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Staff photo by Alison Gerber / These are Staffordshire oatcakes from the Tinned Tomatoes blog. These dense pancake-crepe hybrids can be eaten with a sweet or savory filling. In this case, they're served with a simple spinach-and-goat-cheese filling. To make it, warm 16 ounces of spinach in about 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat, add some twists of salt and pepper and a sprinkling of red pepper. Add a clove of minced garlic and a dash of smoked paprika. When the spinach is wilted, take it off the heat and add 8 ounces of soft goat cheese.

Being stuck at home has converted even the most kitchen-phobic among us into home cooks. And those of us who've long loved to cook have been willing to try new recipes and techniques during the coronavirus pandemic.

If, like me, you've found yourself experimenting with recipes you previously may not have found tempting — beet-and-cherry salad, fennel-and-olive salad and a cake made with ketchup, for example — keep reading for some of my favorite cooking blogs to help broaden your cooking horizons.

Some of these you may recognize — big-league names in the food blog world — and some are lesser-known. They represent five states and three countries; several are veggie-centric; and many focus on seasonal foods.

But they all have one thing in common: simple, easy recipes and clear instructions.

*****

Smitten Kitchen

Deb Perelman is the grande dame of food bloggers. She started her blog while cooking in a Manhattan apartment with a teeny tiny kitchen — "a whopping 80 square feet" is how she described it — and avoids "excessively fussy foods." No truffle oil, Himalayan pink salt or single-origin chocolate, she promises.

Her food is unpretentious and her commentary is sassy and entertaining.

Try this:

Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette

This is easy to make but looks like it came out of the case of a fancy French bakery. It always impresses. In all honesty, I made it for Thanksgiving simply because I knew it would stand apart from the same ol', same ol' casseroles.

> Shaved Fennel and Crushed Olive Salad

I was skeptical about this recipe because, as Perelman points out, "Fennel is divisive. Olives are divisive." But this salad is refreshing and kinda addictive.

*****

Two Red Bowls

This beautiful blog is the creation of Cynthia Chen McTernan, a lawyer and cook in Los Angeles. She describes her recipes as "comfort food, and easy, with occasional Asian influences from my Chinese background and my Korean mother-in-law, and a touch of Southern here and there from my childhood in South Carolina."

Try this:

> Miso-glazed Scallops

All kinds of umami happen in this recipe with sweet-salty-tangy miso and caramelized scallops. Not your typical seafood recipe.

> Rosemary Citrus Bundt Cake

The combination of lemon zest and rosemary makes for a fragrant kitchen when this rich cake is baking. McTernan describes it as "lively and brisk, not to mention wonderfully moist."

*****

What's Gaby Cooking

Another biggie in the food blog world, this blog is authored by California cook Gaby Dalkin.

Check out the "Master List" section of Dalkin's website for recommendations on kitchen gadgets, appliances, pots and food products.

The only annoying thing about this site is that Dalkin mentions Trader Joe's a lot, a reminder that Chattanooga doesn't have one (yet).

Try this:

> Blackberry Pineapple Smash Cocktails

This pretty drink is the perfect antidote to sticky Southern evenings. Plus, you don't have to feel too guilty about having a cocktail because you're also getting in a serving of fruit.

> Poblano Stuffed Peppers

These smoky, cheesy peppers are made with quinoa, black beans and, believe it or not, tuna from a can.

*****

Ice Cream Everyday

South African foodie Saaleha Idrees Bamjee describes her philosophy this way: "I don't actually advocate for anyone to eat ice cream every day, although in a distant perfect world, each and every one of my repasts would be in ice cream format."

In addition to exotic desserts, she serves up main courses and has a section on DIY crafts. But I'm here for the food.

Try this:

> Quick Coconut Milk Curry

This dish hits the senses — it's amber from turmeric and milky from the coconut, and it smells like a spice market. The recipes calls for steak strips, but chicken or veggies could easily be substituted. Or you could leave out the meat and add additional aubergines (eggplants).

