Friday, August 31, 2012

Weekly Kitchen Insights – Recipes and Trends from

Summer might be simmering to a close, but you wouldn’t know it from this week’s top search term: popsicle recipes! (That’s keyed off external searches to It might mean these summer treats are a coveted after-school treat? We call them ice pops on, but by any name, they’re a favorite icy treat on a hot day.
Orange-flavored Homemade Ice Pops (Photo by KGora)
Chef John of Food Wishes shared another three-ring winner this week on with his Hot Tamale Pie recipe. He notes that it has little connection with its South-of-the-Border namesake and uses a boxed cornbread mix, but lots of home cooks out there zeroed in on its yummy flavors. What’s not to like?

Hot Tamale Pie (Photo by Denise)
 So here is this week’s top recipe, video, and search term line-up:
  • The #1 new recipe last week was 7-Up® Biscuits, which includes the totally off-beat idea of using lemon-lime soda as an ingredient to make biscuits—along with butter and sour cream. Of course!
7-Up Biscuits (Photo by Molly)
  • Hot Tamale Pie received the largest increase in page views week-over-week, along with having the highest increase in recipe box saves and prints. The top video performer of the week featured Chef John’s How to Make Tamale Pie, so now you know why there’s an overlap. Go, Chef John!
  • Other fast-growing search terms driving traffic to the site included chicken stir fry recipe, chocolate cake recipe, and beef stroganoff recipe. Among internal search terms, the fastest growing terms last week included tamale pie, peanut butter bars, chicken piccata, and Mexican casserole. What a delicious ending for August!
When I looked at videos, the top new video this week was Country House Bed & Breakfast Casserole, based on the most average plays per day the week after release. Check it out! Not only is the recipe fast and easy, it uses ingredients you probably have on hand. Perfect for a Sunday brunch!

Country House Bed & Breakfast Casserole (Photo by The British Baker)
This week’s other top-performing videos include:
  • Simple Garlic Shrimp was the top performer for page views referred directly from a search engine 
Enjoy the long weekend! See you in September!

Posted by Renny Sabina, Business Analyst

Monday, August 27, 2012

100 Back-to-School Lunch Tips by Moms for Moms

It’s back-to-school time! Along with buying new notebooks and sturdy backpacks, back-to-school lunches are back on the scene, too. To help make packing school lunches easier, as well as inspire after-school snacks, Allrecipes asked moms in its community of home cooks for ideas to keep kids happily fueled at lunchtime and later. Their answers? 100 terrific recipes and tips kids (and busy moms!) will love!

