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Why Brand Names Should be in Your Family Cookbook

I like to use the brand names for ingredients in my cookbook recipes. Not because they are necessarily any better than the generic brands, but because they often produce a better recipe result, and therefore, make family recipes more consistent.  Twenty years from now, if someone makes one of the recipes from your family cookbook, will they really get the same taste from a “cherry flavored gelatin” as they do from cherry Jell-O?

For example, if I want to make Tres Leches Cake, I will always use a certain brand name product (Eagle Brand) because I like the taste better. Believe me, I have experimented with assorted sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and whipped cream for the Tres Leches Cake ingredients, and there is a certain combination that is unbeatable together (and guess what, they all are the brand name products).

So, when I add the brand names to the recipes in my family cookbook, like A.1 Steak Sauce, or Bisquick, or Corn Flakes, I respect the product and always pay attention to making sure I’ve properly identified it with capital letters and ® where appropriate.  (The Symbol Builder in my cookbook software makes this really easy.)

Also, the brand name is a kind of shorthand that says it all.  It conveys an expected result. Like going to a certain fast food hamburger place (McDonalds) when you are out of the country for two weeks and need a fry fix.  Or using Shredded Wheat instead of “large or mini shredded whole wheat cereal biscuits.”  (How insane is that?)  But I have indeed seen this generic format use in many family cookbooks.  Most often it is used in media, like newspaper food sections and TV food shows (because they are supposed to be neutral, you think? Hogwash! It’s because they don’t want to endorse a specific product without getting paid for advertising it).

But your family cookbook can (and should) be specific with brand names so you can preserve the taste of family recipes and pass them on to be made the way they were intended.

Okay, soapbox is over.  Going to eat my nutlike cereal nuggets (Grape Nuts), and have a cup of coffee (Nescafe©) with a little powdered non-dairy coffee creamer (Coffee-Mate) and non-nutritive sweetener (NutraSweet).

Happy cookbooking,

Erin

5 Ways To Make Some Tasty Waves with Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes are the ultimate comfort food.  They can be lumpy, smooth, thick, or thin, and they will still be delicious.  Mashed potatoes have a certain quality that makes fans know “everything will be okay.”

Mashed potatoes are versatile, and can be cooked in a variety of ways. Whether steamed, boiled, or broiled, mashed potatoes can be among the easiest of foods to prepare. Although not based on scientific evidence, it seems the texture of mashed potatoes also has something to do with its popularity as a comfort food.

5 Ways to Make a Splash with Mashed Potatoes

1. Sauté 1 cup chopped onions and 1 cup sauerkraut together and stir into your favorite basic mashed potatoes. Top with crumbled bacon or bacon bits and you have a great Oktoberfest-style dish to serve alongside bratwurst.

2. Add 1 cup finely diced ham and 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese to leftover mashed potatoes for a hearty all-in-one approach to dinner.

3. Snip 1 teaspoon of fresh young rosemary and add to cold or room temperature mashed potatoes. Heat in microwave for a few minutes until warm, then add ½ stick butter and 1 teaspoon powdered oregano. Stir well, and then continue heating in microwave until bubbly.

4. Mix 2 ounces of cream cheese and 2 ounces of sour cream into hot mashed potatoes. Plop in some strong horseradish (to taste) and salt, and serve alongside hot sliced beef.

5. Stir ¼ cup of fresh Parmesan cheese, 2 cloves crushed garlic, and 1 teaspoon dried Italian parsley into mashed potatoes.

Mashed potatoes as a comfort food has long been recognized in the culinary world and academia. With winter coming upon us in mere weeks, it makes sense to get our mashed potato recipe repertoire all figured out, (and go buy the items needed to have a full-blown mashed potato experience!)

Happy Cookbooking,

Erin

Two horseshoes on wooden background with title: Lucky Home-Made Corned Beef and Cabbage Recipe

Lucky Home-Made Corned Beef and Cabbage Recipe

In most every family cookbook there is a special recipe for corned beef and cabbage. It’s a true American invention to celebrate the Irish roots of many immigrants who fled to the United States after hard times.

Corned beef and cabbage: perfect for St Patrick’s Day

Few Irish actually could afford to eat corned beef, and if they did, it was a rare occasion.

