Thursday, 25 April 2013

Blogging Business Or Just Blogging?

Some people out there have asked me why I don't monetise my blog. I've also been asked if I blog just for free samples and do I blog just to get my foot in the door for other opportunities. I think I need to make it clear what I'm doing here on my little blog.

I do not monetise my blog, because I don't want to. When blogging becomes a job and a constant 'how do I make money for content', I feel a blog looses focus. I do not write because I'm looking to make money. I write a blog because I enjoy it. I do not want to be pressured to live up to someone else's standard as to how often my blog should be updated, how my blog should look, what kind of pictures should be on my blog. The operative word here is MY. Yes, it is my blog and no one else's. If someone wants to contribute to it by either leaving a comment or interested in submitting a guest post or being interviewed, great, and the content is improved from outside voices, but it is still my blog and it will still be published in a manner I am comfortable with. I am so tired of bloggers getting frustrated at other bloggers for 'doing things for free.' I avoid all that nonsense and I do believe it is nonsense, by ignoring what seems to me a very passive aggressive giving-out from other bloggers. Sheesh, my blog, my rules. If you are someone who wants money for every single thing you do on your site, that's fine. I'm not running a business, I'm simply writing a blog.

I started this blog because I felt there was a gap in the Irish blog world for gluten free information, gluten free baking and well, everything gluten free. When I started I knew I needed some level of exposure, so I approached different gluten free food producers/companies to help me run giveaways to bring attention to my blog. I was delighted at the response and generosity from these producers and the kindness shown. It was very much appreciated. I was also happy to promote the companies I approached as they supplied/ran/made the gluten free products and I was only too happy to shout from the rooftops that there is more to being gluten free than a stale, crumbly, dry, overly worked baked good. 

'See! Look here! Try this. You too can eat gluten free and be fussy about what gluten free foods you can choose from as there is some tasty stuff out there! Don't just eat it because it's gluten free, eat it because it's gluten free and tastes good.' 

I'm always on the look out for new gluten free food. I'm actively looking for deliciousness. I have to. I need to. I don't have a choice. If I want to stay healthy, I need to eat gluten free. It's as simple as that. So I'm doing my small bit to try and keep up with gluten free news, blog the odd recipe and generally make small talk on my blog.

Do I get free samples? Sometimes. Only if I really want to try them. This can be handy as being gluten free is expensive, so it's nice to try a product out. If it is terrible, I didn't waste money trying another 'would-be-better-if-I-ate-a-piece-of-cardboard-instead-of-this-product' and if it tastes good, all the better. I will more than likely buy more of it. Sometimes I'll see a call out from a gluten free food producer looking for testers and I will definitely throw my hat into the ring. Not because I think, oh goody, free food! but because I really want to be involved in helping them make a really excellent gluten free product. I think it's a great way to give direct feedback and to be heard.

I like to enter giveaways (I've won one or two, which is always a thrill), I like to be involved in running giveaways, I like promoting good businesses and great blogs. I like doing all these things. I think it's ridiculous to charge money for doing this. The gluten free world needs as much exposure as possible and I'm not going to curb food producers/restaurants/etc., genuine enthusiasm by my requesting a fee for a blog post or promotion. If it's quality it gets a mention, if it's bad, it gets a mention, though probably not the mention they were hoping for. It riles me that bloggers are encouraged to monetise and think 'dollar signs'.  In truth, I am not often approached by third parties to promote something. When I am, it usually falls into the spam category. Occassionally I will get a promising email or heads-up about something gluten free worth looking into, but otherwise, I just let things tick along at my own pace on my blog.

I have a real job and a real family to tend to outside of this blogging universe. My blog is a welcome distraction and a nice way to keep my finger on the pulse in the gluten free world. The photos I put on my blog are not meant to be styled or anything special. I'm not shooting them professionally. Sometimes a really poor shot goes up. That's fine. It doesn't bother me as I am not being paid to publish these particular images, it's just something I do. I'm not blogging to try and wrangle a recipe book publication, or become a journalist, or become well known, or to become anything of note. I'm blogging simply because I want to. It's a joy when someone sends you feedback (good or bad - it means they're reading and showing interest!), or a pleasant email, or introduces me to some new gluten free food or resource I didn't know existed. It's brilliant to have give and take with great food producers and a lovely sense of community with readers and fellow bloggers. I would not put a price on that. The fact that time is taken by a complete stranger to stop for a minute and read my blog is pretty cool. If a third party picks up my blog or wants something to use from my blog, I'm happy to freely give content if I think it's worth doing. If I start thinking, 'Gee I really should be paid for doing this', then I shouldn't be doing it.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Chewy Chocolate Gluten Free Cookies

So I asked on my facebook page which recipe I should blog about first and the resounding winner was for my gluten free chocolate cookies with peanut butter chips. I would love to say that I made this recipe from scratch, but alas, this is very much an existing recipe, which I converted to gluten free goodness. 

The original recipe is Reese's Chewy Chocolate Cookies, found on the back of a packet of Reese's Peanut Butter Chips. Having had a quick mooch around on the internet it turns out that Reese'e Peanut Butter Chips are indeed gluten free, yay! So I figured I would give it a go in making this recipe gluten free. More often than not, to make a gluten recipe gluten free, I end up having to tinker with the measurements of the flour, sugar and so forth and not able to do a direct conversion. These cookies happen to be an exception to the rule. The quantity of ingredients remains the same irregardless, which was a pleasant surprise when I decided to test these out.

My real challenge was figuring out how to make chocolate cookies look attractive in pictures. I realised that you can't really, they still just end up looking like brown blobs. However, I can get over their unappetising aesthetics as they taste so delicious.

So here it is - my gluten free chocolate cookie heaven, adapted from the Reese's Chewy Chocolate Cookies. They are so tasty, chewy and moreish. Easy to bake too. Please see my Cups For Cooking page for conversions, if needed.


2 cups Doves gluten free plain white flour
3/4 cup gluten free unsweetened cocoa powder (make sure it is pure cocoa powder and not mixed with sugar or a drinking chocolate type powder)
1 teaspoon gluten free bicarbonate of soda (also known as bread soda or baking soda)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups of butter (room temperature)
2 cups caster sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons of quality vanilla extract
1 2/3 cups of Reese's (or equivalent) peanut butter chips OR 1 2/3 cups of chopped walnuts

- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. I use a convection oven, so if you use a fan oven make sure to drop your temperature by 10 - 15 degrees to accommodate. Make sure the baking rack is in the centre of the oven. This recipe makes around 30 medium to large sized cookies.

- In a medium sized bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, bicarbonate of soda and salt.

- In a seperate large bowl - I use a kitchenaid for this, but a handheld electric beater will be just as effective, beat the butter until it is smooth and then add the caster sugar until the mix is fluffy. 

- Add the eggs and vanilla and beat well.

- Gradually add the flour mixture, a bit at a time, beating well until fully combined.

- Stir in the peanut butter chips or the chopped walnuts into the cookie dough. I find the peanut butter chips can tend to be rather too sweet with this recipe, so I actually prefer the chopped walnuts - though both are genuinely good.

- Drop by roughly rounded, heaped teaspoons (a very generous amount per cookie), onto an ungreased baking sheet. When baking they spread fairly evenly, so make sure there is enough space between each cookie.

- Bake for 9 minutes only. Do not over bake. Remove from the oven and let them sit on the baking sheet for at least 5-7 minutes before removing the cookies and placing them on   a  wire rack for cooling.

These are great by themselves (with a glass of milk) and really excellent served as a vanilla ice cream sandwich! Enjoy!