Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Weekly Kitchen Insights – Recipes and Trends from Allrecipes.com

How creative can you be in the kitchen? One of Allrecipes’ home cooks just raised the bar! How do I know? The #1 brand-new recipe last week was Bacon Breakfast Cookies from Spikesmom. Wow! Talk about clever yummy ideas!

Fall veggies and Halloween also grabbed the spotlight last week. Chef John got in the action and our two top videos featured recipes with butternut squash, while search terms were all about Halloween, Halloween, Halloween—from pumpkin seeds to roasted pumpkin seeds. Here’s the recipe rundown:
Chewy Red Raspberry Squares (Photo by abapplez)
Butternut Squash Ravioli (Photo by Joanne W.)
Butternut Squash Soup (Photo by tahoegirl)
Looking at last week’s search terms, it was more Halloween—and kale. Gotta eat those greens! So, the fastest growing week-over-week search term driving traffic to the site was Halloween recipes. Other fast-growing search terms included pumpkin seed recipe, goulash recipe, and kale recipes.

For home cooks on the site, the fastest growing week-over-week internal search terms included Halloween punch, pumpkin seeds, roasted pumpkin seeds, and Halloween appetizers.

On the video landscape, the top new video fit right into the Halloween theme: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies landed in the #1 spot, based on the most average plays per day during the week after release.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies (Photo by mominml)
Other top performing videos (based on week-over-week positive change) include:
  • Butternut Squash Soup II earned top rank for overall video page views and for page views referred directly from a search
Broccoli, Rice, Cheese and Chicken Casserole (Photo by gsarah18)
 Happy Halloween! What are you serving your favorite ghouls and ghosts tonight?

Posted by Renny Sabina, Business Analyst

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Halloween Recipe for Happiness

Julie Grice, author of the Savvy Eats blog
Holidays are guaranteed to create lots of happiness! With Halloween happening this week, Julie Grice was inspired to reminisce and share her ideas for a spook-tacular feast—whether or not trick-or-treaters ring the doorbell. Julie is the savvy writer behind Savvy Eats, where for more than three years she has tapped her food science and engineering background to teach readers how to make the most of their time, money and ingredients by outlining weekly menus, experiments about the best ways to store foods, plus canning and freezing instructions. She also blogs about gardening, her favorite recipes, and how to appreciate the little things in life. Julie serves as a blog designer for Savvy Blog Services, is a teaching and editorial assistant for Cook ‘n Scribble, and is also an administrator for the Healthy Living Blogs community website. Here she shares her Halloween #RecipeForHappiness.

When I was a kid, my neighborhood would have its own little Halloween party at one family’s home before trick-or-treating time. There would be bobbing for apples and games for the kids, as well as a hearty meal to carry us through the hours of going door-to-door for candy. At the end of dinner, we’d take a few pictures of all the kids, who at the time outnumbered the adults in our two cul-de-sac neighborhood, and split off by age group to start trick-or-treating.

Nowadays, I don’t have children and my husband and I live far away from my suburban childhood neighborhood, but I still feel the urge to throw a Halloween party. Instead of trick-or-treating, we’ll wait for the kids to come by while eating, playing games, and watching cheesy Halloween movies with our friends.

This Halloween party menu works for neighborhood parties or even evening game and movie nights with friends, and with a little prep work on the days leading up to October 31st, you can focus on having fun at your party, rather than being stuck in the kitchen. And that is definitely my #RecipeForHappiness!

The Family Favorites Halloween Menu

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Marinated Peppers
Herman Reunion Cheese Ball
Spicy Pumpkin Chili
Buttery Soft Pretzels
Chocolate Mice Carrot Cupcakes with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Icing
Easy Spiced Cider

Here’s a super savvy tip: To make sure you don't forget anything at the grocery story, I recommend using Allrecipes’ Shopping List feature to make your list. The only ingredients you need to add are seeds from two to three pumpkins, spiced rum for the adults (optional), plus bread and crackers to serve with the cheese ball and marinated peppers.