Whether a real or make-believe tradition, having a nice slice of corned beef with a little cabbage and some boiled potatoes surely is not a bad thing. After all, the corned beef and cabbage meal ranks right up there with the turkey and stuffing tradition at Thanksgiving.

I like to make my corned beef and cabbage in a slow cooker. It is juicy and tender, and has a wonderful flavor. Plus, it is very easy!

I call my dish Lucky Corned Beef and Cabbage.

Lucky Corned Beef and Cabbage Recipe

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds corned beef brisket with spice packet
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 large onion, cut into wedges
  • 6 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 1/2 pound carrots, cut into chunks
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper (or to taste)
  • 1 head cabbage, cut into wedges

Directions

In a large hot skillet, sear the corned beef brisket a few minutes until brown on both sides. This helps seal in the juices and adds flavor to the meat.

De-glaze the pan with the water and add it to the slow cooker’s crock.  Place browned corned beef brisket into the water and top with contents of the spice packet (press the spices into the meat if you can).

Add the onion, potato, and carrot chunks. Add garlic, bay leaf, sugar, vinegar, pepper (use more or less as you prefer). Arrange cabbage wedges on top of everything.

Cover and slow cook for 8 hours, or until the meat and vegetables are tender.

Remove bay leaf before serving with whole grain mustard or creamed horseradish.

Happy St Patrick’s Day!

Add a nip of Irish Whiskey and whipped cream to some coffee for your dessert, and you’ve really got something almost Irish. After all, everyone in America is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day!

Happy Cookbooking,

Erin

Family gathered around cookbook in kitchen overlaid with text: Make a Family Cookbook for Family History Month

Make a Family Cookbook for Family History Month

Do you love researching your family genealogy?

You’ll be delighted to know that some states have designated October as “Family History Month.”

The month-long observance brings families together to remember loved ones, tell their stories, and celebrate family traditions.Continue reading

The Three Essential Kitchen Knives

A loud pounding sound radiating from the kitchen captured my attention and curiosity. Upon arrival, I caught my husband using my best French chef’s knife to jab frozen mango Tang out of my favorite clear plastic Kool Aid-style pitcher. I wasn’t too happy about the potentials of his act: breaking the knife; breaking the pitcher, cutting himself.

My husband is known for using kitchen objects to do the jobs of other tools. I’ve found steel whisks coated with cement, boning knives used as letter openers, egg turners as wallpaper scrapers, and butter knives bent from their stint as screwdrivers. (I try to credit these transgressions to his inventive, creative mind rather than his laziness to go to his workbench.)

My chef’s knife was fine, much to the credit of the manufacturer. I attribute its survival to the fact that it was made of high carbon stainless steel, the tang (blade steel) ran all the way through the whole handle, and it was the best chef’s knife I could afford (the three basic rules of buying kitchen knives).

My thoughts turned toward ways to protect my knives from future misuse. I could always downsize. I read somewhere that a cook really only needs to buy three kitchen knives:

Paring Knife
Blade between 2”-4” long.  Used for cutting fruits or vegetables and for making small or decorative cuts.

Serrated Utility Knife
Blade between 6”- 9” long.  Used for cutting larger vegetables, slicing larger foods, trimming/cutting meat. Note: A longer 9”-12” serrated blade bread knife will easily cut a crusty baguette or tomatoes.

Chef’s Knife
Blade between 6”-12” long that curves to a pointed tip. Used for chopping, dicing and mincing meat, vegetables, and anything else.

Of course, buying kitchen knives is okay for specialty purposes, too, such as boning, filleting, and carving. And then there is the meat cleaver.  I can’t imagine needing a meat cleaver any more, though, since butchers do the work for us quite nicely. Meat cleavers can be heavy and quite awkward. (The most important rule of thumb for buying kitchen knives is to buy what is comfortable in your hand.)

Maybe I should put my knives out of my husband’s sight!  I currently keep my knives on a wall-mounted magnetic strip. They don’t get banged around (unless you-know-who is looking for another tool), and I don’t waste valuable counter space using an ugly wooden knife block.

So that’s my new plan. Instead of buying kitchen knives to replace the broken ones, I will downsize my collection of kitchen knives to the three basics and hide them away. (Out of sight, out of mind, they say.)  But first I have to go to my husband’s workbench and take inventory of what kitchen knives I don’t need or use any more.

