Monthly Archives: March 2015

March 2015 Wrap-Up

march-15-wrap-up-1March cruised by, just like every month.  Here in Salt Lake the exceptionally warm weather this year has me ready for spring even earlier than usual, and I’ve been dreaming of lemon bars and Easter treats.

Before I get too carried away, though, I want to take a minute to revisit March and all the recipes I created for you.

My favorite recipe of the month was a toss up between the Crispy Kit Kat Blondies and the Chocolate Peanut Butter Magic Bars.  If I’m really forced to choose, I would say the magic bars, but know that they are in a statistical dead heat.

The Mint Crinkles appeared to by your favorite recipe this month.  I had a lot of good feedback on these cookies, since they are so easy to make and fun for St. Patrick’s Day.

mint-crinkles (4 of 4) Mint Crinkles

The Cookie of the Month for March, these simple cake mix
cookies are flavored with mint and rolled in powdered sugar.

seo-tips-3 5 SEO Tips & Tricks for Food Bloggers

A departure from my normal dessert recipes, this post is for
my food-blogging friends, who might benefit from a little

skittles-soda (11 of 11) Skittles Soda

This might be the easiest recipe I have ever made.  And one
of the most fun!  My kids loved making their sodas different
colors and flavors!

lemon-thumbprints (3 of 5) Lemon Thumbprints

These lemon cookies gave me a very good excuse to make a
delicious jar of lemon curd!

carrot-cookies-3 Carrot Cake Cookies

These babies are filled with the Carrot Cake flavor M&M’s!
They are a fun choice for the Easter season.

blood-orange-scones-2 Blood Orange Scones

When blood oranges are in season, one must bake with them.
These buttermilk scones really hit the spot!

crispy-kit-kat-blondies-5 Crispy Kit Kat Blondies

Chocolate chips and Kit Kat bars are not the only things that
give these bars their interest.  They are also made crispy with
the help of some crisp rice cereal.

chocolate-peanut-butter-magic-bars-2 Chocolate Peanut Butter Magic Bars

Chocolate Peanut Butter Day was really fun to celebrate with
these easy to make, soft and gooey bars!

sparkling-blackberry-limeade (4 of 6) Sparkling Blackberry Limeade

When regular old limeade isn’t good enough, throw some
blackberries in that baby!

Curious to know what’s coming up in April?  Cheesecake.  The easy kind.  And more recipes using sweetened condensed milk. And a new Cookie of the Month. And a few other fun surprises.

I mean, I can’t give everything away, can I?

And have we connected on Pinterest yet?  Because we totally should.


The winner of the March Cookie of the Month giveaway is Allison S!  Thanks for sharing these on my Facebook page, Allison!  Allison said this about the cookies…  “We loved these cookies! I made them because they were easy and I had all of the ingredients, but I think they’ll be a staple around here. My 7 year old said, “I think these are my favorite cookies ever!”

See you in April, folks!

Sparkling Blackberry Limeade

This limeade recipe includes blackberries.  A sparkling blackberry limeade recipe that is so refreshing for summer!

sparkling-blackberry-limeade (4 of 6)You know how much I love blackberries, right?  If there was any question, you can see a few more blackberry recipes here.

The idea of adding blackberry to my limeade just seemed perfect.

I prefer limeade over lemonade, personally.  I actually asked my readers about it.  You can weigh in, too, if you want.

I recently learned that my sister, at her new house, has blackberry bushes that are taking over the yard. Robb and I are super jealous.  He’s been wanting to plant blackberries, since they are our favorite berry by far.  Then we can freeze them and have them all year, in smoothies, and cobblers, and drinks like this one.

(See related post:  Sparkling Peach Limeade)


I’m one of these people that thinks you can always make things just a little bit better.  Robb, who hates veggies and won’t let a piece of lettuce anywhere near his face, gets mad at me for this stuff.  I’m always wanting to add onions or garlic or some kind of sauce to his food, and he is always begging me to remove things from the recipes.

He never complains when I add blackberries to the limeade though.  Go figure.


