Old Bay Shrimp Salad with Avocado

The first time my parents came to visit me, after I moved into one of my first apartments in Astoria, Queens, I worked hard to make all of the preparations. This included preparations typical for someone in their twenties (scrubbing the grout in the bathroom, making sure the four-footer was put away), as well as a few tasks I don’t think a lot of my peers would have bothered fussing over (orienting all of the labels on the spice jars the same way, marinating lamb for kabobs on the grill on the stoop). After two or three days trying to make sure that everything was just so, my parents arrived at around five o’clock in the evening. After showing them around my apartment (which didn’t take long, since it was about 15 square feet,) they asked if it might not be time for a cocktail and a snack. I panicked; I hadn’t made any provisions to host a happy hour for my parents.

“Just go down to the car,” my dad explained, “and grab those two coolers out of the back.”

I’ll never forget the first time I laid eyes on the contents of those two coolers, which I learned much later accompanied my parents on all of their road trips. The first held about 15 freezer-sized ziplock bags, each meticulously labeled and kept cool with ice packs, containing an array of cured meats, and exotic cheeses with names I had never heard. A separate container held a wedge of pate; another held lemon wedges and capers. There were jars of jellies and jams, a small container of cornichons, a real metal cheese knife, and another bag filled with toasted bread and three (three!) different kinds of crackers. The second container held a small flask full of good gin, two minibar-sized bottles of tonic water, cubed ice, and chilled (chilled!) rocks glasses.

It was the first time I realized that my parents took snacking very, very seriously. Where most people’s “road kits” might contain a tiny fire extinguisher or a can of Fix-a-Flat, my parents traveled with a perfectly respectable portable cheese and charcuterie board, packaged up perfectly for my parents to enjoy anyplace they ended up, whether that was in the eat-in kitchen at an Extended Stay America, or in the tiny apartment in their son’s first apartment.

“For emergencies,” my dad explained, an explosion of fizz hissing out of the cap as he opened one of the tiny bottles of tonic water. Gin-and-tonic emergencies, I guess. The only kind that were really an emergency, at all.

Old Bay Shrimp Salad with Avocado

My mother would fix this quick and easy shrimp salad to serve along with cheese and crackers, vegetables, and creamy dill-flavored dip in the afternoons, during the time I would grow to think of as “the hour when you do a lot of eating before dinner is served.” She would serve the mixture cold, on a bed of mixed mesclun greens, on afternoons where you couldn’t risk heating up her Florida kitchen with anything more involved.

Taking a lesson in serious snacking from those two experts in the field, I’ve left her recipe (or what I remember of it) mostly intact, adding only avocado, since I seem to want them included in everything these days. When the fruit is overripe, it mixes in with the salad, adding another layer of creaminess and substance; if your avocados are a little firm, they work equally well cubed up for another element of texture in the salad. Serve in lettuce cups, or on tiny Dutch Crunch rolls, as I have here.

Old Bay Shrimp Salad

Old Bay Shrimp Salad with Avocado
 
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Author:
Serves: Serves 4

Ingredients
  • 1 lb medium shrimp, unpeeled
  • 3 tablespoons Old Bay Seasoning, divided
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon horseradish
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • 1 avocado, cubed or mashed
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Method
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add shrimp, and 2.5 tablespoons of Old Bay seasoning. Cook until shrimp turn opaque and float, about seven minutes. Drain and peel shrimp, then coarsely chop and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine remaining Old Bay Seasoning, celery, onion, mayonnaise, ketchup, horseradish, and lime juice. Add shrimp and mix well. Toss with avocado and chill for at least an hour. Serve with freshly cracked pepper on beds of lettuce or piled onto sandwich rolls.

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Coffee-Rubbed Grilled Flank Steak

A coffee-rubbed flank steak!?! What is this, the 1980′s? Hang on, I need to slip into a pair of Jordaches and go meet Emilio Estevez for an early dinner at Indochine. Seriously? We’re eating this?

Coffee Rubbed Flank Steak

We sure are. Okay, maybe rubbing coffee into beef seems like a trend whose time has come and gone, like dribbling overwrought foams over plates or “deconstructing” a Denver Omelet (no, see, you take a bite of the egg, THEN a bite of the green pepper!). But we humbly submit that the coffee bean and beef combo should be here to stay, should be a flavor combination firmly planted in the mind of every cook. After all, the reason great things stick around and become burned into the fabric of our culture before eventually becoming kind of tiresome is usually because of how truly exceptional they are to begin with (see also: Jean-Claude Van Dam doing the splits, Arnold Schwarzenegger stabbing necks, and Vanilla Ice shaving those little lines into his eyebrows).

Coffee Rubbed Flank Steak

That’s what’s happening with coffee and red meat. In addition to helping create a rich, dark crust on the meat (which only stays on the grill for a flash), the coffee flavor lends a complex depth and savory richness to the flavor of the beef, while tenderizing it slightly at the same time. And of course, because you’re basically eating coffee, I like to think the caffeine winds you up a little bit, too.

Coffee Rubbed Flank Steak

Coffee-Rubbed Grilled Flank Steak
 
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Serves: 5

Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons freshly ground coffee
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 2-lb flank steak
  • Vegetable oil

Method
  1. In a small bowl, combine spices. Pat meat dry, then rub lightly with vegetable oil. Cover the meat in the seasoning rub, patting gently. Put on a plate, and refrigerate for up to an hour (but no longer).
  2. Preheat a grill to high. Drizzle both sides of steak with oil, then grill, about 5 minutes per side for medium rare. Transfer to a cutting board, cover, and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Coffee Rubbed Flank Steaklabel

September Giveaway: “Eating in Maine: At Home, On the Town, and On the Road”

To celebrate the end of summer, we are very pleased to be giving away a FREE copy of our new book, “Eating in Maine: At Home, On the Town, and On the Road.” Published in Maine by Tilbury House, this collection of 115 recipes, 50 restaurant reviews, and seven food-themed road trips through Maine make the perfect companion for your summer food adventures. It’s like a consolidated version of our website, that fits in your glove box. From the publisher:

How better to celebrate the milestones in a Maine year than with food, whether prepared at home or enjoyed in a restaurant? And who better to guide you than the creators of one of Maine’s most popular food blogs? Jillian and Malcolm Bedell are the pied pipers of great Maine dining, seeking out and celebrating the best traditional fare as well as the most irresistible international cuisines exploding across Maine today.