By the way, in the process of cracking up the frozen mango Tang, my husband broke the pitcher’s handle completely off and poked a hole in the bottom of the pitcher.  He repaired both with some miraculous glue stuff, and (you guessed it) a paring knife!

Happy cookbooking,

Erin

Should a Dead Dog Be in your Cookbook?

Ruth looked distressed. “Do you think Arnie should be in my cookbook?”

Arnie was her poodle. He passed on to the Great Fire Hydrant In The Sky last year.

“I should hope not,” I said. “He’d be much too stringy even to slow cook with by now.”

She scowled. “No. I mean in my Family Tree section. Should Arnie be in the Family Tree section of my family cookbook? Is that weird?”

“Let’s put it in perspective,” I replied. “Your cousin Graham. He borrowed $800 from you six years ago. Never repaid it. He hogged down half your peach cobbler last Christmas. He hasn’t said five civil words to you in half a decade. Is he going to be in your cookbook?”

“Yes.”

“Is he more family to you than Arnie?”

She smiled.

“Family,” I said, “has little to do with time or life or death or even species. Family is love, and family is forever.”

“Hmmmm. Maybe,” she said. “Now I wonder if there’s some form of slow cooking I could do to Graham that would get my $800 back….”

Take Vanilla Wafer Mini-Tarts to Tailgating Parties & Potlucks

Soon there will be traditional tailgating parties and potlucks to contend with as the crisp air of autumn beckons neighbors and strangers to gather for one common cause — football.

If you are lucky enough to volunteer to bring a dessert, you can’t go wrong with these delicious but easy mini-tarts that get their quickness from ready-made vanilla wafers. I don’t know where the recipe originated, but here are two slightly different versions that are sure to please hungry game-goers, game-watchers, or other gathering crowds.

Mini-Tarts  – Version 1
These are the first mini-tarts I ever tasted, and I remember how remarkably quick and easy they always are to make.

1 package cupcake liners
2 8 oz. bricks cream cheese, softened
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
Vanilla Wafers
Pie filling, jam or preserves

Mix first five ingredients for the mini-tarts together with fork, eggbeaters or an electric mixer until filling is light and fluffy. Put one vanilla wafer in each cupcake liner. Spoon cream cheese mixture over vanilla wafer until each liner is two-thirds full. Bake in 350 degree—¦ oven for 20-25 minutes until filling is just set.  Cool in pans. Top with your choice of pie filling, jam or preserves.  Makes about 20 mini-tarts.

Mini-Tarts – Version 2
I have successfully substituted almond or coconut flavoring in this recipe, which leaves out the lemon juice, and has a different temperature for baking. Both recipe versions are easy to make and taste great.

1 package foil cupcake liners
2 8 oz. bricks cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
12  Vanilla Wafers
Pie filling, jam or preserves

Use foil liners with a vanilla wafer placed on the bottom of each cupcake liner. Mix cream cheese, sugar and eggs until well blended. Add vanilla and mix well. Fill liners to approximately ¾ full on top of the vanilla wafer. Bake in a 325 degree—¦ oven for 25 minutes, or until filling is set firm. Cool. Top with pie filling, preserves, fruit, sugared pecans, toasted coconut, or shaved chocolate. Makes about 20.

I have had this recipe for a long time, and have added it to my family cookbook already. You may want to add this one to your family recipe cookbook, too. Just cut your favorite version and paste it into your own family cookbook template.

Happy cookbooking

Erin

How to write a degree symbol in your recipe on a PC

350°F.

Jealous? Asking yourself, “How did she make that tiny little circle next to the F?”

If you have the latest version of our software, you probably know it’s easy to add with the Recipe Builder feature. If not, you can still easily make it. There are two easy ways:

A. Just copy and paste it! Click in front of the °, hold, drag across it, then right click and click “Copy”. Then right click and choose “Paste” wherever you want it to appear.

B. Use the Alt key and number pad to the right of your keyboard. Hold down the Alt key, and hit “0176” on the number pad. Let go of the Alt key and it’ll appear.

Our software will point you to this page if you want this symbol or others.

Is my photo up above a little over-the-top? Well, maybe. But that’s how I felt when I first figured it out!

Erin

Cream of Broccoli Soup

I remember the time President George Bush the Elder made a snide comment about a certain green vegetable that he did not — would not — eat. The resulting fluff in the media was nothing short of a scandal as I recall. The broccoli lobby and every broccoli farmer in America claimed insult.

