Road Food: Where We’re Eating in November

bombay bread bar
                                 via Bombay Bread Bar

During the Holidays we often finding ourselves spending more time eating out rather than cooking. And because this time of year is always a great excuse to try a new restaurant or a few with our loved ones, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite places to eat this month.

mcconnell's ice cream
                                via Los Angeles Magazine

I spent a chunk of time in Connecticut when I was working at Fine Cooking magazine, and for this Angeleno, two things took me completely by surprise: It almost always snows on April Fool’s Day, and the ice cream shops close in October. I’m a year-round ice cream eater (nightly isn’t unusual), and relish a trip to our local McConnell’s, even in November. I think I’ve tried them all, and it just doesn’t get any better than their Sea Salt Cream and Cookies. –Laurie, CEO + Founder 

coperta denver
                                               via 5280

Now that winter is practically upon us in Denver, I’m craving comfort food all day, every day. Enter: Coperta. This Southern Italian restaurant is cozy, unpretentious, and wonderfully authentic. They even import their sun-dried tomatoes from Italy! The pumpkin ravioli gives me all the fall feels, but the eggplant parmigiana is equally delicious. –Edie, Account Manager 

Bombay Bread Bar
                                          via Eater NY

It’s gotten downright chilly here in NYC, and I’m constantly craving curry. One of my favorite Indian curries is at Bombay Bread Bar. Their halibut, cauliflower and turmeric curry is just the thing to warm me up. –Netanya, Social Media Manager 

Noodle Village
                                         via Blackboard Eats

One of my favorite things to do in NYC when it’s cold outside is get soup dumplings and noodle soup. A spot in Chinatown I absolutely love is Noodle Village. Their menu is extensive, but every dish feels like a warm hug. Get the soup dumplings, house fried rice, noodle soup, and congee! -Anna, Brand Strategist 

 

Cooking the Books: Books to Give

cookbooks

 

When the malls are getting you down, and you’ve still got a few hard-to-shop-for folks on your list, take our advice and turn to cookbooks. Who doesn’t love a cookbook?

Here are three of our favorites, from influencers who hold a special place in our hearts— and kitchens!

smitten kitchen everyday cookbook

Smitten Kitchen

We are die-hard fans of Deb Perelman and have enjoyed her blog for years, so when she came out with a new cookbook called Smitten Kitchen Every Day, we were first in line. It’s filled with delicious and easy recipes for a date night in, a Sunday supper with friends, or a busy weeknight meal.

not without salt

Not without Salt

When Ashley Rodriguez turned her weekly dinner date with her husband into a cookbook titled “Date Night In,” we couldn’t get enough of the fun ideas. And now, her  latest cookbook, Let’s Stay In, expands on the concept with recipes to cook for the family. We can’t wait to get our hands on a copy.

kale and caramel cookbook

Kale and Caramel

Lily Diamond from Kale & Caramel has turned her blog in to a beautiful cookbook filled with wonderful recipes and do-it-yourself beauty products. Her book isn’t just recipes, though, it’s a kind of guide to all the ways we can connect to nature through food.

What’s your favorite cookbook to give away during the Holidays?

5 Things You Didn’t Know About…

michelle lopez

Michelle Lopez began baking to cope with the stress of college and eventually launched her blog, Hummingbird High in 2011 Now she’s a two time Saveur Magazine “Best Baking Blog” winner and continues to wow us with the most incredible desserts. And today, we’re so excited to include her in our 5 Things series. So without further ado, here’s 5 Things you might not know about Michelle…

  1. I moved around a lot throughout my childhood and my 20s. I’ve lived in 4 countries, 5 states, and 8 cities total. Now I’m happy to call Portland, Oregon, home forever — at least, that’s what I say, but who knows if that’ll end up being true. 🙂
  2. I only have one food allergy: pumpkin seeds. I can eat the rest of the pumpkin just fine though!
  3. I don’t own a car. I commute everywhere by foot or bicycle, rain or shine! I once even biked from the East Coast to the West Coast (I started in Portland, Maine, and ended up in Vancouver, Canada).
  4. Before I became a full-time blogger, I worked in tech for 5+ years as an engineer. My new cookbook is all about how I balanced my job and my blog, focusing on dessert recipes you can make quickly on a weeknight!
  5. My college degree wasn’t food-related, art-related, or even tech-related; I actually majored in economics, and I wrote a thesis that argued that taxing airlines could decrease flight delays.
  6. I’m a big Harry Potter nerd and according to JK Rowling’s official website, my house is Ravenclaw.
  7. One of my bucket list items is to cycle the entire length of the Ring Road in Iceland.