Since these are made as individual servings, you can make each glass with more or less berries, or leave them out altogether if you want.

sparkling-blackberry-limeade (6 of 6)

I don’t know why you would leave them out, though. Blackberries are one of the best reasons for living!


Want more?  Try these refreshing drinks!



Sparkling Blackberry Limeade
A simple limeade with fresh blackberries.
Recipe type: Beverages
  • 1 can frozen limeade concentrate, thawed in the refrigerator
  • 2 quarts lemon lime soda (or more)
  • fresh blackberries
  1. For each glass, place 2-3 berries in a small dish and smash them with a fork. (Be careful! This can be a little messy.) I used 2 berries for an 8 oz. glass, and 3 berries for a 12 oz. glass. Place the smashed berries in an empty glass.
  2. Put limeade concentrate in a pitcher, and fill to 2 quarts with lemon lime soda. Lightly stir if necessary.
  3. Pour limeade into glasses.
* For a less sweet drink, use diet soda.
** If you don't mind a slightly weaker flavor, fill 2 or 3 glasses, then fill up the pitcher with more lemon lime soda.


Chocolate Peanut Butter Magic Bars

These chocolate peanut butter bars are simple to make and sprinkled with lots of great stuff!  Try these chocolate peanut butter magic bars when you want to impress someone.

March 25 is Chocolate Peanut Butter Day!  This fun, 2nd annual event is hosted by Carla from Chocolate Moosey and Miriam from Overtime Cook.  Look for links to more chocolate peanut butter recipes at the bottom of this post.

chocolate-peanut-butter-barsWe’re now at the point in our lives where the kids weekend get togethers with friends sometimes include friends of the opposite sex.

It always adds a fun wrinkle to the weekends.

It also is the single thing on this planet I have found which motivates The Fruitarian to clean his bedroom.  It also motivates him to hound me about making treats for date night.  Apparently he’s told his friends about the blog, and now everyone is demanding amazing sweets.

I recently made a different batch of magic bars (this one with raspberry!) and they turned out SO delicious, but alas, too ugly for my high blogging standards.  It’s actually sort of funny that I just said that, because, let’s face it, my standards are not that high.

BUT, it did make me want to try again to make a magic bar that was not too ugly to photograph.


I do kind of love how these turned out.  They don’t have that perfectly gorgeous, not-one-peanut-out-of-place feel, but they do make me want to dive in face first nonetheless.

It’s exactly what I did, by the way.  Face first.  No lie.

I’m sure The Fruitarian’s friends thought I was nuts that I had to photograph these bars before I served them.  But they were patient enough.  It’s worth it for chocolate and peanut butter.


Just about anything is worth it for chocolate and peanut butter.  And you know who agrees with me?  These bloggers!  They made amazing chocolate peanut butter treats for you too!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Bites by Carla from Chocolate Moosey
Peanut Butter Cup Cookies by Miriam from Overtime Cook
Chocolate Peanut Butter Twix Cake by Susan from The Girl In The Little Red Kitchen
{Healthy} Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Oat Bars by Kayle from The Cooking Actress
Chocolate Drizzled Peanut Butter Tiger Paws by Renee from Kudos Kitchen by Renee
Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Dip by Becca from It’s Yummi
Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cake by Erin from The Spiffy Cookie
No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie by Lisa from Snappy Gourmet
Espresso Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting and a Rum Drizzle by Barb from Creative Culinary
Chocolate Peanut Butter Tandy Cake by Cindy from Cindy’s Recipes and Writings
Chocolate-Glazed Peanut Butter-Stuffed Doughnuts by Coleen from The Redhead Baker
4 Ingredient Chocolate & Peanut Butter Candy by Colleen from Souffle Bombay
Ganache-Stuffed Peanut Butter Bars by Karen from The Food Charlatan
Microwave Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Pancakes by Taylor from Food Faith Fitness
Flourless Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Icing by Shashi from Runnin Srilankan
Chocolate Filled Peanut Butter Cookie Cups by Stacy from Food Lust People Love
Peanut Butter Filled Chocolate Lava Cakes by Anita from Hungry Couple
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Ice Cream by Renee from Magnolia Days
Crispy Chocolate Peanut Butter Energy Bites by Lauren from Healthy Delicious
Tagalong Dip by Liz from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake Nancy from gotta get baked
Small Batch Chocolate Peanut Butter Doughnuts by Sarah from What Smells So Good?
Funky Monkey Banana Chocolate Peanut Butter Energy Balls by Brianne from Cupcakes & Kale Chips
Chocolate Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies by Diane from Created by Diane
Chocolate, Peanut Butter, & Roasted Banana Shake by Jennie from The Messy Baker
Chocolate Peanut Butter Magic Bars by Jen from Jen’s Favorite Cookies
Chocolate Doughnuts with Peanut Butter Glaze by Lauren from Lauren Kelly Nutrition

