12 Ideas: Make a Family Cookbook for Christmas

This is the second of our 12 Ideas of Christmas newsletters, and it’s about Matilda’s Cookbook Software.

The first family cookbook my mom made 🙂

When Ted and I made our cookbook software back in 2007, Mom was our first test subject. She still uses the software to publish her revised cookbook every year and hands them out at Christmas. This is the first one. 

This is from my own cookbook. My boys are a lot bigger now! (But they still love chocolate cake.)

Here’s a customer’s family cookbook that she put in one of our recipe binders. 

Here are 3 Little Secrets

Secret #1: You can print out the cookbooks at your local copy shop in black and white, with just a color cover. These will be less than $10 each, even if you get them spiral bound! Going full color throughout will cost a lot more.

Secret #2: Matilda’s Cookbook Software is the product that started our company. It’s literally the first thing Ted and I invented way back in 2007! It’s going strong because people still want an affordable, easy way to make a family cookbook at home on their PC.

Secret #3: We called it Matilda because that was the name we wanted to call our daughter if we had one. We were blessed with two boys. 🙂

I hope you enjoy making your own family cookbook!

Erin Miller
Owner, Cookbook People

P.S. Please remember Matilda only runs on Windows, and not on Mac or other systems, and won’t work on your phone. People without Windows can still put together family cookbooks the old fashioned way, by hand with our Recipe Binders.

Image of Matilda's Fantastic Cookbook Software (CD or Download)

Matilda’s Fantastic Cookbook Software (CD or Download) $35.00

Many Happy Returns on Election Night with DIY Cookbooks

With the 2020 Presidential Election just around the corner, it seems appropriate to plan some Election Night grazing to enjoy while watching those many happy voting returns.

What a perfect time to work on your do-it-yourself family cookbook!  Nothing else of consequence will be on television, or on the internet, to distract you. Why not take this opportunity to devote time to your important cookbook-making project (especially if you plan to gift your cookbook to friends and family for the holidays).

To help you spend more time using our cookbook recipe software, here are some simple Election Night menu ideas:

Election Night Snacks – H2 TEXT

These crisp no brainers get on the table fast and fill hungry stomachs quickly, so don’t refill the bowls until after dinner.  Think about Chips & Salsa, Popcorn, Pretzels or crackers & hummus dip, or Vegetables & ranch dressing.

Election Night Entrees – H3 TEXT

You’ll want something hearty and flavorful, as well as easy so you don’t have to spend loads of devoted time preparing (thus freeing your time for cookbook-making). Consider Chicken and Noodles, Hamburgers/Hot Dogs, Lasagna, Macaroni and Cheese, or Vegetarian Pizza (all winners available in your local supermarket).

Test – H4 TEXT


Election Night Desserts – BOLD PARAGRAPH
A great standby dessert on Election Night is apple pie or ice cream, but how about something lighter on your stomach, such as the favored cookie recipes of our contending First Lady candidates.

Happy voting, cookie and cookbook making!


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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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.



High Altitude Cooking Tips

I am so grateful for all the nice comments we receive here at The Cookbook People.com in reference to my easy-to-use Matilda’s Fantastic Cookbook Software. I recently received a wonderful email from Randi Levin of The Muffin Lady Inc. in Colorado who has a wealth of knowledge and experience in the special art of high altitude cooking.

Randi was kind enough to send us some suggestions for improving our high altitude cooking tips. By popular demand, she has written a cookbook about high altitude cooking so that others may find palatable success high above the ocean.

Meanwhile, here are some excerpts from her email:

Dear Erin and All at Cookbook People:

Please allow me to communicate a few differences between your high altitude cooking tips and mine. I mean absolutely no disrespect at all. MY goal is to help others find palatable success at high altitudes. Most of your tips are worthy and based on scientific information, but MINE are based on decades of experience high above the ocean.

I have been baking and adjusting recipes in the mountains of Colorado for 32 years to date in elevations between 5,000 and 8,000 feet. Many of my cookbook recipes originated from family members at sea level, and were adjusted for higher elevations accordingly. Several are actually more than 100 years old, and “to DIE FOR.” (Bless Great Grandmothers!).