Brand Biz: Redesigning? Here’s what you need to know from an SEO pro

At CookIt, we help bloggers think outside the blog format—we help them think bigger! Often, this means that the blogger needs to redesign her blog in order to build a “house” big enough for all her ideas. But what about all the traffic and links she’s built up over the years? What if she wants to change the name and domain of her brand?

We went to Arsen Rabinovich, founder of Top Hat Rank, a digital marketing agency with expertise in SEO, for the answers to these and other questions.

How risky is it to change your domain/url if you want to change the name of your blog?

Arsen: We try to avoid changing URLs as much as possible. However, sometimes you just can’t, like when changing your domain name during a re-brand.  For this specific reason, Google provided us a “change of address” procedure and submission through Google’s Search Console (http://bit.ly/2zV16Fd). When doing this, both sites need to be up at the same time. You’ll need to validate the new domain via Search Console and update the old domain with redirects (301) from the old domain to new domain.

What about a blogger’s links — can she take them with her?

Arsen: Yes, if the migration was implemented properly, the redirects will continue to pass “authority” from external backlinks to your new site. Accurately handled redirects are vital!

Does SEO play a role in the redesign process? If so, when? How?

Arsen: Not so much in the design process. We tell our clients to go through the design process without getting us (SEOs) involved. You want to design for the user, for the conversion, NOT for SEO. Once the site is wire framed/designed, we come in and mark it up with proper HTML and schema before it goes into production (coding the design into a theme).

Any tips on plug-ins bloggers should be using in their redesigns?

Arsen: The premium version of Yoast SEO is probably the best SEO plugin for WordPress. However, if you are using another plugin and it’s working, I would not recommend swapping it out. Always make sure your plugins are up to date. Not paying attention to this will create many issues and in some case get your website hacked.  So keep them updated.

We know SEO is a long game, but how long until a blogger begins to see results after the redesign?

Arsen: Again, when handled correctly, your redesign should not only retain rankings but help the site grow further. Post-launch, keep an eye on your Search Console to make sure that the daily pages crawled by Google (http://bit.ly/2zT9JjO)  are always trending upwards. This is a good indicator of a successful migration.  

Cooking the Books: Thanksgiving Classics

You know it’s November when you start digging out those tried and true Thanksgiving recipes passed down to you from your mother and your grandmother. There’s always the classic pumpkin pie or the sweet potato casserole with fluffy marshmallows that you can’t help but make each year because come on, it’s tradition!

There’s no way to get around the classics, so we’ve rounded up our favorite classic recipes (with a twist!) from our favorite cookbooks!

The Prize-Winning Turkey

Unfortunately more often than not, too many Thanksgiving turkeys suffer from dried turkey syndrome. Enter Samin Nosrat’s spatchcocked turkey recipe from her cookbook, “Salt, Acid, Fat, Heat.” The secret is seasoning it two days before and using lots of herbs and butter.

The Creamiest Mashed Potatoes

We would trust Julia Child with our lives so of course we had to include her famous garlic mashed potato recipe from her cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking: Volume 1. It includes a rich béchamel sauce and lots and lots of garlic.

Not Your Traditional Pumpkin Pie

You’ve heard of pumpkin pie, but why not try something different this year like carrot pie from Joshua McFadden’s Six Seasons cookbook? Topped with candied ginger and toasted pecans, it’s sure to be a hit.

Cranberry Sauce That’s Here to Stay

Most of our childhood memories involve cranberry sauce from a can, but when made from scratch it’s so delicious! It also makes for great leftover turkey sandwiches the day after Thanksgiving. One of our favorite cranberry recipes comes from Nigel Slater who references Glynn Christian’s “Real Flavours” version that’s served warm with additions of roasted black peppercorns, mace and lemon, grated orange or cardamom.

What are your favorite cookbook recipes this Thanksgiving?