The Plan
 Since Halloween falls on a weekday this year, you don’t want to be stuck scrambling to cook everything and decorate in the hours before your guests arrive. By cooking a little each night on the days leading up to the party, you’ll be calm and relaxed and ready to celebrate.

Four or More Days Before Halloween
Bake the Buttery Soft Pretzels and allow them to cool completely before placing them into airtight freezer-safe containers. Separate each pretzel with parchment or wax paper to keep them from sticking together. In fact, these pretzels can be baked and frozen up to a month in advance.
Buttery Soft Pretzels await trick-or-treaters (Photo by Monica Tablada)
When carving your Halloween jack-o-lanterns or cooking any fresh pumpkin, separate the seeds from the pulp. Rinse them in cold water to remove any last bits of pulp, then lay them out to dry on a paper towel. Follow these easy directions to roast the seeds with oil and salt, and then remove excess oil by pouring them into a bowl lined with paper towels. Store the seeds at room temperature in an airtight container for up to one week.

Three Days Before
Prepare the Marinated Peppers. Refrigerate in an airtight container.

Marinated Peppers (Photo by Montana)
Two Days Before
Cook the beef, onions and peppers for the Spicy Pumpkin Chili as indicated in the recipe. Cover, and refrigerate until party day.

Make the Herman Reunion Cheese Ball. Wrap the cheese ball in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until needed.

A creamy Herman Reunion Cheese Ball ready for a party (Photo by Suzy)
One Day Before
Make the Chocolate Mice, and refrigerate overnight.

Chocolate Mice! (Photo by cocococo)
Bake the Carrot Cupcakes with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Icing. Cool the cupcakes completely on a wire rack. Store them overnight by draping a lint-free tea towel or dish towel over the tops. You'll decorate them the day of the party.

Party Day!
Remove the marinated peppers from the refrigerator in the morning to allow them to come to room temperature, but keep them covered until party time. Transfer to a serving container.

Finish making the Spicy Pumpkin Chili by combining the kidney beans, black beans, Great Northern beans, tomato sauce, tomato sauce with garlic and onions, petite diced tomatoes, fire roasted diced tomatoes, and pumpkin puree in a large stockpot. When your guests arrive, or about one hour before you want to serve the chili, stir in the cooked beef and vegetables and cook, uncovered, over medium-low heat on your stove until the chili is warmed through.

Preheat the oven to 450°degrees F. About five minutes before serving the chili, arrange the pretzels in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for five minutes in the preheated oven.

Decorate the cupcakes anytime the day of the party (or even the night before). For decorating, make the cream cheese icing according to directions in Carrot Cupcakes with White Chocolate Icing. Then, watch this fun video showing how easy it is to decorate the tops to look like spooky Halloween mummy faces. Cover cupcakes with a cake dome to prevent the frosting from drying out. If you don’t have a cake dome, place the cupcakes in a covered container, making sure to not smoosh the frosting.

Who's that mummy? Carrot Cupcakes decorated for Halloween (Photo by chefX39)
Prepare the Easy Spiced Cider in a slow cooker. It may not come to a boil, but this is fine. Keep the slow cooker on the LOW setting to ensure the cider stays warm.

Party Day Presentation
One hour before your guests arrive, follow these step-by-step recommendations to finish getting ready for your party.
  • Set out mugs and a ladle next to the slow cooker to encourage guests to help themselves to the cider. Have some spiced rum available for adults who may want to spike their cider.
  • Pour the roasted pumpkin seeds into several small serving bowls and place around the party room.
  • Slice and toast a baguette and arrange the pieces on a large serving platter along with some crackers to eat with the peppers and cheese ball.
  • Remember to put out serving spoons, appetizer plates, napkins, and a knife for the cheese!
  • To make it easy to “self-serve” the chili, stack bowls and spoons next to the stove and allow guests to serve their own chili when they’re hungry. Have a basket or serving platter nearby with the pretzels so guests can grab them to enjoy with their chili. Or, if guests will be seated at a dining table, arrange serving plates on the table and place a soft pretzel on each plate along with a bowl of chili.
  • Arrange the mummy cupcakes on a cake plate, and place the chocolate mice in a circle below or around the plate. Place the cupcake plate on a buffet or separate table to bring out when it’s time for dessert.
At this point, all that’s left to do is to put on your costume, enjoy some chili with your guests, and hand out fun-sized candy bars to the neighborhood children!