I hope these adjustments help your readers.

Randi L. Levin
The Muffin Lady
Author, Publisher & High Altitude Food Specialist

Dear Randi: I am delighted that you gave us permission to include your additional thoughts and comments here on our website! The table below shows our high altitude tips placed side-by-side with Randi’s suggested comments, which we will be including in our upcoming software update.

From Matilda’s Fantastic Cookbook Software:

Randi’s High Altitude Tips/Comments:

Water boils at a lower temperature (each 500-ft increase in altitude causes a drop of about 1° in the boiling point). For example, at 7,500 feet the boiling point will be 198°. Since it will not be as hot as it is at lower altitudes, you will have to boil it longer to achieve the same effect.


Baked goods that include yeast or baking powder will rise faster which may sound good, but it’s not. They will dry out.


Boil things longer if you are at an elevation of 5,000 feet or more.

Boil things longer if you are at an elevation of 3,500 feet or more.

Oven temperatures are affected by altitude, so it is sometimes necessary to adjust the suggested oven temperature. For batters and dough, you should increase the temperature by 25° Fahrenheit if you are at an elevation of 3,500 feet or more.

I have lived at 5,000 feet, 6,900 feet and currently at 8,000 feet above the ocean and have never raised the temperature. Actually, for some items, (roasts, biscuits, etc.), I suggest lowering the temperature by 5-25°F. For example, if biscuits call for baking at 425°F to 450°F, I lower the temperature 25 degrees: 400°F to 425°F.

Why: When raising the temperature in dry environments such as the Rockies, Sierras or Alps, all you are doing is increasing the dry heat. Sure the product will work, but it will also dry out much more rapidly. Additionally, the only reason to increase the liquid by 1/4 cup (4T) is so that the excess dry heat may absorb and then evaporate it. The product will still dry out faster when the temperature is raised!

Adjust ingredients that cause your baked goods to rise. Smaller pans work better at high altitudes.


Use more liquids (including that used in rice, soups and vegetables) slightly to allow for longer cooking times.

KUDOS, as this is an absolute.

Reduce baking powder

For each teaspoon, decrease by:

3,000 feet 1/8 teaspoon

5,000 feet 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon

7,000 feet 1/4 teaspoon

Reduce baking powder (and baking soda) a smidgen. It is easier and more effective to simply decrease these leavening agents by slightly indenting your finger into the powder when leveling the measuring spoon. You will want to decrease each by 1/4 teaspoon at 9,500-10,000 feet and above!

Reduce sugar

For each cup, decrease:

3,000 feet 0 – 1 tablespoon

5,000 feet 0 – 2 tablespoon

7,000 feet 1 – 3 tablespoon

3,000 feet has minimal adjustments, if any, according to folks I have spoken to. Elevations of 3,500 feet seem to be where the adjustments actually begin. I am at 8,000+ feet, so why would I want to decrease one of my moisturizing agents so drastically? Whenever I measure sugar, I simply measure it to just below the cup line, not by 3 or more Tablespoons. or else I would have a drier product than desired.

Increase liquid

For each cup, add:

3,000 feet 1 – 2 tablespoon

5,000 feet 2 – 4 tablespoon

7,000 feet 3 – 4 tablespoon

Adding 1-2 Tablespoons more liquid per elevation is sufficient. You will not want to add any more until above 10,000 feet.

Additionally there is NO mention about increasing FLOUR by 1-2 Tablespoons per cup. This is one of the most important adjustments, especially when trying to avoid sunken cakes and flat cookies.


brown envelope, flowers, scissors and string with card featuring symbol of plate and cutlery and title: 4 Unusual Ways You Can Use Custom Recipe Cards

4 Unusual Ways You Can Use Custom Recipe Cards

Unlike the plain old white index cards like we used in the old days, custom recipe cards feature special designs or colors and make great gifts for all sorts of occasions – from hostess to business settings.

