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A new take on black forest cake



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Xmas stocking, recipe book, and gift with text: How to Connect Meaningfully This Christmas - with Your Family Cookbook

How to Connect Meaningfully This Christmas – with Your Family Cookbook!

What if you could bring your family members to life when writing your Christmas cards?

Storing family members’ addresses and photos right in your cookbook using Matilda’s Fantastic Cookbook Software can help you do just that!

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Preparing Xmas Deviled Eggs

Christmas Deviled Eggs that WOW!

Deviled eggs – also known as stuffed eggs, Russian eggs, or dressed eggs – are hard-boiled eggs that have been shelled, cut in half, and filled with a paste made from the egg yolks mixed with other ingredients such as mayonnaise and mustard.

This Christmas twist on this classic dish is perfect for brightening up the kid’s table – or the adults’ table for that matter!

You will need

  • eggs already boiled
  • vinegar
  • water
  • food dye


1) I didn’t have any Easter Egg dye from last year, but I did have food dye. If you want really specific or bright colors, you can hit up the food dye section at a craft store, but I just have regular old 4 pack primary kit from Target. I prepped the food dye by following the box, but it was 1 tsp white vinegar and a half cup of HOT water.

2) Cut your eggs in half and remove yokes. You can prep those anyway you like. I like mine with Hellmanns.


Christmas Eggs: Beautiful the Holiday Table with Red and Green Dyed Deviled eggs

Christmas Eggs: Beautiful the Holiday Table with Red and Green Dyed Deviled eggs


3) Add your already boiled egg whites into the dye mixture, leave for approx 3 minutes and then rotate up.  Once your eggs have the desired color, remove and pat dry with napkin.

Now if you find that your dye isn’t the color you want, I have to tell you that you can put a little on your finger (or a clean paintbrush), rub on the outside of the boiled shell and sit it down for about a minute. Then rinse off any excess. That is how I got this REALLY bright color for photos.

Christmas Eggs: Beautiful the Holiday Table with Red and Green Dyed Deviled eggs

Christmas Eggs: Beautiful the Holiday Table with Red and Green Dyed Deviled eggs


Done! Check out my gorgeous Dyed Deviled eggs that are sure to WOW everyone at the holiday table.

colored deviled eggs






A French Theme for Thanksgiving

A few friends have asked what my Thanksgiving menu will be this year. As you may recall, at my house we do an international twist on traditional foods. This year the country of choice is France, and it is amazing how “normal” one can get with French food. Just goes to show how we are influenced in our daily lives by the cuisine of other countries.

Following is our French Thanksgiving menu:

French Thanksgiving

Pâte de Foie Gras aux Truffles *
Apricot Chambord Brie *
Chèvre Cheese & Crackers *
Mushrooms ala Escargot
Kir Royale

French Thanksgiving
Turkey Cordon Bleu
Cranberries Jubilee
Potatoes au Gratin
Haricot Verts Almandine w/Hollandaise
Stuffing Croquettes
Mashed Sweet Potatoes
French Baguettes & Butter

French Thanksgiving
Pumpkin Mousse Pie
Tarte Tatin *
Café au Lait

I “cheated” and bought the starred items in a supermarket. Everything else in my French Thanksgiving menu is either assembled from readily available ingredients or made from scratch, (including the Hollandaise). While a bit rich in butter and fats (in the traditional French style), this French Thanksgiving menu is not difficult and lends itself to making some dishes while watching Thanksgiving parades or football games.

Best Wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving,


P.S. – Now we’re thinking about our Thanksgiving theme for 2010.  Maybe Thai, Japanese, or Chinese.  Hmm. Turkey potstickers, or eggrolls. Could be a winner.

Family gathered outsidewith grandfather holding cooked turkey with title: Capture Missing Family Photos at Thanksgiving for Your Family Cookbook

Capture Missing Family Photos at Thanksgiving for Your Family Cookbook

One of the fabulous benefits of Matilda’s Fantastic Cookbook Software is that you can add photos of your family members when making a family cookbook. With a little forethought, Thanksgiving can be the ideal time to capture those missing family photos!

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Assorted nuts on star-shaped chopping board with title: Spiced Nuts Recipe: An All-Time Classic For the Holidays

Spiced Nuts Recipe: An All-Time Holiday Classic

Spiced Nuts are one of the best all-time classic holiday recipes. These will be one of the fastest “gone” items on your holiday table or buffet!