Have fun sifting through this list.  I know I will!


Want more?  Try these chocolate peanut butter treats!

peanut-butter-chocolate-cakepeanut-butter-cookiesnutella dessert recipes


4.5 from 2 reviews
Chocolate Peanut Butter Magic Bars
Cook time
Total time
An easy and rich chocolate and peanut butter bar.
Recipe type: Bars
Serves: 12
  • 1 box chocolate cake mix
  • ½ cup butter, melted
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk, 14 oz.
  • ½ cup peanut butter
  • ½ cup peanuts (I used the lightly salted kind)
  • ½ cup chocolate chips
  • ½ cup peanut butter chips
  • ½ cup crisp rice cereal
  1. Place cake mix and melted butter in a mixing bowl, and mix until mixture is wet and a little crumbly. Press into a greased or lined 9x13 pan.
  2. Pour sweetened condensed milk over the chocolate mixture, spreading if necessary to reach to the edges.
  3. Place peanut butter in the microwave for 30 seconds, to melt. Pour peanut butter over the sweetened condensed milk.
  4. Sprinkle with peanuts, chips, and cereal, pressing down if necessary. Bake at 350F for 30-40 minutes. Let cool completely before cutting into 12 large or 20 small bars. (Bars may be a bit soft and gooey.)


Crispy Kit Kat Blondies

This recipe for blondies will knock your socks off, with Kit Kats and crisp rice cereal!  Blondies cookies bars with chocolate chips.

blondies-cookiesRecently, two nieces had birthdays.  I love letting my nieces and nephews come up with a custom cookie for their birthdays.  Not only does it let me makes something super fun that’s just for them, but it pushes my own creativity.

Usually I ask them to choose some flavors they like, and I find a way to combine them into a cookie.  One niece chose raspberry and chocolate, and the other, Blue Skies chose “Kit Kat.”

Her mom confessed that she wasn’t at all sure what I could do with a flavor request like that, but I think I won her over with this recipe.

I’ll tell you that the day I made these, I was baking up a storm. With at least 4 different baked good sitting on my counter, these blondies were the thing everyone wanted to pick at.

Myself included.

(See the flavors Blue Skies chose last year!)


Add these to your Cookies and Bars board on Pinterest!

I started with my fantastic basic blondie recipe, the one I used for these super popular bars.

I think my brilliant plan of adding crisp rice cereal to these blondies worked perfectly.  It gave the bars that crispy, wafery, Kit-Kat feel to them, and sets them apart.  In a good way.

Blue Skies agreed.


If you’ve got some candy bar-loving people in your life, or you want to surprise someone with a bar that stands just a little taller than it’s peers, this bar is your winner.

Does anyone want to make these for me on my birthday?


Want more?  Try these fabulous bars!

how-to-make-blondiesTwix-Cheesecake-Bars-fbnutella dessert recipes


Crispy Kit Kat Blondies
Cook time
Total time
A crispy blondie bar with pieces of Kit Kat candy.
Recipe type: Bars
Serves: 20
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • i teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ cup crisp rice cereal
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 2 regular Kit-Kat bars
  1. Cream butter and sugars. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well.
  2. Add baking powder and flour and mix until combined. Add cereal and chocolate chips and mix until combined.
  3. Break Kit Kat bars into pieces. (I broke each of the 4 sticks into about 6 pieces, for 24 pieces total for each Kit Kat.) Add pieces to the dough, and stir just until combined.
  4. Place dough in a 9x13 pan, and spread evenly. Bake at 350F for 30-40 minutes. Bars should be quite brown on top when done. Let cool completely before cutting into bars. (They may look a bit gooey when they come out of the oven, but should solidify as they cool.)
  5. Cut into 15 large or 20 small bars.