Funny, why George didn’t like broccoli? It has quite a nice earthy green flavor, and my favorite use is steamed with salt and drizzled with melted butter (sorry, I haven’t quite got the hang of drizzling olive oil on everything).  Broccoli, along with its cousins cauliflower and brussels sprouts, are all DNA derivatives of cabbage, I’m told, so it stands to reason if you like one of these vegetables, you might like them all.  Not sure what George’s stance was on the cousins to broccoli, but we defended his right to dislike it.

During the coming fall season, a lovely way to use fresh (or even leftover broccoli) is in Cream of Broccoli Soup. I use the whole stem and florets of the broccoli rather than trimming it down to just the broccoli crowns.

Cream of Broccoli Soup

1-1/2 pounds of broccoli
1 cup minced onion
1/2 cup grated carrot
1/2 cup minced celery
2 teaspoons stick butter or margarine
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups water
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup evaporated milk
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper

To make Cream of Broccoli Soup, cook washed broccoli in salted water until a fork easily pierces the stem. Drain and cool. While broccoli cools, sauté the onion, carrot and celery in butter until onion is translucent. Add the flour to the vegetables and stir to make a roux.  Set aside.  Puree the cooked broccoli with a little water in a food processer until smooth.

Heat broth, the rest of the water, and evaporated milk until warm.  Stir broccoli, onion, carrot and celery mixture into the heated broth.  Add salt and pepper seasonings to taste, and cook until flour roux begins to thicken the soup (add a bit more flour if necessary). Heat Cream of Broccoli Soup again if necessary and serve with toasted cheese or ham sandwiches.

Believe it or not, I found this recipe for Cream of Broccoli Soup in one my grandmother’s old recipe card boxes. It was hand-printed on a well-worn recipe card. She used to make this soup during the first days of fall. The Cream of Broccoli Soup carries through well during winter, and even if you use frozen broccoli instead of fresh (or leftovers) it is a good result.

Happy Cookbooking,

Erin

Pizza Cutting Julienne Meat, and Other Scary Ideas

Sometimes I scare myself. Does that ever happen to you?

Sometimes I will come up with an idea that I think is absolutely brilliant.

Like my little brilliant thought for today.  I was preparing a nice Chef’s Salad for lunch, expecting Ruth to drop by a touch early as she usually does.  I had boiled and peeled my eggs, and was just about to slice them with a small knife when I remembered an old kitchen gadget I acquired years ago.  It was an egg slicer, which cuts thin, even slices of egg using taut wires that easily slide through the cooked egg without making a mess or squishing the yolk.  It is very handy if you eat a lot of sliced boiled eggs.

Then I turned my attention to the meats and cheeses for the Chef’s Salad. I always hate to slice up the meats and cheeses. They never behave as neatly as I like, always moving around on the cutting board while I’m trying to create matchsticks (properly called julienne strips) of them.

As I was putting away the egg slicer (hand-washed and towel-dried, mind you), I spied my pizza cutter and said, “Why Not?”  So I took the pizza cutter in hand, and proceeded to slice through the meats and cheeses so effortlessly that it was astonishing.  The blade on my pizza cutter is about 3-1/2″ in diameter, so in less than 30 seconds I had enough ham, turkey, Swiss and Cheddar to generously serve us both.  Brilliant!

It scares me to think what I might have done if I had applied myself. Not that having a cookbook software company is small potatoes. It is really brilliant, too. But who knows, I may have invented some kitchen gadget that was really useful. (Maybe more useful even than my spice rack?)

Now, what did I do with that plastic radish garnisher?

Our Toy Shelf is a Hit! (Even though it’s supposed to be a spice rack)

When one of our sons started playing with our spice rack as a toy shelf, well, we thought maybe there’s a new market for it! So here’s the video he helped us make.

Take Alfred Hitchcock’s Blue Food Party to New Levels

Back in the 1960s, Alfred Hitchcock had a famous dinner party for an intimate gathering of his Hollywood friends.  As an experiment (and most likely a joke), he asked his chef to prepare all blue foods: blue martinis, blue meat, blue mashed potatoes, and blue peas.

He was fascinated with human psychology, and the fact that blue is not a natural color for food. He wanted to see if blue food would turn people off.  It did. Many of his guests became a bit queasy and some couldn’t even eat, if I remember the story right.

