 Tbsp when one could give ¼ cup + 2 Tbsp. Or 7/8th cup. Make it easier on your readers. Otherwise the village idiot might find you. And clog up your email and comment forms with hate mail….
  • Have your ingredients listed in order of being used. Common sense? Not really. Lots of bloggers oddly enough do things out-of-order.

There was a lot more…of which I am digesting and pondering. It was neat to listen to the differences in how the three of them view writing. Their methods and style range all over, influenced by their age and life experiences. There are many ways to blog, you just need to find what makes you happy.

So after all that, here is my recent dinner that soothed me after traveling. Vibrant and full of summer love in a bowl –

CP

This pasta salad comes together quickly and is a carb lovers dream. That’d be me. The recipe is vegetarian friendly but could be made vegan by swapping in Faux-Parmesan cheese. I used vegan mayo though to avoid eggs, so that the wee one could have some as well (one of his allergies is eggs). As I said too many other attendees: I am not vegan, I follow a plant-based diet and work around food allergies. Somedays a block of aged Italian cheese that has only a few simple ingredients calls to me. Pecorino Romano is a sheep’s milk cheese, salty and delicious.

Caesar Pasta Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound bow tie (farfalle) pasta
  • 1-2 lemons
  • ¼ cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese + more for garnish
  • ¼ cup packed fresh basil leaves, finely chopped + more for garnish
  • 3 Tbsp vegan mayonnaise (or regular)
  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt, or to taste
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes (9-11 ounces), halved
  • 1 medium zucchini, grated
  • 1 cup unsalted frozen peas, thawed

Directions:

Bring a large pot of lightly slated water to boil, cook bow-ties as directed, drain.

Meanwhile, finely zest the lemon using a microplaner, juice the lemon to get ¼ cup (if your lemon is small or on the dry side you may need a second one). Add it to a large mixing bowl, whisk in the cheese, basil leaves, mayo, oil, garlic, pepper and salt.

Add the cooked pasta, tomatoes, zucchini and peas, toss to coat. Serve warm or refrigerate covered until cold, holds up well to being made a day in advance.

Serves….a crowd!

~Sarah

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Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing! I love hearing about the conference and this pasta salad looks wonderful. I’ve been playing around with a pasta salad using my Sweet and Tangy salad dressing recipe.

  2. I really enjoyed this post! I’m glad to see I’m doing most of these things to the best of my ability. One of the things I’ve mentioned many times is how I’m always thinking of my readers when creating recipes. It’s what motivates me. This salad looks really hearty and delicious!

    • I found myself nodding constantly and muttering to myself in agreement the whole conference..lol. Yeah, I can be embarrassing to sit next to!

  3. Like Brandi, I also enjoyed very much this post! 🙂 Thanks for the survey too!

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