2016: A (writing) year in review.

Globally speaking, I’m beyond ready for 2016 to beat a hasty retreat. Seriously.

Professionally, though, I’m still marveling at what a great year it was. Seriously.

I was fortunate to collaborate with a number of longstanding and new clients, broadening and deepening my portfolio of writing about food and wellness. My work fell evenly into two camps: writing for publication and online marketing content. The subjects were inspiring, the teams fun to work with, the finished projects stuff I’m proud of. A few high points:

A visit to one of my top clients. After working together — closely, on lots and lots of projects — for two years, I traveled to connect in person with my colleagues at the Produce Marketing Association. We’ve worked together to promote dozens of global events for growers/suppliers/retailers in the fresh produce and floral industry. It was so neat to meet the PMA team face-to-face. And 2017 looks to hold even greater collaboration.

Giving life to local food coverage. Call me old-fashioned, but I still love reading the local newspaper over my morning coffee. And my recipe file is full of old clippings from newspapers’ food sections. So when editor Amy Wilson asked if I’d regularly contribute to the Cincinnati Enquirer‘s weekly food coverage, I jumped at the chance. I got to write about the pleasures of eating breakfast for dinner, shared delicious ways to enjoy summer tomatoes, and declared that making your own butter is just about the best thing ever. Coolest encounter of the year: Running into an Enquirer reader, toting my recipe for herb and spice cashews that she’d cut from the paper, as she was buying the nuts at Dean’s Mediterranean Market. Local food — and local media — for the win!

Tackling a new medium: recipe videos. You know those 1-minute recipe videos you see in your Facebook feed all the time? Turns out, those take about 2 hours to film and are a whole lot of fun to create. Working with Curiosity Advertising and their client, The Christ Hospital, we’re rolling out a series of quick recipe videos.

Supporting local food producers, farmers and retailers. Serving as editor of Edible Ohio Valley remains a passion and pleasure, as we get to tell the stories of people who are working hard to bring beautiful, healthful food to our tables here in Cincinnati. One of my favorite stories to write this year was a feature on farmers’ markets and their importance to our community, economy and our collective health.

Here’s hoping you had a productive and fulfilling 2016, and that 2017 will bring you more of the same!

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New work: Christ Hospital wellness site.

My food writing work hits the sweet spot when the subject intersects at healthy and local. So my new collaboration with The Christ Hospital and agency Curiosity Advertising is right in my kitchen, so to speak.

We’re working together to spotlight local food — producers, farmers’ markets, seasonal flavors — and encouraging the Christ Hospital community to cook and eat healthful foods. In addition to a new series of recipe videos — SUPER FUN! — I am writing online content around healthy cooking and eating. My subjects so far include a feature on local winter farmers’ markets, strategies for stocking your pantry to make home cooking easier, and ‘locavore’ New Years Eve party ideas. Take a look at some of the work:

New work: Cincinnati Enquirer food section.

Thanks to a dedicated new section editor, the Wednesday food section of the Cincinnati Enquirer has been resurrected. Restaurant reviewer and food writer Polly Campbell and editor Amy Wilson are breathing new — and more important, local — life into this key lifestyle section. I’m so excited to be contributing ongoing articles to the section; features so far have covered how to make homemade butter, salad dressing 101, and a roundup of what’s in season locally in spring. Check out some of my recent columns (front pagers, no less)!

Cincinnati Enquirer food section

New work: My Magazine for Kroger.

For quite awhile now, I’ve been contributing articles and recipes to Kroger’s My Magazine customer publication. It’s a fantastic collaboration with the team at 84.51°, the data and marketing agency that handles shopper communication for Kroger and its subsidiary brands. These guys really know what they’re doing, and it’s a blast to work with their creative team — the editor gives great direction and feedback, and the photo, food styling and design team make the words and recipes look mouthwatering. Take a look at some of our work together:

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New work: Organic Gardening

Imagine being asked to write a feature article — for a national magazine you’ve long admired — about making candy. Right? Impossible to turn that assignment down. Even more so when the subject of the story is Cincinnati chocolatier Shalini Latour, whose Chocolats Latour are as beautiful as they are delicious. What a fun story to tell!