It’s easy to enter this Giveaway. Just make sure you sign up for our mailing list, and you’ll be entered to win. Don’t worry: We won’t spam you, and it’s super easy to unsubscribe if you don’t like it. We’ll draw the winning name on Tuesday, September 30th, 2014. Of course, if you don’t want to wait to get a copy of our book, you can order a copy directly from us right now!

The winners of our August Giveaway, a copy of “Portland Food” by Kate McCarty, was Elizabeth S. from Portland, Maine. Congratulations!

How to Make Money with Your Food Blog

It’s been a little over four years since we first decided to upload the picture we had taken of our lunch to the internet. Since then, our blog has grown and changed tremendously; a few redesigns, some logo and tagline tweaks, nearly 1,000 posts, and around 150,000 monthly readers later, and we’re still learning, largely as we go. When we talk to people about our site, when we try to explain how we’re trying to make a career out of being snarky about sandwiches, the question we get asked the most isn’t about blog software or photography lighting setups.

It’s about how to make money as a food blogger.

Now that the number of people blogging about food has almost eclipsed the number of people actually reading food blogs1, it’s an important question. Food bloggers usually reach a point, somewhere between 6-12 months into their careers as food bloggers, where the sheer amount of work involved suddenly seems a lot more daunting than it did in the very beginning, when they were first signing up for that Bluehost account. After all, if you’re investing all of that time cooking, setting up your makeshift photography studio, writing posts, and trying to find new readers, not to mention all of that money on camera equipment, decorative props, and exotic ingredients, there’s got to be a financial reward for all of that hard work, doesn’t there?

The answer, which you’re probably not going to want to hear, is mostly, “No.”

Actually, it’s more like a solid “Maybe.” I’ll elaborate.

With the food blogging landscape growing increasingly crowded, and with the collective level of food photography and styling skill rising ever higher, it’s unlikely that you will make a living as a food blogger. At least, not at first. When you first get started, you may find you even have a hard time even covering the cost of your ingredients. Unless you get incredibly lucky, or manage to innovate the space (such as by writing obscenities on photos of croissants), it will probably take somewhere north of three to five years of extremely high quality, consistent posting before you will be able to successfully monetize your food blog.2

How to Monetize Your Food BlogFlickr/foodiesarah

Why isn’t there more money in food blogging? These days, most of the ad networks you will use to add banners to your website work off the “CPM” model, or “Cost per Thousand” impressions of an ad banner. These networks used to be a pretty solid way to add a few dollars to your website’s bottom line. For example, if you find a network that pays a $2 CPM, that means that for every thousand page impressions, you’ll earn two bucks. That meant that if you could somehow show that banner 100,000 times, you’d earn $200 bucks. Not super-encouraging, but not bad, right? As long as you could get tons and tons of traffic, you could make a few bucks.

Here’s the problem. Most of the major CPM networks realized somewhere along the way that a lot of the traffic they were paying for was fraudulent. Either directly, by unscrupulous webmasters using bots, or indirectly, from users buying low-price traffic bundles from overseas that ran up pageview counts, without ever delivering a customer. As a result, the CPM advertising model is in serious trouble, and the rate that networks are willing to pay has plummeted. Now, it’s not at all unusual to see CPM advertising networks paying out in the 50-75 cent range per 1,000 views, which is a downright miserable way to try and earn a living with your website, no matter how much traffic you receive.

Instead, modern food bloggers know that in order to successfully monetize their food blogs, they need to have multiple revenue streams each contributing a trickle of income into their blog’s coffers. In the “good old days” of food blogging, food bloggers could count on one or two fat checks every month. Now, successful food bloggers must have dozens of smaller checks coming in all month long from dozens of different sources.

Diversifying your income streams this way is a lot of work, but it makes a lot of sense. Finding lots of ways for your food blog to make money makes a lot more sense than counting on just one thing. Say, for example, you find an amazing ad network that pays you a $5 CPM. You’re making money hand over fist, and quit your job to pursue your blog full time. Then, your ad network goes belly-up, or changes the rules sufficiently that your checks vanish or are cut by 50% almost overnight. What then? You’ve got at least a month or two where you have to scramble, to try to figure out how to fill the gaping hole in revenue you quite unexpectedly found yourself having to deal with.

When you find several smaller ways for your food blog to make money, even though each of those checks may be for a lot less money, you dramatically reduce your risk. Lose an ad network? That’s fine, you’ve got two more. Lose ALL your ad networks? You’ll get through it, because you’ve built dozens of other ways for your food blog to make money and stay afloat.

How to Monetize Your Food BlogFlickr/Matt Deturk

In this post, we’re going to talk about the major ways we’ve found to make money with our food blog. Before we get started, though, there’s one final thing I want you to think about, and that’s where exactly you should be putting your efforts as a new blogger.

Until you have at least 100,000 readers per month (and realistically, you could argue that you can’t make any real money from a food blog until your unique visits are more in the range of a million per month), those tiny checks from your different revenue streams aren’t going to amount to much. It’s a sad truth. But it’s an important one.