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Family Recipe Cookbooks for Christmas: Start Now

Have you looked at your calendar lately? Where on Earth has this year gone already?

I admit that mentally I am still somewhere in late May. My phone, however, reminds me daily that we are smack on the verge of August. And that means we are turning the corner on, you guessed it, Christmas! It will be here before you know it.

If you are planning to create a family recipe cookbook as a Christmas gift, then I suggest you consider getting ahead of the game and start working now on putting your family recipe cookbook together using my Matilda’s Fantastic Cookbook Software. You can also just assemble it using one of our recipe binders.

Here is a basic timeline to help you organize your thoughts and activities in time for Christmas:

Select your family recipes and type them into the software’s Recipe tab. You may also cut and paste them from other documents or websites.

Write any stories about the family recipes (especially funny ones), or write brief stories about the people who made (or still make) the signature recipes you have selected.

Collect photos of your family members and add to them to your family recipe cookbook in the People tab.

Use family gatherings to take any missing photos that you want to include.

Print copies of your family recipe cookbook on your home printer (be sure to have on hand enough ink cartridges and paper, etc.). Or, arrange to print your family recipe cookbook through your local fast printer.

One thing is for sure, creating a family memory cookbook is a wonderful way to personalize your Christmas gifts for all family members without driving all over town or stressing about what to give. Whether you include family recipes or your own personal favorites, using Matilda’s Fantastic Cookbook Software will make it easy.

P.S. Have you worked on your cookbook today?

Happy cookbooking,


Half page and full page binders by Cookbook People with title: Family Cookbooks: Half Page or Full Page? How to Choose!

Family Cookbook – Half Page or Full Page?

You’ve decided! You’re going to make a family cookbook. But what size should you choose? A half page or a full page family cookbook?Continue reading

Top 10 Reasons to Make a Cookbook

There are as many reasons to make a cookbook as there are people. The 10 reasons to make a cookbook listed below are some of the top ones our readers and cookbook software users have told us:

1. Everybody loves my food.
Friends tell me I’m a great cook and that they would like to have my recipes. If I type it up once, I can print it a hundred times!

2. I need to get organized.
I’m tired of looking through 10 cookbooks, 5 drawers, a recipe card box, and under the refrigerator for all my recipes.

3. I want my mom’s ginger snaps to be enjoyed by my grandkid’s grandkids one day.
My uncle’s/grandmother’s/grandkid’s recipes need to be saved and enjoyed for future generations.

4. Feed my ego!
I have always wanted to have a cookbook published.

5. I need one more book!
My cookbook collection is too big, but I could pick out the recipes I like from all of them and then give the extra cookbooks away.

6. The handwriting is on the wall (and I can’t read it!)
I would like to take all those handwritten scraps I have in my recipe box and make them easy to find.

7. Reunion coming!
My family is having a reunion /wedding soon, and a cookbook of family recipes would be a fabulous keepsake.

8. Fundraising!
My church / company / club / non-profit does such great potlucks, we should make a cookbook and sell it to make money for projects / supplies / charity / promotions.

9. Who wants to scroll with (literal) butterfingers?
The recipes on my computer are sometimes inconvenient to use, so I want a hard copy to refer to when cooking.

10. I need to save money.
I need inexpensive gifts to give for the holidays, and I can print out 10 cookbook gifts for under $10 each.

If you are reading this page, most likely you are thinking about your own reasons to make a cookbook: fundraising, preservation of family traditions, ego, downsizing, personal-touch presents for others.

No matter what your reason is to make a cookbook, any time is the perfect time to start your cookbook making project. Be sure your choice of cookbook making software offers a variety of options.  We are partial to our own Matilda’s Fantastic Cookbook Software, but there are many options available for cookbook makers. Be sure to choose the one you are comfortable using, suits your purpose, and is easy to operate.

Happy cookbooking


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,


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,


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.


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!


A family cookbook is a spiritual document.

A family cookbook is more than just a compilation of recipes. It’s a spiritual document.

