Each week we profile a different Canadian Food Blogger who is part of the FBC community.  This week we meet Monique, the Toronto blogger behind Now You're Cooking, where she complements her cooking class business with recipes and tips to make others feel at home in the kitchen along with some recipes from her Jamaican heritage.

Now You're Cooking logo

Name: Monique Creary

Blog name: Now You’re Cooking

Where were you born?  Toronto, Ontario

Where are you living now? Toronto, Ontario

Why did you start your blog? 

I wanted to share my love of cooking to a broader audience. I’ve always had a passion for teaching (which explains my full-time job as a high school teacher), so I wanted to help others to feel comfortable in their own kitchen by posting recipes and tips that will make cooking a bit easier for them.

How did you decide on your blog name?

It involved a lot of brainstorming. I ran some ideas with some close friends of mine, and this is the one that stood out. It exemplifies a sense of accomplishment which is what I want my site visitors and participants in my cooking classes to get after they’ve learned something new in the kitchen.

I also designed the logo, which brings be back to my love of teaching, because it looks like a stamp.

What do you blog about? 

Most of my blog is composed of recipes that I’ve learned over the years. I grew up in a Jamaican family, so many posts are centred around popular Caribbean dishes, many of which that I’ve learned from my mother and aunts.

I’m a sucker for kitchen gadgets, so I enjoy posting tricks and kitchen hacks that will make meal prep a bit easier too.

Is your blog your business, your hobby or something in between?

My blog is in between a business and a hobby. When I decided to enter the entrepreneur field and share my love of cooking by turning it into a business it helped further develop my skills with design and technology. I started teaching public cooking classes at various kitchens around the city, as well as private lessons with custom meal choices. 

My blog is an extension of my cooking class business, where people can come to find information about what types of meals I’m competent at making, and how I use my teaching skills to help them easily understand cooking strategies that might seem complex. I also love learning about worldwide cuisines and sharing that history with my audience.

What post on your blog most encapsulates you and why? 

NYC Jamaican Saltfish Fritters

My Jamaican Saltfish Fritter recipe is probably the one that most encapsulates me. It shows my Jamaican heritage, but it also shows how I’ve learned to improve on the recipe over the years. I’m constantly learning, and I want my audience to know that as well. I love cooking, but I’m far from an expert in every field. I also think this post shows how making a dish like this makes me feel at home because it’s a cultural dish I grew up with.

Which post do you wish received more love and why?

I wish my two “Adventures in Baking Canelés” posts got more love. I spent so much time researching the French pastry and with the help of Redpath Sugar I got the chance to experiment making them on my own. I went across the city trying to find which pastry shop that actually sold them so that I can taste these delicacies. I also had to search around town for food-grade beeswax (this was before I became addicted to online shopping).

I posted a lot of helpful tips and links that would help adventurous bakers with making this on their own at home. It took a while to get those posts full of content and be complete. Although I enjoyed the whole learning process itself, I’d probably buy canelés next time!

Which post’s success surprised you and why?

Jamaican Oats Porridge

Although my Oats Porridge recipe doesn’t have as many hits as my Saltfish Fritters recipe, I was still surprised that it’s been a consistent popular post on my site. Here I am thinking how easy it is to make a bowl of oatmeal, but I guess there’s a lot of people out there who are always eager to learn how to make it this specific way.

What’s your biggest challenge as a blogger?

My biggest challenge as a blogger is finding the right balance. Blogging is not my full-time job. I teach full-time, I also teach part-time, plus I have a plethora of other hobbies and interests, so I know that in order to be a successful blogger, I have to find the time to devote to posting recipes and new content in order to keep things fresh. 

I also had a big challenge finding a “niche” for my blog at first, which is what I thought was necessary in order to become successful. I don’t want to be pigeonholed into only posting Jamaican recipes since that’s my background, because it doesn’t show my audience that I can be diverse within myself. I truly enjoy learning about different cultures and cooking foods from different countries. As a Black blogger, I feel it’s important that people know that I am more than my colour. I try to not be seen as a “token”, and recently this has pushed me to produce more content that sparks joy for me, regardless of who it may or may not please.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned as a blogger?

