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Issue 004
Garlic Parmesan Sweet Potato Stacks
Garlic Parmesan Sweet Potato Stacks, courtesy of The Cooking Jar

Another Tuesday – another issue of Eats Index, a virtual goody bag for food bloggers. We hope you enjoy this week's installment...

INVERSE COOKING

    And why it gives us the heebie jeebies

In our previous issue, we teased that we would be bringing you information about “inverse cooking” – and we said it is something that scares us.

We don’t mean to frighten you– at the same time, this is something worth knowing about!

Inverse Cooking is yet another application of artificial intelligence. In the near future, people will be able to take a photo of any dish, upload it, and AI will create a recipe for them.

That's right: computers will be writing recipes. Recipes that work and that lead to good-tasting food!

As the makers of Facebook’s inverse cooking project say, “Our image-to-recipe generation system takes as input a food image and outputs a recipe containing title, ingredients, and cooking instructions.”

cooking robot

This is a little disturbing to us – especially for all the food bloggers out there! Now food blogs have to compete with . . . robots?!

That being said, we don’t think this coming innovation is the cause for panic quite yet.

How could any intelligence – artificial or the regular old human variety – discern all the ingredients, just by looking at a photo? For example, how could one look at a photo of lasagna and determine that it contains two cloves of garlic? Or a tablespoon of minced shallots? Indeed, Facebook mentions just this difficulty.

Interestingly, the makers of this AI are using recipe prediction as a test case – it’s not their ultimate goal. Rather, they feel that if success can be had in this field, they can apply the technology to other fields.

Even as AI continually improves, we don’t think it will be able to make recipes relatable – and it won’t be able to share stories of challenging yet charming kids and husbands. We wish the programmers the best of luck, but we’re going to stay following human food bloggers.

red spinach

LITTLE BITES

    Red Spinach — Really?

Coming soon to a produce section near you . . . red spinach has been developed by a research geneticist at the US Department of Agriculture, partly as an effort to boost spinach consumption, which has declined significantly over recent years.

Presumably red spinach will taste identical to the regular old green variety.

Here at Eats Index, we’re always a little wary of man-made creations. But somehow, the concept of red spinach doesn’t sound too scary. No dyes are involved here, obviously – and the variety was developed through breeding; it’s not a GMO. And if red spinach gets even a few more people eating their veggies, then it’s probably a positive. What do you think? Click reply and let us know!

The USDA isn’t saying yet when red spinach will hit stores. We’ll give you a heads up when we find out. In the meantime, we’re prepping ourselves to try creamed crimson spinach and scarlet spanakopita.

green bananas

    Green Banana Flour Power

This just in! Now trending as yet another option for gluten-free baking is flour made from – that’s right – green bananas. The bananas are young (hence the green) – which means their starches have not yet turned to sugars. The bananas are dried and ground into a fine flour with a delicate taste and smooth texture.

You have an opportunity to plant a flag here – be one of the first to offer a variety of banana flour recipes – or possibly even a recipe to make banana flour at home.

Souffle Pankcakes

    Souffle Pancakes

We may be obsessed with these — and for good reason. These pancakes are tall, fluffy and light, thanks to egg whites whipped to stiff peaks. They take everything good about a souffle and blend it with all the delightfulness of pancakes.

These are different and special!

We’ve seen news articles about people waiting in line for an hour, just to try souffle pancakes.

And we found a few bloggers who have recipes for these miraculous creations...

Baker Bettie’s light and fluffy version looks nice and comforting. The Sunday Supper Movement says their pancakes are as airy as little clouds. Yes, please!

Idea. Want to get in on this trend? One idea would be to come up with new ways to serve souffle pancakes – could you make a souffle pancake breakfast sandwich, for example, with the SP’s taking the place of bread (or of french toast)?

Spam Honey Pots and traps

SPAM TRAPS

    What they are and how to avoid getting caught in them

How do you acquire your subscribers’ email addresses?

Subscribers probably give you their email addresses when they subscribe, right?

That’s good – that’s the right way to do it.

Unfortunately, not all people out there play by the rules. Some spammers have programs that automatically go through websites, signing up any email addresses they find.

This gives them big lists of subscribers, but . . . it's just straight up wrong. People get emailed without signing up. No good!

You don’t do this kind of thing, of course. So you don’t have anything to worry about, right? Sorry. This is another case of bad people causing problems for good people.

To stop spammers, some internet companies put out “spam honeypots” (also known as “spam traps.”) These email addresses strong subscribe to any list, so if they receive a message, the sender is sure to be a spammer. Got it?

Anyone who sends to the spam honeypots email addresses gets penalized. That is, their future mass emails are marked as spam – and are much less likely to be delivered.

The problem is that some legitimate emailers sometimes get caught in spam honeypots.

Sometimes email addresses get recycled as spam traps. That is, the email addresses were once legitimate but fell into disuse – and now have been redeployed as a spam trap. These emails often start info@ or support@.

Another type of honeypot involves misspelled email addresses, like @gnail.com or @yaho.com. You can see how these could look legitimate if you’re moving quickly.

The way to avoid getting caught up in this whole mess is to send occasional re-engagement campaigns to your subscribers.

Re-engagement is just a smart thing to do, even without spam honeypots lurking out there. Re-engagement campaigns can increase your open rate, which in turn improves your reputation and your message deliverability.

(In high school, we started a folk rock band called “Message Deliverability.” It wasn’t very popular, unfortunately.)

And good news: a re-engagement campaign need not be hard or time-consuming for you. Simply create a list of subscribers who have not opened your messages for a few months.

You could just delete those addresses from your send list, but why not give them a chance to stay? Your message to such people could be, “I’ve noticed you haven’t opened messages from my site in the past couple months, and I don’t want to clutter your inbox with unwanted emails. I can remove you, but before I do, would you like to stay?”

Of course, try not to get your feelings hurt by people who don't engage. Maybe they’re just busy. Or they’re not very smart. Or whatever! Their loss, right?

An annual re-engagement campaign will keep your subscriber list nice, current and tidy. You should do it!

You can learn more about spam honeypots and re-engagement campaigns at Sendgrid’s website.

Steps for Chicken Broccoli Casserole from 2 Cookin' Mamas
Steps for Chicken Broccoli Casserole, from 2 Cookin' Mamas

SIMPLE, TIDY OVERHEAD "STEP BY STEP" SHOTS

We’ve seen these popping up on food blogs across the web: simple and tidy overhead process shots. These are both appealing and easy to follow. Here are some examples to check out...

Green Bean Casserole Steps from
Green Bean Casserole steps, from Contentedness Cooking

How to make vegan casserole from Stacey Homemaker
How to make vegan pesto casserole, from Stacey Homemaker
Vegan Green Bean Casserole from Connoisseurus Veg
Vegan Green Bean Casserole collage, from Connoisseurus Veg

These are all very visual – and helpful to home cooks. We hope this trend continues!


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COMING NEXT WEEK

Next week's issue is already in the works – and our hard-hitting investigating journalists are looking forward to share with you.

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✓   Ingredients trending from West Africa

✓   Sustainability comes to food blogs

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