What are you serving this Halloween? Any favorite Halloween recipes you must make?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Allrecipes Launches Two New Apps for Windows 8 Platform

Today, we announced the Allrecipes and Video Cookbook apps for Windows 8 tablets and PCs, offering the best of Allrecipes.com in the new, intuitive and personalized Windows 8 user interface.





The Video Cookbook app revolutionizes the how-to cooking video. Based on feedback from our community, this app was optimized for learning as you go and instilling confidence in the kitchen. Unlike any other cooking videos, the recipe directions are displayed prominently alongside and synched with the videos for easy cross-referencing while cooking. You can pause, skip and go back simply by touching or clicking the corresponding step in the recipe. See this feature in action in this brief video:



Some additional features you'll enjoy with these new apps: 

Video Cookbook:
  • More than 700 high-quality how-to cooking videos from the popular web shows Food Wishes and Recipes in Motion, with more videos added every week 
  • Recipe directions displayed prominently alongside and synched with video for easy reference while cooking
  • Videos organized by dish type, with a "Featured" section for seasonally-relevant recipe ideas
  • Expanded, full screen layout features the video, recipe details, nutritional information, ratings and reviews in a clean, intuitive, cookbook-like format

Allrecipes:
  • More than 40,000 recipes arranged in an infinite scroll to search, save, share, and serve
  • Search for recipes by ingredients, or browse by dish type or dietary preference
  • Expanded, full screen layout features recipe details, photos, nutritional information, ratings and reviews in a clean, intuitive cookbook-like format
  • Links to the top recipes across other Meredith properties such as Better Homes and Gardens, Family Circle and Parents.
If you're a Windows 8 tablet or PC user, download the free Allrecipes and Video Cookbook apps today for a dynamic and immersive experience! 


-- Posted by Jenn Davis, Communications Manager

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Halloween Happenings at Allrecipes!

Any hungry ghouls or goblins invading your kitchen this Halloween? It’s a favorite holiday for Allrecipes.com home cooks—ranking fifth in traffic to the site right behind Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter and the Super Bowl. So skip the candy and go right to homemade treats this year! You’ll find Spooky Witches' Fingers and Halloween Eyeballs on the Top 10 Halloween recipe list, along with classic Best Chocolate Chip Cookies and Iced Pumpkin Cookies. For a savory treat, salted Roasted Pumpkin Seeds are a tried-and-true hit with spooks of all ages. (Now you know what to do with all those pumpkin seeds from your jack-o-lantern!)
These really are cookies! (Not the spiders!) Spooky Witches' Fingers (Photo by choco kook)
Here's a fun factoid based on Allrecipes' holiday research: Halloween cooks in the West and South are most likely to bake Spooky Witches' Fingers, while in the Northeast and Midwest, the #1 Halloween recipe is Apple Crisp II.

Check out Allrecipes’ Top 10 Halloween dessert recipes for sweet inspiration!

1. Apple Crisp II
2. Spooky Witches' Fingers
3. Apple Pie by Grandma Ople
4. Easy Sugar Cookies
5. Chantal's New York Cheesecake
6. Best Chocolate Chip Cookies
7. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough + Cupcake = The BEST Cupcake. Ever.
8. Basic Crepes
9. Iced Pumpkin Cookies
10. Best Big, Fat, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie
Apple Crisp II waiting for a spoon (Photo by natalie)
If you’re cooking dinner for your favorite trick-or-treaters, serve the all-time Halloween favorite: World’s Best Lasagna. Or pull out your slow cooker for Awesome Slow Cooker Pot Roast. Yum! No one will leave hungry!
World's Best Lasagna awaiting Halloween revelers (Photo by Heather)
 Trick or treat?! What’s your must-make Halloween recipe?