Shalini, photographer Julie Kramer and I collaborated on the story plus four recipes — for chocolate truffles with fresh mint, raspberry swirl marshmallows, buttery mints like the ones you find in mom-and-pop Italian restaurants and Shalini’s own award-winning almond rosemary brittle.

Find the story out now in the December/January issue of Organic Gardening.

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New work: The Findlay Market Cookbook.

I’m pleased as punch to share that “The Findlay Market Cookbook” has been published — copies arrived in our hot little hands yesterday. I’m very proud of the project, and thrilled with the collaboration with photographer Julie Kramer, writer Karen Kahle and publisher Farm Fresh Books.

The book is a celebration of Cincinnati’s historic public food hall, a place where I spend most of my grocery dollars and where Rob and I spend practically every Saturday morning. It spotlights the vendors, producers and growers who bring us fantastic local food. It recognizes the groove that our food scene is in, with recipes from some of our city’s finest local chefs and mixologists.

Plus, it’s a whole lot of fun. Take a look at a few of my favorite pages. And get a sneak peek at a few recipes from the book here.

The Findlay Market Cookbook is available exclusively at Findlay Market through early 2015, with proceeds going to support the nonprofit Corporation for Findlay Market, which manages and sustains the market.

FindlayMarketCookbook Cover

Colonel De Cottage Bakery Dark Wood Farm Fab Ferments

Now available for preorder: The Findlay Market Cookbook.

Findlay Market cooking demoOver the weekend, I did a little cooking demonstration featuring recipes from the upcoming “The Findlay Market Cookbook.” It’s finally on its way to the printer this week, with an expected delivery at the end of October. The book is now available for preorder online, and a launch party is in the works. Now comes the (fun) work of promoting the book to spark sales.

Big new project for 2014: A cookbook!

I’m very excited to lift the lid on a project I’m cooking up for 2014 … a cookbook!

Since last summer, I’ve been flirting with the idea of writing a cookbook. An opportunity that arose in August didn’t quite pan out, and then a few weeks later, the perfect project landed in my lap. (As they say: When a door closes, a window opens.)

I couldn’t imagine a more fitting project: I’ll be writing “The Findlay Market Cookbook” for Farm Fresh Books, with an anticipated publication date in October 2014. The book will celebrate local food in Cincinnati — as it’s best represented by the historic Findlay Market in the city’s re-emerging Over-the-Rhine district. This is the third in Farm Fresh Books’ series of market-focused cookbooks (the first centered on the renowned Ithaca Farmers’ Market).

People who visit the market experience what a community it is — with vendors and a diverse body of shoppers all coming together around food. The book will represent that sense of community. It will share the stories of the various market vendors and their specialties. Recipes will come from farmers, producers, artisans and retailers. Too, we’re asking for recipes from prominent chefs in the city who, like the creative team producing the book, love Findlay Market for its fresh and seasonal offerings. So, while the cookbook centers on Findlay Market — it’s more broadly a big dinner party with contributions from all over the city. You don’t have to be a Findlay Market shopper to enjoy it — you just have to love Cincinnati.

Rob and I have been regular Saturday-morning shoppers at Findlay Market for 20+ years. I would estimate that we do 50% to 70% of our weekly food shopping there. It’s an all-inclusive experience: an amalgam of people from different parts of the city, browsing for everything from international specialty items to prepared foods to fresh, local produce, meats and dairy.

I’m really excited to be collaborating with a great project team: Karen Kahle, Findlay Market marketing director, and Julie Kramer, photographer and Edible Ohio Valley publisher, along with Farm Fresh Books editor Michael Turback.

Read what Cincinnati’s newsweekly CityBeat had to say about The Findlay Market Cookbook. Stay tuned for updates as “The Findlay Market Cookbook” progresses!

New work: Cooking magazine for Kroger.

So much of my work as an independent food writer and journalist involves helping people learn to cook simply, healthfully and seasonally. My ongoing work with Kroger, the grocery retailer with a massive footprint across the U.S., is an example. Collaborating with the wildly creative team at dunnhumbyUSA, a marketing partner to the grocer, I’ve developed a series of recipes and cooking tips for Kroger’s myMagazine, which reaches various segments of the retailer’s customer base. These terrific magazines are quite well-produced, and the project gives me the opportunity to share some of my favorite healthy recipes for lunch, appetizers and main dishes.