1. On Sunday night, save time and morning hassles by planning the sandwich and snack for each weekday.
2. Keep all lunch ingredients in one section of your fridge so everything is easy to find when needed.
3. Make a week’s worth of sandwiches at one time, wrap each one in aluminum foil, label with your child’s name and the day, and then freeze. The daily sandwich will be ready each morning for your child to grab, and thawed by the time they’re ready to eat.
4. An alternative: Make school lunches the night before, pack into lunch boxes or bags, and place the entire lunch box or bag in the fridge so it’s ready to grab the next morning.
5. Pre-pack a week’s worth of lunch veggies—mini-carrots, celery sticks, cherry tomatoes, etc.—in re-sealable plastic bags so they’re ready each morning.
6. A stainless steel thermos ensures soup or chili stays hot until lunchtime; pour hot water into the thermos first to prepare it for the hot liquid.
7. Prevent wiggle room by wrapping sandwiches in plastic wrap to keep everything secure.
8. Line both slices of sandwich bread with lettuce so juicy veggies stay in the middle and don't make the bread soggy.
9. Make kids’ lunches colorful! Pack bite-sized apple and pineapple chunks, orange slices, strawberries, and grapes for eye and appetite appeal.
10. Avoid lunchtime tradsies with this make-ahead lunch fit for pint-sized superheroes: Joanne's Super Hero Sandwich.
11. Look for lunchboxes with compartments, and then let kids choose what goes into each section.
12. Top mom picks for protein-packed lunches: Peanut butter, sliced cheese, cold cuts, and tuna salad.
13. A tip for keeping cold foods cold: "I freeze yogurt and pack it in my kids' lunch bags to keep the rest of their lunch cold." – Dawn
14. Jo-Ann's Power Bars are the perfect treat when kids need an energy boost for playing after-school sports.
A yummy plateful of Jo-Ann's Power Bars (Photo by cheffo'ou)
15. Freeze homemade soup in single servings, and then defrost overnight in the fridge for an easy lunch. Santa Fe Veggie Quesadillas are ready-to-eat in 10 minutes, and easy to pack for lunch.
16. “Freeze small containers of apple sauce—by lunchtime it’s an apple sauce slushy. My daughter loves it!” – Nicole
17. Prepare make-ahead lunch wraps, stash extras in the freezer for a grab-and-go lunch that’s thawed and ready-to-eat by noon.
18. Try making these homemade chips moms have no guilt about encouraging kids to munch: Baked Tortilla Chips.
19. “If your child can’t eat dairy, add tofu to smoothies—it makes them creamier.” – meggletina
20. Kids appreciate bite-size portions, so pack miniature carrots, celery sticks, and cucumber rounds with a hummus dip for finger food fun.
21. Leftovers become lunch in minutes by tossing chopped veggies and mayo with pasta to make a tasty pasta salad.
22. Teach kids to “eat a rainbow” for good health and pack school lunches with a variety of colorful fruits and veggies.
23. What kid wouldn't love this 15-minutes-to-make after-school snack? Cinnamon and Raisin Spread.
24. Make eating fruit fun by stacking melon and pineapple cubes, strawberries and blackberries on skewers, and top each with a mini-marshmallow or grape.
25. Kids won’t trade these crispy bites of chicken lollipops at lunch time; prepare them ahead, wrap in foil, and refrigerate so they’re ready for school in the morning.
26. Freeze a juice bottle and let it double as a “cold pack” to keep other lunch items cold.
27. Apples give new personality to a lunch box classic in this twist on a classic sandwich.
28. Plan ahead and toast bagels and bread before making sandwiches to keep them from becoming soggy. A hot dog that cooks during the school day? Yes, please!
29. Here’s a kid-approved Pita Pocket sandwich they’ll enjoy helping mom or dad make.
Lunch box-ready Pita Pocket Sandwich (Photo by Baking Mama)
30. “For extra fiber and omega-3s, I add a tablespoon of milled flax seed to quiche filling before baking it. The kids never know the difference!” – yumyumgimmesum
31. Pack a container of yellow, red and orange cherry tomatoes for bite-sized nibbles of fiber and natural sweetness. Stir in a few baby mozzarella balls if your child likes them.
32. “Add cauliflower florets to smoothies to give a mild nuttiness to their taste.” – Liam's mama
33. “I mix tofu into peanut butter. It cuts down on the calories and fat, and gives the peanut butter a fluffy texture.” – BeagleMama
34. Kids adore kid-sized food. Chop veggies so they’re in small bites for small teeth, and easy to hold in small hands.
35. Turn leftovers into a tasty lunch by scrambling an egg and mixing it into rice and veggies to make fried rice.
36. Mix things up by packing bread alternatives—crackers, rice cakes, pitas, or mini-bagels are great choices.
37. Toss shredded carrots, zucchini or apples into pasta or tuna salad to boost fiber and nutrition without a calorie overload.
38. “My kids love when I give them a plate with veggies arranged in a smile!” – Allison
Veggies arranged on a toasted English muffin equal Smiley Face fun!
39. Pack school lunches the night before—you never know what roadblocks the morning will toss in your path.
40. Save money by buying snacks in bulk and divide them yourself into individual portions in ready-to-grab, re-sealable plastic baggies.
41. “I make smoothies out of evaporated milk, frozen strawberries, and spinach. They’re so creamy!” – bstar421
42. Roast a turkey breast and use slices all week for affordable sandwiches.
43. If your child’s school has gone peanut-free, try soy nut or pumpkin seed butter.
44. Try this easy way to make PB&Js new and exciting: Peanut Butter Quesadillas.
Peanut Butter Quesadillas (Photo by SHACKL)
45. Keep cut-up fruit from turning brown by soaking it in lemon-lime soda overnight.
