My 10 tips to improve a food blog and Featured Blogger at Food Bloggers of Canada

I received an email that made me blush the other day. I was actually quite honored. I am part of an organization called the Food Bloggers of Canada and every week they chose a Canadian blogger to showcase as the Featured Blogger of the week. This week I am that Featured Blogger. Please take a moment to head of to the FBC and check out the post featuring Cheap Ethnic Eatz. Thank you FBC!

It is always flattering when we get a little bit of recognition for our work, even if we do it purely because it is our passion. This blog is far from perfect but I am proud and have worked hard at it. The first two years this blog sort just gathered internet dust. My topic was too local (short Montreal restaurant reviews) and I did not know how to share more effectively. The last 3 years have been a huge growing experience. I did my research, applied many ideas, put myself more out there, etc. There is always more to learn, ways to improve and keep it fun. Here are my tried and true 10 tips that have helped me take my blog a little bit further.

1. Join a topic related community
The first community I joined was Foodbuzz and my stats skyrocketed instantly because I had a large new audience of peers.

2. Make contact with other bloggers
Leaving comments gets you connected with people who share a mutual interest. This is the #1 networking tool. I have met tons of wonderful people and a few have become friends. The best is meeting up over a meal when the opportunity arises.

3. Review your blog’s goal periodically
My first posts were exclusively short restaurant reviews or anecdotes of the dinner group I ran. My audience was very small. I realized quickly that popular food blogs were focused on recipes. So I took my blog into the kitchen and posted recipes I prepared. I try to keep the majority of my recipes on them: cuisine from around the world. This is also a perfect opportunity to work on a great About page – I just redid mine, comments are very welcomed please!

4. Participate in online group activities
The first group I joined was The Daring Kitchen. The formula varies but the idea is basically the same: a theme, an ingredient or a recipe is suggested and everyone posts at the same time their result. Today I am part of the Secret recipe Club, the 5 Stars Makeover and the Love Bloghop. Join as many groups as you like as long as you can respect the schedule impositions.

5.  A picture is worth a 1,000 words
I once read women are more likely to read a long article whereas men are more likely to just look at the pictures. I think we all do a bit of both but eye candy does go a long way. I could write a whole other post about food photography. Taking a great picture of a dish can be a very intimidating. Learn from food bloggers with a photography knack. Write to them and ask for advice or find photography tutorials. People love to share their knowledge. With practice your skills will improve. Getting a DSLR camera makes a huge impact. Here are some of my favorite food photography resources:

6. Social, social, social networks
Get an account for all of them: Twitter, a Facebook page, Google+, Pinterest, StumbleUpon and Digg are some of the biggest. Once your accounts are set up follow people. Post new blog articles on every social network. It’s viral marketing.

7. Guest blog or write articles
I wrote an article 2 years ago on exotic ice cream recipes for The Daring Kitchen. I took a look at my last referrers today and 10 of them came from that article. Why? Because it is summer and everyone loves ice cream. A pertinent and well written article posted on another related site can get you new readers for years to come. A fun guest post I did was with Foodiva remaking a recipe we loved from the others blog.

8. Read advice blogs or websites about social media and SEO
One of the best reliable sites is Mashable. They can give you great tips and inspire you. I fell on a site that offered a program called 31 Days to Building a Better Blog. You can find it without cost online. I am doing it at my own pace, not in 31 days. This very post is actually one of the daily tasks: write s list post.

9. Praise and say thank you
This can take many forms. Someone leaves you a touching comment…email them directly saying how much you appreciated it. You fell in love with a recipe on a blog, made it and are posting about it…mention and link back t the post you got the recipe from. In this post I have linked directly to a few bloggers and sites I admire. That is a form of praise. Pay it forward!

10. If you are not having fun, stop blogging
Every effort you make will have a positive impact on your blog. But if you are not having fun then what is the point? If you keep comparing yourself to more successful blogs you are just discouraging yourself. I kept this point for last but it is the most important point on this list. Have fun. Blogging should be a passion, not an effort.

Home Cured Pork Tenderloin

Hello everyone! Today is my 5th Blogiversary! Wow 5 years. And today is my 690th post. Double Wow!