Hitchcock loved to entertain, and guests never knew when a “blue dye” dinner party would strike his fancy.  While a blue food party may be a bit inhospitable to spring upon guests unexpectedly, if you have them involved beforehand, it can be quite a lot of fun and a clever conversation starter, too. I have a party like this once in a blue moon. I use either all white or blue themed plates, napkins and cups, and ask everyone to wear something blue.

Of course, you can do any other color theme, such as red, yellow or orange. Here are food ideas for a blue food party, purple food party or green food party to get you started:

“BLUE” THEME PARTY FOODS
Blue food coloring added to any dish (note: can be repulsive)
Blue corn chips
Blue potato chips
Boo Berries cereal
Blue crab
Bluefish pate
Bluefin tuna sushi
Blue cheese
Concord grapes
Blueberries
Blue Jell-O
Blueberry muffins
Blue food coloring frosted cupcakes
Blueberry juice
Gatorade
Jones’ Soda
Kool-Aid
Blue Hawaiian Punch
Blueberry flavored bubblegum
Charm’s Blowpops
Blue M&M’s

“PURPLE” THEME PARTY FOODS
Purple food coloring added to any dish (note: can be repulsive)
Grape juice
Kool-Aid
Blueberry juice
Grape jelly/jam and peanut butter sandwiches
Eggplant
Purple potatoes
Purple onions
Purple cabbage
Purple wax beans or peppers
Concord grapes
Blackberries
Plums
Prunes
Grape Jell-O
Blueberry-Pomegranate sherbet

“GREEN” THEME PARTY FOODS
Green food coloring added to any dish (note: can be repulsive)
Artichokes
Guacamole (with tortilla chips)
Avocado slices
Celery sticks
Lettuce
Stuffed green bell peppers
Green bean casserole
Green pasta
Asparagus
Broccoli
Brussels sprouts
Cabbage
Cucumbers
Green beans
Green peppers, other peppers,
Peas
Spinach
Zucchini
Gatorade
Limeade
Green grapes
Green apples
Pears
Kiwi
Honeydew melon
Lime Jell-O
Mint chocolate chip ice cream
Key Lime pie

Once you’ve had a color-food party like this, don’t forget to record all the fun recipes and ideas into your family cookbook using the cookbook templates in my cookbook software!

Have fun!

Erin

That has too much cheese. Said nobody, ever.

I Love Cheese! Chart for Recipes, Cookbooks & Just Plain Eatin’

Without a doubt, cheese is one of my favorite foods. Not just for recipes in family cookbooks, mind you; how about just eating it straight, with maybe a little cracker or two?

Yes, I love cheese. That may not be politically correct to admit in this allegedly fat-free conscious society (where zero body fat is an absurd goal for tweens and teens alike), but I bet there are many closet cheese eaters out there looking for the perfect hit of creamy Brie, sharp cheddar, or a pungent hard white.

One of my life’s dreams has always been to have enough money to try one of every type of cheese in the world. When I was visiting the famous Harrods department store last year in London, I nearly swooned at the sight of the stunning fromagerie cheese counter in the ground level food hall. Ahem, the cheese AISLE, that is. You can try many cheese samples, or you can sit and taste a variety of cheeses, carefully measured and portioned according to whatever your pocketbook can stand. With the rate of exchange on the U.S. dollar being so cringingly unfavorable, I opted to watch other cheese lovers instead of indulging in what most certainly would have been a most expensive cheese-filled afternoon.

Back at home, however, there are marvelous wonders of the world in our own well-appointed cheese cases, according to the American Dairy Association.  Yet, I am always uncertain exactly what I am buying in terms of portion, and especially when I need a type of cheese converted for a recipe, or serving to guests.  I do know that most soft cheeses are shredded, hard cheeses are grated, and the blues and feta are crumbled, but I still don’t automatically know how much shredded cheese I will net out of a whole brick of ungrated cheese. With the help of The Recipe Writer’s Handbook, my dilemma has been resolved for most cheese types:

 ‘I LOVE CHEESE’ CHART

Ingredient

Packaging Size

Home Translation

Blue

4 ounces

1 cup crumbled

Cheddar

1 pound

4 cups shredded;