46. Dare kids to eat like a bunny and pack a container of crunchy-delicious Carrot-Raisin Salad.
47. Keep PB&J sandwiches from becoming soggy by spreading peanut butter on both slices of bread and jam on just one—so it’s in the middle.
48. Lunch box pizza is always a hit; stack slices with a sheet of parchment paper between each slice to prevent sticking.
49. “I put out the veggies and dip at the kids’ hungriest time, while I'm cooking dinner.” – Mom 2 a dozen
50. After school, kids will happily scoop up this made-in-minutes dip on pita chips or veggie sticks: Extra Easy Hummus.
51. Pack fruit salad and leave out the lettuce, since the greens will become wilted and unappealing to kids.
52. A kid-inspired combo of cream cheese and dill pickles makes this bagel sandwich a lunchbox winner.
School Lunch Bagel Sandwich (Photo by pomplemousse)
53. Apples take on a whole new personality with these Apple Ladybug Treats.
54. Kids like to know what they’re eating, so pack what’s familiar and experiment once in awhile with new additions.
55. Turn leftovers turn into lunch in a flash—use soft wheat or corn tortillas and wrap them around leftover meat and veggies.
56. Paste an “I love you” or “Good luck today!” sticky note inside the lid of a lunchbox; write a few in advance to have on hand.
57. Make this delicious fruit dip to top granola for a yummy grab-and-go snack.
58. Try these easy-to-make veggie chips kids will grab by handfuls—Baked Zucchini Chips; pack in re-sealable plastic baggies for lunch box snacks.
59. Kids can play with their food! Pack cucumber slices, spinach leaves, a celery stalk, sliced radishes, baby carrots, and a cherry tomato to arrange into an edible vegetable flower.
60. Ants on a Log: A popular kid-friendly classic for three good reasons—veggies, fruit and protein. Add cinnamon for a twist!
61. This whimsical after-school snack has proven kid-appeal: the incredible Edible Face.
Cute and fun Edible Face (Photo by rae)
62. Borrow your family’s favorite picnic salads to use for school lunches.
63. Check out the new lunchbox math: PB&J plus one banana equals Banana Dogs.
64. Be sure to get the funk out: Rinse reusable lunch bags and boxes weekly.
65. Kids will have serious fun helping to make and eat home-made Animal Crackers.
66. Keep baskets of fruit and snacks on the kitchen counter and let kids choose what they want to take for lunch.
67. Adaptable to kids’ favorite ingredients, these Easy Granola Bars make an ideal after-school snack.
68. “Instead of lemon juice, I dip apple slices in milk—it keeps them looking fresh for a week in the fridge.” – Annie
69. With a little guidance, kids can make this simple, no-bake snack for a lunchbox treat or for an after-school snack: No Bake Bumpy Peanut Butter Nuggets.
70. Kids are certain eat their veggies when they taste these stuffed celery snacks.
71. Skip the jelly and make BP&J with a twist—kids love this peanut butter and applesauce sandwich.
72. Instead of packing a whole orange, peel one and pack the sections into a re-sealable plastic bag for a refreshing snack.
73. Make these wraps in 15-minutes and pack for school lunches or an after-school snack: Easy Snack Wraps.
Easy Snack Wraps ready for lunch (Photo by Dianne)
74. With just five ingredients and no baking required, these versatile after-school snack bars are terrific with a glass of milk.
75. Make a batch of your family’s personalized trail mix using favorite nuts, min-crackers, pretzels, and dried fruit kept on hand in the cupboard. Mixing in butterscotch or semi-sweet chocolate morsels makes it extra special!
76. Use cookie cutters to pre-cut sandwich bread into cool shapes like circles, stars, hearts, and animal shapes. (Cut bread in advance and store shapes in the freezer till needed.)
77. A healthy alternative to french fries, Baked Sweet Potato Sticks are sturdy enough to travel in lunch boxes and taste great at room temperature.
78. Experiment by adding different veggies and fruits to standard lunchbox choices: white radishes, pluots (a kind of a plum, but sweeter and more tart), and kiwi slices.
79. For kids who need an energy boost before extracurricular activities, Playgroup Granola Bars provide the power.
80. Dried cranberries on peanut butter and celery sticks give a twist to this favorite: Red Ants on a Log.
81. “I make PB&J sandwiches and cut them into puzzle pieces—the kids fit them together before they eat.” – mommapayne
82. How about nutritious cereal for lunch?! Pack a bowl and cereal in a re-sealable plastic bag, and then have kids purchase milk at school.
83. Moms like the wholesome “apple oatmeal” ingredients, while kids get excited about the word “cookies” in this yummy recipe for Apple Oatmeal Cookies.
84. Put grapes, raspberries or blackberries on toothpicks. Kapow! You’ve made mini fruit-kabobs.
85. Try Japanese bento-box style lunches—place food in cute animal-shaped compartments.
86. Anyone for sushi-style sandwiches? Separate pita bread (so it’s extra thin), spread with cream cheese, and wrap around cucumber or zucchini slices, roll up, and slice into sections.
87. If watermelon is available, scoop out and puree the flesh in a blender, add a splash of lemon juice, chill, and then pour into a resealable bottle for a refreshing lunchtime drink.
88. Let kids help prepare their lunches; it encourages them to make choices and become independent.
89. Add some silliness to lunchtime by writing a joke or riddle on a napkin placed in the lunchbox.
90. Give kids a mini chemistry lesson: Pair dried fruit with its fresh fruit version to provide an edible comparison.
91. “My kids (aged eight, five, three and two) love granola for a snack. It’s not too sweet and very good for them.” – BURGANDY8
92. This dish is just as delicious for dinner as it is packed for as lunch: Oriental Chicken Salad.