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The biggest lesson that I’ve learned as a blogger is that it’s okay not to be a master at everything at the start. The Internet is constantly evolving. Attending blogging conferences such as the ones with FBC have been incredibly helpful at learning the wide spectrum of content involved with creating a blog.

Although I come from a web and graphic design background, I knew I had to be constantly open to learning new ways of doing things in order to find out how to make the best of my online presence. I want to make sure that I put out quality when it comes to my posts, and not just quantity, and that I’m posting recipes that I love and mean something to me.

What has been your biggest success as a blogger so far?

Starting my YouTube channel after the account sat dormant for about 3 years. I admit I’m a procrastinator, but I also knew a while ago that I also wanted to start making cooking videos to complement my blog content. Although I have previous experience with video editing, things took a little longer than expected to get off the ground because I wanted to make sure that I got the execution right. After launching my very first YouTube video for an easy plantain recipe (authentically including burning a piece of it), I got more encouraged to make more because of all the positive feedback. I stuck with the “hands in pans” model since I’m still wary about being on camera (which totally contradicts how at ease I was when I was on season 2 of “Come Dine With Me Canada” back in 2012).

Share a couple of your favourite food blogs to read. Why do you like them?

Black Foodie: I came across Eden Hagos’ website, Black Foodie, years ago after reading an article about the platform and how it started after a negative experience she had at a Toronto restaurant. I enjoy that food is explored and celebrated through a lens like my own, and it opens me up to more cuisines, stories and traditions from the African diaspora that I haven’t been aware of. Black Foodie is community driven, and I enjoy that it connects people through not only educational posts about ingredients, but also through live events and competitions. 

Immaculate Bites:

Imma’s passion for food is clear from the way she breaks down her blog posts and makes it so user-friendly to the visiter to go through the steps leading up to the recipe. She posts a wide range of not only African and Caribbean recipes, but other American ones as well. It’s inspiring seeing a detailed blog like this, and the photos that go along with her recipes are beautiful.

Favourite food - care to share a recipe or a restaurant destination? 

There are so many foods on the top of my list: poutine, mac ‘n’ cheese, stew peas, roti… I’m going to be general though and say that cuisine-wise, Hakka food is up there. My favourite restaurant (and trust me, I think I visited almost every Hakka restaurant in Toronto) would probably be Spicy Dragon. Their sweet and sour chicken and Manchurian noodles are delish!

What are you working on next for your blog?

I’ve had the current design of my blog forever, so it’s in need of a revamp. Nothing too big, but I just want to make the website a bit easier for visitors to find recipes and showcase more content (also working on that), like my YouTube videos, and bit more non-recipe posts.

What else should we know about you that may or not be in your “About Me” page?

I’m a geek at heart. I can probably quote every episode of Star Trek: TNG. I also won’t hesitate to bust out the sewing machine in order to don a cosplay of my favourite comic book characters for a convention.

What makes your blog unique?

My blog is unique because I try to bring attention to some of the Caribbean recipes that some people might not have been exposed to. Food like stewed peas with pigtail, hominy corn porridge, and gizzada are not very well-known in the Canadian food blogging world.

How do you cultivate a sense of community around your blog?

I cultivate a sense of community around my blog by trying to make sure that I keep the lines of communication open when it comes to social media. It’s can be a bit tricky these days with new platforms emerging, but I try my best to make sure that I respond to questions and comments from my readers on my blog/social media in a timely manner and engage with my fellow bloggers both online and at in-person events. Everyone can always learn from each other and staying in the loop helps with that.

What part of the FBC site do you find most useful? 

My favourite part of the FBC site is definitely the Blogger Resources section. The information that are shared there have been so valuable as I continue to grow by blog. A close second is the Kitchen Geekery section… I love those tips!

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