Not long ago, when a busy cook needed a tried-and-true recipe for dinner, he or she called mom.
Now, savvy cooks make a beeline for the computer and their favorite food-related blog.
Short for "Web logs" these online journals connect cooks to new recipes, dining experiences and people with a similar passion.
Over the past few years the number of food blogs has grown exponentially, said Cate O'Malley, with the Well Fed Network, a clearinghouse for several food-related blogs. Dozens of those are maintained by Utah residents.
The ability to interact with the author is one of the reasons blogs are so popular. Readers can ask questions, post their own comments and be heard.
"One of the most powerful things about the Internet is that it is a two-way process," explained Stuart Melling, who reviews Utah restaurants on his two-year-old blog, gastronomicslc.com. "You're asking people to join in the conversation."
Melling said being able to write as much as he wants about a restaurant and to show a photograph of every dish he tries is invaluable for people trying to decide where to dine.
"You can make it as expansive as you want," he said.
No matter your interest, there is a blog for you, from baking and entertaining to food storage and even food allergies.
In April 2005, Kalyn Denny launched kalynskitchen.blogspot.com, making her one of Utah's first food bloggers. Since then her site, which offers low-glycemic recipes for those who follow the South Beach Diet, has become one of the country's most popular blogs, especially this time of year when people are dieting and looking for healthy recipes. In 2007, the site was selected as the best themed food blog by the Well Fed Network. It has been nominated for a similar award this year.
Denny said food blogging has evolved. No longer do people want a journal of what you ate for dinner.
"You've got to have a niche," she said.
Laura Powell of South Jordan had been following cooking and recipes blogs for several months when she decided to launch realmomkitchen.blogspot.com in April 2008.
Powell said many of the blogs she followed were well written and looked enticing, but the recipes had unusual ingredients that required an extra trip to a specialty store. That was something Powell, a mother of three -- ages 5, 9 and 12 -- just didn't have time to do. "Any mom in any kitchen could make my recipes," she said.
Powell's blog has resonated with many not-so-skilled cooks who in the down-turned economy have decided to prepare simple meals at home. In just over nine months, the site has gathered enough page views to charge for advertising. "It's amazing to me that all these people in different countries are looking at my little blog here in Utah," she said.
Camaraderie was what prompted Heather Olson and six of her friends to create www.feastingfriends.blogspot.com. About three years ago, the women had been part of a monthly cooking club that experimented with new recipes. But when members got married, moved to other states or started having children it became more difficult to keep the group together. They developed the blog to help maintain their friendships.
"Even though we are all far away," said Olson, "we always feel like our friends are close."
Chickpea soup with spinach, tomatoes and basil
» 1 cup dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans), soaked at least 8 hours or overnight in cold water
» 6 cups homemade chicken stock or 4 cans chicken or vegetable broth
» 1 yellow onion, diced
» 6 to 8 cloves garlic, diced very small
» 1 tablespoon olive oil, approximate
» 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
» 3 to 4 cups chopped baby spinach (measure before chopping)
» 2 to 4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
» Salt to taste
» Black pepper to taste
» Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, optional garnish
Soak chickpeas overnight or for at least 8 hours in cold water. Drain and discard water. Remove any loose skins.
Put chickpeas in heavy soup pot with chicken stock. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until tender, about one hour. Use a spoon to remove any foam that appears.
Heat olive oil in heavy frying pan, add onions and saute about 5 minutes, until soft. Add garlic and cook 2 to 3 minutes more. When chickpeas are tender, add onions and garlic to soup pot along with diced tomatoes. Simmer on low about 30 minutes.
Stir in chopped spinach, adding a bit more water or chicken stock if needed. Simmer 15 to 30 minutes more.
With a hand-held immersion blender, break up ingredients slightly. (Or put about 1?3 of the soup into a food processor or blender and pulse a few times.) Skip this step for a chunkier soup.
Stir in chopped basil and cook 5 minutes. Season with salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste and serve hot. Ladle into bowls and top with cheese.
Servings » 6
Source: Kalyn Denny, kalynskitchen.blogspot.com
» 1 1/2 cups beef broth
» 1 cup water
» 1/2 teaspoon salt, optional or to taste
» 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
» 1 teaspoon dried oregano
» 1 teaspoon dried basil
» 1 teaspoon onion salt
» 1 teaspoon dried parsley
» 1 teaspoon garlic powder
» 1 bay leaf
» 1 (.7 ounce) package dry Italian-style salad dressing mix (such as Good Seasons brand)
» 1 (5 pound) chuck roast
» Crusty rolls, split
» Mozzarella or provolone cheese, shredded
Combine water and beef broth with salt, ground black pepper, oregano, basil, onion salt, parsley, garlic powder, bay leaf, and salad dressing mix. Whisk to combine. Place roast in slow cooker, and pour salad dressing mixture over the meat. Cover, and cook on low 10 to 12 hours, or on high for 4 to 5 hours. Remove bay leaf, and shred meat with a fork. Return meat to the slow cooker so meat can absorb some of the juices.
To serve, heat broiler. Place some shredded cheese on bottom half of each roll. Place under the broiler until cheese is melted and bread is slightly toasted. Top with shredded meat and top half of a roll.
Source: Laura Powell, realmomkitchen.blogspot.com
» Nonstick cooking spray
» 1 (package) 2-layer-size yellow or white cake mix
» 1/2 cup butter, softened
» 3 eggs
» 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
» 1/2 to 1 teaspoon butter flavoring, optional
» 4 cups sifted powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9-inch-by-13-inch pan with cooking spray. Set aside.
In medium mixing bowl, beat cake mix, butter and one egg with electric mixer on low speed until mixture is crumbly. Pat into bottom of prepared pan; set aside.
In medium mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, remaining eggs and, if desired, butter flavoring. Beat until smooth. Add powdered sugar and beat on low speed until well combined. Spread on top of crust in pan.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until filling is set and golden brown. Cool in pan on wire rack. (The filling will fall when it's cooled.) Cut into bars. Store, covered, in refrigerator.
Servings » 16 bars