Oriental Chicken Salad (Photo by PamMar)
93. Encourage healthful eating by giving kids the go-ahead to grab designated snacks without asking permission.
94. Have fun mixing up routines and let kids pack each other’s lunches once a week.
95. Make a checklist of mom-approved lunch foods and let kids mix and match their choices.
96. Send kids to school with Banana Muffins to empower them for after-school activities.
97. Pre-pack snacks so older kids can grab their favorite combos on their way out the door.
98. Use leftover cooked and chopped chicken or the canned variety to make Chicken Salad Wraps.
99. “These Quick Pizza Sandwiches are really good. I made them with my kids and they thought it was really fun." – JoeRik 
100. Apple Squares are perfect in lunchboxes or wherever after-school activities take your kids.
The perfect back-to-school treat: Apple Squares (Photo by footballgrl16)

Allrecipes Measuring Cup Trend Report - August 2012

Budget, Distance and Healthier Habits are Key Influences 
on 2012 Consumer Shopping and Cooking Behaviors

INSIGHT 1: Eating at home increases in popularity.
In Allrecipes' 2012 Grocery Trends Survey*, half of households surveyed say they are eating more meals at home compared with a year ago, and 38% say 'the economy' is the primary reason they're eating at home more often--an 82% increase in only one year. On average, nearly two-thirds of respondents (61%) report preparing breakfast, lunch and dinner at home five+ times/week.

Percentage of Meals Prepared or Eaten at Home 5 to 7 Times/Week

INSIGHT 2: 53% of shoppers are buying more items on sale to stretch grocery budgets.
In the past year, home cooks report doing the follow in an effort to be fiscally prudent:
  • Purchasing more items on sale | 53%
  • Making a shopping list and sticking to it | 34%
  • Using more coupons | 33%
  • Reviewing the in-store circular or weekly ad to see what's on sale | 56%
 INSIGHT 3: Shopping lists drive in-store purchase behaviors.
When asked how they decide what products/ingredients to purchase at the store, shopping lists continue to be a major influence for families.
  • 85% prepare a hand-written list
  • 22% bring recipe printouts to the store
  • 17% view recipes on packaging
  • 11% view recipes on a mobile device to purchase needed ingredients
INSIGHT 4: 90% of family food dollars are spent on foods prepared at home.
The distance a family must travel to shop for groceries has a significant impact on grocery shopping behaviors; households located 6 or more miles from a grocery store spend more on food they prepare at home. This group is also:

  • More inclined to eat meals at home to save money (95%) compared with only 73% of those who live within five miles of a grocery store
  • Less likely to purchase organic products; only 35% of these families purchase organic products compared with 41% of those who live within five miles of a grocery store
  • Most likely to spend the majority of their food dollars (90%+) on meals prepared at home. (This group represents 59% of households living five-plus miles from a grocery store, compared with 45% of those living within five miles of a grocery story.)