16 slices

Cottage

8 ounce container

12 ounce container

1 cup

1-1/2 cups

Cream

3 ounce package

8 ounce package

1/3 cup

1 cup

Feta

4 ounce

1 cup crumbled

Mozzarella

1 pound

4 cups shredded

Parmesan

or Romano

3 ounce package

1 cup grated

Swiss

1 pound

4 cups shredded;

16 slices

Source: The Recipe Writer’s Handbook, Page 235
By Barbara Gibbs Ostmann & Jane L. Baker
© 2001, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.Â

I carry this little chart with me when grocery shopping, as it helps me visualize what I am buying. I try to buy only natural cheeses, not the process cheeses (have you ever made the mistake of buying that awful shredded artificial cheese? Yuck!).

Yes, I do love cheese. Oh look, there is that blue Brie I was coveting at Harrods’¦ Whoops, what cheese?

Your cheese-loving, cookbook-making friend,

Erin

 

Catfish & Congress

Have you had your catfish today? Apparently August is National Catfish Month. Didn’t you get the memo?

National Catfish Month seems to be the only ”national month” designation for the month of August. (There are rumors that August is National Peach Month, National Watermelon Month, and National Sandwich Month, but I couldn’t confirm them.)

Other months have several ”national” titles, such as September being designated National Mushroom Month, National Rice Month, National Biscuit Month, National Chicken Month, AND National Honey Month.

Such national observations are helpful for the particular industry they promote, and some even raise awareness.  However, a true national holiday requires an act of Congress to make it official.  So, if any of these commemorative days and months are actually government-sanctioned, the food industry must have some very busy lobbyists.

Below is a list of just-past ”national” days in August.  Most of the days seem to appeal to those with sweet tooth’s, all except the mustard celebration on August 5.  (Note to President Obama’s critics, Grey Poupon Mustard is made by Kraft Foods , so it is American!).

To be fair, here are the celebration ”days” we have already observed for the month of August:

August 1  National Raspberry Cream Pie Day
August 2  National Ice Cream Sandwich Day
August 2  National Ice Cream Soda Day
August 3  National Watermelon Day
August 4  National Chocolate Chip Day
August 5  National Mustard Day
August 6  National Root Beer Float Day
August 7  Raspberries ‘n Cream Day
August 8  National Frozen Custard Day
August 9  National Rice Pudding Day
August 10  National S’mores Day
August 11  National Raspberry Bombe Day
August 14  National Creamsicle Day
August 15  National Lemon Meringue Pie Day
August 17  National Vanilla Custard Day
August 18  National Ice Cream Pie Day
August 19  National Soft Ice Cream Day
August 20  National Chocolate Pecan Pie Day
August 21  National Spumoni Day
August 22  National Pecan Torte Day
August 23  National Spongecake Day
August 24  National Peach Pie Day
August 25  National Banana Split Day
August 26  National Cherry Popsicle Day
August 27  National Pots de Créme Day
August 28  National Cherry Turnovers Day

Just so we don’t lose out on the rest of the celebrations, here are the remaining designated “days” for the month of August:

August 29  More Herbs Less Salt Day
August 30  National Toasted Marshmallow Day
August 31  National Trail Mix Day

So looking forward to National Chocolate Milkshake Day on Saturday, September 12. My dear friend Ruth and I will make it a point to enjoy a favorite indulgence. Now if I can only remember where I put my appointment calendar to jot it down. Perhaps I tucked it in my family cookbook.

Happy cookbooking,

Erin

herbs in ice-cube containers covered with olive oil. Text: Preserve Your Herbs for Winter Cooking

Preserve Your Herbs for Winter Cooking

You don’t have to suffer the elevated prices and short shelf-life of fresh herbs from the grocery store in winter. With a little preparation, you can freeze your lovely summer herbs for use all year long.

Instructions for Freezing Herbs

Freezing herbs in water causes them to crystalize, damaging the flavor so the key to preserving herbs is to use olive oil.

Olive oil preserves the herbs by preventing contact with the air.

  • Finely chop your herbs
  • Sprinkle the herbs into an ice-cube tray
  • Fill the compartments of the tray with olive oil
  • Freeze

You can make an entire tray of one herb or create a herb mix such as rosemary, basil and oregano – perfect for Italian dishes.

When you’re ready to use the herbs, just add one or two cubes to your frying pan or favourite sauce.