Instead of being revenue-focused as a new blogger, concentrate on creating content that people will want to read. For the first few years of your food blog’s life, focus on strengthening relationships with link partners, honing your skills as a writer and photographer, and connecting with your readers. It’s a much more important way to spend your time as a food blogger, at least in the beginning. Then, when your traffic levels justify it, there are a few potential ways for food bloggers to monetize their websites. We use almost all of them.

1. Join a major ad network that caters to food bloggers. There are tons of ad networks available, that specifically cater to food bloggers, including FoodBuzz, Martha’s Circle, Glam Media, Federated Media, Six Apart Advertising, Technorati Media, SAY Media, and BlogAds. We’ve worked with some or all of these ad networks at one time or another, but our greatest success so far seems to have come from our relationship with BlogHer.

There are a few things that can make a relationship with BlogHer lucrative for food bloggers (and no, you don’t have to be female to sign up with BlogHer…but it wouldn’t hurt). The first, and most important thing, is that they have a sales team that is focused entirely on matching your blog with the potential advertisers that will make the best match for your audience. Because BlogHer is so focused on quality, acceptance to the network is not automatic. However, being able to offer advertisers a network of high-quality sites means that BlogHer can pay a higher CPM for your traffic, which can average as high as around $7 or $8 dollars, depending on the time of year. They have multiple ad sizes and ad products (including options to display in-line contextual and video ads) available, and their implementation team can help you figure out the best places on your site to place ads, as well as how to place them, step-by-step.

In the interest of fairness, I should mention a few of BlogHer’s downsides. The first is inventory. BlogHer isn’t always able to match an ad with an impression. In our case, BlogHer manages to serve a banner ad for only about half of the traffic we receive on our website. When they don’t have an ad to display for the amount of traffic your site gets, they will run low-paying “remnant” ads, which do very little to move the needle for your website’s revenue. As part of this problem, I should also mention the seasonal nature of their inventory. Often, there are lots of advertisers and campaigns available in the second half of each year, but checks have a tendency to shrink dramatically in February and March.

I’m also not crazy about the billing cycle with BlogHer. Currently, BlogHer makes a payment to your account a full 45 days after that money was earned, which means there is a pretty major lag time between “earning money” and “spending money.” Other networks manage to get you paid within a few days of running a campaign, so I’m not sure why it takes so long at BlogHer. This isn’t a big deal once you get rolling, but can be frustrating when you are first getting started and waiting for those first few checks to come in.

Finally, BlogHer has also recently rolled out “viewability” guidelines, which measure not where ads should be placed on a page, but how long they are actually viewed. This means that ads can’t be buried in the footer of your site, or at the bottom of a mobile page. While confusing and a bit of a pain, establishing rules for viewability is actually beneficial to the network in the long run; being able to promise advertisers not just pageviews, but actual eyeballs, means BlogHer will continue to attract top-tier (and thus, high-paying) advertisers for a very long time.

The most exciting opportunity to make money with BlogHer, however, comes in opportunities for sponsored posts on your blog, where an advertiser actually pays you to write about their product, contest, or business, or sponsored Facebook and Twitter campaigns, which pay you to talk about a sponsor’s products on social media. Several times per month, BlogHer contacts publishers via email with these special opportunities, which can each pay up to hundreds of dollars. In fact, these types of campaigns often present the biggest opportunity for earning money with BlogHer. Just keep your head, and don’t get blinded by dollar signs; try to accept campaigns that are a natural fit for your blog or your readership. In the long run, caring for your blog and your readership will reap greater rewards than you will earn by plastering your blog with ads for adult diapers.

How to Monetize Your Food Blog
Flickr/abbyladybug

2. Join a network that specializes specifically in matching brands with food bloggers. We’ve been working with a company called “Linqia,” which has sent a few interesting campaigns our way. Want to get paid to go out to dinner, and write about your experience? Would your readers be interested in learning how to enter a contest where the prize is a week of cooking school in Italy? These are the kinds of campaigns in Linqia’s portfolio. Unlike traditional banner networks, Linqia analyzes your “community” to determine how many clicks they think you are capable of generating for a campaign, sets a budget (which you get to approve before you agree to any campaign), and then pays you per click to that campaign, often over $1/click. If your campaign overperforms, your “budget” will be increased for the next campaign. Advertisers love Linqia because they can be confident that they are only paying for actual eyeballs, and publishers (like us) love Linqia because they pay within five days of the end of a campaign.

3. Join a few smaller ad networks, and set up your “waterfall.” To supplement your “major network” ads (such as those from BlogHer), set up a few accounts with smaller, CPM-focused networks. These include Sovrn, Google Adsense, Gourmet Ads, Yellow Hammer, and about a billion others. Most of these networks will allow you to “backfill” their ad code with ad code from other networks, which allows you to set up a “waterfall” with your banner ad spaces. The concept is simple: You start with the network that pays the highest CPM for your traffic. When that network isn’t able to fill your inventory, you instruct them to display ad code from the network with the second-highest CPM, and so-on. What should happen, at least in theory, is that you are always able to display an ad, starting with the networks that pay the most, and “cascading” down through your other networks.

Does it work? Yes. Can the amount of money you will make using a waterfall of CPM ad networks be described as “meager?” Also yes. But remember, we’re not looking for a home run, when it comes to building food blog revenue…we’re looking for a big, long series of singles.3

4. Sell ad space on the local level. If your food blog has a local bent, you may find success selling banner ad space to local companies. Put together a media kit, highlighting your food blog’s unique features and audience, and send it to every restaurant, bar, or product you have ever mentioned on your website, with an email describing how an advertisement on your blog is a cost-effective way to reach thousands of highly targeted, local readers. In many communities, your blog will have more power to reach targeted customers than even the local newspaper, and your “circulation” may even be higher. Be sure to mention this in your media kit.

