Thursday, September 27, 2012

Allrecipes Measuring Cup Trend Report - September 2012

To pack school lunch or not to pack school lunch? Almost half (45%) of school children eat a sack lunch prepared at home every day. However, challenges abound for parents in packing those lunches. Key among them is “Finding a variety of healthy foods my child will actually eat.” In 2012, 59% of respondents in Allrecipes’ annual Back-to-School Survey* said this was their main challenge in packing school lunches, up 12% from 2011. Finding information to make healthy lunches is also a huge challenge for consumers, with 68% more citing this compared with last year.
Challenges to Preparing Healthy Lunches and Snacks for Kids
 Motivations for Packing Lunch—or Not
Why do parents pack a school lunch for their children? One-fifth say they do it to know exactly what their child is eating, 17% say because it’s healthier, and 19% say because it’s less expensive. When parents don’t pack lunch for their kids, 42% say it’s because the child prefers to eat school lunch, and 15% say school lunches are cheaper. Another 12% don’t pack lunch because they don’t have time.

Want to Trade?
When deciding what to pack for a school lunch, almost half (47%) of parents are swayed by their child’s preferences. Another 39% say a food's nutritional value determines what’s in the lunch bag. What are parents doing to help their kids eat healthier lunches? Leaving out soda, sweets and salty snacks are the main actions, but interestingly, these efforts have dropped compared with 2011, as has the number of families making lunches at home, down 33% since 2011.
Year-Over-Year Comparison of What Parents are Doing to Help Kids Eat Healthier Lunches
To make sack lunches healthy, the most popular veggies included are:
What vegetables do you pack in your child's lunch? (Check all that you include.)
 And what comes home uneaten most often in school lunches, if it's not traded for something more appealing?

#1 – uncut apples
#2 – string cheese
#3 – granola bars

What's a favorite in your child's lunch bag? Please share!

* The 2012 Allrecipes Back-to-School Survey was hosted on in September 2012, with participation from 924 U.S.-based Allrecipes’ community members. No incentives were used to reward or encourage participation.

Monday, September 24, 2012

A Late Summer #RecipeForHappiness Starring Grilled Tomatoes

Imagine being in a big room buzzing with excited food bloggers! That was Allrecipes’ experience this past June when the annual BlogHer Food conference took place in a hotel right down the street from our offices. One of the bloggers we met then was Cindi Marino, the writer behind Cinder’sKitchen. A recent blogger—she says she ‘officially’ started her blog this year in July—and considers it a ‘work in progress.’ But she also notes, “I guess I started “blogging” before I knew what blogging was. I have notebooks of my foodie experiences, before anyone owned personal computers, notebooks with so many tried-and-true recipes, holiday menus from the past and little “food finds” from here and there. I did not know I was a foodie when I started collecting cookbooks. When I got married (28 years ago), I owned one cookbook and borrowed a couple from my mother-in-law for recipe ideas. Now I probably own well over 200, and cannot part with any one of them.” Her Cinder'sKitchen blog focuses on the abundance of locally sourced produce, grown and picked right near her home in Northern California. 

When thinking about my personal #RecipeForHappiness, it always has to start with good food, good ingredients, good friends, and great belly laughs! There’s nothing better!

Having moved to Northern California from Southern California, I discovered the “good ingredients” part in all the local fruits and vegetables. Mind you, I knew they were there in Southern California too, but the nearest farm was a 30- to 40-minute drive. Depending on what we desired, it could be even further. Well, five miles from my present home I can now basically get most anything I want, and freshly picked.
My farmers' market tomato bounty! (Photo by Cindi Marino)
What makes me happy every summer are CSA (Consumer Supported Agriculture) boxes, and farm stands filled with freshly picked fruit, vegetables, and homemade pies—so much good stuff that I feel like a kid in a candy store all the time. I scoop up as much as I dare, and then turn to my cookbooks or Whether for recipes themselves, to find inspiration to create other meal ideas or simply to reminisce about recipes I’ve forgotten. Allrecipes is a wonderful resource for cooks of any level.

The two things I most look forward to things are the heirloom tomatoes and cooking them on my ceramic cooker/grill. (Confession: I like my grill so much I own two!) When I visit a local farm stand, I walk around and admire the colorful tomatoes. They are breathtaking! People who know me will be surprised about my love affair with heirloom tomatoes, because I am not a big fresh tomato fan. However, these tomatoes taste totally different from the grocery store varieties. I adore their sweet, luscious, fresh flavor!