> Tomato Sauce Chocolate Cake

This is made with ketchup (known in South Africa as tomato sauce), ground coffee and cinnamon. I concede that sounds like a horrific mixture, but this cake somehow works. Bamjee promises "not a single hint of tomato, only rich and spicy chocolate ones," and this recipe delivers.

*****

Cookie and Kate

This vegetarian, whole-foods blog is run by Kansas City-based Kathryne Taylor, aka Kate. Cookie is her adopted mutt, a schipperke/dachshund/Australian koolie mix.

Taylor's philosophy is solid: " I believe in eating whole foods, which are foods that are as close to their source as possible. I'm also an avid supporter of the occasional indulgence."

Her recipes are accessible and healthy.

Try this:

> West African Peanut Soup

The key ingredients are peanut butter, tomatoes and collard greens — which may not sound like an appetizing combination. You're just gonna have to trust me here. This soup is perfect for a cool fall evening.

*****

Original Dish

Kayla Howey, creator of this blog, has an impressive foodie resume. She is a Chicago-based chef trained at the Culinary Institute of America who honed her kitchen skills in Napa at Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bistro.

Try this:

> Loaded Smashed Potatoes with Bacon & Parmesan

My husband says bacon makes everything better. If you agree, you'll love this side dish.

> Zucchini Fritters with Lemon Yogurt Sauce

These pancake-type fritters and zesty sauce are a nice change of pace.

*****

The Faux Martha

Minnesota-based Melissa Coleman named her food and design blog after Martha Stewart.

Her recipes are simple with traditional ingredients. "I'm a purist at heart. Butter, cream, milk, eggs, and flour (especially wheat) all have a place in my kitchen," Coleman writes.

Her blog also has sections focused on minimalism, design and the Minneapolis house she built, which is so uncluttered it made my lived-in home feel like a bit of a jumble.

Try this:

> Acorn Squash Risotto

The scent of thyme, sage, cloves and nutmeg will permeate your kitchen as you stir the risotto (hopefully with a glass of wine in hand). Autumnal yumminess.

> Swig Pumpkin Cookies

Coleman describes Swig-style cookies as yielding "a dry dough, producing a large disk of a crispy-on-the-top, cracks-around-the-edges, and soft-in-the-middle kind of cookie." The addition of pumpkin makes the cookies slightly cakey. And they're topped with cream cheese frosting. These are a better fall alternative to pumpkin spice lattes, I promise.

*****

Tinned Tomatoes

Jacqueline Meldrum blogs from her kitchen in Scotland. Her recipes are vegetarian and some are vegan. She named her blog Tinned Tomatoes (what we'd call canned tomatoes in America) because "they are bloomin' tasty and convenient," she says.

In addition to food categories by meals, Meldrum has a section on food for babies and toddlers and one on Scottish recipes.

I tend to try the Scottish recipes because they are so unfamiliar and because she won me over with this description: "Traditional Scottish food, the type passed down through the generations, tends to be comfort food. It's to do with the often bleak weather, where at any point in the year it can become dark and driech with lots of rain."

Dreary weather requires good food, indeed.

Try this:

> Staffordshire Oatcakes

This dense, wholesome pancake-crepe hybrid can be served sweet, or with a savory filling as a meal. The recipe originated in Staffordshire, in the West Midlands of England, where housewives set up bakeries in their homes and served these cakes through the window. Workers bought them from "holes in the wall" to eat on their way home at the end of their shift, according to the blog.

>> Fun fact: The English town of Stoke-on-Trent celebrated an Oatcake Day in 2010, according to the BBC.

*****

This last recommendation isn't a food blog and doesn't list recipes and ingredient quantities. It's the Instagram account of a chef and restaurateur from Charleston, Brooks Reitz. Check out @brooksreitz for his "Brooks Cooks" videos on how to make simple dishes. Be sure to try these: strawberry-and-tomato salad, beet-and-cherry salad, roasty carrots with smoky blue cheese (yes, he calls them "roasty"), and clams on garlicky toast. Reitz is charming in these unpolished videos filmed in his home kitchen by his wife, and the food he cooks features plenty of fruit and veggies. I have yet to try one of his dishes that I didn't love. He also gives recommendations on food products and tools.

Bon appetit, y'all! Happy cooking.

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