Each month we profile a different Canadian Food Blogger who is part of the FBC community. This month we meet Scott and Sandra, currently Milton bloggers, who are focusing on a healthy plant-based diet and lifestyle.
Name: Scott Fortner and Sandra Spencer
Blog name and URL: Planted and Picked
Where were you born? Sandra was born in Halifax when her dad was stationed there in the Navy, but later grew up at home in Newfoundland. I was born in Toronto.
Where are you living now? We are living in Milton, ON, but hope to move to Nova Scotia within the next year. We really want to be near the water!
Why did you start your blog?
Sandra is a wellness coach and specializes in women’s health and metabolic and hormonal balance, in particular. She wanted to provide a resource to encourage people to include more plant-based meals as part of a healthy diet. We both love to cook and spend loads of time in the kitchen. The blog is also an outlet for my own creative side as the photographer.
How did you decide on your blog name?
We wanted a catchy, but simple name that really describes all of the food that we prepare. All of that food was at one point “planted and” then “picked”. Planted and Picked just leapt out at us one night!
What do you blog about?
Our blog focuses on the plant-based meals that we make at home for our own family. Our kitchen is where we all gather and there is always an expectation that there will be something good to eat. We believe that scratch made is always best for you - you control the ingredients. We like to think that the more food you eat that doesn’t require a label, the better off you’ll be. Satiating plant-based nutrition is our focus and our testing team lives with us! Many of our recipes are simple and some are a little more adventurous. The key to great tasting food is flavour depth and intensity and if you can master that, even the hardest to please will join you at a plant-based table.
Is your blog your business, your hobby or something in between?
Our blog is definitely a hobby in that it generates no income! We would love to monetize it, but I have a full-time job and Sandra has a wellness business that is starting to take off. We have kids at home and I train year round (running). Balance is most important to us and so far, our blog is our personal recipe book that we like to share with our friends and all of those kind souls out there who drop in to our site for a visit.
What post on your blog most encapsulates you and why?
Our Moroccan Loubea Salad recipe is a great example of how you can show to people that really great tasting plant-based food is all about exploring international flavours and the flavours that are close to home. We believe that sharing a meal with others is an intimate opportunity to connect in a meaningful way, and to show that whole foods plant based meals can be prepared easily and taste wonderful. Plant-based foods are just as able to strike your palate in exciting ways as foods that are not. If we can share a healthy and delicious meal while enjoying company, that’s what we’re all about. Food brings all of us together in a way that most things do not.
Which post do you wish received more love and why?
Well, our blog could certainly use some more love in general, as our monthly pageviews sit around 10,000. However, our Roasted Vegetable Lasagna deserves much more love. We have served this to guests who don’t normally eat plant-based and they have been surprised about how robust the flavours are. Roasting the vegetables is key and worth the hour of prep time before baking. While we all love a throw together meal on a weeknight, we’re hoping that there’s cooks out there who don’t mind a little extra prep in exchange for great tasting food. Sandra developed this recipe and I’ve got to say that when we had it the first time, I was sure it tasted just as good as any non-plant-based version, and likely better than many!
Which post’s success surprised you and why?
Our Black Bean and Sweet Potato Stew must have gotten the attention of Google because it received about 35,000 pageviews in about 5 days. That is remarkable for our site. It’s got a wonderful flavour, but It’s such a simple recipe and we were so surprised that it received the attention it did. We make it regularly.
What’s your biggest challenge as a blogger?
Definitely time! I have a full time job, I train daily, and we’ve got kids at home to take care of. Sandra also has a women’s health practice that’s starting to take off. We are particular about what we share on our blog and when it comes to the photography, I’m just as selective. It’s time-consuming to properly shoot food, and some dishes can be more challenging than others. When a dish goes on the blog, we’ve decided it ranks highly enough to share. However, it’s also generally the photographs that will catch the attention of those who potentially visit your site and food preparation, styling, and photography can be time-consuming. All of the time spent on social media for two people who didn’t grow up in the last two decades can also be daunting at times. We haven’t yet generated any income from our site and doing so without compromising what is important to us and to those that follow us can be challenging.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned as a blogger?
Perhaps the biggest lesson has been that the internet is full of great recipe sources and that 20 years into this millennium is a challenging time to start a blog and feel that anyone is actually watching. Life should not be about how many likes you get, the number of followers you have or the number of pageviews your site has, and yet a ‘successful’ blog is, to a large extent, reliant on these very metrics. We like to focus on developing recipes, taking great photos and sharing with our friends and on-line community, but we know that we will also have to also focus on marketing if we are ever going to be able to monetize our blog, or at least cover its expenses!
What has been your biggest success as a blogger so far?
Honestly, one of our kids who is at University, uses the recipes on our blog when she’s at school. She is not plant-based herself, but often makes the recipes, and it’s rewarding knowing that she appreciates the benefits of healthy plant-based eating. We are still looking forward to growing our community and to one day .
Share a couple of your favourite food blogs to read. Why do you like them?
The First Mess is definitely a favourite. Laura’s recipes and photography are most certainly outstanding. It is clear that we eat with our eyes first and Laura’s blog always invites us closer because of this. Running on Real Food is also a great resource. The name says it all and Deryn does not disappoint. I am a marathon runner and what you put in your body is what fuels your performance. You realize that quickly when you deviate, indeed. We’re always looking for great simple dishes and these sites serve up great nutrition and taste. They’re well laid out and not over-burden with ads that make it difficult to navigate a site.
What are you working on next for your blog?
We’re working on a plant-based quiche! Like many or most dishes, there are lot’s of recipe versions to choose from. We like to bring to the table a recipe that takes the best ingredients and techniques, that are not necessarily always found in the same place, and make a dish our own. Quiche is a great weekend lunch or brunch dish and the left-overs are great for breakfast! We’re also working on a chili sauce from what was a recipe of my grandmother’s. It’s written a bit cryptically without a lot of specific measurements. I used to love this and should have paid more attention when I was younger!
What else should we know about you that may or not be in your “About Me” page?
Sandra is a certified Ayurveda practitioner and a specialist in Women’s Holistic Health. She works with women of any age, who are focussed on gut rehab, nourishment, stress, hormone balance, and weight management. You can check her out on Instagram @onherplate.ca. I fill a lot of my time training to run marathons; I ran Boston in the spring and I’m currently training for Chicago in the fall. It helps me deal with my carb-loading, sourdough-baking tendencies.
What makes your blog unique?
We’re all unique in our style and how we present our posts. I like to think that our photography is as ‘delicious’ as our dishes! In the crowded food blogging space that is today’s world, even for the plant-based niche, it is challenging to be unique. I hope that readers’ need to eat with their eyes first is well served by our photography!
How do you cultivate a sense of community around your blog?
Our community has room to grow. We are always timely in responding to our readers’ and fellow-bloggers’ comments on social media platforms and make sure to provide encouraging comments on our fellow-bloggers posts as well.
What part of the FBC site do you find most useful?
Definitely the Blogging Resources - there’s so much information and guidance from experienced bloggers that gets us on the right track.