  • INSIGHT 5: 65% of Allrecipes home cooks are buying the same amount or more of organic products than they were in 2011.
    Health and wellness remain a top priority for home cooks in 2012, as 53% say they are making healthier meals. What organic product do one-quarter of Allrecipes shoppers insist on buying? Eggs! Another 15% choose to always buy organic dairy products.

    * The 2012 Allrecipes Grocery Trends Survey was hosted by in July 2012, with participation from 3,689 U.S.-based Allrecipes community members. No incentives were used to reward or encourage participation.

    Allrecipes, the world’s largest digital food brand, receives 750 million annual visits from home cooks around the world who discover and share food experiences through recipes, reviews, photos, profiles, and blog posts. For 15 years, the Seattle-based site has served as a dynamic, indispensable resource for cooks of all skill levels seeking trusted recipes, entertaining ideas, everyday and holiday meal solutions and practical cooking tips. Allrecipes’ global, multi-platform brand provides insights into the kitchens and cooking passions of home cooks everywhere with 17 websites, 9 mobile apps, and 14 eBooks serving cooks in 23 countries and 11 languages. Allrecipes is part of Meredith Corporation, the leading media and marketing company serving American women. For additional information regarding Meredith, please visit For additional information about Allrecipes, please visit

    Please Contact:
    Judith H. Dern
    Senior Communications Manager
    (206) 436-7442

    Wednesday, August 22, 2012

    Recipe for Guaranteed Happiness: Gluten-Free Bloomin’ Onion

    What if you could no longer eat some of your favorite foods, such as bread, muffins or rolls? And what if it wasn't a temporary situation, but one you'd have to manage the rest of your life? This happened to April Peveteaux in 2011, and instead of collapsing in distress, her new health status inspired her to start writing a blog--Gluten Is My Bitch--where she shares the success and angst of cooking and eating without wheat flour. It also inspired her blog post for Allrecipes' Recipe for Happiness campaign about creating a new dish because of her serious dietary restrictions--with delicious results! An accomplished cook who prepares "mostly family recipes based on Southern and Cajun traditions," her marriage into a Jewish family has inspired her to adapt traditional Jewish holiday dishes to gluten-free versions. (How do beignets and matzo brei sound?) In May 2013, look for her cookbook, Gluten Is My Bitch (Abrams), which will feature family dishes from her Southern/Cajun heritage, plus share her hilarious romp of living gluten-free. Below she shares a favorite adapted recipe that makes her very, very happy.

    (Spread more happiness, and help celebrate its 15th anniversary! Share a special moment in your life by posting a photo here of your special #RecipeForHappiness!) 

    No one has ever accused me of being a health nut. Which is why it’s fascinating to me that I’ve now become a gluten-free fanatic just as this food trend is hitting maximum saturation. This, of course, was not by choice.

    After months of being incredibly sick (and cranky) I was diagnosed with celiac disease in January of 2011. Mourning the loss of cake, cupcakes, pancakes, cake pops, and cheesecake lead me to start my informational, yet whiny, blog Gluten Is My Bitch. I immediately delved into cake and cookie experimentation once I discovered a collection on, while just assuming that I’d never eat fried food again. Half a happy celiac is better than a totally sad celiac, so I kind of ignored this fact for awhile. Until I found myself driving by an Outback Steakhouse and wondering, what if . . . ?

    Voila! The gluten-free bloomin’ onion! After finding the amazing recipe for the normal bloomin’ onion on Allrecipes, I immediately set out to discover the perfect gluten-free substitute. My family marveled at my ability to continue with the deep-frying in spite of forgoing gluten, complete with dipping sauce, naturally. We dug in.