This blog saw a different kind of birth compared to most other food blogs. In the beginning it was only restaurant reviews, bad ones when I look back. I started this blog as a companion to a dinner group I had created 6 month prior which was called, you guessed it, Cheap Ethnic Eatz. I organized 2 dinner outings a month to cheap ethnic restaurants. There was a limited amount of space and who ever signed up first got a spot. It was a wonderful experience which lasted three and half years. I closed the group even if it was still popular…I had taken it as far as I wanted to.

The blog transitioned along the way. I started making recipes, participating in challenges and did a few reviews. I began following and commenting other bloggers. I took a pretty dead blog and breathed life back into it. I have learned so much in the last 5 years it is astounding. My cooking skills have grown, my blog design improved many times and I am still learning to take food pictures. That is really one of the biggest challenges for me lol. Finally getting a DSLR camera helped a lot. Now I am trying to tame it. Maintaining a blog for so many years is a lot of work and time. But it is a passion and I love every minute of it.

I have met so many wonderful people through my posts and have discovered incredibly talented home chefs by following their blogs. I have made foodie friends reaching all 4 corners of the planet. I even met quite a few in person over delicious meals. Sometimes people ask me for advise on blogging, my main answer is “if you do a blog do it for yourself, not for others, and be sincere”. I try my best to stick to my advice. I am just grateful many of you like what I have to offer because my ultimate reward is connecting with you all. So a big thank you my readers.

And I have a fabulous giveaway hosted by myself which is open worldwide.

Just keep reading and the details for the giveaway will be at the bottom of the post.

Now the toughest question for this post was what to cook? I wanted to find something very extraordinary. I started to review my long list of ‘to do’ recipes and one jumped out at me. Cured Pork Tenderloin! I have never cured meat before so this sounded really cool and a bit scary actually. This recipe comes from a Montreal blogger I once had lunch with, her blog is called La Casserole Carrée. A really stunning blog visually so who cares if you can’t read French. I have to admit I was afraid when I took my first bite. Would it be cooked, who it taste funny…would I get sick? The result: wonderfully tender, salty and I could tell it was cured all the way through so perfectly safe. I feel like this experience opened a whole new culinary door. Follow me on a curing adventure, it is not a hard as it may seem.

Ξ Cured Pork Tenderloin with Parmesan, Garlic and Basil Ξ

Ingredients:
1 small slim pork tenderloin
3 tbsp salt
1/3 cup Parmesan, finely grated
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp dried basil

Directions:
Prepare the pork by removing any fat or membrane left by the butcher. In a flat dish mix salt, Parmesan, garlic powder and basil. Roll the pork tenderloin in the mixture, pressing hard and ensuring the the meat is well encrusted. Lay out a thick cotton cloth (or other natural material), spread any mixture left on the cloth and wrap the meat carefully and fairly tight half way, fold in the ends and continue wrapping , secure both ends with a rubber band. Put the wrapped tenderloin in the fridge and leave it for at least 5 days (maybe a little more if the tenderloin is thick). Slice thinly and serve chilled. Delicious!

AND NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY!

Win a beautiful reference guide that clarifies uncertainties when shopping, and lures readers into the foreign kitchens with its enticing photos. What are the names of all those delicious apples that are often sold unlabeled at fruit and vegetable markets? The produce that is piled high in all shapes and colors at the entrance to every supermarket? “Ingredients” provides help with all of these questions, identifying approximately 2000 ingredients by name and describing their composition and use. This book will help cooks, and anyone who likes to eat, find their way through the world’s jungle of ingredients. Full color stunning photography pages.

Here is what you have to do to enter the contest:

– Leave a comment in the post!

Extra entries…

– Tweet I just entered the Ingredients book GIVEAWAY with @cethniceatz at http://cultureatz.com/5th-blogiversary-giveaway-and-home-cured-pork-tenderloin/ Ends June 22nd, 2012
– Follow Cheap Ethnic Eatz on Facebook and leave separate comment
– Follow Cheap Ethnic Eatz on Twitter and leave separate comment
– Like or Share this giveaway on Facebook and leave separate comment

You have till June 22nd 2012, 23h59 EST to enter. GOOD LUCK!