Blood Orange Scones

If you like blood orange recipes, you’ll love these scones! Learn how to bake scones with buttermilk and blood oranges.

how-to-bake-sconesI have been wanting to make some blood orange recipes for a while now, if for no other reason than that blood oranges are so beautiful!

I mean, really, when you cut it open and see that deep blood red color, how can you not fall in love?

Scones have been a favorite at our house ever since I introduced my kids to the White Chocolate Coconut Buttermilk Scones.  I’m starting to feel nervous about making that recipe again, since the memory of it has reached such epic proportions I’m not certain the reality can match up.

Wait a minute, what am I saying?  There’s buttermilk in them.  Which makes them impervious to haters and picky eaters.  Not unlike this blood orange version.

Crisis averted.


Add this recipe to your Pinterest board!

You can actually bake scones in separate pieces, like these, but I really prefer to bake them in one big mass, and cut them up afterward.  I think it’s because I like my scones to be a triangle.

Is there any real reason for that?  No there’s not.


While you can certainly serve them plain, I will confess that I prefer these scones with a glaze on them, to really help that blood orange flavor shine through.

The gorgeous pink color ain’t half bad either!

Blood Orange Scones

A flavorful buttermilk scone made with blood oranges.
Cook Time40 mins
Servings: 8 pieces
Author: Jen @ Jen's Favorite Cookies


For Scones:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 4 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 blood orange
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk

For Glaze:

  • 1 tablespoon blood orange juice
  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar


  • In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Add butter. Using a pastry cutter or your hands, cut butter into the flour mixture, until slightly crumbly. (It's okay if it is still mostly powdery and the butter pieces are somewhat large.)
  • Add the zest and juice of one blood orange, (about 3 tablespoons of juice) and buttermilk, and mix until dough forms a ball.
  • Form dough into a flat disc, about 8 inches in diameter, and place on a baking sheet. Bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven, and slice into 8 triangles. Separate pieces so there is a little space between them, and return to oven for an additional 10 minutes, until edges are sightly brown.
  • For glaze, combine juice and powdered sugar, mixing until smooth. Spread a small amount of glaze on each scone. Serve while warm.


Carrot Cake Cookies

This carrot cake cookies recipe uses fresh carrots, white chocolate, and M&M’s for a fun springtime treat!

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #MMsCarrotCake #CollectiveBias


My sister recently berated me for not having a carrot cake recipe on my site, and then she proceeded to give me one.  Did you see it?

After that humiliation, I decided it was time to right that wrong and have more carrot-themed desserts available for you, my dear readers.

I guess it was perfect timing then, that I stumbled across this package of M&M’s® Carrot Cake flavor at Walmart.  I’ll be honest, I was a little leery about trying this flavor.  It sounded a touch unusual.  But the white chocolate put me over the edge, and I bought a package to try.

I was glad I did.  I was surprised how much I liked them, since I’m kind of an M&M’s® purist.  I think it’s tough to beat the good old original plain M&M’s®.

(See related post: Monster Cookies)


Pin this to your Easter Celebration board on Pinterest!

I pulled a couple carrots out of the fridge and put together these fun and easy cookies.  I was far too lazy to make cream cheese frosting for them, so I mixed in some white chocolate chips instead.

Scratch that.  What I meant to say is, these cookies are so simple, they don’t need cream cheese frosting.  Yeah, that’s it.  *ahem*

But they do need white chocolate chips.  They kind of give a nod to the frosting, without actually having to frost anything.


The kids were surprised at how delicious these cookies were.  Which always irritates me.  I think the presence of carrots made them suspicious.

The Fruitarian called them “surprisingly delicious.”


If you’re up for a nice surprise too, you can look for a display like this in the Easter candy section at your local Walmart.  And don’t forget to grab a couple carrots!