Posted by Judith, Senior Communications Manager 

#RecipeForHappiness: Happiness is Food on a Stick

Inspired and thoughtful #RecipesForHappiness ideas just keep arriving! This blog post is from Kristin Price, who writes the KristinPotPie blog brimming with local events, recipes and ideas for entertaining. As a food lover and writer, with many years of experience producing special events, she understands just how much of a role food plays in our enjoyment of life's special moments. In her own words: “Spending time with those we love is delicious. And sharing with others how to do it in style, but simply—and with great food—is even more enjoyable for me.” She calls Allrecipes.com her ‘go-to’ resource for recipes and uses it frequently when planning a menu for a party, because “I find it so helpful to find a good base recipe that I can tweak just a bit to make it my own— like the many other visitors to the site who leave comments with their adjustments. There are many recipes on the site I have saved to my recipe box that I return to again and again.” Read on to discover her special #RecipeForHappiness.

There’s a photo I’ve seen many times that’s now etched into my memory. It’s in a picture album somewhere—maybe at my grandmother’s house. I must have been nine or ten in the photo—all dressed in my Sunday best. I am also wearing the biggest grin on my face and have the largest lollipop you ever saw slung over my shoulder.

There’s something about food on a stick that just makes people smile.

Maybe it’s the nostalgia—taking us back to our youth where stick-themed food was in abundance; popsicles, lollies, fruit skewers, corndogs. Or maybe it’s just because it reminds us not to take ourselves (or our food!) too seriously.

Recentlyand unintentionallyit has become my sort-of signature food item when hosting parties and gatherings. There is always some food item on each menu that has been skewered. As a bonus, there is definitely a practical side to this because I think it makes party food easier to eat and clean-up less of a chore. (Except for those dang sticks you may find discarded in strange places long after the party is over!)

This summer I entertained quite a bit. Whether it was the watermelon wedges pierced with a popsicle stick at our Fourth of July barbecue, or the fruit skewers with blueberries and pineapple served at an afternoon board game party, I savored the looks of awe and joy on the faces of my guests each and every time.
Fourth of July watermelon skewers (Photo by Kristin Price)

Blueberry and pineapple bites on sticks (Photo by Kristin Price)
My heart filled with pride as the caprese salad on a stick impressed the older sister I recently re-connected with and her family I was meeting for the very first time. Sweet and sour meatballs made a splash on fancy toothpicks at my Retro Mad Men Party. The interactive shish-kabob-building at an intimate family dinner— the simplicity, and yet fun, of it all (everyone gets to customize their own meal!)simultaneously delighted and confounded my out-of-town in-laws.

Caprese salad on skewers (Photo by Kristin Price)

The next time you invite a few folks over, I encourage you to add “stick food” to your repertoire. Allrecipes even has a whole page dedicated to food on skewers!

As a starter, try this shish-kabob recipe for a lively hands-on evening. Do all the prep before your guests arrive, and then step back and marvel at their child-like reactions. Even adults will have a ball digging in, playing with their food, and building their own dinner— on a stick!

Shish-kabobs sizzling on the grill (Photo by Kristin Price)
Shish-Kabobs

A simple, but delicious, meal that consists of meat, vegetables and potatoes all cooked together on a stick. Fun for a crowd! Try changing up the vegetables depending on your tastes and what is in season.

Makes 12 skewers

INGREDIENTS
 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (I use dried oregano, rosemary, parsley and thyme)
6 cloves garlic, minced
juice from 1/2 lemon
salt and ground black pepper, to taste
1 pound steak, cubed
1 pound raw, shelled large prawns
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cubed
6-8 small red potatoes, halved
1 yellow onion, quartered
1 yellow bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 orange bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 small yellow zucchini, cut into 2-inch slices
1 small green zucchini, cut into 2-inch slices
6 ounces fresh mushrooms
juice from 1/2 lemon
1 stick of butter, melted
12 (6–inch) metal skewers