Go ahead. Laugh and roll your eyes. (My husband Ted did. He laughed and laughed right up until I sold the 50th copy of my software, Matilda’s Fantastic Cookbook Software. Then he started paying attention. Now that it’s the best selling Cooking & Health software on Amazon, a lot of people are paying attention.)

What makes a family cookbook spiritual? Look into the eyese of your granddaughter. Those eyes have atoms swirling in them that were once in your Aunt Maureen’s Top Secret Cheesecake. Same goes for the strong back of your husband and a lemon-yellow lock of your grandson’s hair. The hippies were right–all things really are connected. And some things, like the food we all ate as children and the lives we live as adults, are even more connected. Not just in sight and sound and taste and smell, but in our very beings.

Maybe that’s why thousands have used their family cookbooks to commemorate a mom or grandma who passed on. A family cookbook can connect us across countries, decades…even death.

I can go online and find a thousand different recipes for meatloaf. But there’s only one meatloaf that smells like the one my own grandmother used to make. She’s dead now and the recipe died with her, and that’s a real shame.

Look at your own family recipes and think about those you love. You may have a will to cover who gets exactly how much money, but money and things are forgotten. Have you given them a way to remember how connected they are to you?

Obviously, I’d prefer it if you went out and bought my software. But there are lots of other options, whether you just write a cookbook by hand, in Word or online. The important thing is to get those family recipes written down and passed on. The recipe book you create will indeed become a spiritual document.

Much of that spirit will be yours.


5 Tips for Making Family Recipes Jump Out of Your Cookbook (And Into Your Reader’s Kitchen)

Many of my family recipes were tucked away in cardboard shoeboxes on well-worn recipe cards until I developed my cookbook software. The margins of the recipe cards were often decorated with cryptic comments and sage advice regarding the taste, texture, and preparation techniques that gave the recipe its unique place in the repertoire of our family’s cooks.

Such comments are wonderful insights from the past for anyone trying to recreate the family recipe, so make sure you include these observations and advice when creating your own cookbook. (In my Matilda’s Fantastic Cookbook Software, scanned recipe cards can be included as a photo within the recipe page, thus retaining the “flavor” of the original.)

When you choose recipes for your family cookbook or other cookbook-making project, consider the following 5 tips for making your family recipes even better:

1. Introductory “Sell Copy”
Include a brief introduction to the family recipe that sets the tone for why it was a favorite of Aunt Josie’s, or how old it is, and maybe how you think it got changed over the years. Tell stories about how it came from the Old World, or it was the first solid thing your daughter ate. Make each recipe a way to tell a little of the story of your family.

2. Quantity
Always try to provide an expected number of servings for every family recipe. You’ll want to include the serving size (ounces or ½ cups portions) as well as the number of servings that the recipe will yield. For some foods volume of yield is more useful, such as “makes one quart,” or “makes two large bowls.”

3. Specific Descriptions
Describe how a mixture should look or feel at a certain stage if there could be variances in how someone interprets the family recipe. It is better to add “The crepe batter will be quite thin” if there is a chance someone could misinterpret the family recipe.

4. Visual Prompts for Doneness
Let’s say your family recipe called for sauteed onions. Instead of just saying “cook and stir about 10 minutes,” you could include “or until onions are soft and translucent.”

5. Give Reasons
Include a reason for doing something if it is a unique or a less common cooking technique. For example, most cooks know that you stir sour cream into a hot dish just before serving to prevent curdling. But some may not realize the importance of “Rinse bean sprouts” unless you include “to remove salty, canned taste.”

Hope these 5 tips help in making your family recipes better when creating your cookbook!

Happy cookbooking!


Homemade family cookbook

Here’s a nice link to a homemade family cookbook. “Thimbleanna”once made with her sisters.

I really like the design. We might have to cook up a template with a similar theme for our software.



6 Tips to Great Family Reunion Planning

Did you see your family members as much as you think you should have last year? Maybe it’s time to plan a family reunion and tie it all together with a family cookbook!