Want more?  Try these fun flavors!

easy-hummingbird-cakecarrot-cake-recipechocolate chip banana bread cookies


Carrot Cake Cookies
Cook time
Total time
A carrot cake cookie with white chocolate chips and Carrot Cake M&M's.
Recipe type: Cookies
Serves: 3 dozen
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup grated fresh carrots (about 2-3 carrots)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • dash cloves
  • ½ cup quick oats
  • 1½ cups flour
  • ½ cup white chocolate chips
  • ½ cup M&M's® Carrot Cake flavor
  1. Cream butter and sugars. Add egg and grated carrots and mix well.
  2. Add vanilla, soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and quick oats, and mix well. Add flour and mix just until combined. Fold in white chips and M&M's.
  3. Drop small spoonfuls onto a baking sheet and bake at 350F for 10-12 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.


Lemon Thumbprints

These chewy lemon cookies are packed with flavor!  Try this recipe for lemon cookies when you want something summery with lots of lemon flavor.

chewy-lemon-cookiesMy oldest niece just turned 18.  Which wouldn’t be so bad, except that it means my oldest son is only months behind her.

I’m not freaking out. I’m not freaking out. I’m not freaking out.  If I keep saying it, it’s bound to be true, right?

It’s weird for me to think that in just a few more months, she will be off on her own, attending the same junior college I attended at her age, having the same kinds of good times, learning the same kinds of life lessons, and perhaps even making fun of the same professors.  I’m seriously not ready for this time of my life.

Not that my life cares whether I am ready or not.

(See related post: Lemon Sugar Cookies)


Add this to your Cookie Recipes board on Pinterest!

Miss Rags requested something fruity for her birthday cookie.  Actually, she said, “I don’t know,” and I pressed her and pressed her until she mentioned fruit.  That’s the kind of aunt I am.

Then I went through a nightmare of finding a cookie that I could give her without hanging my head in shame.  I had cookie failure after cookie failure until the magical day when I met my first batch of lemon curd.  This lemon curd, to be exact.

I don’t know why I’ve never made it before.  I guess I just didn’t grow up eating it, and I wasn’t really sure what to do with it.  But now that I have a jar of it in my fridge, I want to make toast, or homemade English Muffins, just to have something to smear with lemon curd.


For the cookie part of this cookie, I used this Lemon Sugar Cookie recipe, and punched it up with some lemon zest.  If you prefer a lighter flavor, you can certainly leave the zest out, and just use the juice.

Maybe these cookies will introduce Miss Rags to the wonders of lemon curd, and she and her roommates can have a wonderful, lemony freshman year!


Want more?  Try these lemon cookies!

strawberry lemonadericotta cookiesbuttery shortbread recipe


Lemon Thumbprints
Cook time
Total time
A lemon cookie with lemon curd filling.
Recipe type: Cookies
Serves: 3 dozen
  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 lemon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 cups flour
  • lemon curd *(see notes)
  1. Cream butter and sugar. Add egg and mix well.
  2. Add the zest and juice of one lemon. (About 3 tablespoons of juice) Mix well.
  3. Add salt, baking powder, and flour, and mix just until combined.
  4. Place small spoonfuls of dough on a baking sheet, and form a well in the center of each. Fill each well with lemon curd.
  5. Bake at 325F for 11-14 minutes. Let sit on the baking sheet for 1-2 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.
I used THIS RECIPE to make a batch of lemon curd ahead of time. I had some lemon curd leftover after making the cookies.


Skittles Soda

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #SkittlesTourney #CollectiveBias

Skittes flavors make this drink fun!  It’s an easy easy drink made with skittles candy candy.

Skittles Soda from JensFavoriteCookies - one of the easiest and funnest drinks ever!  Non-alcoholic and kid friendly.I recently attended a little family get-together where a basketball game from earlier in the day was the hot topic of conversation.

Being the non-sports family that we are, we just watched the conversation with curiosity.

As a kid, I used to really enjoy watching basketball, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve been less and less interested in it.  Unless someone I know is on the team.

