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Your Best Foot Forward: Writing a Great Recipe Post

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Welcome to our special series on how to write a great blog post! Every other Thursday, we'll debut a new article that will teach you how to write posts for your blog that will engage and inspire your readers, encourage conversation in comments, and keep them coming back for more.   Put your best foot forward and watch your audience grow! Late to the party? Check out the other posts in our series here.

If you ask me, one of the greatest cultural wonders of our time is the food blog. I'm not just saying this because I love a good meal (and I do). Food blogs are making the world a smaller place, one bite at a time. Thanks to these culinary diaries, you can learn how to make Buckeye State Ice Cream, Spaghetti Carbonara, or Masala Fried Chicken in the comfort of your own home.

Thanks to your favorite food blogs, a simple weeknight meal can become an opportunity to broaden horizons and ignite imaginations. Like a great meal, a recipe post is only as good as its components. Today, we'll go through the basics of writing a REALLY great recipe post. So get ready to dig in, and don't forget to leave room for dessert.

Get Inspired

Before you even think about writing a post, you have to come up with a killer recipe. If you need inspiration, try checking out some of your favorite food blogs, visiting a local farmer's market, or browsing a visual recipe site like Tastespotting or Foodgawker. Whatever you decide to create, take plenty of notes as the dish comes together. Use this opportunity to share teasers, like photos and tweets, as you experiment. This can be a great way to get your audience excited about your upcoming posts.  

Testing Your Recipe

It's not enough to simply invent a great dish, you've got to be sure that the recipe works. It helps to think of your recipe as a formula. Each of your readers will approach this formula with a completely different point of view, so it's absolutely essential that the basic elements, like measurements and instructions have been checked and re-checked.

Testing your own recipe a few times will help you make sure that the formula works, that you've written everything down correctly, and that the dish comes out consistently. It's an extra effort, to be sure, but one that your readers will really appreciate. By providing reliable recipes, you can build up trust and loyalty between you and your readership. 

Formatting Your Recipe

There are a few standard rules of thumb that come into play while formatting a recipe. Professionals use these rules for creating cookbooks. Whether or not your readers know it, they are used to following these rules too. Check out this post from The Kitchn to learn how to Write a Recipe Like a Professional. Here are a few rules of thumb to keep in mind:

  • Ingredients should be listed in the order they are used, and should match the language and steps in your instructions.
  • Ingredient measurements should not be abbreviated. That makes them harder to read, and increases the chances for user error. 
  • Instructions should be given numerically. This simplifies the steps, making them easier to read, understand, and execute.

Another thing to keep in mind while formatting your recipe is how search engines, like Google Recipe View and Yahoo Recipe Search, index these kinds of posts. Formatting your post with that in mind can help drive extra traffic to your blog. Find out more at Google Webmaster Tools.

Keep it Simple

While it is important to provide plenty of information on techniques, ingredients, and prep work, you don't want to overwhelm your readers by making a recipe look too complicated. Try to use simple language during the recipe steps, keeping your instructions concise and specific. If you want to elaborate on a specific technique, consider linking to a special page, or an outside resource. For example, on my blog, Mary Makes Dinner, I created a page titled A Few Ways to Cook Spaghetti Squash so that I could link to it every time I used that ingredient in a recipe. 

Include Visual Aids

It can be helpful to include some step-by-step pictures to go along with your recipe. In her post, The Best Roasted Vegetables Ever, The Wednesday Chef shows several different phases of the recipe. This not only makes for a visually appealing post, it provides helpful details for readers who plan to cook the recipe.

If taking process photos isn't your thing, try searching for Creative Commons content referencing the techniques you are using. Take a look at what I came up with after searching for dumpling folding on Flickr and YouTube. Just make sure to ask permission before re-posting any of the content you find on your blog. 

Tell a Story

While flavor might take up a lot of the spotlight in a recipe post, the story behind the recipe you are sharing is sometimes just as enticing. There are a lot of ways to approach a food story. You could tell a little bit of food history, talk about the food's nutritional benefits, or share some shopping tips for the recipe's main ingredient.

For something more personal and emotive, share what inspired you to cook the recipe, who you like to cook it for, or what was going on in your life when you first started cooking it. If you get stuck, try starting with one of your senses. A smell, a sound, or a flavor can help get the ball rolling. 

Bright, colorful photographs will help engage your audience, so make sure to snap a few really good photos of the finished product.  Need some help getting your food photos looking their best? Check out these 5 Tips for Food Photography from A Beautiful Mess.

Make it Printable

Few people are interested in dragging their laptops into the kitchen or introducing their smart-phones to cookie dough. Typepad blogs are already optimized for printing, but there are a few ways you can make your recipes even more printer-friendly. 

Make it Shareable

Now that you've created a great recipe post, make the most of it by sharing it with the world. In addition to sharing your recipe post on the usual social media channels (hint: Pinterest LOVES recipe posts) check out some food-focused social media sites, like Foodie or Tasty Kitchen. If you've included food photos in your post, try submitting your recipe to visual sites like Tastespotting or Foodgawker for extra attention. 

We hope you will use this tip to inspire you to create your own recipe post. Please click Read on below to see my recipe post and submit a link to your own post in the comments.

Recipe: Simple Salsa Verde

I grew up on the East Coast. Being born in a town that was just about as far from the Mexican border as geographically possible, it's no wonder that I didn't come across salsa verde until I was well into my twenties.

When I finally did get this heavenly condiment into my mouth, I knew that I'd found something special. Salsa verde wasn't just a really delicious chip topping, but the starting point on a tasty treasure map of Mexican cuisine. It's surprisingly sweet, tart, and spicy flavor inspired me to go forth and discover more recipes, like Rajas Con Crema, Horchata, and Oaxaca Style Molé

Tomatillo & Friends

Simple Salsa Verde

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 3 - 4 cups

Ingredients 

  • 12 tomatillos
  • 3 serrano chiles (or 2 small jalapenos)
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled, minced
  • 1/2 cup white onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)

Directions

  1. Peel the husks off the tomatillos and rinse them. Place the tomatillos in a saucepan and add enough cold water to cover them. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for about ten minutes, or until the tomatillos become soft and pale.
  2. Drain the tomatillos, and transfer them to a blender along with the chiles, cilantro, garlic, and onion. Puree until smooth. Add water if needed.
  3. Heat the cooking oil in a saucepan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the pureed mixture to the pan, and cook for ten minutes, stirring frequently. 
  4. Add the salt and lime juice, then taste. Add sugar only if the salsa seems bitter. 
  5. Allow the salsa to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate it until well chilled. 

Click here to print this recipe! 

Tomatillo Sauce, or Salsa Verde

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