DIRECTIONS
1. To make the marinade, mix the olive oil, chili powder, herb mixture, garlic, , lemon juice, salt and pepper together in a bowl. Divide marinade into two large bowls. Place the chicken, beef and prawns in one bowl and toss to coat with the marinade. Refrigerate overnight. Reserve the marinade in the second bowl.
2. Place the potatoes in a large pot, cover with water, and cover with a lid. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook 10- 12 minutes, or until the potatoes can be pierced with a fork, but are not fully cooked. (They will continue to cook on the grill.) Remove from the heat, drain, and let cool. 3. Place the cooled potatoes, onion, bell peppers and zucchini in the reserved bowl of marinade, tossing to coat vegetables. Refrigerate overnight.
4. When ready to prepare skewers, remove meat and vegetables from the refrigerator. Drain meats and vegetables; discard marinade. Let guests combine meat and vegetables on the skewers as desired. Light the grill and heat to 425 degrees F. Cook skewers over the grill until done, turning several times. Serve with melted butter with fresh lemon juice.

Prepping the ingredients for this meal ahead of time allows you to be much more at ease when entertaining. The interactive style of this dish means you will enjoy your guests even more as they all gather in the kitchen—where they usually are anyway during a party!—to cook together. I do hope you will be inspired to try your hand at food on a stick next time you entertain. Let me know, and tell me what worked on your party sticks!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Weekly Kitchen Insights – Recipes and Trends from Allrecipes.com

We’re applauding Chef John of Food Wishes this week! His Ham and Potato Soup recipe and video captured top spot for page views, prints and recipe box saves. Wow! If you’re in a soup kind of groove, this is the recipe for you! It's casserole weather too, so check out the week's top choices in this category.
A steaming bowl of Chef John's Ham and Potato Soup (Photo by Sherri)
And save those pumpkin seeds! Allrecipes home cooks can tell you how to roast them into a crunchy snack. Everyone wants to know, because last week, pumpkin seeds claimed honors in the search term category. (Do you know what you’re serving at your Halloween party?!)

Here’s the breakdown of what Allrecipes home cooks were searching for, cooking, eating—and watching—last week. All delicious!
As mentioned, pumpkin seed recipes drove traffic to the site in record numbers. Other fast growing search terms driving traffic to the site included allrecipes recipes, how to roast pumpkin seeds, and how to bake pumpkin seeds.

The fastest growing internal search terms week-over-week included pumpkin seeds, Halloween cupcakes, pumpkin seed, and sausage balls.

Pumpkin seeds, the perfect Halloween snack! (Photo by Soifua)
When I looked at the week’s top performing videos, the top new video was—drumroll, please!—Broccoli, Rice, Cheese, and Chicken Casserole—based on the most average plays per day during the week after release.

Forks, please! Broccoli, Rice, Cheese and Chicken Casserole (Photo by Kathy)
 Other videos in last week’s star line-up include:
  • Ham and Potato Soup, the rock star from Chef John, the top performer in overall video page views
  • How To Cook Salmon, the top performer for page views referred directly from a search engine
So what will you be cooking this week? Are you going to make any of these recipes? And is your pumpkin carved yet?!

Posted by Renny Sabina, Business Analyst

Thursday, October 18, 2012

My Recipe for Happiness – Family, Friends, and Celebrations

April Harris
April Harris is a housewife, mother and writer based in Berkshire in the south of England. She traveled far in June to attend the Seattle BlogHer Food Conference where Allrecipes.com met her. Family food history is one of April’s passions. An accomplished cook whose recipes reflect her Canadian upbringing and frequent travels, April is editor in chief of her blog, The 21st CenturyHousewife, where she shares recipes, inspiration, tips and trends for anyone who loves food, cooking, entertaining, fashion, travel, and the finer things in life. Writing about #RecipeForHappiness is an ideal theme for this enthusiastic cook who treasures sharing recipes.