If I’m ever invited to any sort of game day gathering, I’m always way more interested the food and drinks that will be served than I am in the actual game.

It’s just one of the fun little perks of being me.


Pin this to your Drink Recipes board on Pinterest!

This family basketball discussion inspired me to make this fun drink with Skittles.  This is so The Lizard, our son, and the only member of the family interested in watching televised sports, can have some friends over to watch the game and have a fun drink.

I’m totally in love with how easy these are.  It’s not really even a recipe.  Just Skittles and lemon-lime soda.


These are so fun to make with kids, because as soon as the candies hit the soda, they start to fizz and the color leaches out.  Kids can make their favorite flavor / color drink, or even have fun mixing candies to create new color combinations!  Kids can still eat the candies after the drink is gone, too.

It could be a fun way to celebrate team colors as well.  Make your drinks in your favorite team’s color, or make drinks in two different colors for the rival teams!  Here in Utah, the college team rivalry is pretty intense, so people would for sure choose the drink of their team color.

(See related post: Flavored Syrups for Drinks)


This is also a great drink for baby showers!  If you want a lighter or more subtle color, use fewer candies.  Since Skittles come it lots of different flavors and colors, you can practically customize it to your favorite party shades.


By the way, don’t you love this giant bag of Skittles?  I found this 54 oz. size at Sam’s Club.  It’s the perfect thing to have around for a big tournament-watching party!  You can also connect with other Skittles lovers on the Skittles Facebook page, and follow the Skittles Tourney!


The real bonus for me, not being tied to any one team, is that I can drink any color or flavor of Skittles Soda I want!  And I kind of want one of each.

How about you?  What’s your favorite Skittles flavor?  Leave us a comment below!


Want more?  Try these fun and easy drinks!

flavored-syrups (5 of 1)bItalian cream sodapunch-christmas-recipes


4.8 from 5 reviews
Skittles Soda
An easy colorful drink made with Skittles candy.
Recipe type: Beverages
  • Skittles candy
  • Lemon-lime soda
  1. Separate Skittles into different colors.
  2. For each serving, place Skittles in the glass, then cover with lemon-lime soda. I used about 10 pieces of candy for an 8 oz. glass, and about 15 pieces for a 12 oz. glass. You can use fewer candies for a lighter color.
  3. Serve immediately.


5 SEO Tips for Food Bloggers

Apologies to my regular readers.  I promise more calorie -laden treats will be coming your way in my next post, but this one is geared toward my food-blogging buddies around the interwebs.

seo-tips-3SEO (Search Engine Optimization) just sounds hard, doesn’t it?  I’ve been totally intimidated by it for years.

I finally decided one day to buckle down, and just learn it.  I told myself, this is my craft.  This is my job.  And it’s ridiculous for me to NOT know what I am doing.

I started by studying and studying and studying.  I read everything I could get my hands on.  (There’s TONS of free info online.)  I started experimenting and using my tracking tools.

I purchased programs, got a coach, and even got some specific advice tailored towards me.  Am I now an SEO expert?  FAR from it.  But I have at least learned not to be intimidated by it.

I will tell you that although I get a lot of traffic from Pinterest, my very most popular post gets more than double the traffic of my second most popular post, and about 75% of the traffic to that post is organic traffic from Google searches.

For all you food bloggers out there, here a few general things I have learned that have helped me gain some confidence and some traffic.

1. Keyword Research – you get what you pay for.

There are no good keyword research tools that are free.  There just aren’t.  If you want good keywords, phrases people will actually be searching for, you need to pay for it.  A good tool will tell you three things… 1) What the keyword phrases are.  2) Number of monthly searches for that keyword phrase.  3) How much competition there is for that keyword phrase.

Here’s another related truth… the AdWords Keyword Research tool is not really a keyword research tool.  It doesn’t tell you what competition there is for a given keyword, only what competition there is for BIDDING on a keyword phrase for ad space.  This is all about advertising.  It might be fun to use it to discover new keywords, but it will never reliably tell you how much competition is out there, and that’s a fact you need to know.