A friend of mine loved my Spiced Nuts recipe so much, he once commissioned me to make a batch for him every month for a year, using 12 different nutmeats and seeds, and ship to him 2,800 miles away.Continue reading

good gravy!

Thanksgiving Warning: Gravy is Not a Beverage

This little advance message from me for Thanksgiving is wholeheartedly in earnest. I repeat it here because it needs to be emphasized: Dears, gravy is not a beverage.

Thanksgiving gravy is meant to be served as an enhancement over mashed potatoes, turkey slices and dressing (often to moisten the overcooked latter enough to eat). However, gravy is not meant to be slurped in a coffee cup when no one is looking.  I once discovered a Thanksgiving dinner guest taking liberties with my gravy boat after the feast was over! I guess his action was a compliment, but a rather strange one if I do say so myself.

There are three key elements that make Thanksgiving gravy good enough to drink:

Thanksgiving gravy has to have flavor and it usually comes from meat drippings. Continue reading

Get a Jump on Jingle Bells with Holiday Fruitcake

Above is my fruitcake for last year! I spent ages on those little marzipan fruits. 🙂

This post may seem a bit early for some, but serious fruitcake-makers are already eyeing ingredients for their favorite Christmas sweet/the omnipresent fruitcake everyone loves to hate.

Included with my cookbook software is a wonderful heritage fruitcake recipe called Christmas Cake (English fruitcake) that has been in the family for generations. My cookbook software also comes with quite a few of my favorite recipes, but you have the option to keep them or not, as desired, for your own cookbook. (During the software’s development process we decided to include recipes to share so users could better visualize the end product they were making.) The family recipe for Christmas Cake takes time, but the end result is stunning.

My other favorite shortcut to holiday fruitcake is more of an American style – little tidbits made into bite size morsels with lots of flavor:

Fruitcake Bon-Bons

1 package date nut bread mix
1 cup Shredded coconut
1 cup Pitted dates, coarsely chopped
1 cup Walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 cup Pecans, coarsely chopped
1 cup Red and green candied cherries, coarsely chopped
Bourbon (if desired)

Prepare date nut bread mix according to package directions. Stir in all remaining ingredients, one at a time, until fruitcake bon-bon batter is mostly thick and stiff. If the fruitcake bon-bon batter is too thin, add more nuts or fruit. Spoon by teaspoons into festive holiday bonbon papers, and bake at 300 degrees for 15-20 minutes.  When done, the fruitcake bon-bons should be moist inside but dry outside. Lovely served with any hot beverage.



red mug, candle and roaring fire with text: Recipes for Drinkable Gifts from My Family Cookbook

Drinkable Gifts: Recipes from My Family Cookbook

I have a few recipes for homemade drinkable gifts in a special section of my family cookbook. Whenever I need an idea for a quick gift, this “Homemade Drinkable Gifts” section of my family cookbook always inspires me with the perfect solution.

Even if I don’t have all the ingredients, I can easily shop for the missing items since most recipes are made with standard measurements and readily-available package sizes.Continue reading

13 Good Reasons Homemade Cookbooks Make Great Gifts for Christmas

“Our homemade family cookbook software is going to be very popular as families buckle down for a long, cold, hard winter of scrimping and saving instead of elaborate budget-busting gift giving,” I said to Ruth a few weeks ago as we sipped a cuppa and planned our Christmas gift shopping excursions.

Traditionally, we select the same day and time each week beginning November 1 until the week before December 25 as our “shopping” day. We always try to visit a different store, mall, or shopping center for variety and to keep our gift spending under control. We like to see the holiday decorations, have lunch, and get in the holiday mood.

“Yes,” Ruth nodded. “I’m afraid it is all back to basics now with our economy what it is. Your cookbook software not only makes a great gift at a reasonable price, it also builds wonderful cookbook gifts for others, too. It’s a gift that can keep giving!”

I pondered at the wisdom of her comment (sometimes she is so smart). I asked her why she thought homemade family cookbooks created with our cookbook software could be a popular Christmas gift this year. She used all the fingers on her two hands (and then some) to explain it to me, and her reasons had nothing to do with the economy.

Ruth said that a family cookbook made with our cookbook software makes a great Christmas gift because it is a gift that is:

1.  From the Heart
2.  Personal
3.  Informative
4.  Useful
5.  A Lasting Keepsake
6.  Easy to Do
7.  Inexpensive
8.  Under Your Own Control
9.  Unique
10. Fascinating
11. Green (conserves gas and gift shopping time)
12. Printable at the last minute for unexpected guests
13. Creative

While I was thinking in terms of dollars and cents as usual, Ruth (always the more sensitive one) hit on the real importance of creating a family cookbook — the love of preserving a family’s food traditions and history.