One of my prized possessions is a box containing hand-written recipes from three generations of family and friends. It was originally my late Mom’s collection of her mother’s treasured hand-written recipes and clippings from as far back as the early twentieth century. Mom added to the box over the years, collecting recipes from magazines and newspapers, and asking friends for the recipes for delicious things they had shared with us. As a little girl I loved to cook, so I asked my family and friends to share their recipes with me, too. Mom let me put them in her special recipe box and it made me feel very grown up. One day, not long after I got married, Mom gave it to me for my own kitchen. I was delighted.

My cherished recipe box (Photo by April Harris)
My recipe for happiness is always going to involve family and friends, good food, and celebrations. My heirloom recipe box means my family and I will continue to enjoy favourite dishes from years gone by, as well as remember the wonderful people who shared these recipes with us. It’s lovely knowing the recipes in the box are tried-and-true through generations of cooks, much like Grandma Ople’s Apple Pie, Grandma’sChicken Noodle Soup, and so many of the other the wonderful recipes shared by family cooks on Allrecipes.com.

Almost everyone loves trifle, and My Grandma’s Trifle has made an appearance at more family gatherings than I have. Every time I make it, I still think about my late Mom and the stories she told me about my Grandma and the trifle. Although my Mom used sweet sherry to make the trifle and I do so to this day, my Grandma originally made it with rum. It was a favourite at her local church socials and Women’s Institute lunches in the 1930s, particularly with one minister who was very vocal in his support of the Temperance Movement. Funnily enough though, he would always have second helpings of my Grandma’s trifle!

A festive bowl shows off My Grandma's Trifle (Photo by April Harris)

My late Aunt Irene’s Coconut Date and Cherry Christmas Squares were a big part of family Christmases when I was a little. I spent a lot of time with my Aunt Irene and one of my favourite things to do when I visited was pick cherries from the tree in her garden. We would wear them as earrings and pretend to be fancy ladies at a ball. If I sit quietly enough, I can still hear the sound of our laughter as we danced through the garden. Aunt Irene had the most wonderful laugh.

Luscious Coconut, Date and Cherry Christmas Squares (Photo by April Harris)

Equally delicious, my Aunt Dorothy’s Butterscotch Squares make a great addition to cookie plates as well. Aunt Dorothy is now in her eighties and doesn’t find it as easy to get around the kitchen as she used to, but memories of her cooking are still the stuff of legend in our family.

Chunky bites of caramel sweetness! Butterscotch Squares (Photo by April Harris)

One of my favourite recipes is my Great Auntie Margaret’s Spice Cake. The lady behind the cake died before I was born, but she was dear to my mother, and her writing desk is now in my library. Her cake recipe really has stood the test of time; moist and spicy sweet, it’s perfect for cooler weather. I still use the original mixing method developed in the days before electric mixers. It varies slightly from the more modern methods of cake making but gives the cake a fabulous texture. The baking soda is whisked into the milk before being added separately from the flour, and the egg whites are whipped and folded in at the last to make a seriously moist and tender cake. Trust me, it works!

Berries with Auntie's Spice Cake make a winning match (Photo by April Harris)

Auntie’s Spice Cake

Makes one 8-inch round or one 8x8-inch square cake

INGREDIENTS
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk or sour milk
2½ cups flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs, separated
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup soft brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour, or use parchment paper to line a deep 8-inch round pan or 8x8-inch square pan.
2. Whisk the baking soda into the buttermilk or sour milk. Set aside.
3. Sift the flour, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and nutmeg into a mixing bowl. Set aside.
4. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Set aside.
5. Place the butter and brown sugar into a mixing bowl and beat together thoroughly. Stir in the egg yolks until well blended. Stir the buttermilk mixture and vanilla extract into the egg yolk mixture, and combine until thoroughly blended.
7. Stir the flour and spices mixture into this batter, beating thoroughly.
8. Fold the egg whites gently but thoroughly into the batter.
9. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake in the preheated oven 25 to 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
10. Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes before placing on a rack to finishing cooling.
11. When cool, frost with your favourite frosting and decorate as desired. I often use Buttercream Icing or this delicious Cream Cheese Frosting with Browned Butter and Bourbon from Allrecipes.com. Or you may simply sprinkle this delicious cake with confectioner’s sugar (spoon through a sieve to dust evenly over the cake).