    You’ve never seen a happier gal than one who believed she could never have fried food again, create this masterpiece. Truly. That’s right, fried food makes me happy and I’m not afraid to admit it. Hence, my Recipe for Happiness, the gluten-free bloomin’ onion. Make your gluten-free self happy tonight!
    Crisp and crunchy Gluten-Free Bloomin' Onion (Photo by April Preveteaux)
    Gluten-Free Bloomin’ Onion

    Makes 4 servings

    Prep time: 15 minutes
    Cook time: 10 minutes

    Dipping Sauce
    1/2 cup mayonnaise
    1 tablespoon ketchup
    2 tablespoons cream-style horseradish sauce
    1/3 teaspoon paprika
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/8 teaspoon dried oregano
    1 pinch ground black pepper
    1/3 teaspoon cayenne pepper

    Blooming Onion
    1 egg
    1 cup milk
    1 cup all-purpose gluten-free flour
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    1 teaspoon paprika
    1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
    1/3 teaspoon dried oregano
    1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
    1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
    1 large sweet onion
    Vegetable oil for frying

    1. To make sauce: In a mixing bowl, combine mayonnaise, ketchup, horseradish, 1/3 teaspoon paprika, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon oregano, a dash ground black pepper and cayenne pepper; mix well. Keep sauce covered in refrigerator until needed.
    2. To make the batter, in a mixing bowl, beat the egg and stir in the milk.
    3. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, salt, cayenne pepper, paprika, ground black pepper, oregano, thyme and cumin.
    4. To slice onion: Slice 1 inch off of the top and bottom of the onion and remove the papery skin. Use a thin knife to cut a 1 inch diameter core out of the middle of the onion. Now use a very sharp, large knife to slice the onion several times down the center to create ‘petals." To do this, first slice through the center of the onion to about three-quarters of the way down. Turn the onion 90 degrees and slice it again in an X across the first slice. Continue slicing the sections in half, very carefully until the onion has been cut 16 times. Do not cut down to the bottom of the onion. (The last 8 slices will be difficult, so cut carefully).
    5. Spread apart the ‘petals’ of the onion. To help keep them separated, you may plunge the onion into boiling water for 1 minute and then into cold water.
    6. Dip the onion into the milk mixture and then coat it liberally with the flour mixture. Again separate the petals and sprinkle the dry coating between them. Once you’re sure the onion is well-coated, dip it again into the wet mixture, and then again into the dry coating. This double-dipping ensures you have a well-coated onion because some of the coating will slide off when you fry the onion.
    7. Heat oil in a deep fryer or deep pot to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Make sure you use enough oil to completely cover the onion when it fries.
    8. Fry the onion right side up in the oil for 10 minutes or until the onion turns brown. When the onion is browned, remove it from the oil and let it drain on a rack or paper towels. Open the onion wider from the center so you can put a small dish of the dipping sauce into the center.


    Posted by April Peveteaux

    Tuesday, August 21, 2012

    The Ninja Baker’s Japanese Plum Sweet Memories and Recipes

    You can’t have too many Recipes for Happiness! Here’s a post from one of our favorite bloggers detailing their personal Recipe for Happiness. The author is Kim Watkinson, AKA The Ninja Baker at Why the name? Although a towheaded American, Kim’s first language was Japanese. Her parents were world travelers—her mother, Dorothy Knode, was the world’s number five tennis player who competed 12 times at Wimbledon. Her dad worked for an international brokerage firm and often traveled on business. As a result, Kim spent a lot of time with her nanny, Kawaji-san. From Kawaji-san, Kim learned about cooking where care is given to every ingredient and flavor, plus the Japanese appreciation of beauty and simplicity. Later, during summer vacations in Colorado, assisting her grandmother, Nona, she learned the importance of pouring love into classic American baked goods. As an adult, Kim studied professional baking in formal Cordon Bleu workshops. Now as The Ninja Baker, she combines Asian fusion cuisine, American standards, and gluten-free sweets for her clients in Los Angeles' entertainment industry. 