The tool I use is WordTracker.  You can purchase a monthly subscription HERE, or do like me and use BizXpress Tools HERE.  It’s cheaper this way, and I like the way the tool works inside BizXpress better.  You will have to pay an annual fee to use Biz Express, plus purchase the WordTracker credits, but they last a long time, and they are worth the price.

If you want to start with some free tactics, you might check out this video which will give you some ideas about how to do some keyword research for free.

2. Think like a search engine user.

No one is searching for “Aunt Betty’s Famous Apple Pie,” or “My Husband’s Favorite Meal.”  If you want to take advantage of SEO, think like someone who is on a search engine, searching for something.  Titles should clearly reflect what is in the food, without being 12-word-long specific.

For example, let’s say you made a gorgeous apple pecan pie with a pecan and brown sugar crumb topping and a warm caramel sauce.  You could title the post “Apple Pie with Pecan Brown Sugar Crumb Topping and Warm Caramel Sauce Drizzle” but that would be a bit intense.  And annoying.  You lost your readers halfway through the title and they haven’t even started the post yet.  Plus, no one is searching for that.

You could call it “Aunt Betty’s Famous Apple Pecan Pie” but that isn’t specific enough, and no one cares about your Aunt Betty.

No offense to Aunt Betty.  I’m sure she is a lovely person.

You could just go with “Apple Pie” but it is SUCH a broad phrase, and there are already approximately 100 million apple pie recipes online, it is way too much to compete with.

The goal is to find the happy medium.  Something that tells you enough without smacking you over the head with it.  This is where the keyword research can really come in handy.  I would probably prefer something like  “Apple Pie with Pecan Crumble” or “Pecan Topped Apple Pie” to make it clear and intriguing.

Just for laughs, I punched the words “apple pie” into my keyword tool, and I found some interesting results.  The phrase “baked apple pie” has an average of 421 searches a month, and there are 519 pages optimized for this term.  Do I want to compete with 519 pages?  No I don’t.  On the other hand, “crumble top apple pie” has 330 searches a month and just 1 page optimized for the term.  Compete with ONE page?  This is much better.  I want as many of those 330 searches a month as I can get.

Therefore, I’m guessing my number one title choice would be “Pecan Crumble Top Apple Pie.”  It’s clear, it’s concise, and it will bring me some good organic traffic.

And don’t forget to check on how your titles and keywords are performing by checking Google’s Webmaster Tools.  It only shows info for the past 90 days, but it’s good useful info.


3. Backlinks are your friends.

Having other websites, especially good ones, link to your content is a very very good thing for you.  This tells search engines that other people think your content is worthy of sharing with their audiences.

As a food blogger, one of the best and easiest ways I have found of creating backlinks to is get your stuff into round ups on other blogs.  I belong to this Facebook group that makes this process super duper easy.  People in the group can ask for certain types of recipes for round ups, and bloggers can drop links to their content in there.  It is no guarantee that someone will use your recipe, but it does make it more likely.  Otherwise, we are left to search Pinterest or FoodGawker for good stuff.  (You can follow the link and ask to join, but we aware that the admins are a little fussy about who is accepted.  No spammers allowed!)

And speaking of FoodGawker… food photo submission sites also provide some backlinks, and some traffic.  Even if the traffic is not that amazing, I recommend that you still submit content to these sites just to get some links.  Some of my favorites, besides FoodGawker are: Tastespotting, Tasteologie, YumGoggle, DessertStalking, DishFolio, Food Foto Gallery and Cookie Hound.  One link on these sites is not that useful, but many links is, so keep on submitting.

4. Don’t forget social.

Social networks can be great for driving traffic, but remember that social validation looks good to the search engines too.  They figure that 100,000 Pinterest or Facebook fans can’t be wrong.

Make it easy for your readers to share your content on their social channel of choice, and encourage them to do so.  Find ways to make social a real and relevant way for people to find you.  Pins, likes, +1’s, stumbles, and shares are all signals that your content is quality, useful, and something people want to see.

Love this article?  Share it on Pinterest!

5. Get a coach and keep learning.

One thing we know about the digital world we live in is that it is constantly changing.  The search engines, social media networks, and audience all make changes every week.  The tips I shared here today will most likely not be relevant a few years from now.  It is important to keep learning and growing and being open to change.