Then our thoughts dissolved to the less fortunate, whose families may not be so lucky to have any food to write recipes about, or shelter with kitchens to warm them. We decided to do without our shopping day lunches and donate the amount we would spend on them to the local food bank.  We also resolved to give an extra child’s gift to our local community toy collection drive.

Hmm, I wonder if the local soup kitchen could use a fundraising cookbook? There is still time to make one!

Happy cookbooking,


Plate of chicken curry with tomato and coriander on blue bakckground overlaid with text "Snuggling Up with Indian Curry on a Cold Winter's Night"

Snuggling Up with Indian Curry on a Cold Winter’s Night

When the really cold weather hits at this time of year, do you know what my favorite comfort food is? Not the soups and stews of my family recipe books, but the flavorful warmth of curried dishes from India!

Indian food is one of the great cuisines of the world and I find its delectable combinations of spices compelling.

Despite what you may think, Indian curry recipes are not necessarily hot. Hot food to me is just painful without flavor, so I’m always cautious about ordering in Indian restaurants. I ask the cooks to make my dishes “tourist grade,” so I can eat them. The cooks are most happy to accommodate as they are amazed at my enthusiasm.

I’ll tell you a little story that was a little embarrassing, but was educational for me at the time:Continue reading

Cat under table with title: Avoid Thanksgiving Dangers to Your Pets

Simple Tricks to Avoid Thanksgiving Dangers to Your Pets

Thanksgiving should be a time of togetherness and good feeling. A time of sharing family recipes. The last thing you want for your holiday is an emergency trip to the veterinary hospital. Unfortunately, there are a number of dangers in the areas where you prepare and eat your food that could cause just such a scenario.

Here’s a few simple ways to avoid potential pitfalls:

  • Keep your pets out of the kitchen.  Counter-surfing (where your pet sneaks a lick of your worktop) can result in severe poisoning to your pet.
  • Don’t let friends and family feed your pets.  Make sure your guests know the house rules.  Politely inform all your guests to keep their food out of reach and to ask permission before feeding any treats.  Your pet may have food allergies they may not be aware of.
  • Dump the trash.  Somehow your dog or cat will find a way to get into it, and leftover corn-on-the-cob, yummy string that goes around the turkey legs, turkey skin, bones, moldy food, and fatty grizzle all pose a threat to your pet.

Certain Thanksgiving foods pose a particular hazard for your pets. The top 7 most dangerous Thanksgiving foods are:

  • Grapes and raisins
  • Xylitol (a naturally occurring alcohol found in most plant material, including many fruits and vegetables. It is widely used as a sugar substitute and in “sugar-free” chewing gums, mints, and other candies.)
  • Fatty table scraps
  • Bones and turkey legs
  • Onions, leeks, chives and garlic
  • Unbaked yeast bread dough
  • Alcohol

Make sure you take these few simple precautions and avoid spending your Thanksgiving in the vet’s waiting room!


Silhouette of vampire and string of garlic with title: Recipe for Halloween Garlic Mashed Potatoes - Keep Vampires Away!

Halloween Garlic Mashed Potatoes – Keep Vampires Away!

This Halloween, arm yourself against vampires with my good garlic mashed potatoes!

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Oven-gloved hand removing pizza from hot oven with title: How (And When) to Cook in a Convection Oven - and When Not To!

How (and When) to Cook in a Convection Oven

My friend, Ruth, and I used to be so confused about how to cook in a convection oven. After all, we both grew up in areas where wood-burning stoves were common. So having an oven that blows hot air around was quite a breakthrough in cooking for us!Continue reading

B&W family photo album over coloured table of cooking utensils with text: Celebrate Family Cookbook Month - Family History Month

Celebrate Family Cookbook Month – Family History Month

October – Family History Month. But how great it would be to have a Family Cookbook Month instead!

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Friends cheering sport league together overlaid with text "It's a Winner - Oven Baked Beef Jerky Recipe"

Oven Baked Beef Jerky, Guys & Football

With football season coming on strong, including the return of Monday Night Football and tailgating parties, it’s time to start stocking up on those game-watching essentials: beer, popcorn, and beef jerky. Continue reading

Group of students discussing project with text: Making and Selling a Fundraising Cookbook: Unusual and Effective!

Making and Selling a Fundraising Cookbook: Unusual and Effective!