My favorite grill #1 (Photo by Cindi Marino)
My favorite grill #2! (Photo by Cindi Marino)

When I started to think about how I could use both tomatoes and my grill. I remembered a restaurant in Southern California called the Velvet Turtle. It had wonderful soups, and one of my favorites was gazpacho, which is a cold tomato soup. The recipe called for canned tomato juice, and it was delicious. Sadly, the chain is no longer in business and all outlets are closed. Well, I knew I had some kitchen homework to do.

The result is the following recipe that I think is reminiscent of the Velvet Turtle’s gazpacho, but with a little twist from my grill. Grilled tomatoes! You will not believe the smoky flavor you get from having your tomatoes on the grill for such a short time. Overall, the soup is deceptively simple to make and very flexible. Make it when you have an extra ear of corn on hand. Adjust its seasonings to suit your own tastes. Seriously, there is no wrong way to make it. Make it your own and enjoy!

Sliced heirloom tomatoes awaiting the grill (Photo by Cindi Marino)
And if you don’t have a grill, or are looking for other ways to use late summer’s bounty of tomatoes, check out these recipes. They’re a bunch of my favorites from Allrecipes that also use fresh tomatoes.

Double Tomato Bruschetta
Avocado, Tomato and Mango Salsa
Avocado-Feta Salsa
Insalata Caprese II
Chef John’s Gazpacho

If you do have a grill and want to try my method for grilling tomatoes for gazpacho with a twist, here's my recipe.

Waiting for a spoon: A bowl of Hickory-Smoked Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho (Photo by Cindi Marino)

 Hickory-Smoked Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho

Servings: 6

10 heirloom tomatoes, cut in half
1/3 cup olive oil
salt and ground black pepper, to taste
2 chunks hickory wood
1 cucumber, peeled and chopped
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1 bunch cilantro, leaves coarsely chopped
5 cloves roasted garlic, chopped
1 grilled corn-on-the-cob, corn sliced from the cob
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 (8-ounce) container sour cream

1 outdoor grill
1 juicer (or a food mill or similar device)
1 food processor (or a blender)

1. Place the halved tomatoes on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
2. Prepare a charcoal grill and heat to 300 degrees F (149 degrees C). When temperature is reached, top the hot coals with the hickory chunks. Once the hickory chunks start to smoke, place the tomatoes onto the grill. Grill the tomatoes 2 minutes on each side, and then remove them from the grill to a plate Let the tomatoes cool.
3. Place the cooled tomatoes into the bowl of a food processor. In a separate bowl, reserve about 1/2 cup total of the chopped cucumber, onion and cilantro. Add the remaining chopped cucumber, onion, and cilantro to the tomatoes into the food processor bowl, and stir in the garlic. Pulse about 5 times to chop, or until the tomatoes reach the desired consistency. (NOTE: You will need to do this in several batches.) After each batch, pour the tomato mixture into a large bowl. Stir the corn, Worcestershire sauce, and red wine vinegar into the tomato mixture. Adjust the salt and pepper seasoning to taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
4. To serve, ladle the chilled gazpacho into bowls. Top each serving with a spoonful of sour cream and sprinkle with the reserved cucumber, red onion, corn, and chopped cilantro mixture.

Cook’s Tips
  • The hickory chunks do not need to be soaked in water before using them on the grill.
  • For flavor variations, top the soup with cold, cooked shrimp; avocado slices, bell pepper chunks, or jalapeƱo peppers, etc.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Weekly Kitchen Insights – Recipes and Trends from

Pumpkin! Halloween! Woohoo! Fall is here! Last week these two terms showed up for the first time among the fastest growing search terms, a signal some cooks are starting to think of fall recipes. Rosh Hashanah was in the mix too, heralding another autumn holiday with important cooking traditions. Add Mexican flavors in a yummy new casserole recipe, and bring out the slow cooker to round out the mix! Both of these were winners among last week’s recipes.

Here are highlights from the past week:
Pork Chops for the Slow Cooker (Photo by pomplemousse)
The fastest growing week-over-week search term driving traffic to the site last week was rosh hashanah recipes. Other fast growing search terms driving traffic to the site included soup recipes, pumpkin cookies, and Halloween.

The fastest growing internal search terms week over week included tamale pie, pumpkin bars, leeks, and pumpkin cookies. (I wonder what prompted leek searches?)