If you find a willing advertiser or two, setting up a system for serving those ads on your website it the easy part. There are several WordPress plugins that will turn your food blog into a full-fledged adserver, but I am particularly fond of AdRotate. The features are too numerous to list here, but you have full control over your ads, including assigning “weights” to ads, randomizing their display, downloadable custom reports for your advertisers, and much more. Selling sponsorships back to the community that supports your blog can create an excellent bit of additional income.

How to Monetize Your Food BlogFlickr/Chrissy Wainwright

5. Work your affiliate relationships. Take a few days, and try to turn as many outbound links from your site into affiliate links that make you money. This can be as simple as signing up for an Amazon affiliate account and turning your book recommendations into paid links (though these don’t seem to pay much, until your traffic levels get ka-razy, at which point you will probably have other, better opportunities), to checking to see if any of the products you routinely recommend and endorse have affiliate programs that will pay for every new customer you send them.

This can be as simple or as complex as you’d like. Start with your web host. If you are particularly fond of them (as we are of ours), check to see if they have an affiliate program you can sign up for. They probably do. Write a post highlighting the pros and cons of your hosting service (BlueHost, Media Temple, and WP Engine each have affiliate programs) , and scatter your affiliate link throughout. Every time someone clicks on one of your links and makes a purchase, you’ll get paid. Many companies pay $50-$60 dollars or more for referred customers, which means it doesn’t take a ton of traffic in order to earn some serious money.

Looking for other ideas for affiliate products you can promote? Think about the software you use, the electronic equipment, the blog software (like Genesis or Thesis), the blog themes you like (Elegant Themes and Woo Themes have affiliate programs), any plugins you use, or any website communities (like FoodBloggerPro) you’ve joined and enjoy. They all may have an affiliate program that you can help promote. Just remember the first rule of food blogging, when you’re considering your affiliate relationships: Be authentic. Don’t recommend a product that you haven’t used or don’t like, just to earn a sale. It’s sketchy and your readers will pick up on it right away.

If you don’t have the time to hunt around (and write posts for) a bunch of different affiliate programs, you can also try an affiliate program service, such as VigLink. The premise is simple: install a snippet of code on your site, and VigLink will automatically create unobtrusive affiliate links for as many of your outgoing clicks as possible, whether or not you have an existing affiliate account for that product. It’s an interesting way to work the affiliate angle, without signing up for dozens of accounts on your own. Depending on the type of blog you are writing (VigLink seems to perform best for technology or gadget blogs, but food blogs work, too!), you can earn quite a bit of extra money with just one simple addition of code to your website.

6. Work for other people. As your food blog builds some momentum, you may find that one of its uses is as a sort of gigantic online portfolio. We have used our blog to pitch ideas and photography to larger companies, as well as earn paid contributor positions with other websites and with offline print magazines. Your blog doesn’t have to be the way your blog makes money (if that makes any sense at all). Set up a comprehensive “About Us” or a “Work With Me” page on your site, that tells your story and makes you appealing to advertisers. You might be surprised at how often major brands approach you, with an idea you’d never even thought of.

7. Write and sell an eBook. Anyone that writes a food blog, whether it’s about food styling or cooking amazing things with cake mix, should, at some point, consider writing an eBook, or more specifically, an eCookbook. There are two main reasons for this. The first is that writing an eBook gives your blog a product. That’s right. Something you can actually sell. And because it exists only electronically, all of the effort is front-loaded. Spend a few days (or weeks!) writing an eBook, publish it, and you’ve got a product that will continue generating sales, without any further effort on your part. In fact, you’ll never need to touch it again, and the checks will keep rolling in.

The other nice thing about producing an eBook (and really, it’s more of a relief) is that writing an eBook and setting up an affiliate program to sell it gives you a bit of a break from the constant “traffic-generating carousel of worry” that a lot of bloggers find themselves on. When you set up your own affiliate program to sell your own eBook, you can finally take a break from worrying about how many visitors you are getting to your site, since it becomes the work of your affiliates to promote your site and your product. It doesn’t matter if your food blog gets 100 visitors a month; if you’ve got a killer eBook and affiliate program, you can make money as a food blogger4.

Actually, you can make money with eBooks, even without writing one of your own. You can always sell someone else’s. The food photography eBook sold by the folks at Pinch of Yum, for example, has been very successful for them, adding several thousands of dollars per month to their blog’s bottom line. They’ve already built the business and the product; it’s just up to you to figure out how to promote it.  We’ve even recently started (here comes a plug!) an affiliate program of our own, that pays over 60% of the sale price of our eCookbook right back to you, the affiliate. These types of programs can be a great way to get the needle moving on website revenue, without a huge initial outlay of effort.

Conclusion:

It may seem like the “glory days” of food blogging are over. That there are a few big names out there, getting book deals and cooking shows, while everyone else with a camera and a good idea is doomed to toil in obscurity in their tiny kitchen. The fact is, there are more ways than ever for you to turn your passion for cooking and writing into a viable business. With more and more support from advertisers, more technology and tools to connect bloggers with lucrative sponsorships, and more acceptance of the potential power of amateur cooks and food bloggers to help promote a brand’s message, there is more opportunity than ever before. It’s just going to take some work.

Rather than trying to find the one “big idea” that is going catapult your blog into the mainstream and flood your bank account with millions, learn to work patiently and incrementally. Remember, finding 15 small revenue streams is way, way smarter than depending on one big one. Keep working on new ideas. Keep tweaking content. Keep at it. Your food blog can be a business that you are proud of.