The frozen olive oil will have a similar consistency to butter and will easily reconstitute when melted without loss of flavor.

Four Ways You can Add Spice to Family History in Your Family Cookbook

Don’t you just love to watch those television shows about different people’s lives? By adding biographical stories about relatives to your family recipe cookbook, you can create your own mini-series of sorts using characters from your own family history! Just imagine the amazement of family members when they find out Great Uncle Jack was a circus clown and a cross-dresser!

You probably know that many best-selling biographies (usually of the rich and famous) can span several volumes. In your family recipe cookbook, the biographies will be simple short stories about the people whose recipes are included in your cookbook, or about people in the family who loved the recipes. (Or whomever you want, really.)

Here are some ideas to get your writing juices flowing for family biographies in your family recipe cookbook:

1. Ask Questions
Find out more (if possible) about the subject of your family bio. The person’s thoughts about a variety of topics can prove to be priceless to future generations, as well as fill in gaps in popular history. Ask about:

– Favorite holidays and why
– Childhood memories, popular fads
– Military service
– Values, beliefs, and dreams
– Favorite candy and ice cream
– Happy experiences, relationships, significant accomplishments
– Favorite meals, movies, pets, clothing styles
– Vacations and travel
– Teen pranks, embarrassing moments
– Hobbies and musical interests
– Admired heroes, and special honors or awards
– Memorable firsts, and feelings about major news events
– Words of wisdom for others

2. Do Some Research
Talk to relatives about relatives! This can sometimes create a common thread of comment from several family members, which can give you a better perspective.
You can also search for information about your relatives online by typing names into the search bar. (Be careful that you get the right relative). Letters, diaries, newspaper clippings, and family scrapbooks are also great sources of information. In the case of someone who has passed away, you can cut and paste in their obituary in the cookbook software’s People section. I did this recently when re-creating an old cookbook for my local historical society, and it worked out great.

3. Make an Outline
To help you focus on what to write, it is helpful to make an informal outline for each person so you can decide if more information is needed. List the stories or anecdotes you know, or have been told about each relative. Be sure to list any available photos that can be included.

4. Write What You Know, Get What You Don’t
Start writing about the person you know best or have the most information about. Remember, your purpose of a family bio is to present a brief recognizable sketch of your family member so others can immediately recognize the person’s “essence.”

You’ll want to include the basic facts of when he or she was born and other important dates, but chronological order is not as important as capturing the person’s character.

If you have too much information, narrow the focus of the family bio. Since this is a cookbook, perhaps discussing the person’s favorite recipes and cooking style would be useful. Always check your facts and dates.

Think of a theme. For example, if a relative is known for her sense of humor, try to include a story she told that made you laugh.

Of course, these bio-writing ideas are not intended for you to drop your family recipe cookbook project and write a best seller. Just some short loving paragraphs will do. But who knows, you might find enough family intrigue for a movie!

Happy cookbooking,

Erin

Organize your family cookbook using our cookbook software

7 Reasons Not to Make a Family Cookbook in Word

There are lots of really good reasons to use Word. Making a family cookbook isn’t one of them. Here’s why:

1. It’s distracting. You will spend more time worrying about formatting your Word document than you will thinking about writing Cousin Dilbert’s Peanut Brittle recipe.

2. You won’t make your cookbook in Word consistently. Sometimes you’ll remember to Bold it. Sometimes you won’t. Sometimes the picture of the recipe is above it. Sometimes below it. With our cookbook software all the consistency is built-in for you.

3. One word: “indent.” If that doesn’t make you scared of Word, how about “bullets and numbering?” At some point, you’ll try to use it in Word and things will get out of alignment, and you’ll go crazy.

4. Adding new recipes in the middle of the cookbook. You’ll want to do it, but scrolling down to find that spot will be a pain in Word. Once you are there, all the pages after it will get re-formatted. Our software lets you easily find any recipe you want, and adding a new recipe is as simple as clicking “Add new recipe.”

5. You will have to re-type the same thing over and over. With our software, you just select an author name from a menu. You can’t mis-spell it. Same thing for recipe categories (Fish, Salad, Breads, etc).

6. You’ll have to manually figure out a Table of Contents section. Unless you can figure out how to do references, creating a TOC in Word is not easy. With our software you hit a button and your Contents section prints out. It’s that easy.