Road Food: Where We’re Eating

 

via 5280 magazine

Since we’re not only foodies here at CookIt, but also travelers, we are always discovering new and delicious places in our hometowns and when we travel. Here are some of the places we’ve been lately and can’t help raving about!

via Westside Today

I was lucky enough to spend a couple of weekends in Palm Springs recently, the perfect antidote to LA sometimes! There was plenty of pool time and vintage shopping, but also a couple of great meals: Workshop Kitchen + Bar and Mister Parker’s were the standouts! Workshop has one of the town’s prettiest patios, and offers creative, seasonal dishes that really deliver. Mister Parker’s, located in the Parker hotel, is a crazy mix of dark wood, flea market art, loud classic rock and traditional French favorites, like steak au poivre. Only Jonathan Adler could pull it off! Laurie, CEO + Founder

via The Village Alliance

I didn’t think I was a frozen yogurt fan until I tried Culture: An American Yogurt Company in the West Village.  Now I want to go every week! They rotate their flavors each week and my favorite combo lately is the dark chocolate with balsamic strawberries. Netanya, Social Media Manager

via Morgan Lone Photography

It feels like we’ve had a slew of visitors lately, giving us an excuse to go to some of our fave and impressive spots. La Esquina’s Brasserie is definitely one of our top picks to impress out-of-towners. When you walk up, it looks like a small diner-like taco spot (which is also very good), but once you go through a door and down some stairs, you’ll come across a massive hidden restaurant. Order a bunch of appetizers, tacos, and cocktails and you’ll be set. Don’t forget about the Elotes Callejeros too! Anna, Brand Strategist

via Star Chefs

We rarely go out for Chinese food, but Denver’s Hop Alley has been a recent game-changer. This modern (yet unpretentious) Chinese restaurant features spicy shared plates and creative cocktails. I’m all about their veggie fried rice, but my husband swears by the Beijing duck roll. Edie, Account Manager

What’s Cooking: November

fall produce

We love this time of year because the produce is abundant and there are so many wonderful things to make! We’ve been spending our free time in the kitchen making large bowls of comforting pasta and soup, roasting our favorite fall veggies, and enjoying sweets with apple, pumpkin and cinnamon. In addition, we’ve been trying out some new recipes like these…

malaysian fried rice

 

A bunch of years back, Zak Pelaccio was cooking the most amazing Malaysian food at Fatty Crab in New York. I was at Fine Cooking magazine at the time, which gave me license to ask him for the recipe for his Malaysian Chicken and Rice (ha!). An eye-opening concoction of tender chicken pieces, crispy rice, fish sauce, ginger and green onions, its name belies its complexity and deliciousness. We still make it every little while, and darn if it isn’t as good as ever. Laurie, CEO + Founder

winter-squash-agrodolce

As a child, I hated squash but now I embrace it. There are so many things you can do with it whether it be roasting it with butter and sage, making a creamy squash soup or my favorite way: roasted and dressed with agridolce like this recipe here. Netanya, Social Media Manager

Now that it’s finally fall and whole lot cooler, I’m breaking out my pasta maker for some comforting bowls of pasta and homemade sauces. This Bolognese recipe is heavenly! Anna, Brand Strategist

Shameless plug, but I’ve been making my curried butternut squash soup on repeat. This soup is easy to throw together, forgiving, and versatile the best of kind of recipe. If I don’t have leeks on hand, I’ll use a yellow onion. If I’m in the mood for spice, I’ll add a tablespoon of red curry paste. Plus, this soup makes delicious leftovers! Edie, Account Manager

5 Things You Didn’t Know About…

Laurie Buckle

She is our constant go-to for new playlists,  a supportive boss who is always encouraging us to think bigger and a resource for all things food. Our #CookItCrew wouldn’t exist without her and we’re so happy to share 5 things you might have not known about her today!

  1. I’m a better eater than cook — a skill I learned when I worked at Bon Appétit, and we had to go to recipe testings twice a day. Each editor at the table had to describe in detail  what they liked or didn’t like about the dish, and how to fix it. The pressure!
  2. Bananas are the bain of my existence. I live in fear of finding them in smoothies, acai bowls, fruit salads, anywhere.
  3. Of all the apps on my phone, I love Shazam the best. I’m always making a playlist.
  4. Baking isn’t a strong suit, but I make one cake very well: Wolfgang Puck’s Gateau au Chocolat. It’s from his 1981 book, Modern French Cooking for the American Kitchen (I’ve made a mess of page 221!), and it never gets old.
  5. I spent 32 years in the corporate world before I realized I wanted to be an entrepreneur. Fancy that!