Next Steps/For Further Study:

Here are a few of the websites and books that we’ve found particularly helpful, in our quest to make money with our food blog. I hope they’ll help you, too:

  • How to Monetize Your Food Blog
    At $15, this eBook is worth every penny. And then some. A fantastic next step for further research, after you get done here.
  • Pinch of Yum Income Reports
    Each month, Lindsay and Bjork publish a step-by-step breakdown of the techniques they use to generate tens of thousands of dollars each month from their food blog. An invaluable resource for anyone ready to dig in and turn their food blog into a business.
  • Food Blogger Resources by Recipe Girl
    This is it. The definitive resources page for any questions you may have related to food blogging, including food blog monetization, design, photography, traffic building, and more. Lori has built a massive resource here, and your blog will be made stronger by having it in your arsenal.
  • Food Blogger Pro
    A growing community based around a set of step-by-step video tutorials of interest to bloggers of all skill levels, as well as an active message board, tools for food bloggers, and more. $25 bucks a month, but worth it.
  • Pro Food Blogger
    Our sister blog, written by food bloggers, for food bloggers, about food blogging. Check often for traffic building strategies, thoughts on social media, and more. Best of all, it’s free.
  • How to Support Yourself as a Food Blogger by Amateur Gourmet
    Provides a great overview of some ways to get your food blog to make money.
  • How to Work with Brands by Country Cleaver
  • Food Blog Alliance

 

1. This is a fact that I made up.
2. Heck, we still haven’t gotten to where we want to be, in terms of the amount of money rolling in the door each month. But food blogging does, at least, pay the rent. And sometimes the car payment. And that feels pretty good.
3. This marks the first, and probably last time, that I will ever try to communicate using baseball metaphors.
4. The step-by-step guide to writing and publishing an eBook is a bit beyond the scope of this post, but it’s a topic we’ll visit in the future.

 

Disclaimer: Please note that some of the links in this post are affiliate links, and I will earn a commission if you purchase through those links. I have used each and every one of the products or services listed above, and recommend them based on my positive experience with them, not because of the commissions that I may earn from your use of their services.

12 Meat-Lovin’ Recipes to Celebrate Labor Day

To me, nothing helps celebrate the end of a long, hot Summer like the application of copious amounts of meat to fire. The smell of burning charcoal is just so synonymous with summertime, and I like the idea of having one final outdoor blaze of glory, before the hammer of winter falls. Here are 12 recipes from some of our favorite food bloggers to help say goodbye to summer the way nature intended: In an avalanche of good old-fashioned, heart disease-inducing, molar-grinding, aggression-inducing, delicious charred meat.

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Asian BBQ burgers with Sriracha Mayo from Flavor Mosaic

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Beef Stir Fry Kabobs from Chocolate Moosey

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French Chicken Burgers with Easy French Fries from Dessert for Two

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Whiskey Balsamic Steak from From Valerie’s Kitchen

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Truffled Burgers with Bacon, Mushroom, and Cheddar from Quarter Life Crisis Cuisine

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The French Baguette and the Un-Massachusetts Roast Beef Sandwich from Karen’s Kitchen Stories

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Easy Duck Carnitas from Seasonal & Savory

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Bacon Wrapped Dates from Kailley’s Kitchen

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Apricot Barbecued Chicken from The Healthy Maven

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The All-American Classic Bacon Cheeseburger from Neighborfood Blog

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Lemon Thyme Lamb Chops from The View from Great Island

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Black and Blue Flank Steak Salad from Crumb Blog

All images are copyright their respective owners, and are used here with permission.

We Ate Every Flavor of the New Chili’s® At Home Frozen Meals

There’s nothing quite as “big and bold” as deciding to bring a new human being into the world. Of course, having a two year old means that mealtimes are often a less formal affair than they used to be, and by “less formal,” I mean that if there’s a table and utensils involved, and someone isn’t screaming, the evening can be considered a rousing success.

Chili's At Home

Now that time is at an all-time premium, we’ve been taking a new look at the single-serve dinner options available in our local freezer section. Amid the usual hodgepodge of jalapeño poppers, frozen breaded chicken patties, and jalapeño popper-stuffed frozen chicken patties, we noticed that space has been blocked aside for a new line of frozen meals from the people that brought you the Southwestern Eggroll: Chili’s® At Home.

Chili's At Home

And of course, because we don’t do anything halfway, we decided to eat all of them. All at the same time. Here are the results of that tasting, presented in order starting with the frozen entrees we liked the most:

Chili's At Home

Cheesy Chicken Pasta Florentine
It’s presumably the presence of spinach that makes this pasta, which also included sweet corn and black beans, a “Florentine.” We were impressed by the pasta, which stayed al dente, and the spiciness of the sauce, which was a lot lighter than we expected. We’d definitely pick this one up again.

Chili's At Home

Cajun-Style Chicken Alfredo
Here’s the thing: Alfredo in any form is 100% awesome, and the hints of spice in the sauce kept it interesting. We were also impressed by the cavatappi pasta, which made this dish seem almost like something we might have cooked ourselves at home. We could see how this would make for a big, hearty, comforting meal.

Chili's At Home

Mango Chicken with Rice
This was the biggest surprise of the bunch. I expected cloying, synthetic sweetness, but instead enjoyed a lightly flavored, island-inspired spicy sauce, tossed with real bits of chicken. The rice was a standout as well; usually, rice doesn’t fare well in frozen dinners, but the rice in this entree managed to stay recognizable and nutty.

Chili's At Home

Chicken Bacon Ranch
This one seemed like it would be a real hit with kids, combining big chunks of white meat chicken, smoky bacon, and whole broccoli florets in a cheesy sauce that was saltier than I would have liked. Still, this seemed like real food, and Chili’s gets props for that.

