Nicole Washington is an Ohio-based food blogger and mom of two, who has inspired us since we discovered her a few months ago. We love her all her family-friendly, comfort food recipes like her Maple & Cinnamon Roll Pancakes and Broccoli Cheddar Mac and Cheese. Her Brown Sugar Food Blog is a destination for busy moms and newbie cooks alike—anyone looking for easy, fast and satisfying recipes. We spoke to Nicole about her career, raising good eaters and how food blogging has evolved since she started out. Plus, her Cincinnati-area favorites.
We love your recipes and thank you for sharing them with The Local Moms Network! Can you please tell us a bit about your site?
Brown Sugar consists of simple and delicious recipes created from common and affordable ingredients. My recipes are inspired by considering the average working parent, family, and professional. I strive to create recipes that are fairly low-maintenance but will boost confidence when it comes to cooking.
Love that. You describe your recipes as soul food and comfort food—what do both terms mean to you?
Although these two genres of dishes are closely related, comfort food is any dish that warms you or give you comfort from the inside out by being very filling and the flavors are satisfactory. Comfort food just isn’t in the comfort of the dish itself but may also be fulfilling by being closely related to a memory as well. Soul food is everything that comfort food is but with a little more seasoning, a little more spice, a little more fat, and a little more soul or, what I like to call, “flava”. I hope that makes sense.
Yes! Your food is as beautiful as the recipes are delicious—is that intentional? Were you a photographer?
I was never a photographer—I am 100% self-taught. I’ve attended some food blog conferences in the past where I picked up a few tips, watched a few videos, and read a few e-books but that’s about it. I want my photos to be inviting to where it will make someone want to make my dish, but I don’t want my pictures to be so gorgeous that it looks like art. That may sound awful but I think food photography that gorgeous and on that kind of level can send a message that the dish itself is unattainable.
Such a good point. Can you tell us a little more about your Baby Proof: Mocktail for the Mom-to-Be e-book?
When I was a pregnant with my son I actually craved alcohol. No joke. I’m not even a heavy alcohol drinker. But I craved ice cold vodka with my son. I thought it was such a horrible joke. At the same time, I was approached with the opportunity to publish a book. The editor and I sat and thought of some book angels and ideas and she mentioned making a book of mocktails framed toward pregnant women. I was hesitant at first because cooking and baking is my lane, but making mocktails for my book, “Baby Proof: Mocktails for the Mom-to-Be” was really fun. My favorite drink in the book is the “Baby Mama on the Beach”. It’s a non-alcoholic version of a “Sex on the Beach”.
How long have you been food blogging and how has it changed since you started?
I have been food blogging for 8 years. It started off as a hobby and in the past 2-3 years It has grown to where I am seeing the opportunity to do this full-time. I think there is a lot more ways to get traffic now but there is so much more to keep up with. When I started blogging it was your standard blog post, Facebook, and Pinterest. You may have tried on Twitter, Google +, which didn’t last long, and some other food sharing sites like Food Gawker and Taste Spotting. That is how you got your traffic. Food video wasn’t as big then either. Now, there are all of these algorithms, Instagram, Google Stories, incorporating video, and much more. If you want to do this full-time there is so much to do. But I’ve learned to be consistent with the platforms that you can be consistent with. If you can’t post 2-3 videos a week on YouTube, don’t. If it’s only 1 a week then that’s okay. Your audience will learn to accept your flow of how you publish things.
What was your professional background prior to starting your blog?
I was a college advisor and I am currently in marketing at a major university for now. I haven’t made the leap just yet. There was a period where I did leave the work force to blog full-time, but looking back, I wasn’t ready and I didn’t set myself up for success the way I should have. I’ll be ready next time.
How old are your kids? And are they great eaters?
I have a four-year-old and 5-month-old whom I am breastfeeding. My toddler is beyond picky. But I have a little bit of old school momma spirit in me and I don’t budge on certain things that he wants all the time like I use to. I use to make 2-3 dinner options a few times a week to accommodate everyone. I’m done with that. Now, I won’t force him to eat certain veggies or if I make something with beans. I’m realistic, but I do encourage him to try it.
What’s your family’s favorite recipe from your site?
Braise Beef Ribs and White Cheddar Mashed Potatoes. I make it every year and it is my absolute favorite recipe on my site. We love it!
If you could have the “perfect” day of eating where would you eat and what would you order?
I would go to the best sports bar and eat some Buffalo wings, potato skins, cheese sticks, fried pickles, some sliders, and pretzel bites with an icy cold Angry Orchard or Strongbow. I am that kind of chick. I love “man-food”. But I also love a good steak too.
Yum! We love supporting local businesses. Can you please share of your favorites in your Cincinnati suburb?
Get Coffee: Starbucks (the love of my life)
Go out to dinner for date night: Eddie Merlot’s
Get nails done: I’m all natural.
Go shopping for yourself: I’m so simple Target, Old Navy, and H&M for everyday stuff. For really cute things I go to Fashion Nova and few other online boutiques.
Go shopping for kids: Wal-Mart, Target, Children’s Place (they always have deals).