Enjoy! And be sure to share with me what favourite family recipe you love making. Do you bake something special for the holidays?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Muffin Magic: One Family's Recipe for Guaranteed Happiness

#Recipe(s)ForHappiness come in many sizes and forms, as this post from Maggie Caldwell describes. A food blogger Allrecipes met at the 2012 BlogHer Food Conference, she is a writer, photographer, nature enthusiast, and mom. The changing fascinations and culinary journeys she and her family take inspired her blog, Life in a Skillet. “The blog name was actually my son’s idea,” Maggie remembers. “We were walking on a foggy afternoon, brainstorming names. He kept pressing me on specifics, asking, “What are you really going to write about, Mom?” I told him I wanted to write stories about food our lives. He thought for about a second and said, “Well, you drink lots of tea. What about life in a teapot?” It was only a short leap from teapot to skillet! Maggie loves to improvise healthy, satisfying meals. Here Maggie shares a spontaneous baking moment with her family.

Every #RecipeForHappiness begins with my two children; I could never have anticipated the tremendous joy being a mother would bring to my life. The boys consistently inspire me
I’ve become a better cook, a better listener, and more patient since they’ve been around. Most importantly though, they’ve taught me to take joy in the present and to never take a moment for granted.

It’s not always easy to recognize those seize-the-day moments though, and I almost missed one recently. My 13-year-old plopped down after school and announced he was not just hungry, he had a fierce craving. “Mom what I really, really, really want right now is a big, sweet, chewy, fluffy homemade muffin that I can just nom nom nom nom nom. Do you have anything so we can make something like that?”

No, I thought. I had a pile of clean laundry to fold, he had homework, and the dog needed a walk. I was right on the verge of telling him so, when I realized his afterschool requests are usually much simpler; he grabs a bowl of cereal or three and moves on with his day. And I looked into those big, trusting eyes and realized at that particular moment in time, there was nothing more important than taking an hour after school to bake something with my son.

“Sure,” I answered instead. “Let’s make muffins.”

There was leftover breakfast oatmeal in the fridge and a can of crushed pineapple in the pantry. Using an oatmeal muffin recipe from Margaret Rudkin’s 1963 Pepperidge Farm Cookbook for measurement guidelines, we started to improvise the sweet, chewy, fluffy taste he was going for. A little flax meal for good health, some Chinese Five Spice because that makes everything sparkle, and some crushed freeze-dried raspberries because they’re pretty but too tart on their own—and we didn’t know what else to do with them!

The muffins we ended up with are fantastic. Dense, moist and rich, tasting like a meal and deeply satisfying. He packed several extra in his lunch the next day to share with his friends. “We get pretty hungry at school,” he explained as I watched him. “Most kids don’t make muffins with their mom.”

Awww. An hour well spent. My recipe for happiness: place laundry on the back burner. Mix together old cookbooks, favorite flavors, and lots of love. Share with children and friends.

Here’s our improvised recipe for Oatmeal Lunchbox Muffins; I hope it brings you some happiness, too.
Oatmeal Lunchbox Muffins ready to eat! (Photo by Maggie Caldwell)
Oatmeal Lunchbox Muffins
Recipe by Life in a Skillet adapted from the Pepperidge Farms Cookbook

Makes 12 large or 24 mini muffins. These muffins freeze well and are perfect, healthy, lunchtime treats.

Ingredients
2 cups all-purpose white flour
1/2 cup ground flax meal
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon Chinese Five-Spice Powder*
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup cooked oatmeal
4 tablespoons brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup crushed pineapple
1 cup crushed freeze-dried raspberries
4 tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoon granulated sugar

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Farenheit. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin or line with paper muffin cups.
2. Sift together the flour, flax meal, baking powder, Chinese Five Spice powder, and salt in a mixing bowl. Set aside.
3. In a separate bowl, combine the oatmeal, brown sugar, beaten eggs, and pineapple. Stir the dry ingredients all at once into the oatmeal mixture, and mix well. Stir in dried raspberries and melted butter. 6. Spoon the batter into buttered muffin tins. Sprinkle the tops with granulated sugar and bake in preheated oven for about 20 minutes. When done, tops should spring back when touched. Cool slightly before removing from muffin tin.