Chili's At Home

Island Chicken & Rice
The box promised jerk chicken, but all we tasted was sticky sweetness and hot pineapple.

Chili's At Home

Bacon Mac ‘N’ Cheese
When we unwrapped the package and saw the real bits of bacon and diced poblano chiles, we got super excited. I just wish there has been more flavor from the cheese; it got kind of lost and ended up not being a very major flavor player in the dish. We really liked the large-format macaroni; it held onto the sauce perfectly.

We had a lot of fun tasting all of the new bold flavors from this line of frozen foods. But now we want to know: Which one would YOU choose? Click here to visit the Chili’s website product page, then come back here and leave us a note in the comments.

Many thanks to Bellisio Foods for sponsoring today’s discussion and keeping our meals tasty and bold!

Shrimp Linguine with Lemon and Feta

With a suddenly very busy two-and-a-half year old, and a suddenly never sleeping 12-day old in the house, we’re looking for ways to streamline the amount of time we are spending in the kitchen. Life with a newborn seems to make it entirely too easy to exist entirely on a diet of food you can either order from behind the wheel of your car, or pull out of the freezer and microwave, which means that after a few weeks, it’s easy to turn into a bloated, salt-saturated sack of sleep deprivation and food preservation science, your blood having long coagulated into a slow-moving cesspool of propylene glycol and modified cornstarch.

That’s why, when we find a recipe that uses only a handful of ingredients, and that we can cook in that small window that exists when both the new baby finally goes to sleep and the older baby is briefly occupied by slowly picking at the seams in the unraveling Berber carpet, we grab onto it tightly and we don’t let go. Recipes like these are an opportunity to eat a fresh, light meal, made with ingredients that we recognize, and that manage to delight our rapidly dulling senses.

Shrimp Linguine with Lemon and Feta

5 from 1 reviews

Shrimp Linguine with Lemon and Feta
 
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Serves: Serves 4

Ingredients
  • ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Juice and zest from a lemon
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 6 ounces fresh spinach
  • 1 cup crumbled light feta
  • 8 ounces cooked linguine

Method
  1. In a large saucepan or stock pot, combine olive oil, parsley, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, and red pepper. When garlic and red pepper become fragrant, add shrimp and cook until opaque, about three minutes.
  2. Remove from heat, and add spinach and feta. Stir to combine, then add hot cooked pasta. Toss and serve.

Notes
Adapted from a recipe by Rachel Ray.

‘Wich, Please: 30 Sandwiches to Help You Win Friends and Influence People

All of my true hardcore gangster players who are down with the sandwich struggle know that I’ve been in the game for a long time now. That’s why I’m super excited to announce the release of our new eCookbook, titled ‘Wich, Please: 30 Sandwiches to Help You Win Friends and Influence People.

In it, you’ll find thirty of our favorite sandwich recipes, beautifully photographed and illustrated with step-by-step instructions, and spread over 70 pages which you can read on your tablet, smartphone, or laptop. That’s right: no more stained pages, and no more lugging huge cookbooks around.

Because we’re only releasing it digitally, we’re able to keep costs low. For less than the price of one of those “special edition” magazines from Better Homes and Gardens that you cook from exactly once and look at exactly twice, ‘Wich, Please is a beautiful eCookbook with no “dud” recipes. Every sandwich in these digital pages is a winner, as developed and tested right here in the From Away Test Kitchen.

We’ve put together a special page with more information about the title, as well as some preview pages and information about how to order. Thanks for checking it out, and if you think it looks good, please be sure to tell a friend by sharing the page on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

Click here to read more about our new eCookbook, ‘Wich, Please.

 

 

Tomatillo Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas

I’m told that other people in history have had up to and as many as two children. Yes, even all at the same time. I recognize that we’re not exactly breaking any new ground. And I knew, based on our experience with our first baby almost three years ago, that adding another newborn into the mix was going to be exhausting.

Mina was born on Friday morning, at 7AM, which meant a solo weekend for two-and-a-half year old Violet and I, while Jillian recovered in the hospital, stealing an hour of sleep here and there amid a fog of painkillers and the incessant needs of a brand new tiny human person. Violet and I did everything we could to get ready for the new addition, bracing ourselves with tequila (me) and new Yo Gabba Gabba toys (Violet) for the changes to come.

Sour Cream Enchiladas

Even in spite of all of that mental and physical planning, we weren’t ready. Who could be ready? This is madness. New babies are so much different than the person we’ve grown so comfortable with over the last few years, and we have so much to re-learn. One cries. Both cry. Or are we crying? Jillian sleeps where she falls. Day and night cycles and nobody notices. I try to be useful in the ways I can, which amounts to doing lots of dishes, installing shelving, and making enchiladas.

I wouldn’t trade it, any of it, not for the whole world. This must be what life is supposed to feel like. It’s a cripplingly exhausting, terrifying mess, and the most exciting and satisfying thing you’ve ever done, all at once.

More coherent posts to come (probably) in the near future. In the meantime, wish us luck.