    (Spread more happiness, and help celebrate its 15th anniversary! Share a special moment in your life by posting a photo here of your special #RecipeForHappiness!) 

    My American grandmother, Nona, and my Japanese nanny, Kawaji-san, knew the recipe for happiness. Both always used one essential ingredient: Love. From them I learned that love and food are inextricably intertwined and transcend all cultures. It’s a tradition I have taken to heart, as has most of the Allrecipes community with years of experience in winning over finicky friends, children, and other family members with extraordinary tried-and-true dishes and love. When my darling niece Eliza came to visit Auntie K (aka The Ninja Baker) for her eleventh birthday in April 2011, she made a wish list of desserts. I made five. Her favorite was a pumpkin cake from When I wanted to make empanadas for my Dad in Florida, I asked my Argentine tango teacher for a recipe. She sent me an link for the recipe (and made me promise not to tell her Argentinean mother that the Allrecipes’ empanadas were on par with those consumed in Buenos Aires).
    Thumbs up for Pumpkin Cake! (Photo by Kim Watkinson)
    Argentine tango teacher-approved Empanadas (Photo by Kim Watkinson)
    There is something to be said about the tried-and-true. Perhaps that’s why family traditions are so important to me. As an American family living in Japan, our homemade brew of Japanese plum wine was pulled from the bottom shelf in our kitchen closet when we gathered to celebrate a special occasion, including my sister Karen’s sweet sixteen…A celebration where I was so proud and excited to present birthday cheesecake. Head held high, I tripped as I entered the dining room and dropped the dessert! Thank goodness my sister is a forgiving sort, and very grateful that Japanese Plum Wine is a lovely complement to vanilla ice cream.

    The Japanese Plum, ume. has long been considered special. In the late 1500s, Lord Kuroda, a formidable samurai warrior, decreed all vassals in his domain should plant three ume (plum) trees upon the birth of a son. Many other Japanese feudal lords followed suit as they recognized the soothing medicinal properties of the fruit. In the late 1600s, the first mention of ume plum wine in Japanese cuisine appeared in writing. So, we know the venerable tradition of celebrating with Japanese plum wine goes back centuries.

    Through my years on planet earth, I have discovered that one recipe for happiness is to celebrate small victories. Like the completion of the laundry and ironing. Or keeping up with 20-somethings in a Zumba class. So instead of waiting for Christmas or my sister’s birthday, I allow myself to indulge and enjoy the Japanese ume plum, often in candy, frosting, wine, or pickled form.

    I believe the Ninja Baker’s Japanese Plum Wine Buttercream is popular because, a) it’s a pretty pink and, b) it’s a sophisticated flavor you won’t find at your average bakery. It’s the perfect smile-provoking frosting to slather on vanilla and chocolate cupcakes based on recipes from (Note: Japanese plum wine can be found in most liquor stores and many markets in the U.S. It is also easy to purchase online from several vendors.)

    Other blissful bites are found in The Ninja Baker’s Japanese Plum Wine (Ume-Shu) Mini Cream Puffs. The recipe that follows is gluten-free and dairy-free. However, if you do not have a husband or other loved one who is wheat, lactose sensitive, you can easily make the recipe substituting all-purpose flour, regular butter, milk and cream.

    The Ninja Baker’s Japanese Plum Wine (Ume-Shu) Mini Cream Puffs

    Yield: Approximately 36 mini cream puffs.

    8 tablespoons organic coconut spread
    1 cup vanilla coconut milk
    3/4 cup brown rice flour blend
    1/4 cup coconut flour
    1 pinch of salt
    4 large eggs, room temperature
    1 (16-ounce) carton vegan whipping cream substitute
    1/4 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
    6 tablespoons plum wine
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    3 drops pink food coloring or gel (or number to obtain desired hue)
    Additional confectioners’ sugar
    Pink decorating sugar

