Name: Amanda Cortens
Blog name: Peppers and Pennies
Where were you born? I am a Prairies girl through and through and am proud to say I am from Winnipeg, Manitoba!
Where are you living now? I still reside in Winnipeg with my Husband and our dog, Layla. I love how the city is affordable and being ‘cheap’ here is never frowned upon. Plus, we are surrounded by great hiking trails and lakes! I don’t ever want to move!
Why did you start your blog?
The official party line is I am passionate about affordable food and love to cook. The true story is I was bored after planning my wedding and realized I really needed an engaging hobby.
How did you decide on your blog name?
I named my blog after things that made me think of me. I am a proud penny pincher (even if we don’t have the physical coins in Canada anymore) and I LOVE peppers and spicy food. If my blog wasn’t food related it would have been called something like Hiking & Puppies.
What do you blog about?
The main focus of my blog is affordable, budget friendly food. I feel the home cook can do so much on a limited budget if they are willing to invest the time. I also love to entertain so there are a few treats thrown in. In those cases, I focus on the method to ensure your treat turns out perfect and you aren’t out the cost of ingredients.
Is your blog your business, your hobby or something in between?
I love it like a hobby but run it like a business 😉
What post on your blog most encapsulates you and why?
Tuna + Lentil Salad Sandwich. It’s unapologetically cheap and makes good use of pantry staples. It’s also pretty basic yet different than any other sandwich I’ve seen floating around the web!
Which post do you wish received more love and why?
Budget Egg Roll Rice Bowls. Its cheap, crazy delicious and comes together very quickly. I think the Shaoxing cooking wine throws people off, but it is an awesome flavour enhancer that can be picked-up most grocery stores for under 4 bucks a bottle. Transform all your stirfries!
Which post’s success surprised you and why?
Take Along Sweet and Sour Meatballs! It was my first recipe to get a bit of attention through Pinterest and Google and it is truly a cornerstone recipe in my arsenal. I am just so darn happy that people love it, too! It's a great dish to bring to a potluck since it’s easily transportable and, you guessed it, cheap to make!
What’s your biggest challenge as a blogger?
Answering this question is pretty difficult for me. I come from a business background so I am not daunted by invoicing and getting in-depth with my Google Analytics through reporting. I also love social media (hellllllooooo excessive hashtag use). I guess my main challenge now that I figured out my photography style is keeping blogging separate from my social life. I don’t want to be an annoying friend who only talks about the blog and is on her phone for the entire party checking her stats. There has to be a balance, right?
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned as a blogger?
Relationships are key! I thought blogging was a solitary activity and it was for a while until I got involved with FBC. Through this amazing community, I have had such unique experiences and opportunities that wouldn’t have presented themselves if I stayed focused on me, hiding behind my laptop screen. So get-out there, meet people, make friends and share your experiences! You never know how people will inspire you or challenge you to grow in your craft!
Share a couple of your favourite food blogs to read. Why do you like them?
Speaking of community and fellow food bloggers supporting you, Sam from My Kitchen Love and Sean from Diversivore have been my #Besties. Countless times have these two private messaged me and provided thoughtful and in depth support, ideas and critique simply to help. I love them and support them and turn to their blogs for food inspiration, education and drool-worthy photos. Sean also is known to make great Dad puns.
The blog that inspired me to start my own was Yummy Beet by Allison Day. I remain a loyal reader and her instagram account is the only food blog I follow on my personal profile (well, other than my own #NoShame). I’ve been drawn to her passion for home cooked meals and turned to her recipes when one of my best friends was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. Her photography style is elegant and simple and she is a gifted writer so what isn’t to love?
Favourite food - care to share a recipe or a restaurant destination?
Food is always more tasty when someone else does the cooking, isn’t it? For home cooked food my favourite is my mom’s Perogies and Holubtsi (Cabbage rolls) but I also looooooooove when my husband BBQs some beef and pork burgers! If I am going-out (which is a rare occasion) I go for an indulgent all-Canadian brunch of Eggs Benedict and Mimosas with my bestie Alyx at Era Bistro, the restaurant in the Canadian Human Rights Museum or on a date with my Husband to Deer + Almond for creative cocktails and inspiring, sharable plates.
What are you working on next for your blog?
I am working on some collaborations with local media. Think Podcasts focused on food budgeting tips. I also am a regular guest on CTV Morning Live and am planning great segments for the budget conscious home cook. I also want to expand my Budget Basics section which explores frugal twists on classic dishes. Expect a lot of pork, pulses and pantry staples!
What else should we know about you that may or not be in your “About Me” page?
I am a huge music fan. I can't hold a tune for the life of me but I can appreciate the heck out of a good song. I blame my mom and dad who actually admitted to naming me after a Boston song and raised me right on a steady stream of Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith and The Guess Who. I am mostly a classic rock fan and can’t go a day without listening to Clapton b-sides. I also adore Canadian legends Blue Rodeo and have seen them way too many times to count. I could talk about music forever so I should stop here.
What makes your blog unique?
I am unapologetically cheap (or frugal, if you prefer that word) and I write about that. My blog is a reflection of me, growing-up in low-income housing and having to learn how to make ends meet. I am not afraid to make a twist on a classic dish to make it more affordable. That being said, Peppers & Pennies is unique in the sense that (I feel) my voice is fresh and honest, I don’t preach what to and what not to do when it comes to food. I am just me.
What part of the FBC site do you find most useful?
Other than the amazingly supportive community you guys have built, I really love the resources you create! You guys helped me so much with the SEO side of things. I also turned to articles when I felt ready to approach brands on how to pitch and show companies value to working with me.
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