Sour Cream EnchiladasSour Cream Enchiladas

5 from 1 reviews

Tomatillo Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas
 
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Serves: 12 enchiladas

Ingredients
For the filling:
  • 1-1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ medium-sized onion, diced
For the sour cream enchilada sauce:
  • 3 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 2 Serrano chiles, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 2 tablespoons of flour
  • 2 cups of chicken broth
  • 2 cups of sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  • 8 fresh tomatillos, husks removed and cut in half, and blackened slightly under broiler
  • Dash of cayenne
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
To assemble:
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • 1 tablespoon of canola oil
  • 2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro

Method
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, then cook in a large skillet over medium-high heat, flipping occasionally, until golden brown. Let cool, then shred with two forks or chop with a knife, removing any large obvious chunks of fat.
  2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add chiles and cook until they start to soften, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook for a minute more. Add flour and cook for one minute longer. Add chicken stock, stirring until sauce thickens slightly. Remove from heat, and add sour cream, cumin, cayenne, and cilantro, then transfer mixture to blender. Add blackened tomatillos and pulse until smooth.
  3. Transfer about a cup of the sauce to the bottom of a casserole dish. Transfer another cup to a plate. Set the rest aside.
To assemble:
  1. Dip each corn tortilla into the plate of sauce to moisten both sides. Fill with ⅓ cup shredded chicken, a teaspoon of onions, and a tablespoon of cheese. Roll tightly and arrange each enchilada seam side-down in the prepared casserole dish. Cover the enchiladas with the remaining sauce and cheese and bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until top is brown and bubbling. Serve with chopped cilantro.

Notes
Adapted from a recipe by Homesick Texan.

Sour Cream Enchiladas

17 Ways to Use Seasonal Maine Blueberries

Maine wild blueberries are tiny, usually smaller than peas. They are sweet, never tart, and have a gentle mellowness other berries lack. Driving through Maine at this time of year – high summer – you will find wild blueberries for sale outside everywhere. At roadside tables, farmstands, in neighbors’ front yards. You can also pick your own, if you are so intrepid. They are fleeting, a delicate delicacy. Get them while you can. They are perfect for snacking and I love baking with low bush blueberries, too. Here are some of our favorite recipes, from some of our favorite food bloggers.

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Vietnamese Wild Blueberry Iced Coffee
from Cooking with Books

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Blueberry Honey Mint Juleps
from The Cookie Rookie

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Blueberry French Toast Bake from Dinners and Desserts

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Wild Blueberry Orange Scones from Running to the Kitchen

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Sparkling Blueberry Lime Martini from Nutmeg Nanny

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Blueberry Lavender Fizz from Beard and Bonnet

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Easy Blueberry Pie (and How to Use a Pie Bird!) from The Weary Chef

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Orange Blueberry Whoopie Pies from Jen’s Favorite Cookies

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Blueberry Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting from Overtime Cook

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Blueberries and Cream Oatmeal from Kitchen Treaty

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Pickled Blueberry Panzanella Salad from Running to the Kitchen

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Blueberry Citrus Marble Brownies from Eat the Love

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Blueberry Salted Caramel Popsicles from The Healthy Maven

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Blueberry Blintzes from What Jew Wanna Eat

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Blueberry Coffee Cake from Kailley’s Kitchen

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Blueberry Coconut Bundt Cake from Life Love and Sugar

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Blueberry Salsa from Lemons for Lulu

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Blueberry Corn Salad from A Healthy Life for Me

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Blueberry Scone Muffins from Erren’s Kitchen

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Red White and Blueberry Popsicles from The View From Great Island

We couldn’t include all of our favorite Maine blueberry recipes here. To see more from our collection, check out our Pinterest board, “100 Ways to Cook with Blueberries,” for more creative ideas!

All photographs are courtesy of their respective blog owners, and are used with permission. Thanks for contributing!

Tagliatelle with Smoked Ham and Peas

When your wife is approximately 70 weeks pregnant, with a new baby due absolutely any day, how do you possibly keep your wits about you enough to cook dinner? Or for that matter, to do much of anything?

That first time around with a newborn, you don’t know what to expect. That’s by design; if we as humans had any inkling of what that first month of life as a new parent looks like, how little sleep you get, how loud a scream can be, how much poop you are perpetually covered in, we’d never have the guts to do it. That first time, we focus our thoughts on the bigger, existential questions, questions about how Our Lives Will Be Different, how We Have Responsibilities Now, and about How Many Sharp Corners the Coffee Table Has, without giving a lot of thought to the day-to-day mechanics.

The second time is different. You’re still scared silly, both for what it will mean for your current family, a rock-solid little three-pack that after almost three years, has grown incredibly resilient, flexible, and portable, and for the new life that is yours to shape, for better or for worse. Throwing that hand grenade of a newborn into the middle of a life that has just started to again become manageable and within your control seems even more foolhardy. The first time, you’re scared of the unknown of parenthood. The second time, the few known quantities that you do have experience with ratchet your fear up to all-new levels.

With all of that swimming through your head, that mix of pure, limitless joy, tempered with a healthy fear and respect for The Real occupying your every thought in the final hours before your partner and life mate goes in to have terrifying, miraculous medical procedures that will result in a whole new human being living in your house with you probably forever, how do you figure out how to put one foot in front of the other? More importantly, what do you make for dinner?

I’m keeping it super simple. Five ingredients, heated through. Onions. Garlic. Ham. Peas. Parmesan. A bit of starchy pasta water and butter for a quick pan sauce. Toss with really, really good pasta from the 50s-era Italian market down the street. Let good ingredients speak for themselves, and get out of the way. Coarse salt and fresh cracked pepper. Serve hot.

Slow down. Breathe. You can do this. You’ve already got the tools.

Tagliatelle with Smoked Ham and Peas

5 from 1 reviews

Tagliatelle with Smoked Ham and Peas
 
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Serves: Serves 4

Ingredients
  • 1 lb tagliatelle pasta
  • 3 tablespoone extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 5 oz thick-sliced smoked ham, trimmed of excess fat, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 1 cup cooked fresh or frozen peas
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Method
  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions start to turn translucent, about five minutes. Add garlic and cook on e minute more. Add the butter, ham and peas and cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through, about 3 minutes more. Reduce the heat to very low to keep warm.
  3. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water. Return the pasta to the pot. Add the sauce and the salt and pepper. Toss the pasta, adding enough of the pasta water to make a light sauce. Serve hot.