Not sure how to do it? Here are some tips to make the planning easier:

Estimate how many family members may attend the family reunion. Make phone calls to one person in each family group who could estimate attendance. Have them pass the word.

Based on the potential number of attendees, decide if the event can be at a family member’s house, a local park, a convenient restaurant, or a social hall.  The location will depend on the budget, which will be determined by the number attending.

Longer family reunions may entail the rental of a condo, house, lodge or other venue. For example, I was on a cruise ship a few years ago and everywhere onboard were people wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with “I’m with Marge.”  We finally saw a little old lady with a t-shirt that said “I’m Marge.” She had come into some money and invited 146 family members on board for a last family reunion fling in her old age. Wow!

If you are the chief planner (guess what? – if you plan the family reunion once, it’s your job forever), then go ahead and set a date and time that is most convenient for you.  It may be a special date to the family (such as a birthday, anniversary, or other special occasion), or an arbitrary date that becomes the annual family reunion date (e.g. the first Tuesday after the first Monday in the month of November in the even numbered years.) Not everyone will be able to make it on the day (or week) you decide. That’s all right; they’ll make it the next time after they hear how terrific the family union was.

If the family reunion is to be a joint effort instead of a hosted event (by you or another family member), then the food and set-up chores can be divvied up among different family groups. Yeah, some family members will flake and not come on time, but they are relatives! Family reunions will bring you closer together and maybe they will arrive on time with the appetizer next time.

The overall idea for having a family reunion is to have fun and catch up with relatives. Depending on the number of hours (or days) the family reunion extends, some fun activities may include games, singing, creating a family play, or doing crafts. Taking photos during a family reunion is a given, but make sure lots of planned photos are taken along with the candid shots. It is popular these days to have a theme for family reunions (e.g. camping, Texas BBQ, golf, community service) that taps into any common areas of interest.  Whatever the “theme,” good eating is also part of any family reunion. A rib or chili cook-off can also be a fun way to get the family involved.

Some type of memento is always a great take-away for those attending the family reunion. We recommend putting together a family cookbook using Matilda’s Fantastic Cookbook Software. If you have a cooking contest, get all the recipes, enter them into the recipe template, print, and send them to every relative. You’ll have the foundation for a great family cookbook. P.S. Use photographs taken at the family reunion to complete the family cookbook pages and biography section of the cookbook.

I have come to realize that the memories and fun family times gained from a family reunion are well worth the effort. Family reunions help build stronger family relationships and common interests, and also can help turn family strangers into real caring relatives.  What a concept!

Happy Family Reunion Cookbooking,


2 Quick, Simple, Tasty Artichoke Recipes Anyone Will Like

Sometimes I wonder who first tried to eat an artichoke (and why). Was it some hungry creature searching for moisture in the artichoke being watched by an equally hungry caveman (no offense intended to the Geico Neanderthals)?  Either one must have been pretty desperate to rip off all those prickly artichoke leaves.

Nowadays, most people use a very sharp knife to cut through the fibrous artichoke leaves to remove the thorny leaf tips. Personally, I like to peel off any scruffy outer leaves from the artichoke, and then snip off the remaining artichoke leaf tips with my kitchen shears. (I find that I have better control and won’t slice my fingers in case I have a senior moment.)

Here are two quick, simple, tasty artichoke recipes (most) anyone will like:

My favorite way to eat an artichoke is steamed. Honestly, they aren’t much of a stomach filler. Just a “green” taste, really, and fun for party conversation. Although lots of people eat the steamed artichoke leaves dipped in melted butter, my version of a leaf dip is richer and a good excuse to eat something more satisfying.

Here’s How:
Steam trimmed artichokes until the heart is soft (when you can easily stick a fork into the bottom and feel no resistance). The cooking time will vary, depending on the size of the artichoke. Drain and set aside to cool. Serve artichokes on a salad plate (or small bowl) with Leaf Dip, as follows, on the side.