Brand Biz: Tell Me a Story

olena

“Laurie’s big on creating story, which was completely new to me. She said, ‘Olena, you need your story, and you do have your story, like a very unique story. But you have to tell it. Like, you have to say it.’ ”

–Olena Osipov, iFoodReal

Well, you got that right, Olena! We ARE big on story over here.

We loved listening to Olena tell us her story on Food Blogger Pro, from immigrating from Kiev, Ukraine to a small town in Canada when she was 19 (with $100 in her pocket!) to dreaming big and buying her new waterfront home on Vancouver Island with its own studio. That’s what you call making it!

We also loved working with Olena to help her find her brand story, the one that ultimately helped her find her way, better understand her audience, reshape her content strategy and rebuild her website. She’s a graduate of our Brand Bootcamp, and we couldn’t be more proud of her.

What is Brand Bootcamp?

The CookIt Brand Bootcamp is an immersive, one-on-one course in how to shape, position and build your brand. Working with you to understand your goals and vision, we build a blueprint for your growth, ensuring you have all the tools and resources you need to take the next steps and become the influential, successful brand you are meant to be!

How does it work?

We start with your story (of course we do!). Getting there is a process, one that begins with a conversation/interview (as we try to get to the heart of what you believe in, and love to do). From there we go on to research your competition and evaluate your marketplace opportunity, summing up our work in a Positioning Statement that details the “what, who and why” behind your brand story. And that’s just session one!

A deep dive into your current audience sets us up to identify your Target Audience—those new readers who will be key to your growth and expansion. Once we know who we’re talking to, we can work on your Brand Voice, which comprises your personal voice, the brand itself and any team members you work with. How your brand talks to your readers is a defining element of who you are.

Content Strategy and Site Structure are up next. In these two sessions, we build out your plan for growth, helping you transition from blog to a larger, more impactful online resource, more like a magazine. Working with your story, we help you think bigger, and apply that thinking to your content, site design and user experience. By the time we’re done, you’ll have a plan that easily translates to wireframes and a site refresh.

Our last session covers content Production, as well as Growth Strategy. We help you better understand how to create a process for planning and producing content for your new site. (Spoiler alert: We’re big on monthly content themes and planning six months to a year out!) As for your growth, we’ll consider multiple ways to take your story “on the road,” from a podcast to a cookbook to a newsletter series.

Is It Right for You?

Brand Bootcamp is work! It requires guts, determination and a willingness to let go of some things and see others from a new perspective. You’ll come away from the experience with a refreshed way of thinking about what you do, why you do it, and who you do it for. We’ll find your story—the one you will go on to tell the world!

To listen to others who’ve graduated from Brand Bootcamp, head over to Food Blogger Pro and tune into Bjork’s interviews with Meggan Hill and Jessica Gavin. And to hear my chat with Bjork about perfecting your story, listen here.

Cooking the Books: Eating Local by Sur La Table

Cooking the Books

There’s something quite magical about a cookbook that speaks right to your soul, particularly when it’s gifted.

Enter: Sur La Table’s Eating Local. I love this cookbook for many reasons, but mainly because my mom gave it to me when I needed it most in college. I was (very) new to the kitchen, surviving off of eggs, sandwiches, cookies, and coffee. Convenience tipped the scale since time was short. As it happened, I discovered the farmer’s market shortly after the book arrived, and the rest is history.

While I’ve made a handful of delicious recipes from Eating Local, I mostly pull it out for inspiration. If you’re like me, and you’re big on sustainability, supporting your local farmers, and eating seasonally, then this cookbook is for you. I shop at the farmer’s market during the summer months, and subscribe to our local CSA in the winter. Sometimes, though, I draw a blank when our box arrives. Soup? Chili? Gratin? Thankfully, this cookbook never disappoints.

Eating Local also provides year-round tips for storing, preparing, and preserving the best of each season, motivating me to waste as little food as possible. I’m focused on the book’s root veggie dishes right now. Bring it on, fall.