If oatmeal isn’t your thing, don’t worry. Muffins are completely versatile! You can play with different types of flour or toss pureed fruits or vegetables into the batter, add a handful of crushed nuts, dates, or dried fruit and always come up with a taste treat that feels like homemade comfort food. If you’re new to baking or uncertain about your substitutions, check out these terrific muffin how-to basics from Allrecipes.com.

My family has enjoyed other muffins from Allrecipes over the years. Here are a couple of favorites: We love these Whole Grain Banana Muffins. They're moist, dense and excellent for using those overripe bananas that always seem to show up.

Wholesome Wholegrain Banana Muffins (Photo by CC♥'s2bake)
These Orange Chocolate Muffins are another one of our favorite breakfast treats, served with a side of fresh berries.

Always a hit! Orange Chocolate Muffins (Photo by Pam-3BoysMama)
Here’s a “you’ll never guess it’s vegan” muffin. Even kids like them! Vegan -Agave Cornbread Muffins.
Vegan-Agave Cornbread Muffins (Photo by Maureen)
Another favorite, these Gluten-Free Blueberry Muffins are perfectly cake-like and extra luscious warm from the oven. Make them with fresh or frozen berries.

Life gives us moments; it’s up to us to take advantage of them and capture the happiness. May you find magical moments with your family, and may they include warm muffins, too.

-- Maggie

*Chinese Five-Spice Powder consists of five ground spices: cinnamon, cloves, fennel seed, star anise, and Szechuan peppercorns. Used extensively in Chinese cooking, it can be purchased prepackaged in Asian grocery stores and the Asian food section of most supermarkets.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Weekly Kitchen Insights – Recipes and Trends from Allrecipes.com

Our neighbors to the north were cooking up a storm this week. Canadians celebrated their Thanksgiving on Monday, October 8, 2012, and Canadian home cooks looked for traditional holiday recipes such as Perfect Turkey and Old-Fashioned Stuffing. Comfort foods reigned as well, ranging from pumpkin pie to tasty slow cooker chili and carrot cake. No surprise either to find Roasted Pumpkin Seeds in the mix. Why let those crunchy seeds go to waste when they’re so good roasted and salted?

Here’s the week’s recipe recap:

 
Perfect Pumpkin Pie (Photo by wifeyluvs2cook)
  • Boilermaker Tailgate Chili saw the largest increase in prints week-over-week and was also the top performer for overall video page views. Go Purdue Boilermakers! 
Boilermaker Tailgate Chili waiting for a spoon! (Photo by JENNY23315)
Best Carrot Cake Ever! (Photo by gielastic)
When I looked at search terms for the week, it was a surprise to see tilapia in the mix. Maybe everyone is thinking “healthy” and eating fish before the Halloween candy deluge hits? Either way, it was the week’s fastest-growing search term driving traffic to the site.

Other fast growing search terms driving traffic to the site included roasting pumpkin seeds, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin seed recipe.

The perfect October snack! Spiced pumpkin seeds (Photo by Michael J. Wild)
Based on searches by home cooks on the site, the fastest growing week-over- week internal search terms included turkey soup, cranberry sauce, turkey gravy, and turkey stuffing.

When I looked at the week’s top performing videos, it was exciting to learn our new recipe page redesign is generating 18% more video page views. Nice! Of course, the synchronicity of Canada’s Thanksgiving helped, too. Here’s what happened this week in Allrecipes videoland:

Whipped Sweet Potato Casserole was the week’s top performing video based on having the most average plays per day during the week after release.

Individual servings of Whipped Sweet Potato Casserole (Photo by Allrecipes)
 Other videos on the week’s hit list include:
  • Taco Seasoning I was the #1 video based on page views referred directly from a search engine
May you munch a generous handful of crisp pumpkin seeds this weekend!

Posted by Renny Sabina, Business Analyst