Leaf Dip:
Use about ½ cup of mayonnaise for every artichoke serving. For each serving, add garlic powder, ground oregano (or ground marjoram), lemon juice, and salt to taste.  Add enough of the garlic and oregano until you are scared you’ve added too much. Mix well. The dip should have a green tint to it. Let it sit and mellow while the artichokes cook. Serve in small dipping dishes with the artichoke. (Great for other vegetables, too.)

This artichoke recipe is so easy, I shouldn’t even include it here. But we all need some quick, simple and tasty recipes once in awhile. I like this dish because pasta salad is usually so bland, and this “recipe” has a bright piquant flavor thanks to marinated artichoke hearts.

Make your favorite pasta salad recipe, using bow tie pasta, some capers, black olives and chopped roasted red pepper for color. Take a whole jar of marinated artichoke hearts (any size) and puree them in the blender. Pour over the pasta salad and toss. Instantly better, no matter how much dressing you had in it previously. (This is a great quick, simple, tasty sauce substitute for pesto or red tomato sauces, too.)

Try my artichoke recipe ideas next time you want to do an artichoke dish. If you like them, I wouldn’t mind if you want to add them to your family cookbook using the recipe template provided in our cookbook software.  Check out more artichoke recipes via your favorite search engine on the Internet.

Happy cookbooking,




Recipes Can Inspire Creativity, If You Dare

How many of us really follow untried clipped-out recipes? I will try to follow a new recipe the first time exactly as written. I have a tendency to get creative and want to step out of the box, perhaps too often, so following a recipe exactly is pretty taxing for me. But, out of respect for the recipe’s creator, I will follow it, but only once.

After that, I am inspired to take license and go with the flow. Perhaps I don’t have any nutmeg to enhance the lobster thermidor. Well, allspice might just do. Or, maybe that particular day I prefer a different twist by adding jalapeno peppers to a cream cheese spread instead of the usual olives (because I forgot to stock up on them last time I went to market). A creative approach can often improve a timid recipe and make it outstanding enough to include in your family cookbook.

What kinds of creative spice substitutions can be successful? In general, it seems spices that we naturally associate with sweet dishes (cinnamon, nutmeg, Chinese 5-spice powder) can most likely be substituted for one another. Likewise for the savory-dish herbs, such as oregano, thyme, or marjoram, or something else from your spice rack.

(Product plug! Our adjustable spice rack lets you be especially creative with your spices!)


Of course, only your own taste buds will know for sure, but don’t be afraid to experiment. You may have a family winner to star in your next cookbook software creation.


Five Reasons to Make a Christmas Cookbook Now

It’s early September and yes, you really should be thinking about Christmas. At least a little. If you want to put together a lovely family memento that everybody will love, get started now on making a family cookbook.

Here are 5 reasons to start now:

  1. It will save a lot of money. American families averaged $830 in Christmas presents last year. With our software, plus printing and binding and maybe a recipe binder or two, you can still come in at under $85 and have gifts for 7-10 people! That’s around $8/person. And it won’t be a “cheap” gift–it’ll be something sincere and heartfelt!
  2. Making a cookbook as a Christmas gift is pretty easy. Get our cookbook software (Matilda’s Cookbook Software), type up your recipes, add some photos, select a template and print. Stick them in our recipe binders or have them spiral bound at a local photocopy shop for a few dollars (or do both–the nice binder for the real cooks and spiral bound for everyone else).
  3. It does take a little time though to do it right. You’ll want to pick through your recipes, collect recipes from others in the family, get photos if you want them. Do you really want to be doing this in December with everything going on? Do it now and save yourself the headache.
  4. It will be something everybody will talk about. You’ve just made something that is filled with memories of great meals. You WILL hear somebody say, “I haven’t had that in ages!”
  5. It will be a family tradition. A few years from now others will have used your cookbook and have suggestions to add. Add them in, hit print, and voila, another year of Christmas presents covered!

We’ve had thousands of great stories from our customers who have put together their own family cookbook, and you can do it to. Get started with our software and plan for a really fun Christmas present!

Good cookbooking!