7. How do you add a degree symbol (°F)? A spanish N (±)? How do I add in a Birthday Calendar? An address book? Our software makes it simple to do all these things, and more, with a few clicks.

Check out our family cookbook software. It’s extremely affordable, and it’ll save you a lot of hassles over using Word.

Erin

5 Simple Steps to a Meaningful Wedding Cookbook (and the most memorable wedding favors ever!)

A personalized cookbook not only makes a great wedding gift, but you can get your guests to contribute their own favorite recipes to the book. As if that wasn’t enough you can also print the recipe collections to use as wedding favors.

Wedding Recipe Binder gift

Here’s how to do it:

1. Include a single recipe card with each of your invitations, and a note asking that they include a favorite recipe on it with their RSVP.

2. Enter all the recipes you receive into Matilda’s Cookbook Software.

3. Print the cookbooks at Staples for around $2-$4 each, one for each guest.

4. Make one cookbook for the bride and groom that’s bound into a beautiful recipe binder.

5. Each guest will leave the wedding with a unique gift they helped create and the bride and groom will receive a memorable gift containing recipes from all their families and friends.

Fluid Measurement Filler & Cheat Chart for Your Family Cookbook

Sometimes I have senior moments that can be embarrassing when I am making recipes from a family cookbook. Like yesterday, when I wanted to double a recipe, I wasn’t sure how many pints there are in a quart. Isn’t that silly?

Yet, unless you do conversion math every day, you can find yourself in such a recipe pickle where you have to really sit down and do the math. (I readily admit I am no good at metric measurements. I just think of liters as big quarts to make it easy on my old brain – sorry all you metric lovers out there). But even the simple stuff is harder to remember if you don’t pay attention when you cook.

To refresh my memory, I reviewed our fantastic Kitchen Conversion Chart, a marvelously useful kitchen tool (that I printed out and now keep folded up in my purse), and extracted a few fluid measurement equivalents from it in the little cheat chart below.

When you make your own family cookbook, this little bit of information might be handy to include as a reference (or cheat chart, really, as in my case).

CHEAT CHART

Liquid Measure Equivalents

Fluid Oz

Cup

Pint

Quart

Liter

Gallon

8

1

.5

.25

.24

.06

16

2

1

.5

.47

.13

32

4

2

1

.95

.25

34

4.23

2.11

1.06

1

.26

64

8

4

2

1.875

.50

128

16

8

4

3.75

1

If you want the whole two-page Kitchen Conversion Chart to include when you make your own cookbook, you can download it from our website by clicking this link to the Kitchen Conversion Chart and adding it when you print your family cookbook from our cookbook software.

Now I can put away my trusty little pocket calculator!

Happy Cookbooking,

Erin

Preserving Family Recipes Means Being Precise

One powerful feature in using my cookbook software to preserve family cooking traditions is the ability to standardize family recipes that have been handed down for generations. Standardize the macaroni casserole so beloved by your grandfather? Sacrilege!

Not really. Let me explain.

Standardizing family recipes can be the single most important way to preserve the taste of the dishes over time (aside from creating the actual cookbook, of course).

You remember that macaroni from childhood days, but when you make it from the tattered sheet of paper your mother gave you that your grandmother wrote, you say, “It just doesn’t taste the same.” Why? Because ingredients can change as ideas about food (who thought of trans fats 50 years ago?) and new food manufacturing techniques come into play.

Take a look at that original family recipe. Does it tell you enough in detailed terms to really be able to duplicate the taste you remember? Chances are it does not. The specific brand of butter, the type of cheese, the exact cooking time, all make a difference in the final dish.

Being able to clarify both measurements and ingredients serves to improve the quality and integrity of the dish over generations rather than dilute it. (Who wants to preserve a generic family recipe?)

So, be sure to describe a family recipe’s ingredients as specifically as possible. For example, using the term 1 teaspoon of fresh baking soda suggests NOT digging out the open box that has spent several years in the back of the refrigerator as a deodorizer.

Also, add sizes to the vegetables or fruits called for in the family recipe. The juice of 3 medium lemons is better than “juice of 3 lemons.” Better yet is “½ cup of lemon juice, freshly squeezed.”

I think you see what I mean. So, when you are using my cookbook software to make your family recipe book, keep in mind that it is better to name names. Precisely!

Erin