    Directions for Mini Puffs
    1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place a bowl and beaters into the freezer to chill.
    2. Over a low to medium flame, combine the coconut spread and milk in a saucepan, stirring frequently, and bring to a boil. When and only when, the coconut milk comes to a boil, stir in the flours and pinch of salt. Stir constantly using a heat-resistant spatula. (A wooden shamoji rice spatula is also perfect.) Continue stirring until a ball forms.
    3. Place the dough ball into the bowl of a food processor along with one egg. Pulse to mix thoroughly. Add the three remaining eggs, one at a time, blending after each. When the ingredients are completely combined, use a spoon to scoop small mounds onto a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. A mini ice cream scoop works well for this.
    4. Bake the puffs in the preheated oven until tops are golden, or for 16 minutes. (Note: If making larger puffs, more time in the oven will be required.) A good rule of thumb for doneness is a golden shell, and a great aroma in the kitchen! When baked, remove shells from oven and cool on a rack.

    Directions for Ume-Shu Plum Wine Cream Filling
    1. Remove the bowl and beaters from the freezer. Pour the whipping cream substitute into the bowl and beat until soft peaks form. Stir in the confectioners' sugar, plum wine, and vanilla, and continue beating. Add pink food coloring to reach the desired color—pale pink, rose or even magenta.
    2. Split the pastry shells in half. Pipe or spoon the filling into the bottom half, and top with the second half. Dust with additional confectioners' sugar and pink decorating sugar.

    The Ninja Baker's Japanese Plum Wine (Ume-Shu) Mini Cream Puffs (Photo by Kim Watkinson)
    If savory rather than sweet is what you crave, the lovely umeboshi (pickled plum) is a nice accent atop a steaming bowl of white rice or buried within an onigiri rice ball. If you’d like to see the Ninja Baker demonstrating how to make onigiri click here. You can read all about the onigiri, Japan’s authentic comfort food, here.
    Steaming white rice topped with a pickled plum gem (Photo by Kim Watkinson)
    Whether you prefer savory or sweet, celebrate today with the small but mighty Japanese plum. I think you’ll find your mouth stretching wide into a grin.

    Wishing you plum moments to celebrate your reasons and recipes for happiness!

    Posted by The Ninja Baker

    Monday, August 20, 2012

    Weekly Kitchen Insights – Recipes and Trends from

    Slow cooker season is coming! You read it here first! Slow Cooker Barbecue Ribs was the star recipe last week, ranking #1 in week-over-week page views, prints, and recipe box saves—as well as the top new video. Hooray! No surprise then that “slow cooker ribs” was the second most popular internal search term. Chicken and zucchini were also in the week’s mix as August winds down, along with several fresh and cool summer dishes, but warmer, richer—often, slow cooker dishes—are definitely picking up in popularity.

    Here’s how last week’s most popular recipes, search terms, and videos stacked up:
    Slow Cooker Barbecue Ribs (Photo by Abapplez)
    Zucchini stars in Cream Cheesy Cubed Zucchini with Lemon and Oregano (Photo by Christina)

    BBQ Pork-Stuffed Corn Muffins (Photo byjazzncatz)
    Another signal for changing seasons, the fastest growing week-over-week search term driving traffic to the site last week was pot roast recipe slow cooker. Other fast growing search terms driving traffic to the site included jalapeƱo poppers recipe, no-bake cookies recipe, and tzatziki sauce recipe.

    Among home cooks on the site, the fastest growing internal search terms week-over-week included biscuits and gravy, slow cooker ribs, pita bread, and french dip. Do these give you any dinner ideas?

    What’s better to pair with Slow Cooker Barbeque Ribs than a Bloody Mary Cocktail? It might be a new match, but last week’s top new video was the Bloody Mary Cocktail, based on the most average plays per day the week following its release.

    Refreshing in any season! Bloody Mary Cocktail (Photo by Deb C)
    Other top videos included (based on week-over-week positive changes):

    Slow Cooker Barbeque Ribs, the top performer for overall video page views
    How To Grill Chicken Better, top performer in page views, excluding all featured videos
    Slow Cooker Barbeque Ribs, the top performing video in page views referred directly from a search engine

    Have a delicious week, everyone!

    Posted by Renny Sabina, Business Analyst