Grocery retailers, food producers, growers and restaurants increasingly recognize the value of customer-friendly, relevant and useful content as a marketing tool to broaden their reach and drive sales. Recipes. Cooking and healthy eating tips. What’s in season.

Why is that important? According to a Google study, consumers interact with 10.4 marketing messages—via printed and online content—leading up to a purchase decision.

Think about that.

More than ever, it’s essential for brands to engage with their customers wherever they are. We know this, right? Kroger is among the retail brands that understand this mix of old and new media—printed magazines with recipes and coupons, Sunday circulars, plus online and mobile tools tied to a customer’s interests.

Used to be, marketers assumed it took three customer “touches” to make a sale. Now, according to Google, customers look at 10 pieces of content to inform their buying decisions. What does that mean? Simply: There’s no one-size-fits all approach to content marketing. And it’s a continual process. With marketing partners like dunnhumbyUSA providing deep customer insights, brands like Kroger can understand shoppers, trace their purchases and tailor offers specifically to them. But what if you don’t have those resources? How do you know what your customers need from you? Easy: Ask them. Take your best clients to lunch and inquire about how they came to you. Look at Google analytics on your website (here’s how) to see where visitors spend their time. Data is more available, and more important, than ever in marketing.

Data + content = a great recipe for marketing. I’m ready to help you with your content marketing. Take a look at what I’ve done for Kroger. Then let’s talk, shall we?

See more of my freelance food writing here.

My best recipes from 2012.

My food and recipe blog, writes4food.com, began as a creative outlet and has become a sort of second (or third or fourth) job. During 2012, I added 140+ posts, most of them recipes, many of them part of The Clara Project, my series of vintage recipes that I’ve updated for modern cooks.

Here are my Favorite Recipes from 2012 (in no particular order):

best recipes of 2012

Hot Fudge Pudding Cake—cake meets pudding, and they have a chocolate baby. This old-fashioned recipe from The Clara Project is beyond easy and magically delicious.

Pasta with Kale, Bacon and Fontina—Sure, I jumped on the kale bandwagon. Kale chips truly do rock. But really, kale isn’t some weirdo vegetable that health-food junkies turn into sludgy smoothies. Kale really likes bacon. And cheese. And this pasta recipe is divine.

Spaghetti Squash with Swiss Chard and Ricotta Cream—At just 45 calories per serving, spaghetti squash is a smart substitute for pasta. But forget the calories: It just tastes fantastic, especially topped with this mix of sautéed Swiss chard and walnutty ricotta cream. Here’s the very best way to cook spaghetti squash.

French Picnic Salad in a Jar—Seriously, how cute is this? And it’s perfect for toting to a picnic or, less romantically, to the office for lunch. Put the dressing on the bottom of the jar, and it won’t wilt your greens.

Mac and Cheese with Zucchini, Spinach and Peas—If you have fussy kid eaters at home, this is a smooth way to sneak veggies into their diets. If you don’t, this healthy mac and cheese is still a great way to get your veggies. And it rocks.

Grilled 3-Cheese and Arugula Sandwich—That beautiful pile of fresh baby arugula on your grilled cheese sandwich will make you feel just a teeny bit virtuous.

Simple Chocolate Red Wine Cake—You know how well red wine and good chocolate go together … and here they are in the simplest of cakes.

Ultimate Build-Your Own Party Snack Mix—I do love me some classic Chex mix; my mom makes the best. But I wanted to hack this old recipe and add my own favorite ingredients, like cheddar goldfish and sesame sticks. You can add whatever YOU like.

Fabulous Chicken and Wild Rice Salad—With a creamy basil dressing, roasted chicken and hearty wild rice, this make-ahead salad is a great workweek lunch option or easy dinner.

Summer Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing and Biscuit Croutons—That’s right: biscuit croutons. ‘Nuf said.

Better than store-bought—I love homemade versions of grocery staples; they’re so much tastier, and healthier, too (you can control the amount of salt, sugar, fat and skip all the artificial ingredients. Here are a few of my favorite “better than store-boughts” this year: homemade yogurt, homemade chicken stock, homemade frozen dog treats (because EVERYONE deserves healthy food).

Here’s wishing you a happy, healthy and delicious 2013!