Pumpkin was a hit for videos too, with Easy Pumpkin Muffins winning top spot as “new video of the week” based on the most average plays per day the week following release. Other top performing videos (based on week-over-week positive change) included:

Easy Pumpkin Muffins (Photo by Cookies)

Yummy Bacon Ranch Chicken Skewers (Photo by LatinaCook)

Easy and Elegant Pork Tenderloin (Photo by Erica)
  • All you fish fans out there should look at this video. It's a hit! How to Cook Salmon earned the #1 spot as the top performer for page views referred directly from a search engine.
Succulent salmon ready for a feast (Photo by wifeyloves2cook)
Any pumpkin cookies baking in your kitchen yet? What’s grabbed your attention as a “must make” fall recipe? We want to hear!

Posted by Renny Sabina, Business Analyst

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Online Recipe and Food Photo Sharing Goes Mainstream

Got a dinner date with your with digital camera or Smartphone? You’re not alone. If you haven’t noticed yet, sharing food photos and recipes online is BIG! Everyone is doing it! Seriously. Going online to find recipes is now an activity for 89% of Internet users, according to a recent BlogHer survey. I read that yesterday in an eMarketer article and thought, wow!

The article also reports that posting food photos is no longer an exclusive activity for a few dedicated bloggers. Blame it on Pinterest! That site’s surge in popularity has changed the digital landscape. At, we also know brands are getting in the recipe and photo sharing act, with positive purchase results from consumers. Our research shows 21% typically buy a product after they’ve been introduced to it in a recipe.

Charts from the eMarketer article follow, with data based on research by the MSLGROUP and The Hartman Group, and BlogHer, “Food Facts 2012.”

What new ways have you discovered to use recipe sites and share your food photos?

Posted by ScandoGirl

Friday, September 7, 2012

Weekly Kitchen Insights – Recipes and Trends from

Love all the creative cooks out there! This week’s most popular new recipe offers a twist on a family favorite: Chili. The twist is using chicken and white kidney beans (cannellini) to prepare a hearty dish for a terrific fall or winter dinner. This recipe is prepared on top of the stove using a Dutch oven, but I bet you could adapt it for a slow cooker. Another indication the season is changing: apple crisp has overtaken peach cobbler.

That said, there are still plenty of cooks hanging on to summer favorites such as ribs, potato salad, and barbecue sauce. Here’s the week’s complete rundown for recipes, search terms, and top videos:
  • Apple Crisp II received the largest increase in page views this week
    Apple Crisp II awaiting a scoop of vanilla ice cream (Photo by jrbaker)
  • Slow Cooker Barbecue Ribs saw the largest increase in prints
Slow Cooker Barbecue Ribs ready to eat! (Photo by lovethissite)
Cream Cheese Bars I (Photo by chocolatekisses)
A lot of cooks must not be ready to see summer end because the fastest growing week-over-week search term driving traffic to the site last week was potato salad. Other fast-growing search terms included baby back ribs recipe, pumpkin bread recipe, and red potato salad recipe.

In the internal search term bucket, the fastest growing week-over-week terms included baby back ribs, apple crisp, bbq ribs, and barbecue sauce.

And who can resist a pizza casserole? When it’s fast and easy to make with pasta and all the yummy flavors of pizza, it’s a "gotta make it"! That combination won this week in the "top new video" category: Pizza Casserole.

Pizza Casserole (Photo by TAURUSGIRL)
The top performing videos showcase some classic recipes. Chef John of Food Wishes® totally knows how to make his crabcakes and fried chicken! So good! And peanut butter bars topped with semi-sweet chocolate? Mmmmm! Gotta make those!
Peanut Butter Bars iced in chocolate (Photo by mominml)
Chef John's Crab Cakes (Photo by Baker Bee)
Crisp and crunchy Buttermilk Fried Chicken (Photo by  Zeus)
Have a delicious weekend!

Posted by Renny Sabina, Business Analyst

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Five Fantastic Cakes with Step-By-Step Videos to Make Them

What’s that on your dining room table? A butterfly? A caterpillar? No, wait! It’s a soccer ball! There’s also a huge fire engine. And they’re all edible! Really?