August Giveaway: “Portland Food: The Culinary Capital of Maine”

Few people are as well-acquainted with Portland, Maine’s rich food history as The Blueberry Files blogger Kate McCarty. McCarty talks to the chefs who are making food that means something to them; the shopkeepers, cooks, and bakers who are selling Portlanders their daily bread and scallops. She even goes all Hunter S. Thompson and makes cheese with cheese-makers. From the publisher:

“Portland, Maine’s culinary cache belies its size. The vibrant food scene boasts more than three hundred restaurants, as well as specialty food businesses, farmers’ markets, pop-up dinners and food trucks. Since back-to-the-landers began to arrive in the 1970s, Maine’s abundant natural resources have been feeding local dreams of sustainability and resilience. Portland is uniquely primed for chefs and restaurateurs to draw on local agricultural and marine resources. Gulf of Maine fisheries and the working waterfront bring the freshest seafood to Portland’s palate, while Maine’s rural landscape is fertile ground for local farming. Local food writer Kate McCarty taps into the evolution of this little foodie city. Dig into Portland’s bounty, from classic lobster and blueberry pie to the avant-garde of the culinary cutting edge. Explore the unique restaurants, farmers, producers, community activists and food enthusiasts that create and drive Portland’s food scene.”

It’s easy to enter this Giveaway. Just make sure you sign up for our mailing list, and you’ll be entered to win. Don’t worry: We won’t spam you, and it’s super easy to unsubscribe if you don’t like it. What’s more, we’ll throw in a free copy of our eCookbook, with our ten most popular recipes, just for subscribing! We’ll draw the winning name on Sunday, August 31st, 2014.

The winner of our July Giveaway, a copy of Sally Lerman’s “Lobster Rolls of New England,” was Debra D. from Newtown, PA! Congratulations, Debra!

Thai Chicken Larb

We don’t do a lot of Thai cooking at home, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear to me. In our house, we tend to think of Thai cooking as an option more when the weather is cold; the fiery curries and thick, creamy coconut sauces that make up the bulk of our typical Thai takeout order don’t exactly scream “summertime refreshment.”

Thai Chicken Larb

But why not? After all, it’s hotter than the sins of all blackest hell in Thailand most of the time, right? And the other flavors that we tend to associate with Thai cooking are certainly lighter. Lemongrass, cilantro, lime; they all carry a sense of fragrant freshness, of light meals in warm climates, of sweaty backs in linen shirts.

Thai Chicken Larb

We take our cue for Thai Larb, a mince of chicken, lemongrass, and Thai chiles, drizzled in Sriracha and scooped up with lettuce leaves, from the ancient, grizzled street vendors of Thailand, where a 20 baht note will buy you a quick meal, a shot of cobra’s blood, and an unforgettable weekend, provided you don’t let traditional Western notions of hygiene and gender identity get in your way.

Our recipe captures the spirit and history of that storied land, which is to say that it’s similar to how they make the “Chang’s Chicken Lettuce Wraps” at the P.F. Chang’s where I saw Alice Cooper that one time, located across from Flapper’s Discount Comedy Club in downtown Burbank. Enjoy.

Thai Chicken Larb

5 from 1 reviews

Thai Larb
 
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Serves: Serves 4

Ingredients
For the dressing:
  • ⅓ cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons (packed) light brown sugar
For the chicken:
  • 1½ pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 shallot, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons lemongrass paste
  • Zest from one lime
  • 1 small red Thai chile, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 8 small iceberg lettuce or hearts of romaine leaves
  • ¼ cup chopped peanuts
  • Sriracha, to taste
  • Cilantro leaves and stems, roughly torn

Method
For the dressing:
  1. Stir all ingredients in a small bowl to blend; set dressing aside.
For the chicken:
  1. Combine first 8 ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Add 1 tablespoon of oil, and pulse until chicken is chopped. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large heavy nonstick skillet over medium–high heat. Add chicken mixture and sauté, breaking into small bits, until chicken begins to brown, about 8 minutes.
  2. Place 2 lettuce leaves on each plate. Top leaves with chicken mixture, dividing evenly. Spoon dressing over the top of each cup, then finish with a drizzle of Sriracha, some chopped peanuts, and the fresh cilantro. Serve immediately.

Notes
Adapted from a recipe by Bon Appetit

14 Ways to Use Fresh, Seasonal Raspberries

It’s full-blown raspberry season! We like them by the handful straight from the basket, still warm from the sun…but it turns out that you can actually cook with them, too! Fresh raspberries are peaking right now, and they are better now than they’ll be all year. Here are a few of our favorite ideas for using raspberries, from a few of our favorite food blogs:

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Avocado Chocolate Mousse with Fresh Raspberries from The Cookie Rookie

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Triple Berry Punch Bowl Cake from The Kitchen is my Playground

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Lemon Raspberry Chia Pudding from The Healthy Maven

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Sugar Cookies with Nutella Frosting and Fresh Raspberries from This Mama Loves

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Raspberry Rose Sundaes from Dessert for Two

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Chocolate Cheesecake Stuffed Raspberries from Snappy Gourmet

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Double Chocolate Raspberry Filled Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache from Lexi’s Clean Kitchen

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Lemon Raspberry Bars from Two Peas and Their Pod

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Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake Tart from Chocolate Moosey

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Raspberry White Chocolate Macadamia Cake from The View From Great Island

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Chocolate Raspberry Fool from An Edible Mosaic

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Raspberry Chipotle Turkey Pocket Thins from Inside Brucrew Life

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Raspberry Yogurt Pops from One Sweet Appetite

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Raspberry Chocolate Cupcakes from Life, Love, and Sugar

All photographs are courtesy of their respective blog owners, and are used with permission. Thanks for contributing!