Sherrie Castenallo is the writer and photographer behind the seasonally inspired, plant-based and naturally gluten-free food blog With Food + Love.

The words, recipes and photographs found on With Food + Love are Sherrie’s story, and as she says, she is “forever a work in progress.”

Before her days as a food blogger and health coach, she was a struggling special education teacher by day, and bartender by night, fuelled by sugary processed foods, caffeine and energy drinks. “My gut was wrecked, and my anxiety was at an all-time high. I knew I needed to make some radical changes if I wanted to improve the quality of my life.” So she moved halfway across the country with her boyfriend, started eating a gluten-free and largely plant-based diet, lost both some physical and emotional weight, got married, and the rest is history.

Sherrie’s blog started in 2012, when she was in school studying to become a Health Coach.

At the time she had just moved to a new city where she knew no one, and her diet and lifestyle were changing dramatically: “I needed an outlet to create and connect with other like-minded people.” But it wasn’t for another year or so, when she graduated from school that she began to take blogging seriously. Slowly she made the switch from hobby to job, and did so in a way that her blog and health coaching business could mutually benefit from one another.

Inspiration for Sherrie’s recipes comes from a combination of the food she was raised on, the people and culture of the places she travelled to with her husband, and whatever locally sourced produce (either from the market or her garden) she can get her hands on.

She also loves Pinterest and follows all kinds of people on there: lifestyle, design, wellness, inspirational, and a ton of blogs. Some of these she loves to read for their beautiful and inspiring words, and others for their recipe content and food styling. Sherrie shares that “some of my favourites right now are Dolly and Oatmeal, Brooklyn Supper, My Darling Lemon Thyme, The First Mess, and O&O Eats.”

Creating a great recipe

The time it takes to create a recipe for her blog can vary. “Some recipes I nail on the first run, and I’ll make it a second time to shoot it for my blog. This is the best case scenario and takes anywhere between 5 and 10 hours. While other recipes need a second and third testing, and if it gets to the fourth round I usually scrap it.”

For Sherrie, recipes shouldn’t be too fussy. She likes to make food that is simple and approachable, but with really delicious, hearty flavour combinations. She also takes lots of photographs when shooting a recipe, because she always wants to have more than enough shots to be able to tell the story. Lately she’s been trying to streamline this, to cut down on the editing process.

On a typical full-length post, Sherrie posts somewhere between 5 and 10 images. “But, I shoot for 8, that’s my sweet spot.” Sherrie spends a lot of time and energy on the development of a recipe, spending hours and hours shooting, editing and writing the recipe and post, that when it finally goes live on her blog, she’s “kind of over it”.

If she were to pick one recipe that she is particularly into right now, however, she chooses her beet grapefruit green juice recipe that she created last year. The flavours, colours and vibrancy provide an awesome pick-me-up in the middle of the winter. When she first started her blog, Sherrie admits she knew “absolutely zero about photography.” She used an iPhone to shoot all her recipes for almost two years. Then in 2014 she picked up her first camera and taught herself how to use it by watching YouTube tutorials and studying other people’s work and writings. “I still feel like a total photography amateur” shares Sherrie, “and everyday I’m learning more and more. Basically each shoot I have a “fake it ’til you make it’ moment.”

Struggling to find the right collaborations for your blog? Reach out.

For food bloggers looking to explore more sponsored content and working with publications and brands, Sherrie advises contacting the companies you love: “don’t be afraid to email them. Some of my best partnerships have come that way.” Find a contact email, tell them who you are and a little bit about your audience and why you think working together would be an authentic fit.

The first time feels a little scary, but after that (like most things) it’ll get easier and feel more natural. You can also apply to networks that are set-up to help bloggers get more sponsored work. A few examples of these (that Sherrie works with) are TapInfluence, Collectively, Clever Girls and Pollinate. The same thing goes for approaching publications to work with, don’t be afraid to reach out to publications that you appreciate! “If there’s a website or magazine you want to write for, pitch them the idea. Often times they have forms set up for just that on their websites.” Sherrie’s message is not to be afraid of putting yourself out there; if you do the work, things will start to happen.