All true, but guess what? They’re C-A-K-E-S! Each one is a clever combination of cakes baked, cut, assembled and frosted to look like a critter, food or fun item. Best of all, you can make each one in your own kitchen! It’s easier than you think! All start with basic vanilla layer cakes, and then get fancy with the frosting. Just be sure to give yourself extra time, recommends Emily Brune, former content director and now the owner of Starlight Desserts in Seattle, who designed and put together half of the cakes. These adorable and fun cakes take some care to assemble, so it’s best to spread out the process over a couple of days—bake the cake one day, cut and shape it the next, and finish it up with crumb coating and decorating the day before you want to serve it.

To guide you, check out Allrecipes’ video series showing tips and techniques for creating and decorating more than 40 fancy cakes. The whimsical creations are perfect for birthday celebrations, holidays or family milestones. Click each cake name below to see its video and discover tips and tricks to create a cake everyone will remember!

Have you created a cake that looks like something other than a cake? Tell us about it! Send a photo to We’d love to see it!

Volcano Cake

Caterpillar Cake

Soccer Ball Cake

Butterfly Cake

Fire Engine Cake

Bunny Cake

Cheeseburger Cake

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Recapturing Health and Happiness: A Life-Saving Recipe for Happiness from The Healthy

In this inspiring saga of perseverance and self-discovery, Amie Valpone describes how she created her personal Recipe for Happiness by completely revising her diet, her career, and her lifestyle over six tense years. Now a personal chef and culinary nutritionist based in Manhattan, Allrecipes met her in June at the Seattle BlogHer Food conference. She is editor-in-chief of The Healthy Apple, a professional recipe developer, and food writer specializing in simple gluten-free ‘clean’ recipes for the home cook. You can find her recipes and blog at For starters, how do Flourless Dark Chocolate Pistachio Cupcakes sound?

(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!)

It started one spring afternoon six years ago. I was working at Vogue magazine in New York and day after day I felt tight, painful swelling in my legs. It wasn’t just any swelling, either. I’m talking about 20-30 pounds of water weight that would fill my legs every day by around 4:00 p.m. Nightmare? Yes, a living nightmare. So while I was wearing pencil skirts and skinny jeans to work, my legs would be busting out of them by my afternoon snack time. I tried everything, researched everything, went to every doctor under the sun; I even trekked out to Mayo Clinic only to have them tell me that the tests showed nothing appeared to be wrong but that I needed to be on steroids, pain killers and water pills for the rest of my life. Well, if you know anything about me— I don’t settle. And I surely don’t give up.

So, I went back to school to study integrative medicine. I knew something was not right with my body and I was not going to spend the rest of my life taking drugs that acted as band-aids to cover up my problems. There was a reason my body was reacting by swelling; there was a reason my white blood cells were chronically low. Yet, after countless bone marrow biopsies, blood tests, MRI’s, CT scans, scope and camera tests, the doctors had no answers except, “Take this drug…this will help you”. Yes, some medicines did take the pain away, but did they help my problems? Were the doctors listening to me? Were they even taking more than five minutes to understand my pain? No, no and no. They did none of that. They just simply sent me on my way and acted totally complacent telling me that I was a ‘medical mystery.’ With every doctor’s visit, I became inspired to learn what was going on inside my body and how I could heal myself.

And so, after six long years of dealing with Western medicine, I decided to explore an M.D. working with integrative medicine. I simply had nowhere else to turn. And guess what? Within five minutes he knew what was wrong with me: heavy metal accumulation. But Mayo Clinic and every hospital in the country tested my heavy metals. I was a bit confused until I found out that these Western doctors only tested for heavy metals in my blood, whereas integrative medicine tests the heavy metals in body tissue, as well. Sure enough, my test results came back and I was in the danger zone for everything from mercury, lead, arsenic and beyond…the list went on and on. Yet, the heavy metals in my blood were perfect. During those six years I spent more money on Western medicine doctors than it costs to buy a Manhattan apartment, and just five minutes with an integrative medicine doctor, I was diagnosed. The doctor also discovered I was born without a gene to absorb a necessary detoxifier, folate. This meant that the pesticides on every piece of fruit I ate and the mercury in every can of tuna I ate stayed in my body for my entire life. The result of this led my stomach to expand so much that I looked like I was nine months pregnant- and you can only imagine the pain from the swelling. I had the mercury fillings in my teeth removed, which had to be done by a special doctor so that the mercury wasn’t drawn to my brain and organs. Then I had to go through and still am currently going through IV chelation, a procedure that draws the heavy metals out of the body.