Making a fundraising cookbook is an unusual and effective way to encourage donations for your project.

Gone are the days when people donated just to donate. They now want some form of tangible return. What better form of return to offer than creating a fundraising cookbook to sell. Continue reading

Beach backdrop with hand holding book featuring text:Capture Summer Vacation Memories by Making a Family Souvenir Cookbook

Capture Summer Vacation Memories by Making a Family Souvenir Cookbook

Why not make a custom family cookbook using cookbook software as a great vacation souvenir? It’s a unique memento for every family member!

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Intense Cutting Board Video

I might have got a little obsessed. But I love this cutting board!

10 Tips for Planning a Labor-less Labor Day BBQ

Hard to believe that we are nearly into the Labor Day holiday! The calendar pages for 2009 are flipping so fast that it seems like we are all in cartoon. If you plan to have a few friends and family members over for a Labor Day BBQ, why not make it a labor-less Labor Day BBQ?  After years of hosting labor-intensive parties, I got smarter, so here are my 10 tips for a labor-less Labor Day BBQ:

1. Plan Your Menu
Scribble down all of the options you might like to include on a labor-less Labor Day BBQ menu. You know, five kinds of meats, 10 salads, 4 desserts. (Get over the panic feeling of ”will there be enough?”) Then whittle the list to two items in each category. Think smaller portions instead of gobs per person. It is much easier to make more of one dish than several different dishes.

2.  Create a Countdown Timeline
Plan the ”days before” and ”day of” actions a week in advance of your labor-less Labor Day BBQ so you will take care of the dust bunnies before the doorbell rings. It also forces you to think about what dishes, bowls or trays you might want to dig out of the top cupboard and wash.

3.  Shop Early in the Week
Study your labor-less Labor Day BBQ menu and break it down into individual recipe ingredients. That way you’ll buy only what you’ll need to make each recipe. Try doing your grocery shopping after dinner; the crowds are gone and you can walk off a few extra calories.

4.  Use Shortcuts
There is no rule that everything must be made by you and you alone. There is nothing wrong with using convenience foods for your labor-less Labor Day BBQ. If you do choose to use bottled BBQ sauce, store delicatessen side dishes, or canned beans, just be sure you are familiar with the products to make sure they meet your personal standards.

5.  Be Flexible
Don’t be afraid to change your labor-less Labor Day BBQ menu or substitute other ingredients. Who will know you really wanted to serve Auntie Clementine’s three bean salad (from the family cookbook, of course), but instead served bagged green salad with bottled dressing because you couldn’t find yellow wax beans?  Furthermore, be sure to check the local supermarket ads for seasonal items; these may be on sale and less expensive than the dishes planned on your original menu.

6.  Use the Slow Cooker
Cooking for a crowd can be so easy with a slow cooker. Simply dump all the ingredients into the crock and turn it on. Next thing you know, there’s a tasty dish inside that you barely worked at creating. True magic for your labor-less Labor Day BBQ.

7.  Cook Outside on the Grill
We are talking about a labor-less Labor Day BBQ, so we do expect part of the menu will feature a dish prepared by charcoal or gas grill (instead of using the oven broiler). Cooking outside on the grill keeps the kitchen’s interior heat to a minimum, and keeps the kitchen cleaner, too.

8.  Say Yes to Guest Participation
Whenever possible, encourage guests to bring a dish they would like to share. That way you don’t have to deal with preparing the whole labor-less Labor Day BBQ meal (and it is gentler on your pocketbook). Have a list handy (or in your head) of items that guests can bring to fill out the table when those RSVPs come in.

9. Go With the Flow
Don’t fret the small stuff. Sit down, relax, and talk with your guests so you can enjoy your labor-less Labor Day BBQ, too. You don’t have to serve everyone all the time, and I have found over the years that guests are most capable of taking care of their own needs.  In fact, my party motto is: ”I’ll serve you the first drink, show you where everything is, and then you are on your own.”

10.  Encourage Clean-up
When the labor-less Labor Day BBQ party is winding down, most considerate guests will help put away food, wash dishes, or fold up tables and chairs, if necessary. Some will even take out the trash! By all means, let these helpers contribute. Welcome their good intentions, even if they put the washed and dried coffee cups on the drinking glass shelf.  They are just trying to make it a labor-less Labor Day BBQ for you!

With these 10 tips, a labor-less Labor Day BBQ just might become a family tradition that will sneak into the pages of your family cookbook’s new edition.

Happy cookbooking,