I’ll be honest with you.  SEO is one of those things I have had a hard time understanding.  It took me a LOT of studying to get the hang of it, and I am still working to understand it better.  The most useful tool I have come across is this 21-Day SEO Challenge from Blogging Concentrated.

In fact, almost everything on Blogging Concentrated has been amazingly useful to me.  There is a course about Keyword Mapping that I love, and if you join the BC Prime Membership program, you will get tons of new content all the time, including traffic tips, a program about making video, business book reviews, CEO insights, social media tips, and so forth.

I’ve also found lots of useful information on sites like Backlinko and ProBlogger.  It’s good to keep reading and learning.

Bonus Tip: don’t optimize everything

Not every post on your site needs to be optimized for search engines.  Some are just easier to get to once people have already found you.  Focus on the best stuff, and link to everything else in a way that makes sense.

And don’t be intimidated by SEO.  You can do this.  I believe in you!


Want more?  Check out these other thoughts on food blogging!

start a food blogcooking disasters

Mint Crinkles

Mint Crinkles from JensFavoriteCookies - a fun and easy way to customize your cake mix cookies!

The Lizard (our oldest son) recently broke his face.

Yep. You heard me right.

In a brave but disastrous backflip-into-a-foam-pit attempt, he took a very hard knee to the face resulting in an orbital fracture around one eye, with accompanying black eye and swollen cheek.  It was adorable.  And extremely painful.

I didn’t get medical attention for him right away, because, what are they going to do?  Put a cast on his face?  But after a few days, I thought better of it and took him to the doctor.  The doctor, naturally, ordered a scan, and upon seeing the results of the scan, freaked out and sent us directly to the emergency room.

Where we were told that there is nothing they can do.

And then charged me hundreds of dollars for this.  *sigh*

(See related post:  Chocolate Peppermint Crinkles)

Mint Crinkles from JensFavoriteCookies - a fun and easy way to customize your cake mix cookies!

Add this to your Cookie Recipes board on Pinterest!

As irritated as I was about the whole situation, by the time we returned home, I just needed something to be easy and reliable.

This is when I decided that making cake mix cookies was a brilliant idea.  They are always easy and reliable, they are easy to customize, and they are just plain tasty.

I customized this batch by adding peppermint extract and green food coloring, and rolling them in powdered sugar.  In stark contrast to my decision to go to the emergency room, the decision to make these cake mix cookies made me feel quite happy.

Mint Crinkles from JensFavoriteCookies - a fun and easy way to customize your cake mix cookies!Mint Crinkles from JensFavoriteCookies - a fun and easy way to customize your cake mix cookies!

In case you haven’t guessed it already, this cookie is the Cookie of the Month for March!


Check out what my cookie-loving friends made this month!

Chocolate Peppermint Whoopie Pies from Bake or Break
White Chocolate Grasshopper Cookies from Crumb: A Food Blog
Peppermint Patty Stuffed Chocolate Cookies from Tastes of Lizzy T
Melt in Your Mouth Mint Meringues from Kelli’s Kitchen
Mint Milano Cookies from Posed Perfection
Mint Chocolate Crinkle Cookies from 365 Day of Baking and More
Mint Crinkles from Jen’s Favorite Cookies


Mint Crinkles

A simple, mint-flavored cake mix cookie.
Cook Time10 mins
Servings: 2 dozen
Author: Jen @ Jen's Favorite Cookies


  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 box white cake mix
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar, divided
  • green food coloring *see notes


  • Combine butter, eggs and cake mix, mixing until well combined.
    Add ¼ cup powdered sugar, peppermint extract, and food coloring. Mix well.
  • Place remaining ¼ cup powdered sugar in a shallow dish. Roll dough into tablespoon-sized balls, roll in the powdered sugar to coat, and place on baking sheet. Bake at 350F for 10-12 minutes.
    Let cool before serving.


I use gel food coloring, which is very difficult to measure. You can use as much as you want to get the color you desire. If you use the liquid drops, you can expect a bit lighter cookie color.