Needless to say, it’s been quite a year. Or shall I say six years? But the story ends well. Today, I am feeling great and have learned how tough and resilient I am. I never gave up. That’s right—not even after Mayo Clinic told me I was crazy and that nothing was wrong with me. I was and still am a fighter; I found the answers to my problems without relying on drugs. Instead, I listened to my body and am healing myself through good food—it led me to quit my corporate jobs and work with helping people heal and enjoy life through real, whole foods. I had to cut out most seafood, dairy, gluten, soy, sugar and anything out of an aluminum can, which left me with lean proteins, healthy fats, and whole grains. You may think this is tough to do but it has become such a regular part of my life that I don’t even think twice about it. I travel on airplanes with avocados and hard boiled eggs; I enjoy veggie filled omelets in the morning; I snack on nuts and seeds throughout my day and I create colorful lunches and dinners packed with veggies, avocado, nuts, seeds and lean proteins such as fish, organic chicken and turkey. Naturally gluten-free, naturally dairy-free, naturally soy-free, yet so delicious.

As a personal chef and culinary nutritionist in Manhattan I work with many clients in NYC and LA who like to label themselves ‘gluten-free’ or ‘vegan’, but it’s not about eating gluten-free cupcakes and vegan cookies all day; it’s about moderation and giving your body what it wants. It’s about feeling your best every day and if that means eating a bison burger with kale and sweet potato fries or a Greek yogurt parfait with granola and fresh berries, then go for it! Life isn’t about labels. It’s not about eating out of a box. Life is about eating real, whole foods straight from Mother Nature. And that means sweet to savory. For ideas, check out my recipe for Flourless, Dark Chocolate-Pistachio Cupcakes, a Chia Teff Salad with Lemon Scallion Dressing, or Grilled Cherry Guacamole. You’ll find plenty of inspiration on, too. How about preparing this easy Chicken and Rice Soup, or making your own, better than store-bought Avocado Green Goddess Dressing?
Gluten-free, Flourless, Dark Chocolate-Pistachio Cupcakes (Photo by Amie Valpone)
Chia Teff Salad with Lemon-Scallion Dressing (Photo by Amie Valpone)
And for those of you who are wondering…I quit my corporate job last year and I have never been happier. After being told I had 24 hours to live last April, my entire life turned around and I am feeling great. The best part is that I spend my days working with my private clients in Manhattan and L.A., cooking for them, visiting the farmers markets for fresh produce and helping them learn how easy it is to eat real food at every meal and snack. I show them how fun it can be to prepare delicious, wholesome foods for themselves and their families. I also travel the country speaking about clean eating and motivating people to toss the medications and figure out what their body is trying to tell them. In many cases, ailments can be healed through food. And that’s just the beginning.

I’m leaving you with my favorite recipe that’s healthy and easy to create. It’s the recipe that got me through my pain and kept me smiling day in and day out. It’s perfect for breakfast with a dollop of Greek yogurt and a piece of whole grain toast or for lunch atop a bed of greens- you can even serve it as a snack with some hummus and fresh salsa. Now we’re talkin’. Dig in and have a bite. I assure you--you’ll be a quinoa fan in no time.

Bon Appetite from!

Crispy Quinoa Bites

The Incas knew a good thing! Discover quinoa, a protein-packed, versatile grain that's an ancient staple in South American diets. Try it in these crisp gluten-free, vegetarian snacks everyone will enjoy.

Quantity: 12

1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
1/2 cup uncooked black rice
2 large eggs
1 cup finely chopped Vidalia onion
1 cup dairy-free, shredded mozzarella cheese
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
1/3 cup grape tomatoes, diced
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 chives, finely chopped, for garnish
2 cups of homemade tomato sauce, for serving

1. Cook quinoa and rice according to package directions. Prepare muffin pan with nonstick baking spray.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
3. In a large bowl, combine cooked quinoa and rice with remaining ingredients, except chives and tomato sauce; mix well to combine.
4. Transfer quinoa and rice mixture to prepared muffin pan. Using a tablespoon, fill each muffin cup to the top, then using a spatula, press down on the mixture to create a flat surface.
5. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven; set aside to cool for 15 minutes. Using a teaspoon, gently remove rice and quinoa snacks from the muffin cups.
6. Transfer to a serving platter; serve with a sprinkle of fresh chives and a side of tomato sauce for dipping.